Ages 18+.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #473

The Miniaturist * by Jessie Burton is the sole debut among LibraryReads Picks for August 2014! And for good reasons.

After a hasty wedding on a brisk autumn day in 1686, 18 yr.-old Nella Oortman arrives at wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt's splendid home on the Herengracht Canal as his new wife. While the much older Brandt is kind but distractedly distant and consumed with the running of his business, his sharp-tongued sister Marin is less than welcoming. Nella is charmed, however, with the extraordinary wedding gift Brandt presents her - a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist, an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways.

"In a debut that evokes Old Master interiors and landscapes, British actress Burton (Oxford) depicts a flourishing society built on water and trade, where women struggle to be part of the world. Her empathetic heroine, Nella, endures loneliness and confusion until a sequence of domestic shocks forces her to grow up very quickly."

"Enchanting, beautifully written, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth."

For readers who enjoyed Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland; Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier; and The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann.

* = starred review

Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People

“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose”. – Charles Dickens

There are people who like to go for a walk and then there are…walkers. Famously, John Muir, Henry Thoreau, Charles Dickens and Ralph Waldo Emerson, among many others, were known for their love of long-distance walking. Add to that list Robert and Martha Manning, who have written Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People.

This book highlights 30 hikes on every continent which can be taken by “ordinary people”. They range from the 11 mile Cinque Terre trail in Italy, to the Camino de Santiago at 480 miles (which does not sound ordinary to me). Most qualify as only low to moderately challenging and the average length is more like 100 miles. The many color pictures attest to the fact that they are all beautiful, taking the intrepid walker through some of the most lovely terrain imaginable.

The Mannings tell you everything you need to know about each walk, including over-night accommodation possibilities along the way, where to hang out when you are not walking, what to bring, what the food is like, where the pubs are, a little bit of the history of the trail and, briefly, some of their own experiences on each trail, for they have walked them all. Partly a how-to guide but, more importantly, a why-to guide, they place long walks in the “must do” and "can do" categories of lifetime adventures.

So, where to begin? I have no immediate plans to take a long, long walk in Europe, but one can dream. That is what this book is really good for: inspiring the latent long-distance walker to imagine the possibilities. In the meantime, there are lovely walks all over Ann Arbor and we have books to guide you in that adventure, much closer to home.

Need Help with Health Coverage? Contact Coverage Counts!

The Washtenaw County Public Health Department and Livingston County Department of Public Health have teamed up to help families access health coverage through a grant from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, called "Coverage Counts". The Healthy Michigan Plan, which is Michigan's Medicaid Expansion program, is open year round and many adults are now eligible for coverage that had not been in the past. Staff members can help at any time during the process: from the initial application, helping provide supporting documents and will troubleshoot & advocate for folks having difficulty receiving the correct coverage. For more information, contact Haley Haddad at (734) 544-6879. You can follow Coverage Counts on Facebook and Twitter! www.facebook.com/coveragecounts or www.twitter.com/coveragecounts

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #472 - "For other states I have admiration, respect, recognition, even some affection. But with Montana it is love." ~ John Steinbeck

Three noteworthy debuts set against the vast Montana sky, a place "(o)f wide open spaces and lives narrowly, desperately lived at the bitter ends of dirt and gravel roads."

Billings (MT) attorney (Yale Law, Oxford-Rhodes Scholar), Carrie La Seur's debut is "a blend of romance, nostalgia and suspense." The Home Place has been "part of the family for generations, ...built by her great-grandfather and represents to Alma comfort and memories of simpler and happier times." Twelve years after walking away from an accident on an icy Montana road that killed her parents, and left her younger sister Vicki maimed, an unexpected call from the local police draws the successful lawyer Alma Terrebonne back home. Vicky is dead. Whether her death is accidental or not, the lying, party-loving and drug user of a single mother left behind a traumatized daughter. Alma not only comes face to face with cold-hard realities, family secrets, small-town ways, but also her unresolved feelings for Chance Murphy, the high school sweetheart she left behind.

"Walloping in suspense, drama, rage, and remorse, this debut is an accomplished literary novel of the new West."

The #1 pick Indie Next Great Reads for August - Painted Horses * * by Malcolm Brooks captures the grandeur of the American West and prosperity of mid-1950s America.

Catherine Lemay, a young archaeologist is tasked with rescuing any historical artifacts in a Montana canyon ahead of damming and destruction for a hydroelectric project that has divided the locals, including the Crow Indians and others with an interest in the future of the land. Meeting trickery and deception at every turn, she eventually enlisted the help of the Crow girl Miriam, and John H, an artist, a former mustanger who was living a fugitive life in the canyon. When they met, intrigue sparked respect, which eventually flared into passion.

Brooks' themes suggest Jim Harrison or Cormac McCarthy and will remind readers of the great Wallace Stegner.

PEN Literary Award winner Smith Henderson sets his debut Fourth of July Creek * * in the Montana of the late 1970s-early 1980s, and explores "the complexities of freedom, community, grace, suspicion and anarchy, brilliantly depicting our nation's disquieting and violent contradictions."

Tenmile, Montana, impoverish and miles from nowhere, just the place for dedicated social worker Pete Snow who finds solace in its remoteness and plenty of dysfunctional families in need of his services. But he never expects to be a person of interest to the FBI when he takes on the case of Benjamin Pearl, a nearly feral 11-year-old boy, whose father, Jeremiah is a profoundly disturbed, paranoid survivalist.

"First-novelist Henderson not only displays an uncanny sense of place, he clearly knows rural Montana and its impassable roads, its dank bars, its speed freaks and gas huffers; he also creates an incredibly rich cast of characters, from Pete's drunken, knuckle-headed friends to the hard-luck waitress who serves him coffee to the disturbed, love-sick survivalist. Dark, gritty, and oh so good."

These debuts will appeal to fans of Rick Bass, Ivan Doig, and Larry Watson "who writes with ruthless honesty about his characters' stunted dreams, unpredictable emotions and outbursts of senseless violence, showing once again that he understands not only the West but the untamed hearts that have roamed it. "

* * = 2 starred reviews

In-season cooking

Now is the perfect time to take advantage of all the fresh produce available from local grocery stores, farmers markets and maybe even from your own back yard! For many, the biggest question is how to prepare all your yummies once you get them home. At the Ann Arbor District Library you can find a bounty of fresh produce cookbooks that might give you new ideas on how to cook old favorites or help you find new favorites to add into your daily menu. In Susie Middleton’s cookbook Fast, Fresh & Green you’ll find simple recipes that will teach you how to turn out delicious vegetable side dishes in under 30 minutes. On a side note, don’t expect a vegetarian recipe book when checking this one out as the chef uses pork in a few dishes. Of course, you can almost always modify recipes to meet your dietary needs.

If it's vegetarian recipes you’re looking for you can check out issues of the magazine Vegetarian Times. Vegetarian Times is a monthly magazine published nine times a year (three double issues) that is chock-full of healthy recipes geared for cooking with in-season produce. In addition to the tantalizing recipes each issues offers product recommendations, as well as great tips for making your cooking experience easier.

Twig Terrariums Presents: a Terrarium Building Workshop for Teens & Adults

We're all excited about the hotly anticipated Twig Terrariums workshops this Sunday!

Please note that due to limited space and supplies as well as the detailed nature of the project we will be limiting the attendance to Teens in grades 6-12 and Adults. We rarely enforce our age limits for events, but this is a very special circumstance. However, this is just the beginning of the TWIG fun! As of Saturday, July 26 all summer game players will be able to check out the Twig Terrarium's display in the Downtown Library's Youth Department case, and the window at 826MI/Robot Repair & Supply. Starting, Tuesday, July 29 terrariums will also be at Literati Books, Rock, Paper, Scissors and Downtown Home & Garden. ! Keep your eyes peeled for the Twig Terrarium badges to be released next week and get ready to start your search! Literati Bookstore will be selling their book at the event and at their store and of course you can also check out a library copy.

There will be two workshops on Sunday: From 12:30-2:30 PM and from 3:30-5:30PM. If the first workshop fills up we will be handing out tickets for the second workshop.

This event was originally scheduled for the Downtown Library Multi-Purpose Room and has been relocated to the 4th floor of the Downtown Library.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #471 - "Knowledge is gained through wisdom, my friend. Use the sword wisely.” ~ Brian Jacques

With swashbuckling action that brings to mind Alexandre Dumas' Three Musketeers, Sebastien De Castell launches a dynamic new fantasy series with Traitor's Blade *, where a disgraced swordsman struggles to redeem himself by protecting a young girl caught in the web of a royal conspiracy.

The Greatcoats were once the king's elite magistrates, 144 men and women whose mission was to travel the land and uphold the King's Law. But the powerful Dukes overthrew the king and the Greatcoats were scattered and disgraced. Now Falcio Val Mond and his fellow magistrates Kest and Brasti are reduced to working as bodyguards and mercenaries, jeered by the citizenry as "trattari" - tatter-cloaks, and branded as traitors. Implicated in a carefully orchestrated series of murders (including that of their employer); and the life of a young orphaned girl is at stake, they must search for a way to reunite the Greatcoats, and to restore order to Tristia, with nothing more than the tattered coats on their backs and the swords in their hands.

"This debut is a triumph of character, with every protagonist a fascination, especially Falcio, a tormented and ridiculously honorable man. Humor abounds, mostly in the sparkling dialog among our Three Musketeers-esque band of brothers..." Look for Greatcoat's Lament and Tyrant's Throne, Book 2 and 3 of The Greatcoats series already in the works.

In the meantime, you might enjoy these readalikes:

Gentlemen of the Road * * * (a personal favorite) by Micheal Chabon. In the Caucasus Mountains in 950 A.D., two adventurers wander the region, plying their trade as swords for hire, until they become involved in a bloody coup in the medieval Jewish empire of the Khazars as bodyguards for a fugitive prince. A swashbuckling adventure yarn, along the lines of The Arabian Nights.

Captain Alatriste * by Arturo Perez-Reverte, the first installment of a historical series where wounded 17th c. Spanish soldier Alatriste works as a swordsman-for-hire in Madrid.

* = starred review
* * * = 3 starred reviews

Vision Loss Online Support

The Summer 2014 newsletter, Dots and Decibels, from the Perkins Library and the Worcester Talking Book Library features someone with a very special mission. Hannah Fairbairn has “walked the walk” of vision loss and personal recovery, and now wants to share some of the ways she manages her daily life through her new website and weekly blog. In addition to her own experiences, Hannah has worked at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Massachusetts for many years. She writes, “wherever you are in your journey with vision loss, you’ll find something here to make you more confident, more like your old self…or perhaps more active and productive than you were before.” Hannah’s blog can be found via her website VisionLossAndPersonalRecovery.com.

Start Saving Now!

Just because the weather is lovely doesn't mean you shouldn't think about ways you can save energy, especially if you start cranking the A.C. If you're a DTE customer, you can receive a free, in-home assessment from them that provides you with items that can start saving you money on your utility bills pronto. In fact, you can borrow one of our energy meters to find out exactly which of your appliances or electronics are the energy-suckers. What sorts of items are provided by DTE, you ask? Up to 75 new compact fluorescent light bulbs in a variety of styles; water-saving faucet aerators & shower heads; night lights and the peace of mind that you are doing what you can to save the planet. And cash.

Washtenaw County Test and Tune Program

Through the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, residents of Washtenaw County may be eligible for free energy saving measures. The services available may include a tune up of either the furnace or boiler, installation of a water saving faucet and shower aerators, installation of hot water heater pipe wrap, installation of a new energy efficient refrigerator, and the replacement of an unsafe or damaged furnace. To learn more call (734)622-9036 or visit www.ewashtenaw.org/weatherization.

Did you know that AADL has Home Tools to help you manage the efficiency and safety of your home? Check them out to monitor what's going on inside your living space!

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