Audiobook: Arctic Creature Adventure for Kids

Enter the world of auks and owls in Barry Wolverton’s Neversink. This animal fantasy introduces readers to the rich, complex society of birds who sip tea and start revolutions.

When a possible plague threatens the food supply on the island of Tytonia, power-hunger pygmy owl Rozbell decides now is the time to seize control of the Owl Parliament and of the nearby colony of auks on the island of Neversink. As Rozbell imposes an increasingly heavy “fish tax” on the creatures of Neversink, three unlikely heroes emerge to stop him: misfit puffin Lockley, spirited hummingbird Ruby and scholarly walrus Egbert. (You will never meet a more charming walrus than Egbert, I assure you.)

Fans of Kathryn Lasky’s Guardians of Ga’Hoole, Richard Adams’ Watership Down or Brian Jacques’ Redwall series will likely enjoy the complex animal society while American history lovers will enjoy seeing the parallels between the birds’ plight and the American Revolution.

Wild Swan Theater: The Firebird

Wild Swan Theater presents The Firebird Nov. 21-24 in Towsley Auditorium in the Morris Lawerence Buildong at Washtenaw Community College. The performance is for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. From the Wild Swan web page: "Young Ivan, Prince of Russia, must outwit one evil character after another in his quest to find the Firebird who has been stealing the Czar’s golden apples. A thrilling version of the classic Russian folktale, Wild Swan’s production features a host of fantastical creatures including the witch Baba Yaga, Nurl the Gnome, and Sistchik the Snake King as well as swirling Russian folk dancing set to a lively balalaika score." Ticket information is here.

Audiobook: A Spooky Ghost Story for Teens

In the mood for a scary story this fall? Then give The Diviners by Libba Bray a listen.

Set in 1920s New York City, this paranormal tale pits a ghostly serial killer – who has returned from the grave to fulfill his gruesome mission – against seventeen-year-old diviner Evie O’Neill. As the story begins, Evie’s ability to divine memories from objects lands her in enough trouble to send her off to New York City to stay with her uncle, the curator of the “Museum of Creepy-Crawlies.” When her uncle is called in to help with a murder investigation, Evie soon finds herself caught up in the hunt for the Occult Killer.

The diverse cast, which also includes a lively Ziegfield girl, a charming pick-pocket and a Langston-Hughes-loving poet, are all expertly voiced by narrator January LaVoy.

The audiobook was also named one of YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2013.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #427 - "One man's magic is another man's engineering..." ~ Robert A. Heinlein

This fall's BIG book (563 pp.) is Emily Croy Barker's much anticipated The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic. Marketed as a readalike for Lev Grossman's The Magicians series and Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy, "...this ambitious, densely packed debut" by journalist Barker tells of a young woman's ordeal after walking through a portal into an alternate world where to survive, she must learn real magic. A dark fairy tale with plenty of curb appeal for fantasy, time-travel, and alternate-reality fans.

Nora Fischer expects Adam to propose, instead he is off to marry someone else. Once a promising academic, her dissertation is hopelessly stalled and her advisor has lost interest. During a miserable weekend at a friend's wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she is transformed into a stunning beauty and living a fairy tale life, complete with glamor and promise of love. Then the elegant veneer shatters. Her only real ally and a reluctant one at that is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. Under his tutelage, Nora studies magic. To their surprise, Nora's academic training and resolve makes her an apt student. When an opportunity to slip back through the portal to her former life presents itself, Nora faces a tough decision.

"Barker weaves together classic fantasy and romantic elements (including shout-outs to Pride and Prejudice and hints of Wuthering Heights) to produce a well-rounded, smooth, and subtle tale."

A Musical Fairy-Tale Audiobook for Kids

If you enjoy music with your audiobooks, then try Fairest by Gail Carson Levine (author of the Newbery-Honor-winning Ella Enchanted).

In this loose adaptation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, pale-skinned Aza feels like she will never fit in, not at home in her adopted parent’s inn nor at the royal court. Her unusual coloring and ungainly size make her stand out wherever she goes. Fortunately, Aza is also gifted with a beautiful singing voice, but when the new queen asks Aza to use her voice to help her deceive the kingdom, Aza learns important lessons about loyalty, love and beauty.

What makes this audiobook experience unique, however, is its music. Every song is set to an original tune, and lots of dialogue is sung as well, so the whole listening experience is rather like listening to a full-cast musical. Musical fans and fairy-tale fans alike will want to check out this audiobook.

Amazon Teen Bestsellers: The Mortal Instruments

Slots 5 through 9 on the current list of Amazon teen bestsellers are books from the The Mortal Instruments series. Not a bad showing for author Cassandra Clare. The popularity of her series may be fueled by the August release of the film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. The book City of Bones, which sounds exotic and exciting, is described on Amazon: "When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died . . ."

World Hobbit Day Celebration!

Saturday, September 21 | 2:00-3:30pm | DTN-MPR | All Ages

September 22 is the birthday of Frodo and Bilbo, hobbits from J.R.R. Tolkein’s famous fantasies The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. World Hobbit Day has been celebrated by fans all over the world since 1978, and this year AADL is getting in on the game, and we’re celebrating a day early.

Join us for a wonderful celebration of these fantastic books and movies. (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is in theaters on December 13th!) In our Shire-for-a-day there will be Hobbit-themed games such as a Lord of the Ring toss, craft projects such as dragons and beards, and special snacks such as lembas bread.

Feel free to dress up as your favorite Middle Earth character to get into the spirit of things! (Note: Even hobbits have to wear shoes while in the library.)

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #422 - Spotlight on Ann Arbor Authors (with news flash!)

Words failed me in describing Matt Bell's In the House Upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods *. It disturbs my dreams and shows up at unguarded moments. I now see why Keith Taylor recommended it as a "must-read" this summer. (Listen to the podcast and check out the feature in Publishers Weekly).

By turn called "charmingly bizarre and disturbing ", "spare, devastating", "dark, intriguingly odd fable", it tells how a newly-wed couple relocates to a remote and desolate homestead along a lake - to live simply off the land and water, to build a house and raise a family. With each failed pregnancy, they grow more distant - the child-obsessed husband begins to rage at this new world and resent the wife whose beautiful voice could sing physical objects into existence and altering nature's course. As grief divides them, they must also separately grapple with the bear who rules their woods and the squid who dwells in their lake. A story that is "as beautiful as it is ruinous,... A tragedy of fantastic proportions".

"Bell finds whimsy in despair and reality in the absurd in this absorbingly virtuosic near fairy tale about marital struggle and personal reclamation. The result is a novel of catastrophic beauty and staggering originality. "

Formerly of Ann Arbor (a senior editor at Dzanc Books), currently an assistant professor in the English department at Northern Michigan University, Bell will be one of the speakers at this year's Kerrytown BookFest on Sunday, September 8th.

Signing at the BookFest will be local author Shirley G. Coleman, for her debut novel Mersoon Rising which the Michigan Chronicle review called a "sociopolitical space opera", that chronicles the lives and loves of the Jymirr race during an epic battle for the fate of a planet and an entire solar system.

Check out the feature story in the September 4th issue of the Ann Arbor Journal on Ms. Coleman, and Mersoon being the first title published by Plenary's Wild Seed Press imprint, which honors the late Octavia Butler, and is dedicated to publishing black American authors.

Click here for the BookFest event schedule.

* = starred review

Fantastic Fantasy Audiobook

Do you love classic fantasies, like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz, where a bored young heroine travels out of our world and into a world of magic and mayhem? If so, then you should definitely check out Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

With its rich, old-fashioned language, this audiobook will carry you to Fairyland where you will follow twelve-year-old September through a series of wonderous strange adventures. You will befriend a wyverary (part-wyvern, part-library) and a shy, blue-skinned boy called Saturday. You will ride amidst a herd of wild bicycles. You will even follow September as she confronts the wicked Marquess, who may not be as wicked as September supposes.

Fans will also want to check out its sequel The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There, in which September journeys to shadow kingdom below Fairyland.

So just remember, if you're feeling bored this summer, there's no better cure for boredom than a trip to Fairyland!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #415 - What Would You Do in a Do-Over?

In award-winning journalist Stephen Kiernan''s gripping and poignant literary thriller - The Curiosity * * deep in the Arctic circle, Dr. Kate Philo and her exploration team is searching for marine creatures embedded in icebergs that they can reanimate, and discovery the body of a man buried deep in the ice. With great care, Kate is able to successfully reanimate their discovery back in a Boston lab.

Alternating with Kate's narrative is that of Jeremiah Rice. As he begins to regain his memories, the team learns that he was a Massachusetts judge and the last thing he remembers is falling overboard into the Arctic Ocean in 1906.

As "Subject One" of his Lazarus Project, greedy Erastus Carthage, who funded the expedition, sees it as a breakthrough in the lucrative field of cryogenics. While the clock is ticking, Jeremiah's new life is slipping away, and religious extremists are staging public protests, Kate must decide how far she is willing to go to protect the man she has come to love.

"(S)mart, heady, and irresistible", Kiernan gets every element right in this breakneck, entertaining, and thought-provoking tale about time, mortality, the ethics of science, and the meaning of life. The film rights were instantly sold."

Readers interested in the fantastic multiple realities would enjoy the latest from Andrew Sean Greer - The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells * , a rapturously romantic story of a woman who finds herself transported to the other lives she might have lived.

After a series of personal tragedies, Greta Wells undergoes electroshock therapy for severe depression, only to finds herself repeatedly sent to 1918, 1941, and back to the present.

Whisked from the gas-lit streets and horse-drawn carriages of the West Village to a martini-fueled lunch at the Oak Room, in these other worlds, Greta is united with love ones and those who would eventually betray her.

"In this spellbinding novel,...each reality has its own losses, its own rewards; each extracts a different price. Which life will she choose as she wrestles with the unpredictability of love and the consequences of even her most carefully considered choices?"

* = starred review
* * = starred reviews

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