Ages 18+.

Re-defining Significance

Who doesn't need to be reminded to recognize the beauty of small moments? Two new books reflect upon ordinary living, re-defining significance.

Christie Purifoy gave up her career and a steady paycheck to buy an old brick farmhouse with a plot of ground, and pursue her dream of re-building it into a home. Structured as reflections divided into the four seasons, Roots and Sky traces Christie's journey toward homecoming: the tired days, the depressed months, the fists-at-the-sky tantrums, and the oh-so-thankful glimpses of what is “adding up to something astonishing.” Christie’s story is crafted by memoir, so it unfurls through her own dreams, and lessons learned, but she touches longings that we all share. She hears God's voice in chipped paint, snowflakes, and scratched bannisters, and listening in reminds us to open our ears too. Her life includes many things mine does not: children, a house, or a green thumb. But everything in her pages declare that the world is full of good gifts, and the weight of significance rests in peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches.

J Ellsworth Kalas, Former Professor and President of Asbury Theological Seminary, passed away last November. A prolific writer, Kalas left us with the fruit of a life he sought to live fully in one last book released in February, The Pleasure of God. This slim volume is divided into twenty-two chapters, each pondering one of the many ordinary tasks no person can avoid, tasks which, by necessity, make up the majority of our time. We cook a meal, shower, walk to the car and shop for groceries. And then we sleep. Would we be closer to God if we could avoid so many earth-bound pursuits and concentrate on weightier matters? Kalas argues “no." He shows how these ordinary activities can be the very space where God draws near.

Hot Fiction: Gold Fame Citrus

The dystopian novel Gold Fame Citrus has gotten a lot of buzz in recent months. Named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2015 and reviewed favorably in the New York Times’ Sunday Book Review, The Lost Angeles Times and The Washington Post, the book shines as brightly as the white dune sea of the near-future southwestern United States that it describes. Author Claire Vaye Watkins is a writing professor here in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan, and Gold Fame Citrus is a hit of a debut novel.

The apocalyptic world that Watkins paints so vividly is that of fiction… for now. Drought has struck the southwestern United States. High winds and broiling temperatures have created a rolling “dune sea”, devoid of almost all life, and moving across the country at breakneck speed. A few survivors hold out, among them former model Luz Dunn and her partner, Ray. The two live in an abandoned Hollywood mansion, surviving on rationed cola and whatever else they can find. When they discover a child one day, however, their world—unexpectedly stable despite the destruction around them—turns upside down. What follows is a fascinating look at how humans react in the face of fear and the unknown, when survival is constantly on the line. Deciding to leave California, Ray, Luz, and the baby attempt to cross the dune sea to make it to the eastern United States—overcrowded but still livable.

The setting of Gold Fame Citrus is fascinating in and of itself, but Watkins creates such a brilliant storyline and uses such descriptive language that readers may feel as though they are trekking across the dusty landscape next to Ray and Luz, with the sun beating down upon them, tasting salt and grit on their tongue. “Gold Fame Citrus is a dreamy story with a mystical streak and a core of juvenile irresponsibility that does not go unpunished,” writes Jason Sheehan in his review of the book for NPR. “She's [Watkins] got a knife eye for details, a vicious talent for cutting to the throbbing vein of animal strangeness that scratches inside all of us.” The characters are as intense as the landscape. Despite being in a place that is entirely unfamiliar to us today, the characters and their reactions make sense to readers, if not always in a positive way. “A great pleasure of the book is Watkins’s fearlessness, particularly in giving her characters free rein to be themselves. People who were shiftless and irresponsible before the disaster are shiftless and irresponsible afterward. This particular apocalypse is not an opportunity for redemption, and no one is ennobled by it,” reads the New York Times review of Gold Fame Citrus. “We were dishonest with ourselves and others before the apocalypse, Watkins suggests, and the same will hold true afterward. The world might be irrevocably altered, but we’re still us.”

Watkins is also the author of the short story collection Battleborn.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #589 "And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.” ~ Roald Dahl

First in a projected series, The Last Days of Magic is the debut novel by published poet and the founder of The Aspen Writers’ Network Mark Tompkins; which Geraldine Brooks called "a fantasy adventure with the shifting perspectives of dreamscape. A novel rich and strange."

A frantic warning from her grandmother alerts Sara Hill to secrets hidden in the books of mythology given to her as a child.The undamaged versions of the Dead Sea Scrolls found in the binding point to evidence of Nephilim, whose existence the Vatican wishes to suppress. When Sara's body washes up on a beach, the scene shifts to late 14th-century Ireland where a centuries-old status quo is in jeopardy.

Medieval Ireland is protected by a powerful goddess known as the Morrígna, a female trinity with one aspect in the spirit realm and two human aspects, born again and again as the twins Anya, the sage, and Aisling, the warrior, who stands between warring clans of Celts, Vikings, and darkly magical otherworldly beings. With Anya’s death, forces are massing to attack the weakened island - the most dangerous being the Vatican which is hell bent on exterminating magical creatures and converting new lands.

At the helm is Jordan, a Vatican commander and clandestine student of forbidden magic who is secretly torn between duty and desire when he meets Najia, an enchantress and his slave. Loyalties are tested and betrayals sown, yet the coming battle is not to be the last.

In this epic novel of magic and mysticism, Celts and faeries, mad kings and Druids, stalwart warriors and the goddess, Tompkins combines deft characterization with treachery, battle, magic, and hints of Dan Brown.

Read-alikes: Danielle Trussoni's Angelology; Lev Grossman's The Magicians; and Deborah Harkness's A Discovery of Witches. Will also appeal to fans of Diana Gabaldon; Jasper Fforde; and Patrick Rothfuss.

Artist focus: Michael Deforge

Michael Deforge's art is "weird" in the original sense of the word, it is strange and otherworldly and often has a hint of the improper. It's beautiful and experimental and often you will find yourself drawn into the image as your mind races to make sense of everything that you are seeing. His books, often a collection of seemingly dissonent tales that somehow come together to create something beautiful. He is also an artist that is on the move, his work is steadily gaining popularity and as he leaves the shadow of his work with Cartoon Network and claims his own style and voice in his comics it can only bring great things.
This year his latest endevor is Dressing is a collection of some of his short stories which is sure to entertain.
His last work First Year Healthy, which came out late last year, is a story about a woman who having been recently released from hospital has to come to terms with her life.Deforges careful use of color along will draw you along and make you think about the choices that people are faced with. While it is a scant 45 pages long, you will not feel rushed in this story, nor will you leave feeling that it was too short. Rather Deforge manages in 45 pages to tell a complete and whole story.

If you are interested in Deforge's work and can't wait for his latest books to come out then check out the titles the library has ready and waiting to be checked out Very Season and A Body Beneath both of which are collections of his work.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #588 “Women can accept the fact that a man is a rotter, a swindler, a drug taker, a confirmed liar, and a general swine, without batting an eyelash, and without its impairing their affection..." ~ Agatha Christie

It really was NOT my intention to revisit the topic of child abduction again so soon, but The Widow * by award-winning journalist Fiona Barton is NOT to be missed.

A week after her husband Glen is killed by a bus, Jean Taylor is again hounded by the press. This is nothing new. Ever since the abduction of 2-year-old Bella Elliott from her Southampton backyard five years ago, Glen has been the prime suspect. Though the police could not make the charges stick, public opinion has no trouble making him to be a monster. Jean remains the faithful, steadfast wife and an unwavering supporter of Glen's innocence, even after evidence of child pornography turned up on Glen's computers, both at home and at the bank where he was let go.

Told from the alternating perspectives of the widow, journalist Kate Waters, the lead police investigator Bob Sparkes, and Bella's single mother Dawn who still harbors hope that her daughter is still alive, the suspense builds and the intrigue intensifies. The burning question remains - how much does Jean know about Glen’s involvement, and whether she plays a part in Bella's disappearance. Readers who resist skimming to the end will be rewarded with a jaw-dropping conclusion.

Read-alike: Just Fall, a first novel by screenwriter/producer Nina Sadowsky, that begs the question - how can you find out that the person you love is a killer…and continue to love him anyway? "Guilt, sex, and double-crosses collide to produce a blazing inferno of heat and betrayal on a tropical island paradise."

* = starred review

Winteractive: The Art of Video Games - AADL Exhibit at University of Michigan Hatcher Gallery

Dates: March 17th through April 15th

What does it mean for a game to be art? Visit this interactive exhibit in the Hatcher Gallery to find out! Many independent game developers stretch the definition of what a game can be and create games that blur the boundaries between art and traditional entertainment.

The games in this exhibition—all created by individual or small groups of developers—will lead you into realms of sound and beauty, or provoke reflection on the human condition, or entertain you with innovative takes on established game genres—or perhaps all of the above at once!

This is a hands-on exhibition. We invite you to play and explore the games, and offer your thoughts.

Sponsored by the Ann Arbor District Library and the University of Michigan Library Computer & Video Game Archive.

Click here for directions to the University of Michigan Hatcher Graduate Library.
Hatcher Library hours and more information can be accessed here.

Teen and Adult Crossover Graphic Novel: Special Batman vs Superman edition

With Batman vs. Superman just around the corner now is the perfect time to read up on both superheroes and maybe the Batman vs. Superman graphic novel.
Now this list is not everything that the library has of these two seminal heroes but rather some of the best graphic novels that we have of Batman and Superman (I'll put a link to a search for everything we have on them at the end of the post).

Let's start with Batman (because I think he's the best, feel free to tell me why I'm wrong or right in the comments).
Batman:Under the Hood is one of those graphic novels that has fans both loving and hating it. It takes one of the old supporting characters from Batman and re-imagines them as a violent anti-hero: The Red Hood. This graphic novel has everything that you could want from a Batman story and controversy aside it is a must read for any fans of the series.
Another Batman series that has fans conflicted is Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn which re-imagines the characters of Batman and Robin, almost reversing the dynamic between them with Robin being the scowling broody hero and Batman being more lighthearted and spontaneous hero that fans would often expect Robin to be. This series is definitely worth a read if you are willing to put preconceptions about what the various characters should act like. It makes a nice break from some of the darker Batman stories.
The last Batman story is Batman and the Mad Monk. This story is one of the first times that Batman has to fight a supernatural villain and it makes from a nice change from the run of the mill criminally insane that we so often see him fight.

The first Superman crossover graphic novel is Superman:Red Son This is one of my favorite Superman stories, it takes Superman's origins and asks the question, what would have happened if he had been raised in Soviet Russia instead of the United States. This change in origin makes for a wonderful story in which we get to see some of our favorite characters engaging with Superman in a way that they have never before (this is a must read for all fans and non-fans alike)!
The next Superman is The Death of Superman. This is one of the first times when the mortality of Superman was put to the question. Could Superman die, and how might this happen. This story is one of the most iconic ones in the history of Superman.
The final superman story is Superman: Exile this story takes place after Superman has broken his oath to never kill and he places himself into a self imposed exile from earth and learns that he cannot run from himself. This is a very different kind of Superman story with lots of introspection, but that doesn’t mean it’s lacking in action or that it’s boring in any way shape or form, instead what we end up with is a story that strives to bring deeper understanding to just who Superman is.

As promised here’s a link to a search for all the graphic novels the library has on
Batman and Superman

Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction

Live Through This: On Creativity and Self-Destruction, edited by Sabrina Chapadjiev, is one of my favorites. It’s the book I turn to whenever I am in need of inspiration, reassurance, or just a push in the right direction. I’ve given copies of this book to more friends than I can count and now I want you to read it!

Live Through This contains a group of essays, poems, cartoons, and photographs by a diverse pool of artists and thinkers including bell hooks, Patricia Smith, Eileen Myles, and Kate Bornstein. The pieces are mostly personal, and detail how the artists worked through difficult times in their lives. Creativity is both a helpful tool and a destructive impulse in the book, and the artists and writers don't hold anything back in detailing their experiences.

I have a hard time summing up how much I love this book, or listing all of the reasons that you should read it, but just believe me, you should! It will push you out of complacency, move you to work harder, and create, create, create. It will set you on fire.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #587 “The only way you can truly get to know an author is through the trail of ink he leaves behind him. The person you think you see is only an empty character: truth is always hidden in fiction.” ~ Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Selected for the March Indie Next and the LibraryReads, The Madwoman Upstairs * by Catherine Lowell is "a mystery, a love story, and a very dark comedy with the Brontës...playing a role back there in the shadows."

20 year-old American Samantha Whipple is the last of the Brontë line and the presumed heir to a long-rumored trove of diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts never revealed to anyone outside of the family. When she fulfills her father's dying wish to attend Oxford (his alma mater) almost immediately, she is the center of speculation and unwanted attention, especially among Brontë scholars and fanatics.

Soon long lost objects thought to have perished in the fire that killed her father begin relentlessly rematerializing in her life, compelling her on an elaborate and frustrating scavenger hunt, guided only by her father's cryptic notes. When she is emotionally and physically challenged to her limits, and a careless mistake places her at risk academically, help comes unexpectedly from her handsome but inscrutable tutor who is "as complex and passionate as his student." Together, they must decode the clues hidden within the Brontës’ novels in order to put the rumor to rest.

"Smart and surprising and fiercely funny." “An entertaining and ultimately sweet story." For fans of Juliet by Anne Fortier.

Companion reads:
Nelly Dean : a return to Wuthering Heights * * by Alison Case, that re-imagines life at Wuthering Heights through the eyes of the Earnshaws’ loyal servant, Nelly Dean. This is the first novel by a professor of 19th century fiction and poetry at Williams College.

Charlotte Brontë : a fiery heart by Claire Harman, is a "landmark biography (that) transforms Charlotte Brontë from a tragic figure into a modern heroine." The Brontës at Haworth by Ann Dinsdale paints a detailed picture of everyday life at Haworth, and provides fascinating insight into the lives of some of the most beloved authors of the 19th century.

* = starred review
* * = 2 starred reviews

Evicted offers an intimate view of poverty and inequality in America

Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond’s new book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City changes the way we look at poverty in our country. Desmond tells the stories of eight different families living in the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee, all of whom have spent everything they have to try and keep roofs over their heads… and now they’ve fallen behind. These families are at the mercy of two landlords, one of whom owns inner city apartments, while the other runs one of Milwaukee’s worst trailer parks. Desmond paints a fascinating, complex picture of these two people in particular, and of the circumstances that lead them to evict their tenants. It’s amazing to hear the different situations that lead the families in Evicted to be kicked out of their homes. One man was a nurse who loved his job before he fell prey to a heroin addiction. Another man with no legs tries to work his way out of debt, but can’t physically do many jobs. A single mom has only $20 left a month with which to raise her two sons after she pays the rent on their decrepit apartment.

Evictions have historically been fairly rare in American cities, but they have been on the rise in the past decade, as poor families spend more than half of their already meager incomes on housing. Little is left for other necessities, especially when families are large. Desmond’s intimate, behind-the-scenes view into this issue (he spent months amongst the poor families of Milwaukee) presents readers head-on with the inequality that exists in America today.

You can read Desmond’s recent article from The New Yorker, which discusses the same issue as Evicted, here. Desmond is also the author of On the Fireline, an in depth exploration into the lives of wildfire firefighters.

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