Fabulous Fiction Firsts #305

Picked by Library Journal as one of the 8 best Women's Fiction of 2011, debut novelist Sarah Jio's The Violets of March is a rich blend of history, mystery, and romance.

After a heartbreaking divorce, author Emily Wilson returns to Bainbridge Island, WA, to put some distance between her tattered life in New York, and to reconnect with her elderly and secretive great-aunt Bee. When she comes across the diary of a woman named Esther from the 1940s, she is totally drawn into the mystery of lives on the Island, and begins to see the parallels to her own situation and connections to her family history. A charming old beau and the handsome neighbor down the beach provide romantic tension and love interest as Emily tries to ferret out the story behind the diary while attempting to make a fresh start.

Not brain surgery, but a pleasant, charming story in a lovely setting. For fans of the Sarah Blake, Julie Buxbaum, Juliette Fay, Sarah Pekkanan, and Allison Winn Scotch.

Jio's second novel Bungalow has just been released. Can't wait.

For other novels with Pacific Northwest setting, check out Owl Island by Randy Sue Coburn, Summer Island by Kristin Hannah or the inspirational Cedar Cove Series (imaginary place) by Debbie Macomber.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #304

My reading gets downright frantic when the "Best Of" lists start showing up at the end of the year. Glad this one made the lists.

Named by both the Kirkus Reviews' as one of the Best of 2011 Mysteries, and a Library Journal Best Mystery of 2011 Stealing Mona Lisa * * was published to coincide with the 100th Anniversary of the theft of the most recognized painting in the world from the Louvre in 1911.

First-time novelist Carson Morton (professional musician, screenwriter, and playwright), "smoothly blends fact and fiction while evocatively exploring the era's seamy underbelly."

Paris, 1925. On his death bed the Marquis Eduardo de Valfierno recounts to a young reporter his audacious plan to steal the Mona Lisa, and the elaborate scheme to pass 6 forged copies off into the hands of American tycoons with insatiable appetite for the unattainable. As well orchestrated as the plan was, it was undone by nature - human and otherwise, when "love, lust, jealousy, greed, and murderous revenge come into play, along with excessive rains and the worst flooding in contemporary Paris history."

Stealing Mona Lisa is a "sophisticated, engaging caper, complete with a richly imagined group of con artists and a historical mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end." The twisty conclusion will leave you wondering about the authenticity of the art on museum walls !!

For a historical account of the famous heist and largely unsolved mystery, try R.A. Scotti's Vanished Smile: the mysterious theft of Mona Lisa (also in audio).

The Crimes of Paris: A True Story of Murder, Theft, and Detection by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler is "part fast-paced thriller and part social history," and an unwieldy and engrossing account of life and crime in belle époque Paris, with the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa serving as the centerpiece.

One last thing...do allow for the author's exercise of artistic license with the chronology of the Paris flood which actually took place the previous year, as captured in these vintage photos. You might also find fascinating Paris Under Water : how the city of light survived the great flood of 1910 by Jeffrey H. Jackson.

* * = starred reviews

The 5th Beatle

Looking through the new DVDs list in the catalog, I was excited to see that AADL will soon have copies of the movie, Backbeat! As a huge Beatles fan, this is one of my favorite movies because of how funny and also fairly accurate it is in its portrayal of the early days of the group.

In general, the story follows the band's start in the seedy nightclubs of Liverpool and Hamburg. More specifically, it chronicles the close friendship between John Lennon and "Fifth Beatle," Stuart Sutcliffe. The film is touching in its honesty towards this relationship and Lennon's struggle with Sutcliffe's decision to leave the Beatles in order to pursue a promising painting career (you can view some of his art at the link above...). Sometimes with all the "peace and love" Lennon tributes and memorials out there, it's easy to forget that the icon was once an angry, smart-aleck teenager with all kinds of abandonment issues. For me, understanding this Lennon makes me appreciate all the more the person he grew into later in life.

"Backbeat" is R-rated and as gritty and raw as the streets in which it takes place. The music, of course, is great. It's well worth checking out (if only to learn all about how the group got its famous hair-cut...), along with other John Lennon videos and albums. Or you can always buff up on your Beatles history with the wide range of books and videos at the library. And, of course, there will ALWAYS be the music.

Fats Waller - Ain't Misbehavin' Lecture With Musical Interludes At The Performance Network Theatre

Monday December 5, 2011: 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Join us for a delightful evening that gets to the roots of the famous musical Ain't Misbehavin'. This event will be held at the Performance Network Theater and will feature a lecture by pianist, recording artist and jazz connoisseur - Professor James Dapogny.

Professor Dapogny will discuss early 20th century jazz composer, Thomas "Fats" Waller, whose influential music comprises the 1978 Tony Award-winning musical Ain't Misbehavin' (now playing at The Performance Network Theatre).

The evening will feature performance examples of Fats Waller's innovative music. As a special treat - there will be an afterglow following this event at The Ravens Club, located at 207 South Main St. in Ann Arbor. All are welcome to attend.

The Performance Network Theatre is located at 120 East Huron St in Ann Arbor. There is no charge for this lecture, however there is limited seating - so please arrive early.

New Collection: Fandex Family Field Guides

Looking for entertaining yet educational activities for family car trips, snowy days stuck inside, or something to read on the bus? Check out a Fandex Family Field Guide from your neighborhood branch library. These full color, die-cut cards are great for upper elementary and middle schoolers for learning about a wide range of topics, such as Presidents, Mythology, Dinosaurs, Painters, and plenty more.

For example, the Presidents Fandex presents a chronological field guide to all 44 of America's chief executives. "Which President made the Louisiana Purchase? Which President won a Nobel Peace Prize? Which President also served as chief justice of the Supreme Court? Who was in office during the Teapot Dome scandal, and who endured the childhood nickname "Useless"? From the historic Founding Fathers (three of whom died on the Fourth of July) to the 19th-century forgettables (Fillmore, Tyler, Pierce, et al.) to our current leadership, Presidents lets you finally get it straight."

First Ladies

A new exhibition of the most famous dresses worn by U.S. Presidents' wives opens today at the National Museum of American History. The “First Lady Debuts” display forms part of the First Ladies Collection, which, for more than 100 years, has been one of the most popular attractions at the Smithsonian.

It features dresses worn by Michelle Obama, Mamie Eisenhower, Betty Ford, Barbara Bush, Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, Hilary Clinton and more.

The first ladies did more than just wear fabulous inaugural gowns. To find out more about their lives, work and causes, click on each of their names to be directed to books available at the Ann Arbor District Library.

Operation Pedro Pan

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the airlift that eventually brought 14,000 unaccompanied children from Cuba to this country. While Miami celebrates with a Conference and Fiesta, you can read the fictional story, based on the author's own experiences, of 3 brothers who were evacuated from Cuba in 1961. History comes alive through dazzling use of visual imagery and humor, which ranges from light to dark. For younger readers, Kiki: a Cuban Boy's Adventures in America, tells the story of an 8 year old "Pedro Pan" who encounters his first American puzzle, the automatic door; meets new animals, such as the raccoon; and is frightened by a ghost on what he later learns is Halloween.

Here's a link to the Official National Charitable organization founded in 1991 by the former unaccompanied Cuban children. It was created to fulfill the Pledge of Thanksgiving given in 1990, "in which we honor the sacrifice of our parents and this noble nation that welcomed us, and the person that made it all possible, Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh. We felt it was our duty to pay back the kindness by helping today's needy children...."

The Week After Next In Booklists

The situation:
You have completed a weekly blog a week earlier than it should be posted, and you will not be at work the next week to post it on time.

The solution:
Post the blog a week early.

Notable Dates for the Week of November 29 to December 5

November 29 Electronic Greetings Day (or Anti-Electronic Greetings Day)

November 30 Regina Mundi Day

December 1 Rosa Parks Day

December 2 National Mutt Day

December 3 Earmuff Day

December 4 National Cookie Day

December 5 International Ninja Day

Next Week In Booklists

Notable Dates for the Week of November 22 to November 28

November 22 Tell some Alaskan jokes on Alascattalo Day.

November 23 Fibonacci Day and Doctor Who Day.

November 24 Thanksgiving is celebrated on the same day as D.B. Cooper Day.

November 25 International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women Day.

November 26 Al Hijra: The First day of the Islamic New Year is celebrated.

November 27 Bruce Lee was born on this day 71 years ago.

November 28 Red Planet Day

Next Week In Booklists

Notable Dates for the Week of November 15 to November 21

November 15 The King’s Feast is celebrated in Belgium.

November 16 Learn a new word or two on Icelandic Language Day.

November 17 Try to set a new record on Guiness World Record Day.

November 18 Latvian Independence Day.

November 19 Gettysburg Address Day.

November 20 Transgender Day of Remembrance.

November 21 Start of Better Conversation Week running from the 21st to the 27th.

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