Fabulous Fiction Firsts #451

Retirement is pretty fabulous and I highly recommend it. However, there are certainly aspects of my work that I truly missed, blogging about books is one of them. So, Muffy is back, and just in time to bring you this wonderful first novel, published to coincide with the celebration of Will's 450th birthday this month.

Dark Aemilia * * is based on the life and loves of Aemilia Bassano Lanyer - the first woman poet to be published (in English), whom historians have called a "proto-feminist", choosing to dedicate many of her poems to a host of distinguished women.

British novelist Sally O'Reilly begins her U.S. debut with a young Aemilia, one of Queen Elizabeth's favorites at court, and mistress to Henry Carey, first Lord Hunsdon, the Queen's lord chamberlain. Learned and intelligent, she captivates the brash, young playwright Will and their clandestine affair proves to be her undoing. As the estrangement between them grows with each misunderstanding and misfortune, their love persists - painfully and without hope.

"With elegant style, masterly wordplay, and an eye for historical detail, O'Reilly beautifully relates a passionate and tragic love story, worthy of two such well-known figures". She also casts Aemilia in the shadowy role of the "Dark Lady" - the object of Shakespeare's late sonnets, and further fuels the debate as to the authorship of his plays.

"O'Reilly brings her star-crossed lovers together and drives them apart through plot twists that are, for once, credible outgrowths of the characters' personalities and beliefs, finally giving them a tender, heartbreaking parting. First-rate historical fiction: marvelously atmospheric and emotionally engaging." For fans of Philippa Gregory and Sarah Dunant.

* * = 2 starred reviews

The Circle

Dave Eggers delights again with his newest novel, The Circle. His prose engulfs readers in an eerily familiar world of social and political advancement, somewhat reminiscent of the classic 1984. Readers will wonder what it truly means to be anonymous, and deliberate whether it is a concept more archaic than essential. At the heart of the novel is The Circle's omniscience and its proclamation that "secrets are lies."

Mae Holland, a young college graduate, is stuck in a dead-end career with no hope of leaving her provincial town, when former roommate and business legend Annie offers her a job at The Circle, a company known for its technological advancement and innovation. Although Mae impresses many with her work ethic, her lack of social media presence causes concern in her superiors. The main goal of The Circle, after all, is to connect people of the world in order to achieve infinite knowledge, and ultimately, enlightenment for humankind.

Eggers is best known for his biography, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. He has received multiple awards including Time Best Book of the Year. Eggers also has local acclaim as he is a founder of 826 National, related to Ann Arbor's 826 Michigan.

Audiobook for Broadway Lovers: Better Nate Than Ever

Read by the author (who happens to have been on Broadway himself), Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle offers an insider’s look into the world of Broadway auditions from a kid’s point of view. Thirteen-year-old Nate Foster is tired of being bullied and misunderstood in his hometown so, with the help of his best friend Libby, this Broadway-musical lover concocts a plan to run away to New York City and audition for E.T the Musical (inspired by Steven Spielberg’s E.T., of course). The adventure that follows is both hilarious and heartbreaking, and the narration is spot on through every emotional twist and turn.

The audiobook was a 2014 Odyssey Award Honor, an award given to the best audiobooks for children and teens.

Its sequel Five, Six, Seven, Nate! is also available in print.

The Reader's Eternal Question...

...is "What do I read next?"

The Books, Reading & Literature Databases can help, whether through lists, reviews, book clubs, or ebook selections. Start with Books & Authors where you can browse by title, author, genre and winners of awards named for James Fenimore Cooper, Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe, Philip K. Dick and more. Join a Free Book Club in the genre of your choice.

Then, move on to Select Sites for Books & Reading where you can peruse articles at the New York Review of Books or Kirkus Reviews, find classics in Modern Library's Top 100, figure out the reading order of the series you like with Kent District Library's What's Next? Page, read Hamlet on one single screen page at The Complete Works of Shakespeare, and discover free ebooks at Project Gutenberg and Open Library. You can even read Alice in Wonderland in Lewis Carroll's own hand (as well as other scans of rare originals) courtesy of the British Library.

It won't be long before "What do I read next?" becomes "What do I read first?"

Amazon Teen Bestsellers: The Maze Runner

The Kindle Edition of The Maze Runner, by James Dashner currently is #5 on Amazon’s Best Sellers in Teen and Young Adult Books. In the book, sixteen-year-old Thomas wakes up in a maze with no memory. If he is to escape, he must work with his community. From Amazon: “Read the first book in the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, perfect for fans of The Hunger Games and Divergent." The Maze Runner motion picture is due out in September.

"Rooftoppers" is Exciting, Enchanting Youth Novel

The opening line of Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell, sets the scene: "On the morning of its first birthday, a baby was found floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel." The baby is Sophie, now an adolescent with a vague recollection that her mother was in the channel, too, waving for help after a shipwreck. Sophie's eccentric guardian, Charles, tells her it is almost impossible that her mother is still alive. But for Sophie and Charles, "almost impossible" leaves room for "still possible" and they believe that one should never ignore something that just might be possible.

Because Sophie is a young lady in the care of a single man (Charles), British welfare officials begin pursuing them. The two flee to Paris. With only the address of the maker of her mother's cello, Sophie launches a search for her mom. She is aided by young Matteo and the Rooftoppers, a band of children living in hidden spaces above Paris. Philip Pullman, author of the wonderful series His Dark Materials, praises Rooftoppers as "the work of a writer with an utterly distinctive voice and a wild imagination." I found the book absorbing and delightful.

Audiobook for Kids: Malcolm at Midnight

Many favorite children’s books feature heroic mice, but what about heroic rats?

In Malcolm at Midnight by W. H. Beck, we meet Malcolm, a rat who becomes a class pet when fifth-grade teacher Mr. Binney mistakes him for a mouse. When Malcolm learns about rats’ bad reputation, he decides it might be best to let everyone continue thinking he’s a a mouse, especially after he joins the Midnight Academy, a secret society of class pets that has vowed to keep the school safe. But when the leader of the Midnight Academy goes missing and everyone discovers Malcolm is really a rat, he will have to set off alone to save the school from real evil of McKenna School.

Reminiscent of Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux but with a familiar classroom setting, this book would be a good choice for animal lovers and children with classroom pets.

For more books featuring heroic rodents, check out this list.

Book Release: Eric Shonkwiler's Above All Men at Literati, 2/17

This coming Monday, Literati Bookstore hosts a launch party for Eric Shonkwiler's Above All Men, at 7pm. The title is published by Michigan’s own MG Press, a micro-press devoted to publishing a small number of titles each year.

An extension of the literary journal Midwestern Gothic, MG Press retains the same core values: shining a spotlight on Midwest authors by focusing on works that showcase all aspects of life—good, bad, or ugly.

Tom Lutz of the Los Angeles Review of Books declares that "Shonkwiler takes the world on his own terms, and wrestles it to the ground.”

AADL cardholders who are curious about Shonkwiler's writing can download one of his stories, "Gripping the Heel," in Issue #3 of Midwestern Gothic. In fact, Midwestern Gothic's entire back catalog is available electronically for cardholders.

Eric Shonkwiler’s writing has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, Fiddleblack, [PANK] Magazine, and Midwestern Gothic. He was born and raised in Ohio, received his MFA from The University of California Riverside, and "has lived and worked in every contiguous U.S. time zone."

The Candymakers

Since February is a traditional time for candy, it also seems like a perfect opportunity to sample this sweet story, The Candymakers by Wendy Mass.

Reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, this book introduced readers to four twelve-year-olds competing in the Confectionery Association’s annual Best New Candy contest. Alternating between the perspectives of contestants Logan, Miles, Daisy and Philip, the story unfolds in truly surprising and delightful ways. Through these alternating perspectives, we come to learn that each contest is carrying a secret, but they will have to trust the others enough to reveal all in order to ensure a happy ending.

The audiobook, narrated by Mark Turetsky, is also worth checking out.

Perfect for fans of Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society or Pseudonymous Bosch’s The Name of This Book is Secret.

Available for Download through AADL: Books by Local Author Tristan Gregory

All four titles in The Wandering Tale series by local author Tristan Gregory are now available for download from the catalog! Satisfy an appetite for adventure (think swords, knights, and damsels and distress) with these little gems. Tight schedule? No worries - read a novella in one sitting!

If you're looking for something a little meatier, try Gregory's epic fantasy novel Twixt Heaven and Hell, where one wizard who dreams of peace will clash with a power-hungry warlord in control of sorcerers and demons in a battle to save his precious land and people. Full of magic, action, and plenty of atmospheric suspense - fantasy fans won't want to miss this one!

To download a book, click on one of the links below, then click on the book cover image underneath "Download This Item". Easy!! (If you aren't logged into your AADL account, you'll be prompted to do so - still pretty easy).

The Swordsman of Carn Nebeth (Wandering Tale 1)
The Three Fingers of Death (Wandering Tale 2)
The Giant of Tidesmouth (Wandering Tale 3)
The Crown Unconquered (Wandering Tale 4)

Twixt Heaven and Hell

Le Morte d'Arthur (a short story to whet your appetite)

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