Ages 18+.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #424 - The Secrets They Keep

Just released this week is Burial Rites * * *, Australian novelist Hannah Kent's debut, based on the true story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last woman executed in Iceland on January 12, 1830, for the murder of 2 men.

District Commissioner Jon Jonsson was informed that Agnes Magnúsdóttir, while waiting execution, would be sent to live on his isolated farm. Arriving filthy, bruised, and bleeding, the family was at first horrified of this convicted murderer, but soon Agnes was put to work. The visits by a young priest, mysteriously chosen by Agnes to be her spiritual guardian, further complicated the tense arrangement. "Over many chilly months, with Agnes working alongside the farmer's wife and daughters in their fields and close living quarters, her version of events emerges. As her story unfolds, her hosts' fear and loathing turn to empathy and understanding."

Kent's debut novel is her "love letter to Iceland, and rarely has a country's starkness and extreme weather been rendered so exquisitely. The harshness of the landscape and the lifestyle of nineteenth-century Iceland, with its dank turf houses and meager food supply, is as finely detailed as the heartbreak and tragedy of Agnes' life."

"In the company of works by Hilary Mantel, Susan Vreeland, and Rose Tremain, this compulsively readable novel entertains while illuminating a significant but little-known true story."

"A magical exercise in artful literary fiction."

Readers might also enjoy the unsettling coming-of-age story, the latest from John Searles Help for the Haunted * * - an unforgettable story of a most unusual family, their deep secrets, and harrowing tragedy.

On a snowy February night, after receiving a late-night call, 14 yr-old Sylvia Mason and her parents head out to an old church on the outskirts of town. Leaving Sylvia left alone in the car, they disappear one after another through a red door. As her parents' singular occupation being demonologists, Sylvia is not alarmed until the sound of gunshots wakes her. Now, nearly a year later, she is ostracized by her peers, bullied by Rose -her spiteful, rebellious older sister, and being the sole witness on the fateful night - she holds the fate of the murder suspect in her unsure hands.

As the story weaves back and forth through the years leading up to that night and the months following, the ever-inquisitive Sylvie searches for answers and uncovers secrets that have haunted her family for years.

"(A) truly creepy, smart psychological thriller" that manages to capture " the vivid eeriness of Stephen King's works and the quirky tenderness of John Irving's novels."

"A somber, well-paced journey, wrapped in a mystery".

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

Chocolate Milkshakes

Give me an excuse to think about, drink, or even be near chocolate milkshakes, and I'm in. This time, the excuse is National Chocolate Milkshake Day, September 12.

"Chocolate milkshake" isn't the sort of thing that will easily generate a well-populated catalog search, but don't worry. We've done some digging for you. Many of AADL's cookbooks have recipes for unique ice cream + chocolate concoctions.

For example, if you're in the mood for a Chocolate Stout Milkshake you can find a recipe in Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. If you like chocolate and mint, you might enjoy Bobby Flay's Fresh Mint-Chocolate Speckled Milkshake, which you can learn how to make in Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries and Shakes. In fact, if you like chocolate milkshakes, this book won't let you down with recipes like Banana-Milk Chocolate Crackle Milkshake, Double Chocolate Milkshake, Dark Chocolate Milkshake With "Fluffy" Coconut Cream, and a few other chocolate-featuring milkshakes.

Flavor Exposed: 100 Global Recipes From Sweet to Salty, Earthy to Spicy gets creative with its treatment of chocolaty shakes. Here you'll find a recipe for a Chocolate Brownie With Gula Melaka Toffee and Chai Milkshake. In case you don't know what gula melaka is, you're not alone. I looked it up; it's palm sugar.

There you have it, an excuse to try a few new treats.

Chesstastic Returns on September 15

Sunday, September 15 | 1-4 PM | Traverwood Branch | Gr. K-Adult

Join us for one of the world's most popular games with players of all ages and abilities! Chess sets are provided. Challenge old friends and meet new ones!

Check out some of our newer titles to hone your skills. These include Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games, and Fighting chess with Magnus Carlsen. While you’re at Traverwood take a look at Chess Life for Kids located just outside the program room. It is filled with all star players, strategies, and tips. Chess sets are provided.

Man Booker 2013 Shortlist has been announced

The Man Booker Prize, one of the most prestigious literary prizes for more than 40 years, has released its shortlist for 2013.

The six authors on the shortlist are notably diverse. Per the requirements of the Man Book Prize, they are all citizens of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. They range in age from 28 (Eleanor Catton to 67 (Jim Crace. Catton, who splits her time between Canada and New Zealand, has written the longest book (The Luminaries -- on order -- is 540 pages). Veteran Irish author, Colm Toibin has produced the shortest -- The Testament of Mary is just 81 pages.

The Luminaries is a mystery set in New Zealand during that country's 1866 Gold Rush.

Toibin's short powerful novel imagines Mary's struggles with faith and grief in her later years, after Jesus' death.

Other contenders are NoViolet Bulawayo whose debut novel, We Need New Names, tracks the life of a 10 year old girl from Zimbabwe who moves in with her aunt in America, swapping abject poverty for shocking excess.

Jim Grace is enjoying his second appearance on the Man Booker shortlist with Harvest, a tale of the unraveling of pastoral calm in a British medieval farming community whose residents battle strangers, witchcraft and each other. His first foray into Man Booker Shortlist territory was in 1998 for Quarantine (1997).

For the complete list of shortlist contenders, check here.

The winner, who will receive the £50,000 prize, will be announced on October 15th.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #423 - Paris, any which way you can, but be very afraid

In Sarah Bruni's engaging debut The Night Gwen Stacy Died *, 17-year-old Sheila Gower has plans. She is moving to Paris. Misunderstood at home by her working-class family and a loner at school, she works at a small-town (Iowa) gas station where she conscientiously practices her conversational French aloud. She is attracted to the oddball cab-driver named Peter Parker, who stops in for cigarettes, and is intrigued when Peter begins to regard her as the fictional character's (Spider-Man) first girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. One night, Peter shows up with a gun...

In this "unusual and inventive love story,.. two lost souls hold the key to each other's salvation". "(F)iercely smart and delectably unpredictable...A genuine page-turner." ~ Kathryn Davis.

"Rough with dark psychology, rich with introspection and emotion, this beautifully written book will appeal to fans of Spider-Man comics as well as coming-of-age fiction."

Winner of the prestigious 2013 Crime Writers Association International Dagger Award, Pierre Lemaître's Alex * * (the first in a trilogy and his first novel to be translated into English) which the judges praised as having "(a)n original and absorbing ability to leash incredulity..., is (a) police procedural, a thriller against time, a race between hunted and hunter, and a whydunnit, written from multiple points of view..."

30-year-old Alex Prévost spots a man who clearly has been following her. That night, Alex is grabbed on a Paris street and thrown into a white van. She is savagely beaten, suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in a tiny wooden cage filled with rats (an updated version of torture favored at the time of Louis XVI).

Meanwhile, apart from a shaky eyewitness report of the abduction, Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on: no suspect, no leads, and no family or friends anxious to find a missing loved one. He knows from bitter experience (in a heartbreaking backstory) the urgency of finding the missing woman but as he uncovers the details, Camille is forced to acknowledge that the person he seeks is no ordinary victim, thus setting the investigation off in an equally disturbing direction.

Expect plenty more twists and surprises that will keep you at the edge of your seat and the pages turning. And if you have a strong stomach and nerves of steel, may I also suggest Maegan Beaumont's Carved in Darkness* ? Another FFF, and first in a projected series, set in SF, that boasts "pulse-pounding terror, graphic violence and a loathsome killer". Be very very afraid...

* = starred review
* * = starred reviews

Homemade Pizza

September 4 was National Cheese Pizza Day. It's not to late to celebrate by exploring pizza-related cookbooks.

If you would like to learn about pizza, not limited to the cheese variety, Pizza: A Global History might be the book for you. Here, in this brief volume, Carol Helstosky takes us from pizza's origin in eighteenth century Naples through its presence (omnipresence?) in popular culture. This particular book is a part of a series dedicated to the history of food and drink with a global perspective. Thought this book is mostly a book about pizza, you'll also find a few recipes to try if you find yourself inspired. If you enjoy this book, you might like others in the series on topics such as pie, pancakes, hot dogs, and sandwiches.

Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough's book Pizza: Grill It, Bake It, Love It! can be described as their guide to making a variety of enjoyable pizzas at home. This book contains over 100 recipes including classics and more inventive recipes with toppings such as squash, chard and even duck confit. This book also includes instructions for making a variety of crusts including a gluten-free one.

For a take on pizza from a well-known chef and restauranteur, try Alice Water's Chez Panisse Pasta, Pizza & Calzone. From the title you can tell that this isn't a single subject book. However, it has something in store for you if you're interested in pizza. Some of these recipes can be time consuming, particularly if you're tackling the homemade pasta, but with over 140 recipes, you're sure to find inspiration. In this book you can expect to find recipes with names like "Buckwheat Pasta, Roasted Peppers, & Endive," or "Barbecued Artichokes & Broken Garlic Pasta."

Inspired by a trip to Naples, Charles and Michiele Scicolone became determined to find a way to duplicate the pizzas they experienced in their home kitchen. Their pizza-related quest, gives us the book Pizza: Any Way You Slice It, which boasts tips on topics from dealing with dough to selecting toppings.

Pizza California Style sets out to provide a pizza recipe for every palate. Here you'll find California style pizzas which are relatively light and have a thin crust. The flavors in the pizzas in this book borrow from a variety of cuisines including Mexican, Japanese, Thai, French and Italian. Here you can find recipes for "Chinese Style Duck" pizza or "Sesame Shrimp Teriyaki" pizza.

In any case, it's pretty likely that even the most die-hard pizza fan can find a new way to enjoy it!

Preserving Family Treasures

My mother has a favorite doll. It is grungy, old, and faded but it is her favorite because of the memories that are attached to it. The story is that when she was about 6 years old she went with my grandpa to the local dump. Now I have no idea why they were there, but in the distance, my mom’s eye caught sight of the most beautiful doll she had ever seen. She asked my grandpa if he would go get it for her. As he looked at the mound of waste between him and the object of his daughter’s desires, he did what any father would do. He tried to talk her out of it. But my mother would not be dissuaded and her timid asking quickly became more of a frantic pleading. Finally my grandpa ventured out on a mission to retrieve the doll and waded through quite a bit of trash before he reached the it. The doll was smelly and dirty, but out of all of the toys my mom had growing up, this doll is the one that she has treasured, not because of the doll itself, but because of what the doll signifies. It is a representation of her dad’s love for her and is a reminder of her happy childhood.

Maybe you have a similar story, some memento from a grandparent, parent, or favorite aunt that is sitting in a box in the attic. Protecting and preserving these items is incredibly important and can sometimes be neglected. Ultimately they are not just objects, but connections to our past and collective history. On September 9 at 6:00 P.M. the Delta Township District Library is hosting a presentation given by internationally renowned preservationist and ALA 2012 Ken Haycock Award winner Jeanne Drewes. Not feeling up to a road trip to Lansing? No problem! The presentation will be streamed live and should be accessible through this link. Learn how to protect those family treasures and preserve the memories attached to them.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #422 - Spotlight on Ann Arbor Authors (with news flash!)

Words failed me in describing Matt Bell's In the House Upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods *. It disturbs my dreams and shows up at unguarded moments. I now see why Keith Taylor recommended it as a "must-read" this summer. (Listen to the podcast and check out the feature in Publishers Weekly).

By turn called "charmingly bizarre and disturbing ", "spare, devastating", "dark, intriguingly odd fable", it tells how a newly-wed couple relocates to a remote and desolate homestead along a lake - to live simply off the land and water, to build a house and raise a family. With each failed pregnancy, they grow more distant - the child-obsessed husband begins to rage at this new world and resent the wife whose beautiful voice could sing physical objects into existence and altering nature's course. As grief divides them, they must also separately grapple with the bear who rules their woods and the squid who dwells in their lake. A story that is "as beautiful as it is ruinous,... A tragedy of fantastic proportions".

"Bell finds whimsy in despair and reality in the absurd in this absorbingly virtuosic near fairy tale about marital struggle and personal reclamation. The result is a novel of catastrophic beauty and staggering originality. "

Formerly of Ann Arbor (a senior editor at Dzanc Books), currently an assistant professor in the English department at Northern Michigan University, Bell will be one of the speakers at this year's Kerrytown BookFest on Sunday, September 8th.

Signing at the BookFest will be local author Shirley G. Coleman, for her debut novel Mersoon Rising which the Michigan Chronicle review called a "sociopolitical space opera", that chronicles the lives and loves of the Jymirr race during an epic battle for the fate of a planet and an entire solar system.

Check out the feature story in the September 4th issue of the Ann Arbor Journal on Ms. Coleman, and Mersoon being the first title published by Plenary's Wild Seed Press imprint, which honors the late Octavia Butler, and is dedicated to publishing black American authors.

Click here for the BookFest event schedule.

* = starred review

Purple Rose: The Vast Difference

The Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea is presenting "The Vast Difference," a comedy by Jeff Daniels from September 19 to December 14.
From the Purple Rose website: "George Noonan is having a mid-life crisis. The father of five girls and a flight attendant for a small Midwestern airline, he is scheduled to have a vasectomy. As he works up the courage to go through with the procedure, George becomes reflective on his struggles with his career, living up to his father's expectations, and the nature of "being a man" in the modern world. Contains mild adult language and themes." The play is directed by Guy Sanville. Tickets may be purchased here.

Mysterious and Magical Tale from Neil Gaiman

The highly-accomplished writer Neil Gaiman has again thrilled audiences with his newest novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Originally intended as a short story, the work quickly became a full-fledged novel fueled by Gaiman's creation of the Hempstock family. The story begins with a seven-year-old boy who, through grim circumstances, befriends a slightly older girl from down the street. Lettie Hempstock brings the boy hope in a time when everything seems to be changing for the worse. With Lettie, he even has an escape from his new, creepily omniscient, babysitter--or so the youngster thinks.

"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" is a winding tale of magic, mystery, fear, and friendship, where psychological monsters lurk around every corner. The magic in the story is otherworldly but not far-fetched; it embraces the idea that children have a sense of perception that is lacking in adults. Abrupt entrances of spectral beings and conscious shadows seem completely natural in the world that Gaiman has created.

Neil Gaiman has written several award-winning books, including the Sandman series, Coraline, American Gods, and The Graveyard Book.

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