National Book Award winners for 2013 have been announced

The 2013 National Book Awards, some of the most coveted of literary prizes, were announced last night at a gala event, held at New YOrk's landmark Cipriani Wall Street.

James McBride, author of The Good Lord Bird, was such an underdog, he had no prepared speech when he accepted the fiction prize. In 1857, abolitionist John Brown kills a slave owner and rescues Little Onion, the narrator of McBride's brilliant novel. Complication the inexorable lead-up to the raid at Harper's Ferry is that Brown mistakenly thinks Little Onion (a.k.a Henry Shackleford) is a girl, a disguise that Little Onion struggles to maintain. Visibly shaken by the award, McBride said the writing of his book saved him during a difficult period of his life when his mother and a much-loved niece died and his marriage fell apart.

George Packer, a staff writer for The New Yorker captured the non-fiction category for his searing examination of the class warfare currently being waged in America. The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America is based on dozens of interviews of the mainstays of economic stability have been eroded by the actions of Wall Street and the big banks.

In the poetry category, Mary Szybist won for Incarnadine. Szybist, a professor at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, OR, is no stranger to the spotlight. Her first collection of poetry, Granted (2003) which was a finalist for the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry.

Cynthia Kadohata, a 2005 Newbery Medal winner for Kira-Kira, took home the award last night in the young people's literature category for The Thing about Luck. Twelve-year-old Japanese American Summer and her little brother are left in the care of their old-school grandparents when their mother and father are called away to Japan to care for an ailing relative.

The Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community was presented to Maya Angelou by her friend Toni Morrision.In presenting the award, Ms. Morrison said, "Dr. Maya Angelou, you improve our world by drawing from us, forcing from us our better selves."

Each winner received $10,000 and a statue made of bronze.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #437 - Ars longa, vita brevis (Art is long, life is short)

At the heart of Thomas Van Essen's debut - The Center of the World *, is perhaps the greatest painting by the renowned British painter J. M. W. Turner, and Henry Leiden, a middle-aged family man with a troubled marriage and a dead-end job, who finds his life transformed by the discovery of the painting in a secret compartment at his summer home in the Adirondacks.

Unlike the marine paintings Turner is known for, The Center of the World is a mesmerizing and erotic painting of Helen of Troy, so scandalous at the time that it was believed to have been burned by John Ruskin. Van Essen reimagines the 19th C. setting where Turner struggled to create this painting at the home of his patron Lord Egremont, and Elizabeth Spencer, Turner's muse and the model for his Helen.

"Filled with sex, beauty, and love (of all kinds), this richly textured novel explores the intersection between art and eroticism." "Van Essen writes gracefully and makes accessible the issue of art as transcendence...an appreciation for how art moves the human heart."

The Girl You Left Behind * by Jojo Moyes is about a 100 year-old painting that serves as catalyst in linking two loves stories, one set in occupied France during World War I, the other in contemporary London.

Liv Halston could not part with the painting her late husband David, a brilliant architect gave her as a wedding gift. Readers would be able to deduce that it is the same painting that Édouard, an artist who studied with Henri Matisse, painted of his wife Sophie Lefèvre, a village innkeeper before he headed off to war in 1916. The mystery is the odyssey of how this painting - The Girl I left Behind ended up in the hands of the Halstons, and who is the rightful owner - whether it is the Lefèvre heirs, the WWI occupying German kommandant who coerced a bargain with Sophie, or Liv who treasures it as the last link to the man she lost too soon?

"Moyes has created a riveting depiction of a wartime occupation that has mostly faded from memory. Liv and Sophie are so real in their faults, passion, and bravery that the reader is swept along right to the end. This one is hard to put down!"

Needing no introduction is Donna Tartt. In this her 3rd novel which took a good part of a decade to write The Goldfinch * * , the name is taken from a small, exquisitely rendered painting.

13 year-old Theo Decker miraculously survives an accident that takes the life of his mother. Alone and abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by a friend's family and struggles to make sense of his new life. In the years that follow, he becomes entranced by one of the few things that reminds him of his mother: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the art underworld.

"The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America, and a drama of almost unbearable acuity and power. It is a story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the enormous power of art."

* = starred review
* * = 2 starred reviews

Fantastic Family Audiobook: Peter and the Starcatchers

What happened before Peter met Wendy? Find out in Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, an exciting prequel to J. M. Barrie’s classic Peter Pan.

Peter and the Starcatchers introduces readers to Peter and his orphan friends as they board a ship to the faraway land of Rundoon. Before they arrive, however, they uncover a magical treasure with amazing powers, which they must keep safe from a band of pirates, led by the wicked Black Stache. Expertly narrated by Jim Dale, most well-known as the narrator of the Harry Potter audiobooks, this audiobook adventure makes for a great family listen. Listeners familiar with Barrie’s novel will enjoy seeing how well-known features of the story began. The series continues with Peter and the Shadow Thief and Peter and the Secret of Rundoon.

Fans of the series should also know that it was adapted into a Tony-award-winning musical, and a film adaption is currently in development.

Check out more fantastic family audiobooks here.

Doris Lessing, groundbreaking novelist, has died

Doris Lessing, whose 1962 novel, The Golden Notebook, electrified young women with its forward-thinking themes, died yesterday in London.

Ms. Lessing was born in Iran in 1919 and raised in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) by a father grievously wounded in World War I and a cranky mother who chomped at the bit to escape her domestic responsibilities. Lessing attributed her mother's resentment as a key factor in shaping her own evolving discoveries of the untapped power of women at an early age. She dropped out of school at 14 and discovered writing.

Her first book, the 1950 release of The Grass Is Singing, was instantly controversial. Set in then-Rhodesia, it is the searing account of a bored white farmer's wife and her relationship with one of the farm's black slaves. Lessing's relentless examination of the endless layers of injustice that she saw everywhere was so ferocious that she was labeled a 'prohibited alien' by the governments of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia in 1956 for her inflammatory opinions.

In 1962, Lessing became one of the unwilling literary leaders of the nascent feminist movement, a label eschewed by her because she said the early feminists' embrace of all things political made them angry name-callers. The Golden Notebook tackled head-on the full menu of women's issues that to this day drive many social issues conversations. Marriage vs. freedom, motherhood vs. career, intellect vs. coy submissiveness, black vs. white. She herself lived of what she wrote, abandoning two husbands and two out of her three children when she fled to England.

Ms. Lessing also wrote two very popular series. The Children of Violence, which begins with Martha Quest (1952) and concludes seventeen years later with entry number five, The Four-Gated City (1969). During the span of this series, a teenage Martha Quest leaves her life on an African farm and flees to England, endures the horrors of World War II, and forges a new, more independent, if fraught life, in post-war London.

The second series is a five-entry science fiction work, Canopus in Argos: Archives (1979-1983).

Ms. Lessing was recipient of many awards. One of her most notable distinctions was to be named the oldest Nobel laureate for literature, receiving that honor in 2007 when she was 88 years old. She claimed it ruined her life because the demands on her time that accompanied such an honor, made it impossible for her to write.

Her last book, Alfred and Emily (2008) was a study of her parents' life, filled with speculation about what their lives would have been like if World War I had not happened.

Ms. Lessing was 94.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #436 - “Love, having no geography, knows no boundaries.” ~Truman Capote

Just released to great anticipation is P.S. Duffy's debut The Cartographer of No Man's Land * *.

When his beloved brother-in-law Ebbin goes missing at the front in 1916, Angus MacGrath, a ship's captain in hardscrabble Snag Harbor, Nova Scotia, puts aside his pacifist upbringing to join the war, in order to find him. Assured a position as a cartographer in London, he is instead sent directly to the front. Meanwhile, at home, his son Simon Peter must navigate escalating hostility in a fishing village torn by grief.

"Duffy's astounding first novel depicts terrifyingly real battle scenes, rich in subtle details, displaying the intimacies shared among soldiers and the memories that haunt them."

" (T)he world of shipping and the uncertainty of the uncharted front line provide poignant metaphors for the characters' navigation of conflict, loss, and change, as well as their journey back to each other— and to themselves.".

A Baltimore native and a science writer for the Mayo Clinic, Duffy spent summers sailing in Nova Scotia.

Coming out shortly is Canadian journalist and novelist Brian W. Payton's The Wind is Not a River * *. The reader is treated to a little-known aspect of World War II, one that the U.S. government at the time, took great pains to keep from the public eye.

Desperate to understand the war that claimed the life of his younger brother Warren, journalist John Easley headed to the Territory of Alaska to investigate the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands. In April 1943, he was shot down in a seaplane just off the remote and barren island of Attu. He and the only other survivor - a young Texan aviator named Karl Bitburg, battled the elements, starvation while trying to evade capture by the 2,000 Japaneses soldiers.

In the mean time, 3000 miles south in Seattle, John's wife Helen, resolved to search for her missing husband and to bring him home, signed on with the USO troupe to entertain the troops in Alaska as a dancer/performer.

"Payton has delivered a richly detailed, vividly resonant chronicle of war's effect on ordinary people's lives."

* * = 2 starred reviews

Madison Connors, Romance author and publisher

One of the first publishers on board in our unlimited download ebook collection is owner and CEO of Front Porch Romance, a Southeast Michigan Romance publisher. Click here for a list of these romance titles in our collection.

A writer with deep Michigan roots, Madison Connors, in a recent podcast, talked about her writing, her experience in the publishing business, the history and stories behind Front Porch Romance.

You could also catch Madison as she hosts a weekly radio program called Romance Hour, on ArtistsFirst, a CBS Radio News network, Wednesdays at 6 pm where she interviews other romance authors.

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AADL_Talks_To-Madison_Connors.mp3 26.9 MB

Audiobook for Teens: The Scorpio Races

My favorite audiobooks have always been able to transport me to the world of story. Listening to The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, I was completely transported and can honestly say I have never enjoyed an audiobook experience more.

The Scorpio Races takes place on the island of Thisby, where every November riders compete in the deadly Scorpio Races, saddling the bloodthirsty water horses that would as soon kill their riders as race for them. This year’s competition will be different, however, as seventeen-year-old Puck Connelly plans to become the first female rider to ever race in the Scorpio Races. Told in alternating chapters between the spunky Puck, voiced by Fiona Hardingham, and returning champion Sean Kendrick, voiced by Steve West, this audiobook is an experience not to be missed. It’s a perfect listen for this November.

The novel was awarded a Printz Honor medal in 2012.

You can also check out more Printz Honor medal winners here.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #435 - “Age does not protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age.” ~Anaïs Nin

Already a runaway bestseller in the UK, a former nurse, marriage counselor & journalist Hilary Boyd's debut novel Thursdays in the Park will please readers this side of the pond.

Jeanie Lawson is about to turn 60. She owns a successful health food market in London, enjoys her nights outs with friends, and looks forward to her playdate with her beloved granddaughter Ellie every Thursday at the park, rain or shine. She could almost call life perfect if not for the pain and bewilderment caused by the decade-long abandonment of the marital bed by her husband George. Adding insult to injury, George is now pressuring Jeanie to retire and move to the country.

Then one day at the park, she meets Ray - an age-appropriate, kind-hearted, easygoing, and downright sexy grandfather. As her relationship with Ray blossoms and she begins to think that her life might hold in store a bold second act, she is not sure she has the courage to take charge of her life.

"A warm, tender novel about a woman finally finding a place of her own." " (A) mostly successful exploration of second chances and love at any age."

For fans who enjoyed Helen Simonson's Major Pettigrew's Last Stand; Jeanne Ray's Julie and Romeo; and the poignant Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown where a 55 year-old shy, unassuming postmaster and confirmed bachelor receives the shock of a lifetime: he falls in love!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #434

Conceived as an homage to his favorite author P.G. Wodehouse, Sebastian Faulks' Jeeves and the Wedding Bells * * * is the first new novel in nearly forty years to bring a welcomed return of Bertie Wooster and his unflappable valet Jeeves.

For almost 60 years, P.G. Wodehouse documented the lives of the inimitable Jeeves and Wooster, and built himself a devoted following. In the new episode, Bertie, nursing a bit of heartbreak over the recent engagement of one Georgiana Meadowes to someone not named Wooster, agrees to “help” his old friend Peregrine “Woody” Beeching, whose own romance is foundering. Almost immediately, things go awry and the simple plan quickly becomes complicated. Thanks to Bertie, the situation could only get more hilarious and convoluted.

"(This) P. G. poseur gets the plot right, but what about the all-important patter, the Bertie-isms and the priceless Bertie-Jeeves dialogue duets? But Faulksie nails it again, evoking rather than imitating, but doing so in perfect pitch." It proves that the Wodehouse estate chose well in authorizing Faulk to pen the first new Jeeves and Wooster novel since 1974.

A good excuse to revisit the Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of the original series, and to introduce a whole new generation to some of the finest British television comedies.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #433 - Booklist Top 10 of the Year

The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell
Trying to keep the death of their parents a secret, Marnie and her little sister Nelly are on their own until several residents in Glasgow's Hazelhurst housing estate suspect that something is not right.

Falling to Earth by Kate Southwood
Paul Graves and his family face the resentment of their small town community as it struggles to rebuild following a devastating tornado that left the Graves' home and business unscathed.

Fellow Mortals by Dennis Mahoney
After inadvertently causing a fire in his neighborhood that kills a young wife and devastates the lives of others, Henry forces relationships with the people whose lives he has destroyed.

Golden boy by Abigail Tarttelin
Presenting themselves to the world as an effortlessly excellent family, successful criminal lawyer Karen, her Parliament candidate husband, and her intelligent athlete son, Max, find their world crumbling in the wake of a friend's betrayal and the secret about Max's intersexual identity.

Good Kings Bad Kings by Susan Nussbaum
The residents at a facility for disabled young people in Chicago build trust and make friends in an effort to fight against their living conditions and mistreatment. Winner of the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.

Little Known Facts by Christine Sneed
Explores the consequences of fame as experienced by the family members of an A-list Hollywood celebrity, including his grown children, who long for authenticity in a world where they are regarded as less-important extensions of their father.

Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano
Using the a deck of Loteria cards as her muse, 11-year-old Luz Castillo, a ward of the state who has retreated into silence, finds each shuffle sparking a random memory that, pieced together, brings into focus the joy and pain of her life and the events that led to her present situation.

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
Traces the story of Great Migration-era mother Hattie Shepherd, who in spite of poverty and a dysfunctional husband uses love and Southern remedies to raise nine children and prepare them for the realities of a harsh world.

The Panoptico by Jenni Fagan. See blog.

Snapper by Brian Kimberling. See blog.

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