Ages 18+.

The Story Prize finalists have been announced

The Story Prize, now in its 10th year, announced their three finalists competing for the top prize which recognizes an "...author of an outstanding collection of short fiction..." published in the previous year.

This year's finalists are:

Andrea Barrett, for Archangel -- Ms. Barrett is no stranger to literary awards. She won the 1996 National Book Award for Ship Fever and Other Stories. The four stories in Archangel span two centuries and use science as a backdrop for the protagonists' efforts to make sense of a dangerous world.

Novelist Rebecca Lee (The City Is a Rising Tide (2006) got the nod for her first short story collection, Bobcat: & Other Stories, seven tales that examine the messy interiors of human relationships in all their chaotic permutations.

It is hard to find a critic who did not rave about George Saunders' Tenth of December. This, his his seventh collection of short stories, already has won the Pem/Malamud Award for Excellence. In these ten short pieces, Saunders writes beautifully about heroism, PTSD, and hope in the face of a devastating medical crisis.

There is already a Story Prize winner. For the second time in its history it has award The Story Prize Spotlight Award. This year's recipient is Ben Stroud, for his ten-entry collection of historical fiction short stories, Byzantium, for which he received $1000.

The winner, who will receive a $20,000 purse and an engraved bowl, will be announced Wedneday, March 5th at the New School's Auditorium in New York City.

Golden Globes 2014

Last night, amidst the glitz and glamour that is Hollywood at its most celebratory, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association hosted the 71st Golden Globe Awards which recognize the best that movies and television have to offer.

Hosted again by the popular duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, more than two dozen prizes were received with the usual mix of speeches that ran the gamut from eloquent to a stunned scrambling for coherence, from blink-and-you'll-miss-it brevity to gassiness that shouted over the 'stop, you're done' musical cues from the orchestra.

Among the winners were:

12 Years a Slave for Best Motion Picture, Drama -- based on the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup who was born a freeman in New York and then captured and enslaved in New Orleans.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama went to Cate Blanchett for her mesmerizing portrayal of a New York socialite who has lost it all and is forced to move in with her working-poor sister in San Francisco in Blue Jasmine, directed by Woody Allen, who took heat last night from his family and foes via Twitter, when he accepted a Lifetime Achievement award later in the evening.

Amy Poehler got to switch roles when she captured the category of Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy for her portrayal of Leslie Knope in the NBC hit series, Parks and Recreation.

Check out the complete list of winners here.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #447 - "The humble knitter sits in the center between heaven and earth" ~ Susan Gordon Lydon, The Knitting Sutra

Ah, what a great time to snuggle deep into your easy chair and immerse yourself in The Wishing Thread, writer Lisa Van Allen's debut novel - a "Chick-lit cozy meets magical realism with inevitably warm and fuzzy results."

For centuries (really!) the Van Ripper women, owners of The Stitchery, have always been "touched by a vague darkness, a miasma of speculation". When the matriarch Mariah dies, she leaves her three nieces this Tarrytown yarn shop, a "derelict architectural hodgepodge", by design as much as by willful neglect.

Aubrey, shy and reliable, has dedicated her life to weaving spells for the community while working as a librarian's assistant. Bitty, pragmatic and persistent, has long rejected magic in favor of a normal upbringing for her children, only to be frustrated by her daughter's instinctive interest in knitting. Meggie, restless and free-spirited, follows her own set of rules. Like it or not, they all share the ability to knit by request, the most ardent wishes into beautiful scarves and mittens, thus granting health, success, or even a blossoming romance, just for the asking. But no one more than the Van Rippers know that magic demands sacrifice.

Now the Stitchery is in danger as an unscrupulous developer plans to raze the town square and put up a shopping mall. The sisters are divided whether to stay or sell. Complicating matters is handsome handyman Vic Oliveira, who is making one of them question her allegiance to The Stitchery.

"In Allen's debut novel, knitting becomes a rich metaphor for the power of women, of the disenfranchised, of the desperate. Steeped in the spirit of Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," this bewitching tale will delight fans of magical realism."

Lovely blurbs by Meg Waite Clayton and Lisa Verge Higgins. Fans of Sarah Addison Allen will be delighted.

Best New Music At AADL

AADL is constantly adding to its diverse selection of new CDs. If you're seeking some great new tunes, consider the following must-hear material.

"The Electric Lady," Janelle Monae: The easiest way to categorize Janelle Monae's music would be "R&B," but the young singer-songwriter is far more versatile than that. As on her previous masterpiece, The Archandroid, she plays fast and loose with genres from funk to soul to rock to jazz...even a bit of baroque folk. Creating an android alter-ego for herself, she weaves bits of tongue-in-cheek sci-fi dialogue into the album, which plays like an hour of the funnest, funkiest radio you've ever heard. Featuring excellent guest artists from Prince to Erykah Badu. (Fun fact: if you haven't heard of Monae before, you've almost certainly heard her voice. She's featured on Fun's smash hit "We Are Young".)

"The Speed of Things," Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.: If you're seeking some locally-grown jams, look no further than the new record from Detroit indie-pop duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.. These guys seemed on the verge of major celebrity status with their previous record It's A Corporate World. While their latest isn't quite the big, radio-friendly push they need, it's still full of cheery, hooky, danceable tunes. (Just listen to "If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't On the Dancefloor)" and try NOT to spend the next hour humming that riff.)

"Dream River," Bill Callahan: Some may recognize Bill Callahan from his work under the name Smog, but he takes a more personal approach on this record, his fourth to be released under his own name. There's something fascinating, beautiful and a little spooky about Callahan's sparse, autumnal arrangements. You could describe the record's genre as "folk," but Callahan's whispery, often spoken lyrics are too unique to pin down to an established genre. Lie back and let Callahan's pensive lyrics and atmospheric arrangements wash over you.

Find more great new CDs here.

Fun Comedy/Detective Hybrid from Carl Hiaasen

"Bad Monkey," by Carl Hiaasen, is nothing short of morbidly hilarious. An ex-detective named Yancy is determined to win his job back on the Monroe County police force by proving he can solve one of the most gruesome and puzzling murder cases the beach town has ever seen. Yancy suspects foul play and will do anything to see that the truth comes to light.

Hiaasen's private eye style mirrors the darkness of "The Big Sleep" while incorporating ridiculous characters more reflective of "The Big Lebowski," with many characters that offer a slightly offensive vocabulary. Readers will laugh to tears over their uproariously selfish acts, such as when an enormous spec home diminishes natural wildlife and blocks the beautiful Florida sunsets and Yancy subjects the builder to constant pranks to destroy his business prospects. The novel also features an incredibly detailed setting complete with side stories that only augment the main plot line.

In addition to being the author of numerous novels, Hiaasen is also a regular columnist for The Miami Herald and the author of the children's book "Hoot."

Teen Novel: A Cautionary Tale of Sexting

Thousand Words by acclaimed author Jennifer Brown is a wrenching piece of realistic fiction that shows – not in a preachy way – that sexting is stupid and dangerous. This new book, written for readers in about grades 9-11, stars tenth-grader Ashleigh, who is pressured by her friends into texting a full-frontal nude photograph of herself to her boyfriend. The photo is meant for his eyes only, but when he leaves for college, there is a nasty break-up. Seeking revenge, he sends the photo to everyone on his contact list.

Ashleigh is shocked to find herself arrested and facing community service, and her ex-boyfriend may be headed for prison. The community – where Ashleigh’s father is superintendent of schools – is an uproar. Gradually, Ashleigh is able to work through layers of issues and find hope in a future, with help from a shy, kind and troubled young man she meets in community service. This is an engaging, beautifully written novel that parents and teens probably should discuss together. I thought it was an utterly believable story and a valuable literary cautionary tale.

Amiri Baraka, playright, poet, and founder of the Black Arts Movement, has died

Amiri Baraka, controversial writer and founder of the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s and 70s, died yesterday in Newark, New Jersey.

Born Leroy Jones (he later changed the spelling to LeRoi Jones to honor the memory of Roi Ottley, an African American journalist), Baraka was a brilliant student who could not tolerate mainstream academia, becoming ever more political, especially after his brief stint in the Air Force.

His first play, Dutchman (and incendiary indictment on race relations at the time). was performed Off Off Broadway and won the 1964 Obie for Best American Play.

The assassination of Malcolm X further radicalized Baraka. He changed his name two more times, first to Imamu Ameer Bakarat and then to Amiri Baraka. He abandoned his white wife and children, founded the now-defunct Black Arts Repertory Theater, and was credited with starting the Black Arts Movement which jump-started the careers of such noteworthy authors as Nikki Giovanni, Eldridge Cleaver, and Gil-Scott Heron.

His volatile personality got him in trouble in 1979 when he assaulted his second wife, poet Amina Baraka. He was sentenced to 48 weekends in a halfway house and used that time to pen his autobiography, The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones (1984).

In 2002, he was named New Jersey Poet Laureate, a title that he held incident-free for just one month. When Baraka published Somebody Blew Up America, a furious poem about the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, with some strong anti-Semitic accusations, the governor of New Jersey demanded he resign his poet laureate post. Baraka refused so a year later the New Jersey legislature passed a law dissolving the position altogether.

Among the authors who recognized Mr. Baraka's influential, brilliant, provocative writings were Maya Angelou, Norman Mailer, and Allen Ginsberg who became a lifelong friend when they exchanged a brief correspondence written on toilet paper. He was the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1989, he won the Langston Hughes Award.

Mr. Baraka, who suffered from diabetes, was 79.

Donald Lystra, Ann Arbor author, has written a 2014 Michigan Notable Book

Donald Lystra, an Ann Arbor resident and University of Michigan alum, is once again on the Library of Michigan's Michigan Notable Books list.

Lystra's electrical engineer career morphed into fiction writing in the 1990s. His debut novel Season of Water and Ice (2010), was not only a Michigan Notable Book in 2010, but it also won the Midwest Book Award that year.

This year's entry, a short story collection, Something that Feels Like Truth (2013), is on this year's Michigan Notable Books.

Mr. Lystra and his wife, parents to two grown children, split their time between Ann Arbor and northern Michigan farm.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #446 - "It is all connected"

The first stand-alone apart from her popular Dandy Gilver historical manor-house cozies, Catriona McPherson gives us "a dark, absorbing, contemporary" mystery in As She Left It *, "(w)ith an appealingly quirky cast of characters and a nicely paced narrative."

13 years after her escape from an alcoholic mother, Opal Jones returns to the Leeds neighborhood to find very little has changed. Kind Margaret Reid still keeps an eye on the happenings on Mote Street while 'Fishbo' Gordon, Opal's trumpet-playing music teacher and Mrs. Pickess, the wicked witch,"hadn't change one iota, not a jot." The unsolved disappearance of Margaret's little grandson, Craig 10 years ago (whom Opal used to babysit) is the only event that unsettles her homecoming.

"Soon the resourceful Opal undertakes three missions: finding the missing child; locating the family of her beloved Fishbo; and solving the puzzle of papers found in the posts of the secondhand bed she just bought. Undeterred even by a threatening note and a break-in, Opal finds that little is what it seems as her own painful and hidden memories come to light."

Joining the exemplary on Kirkus Reviews' 2013 Best Fiction Books, As She Left It will appeal to fans of Tana French, Laura Lippman, and Chevy Stevens.

* = starred review

Run Run Shaw, movie director, has died

Run Run Shaw, creator of a mammoth movie empire in China and Hong Kong and considered the father of martial arts movies, died Tuesday in Hong Kong.

He and his brother, Run Me Shaw made their first successful film in 1924 in China. Three years later, the political strife in China forced the brothers to move to Singapore, where they continued to produce one money-making film after another.

Next stop, thanks to the invasion of the Malay Peninsula by the Japanese, was Hong Kong where they established their martial arts movie street cred, first with the 'dragon lady' genre, and then with Five Fingers of Death, 1973 (on order)

The Shaw Brothers' movie house empire expanded to the U.S. where their fortunes continued to grow until a serious miscalculation. They rejected Bruce Lee's offer of a contract for several films. Raymond Chow a former Shaw employee, jumped at the chance to work with Lee and the rest is history.

In 1977, Queen Elizabeth knighted him for his philanthropy which benefited orphanages, hospitals, and universities in England, Singapore, and China.

One of his biggest successes was the 1982 science fiction hit, Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Harrison Ford and Sean Young.

Mr. Shaw was 106.

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