Ages 18+.

Teen Stuff: 45 Pounds (More Or Less)

Michigan native K.A. Barson’s first novel, 45 Pounds (More Or Less), tells the story of young Ann. Ann is 16 and wears a size 17 while her weight-obsessed mother wears a size 6. Her aunt is getting married in 2 months and Ann is determined to lose 45 pounds (more or less) to squeeze into that bridesmaid dress. Those are the numbers that rule her brain this summer. Among her daily adventures with friends, boys, a job, family issues, and her own insecurities, Ann is a 16 year old girl full of humor, heart and courage in this worthy debut young adult novel.

Meet the author! Kelly Barson will be in Ann Arbor at Nicola’s Books on Tuesday, October 8th at 6:30pm for a discussion and signing of 45 Pounds (More Or Less)

Affordable Care Act

For those looking for more information about the Affordable Care Act and associated changes, the government offers as the one stop shopping point. Beginning today, October 1, people seeking healthcare can go there to explore options. While they are encouraging people to begin at the site, there is a toll free number people can use to ask questions: 1-800-318-2596.

Consumer reports has published a booklet called, "Health Reform: Seven Things You Need to Know Now." This booklet aims to help people understand the changes brought about by health care reform. This booklet is also available in Spanish as "Reforma del Sistema de Salud: 7 cosas que necesita saber ahora." The Michigan eLibrary pulled together some resources to help Michiganders understand changes in health care law. AARP has also compiled several factsheets that explain how the Affordable Care Act affects different groups of the population.

Finally, AADL is offering an event called How the Affordable Care Act Affects You on October 2, 7:00-8:30 in the Multipurpose Room at the Downtown Library. This program is intended to provide community members age 64 and under with the information and resources to correctly navigate the decisions that must be made in order to comply with new healthcare laws.

Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads 2014: the final two!

The Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads screening committee has narrowed this coming year's read to two finalists, with the theme A Very Good Read. A panel of well-known locals – musician Mark Braun (Mr. B); radio and TV personality Lucy Ann Lance, Ann Arbor Chronicle publisher Mary Morgan, Ann Arbor City Council Member Sally Petersen, and Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber – will be reading the two books "The Garden of Evening Mists" and "Between Shades of Gray" to determine just will be selected.

You, too, have a say – just head on over to and leave a comment about which book you'd prefer! The selection committee will be keeping an eye out for your feedback.

Take a quick look at the descriptions of our two finalists:

The Garden of Evening Mists, by Tan Twan Eng: Malaya, 1951. Yun Ling Teoh, the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp, seeks solace among the jungle-fringed tea plantations of Cameron Highlands. There she discovers Yugiri, the only Japanese garden in Malaya, and its owner and creator, the enigmatic Aritomo, exiled former gardener of the emperor of Japan. Despite her hatred of the Japanese, Yun Ling seeks to engage Aritomo to create a garden in memory of her sister, who died in the camp. Aritomo refuses but agrees to accept Yun Ling as his apprentice "until the monsoon comes." Then she can design a garden for herself. As the months pass, Yun Ling finds herself intimately drawn to the gardener and his art, while all around them a communist guerilla war rages. But the Garden of Evening Mists remains a place of mystery. Who is Aritomo and how did he come to leave Japan? And is the real story of how Yun Ling managed to survive the war perhaps the darkest secret of all?

Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys: Fifteen-year-old Lina is a Lithuanian girl living an ordinary life--until Soviet officers invade her home and tear her family apart. Separated from her father and forced onto a crowded train, Lina, her mother, and her young brother make their way to a Siberian work camp, where they are forced to fight for their lives. Lina finds solace in her art, documenting these events by drawing. Risking everything, she imbeds clues in her drawings of their location and secretly passes them along, hoping her drawings will make their way to her father's prison camp. But will strength, love, and hope be enough for Lina and her family to survive?

The official read will take place in January through February 2014. For more information, check out

Beyond Picture Books

The transition from picture books to chapter books can be tricky for kids (and the big people reading with them!). Finding chapter books that are short enough, fun enough, still have enough pictures, and have simpler plots is a challenge. Here are a couple ideas for kids who are beyond picture books and early readers or for littler ones who are still reading aloud with adults…

My Father's Dragon is loaded with adventure and has lovely black and white illustrations (from the original award winning 1948 edition) on most page spreads. There’s enough action to keep little ones interested in what happens next, too, as we follow the adventures of a young boy on a mission to save a baby dragon from his captors. Using his wits and a few handy items stashed in his backpack, the boy manages to overcome a number of animal obstacles in his path to the dragon. A charming story in which kindness and quick-thinking triumph over the bad guys. Try Elmer and the Dragon and The Dragons of Blueland, too.

The Wizard of Oz, or “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” is more than a movie! The book is a little longer than My Father’s Dragon, but is available in a number of beautifully illustrated editions with each chapter nicely rounded out to introduce a new character or problem for Dorothy and her friends to solve. The story is written with quirky giggle-inducing humor that parents will also appreciate if reading-aloud. If you like this first tale of Oz, you’re in luck – there over 10 books in the Oz series that Baum wrote later!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #427 - "One man's magic is another man's engineering..." ~ Robert A. Heinlein

This fall's BIG book (563 pp.) is Emily Croy Barker's much anticipated The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic. Marketed as a readalike for Lev Grossman's The Magicians series and Deborah Harkness's All Souls Trilogy, "...this ambitious, densely packed debut" by journalist Barker tells of a young woman's ordeal after walking through a portal into an alternate world where to survive, she must learn real magic. A dark fairy tale with plenty of curb appeal for fantasy, time-travel, and alternate-reality fans.

Nora Fischer expects Adam to propose, instead he is off to marry someone else. Once a promising academic, her dissertation is hopelessly stalled and her advisor has lost interest. During a miserable weekend at a friend's wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she is transformed into a stunning beauty and living a fairy tale life, complete with glamor and promise of love. Then the elegant veneer shatters. Her only real ally and a reluctant one at that is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. Under his tutelage, Nora studies magic. To their surprise, Nora's academic training and resolve makes her an apt student. When an opportunity to slip back through the portal to her former life presents itself, Nora faces a tough decision.

"Barker weaves together classic fantasy and romantic elements (including shout-outs to Pride and Prejudice and hints of Wuthering Heights) to produce a well-rounded, smooth, and subtle tale."

That's Right-- National Corned Beef Hash Day

On August 8, 1974, Richard Nixon ordered his last meal as the President of the United States. Deviating from his usual breakfast of wheat germ and coffee, he ordered corned beef hash. You have to wonder what he would have thought about this comfort food having its own day. That's right; September 27 is National Corned Beef Hash Day.

In case you don't know, corned beef hash is often a mix of beef, onion, potatoes, and spices that are mashed together and then cooked with other ingredients. In many places in the United States, corned beef hash is served primarily as a breakfast food. It is often served with eggs, which is how Nixon ate it on his last day as commander in chief.

If this has whet your appetite and you're interested in making your own corned beef hash, there are several books that will help you do this.

The Joy of Cooking has a recipe for Cabbage Stuffed With Corned Beef Hash. If you're looking for another interpretation of this dish from the "dean of American cookery," you'll find a recipe for Quick Corned Beef Hash in James Beard American Cookery.

Ellie Krieger has written a number of cookbooks that focus on healthy choices. For a healthier take on corned beef hash, check out Comfort Food Fix.

Perhaps Emeril put some "bam" his recipe for Baked Eggs With Corned Beef Hash. You can try his interpretation of the dish in Sizzling Skillets and Other One Pot Wonders.

Finally, if you see corned beef hash as a "manly" dish, maybe the Eat Like a Man cookbook is your best source for this meal. If you like the results, maybe this book is, indeed, the only cookbook that a man needs, as suggested by its subtitle.

However, if you'd just like to have it like Nixon did, this article claims to have that recipe.

Before Midnight...The denouement of the "Before" Trilogy

This popular film series with its dead-aim at Generation X concludes with a thoughtful and intense meditation on marriage and relationships in Before Midnight. The trilogy was written and directed by Richard Linklater along with its two stars, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. This collaborative effort is what has made this film series so authentic and relatable. Both Hawke and Delpy are writers themselves and this shows in the dialogue and the acting in all three films. Before Midnight reveals that Jessie and Celine have finally gotten together after the last two films and now married they have twin daughters. We find them on holiday in Greece and the conversations and relationships while just as intense are wholly different and more complicated than in the past. Like the two previous films the realistic feel engages the viewer and pulls you into the moment. What began in Before Sunrise as a bittersweet romance about two entrancing, ambitious twenty-somethings having a one-night stand, and then took on humbled but still hopeful shadings (he unhappily married, she still single) for the thirty-somethings in Before Sunset, has now been deepened immeasurably. Watching this triptych back to back is a must.

Teen Stuff: Eleanor & Park

A realistic young adult love story, Eleanor & Park is set during one school year in 1986. Riding the bus in high school can be perilous. With the anxiety of “assigned” seats and bullies yelling comments, it’s a terrible way to start the day and the school year. Eleanor & Park meet on the school bus, and eventually their hearts burst open for each other as they pour over comics and mixed tapes. They are a pair of misfits who end up matching perfectly. The book is touching and funny, and reminds us what it is like to be young and in love, and to stop at nothing to try to be together, even with family situations that make loving and living all too hard.

The book is written in the voice of both Eleanor & Park, with alternating chapters, so it’s nice to get a sense of what’s behind both teen’s thoughts. Author Rainbow Rowell’s new book Fangirl is also getting a lot of buzz.

Challenged Books Turned into Movies

Some books are challenged and banned because people think that the books shouldn't be read at all. Often, others deeply love those same titles. In fact, a number of books turn out to be award winners.

If you're thinking about exploring banned books, but feel pressed for time, you might check out a movie adaptation of a banned book, maybe even of an award winner. Here is a sampling of choices to consider.

Sophie's Choice was banned in South Africa in 1979, and removed from a California high school in 2002 after a complaint about sexual content in the book. Styron's book also won the National Book Award. Meryl Streep's performance in the 1982 movie earned her one of her Academy Awards.

The Color Purple has been banned and challenged consistently since 1984 in schools and public libraries for, among other reasons, being "smut," being too violent, and portraying black men negatively. Alice Walker won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for this work. The 1985 movie was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, but famously won none of them.

The Godfather was challenged in 1975 in Iowa for being vulgar and obscene by most religious standards. The movie version has widely been considered one of the greatest films of all time.

The Shining was challenged because the challengers objected to the book containing violence, demonic possession, and for ridiculing the Christian religion. It was also removed from school libraries in Washington for language concerns. Stephen King is one of the most often challenged authors in the United States. If you're not too scared, check out Kubrick's movie interpretation of King's 1977 novel.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was locked away in a library in 1988 because a librarian believed that it promoted a poor philosophy of life. See Johnny Depp play Willy Wonka himself in the 2005 film.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #426 - For the lists-makers among us...

If it wasn't for my good friend, I might have missed The Life List, a debut novel by Michigan author Lori Nelson Speilman. It has been sitting there in my to-read pile. Too many books, you know how that is.

Set between Chicago's swanky Gold Coast and the immigrant neighborhood of Pilsen, we are swept along with a young woman in a perplexing journey in search of her adolescent dreams.

Anticipating being made CEO of her mother's multimillion-dollar cosmetics company at the reading of the will, Brett Bohlinger is instead fired and rendered almost homeless. To receive her portion of the inheritance, she is to fulfill a list of life goals her teenage self compiled, which makes the grief-stricken 34 year-old questions her mother's intention. Some of the goals are downright impossible - like establishing a relationship with a father who died 7 years ago. Others are outrageously impractical, like buying a horse and having a baby or two.

With the help and support of the handsome attorney her mother selected as executor, Brett grudgingly accepts the challenges which eventually bring her back to love, the best inheritance of all. "Spielman's debut charms as Brett briskly careens from catastrophe to disaster to enlightenment." Rights to 20 countries. Film optioned to Fox 2000.

Lists-lovers would also enjoy The Sunday List of Dreams by Kris Radish, and The Next Thing on My List by Jill Smolinski.

If you despair of storybook endings wrapped up in a shiny package, then I would suggest The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum, a realistic and well-written portrait of a young woman on the cusp of having it all.

How about some unusual lists? Here are the New Yorker's "The Hundred Best Lists of All Time."

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