Not Your Average Book Group

Looking for ways to kick up your book group this summer? At a recent Booklist webinar, several publishing bigwigs tossed around ideas for making your group more social and less stuffy.

Magazines. If you're stressed for time and reading Cutting for Stone in four weeks just isn't going to happen, then consider using an issue of a magazine or just one article. You can now put magazines on hold through your online account at the AADL, and the title selection is massive. Try a trending topic in a lesser known mag, like Commentary or The Crisis. Or go for the adventurous with Rock and Ice or Ski.

Go Out. Minnesota's largest open book group goes by the name Books & Bars, who says their group "isn’t your mother’s book club. We provide a unique atmosphere for a lively discussion of interesting authors, fun people, good food and drinks." They read everything from The Hunger Games series to McCarthy's The Road.

Some libraries are also organizing book groups in social settings, like Skokie Public Library's LitLounge, which hosts book swaps and trivia nights in addition to discussions. At the Oak Park Public Library in Illinois, they have Genre-X, a twenties and thirties book group that meets at The Snug, a room at the local brewpub and discuss in person what they've been chatting about via their Goodreads group.

For more book group ideas from Booklist, check out their quick and insightful blogs.

Road Trip BOCD: Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie

After zipping through the novel Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar, I'm eager to hear the BOCD, narrated by Ryan MacConnell and the Full Cast Family. The novel is laugh-out-loud funny, as Scott navigates his first year of high school. English is his strong suit, and he hones his skills by writing to his soon-to-be-born baby brother. Very touching. The recorded book lasts 6 hours and 45 minutes, sure to be good entertainment on a summer road trip.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #278

Your read the New York Times review, now you cannot wait to read the book. Can't blame you.

I have to admit, this is my first Colin Cotterill, (and the first of a project new series) and it is sending me straight to his Dr. Siri Paiboun series, another unlikely and exotic sleuth (a septuagenarian Laotian coroner).

The intriguing title had me laughing out loud when I realized that it is derived from one of the many George W. Bush quotes, each heading a new chapter. “Free societies are hopeful societies. And free societies will be allies against these hateful few who have no conscience, who kill at the whim of a hat.” (September 17, 2004) Too far-fetched? It's for real, check it out!

Killed at the Whim of a Hat * * * features Jimm Juree, a thirtysomething "sardonic, self-important 'almost award-winning' " female crime reporter who has been exiled to Chumphon, (Southern Thailand) to run a seedy and decrepit beach resort with her eccentric and loony family.

The discovery of a buried Volkswagen van from the 1970s with two buried hippie passengers brings a flurry of excitement to this tiny village and hopes for a big journalistic break for Jimm Juree. Then there is a real murder and Jimm just cannot stay away, even if her life depends on it.

You will thank me later for not giving away the plot. "Cotterill combines plenty of humor with fascinating and unusual characters, a solid mystery, and the relatively unfamiliar setting of southern Thailand to launch what may be the best new international mystery series".

British expat. and CWA Dagger Awards winner Colin Cotterill taught in Israel, Australia, the U.S. and Japan before started training teachers in Thailand. He and his wife live in a small fishing village on the Gulf of Siam in Southern Thailand.

* * * = Starred reviews

Author Birthdays: Benét, Robbins, Hinton

July 22nd marks the birthday of authors Stephen Vincent Benét, Tom Robbins, and S. E. Hinton.

Stephen Vincent Benét was an American writer probably best known for his short story "The Devil and Daniel Webster." He also won the Pulitzer for his book-length poems John Brown's Body and Western Star.

Benét also wrote an adaptation of the Roman legend of the Rape of the Sabine Women, which he called "The Sobbin' Women." This short story went on to inspire the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Tom Robbins is an American author who has been called a "psychedelic son of Mark Twain" by Booklist. He is known for his novels Even Cowgirls Get The Blues and Villa Incognito.

Robbins also has a collection of short stories and essays called Wild Ducks Flying Backward. Many critics have praised his non-fiction essays in the work for their humor.

S. E. Hinton is an American writer of children's, young adult, and adult fiction. She is best known for her teen novel The Outsiders, about friendship, gangs, and families (featuring a character whose name is worth Summer Game points), which was published when she was only 16 years old.

Hinton's adult fiction includes the novel Hawkes Harbor, which is about an orphan raised by nuns, who later goes out into the world to seek adventure, eventually finding an evil monster in a place called Hawkes Harbor.

Nicola's Books Hosts Panel of Fantasy/Sci-Fi Authors

Are you a fan of fantasy or sci-fi? Maybe you're even a fan of both! If so, you will want to be at Nicola's Books on Tuesday, July 26th at 7:00 p.m., when the local book store will be hosting authors Jacqueline Carey, Jim Hines, and Sarah Zettel. Jacqueline Carey is the author of the national bestselling series, Kushiel's Legacy, while Jim Hines is the author of the Goblin Trilogy and Princess Series, in which classic fairy tale princesses are given a new twist. Sarah Zettel is the author of the fantasy series Isavalta, and has also written five sci-fi novels that have garnered wide critical acclaim. These three authors will be discussing current trends for books in the fantasy and sci-fi genres at this free event.

Nicola's Books is located at the Westgate Shopping Center:
2513 Jackson Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48103

July's Books to Film (and a nice way to get out of the heat)

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is based on the novel by Lisa See.
China. Parallel stories, generations apart. Two young girls bound together by circumstances, history, and a secret language written on the folds of a white silk fan.

Sarah's Key is based on the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay.
Paris, July 1942: 10 yr.old Sarah locks her younger brother in a secret hiding place to save him from the Nazi round-up. Sixty-seven years later, Julia Jarmond, an American journalist stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah, and to questions about her own romantic future.

The film Cowboys & Aliens is adapted from Scott Mitchell Rosenberg's work of the same title.
1873. Arizona Territory. A stranger with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution, a town that lives in fear. But this stranger the town rejects might just be the only hope from the marauders from the sky.

Based on the real-life experience of Iraqi army lieutenant Latif Yahia as detailed in his book I was Saddam's Son, The Devil's Double recounts how he was ordered to become the body double to Saddam's son- the notorious "Black Prince" Uday Hussein, a reckless, sadistic party-boy with a rabid hunger for sex and brutality.

Good Neighbors is based on Chere Voisine by Chrystine Brouillet.
Neighbors Spencer and Louise have bonded over their fascination with a recent string of murders. When Victor moves in, they hit it off. But as they soon discover, each of them has their own dark secret. What they once thought of as a safe haven is as dangerous as any outside terrors they could imagine.

The First Avenger: Captain America is based on the Marvel Comics series by Ed Brubaker.
Steve Rogers volunteers to participate in an experimental program that turns him into the Super Soldier known as Captain America, joining forces with Bucky Barnes and Peggy Carter to wage war on the evil HYDRA organization, led by the villainous Red Skull.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #277

NPR's Three Critics Pick The Best Books For Summer (listen to the podcast) has some fabulous titles. And no one was surprised that The Hypnotist * * featured prominently on it. Now NPR just unmasked the identity of the author(s), known until now, as Lars Kepler.

Stockholm. A gruesome triple murder. 15 year-old, the only witness/survivor, sustained 100 knife-wounds and is in shock. Detective Inspector Joona Linna's only option - to enlist the help of Dr. Erik Maria Bark, the hypnotist.

The battle-worn Linna and the reluctant and scarred Bark unwittingly set off a chain of violent events that climax at a remote cabin north of the Arctic Circle.

An international bestseller and already being adapted for film, The Hypnotist is an adrenaline- and action-packed thriller, "smart and unpredictable", atmospheric as it is cinematic. A nordic crime mystery debut to rival some of the best in the genre.

* * = Starred reviews

Forever: Final Book of The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series

For those of us who have read Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver, and Linger, we can look forward to the final book in the Mercy Falls Wolves trilogy. Forever, the third and final book, starts where we last left off, where Cole has come to the conclusion that Grace must shift into a wolf in the hope that will help her survive. Romance stirs between Cole and Isabel, Sam anticipates moments Grace is human enough to remember him, Cole looks for a cure for Grace, and Isabel's father is determined to rid the woods of all the wolves. Book 3 promises to be an exciting finale to the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy.

Other books by Maggie Steifvater include: Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception and it’s sequel or companion book; Ballad: A Gathering Of Faerie.

You can read my reviews of all four books on their main item pages or by clicking here: Shiver, Linger, Lament, Ballad.

To earn 50 points for the Summer Reading Game, unscramble the word out of the bold letters above.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #276

Graveminder * (also available in audio ) is the first adult title by popular YA author Melissa Marr (Wicked Lovely series).

Her grandmother Maylene's death brings Bek (Rebekkah) Barrow back to Claysville, a sleepy little town with strict rules how the dead are to be buried. Without a thought, Bek slips into performing the strange rituals at the gravesite that she has watched Maylene performed over the years: she takes three sips from a silver flask and speaks the words "Sleep well, and stay where I put you."

Bek never suspects that with Maylene's passing, she is the new "graveminder", the next Barrow female to uphold the century-old contract between the worlds of the living and the dead. Worse yet, no one will tell her that Maylene was actually murdered, and danger is lurking in Claysville. The dead are hungry.

Byron Montgomery, the young Undertaker seems to be the only one who could help her set things right once the dead begin to walk, but he is also the last person Bek would want to involve considering their complicated past and the itchy spark between them that Bek is trying desperately to ignore.

"Haunting, captivating, brilliant!" Check out the author's website and Maylene's Scrapbook for the backstory of the graveminders. A nice cross-over for YA readers.

Want more creepy/chilling read this summer?

Try So Cold the River by Michael Koryta (in audio); Coffin County by Gary Braunbeck; and The Caretaker of Lorne Field by Dave Zeltserman. Perfect to read around the campfire. Don't wander off though, and make sure someone's got your back.

* = Starred review

Author Birthdays: Stone, Garfield, Howatch

July 14th marks the birthday of authors Irving Stone, Leon Garfield, and Susan Howatch.

Irving Stone was an American historical fiction author. His most well known novel may be The Agony and the Ecstasy, a book about the Renaissance artist Michelangelo. The book was also made into a movie starring Charlton Heston.

Stone's main works are all fictionalized biographies. In addition to Michelangelo, he also wrote books on artists Vincent Van Gogh and Camille Pissarro. The novel of Van Gogh was also made into a movie.

Leon Garfield was a British children's historical fiction writer. He also adapted many Shakespearean tales for children, which we have in both written and audio formats, as well as the television show Shakespeare: The Animated Tales.

Garfield's original works include Smith, which is about a 18th century London pickpocket, and The Empty Sleeve, a ghost story featuring protagonist twins.

Susan Howatch is a British fiction writer known for her family sagas and religious themes. Her most popular series is probably the Starbridge Series of six books about a fictional Anglican diocese called Starbridge. The first book in the series is Glittering Images.

Howatch also wrote many stand-alone books. These include The Waiting Sands, which Library Journal described as "three tales of romantic suspense," and Penmarric, a novel set in medieval Cornwall.

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