Ages 18+.

It Ended Badly: a fun winter read

New to the AADL collection is It Ended Badly, a fun book by Jennifer Wright detailing thirteen of the worst breakups in history. The book spans centuries: from medieval Rome to the Debbie Reynolds-Eddie Fisher-Elizabeth Taylor saga of 1950s-60s Hollywood, the breakups in the book are carefully chosen for their drama, their absurdity, and, of course, for the heartbreak they caused. This book is no downer though, despite its technically sad subject matter. Wright describes the characters vividly and throws in amusing anecdotes to keep the overall tone light. “If he was unhappy,” she writes about Timothy Dexter, who told everyone his wife was a ghost while she was still alive, “it seems it would have been easier to divorce than to pretend your wife does not exist, especially when she was still living in your home and throwing things at you.”

The introduction suggests that this book is intended for those who have just undergone a rough breakup (“If you are lying in bed right now, a pint of ice cream in one hand, a bottle of Scotch in the other, and this book clenched between your teeth, with tears streaming down your face over how much you loved, loved, loved your ex, let me commend you on how well you are coping. You could be doing so much worse.”), but I think it’s a fascinating read for anyone. Readers will learn a great deal about the individuals that Wright focuses on in the book, and about the time periods that they lived in, AND feel entirely equipped to answer trivia questions with obscure historical romance themes/have something at least moderately interesting to talk about with anyone at upcoming holiday parties. It Ended Badly is a great book to burrow under a blanket with on a chilly December evening, accompanied by a warm winter beverage.

There's nothing more Exquisite than a good graphic novel.

French graphic novels translated into English are beginnning to become more popular with titles such as Blacksad taking the comic world by storm. It's not surprising then that Exquisite Corpse has found its way across the Atlantic.

The story follows Zoe, a promotional model for motor shows and other such industry events, as she expresses disinterest in her life and the direction that it's going. One day, on her lunch break, she notices a man looking out at the world from his apartment, and needing to use the bathroom, she barges into his life. The man turns out to be a famous author Thomas Rochard who supposedly died several years earlier. Zoe must navigate living with a "dead" man, as well as his former wife and current editor Agathe.

The artwork is exquisite, if you'll excuse my use of the word to describe this book, and lush with meaning. Whilst reading it you can almost forget that this was originally French, the translation is that good, and you might find yourself shocked when a city scene that is so obviously French appears.

This book is a fascinating read, from the subject matter to the almost meta nature of a book about an author, and it's well worth adding to your "to read" list.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #567

The Boys * * is the first of Toni Sala's books to ever be published in English. The recipient of the 2005 National Literature Prize awarded by the Catalan government, Sala also received the Premis de la Crítica (The Critics Prize for Fiction Catalan) for The Boys in 2014.

In the sleepy Catalonian village of Vidreres, at the foothills of the Pyrenees, two teenage boys, sons of a powerful landowner, were killed in a horrible accident. Overnight, the grief changed the lives of everyone in town, including our four narrators: Iona, a teenage girl who narrowly escapes the same fate by refusing a ride, now she is left to wrestle with survivor's guilt; Ernest, the local banker heads out to the crash site and seeks solace by visiting a hooker; brutish trucker Miqui, no stranger to mayhems, is quietly touched by the deaths; and Nil, an unhinged artist is in pursuit of Iona.

"Long recognized among Catalonia's leading authors, Toni Sala is at his dark, mischievous best, delivering a sinister, fast-moving tale laced with labyrinthine meditations... From Internet hookups and face transplants to tense standoffs, sexual fantasies, and the loss of the ones we hold most dear, Sala offers us a frighteningly contemporary vision of how alone we are in an age of unparalleled connectivity."

Will appeal to fans of Javier Marias, Horacio Castellanos Moya; Michael Ondaatje; and Michel Houellebecq.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Out on the Wire: an illustrated look at the world of radio

Jessica Abel pulls off the counter intuitive—illustrating a purely auditory medium—in her new graphic novel Out on the Wire. The book goes behind the scenes at seven of today’s most popular narrative radio shows and podcasts including This American Life, The Moth, Radiolab, Planet Money, Snap Judgment, Serial and Invisibilia to show readers how the producers of these shows go from abstract ideas to the finished product that listeners hear. Narrative radio shows like the ones Out on the Wire focuses on have increased dramatically in popularity over the past few years, as smartphones and apps make it easier to listen to podcasts on the go. As a devoted podcast listener myself, I love how immersive the ones that Abel chose to focus on in this book are. It’s amazing that talk radio has risen to the level that it has! Abel was assisted by Ira Glass, of This American Life, and Jad Abumrad, of Radiolab in the creation of Out on the Wire and Glass even wrote the forward for the book. Although the book is fascinating for all readers, it’s particularly a must-read for fans of the podcasts and shows that Abel focuses on. The book is truly a novel and well-executed idea that gives readers an inside look into the world of the voices and stories that we hear every day.

Our Spoons Came From Woolworths

Reading our Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns brought such a surprise. Written in 1950 and newly reissued by New York Review Books Classics, it tells the story of 21 year-old Sophia, who is married to Charles, a poor, young artist. The first line of this slim volume, “I told Helen my story and she went home and cried,” warns us that not all will be happy for Sophia, but the darkness of her story is hidden in her delightful, childlike narration. Readers should also heed the note on the copyright page, “the only things that are true in this story are the wedding and Chapters 10, 11 and 12 and the poverty.” These “true” chapters are the ones which detail the birth of Sophia's child and all the humiliating and dehumanizing horror she feels at this event. Yet Sophia's story is at times lighthearted to the point of inciting laughter. No matter what she is conveying, Sophia's tone, as she takes us through her ups and downs in daily life in England in the Great Depression, is always forthright.

“[H]er writing is so often antic and funny, full of odd little turns of phrase and words (‘squarked’), that it takes the reader some time to notice how awful her portraits of life really are,” says Emily Gould in her introduction to this edition, “but Barbara Comyns’s beguiling novel is far from tragic, despite the harrowing ordeals its heroine endures.”

I highly recommend diving into Comyns's autobiographical story. At only 196 pages, it contains so much, enticing humor and immense sadness.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #566

The Girl with Ghost Eyes * by M.H. Boroson is "a brilliant tale of magic, monsters, and kung fu in the San Francisco Chinatown of 1898."

Young widow Xian Li-lin is a Maoshan priestess, following in the footstep of her renowned exorcist father. While guarding the temple on her own, a trusted friend of her deceased husband lures her into a trap set for her in the spirit world. It is Li-Lin's special ability to see spirits and travel to their realm, an ability known as having yin or "ghost" eyes that brings great shame to their family, but it might be the only gift she could count on to save her father against the mysterious one-armed man who wants her father dead.

To aid her are her martial arts and a peachwood sword, her burning paper talismans, and a wisecracking spirit in the form of a human eyeball tucked away in her pocket as she navigate the dangerous alleys and backrooms of Chinatown.

"With a rich and inventive historical setting, nonstop martial arts action, authentic Chinese magic, and bizarre monsters from Asian folklore, The Girl with Ghost Eyes is also the poignant story of a young woman searching to find her place beside the long shadow of a demanding father and the stigma of widowhood. In a Chinatown caught between tradition and modernity, one woman may be the key to holding everything together."

Readers might also enjoy Vermilion: the adventures of Lou Merriwether, psychopomp by Molly Tanzer; Under Heaven by Guy Gavriell Kay; and Snake Agent by Liz Williams.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #565 - Spotlight on Debut Mysteries

Winner of the 2013 Colorado Gold Contest for unpublished writers and a runner-up in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc * by Jennifer Kincheloe.

1907 Los Angeles. Heiress to a banking fortune Anna Blanc bristles under her domineering father and watchful chaperon. Using an alias, she takes a job as a police matron with the LAPD. An eager reader of crime novels, she could match wits with Sherlock Holmes. So when the city is plagued by a string of brothel murders, which the cops are unwilling to investigate, she takes on the investigation herself.

For fans of Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy; Kerry Greenwood's Miss Phryne Fisher; and Ashley Weaver's Amory Ames series.

The White Shepherd by Annie Dalton. In this first of the Oxford Dogwalkers' series (and YA author Dalton's first adult thriller), a fragile young woman becomes an unlikely sleuth.

Anna Hopkins is walking Bonnie, her white German Shepherd, through Oxford's picturesque Port Meadow when they stumble upon the battered body of her friend, Naomi, a researcher. Before the police arrives, two women, Tansy and Isadora, appear on the scene and the women team up to support each other and take matters into their own hands when the Police concludes that Naomi was the latest victim of the Oxford Ripper.

Anna's distrust of the Police stems from a childhood trauma when she found her entire family brutally slaughtered, and the killer was never found. One of the first responder on the scene then is now the lead investigator of Naomi's murder.

"An inventive plot, charismatic characters, and even some black humor combine to make this a good choice for suspense junkies... its canine element will delight Susan Conant and Laurien Berenson fans."

* = starred review

Comic artist spotlight: Marguerite Debaie

Marguerite Debaie is a Palestinian-American artist who has been writing comics about the Palestinian-American experience and they are great. Her first book, in two volumes, The Hookah Girl and other Stories are humorously poignant observations from someone who has grown up as a Christian Palestinian in the US. These two volumes manage to capture what it was like for Marguerite growing up. The art is beautiful and at times it manages to capture in time a moment of great importance for us to share with the artist. So check out Volume 1 and Volume 2

Her second book A Voyage to Panjikant is a beautiful piece of historical fiction that follows a family from 7th Century Sogdiana (now known as Uzbekistan) who are in the midst of the silk road. This first volume is short, but you can see the time and care that went into making it. The coloring is by far some of the most beautiful work I’ve seen in some time, Debaie really captures the vibrancy of the culture. If you are interested in historical-fiction comics then you need to read A Voyage to Panjikant.

Double Up Food Bucks Program Extended!

If you receive Public Food Assistance, you can receive Double Up Food Bucks and buy twice the amount of goods at area Farmer's Markets. This program allows recipients to spend any amount up to $20.00 per day using your Bridge Card to purchase Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB). Double that $20 to $40 by spending it on healthy, delicious Farmers Market foods like locally-grown fruits & vegetables. What a fantastic way to stretch your food budget and how cool is it that this program was extended into Spring of 2016!

Need a Picture ID?

If you've been asked for a picture ID and have been unable to produce it, you may likely be able to get a Washtenaw County ID Card. Applicants must appear in person at the Washtenaw County Vital Records Division. There are point values attributed to a broad range of documents that can serve as proof for applicants to get a picture ID card when they may have been unable to get ID in the past. The cost of the card is $25.00 and is for all ages. Check out the Washtenaw County ID Project on Facebook to find out about events to promote the ID card. Community members are encouraged to get a card in an effort to de-stigmatize it for those who have no other identification card options.

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