Ages 18+.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #487 - “There are two ways of seeing: with the body and with the soul. The body's sight can sometimes forget, but the soul remembers forever.” ~ Alexandre Dumas

In What is Visible *, debut novelist Kimberly Elkins presents a "wonderfully imaginative and scrupulously researched" fictional memoir of the life and challenges of Laura Bridgman, the first deaf and blind woman to learn language, some fifty years before Helen Keller. Though she was an internationally renowned figure in the mid-19th century, Laura has been all but forgotten by history.

At age 2, Laura lost her sight, hearing, and the ability to taste and smell from scarlet fever. At age 7, she was taken from her family home in Hanover, New Hampshire by Dr. Samuel Howe, founder of the Perkins Institute in Boston, and taught to communicate via hand spelling. Laura soon became celebrated figure attracting hundreds to exhibitions at the Institution, including a visit by Charles Dickens and Dorothea Dix. But Laura suffered greatly when Dr. Howe married and began a family of his own.

"Told in alternating chapters by Laura, Howe, his poet wife Julia, and Laura's beloved teacher Sarah Wight, this is a complex, multilayered portrait of a woman who longed to communicate and to love and be loved. Elkins fully captures her difficult nature and her relentless pursuit of connection."

Blind * * *, a YA debut by Ann Arbor native (Community High) and Alex Award winner (Big Girl Small) Rachel DeWoskin is "one of those rare books that utterly absorbs the reader into the life and experience of another."

When 14 yr. old Emma Sasha Silver loses her eyesight in a freak accident, she must relearn everything from walking across the street to learning to decipher braille. After a year at the Briarly School for the Blind, she is finally able to return home. But just as she is able to start high school and try to recover her friendships and former life, one of her classmates is found dead in an apparent suicide.

"DeWoskin...skillfully balances the pain of loss with the promise of new experiences and discovery.... The life of a formerly sighted teen blossoms in Emma's strong voice as she explores the world, conquers fears, and attempts living everyday life again with her large, bustling, Jewish suburban family. A gracefully written, memorable, and enlightening novel. "

”A vivid, sensory tour of the shifting landscapes of blindness and teen relationships."

* = starred review
* * * = 3 starred reviews

Texts from Jane Eyre

In the hilarious new book Texts from Jane Eyre, and Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Chracters, readers get to see goofy, imagined text conversations involving characters from many well-known books. This fun book is a quick read, and definitely offers some hearty chuckles by placing centuries-old characters in the modern day. I was especially pleased by how well the author, Mallory Ortberg, takes the often-humorous neuroses of these characters and accurately imagines how they would come through via text message. Even the writing style of the book that each character appears in is maintained in the texts. Ortberg initially wrote some “text” series for the website The Toast and you can see those—and get a preview of the book!—here.

Professional Recertification Program @ JFS

One of the most challenging aspects about coming to a new country would be to ensure your professional certification from home is valid in your new community. This can be a barrier that many immigrants face with difficulty due to the expense. Now, Jewish Family Services has such a recertification program for new immigrants to be certified as an accountant, a teacher, a barber or a number of professions, per the attached brochure. Give Dominic Ortega, the JFS Career Services Advisor, a call at 734-769-0209. Translation services available.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #486 - “No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue." ~ Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

Already a bestseller in Europe and its native Sweden, A Man Called Ove * * by Fredrik Backman is just now getting the well-deserved buzz in the U.S.

Meet Ove. He is a less likable version of Major Pettigrew and Harold Fry, a man of staunch principles, strict routines, a short fuse, and has absolutely no use for people.

At 59, Ove has just been made redundant. His wife Sonia has dies four years ago ,"taking with her all the color in a world Ove sees as black-and-white". So Ove decides to take matters into his own hands. Various attempts to "off" himself end in hilarious (and fortunate) mishaps, and timely interference, divine and otherwise. Even strangers conspire to derail his plan, like the man who falls on the train track just as Ove is able to jump.

Each time he makes a fresh attempt to kill himself, Ove finds himself imposed upon - his oldest friend and most feared enemy, Rune is about to be forcibly removed to a nursing home, while Rune's wife Anita is frantic about a plumbing issue (Ove could fix just about anything). The new neighbors - "the foreign pregnant woman" with her young daughters seem to need help all the time. Sundry homeless pets and young men ask to be taken in. And there is the daily inspection of the housing estate for rule-breakers, never mind he has been voted out of office by the Residents' Association long ago.

"Backman does a crafty job revealing the full vein of precious metal beneath Ove’s ribs, glint by glint. Ove’s history trickles out in alternating chapters—a bleak set of circumstances that smacks an honorable, hardworking boy around time and again, proving that, even by early adulthood, he comes by his grumpy nature honestly... What the book takes its time revealing is that this dyed-in-the-wool curmudgeon has a heart of solid gold."

"If there was an award for Most Charming Book of the Year, this first novel by a Swedish blogger-turned-overnight-sensation would win hands down."

Readers might also enjoy Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler; An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg; and The Widower's Tale by Julia Glass.

* * = 2 starred reviews

New movies on order at the AADL!

The AADL has a great selection of recently released films for you to check out in case you missed them while they were in theaters (or want to see them again!).

Million Dollar Arm, starring John Hamm, is the heartwarming biographical story of JB Bernstein, a sports agent who’s fallen on hard times. In a desperate attempt to keep his business running, JB creates a baseball competition in India called “million dollar arm,” and brings the two finalists (real-life pitchers Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh) back to the US to attempt to sign them with professional teams.

The Grand Seduction, starring Taylor Kitsch (of Friday Night Lights fame), is a Canadian film set in a small fishing village along the coast. In order for a lucrative factory to be built, the citizens must procure a doctor to move to the town and set up his practice there. When big-city doctor Paul Lewis arrives for a trial stay in the town, the locals band together to try and make everything perfect for his visit. As Paul’s time left in the village dwindles and no decision has been made, a final “grand seduction” is planned to try and convince him to remain.

Begin Again, featuring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, and Adam Levine, is a lovely story about Gretta, a struggling British songwriter who has just been dumped by her rockstar boyfriend. While performing at a local bar, she’s discovered by an also-struggling music producer, Dan. After convincing Gretta to sign with him, the two embark on a summer-long outdoor recording session in New York City, flanked by a team of talented musicians and Dan’s daughter, an aspiring musician herself.

If I Stay is the film adaptation of the wildly popular young adult novel of the same title. Chloe Grace Moretz stars in the film as Mia Hall, a talented young cellist who is nearly killed in a car accident. As she lays in a coma in the hospital, the audience sees her flash back through the happy and sad experiences she’s had throughout her life. We see her early life as the daughter of a famous rock musician and his inexperienced wife, her first interest in the cello and ensuing talent, and when she meets her boyfriend, Adam. After learning that the other members of her family have died, Mia realizes that it is up to her to decide whether she will join them in death or fight back through to the world of the living.

Other new releases just added to the collection include Maleficent, Guardians of the Galaxy, Chef, The Giver, and A Most Wanted Man.

Parkinson's Movement & Dance Class

This is a fantastic opportunity for people with Parkinson’s Disease and their families/care partners to explore music and movement in ways that are enjoyable, creative and stimulating. This program is modeled after the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Brooklyn Parkinson Group’s “Dance for PD” program. It is appropriate for anyone with PD, no matter how advanced, and no dance experience is required! It meets on Wednesday evenings, 6:30-7:30pm, Oct. 1-Nov 5 at Turner Senior Resource Center, 2401 Plymouth Rd. The Cost for the 6 week class is $30 per person/$50 per couple, and scholarships are available. Call 734-998-9350 to register.

100 Sideways Miles

100 Sideways Miles is Andrew Smith’s 9th young adult novel and follows the amazingly awesome Winger and the bizzare yet fascinating Grasshopper Jungle. His latest 100 Sideways Miles falls into the “greening of young adult lit” category (thanks to the popular books by YA author John Green) that feature realistic characters with funny narration that’s easy to fall in love with.

16 year old Finn Easton suffers from epilepsy after a childhood freak accident involving his mother and a falling horse. He is also the inspiration for a character in his fiction-writing father’s best-selling novel. These facts do not make him the most popular kid in town. This unique guy does not view time in minutes, he sees it in miles. Finn’s adventures include his funny best friend Cade, his first crush, dealing with “blanking out” during seizures, and the inevitable college-bound road trip with a surprise end result. This book is a winner, and is on the longlist for the National Book Award For Young People's Fiction. (For ages 14 and up.)

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #485 - “...weddings are giant Rorschach tests onto which everyone around you projects their fears, fantasies, and expectations -- many of which they've been cultivating since the day you were born.” ~ Susan Jane Gilman

Come, indulge with me...

Cancel the Wedding by debut author Carolyn Dingman

On the surface, Olivia has it all: a high-powered career, a loving family, and a handsome fiance. She even seems to be coming to terms with her mother Jane's premature death from cancer. Though Olivia and her elder sister Georgia are mystified with their mother's final wish, it offers Olivia a temporary reprieve from decision about her dream job that she now hates, and her upcoming wedding she is having second thoughts about. With her 14-year-old niece, Logan, riding shotgun, she heads to Tillman, GA, on a summer road trip looking for answers about her mother, and comes to know a great deal more about herself. Readers who sympathize with Oliva's difficult situation would enjoy You Are the Love of My Life by Susan Richards Shreve.

A Wedding in Provence by Ellen Sussman - a feast for the senses, and a moving novel of love, forgiveness, and trust, set among the beaches and vineyards of southern France.

Olivia and Brody have found the perfect spot for their small wedding - an idyllic inn nestled in a valley in the Mediterranean town of Cassis, if only they can count on their families and guests to behave. Impulsive and reckless Nell, Olivia's oldest daughter from her first marriage invites a complete stranger. Olivia's youngest daughter, Carly, generally responsible and pragmatic decides to let her hair down for a change. Jake, Brody's playboy best man, and Fanny, Brody's mother arrive with toxic emotional baggage.

A delicious, compelling, and utterly enchanting novel, that captures the complex and enduring bonds of family, and our boundless faith in love. "Women's fiction fans will enjoy Sussman's knowing exploration of mother/daughter relationships and the bond between sisters. The vivid description of Provence will whisk the reader away to the Mediterranean tout suite." A great readalike for Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead.

The Beekeeper's Ball * by Susan Wiggs is the second in the "Bella Vista Chronicles" after The Apple Orchard (2013). Set in the lush Sonoma Valley wine country, the narrative now centers on Isabel Johansen who is in the process of transforming her childhood home into a destination cooking school, and planning the wedding festivities for her sister Tess (the protagonist in the first title in the Chronicles).

When a intrepid (and very cocky) journalist/biographer Cormac "Mac" O'Neill is mistaken for a beekeeper and is almost killed by Isabel's bees, the relationship between them gets off on a rocky start. But Mac's project of writing her grandfather's biography, including his role in the Danish Resistance during WWII, forces them to work together. As much as Isabel denies it, she's getting more and more attracted to Mac.

"Wiggs' carefully detailed plotlines, one contemporary and one historical, with their candid look at relationships and their long-term effects, are sure to captivate readers." Recipes included.

"What makes this moving narrative so memorable is the fearlessness of families and friends who find strength in each other through the horrors of war and loss." If you enjoyed Jojo Moyes' The Girl You Left Behind, you won't be disappointed.

Here are some of my personal favorites (in no particular order) on the drama that often threatens to undo even the best-laid wedding plans: Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand; A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve; The Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham; and Philosophy Made Simple by Robert Hellenga.

* = starred review

Ree Drummond: The Pioneer Woman

Ree Drummond’s memoir of how she met, fell in love with, and married her rancher husband is hilarious, romantic, and charming. Titled The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, A Love Story and published back in 2011, the entirely true story definitely made me want to find my own cowboy out there somewhere! Ree was born in urban Oklahoma and went to college at USC, where she fell in love with the city life. After a few years in Los Angeles, she moves back home temporarily before she plans to move to Chicago. When she meets “Marlboro Man” one night in a smoky hometown bar and he begins to woo her, Ree’s plans change somewhat and before she knows it she finds herself the wife of a down-home Oklahoma rancher, living over an hour from the nearest grocery store and surrounded by cattle rather than skyscrapers. Ree’s stories of her new country life are completely heartwarming.

After publishing this lovely memoir, Ree was inspired to write more and has produced several fantastic cookbooks complete with delicious, easy recipes interspersed with more stories of family life at the ranch. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: recipes from an accidental country girl, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: food from my frontier, and The Pioneer Woman Cooks: a year of holidays, are all beautifully photographed, adorably written, and extremely handy to have in any kitchen!

Most recently, Ree has branched out into writing children’s books about Charlie the ranch basset hound, who is based off of the basset hound that she and her family own in real life. There’s Charlie the Ranch Dog, Charlie the Ranch Dog: where’s the bacon?, Charlie and the New Baby, and Charlie and the Christmas Kitty, as well as several other picture books about the lazy, mischievous dog.

For more information about Ree, and for additional recipes, stories, and photos, check out her awesome blog The Pioneer Woman.

Create "censored" poetry tonight in honor of Banned Books Week!

Tonight, Tuesday September 23, from 7:00 to 8:30pm at the Traverwood branch of the AADL, come create your own poetry out of used book pages! Using colored pencils, attendees can artistically highlight certain words on torn out book pages and black out others to create unique poems. Participants will also have the chance to affix their work to a canvas to take home. This event is intended for grades 6-adult, and all supplies will be provided. See you there!

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