Fabulous Fiction Firsts #456

The darling of the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair that inspired frenzied bidding, already a bestseller in Europe, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair * will soon be released in the US (translated from the French by Sam Taylor), and destined to be one of this year's hottest summer read. (Also available in the original in the World Language Collection).

Joël Dicker, the 28 year-old Geneva-based author sets this charming whodunit in an idyllic seaside village in New Hampshire, having spent his childhood summers in New England.

On August 30, 1975, Nola Kellergan 15, was reported by a neighbor fleeing through the Somerset (NH) woods never to be seen again. The narrative picks up in 2008, when Marcus Goldman, a successful young novelist suffering from extreme writer's block, seeks advice from Harry Quebert, his good friend and mentor, and one of the country's most respected writers. Snooping around in Harry's home office in Somerset, Marcus comes across material links between Harry and the missing Nola. Just days after, a landscaper finds Nola's remains in Harry's yard.

As the national media convicts Harry, Marcus launches his own investigation, following a trail of clues literary and tangible, teasing out sordid small-town secrets in an attempt to save Harry, his own writing career, and eventually maybe himself.

The winner of three French literary prizes, including the Grand Prix du Roman from the Académie Française, and was a finalist for the Prix Goncourt, The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair is a "fast-paced, tightly plotted, cinematic literary thriller".

Film rights sold to Warner Bros. Variety reports that Ron Howard will direct.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #455

Violet Kupersmith, still in her early 20s, offers "(a)n extraordinarily compelling debut of ghost stories, written as an undergraduate (Mount Holyoke) that grapple with the legacy of the Vietnam War".

Praised by fellow writers as "surgically precise and feverishly imaginative" (Tea Obreht), "...teem(ing) with sensuous and exuberant life" (Valerie Martin), "...deftly funny and yet so deadly serious" (Yiyun Li), The Frangipani Hotel * * will not disappoint.

The titular L'Hotel Frangipane, "swanky name, shitty place", located in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, is a 1/2-star, seven-story death trap, run haphazardly by an extended family where a beautiful young woman, floating fully dressed in an overflowing bathtub in an unoccupied room, seduces an American businessman into a moonlight swim with dark intent.

In "Skin and Bones", in need of losing a few pounds, an overweight Houston teenager is shipped off to spend the summer with her grandmother in Ho Chi Minh City, only to discover the delicious Bánh mì, offered by a curiously-friendly street vendor as the city naps in the sultry afternoons.

Based on traditional ghost stories told to her by the author's Vietnamese grandmother, "each of the stories is replete with characters both fabulous and ordinary, stories out of this world and firmly rooted in it. Each is meticulously told by a storyteller talented and wise beyond her years." Highly recommended for literary fiction fans.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Writing Workshop with Sara Ryan, queer author of YA novels and comics!

Monday June 23, 2014: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

This event is intended for Teens in Grades 6-12 and Adults

Sara will lead a few short writing exercises and answer questions about her books, publishing, and being an out queer author. Sara Ryan grew up in Ann Arbor. She's the author of the Lambda Literary Award finalist novel Empress of the World, the Oregon Book Award-winning novel The Rules for Hearts, and most recently of Bad Houses with Carla Speed McNeil, a TIME Magazine and USA Today Top Graphic Novel of 2013. Find her online at sararyan.com or @ryansara on Twitter. Literati Bookstore will be selling Sara's books and Sara will do a book signing.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #454 - “those of us who read because we love it more than anything, who feel about bookstores the way some people feel about jewelers...” ~ Anna Quindlen

Leaving home for the first time armed with a prestigious scholarship (Art History) at Columbia, 23 yr.-old Brit Esme Garland is dazzled by Manhattan and smitten with the attention of Mitchell van Leuven, a gorgeous, wealthy, blue-blooded New Yorker with an appetite for all things erotic. He abruptly ends their short fling before Esme could tell him she is pregnant.

Determined to get through this on her own, Esme takes a job in a secondhand bookstore on Broadway, a gathering place for the eccentric, who watch over her through her pregnancy - from the laconic owner to the taciturn, guitar-playing night manager. Together they must struggle for the survival of the store in the challenging retail slum.

The Bookstore * by first time novelist Deborah Meyler is a "sharply observed and evocative tale of learning to face reality without giv­ing up on your dreams... sheer enchantment from start to finish."

"Above all, it's about the love of books. A deeply satisfying novel you will keep close to your heart, written in a style by turns witty and poetic."

Award-winning author Gabrielle Zevin gives us "(a) likable literary love story about selling books and finding love" in The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry * (More in a recent NPR interview).

A.J. Fikry, the irascible owner of Island Books on Alice Island (think Martha's Vineyard) off the coast of MA, is going through a tough spot: he lost his wife in a car accident, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and his prized possession--a rare edition of Poe poems--has been stolen. Over time, he has given up on people, and even the books in his store, until an unlocked door brings the most astonishing gift, and a young publisher's rep. offers him the chance to make his life over.

The Storied Life is about "a life of books, redemption, and second chances. Funny, tender, and moving.” It also tops the April LibraryReads list of the Top Ten Books that Librarians Across the Country Love.

Sarah Jio's Goodnight, June imagines the inspiration behind Goodnight Moon, a beloved classic among generations of young readers.

June Anderson, a successful NY financier is lonely and unhappy in her personal life. She is unexpectedly called home to Seattle, to settle her great-aunt Ruby's estate and to dispose of Bluebird Books - the children's bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store's papers, June stumbles upon letters between Ruby and the late Margaret Wise Brown, and that Brown not only visited the bookstore, but Ruby had in fact, inspired Goodnight Moon.

When June receives notice the shop is within days of foreclosure, she has a change of heart. In her rally to save the bookstore, June learns an important lesson about acceptance and forgiveness.

* = starred review

Multicultural Chapter Books: The Alvin Ho Collection

Second-grader Alvin Ho loves playing the brave Firecracker Man at home but at school he is too afraid to say a word. In fact, Alvin is afraid of many things but faces fear after fear in the Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look. In the first book, Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things, Alvin worries about making friends at school. In its sequel Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking and Other Natural Disasters, Alvin and his family get ready for Alvin’s first camping trip. Not only are these books delightfully funny, but the situations are very relatable. The audiobook is a particular treat, narrated by child actor Everette Plen who brings a fantastic youthful energy to these stories.

I think my favorite thing about the Alvin Ho series,though, is their celebration of multiculturalism. Alvin’s close-knit Chinese-American family includes a father who spouts Shakespearean insults and a grandfather who sews, and Alvin’s growing friendship with classmate Flea offers a wonderful message about accepting friends who are different from us.

The series continues with Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other Man-made Catastrophes; Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals, and Other Fatal Circumstances; and Alvin Ho: Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in The Night. More books in the series are also available as audiobooks.

Midwestern Gothic Reading

Saturday June 14, 2014: 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm -- Downtown Library: 4th Floor Meeting Room

Midwestern Gothic is proud to partner with the Ann Arbor District Library to host a reading of its contributors on Saturday, June 14, 2014.

Started in 2010, Midwestern Gothic is an Ann Arbor-based quarterly literary journal dedicated to featuring work about or inspired by the Midwest, by writers who live or have lived here. Midwestern Gothic aims to collect the very best in Midwestern writing in a way that has never been done before, cataloging the oeuvre of an often-overlooked region of the United States ripe with its own mythologies and tall tales—stories and poems that help to paint a portrait of the region. The event will consist of Midwestern Gothic contributors Rob Kenagy (poetry), Cindy Hunter Morgan (poetry), John Rodwan (creative nonfiction/poetry), and Jeff Kass (fiction/poetry) reading their work. The reading will be followed by a short reception.

AADL cardholders can download previous issues of MG from our catalog here.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #453 - "Every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies" ~ Jane Austen

The Zodiac Deception * by award-winning reporter for the New York Times Gary Kriss is a fast-paced WWII espionage thriller. "Crisp prose and a well-structured storyline" also makes it entertaining.

June 1942, Princeton professor David Walker didn't exactly volunteer, but OSS chief Wild Bill Donovan convinced him posing as German astrologer Peter Kepler was the only option other than prison, considering his checkered past. Walker's mission: rely on his skills learned as a protégé of both Harry Houdini and Arthur Conan Doyle, to use illusion, sleight of hand and deception to gain Heinrich Himmler's trust and persuade him to assassinate Adolph Hitler.

From Berlin to Paris to Cairo; from Hitler's Eagle Nest to Himmler's occult Wewelsburg Castle, Walker walked a tightrope of deceit, navigating impossible challenges. To further complicate the mission, he fell in love with a maker of Nazi propaganda films and must rescue her from Paris' labyrinth underground sewers.

"Gary Kriss's The Zodiac Deception is a memorable debut, an unforgettable thrill ride through the dark heart of World War II Germany." A sequel is in the works. Stay tuned.

David Downing, author of the John Russell espionage series set in WWII Berlin, begins a new series with Jack of Spies, set on the eve of the First World War.

It is 1913, Jack McColl, a globe-trotting Scottish car salesman with an uncanny ear for languages, travels from city to great city trying to sell his company's luxury car, the Maia, while collecting intelligence for His Majesty's Navy. As the world tumbles towards war, his spy duties intensify along with danger quotient.

Meanwhile, a sharp, vivacious American suffragette journalist has wiled her way deep into his affections whose family may be involved in a plot against the British, putting him in the impossible position to choose between love and country.

"(F)ull of rich historical and cultural details", both of these FFFs would appeal to fans of Alan Furst, Philip Kerr; and Kate Mosse's latest Citadel (2014), where a group of WWII French Resistance women fighters risk everything to protect astonishing secrets buried in a village nestled deep in the Pyrenees.

* = starred review

Picturebook Picks: The Shape of My Heart

The Shape of My Heart by Mark Sherring is a delightful, colorful picturebook that is perfect for reading aloud. Sherring takes the readers on a journey to discover all of the wonderful, beautiful shapes that we see in our everyday life. From the shapes of our eyes to the sun, from the shapes of the zoo to our hearts, this is a heartwarming book that is perfect for engaging in seek-and-find - “Where is the duck?” - play. The illustrations, colorful and bright, are a collage of animals, shapes, and objects that children will immediately recognize. In addition, these amazing illustrations are brought to life with added sound effects, from chirps to squeaks! Children will fall in love with the high level of interaction this every-color-of-the-rainbow book has to offer.

Teen Fiction Picks: Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood

Have you ever dreamed of being related to a celebrity? Riding in limos and mingling with the glitterati? Abby Spencer never has, until now. But it’s not a dream -- it’s reality. In Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj, thirteen-year-old Abby bugs her mom to contact her father, who she’s never even met, to track down her medical history after nearly dying from a surprise allergy. When she finds him, she discovers that her dad is a Bollywood film star in Mumbai, India! It isn’t until he asks her to come visit him in Mumbai that Abby’s life starts getting flipped upside down. Join Abby, a hilariously witty character, for a crazy adventurous summer dodging paparazzi and experiencing Indian culture in ways she had never dreamed of.

Teen Fiction Picks: How My Summer Went up in Flames

How My Summer Went up in Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski is about a girl named Rosie whose summer is not off to a great start. Her boyfriend cheats on her, resulting in her accidentally setting his car on fire when she tries to burn a box (full of all of the mementos he has ever given her during their nine-month relationship) in his driveway. This results in a temporary restraining order. Naturally, Rosie is depressed and still hung up on her ex. As a result, her parents get the bright idea of sending her out on a road trip with her nerdy best friend Matty and two of his equally-nerdy friends who are all obsessed with Star Wars. Despite Matty’s friends’ interests, Rosie starts to think that tagging along on this roadtrip might not be so bad afterall, as a new budding romance starts to take shape…

In this hilarious coming-of-age story, Rosie is obsessed with her ex-boyfriend, who despite being a terrible human being for cheating on her, is still the object of her affection. She’s just so caught up in their romance that she feels lost after their break-up. Fortunately, Rosie is a smart girl with lots of spark, and throughout the roadtrip, her eyes open and she comes to know herself better, regaining the strength and self-confidence she needs to get over this relationship.

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