Ages 18+.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #518 - “Why aren’t midwives the heroines of society that they should be? Why do they have such a low profile? They ought to be lauded to the skies, by everyone.” ~ Jennifer Worth

I have been unashamedly hand-selling The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth in the past weeks and so far, great reports from everyone who've read it.

Former Australian (Melbourne) Event Planner Sally Hepworth sets her US debut in Providence/Conanicut Island (RI) where three generations of midwives called home. This is a lovely story about family, and at the heart of the matter - "biology was only part of it".

In the 7th month of her pregnancy, Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is still determined to keep the identity of the baby's father hidden from her family and co-workers. Though her mother Grace has a hard time accepting Neva's request for privacy, her grandmother Floss, a retired midwife herself, is handling the news with great understanding, having kept a bombshell-of-a-secret in the front pocket of her handbag for five decades.

As Neva's due date approaches, her decision to raise her child as a single parent turns complicated when her best friend, Patrick Johnson, a McDreamy pediatrician offers to be the baby's father while two other likely candidates (Neva is never quite sure) actually have claims on the title. When a difficult birth threatens Grace's license, and Floss suffers a heart attack, secrets are revealed; and the family rallies to usher in Neva's baby, born during a horrific winter storm.

"This intelligent, well-plotted debut will draw readers in from the very first word and keep them engaged until the end." Readers interested in further exploring the topic of midwifery would delight in Midwives by Christopher Bohjalian; the Hope River series by Patricia Harman; and let's not forget Call the Midwife, a BBC series adaptation of Jennifer Worth's memoir.

Waiting (not so) patiently for A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler?

Anne Tyler's 20th (and rumored to be final) novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, continues her trademark talent for finding beauty and complexity in the mundane details of average family life. The story follows the Whitshaw family, whose long-married, but mismatched parents, Red and Abby, are aging and beginning to struggle with the upkeep on the big house in which they raised their four children. As Abby's memory begins to fail, their grown children circle home to help, to make decisions, and to open old wounds and resentments. Fans of Tyler's previous novels may find some familiar ground here, but all readers will appreciate the Tyler's ability to hone in on universalities in family dynamics.

Here are a few titles to tide you over while you wait or to recommend to your book club after they devour A Spool of Blue Thread:

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy - The 13 Turner children, nearly all of them born and raised in the family's 3 bedroom house on the east side of Detroit, face the realities of their pasts and their futures as they come together to decide the fate of their family home in a disentigrating city.

The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver - The house at Ashaunt Point has long anchored the Porter family through the upheaval of war, personal tragedies, changing fortunes, in this powerful examination of the ties that bind families together.

Someone by Alice McDermott - This gem of a domestic fiction novel follows Brooklyn-born Marie Commeford as she navigates changing social norms and expectations from her pre-Depression birthdate throughout her humble yet fascinating life.

Some Luck by Jane Smiley - This first part of a planned trilogy tells the story of Iowa farming family the Langdons, starting in 1920 and moving through the decades as their family grows and changes against the backdrop of the 20th century.

Life-Changing Magic…

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is an international best-selling book by Marie Kondo that is apparently magically changing lives. Kondo is a cleaning consultant that has created the KonMari Method, and with this she challenges you to ponder the significance of everything you own, and to keep only those items that spark joy. This includes everything – clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous stuff, and items with sentimental value. She instructs on how to sift through these items, how to purge what is not needed, and how to feel wonderful after doing so.

The book is full of wisdom and insight on how to make what you own fit into the space you live in. She states that no one should claim they have no space for storage. Her idea is that if you tidy a little bit every day you will be tidying up for the rest of your life. If you follow the KonMari method and follow through, tidying every day will not be necessary. This is not simply buying some bins and storing your stuff. This delves much deeper into analyzing every item you own and in a particular order.

People across the country have been devouring this book, including me, and I wonder how others are doing with the process! Will you Kondo your house?!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #517 - "Excuse me, but I absolutely cannot understand how after eating my fill here I could go past a bakery and steal a roll.” ~ Leo Tolstoy

One of The Huffington Post's most anticipated debut of 2015, Hausfrau* * a novel by award-winning poet Jill Alexander Essbaum (faculty, University of California, Riverside) is an exquisite tale of an expatriate American wife living in Switzerland and her sexual and psychic unraveling, "(written) with an elegance, precision, and surehandedness that recalls Marguerite Duras's The Lover and Anita Brookner's (Booker Prize) Hotel du Lac." ~ Janet Fitch

38 year-old Anna Benz, "is a good wife, mostly." Mother of three, married to a Swiss banker, they live in a picture-perfect suburb of Zurich. But Anna is falling apart inside. At the suggestion of her analyst Doktor Messerli, Anna enrolls in German language classes "to become more connected to the world", but continues to slip into a string of extramarital affairs that eventually exact a price far more than she could ever imagine.

Navigating the lines between lust and love, guilt and shame, excuses and reasons, Anna Benz's story reveals how we create ourselves and how we lose ourselves, and the sometimes disastrous choices we make to find ourselves. "Isolated and tormented, Anna shares more than her name with that classic adulteress, Anna Karenina."

Literary fiction readers might want to further explore the subject with Adultery by Paulo Coelho; A Week in October by Elizabeth Subercaseaux; and I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #516

My Sunshine Away * * by M(ilton) O('Neal) Walsh unfolds in 1989, in the Woodland Hills subdivision, a leafy middle-class Baton Rouge neighborhood, when the unthinkable happened. 15 year-old Lindy Simpson, free spirit, track star, and belle of the block was raped, right there on Old Man Casemore's lawn, and no arrests were made.

Narrating before and after this pivotal summer is one of the 4 suspects - a 14 year-old boy who worships Lindy from his bedroom window across the street. Driven by a misguided desire to solve the crime, he eventually uncovers the truth but at a cost that virtually destroys everyone else in the process.

Baton Rouge native "Walsh (MFA, University of Mississippi and is currently the director of the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of New Orleans), brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love."

"At times funny, at times spine-tinglingly suspenseful, and at times just flat-out wise, this novel is also a meditation on memory, how it can destroy or damn us but redeem us as well" ~ Tom Franklin.

"... Not just southern, but American in its vivid Baton Rouge colors and scents, treetops and grasses, My Sunshine Away is the story of how the events of our youth profoundly affects us as adults,... A mystery you cannot wait to solve." ~ Kathryn Stockett

Southern fiction fans might also enjoy Stephen Wetta's debut novel If Jack's in Love * and What Dies in Summer by Tom Wright, another FFF.

* * = 2 starred review
* = Starred review

HeritageQuest Database Upgrade

Attention family history buffs and genealogy sleuths! The HeritageQuest database got a makeover on March 4th!

Now powered by Ancestry, HeritageQuest's new look and feel is more streamlined, functions similarly to Ancestry, and has powerful new search options that allow for greater specificity and control. In addition to the cosmetic and functional upgrades, they've also added a wealth of new content. For example, the 1790-1940 federal census now includes complete every-name indexes, 20,000 titles have been added to the family and local history books collection (almost doubling its content), and the revolutionary war collection has also been expanded.

With so many new, user-friendly features, you don't want to miss out on exploring it for yourself. Best of all, you can still access HeritageQuest remotely with your valid online library account login.

For more details about new content/changes, and for great tips, take a peek at HeritageQuest's helpful LibGuide. Happy sleuthing!

The 2015 Story Prize

Elizabeth McCracken was presented with the $20,000 Story Prize for her collection, Thunderstruck and Other Stories * * on March 4 in New York City.

The Story Prize is an annual book award honoring the author of an outstanding collection of short fiction with a $20,000 cash award.

Anyone who loves her work (my favorite remains the unforgettable The Giant's House - her debut novel and a National Book Award finalist) will agree that this award is richly deserved.

Thunderstruck is a collection of stories that navigates the fragile space between love and loneliness, including the title story in which a family finds their lives irrevocably changed by their teenage daughter's risky behavior.

Other finalists for the prize are Francesca Marciano for The Other Language * *, and Lorrie Moore for Bark * * * . They each received $5,000.

* * * = 3 starred reviews
* * = 2 starred review

New Adult Fiction: In Some Other World, Maybe

I saw In Some Other World, Maybe, by Shari Goldhagen, reviewed a few months ago and have been eagerly anticipating its arrival at the AADL ever since. And now that I’ve read it, I can vouch for its greatness! The premise of this book is an intriguing one. One night in the early ‘90s different groups of teenagers across the country go to see the same movie. Their motivations for seeing the film are all different (and some don’t even make it through the whole thing), but this early insight that readers gain into the characters’ younger years sets an excellent backdrop for the rest of the book. Over the next two decades, these characters’ lives connect and disconnect, entwined by friendship, love, ambition, fame, and tragedy. Goldhagen chooses to focus on different characters at different points in their lives, so sometimes readers are left wondering what the others are up to. More than once I was surprised and pleased when one character appeared in the plot line of another and the two stories went along together for awhile. It’s this instilment of curiosity in readers that keeps the book moving at an unexpectedly quick pace, and that kept me turning pages later into the night than was good for me.

BookPage calls In Some Other World, Maybe, “a compelling tale that leaves readers pondering what is and, had life taken another direction, what could have been.” Fans of Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings should absolutely give In Some Other World, Maybe a try.

New Documentaries on DVD

New DVDs and Blu-rays are often hitting the catalog, whether it’s film or television, fiction or nonfiction. The AADL owns a slew of fabulous documentaries, and more documentaries have recently been added. Here’s a full list, with newest additions listed first, and below are a few to get you started:

The sixties
The 1960s was the decade America transformed from a country of conformity to a land of political, cultural, and social liberation. Looking through the lens of television, this production weaves together the events and personalities that influenced and dominated the 1960s in America, sketching a portrait of this remarkable decade that is both entertaining and illuminating.

Fat, sick & nearly dead 2
The second inspirational documentary in the higly successful franchise. This reconnects Joe with his followers from the first film to catch viewers up on how the impact of juicing has changed their lives. With help from friends, family and the medical communit, he not only shows viewers were he is now, but also continues to educate viewers about the critical role that family and community support play in maintaining this healthy lifestyle.

Code Black
In his vivid and thought-provoking filmmaking debut, physician Ryan McGarry gives an unprecedented access to America's busiest Emergency Department. Amidst real life-and-death situations, McGarry follows a dedicated team of charismatic young doctors-in-training as they wrestle with both their ideals and the realities of saving lives in a complex and overburdened system.

The Fidel Castro tapes: The story of the Cuban dictator's turbulent leadership
In 1959, Fidel Castro rose to power in Cuba. He has been one of the most controversial figures in the world ever since. This chronicles the Cuban leader's ability to maintain control through ongoing tumult in his country, and in his dealings with the United States and the rest of the world.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #515 - “A mathematical formula for happiness: Reality divided by expectations. There were two ways to be happy: improve your reality or lower your expectations.” ~ Jodi Picoult

Bonita Avenue * * * by Peter Buwalda - the instant bestseller in its native Netherlands, a triple-award-winning debut optioned for a TV series, is "flat-out extraordinary." See the (New York Times review).

Three uniquely unreliable voices narrate this darkly humorous familial drama: the mentally precarious photographer Aaron Bever; his beautiful girlfriend, Joni; and her stepfather, eminent math genius (Fields Medal) and university rector Siem Sigerius. "They were a family of prevaricators - all of them had secrets and they all had something to hide".

Bonita Avenue, a street in Berkeley, California, where a younger Sigerius and his new family lived briefly while he pursued his mathematics career at the university, is remembered as a truly happy period before the family's troubles start. The reemergence of Wilbert,a convicted murderer and Siem's son from his first marriage, presents a threat to the family. Siem discovers the highly profitable web porn site created by Joni and Aaron, under particularly ignoble circumstances. "Guilt and fear rule the decisions the characters make, sending each further down the darkest of path."

"This tumultuous saga of a family breaking down...is "variously compelling, trashy and horrific."

In The Mathematician's Shiva by Stuart Rojstaczer, Rachela Karnokovitch, a much-admired rock star in mathematics, is rumored to have solved the million-dollar Navier-Stokes Millennium Prize problem just before her death, and secreted the solution somewhere. Uninvited, her quirky colleagues descend on Madison (WI), and on her grieving family in search of said solution. Her son Sasha, who wants nothing more than a family-only shivah, must referee the intruding geniuses.

"Interspersed with Rachela's recollections of growing up under Russian anti-Semitism, Rojstaczer, a PhD geophysicist, has created a complex and chaotic rainbow of characters that makes his first novel both comedic and compelling."

"An enjoyable debut... a multilayered story of family, genius, and loss."

* * * = 3 starred reviews

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