Ages 18+.

Exciting new summer releases for adults and teens!

Summer is far from over, and the next few weeks will offer up a release of lots of exciting new summer reads for teens and adults, perfect to bring along on August vacations!

The Queen of the Tearling is the debut novel in a new fantasy series by Erika Johansen. This first book introduces the main character, a princess raised in exile, who begins a perilous journey back to her homeland to attempt to claim the throne that is rightly hers. Although the story brings to mind medieval times, it actually takes place in the 24th century, and the world is as easy to get lost in as Westeros or Panem. Additionally, Warner Brothers has already bought rights to make a movie of the book, and Emma Watson will star in the film!

Dollbaby, by Laura Lane McNeal is a coming-of-age story set in New Orleans in the 1960s and 70s. Upon her father’s death, 12-year-old Ibby is dropped off at the home of her eccentric grandmother Fannie, whom she has never met. Taken under the wing of the housekeeper, Queenie, and her daughter ‘Dollbaby,’ Ibby grows up with a backdrop of the Vietnam War and events surrounding the passing of the Civil Rights Act. As she gets older, she learns more and more about the life of Fannie, and about the events that have shaped her into who she is today. Reviewers of this book have called it “heart-warming” and “beautiful” and it is certainly a must-read for historical fiction fans.

Landline is the latest novel by favorite author Rainbow Rowell. Fans of hers will be excited to read work by her more geared towards adults, but with the same wonderful character development and believability that she is known for in her YA novels. Landline tells the story of Georgie’s crumbling marriage, and through flashbacks (and some tinges of the paranormal) readers see the circumstances that have lead Georgie to where she is today. Readers experience through Georgie her own struggles in making choices about the decisions that many of us make in our lives surrounding career, family, and home. Despite the magical element to the story, Landline is a relatable and realistic read.

Penny Seats Theatre Company Presents Elektra

The Penny Seats Theatre Company presents the Greek Tragedy Elektra at 7 pm July 11 – 12, 17 – 19 and 24 – 26 in Ann Arbor's West Park, 215 Chapin St. between Miller and Huron, Chapin and Seventh. The show, recommended for ages 16 and up, was written by Sophocles and translated by Anne Carson. A description of the play from Wikipedia: "Set in the city of Argos a few years after the Trojan war, it is based around the character of Electra, and the vengeance that she and her brother Orestes take on their mother Clytemnestra and step father Aegisthus for the murder of their father, Agamemnon." Tickets are $10 and picnic dinners are available. More information is here.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #468 - " ...the rich cargo, Congealed in the dark arteries" ~ Mervyn Peake

Two debut novels set in rural northeastern Pennsylvania.

Dry Bones in the Valley * * * by Tom Bouman

After losing his wife, a bereaved Henry Farrell returns to Wild Thyme Township in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, looking to spend his mornings hunting and fishing and his evenings playing music. As the lone policeman in "a landscape wracked by fracking, poverty, meth, and a general mistrust of authority", it falls to him to investigate when the body of a young man is found in the woods owned by a reclusive old codger, and his deputy George Ellis shot dead in his car. All before Henry literally stumbles over an ancient grave that might hold the answer to the current crime spree.

First in a projected 4-book series, "Bouman's debut shows rural noir at its finest: a poetically written mystery about a man struggling with his inner demons and an area of great natural beauty few had heard of before the natural gas boom." For fans of Craig Johnson, Julia Keller, and Wiley Cash.

In The Hollow Ground by award-winning debut novelist Natalie Harnett, underground mine fires forces 11 year-old Brigid Howley and her family to seek refuge with her estranged grandparents.

Tragedy is no stranger to the Howleys, a proud Irish-American clan who takes strange pleasure in the "curse" laid upon them generations earlier by a priest. When Brigid makes a grisly discovery in a long-abandoned bootleg mine shaft, decades' old secrets threaten to prove just as dangerous to the Howleys as the burning, hollow ground beneath their feet.

Inspired by the 1960s infamous Centralia coal mine fires, and the equally devastated town of Carbondale, The Hollow Ground is an extraordinary debut with an atmospheric, voice-driven narrative and an indelible sense of place. "Not since To Kill a Mockingbird has a young character been so heartbreakingly captivating."

"A powerful story of love and survival. "

* * * = 3 starred reviews

Get Twiggy With It

Are you pumped for this weekend’s big program Wooly Woods Crafting With Anna Hrachovec (of Mochimochi Land)?! Teens & adults will wrap twigs with yarn to make beautiful sculptures, as well as knit tiny creatures to live on them. Yes, twigs! Let me tell you, I know from experience that wrapping sticks with yarn is addicting, and the talented Anna takes it up a notch.

If you’re inspired to find more twig action, I recommend the book Super Simple Twig Projects: Fun and Easy Crafts Inspired By Nature. It's just that. A small youth-oriented book with some easy projects made of collected sticks and twigs. It goes over what supplies you’ll need to make things like trivets, dream catchers, baskets, vases, tiny rafts, and more. The question is: What if you wrap the twigs with yarn before you craft with them?

Ann Arbor Mayoral Forum

Are you curious about what the four Mayoral Candidates have to say about affordable housing & homelessness? Get your questions answered at a Mayoral forum Tuesday, July 15 from 7:00-9:00 PM. The event will take place at Temple Beth Emeth/St. Clare's Episcopal Church, 2309 Packard Street, Ann Arbor and is sponsored by a coalition of over 30 religious congregations. This is a great opportunity to hear what the candidates have to say about this very important subject.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #467: "And, too ignorant to be scared, too young to be awed, ...” ~ Neil Gaiman, Stardust

Three fable-like tales of awesome, irrepressible young protagonists from far-flung corners of the world - they will make you laugh, move you to tears, and inspire you to “Do one thing every day that scares you.” (~ Eleanor Roosevelt)

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden * by Jonas Jonasson, a "funny and completely implausible farce about a woman, a bomb and a man's frustrated ambition to overthrow the King of Sweden."

14-year-old latrine cleaner Nombeko Mayeki is exceptionally good at her job but she has grander plans. Cunning and fearless, she blackmails a sleazy criminal into teaching her how to read and write, and gets herself out of apartheid-era Soweto as a housemaid to a nuclear engineer, an incompetent fool who intends to send the Israeli Mossad a 1,700-pound atomic bomb. After a series of mishaps, Nombeko is forced to cart the bomb around Sweden, trying to prevent an idiot anarchist from blowing up the king.

"In this wild romp, Jonasson tackles issues ranging from the pervasiveness of racism to the dangers of absolute power while telling a charming and hilarious story along the way. In the satiriical voice that has earned him legions of fans the world over, Jonasson gives us another rollicking tale of how even the smallest of decisions can have sweeping, even global consequences."

"Beautifully written, filled with detailed prose meant to be savored," The Patron Saint of Ugly by Marie Manilla, is "a captivating reminder of the blurred line between myth and reality. "

Born in Sweetwater, West Virginia with a mop of flaming red hair and port-wine stains on every surface of her body, Garnet Ferrari's sharp tongue serves her well against bullies and aggressors but powerless against legions of pilgrims camping outside her hilltop home, convinced she is a healer and maker of miracles.

Now the Vatican has sent Father Archibald Gormley, an emissary to investigate. "With its irresistible and irreverent blend of Southern Gothic and Sicilian "malocchio," a lush, exuberant tale of a reluctant saint, her unforgettable family, and the myriad difficulties (some real, some imagined) we all face when it comes to loving and being loved."

"(C)lever, funny, heartbreaking, and heartwarming, all at once."

Chaplin & Company by Mave Fellowes - a FFF for this UK author who herself had lived along the London canals.

18 yr.-old Odeline Milk packs up her worldly goods and heads for London, to pursue her single-minded dream of becoming, of all things, a great mime. With the small inheritance left by her mother, she buys sight-unseen, Chaplin and Company, a longboat moored at the canal neighborhood of Little Venice.

There she stumbles upon a peculiar underbelly of the city, full of marginalized, eccentric figures with whom she begins to form unpredictable alliances. Little by little she finds herself an essential part of this community of outsiders, discovers the value of companionship and, more important, the depths of her own courage.

"An endearing and surprisingly steely debut that paints the bizarre and the ordinary with equal sincerity, Chaplin & Company is a novel that reveals beauty in the most unlikely of places."

* = starred review

Cool Summer Drinks

When you think of a cool, refreshing drink that you'd like to have on a hot, summer day you think of lemonade, right? Or maybe iced tea.

But there is a lesser known, fizzy drink great for summer known as kombucha. It sort of tastes like a cross between carbonated water and tea. You can even add juice to it. There is another side benefit to drinking kombucha: It's fermented! You make it be starting with some tea that has loads of sugar in it. After adding a probiotic yeast and bacterial colony (known as a SCOBY mother) and letting it sit for several days to weeks, the probiotics break down the sugar into acids so that by the time you drink it, it's very low in sugar. With every cup you get loads of healthy bacteria and B-complex vitamins. Talk about healthy! There is a book that shows you how to make it at home here and here.

It’s summer so a lot of Ann Arborites are growing a vegetable garden. I know I am! But what if your garden is doing so well that you have armfuls of veggies that you don't know what to do with? A great way to get some awesome nutrition or to use up extra veggies and dark leafy greens is to make smoothies or juices. For a great smoothie all you need is a blender and a knife to cut up the toughest pieces. "But won't that taste icky?" I can hear you say. Fear not! The sweet fruit you add makes the bitter taste of vegetables like kale hardly detectable. Try it and I bet you'll be a smoothie addict in no time.

Running Like a Girl and other great books for runners of all types

Finally, a book that deals honestly with both the gains AND the pains that being a runner entails! Running Like a Girl: notes on learning to run, by Alexandra Heminsley, is a refreshing take on starting to run later in life, and on a runner’s life in general. For many of us—even those who are dedicated runners—the perspectives that we were “born to run” or that “running is a wonderful way to reconnect with the world and our bodies” don’t always ring true. Sometimes it feels like, more often than not, running can be painful, boring, difficult, or lonely, and frequently a combination of all four. This is why Heminsley’s story of taking up running in her thirties is so great. It doesn’t come easily to her, and she doesn’t love it. She doesn’t experience immediate gratifcation from a “runners high,” nor does she immediately lose twenty pounds. Her relationship with running is complex, and only becomes ultimately positive over time, and in ways that she did not anticipate. This book is great for runners of all sorts: those who have been running for decades, those who have just taken up the sport, and those who don’t run at all and therefore don’t even know yet that they can be runners!

If you’re interested in other books about running, try What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: a memoir, Running Away and the famous Once a Runner, about one runner’s quest to run a sub-4:00 minute mile. Finally, if you’re looking for scenic local places to run, check out Five-star Trails, Ann Arbor and Detroit, where you can find suggestions for trails to check out nearby. Happy running!

Bletchley Circle

Do you love watching mysteries but feel like the genre is a little heavy handed with the male detective? If so, check out Bletchley Circle! With an extraordinary flair for code breaking and razor-sharp intelligence skills, four seemingly ordinary women become the unlikely investigators of a string of grisly murders in this original thriller, set against the backdrop of post-war London.

Season 1 introduces us to Susan. Her conventionality masks a sharp, inquisitive mind. She may appear every inch the typical 1950s wife and mother, but when she hears about a string of unsolved murders in London, Susan’s old Bletchley spirit is ignited. Secretly, Susan reconvenes the formidable foursome – bohemian and streetwise Millie; Lucy, with her brilliant photographic memory and Jean, the methodical no-nonsense organizer. A race against the clock ensues as the women work to outwit the culprit. Can they rekindle their singular expertise and discover the killer’s next move – before he strikes again?

Season 2 opens with the episode Blood on Their Hands. Former Bletchley Park girl Alice Merren is in prison awaiting trial for murder. Jean stands behind her innocence and tries to reunite the circle in an attempt to help one of their own. Lucy is now getting on well in a clerical job at Scotland Yard and keeping her head down, and Millie is working as a German translator. Susan is reluctant to get involved after the occurrences in season 1. The second episode Uncustomed Goods, Millie branches out into what she believes to be a harmless sideline of dealing in uncustomed goods. This endeavor leads to her being kidnapped and held in a seedy hotel by some gangsters. On discovering this, Alice goes to Jean and Lucy to help. The girls start to investigate in order to save their friend and, as they do so, uncover a much darker, hidden world of crime.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #466

"A suspenseful, gloriously atmospheric first novel, and a feast of gothic storytelling that is impossible to resist.” ~ Kate Atkinson.

"Ambitious, elegant, atmospheric, and often deeply poignant, The Quick is a seamless blend of Victorian London and rich imagination. This is a book to savor.” ~ Tana French.

"A sly and glittering addition to the literature of the macabre . . ." ~ Hilary Mantel.

The Quick * by Lauren Owen has been named Top 10 Literary Fiction Books of the Season by Publishers Weekly. An early draft of the novel won the Curtis Brown Prize for the best fiction dissertation. Fans of Anne Rice; Elizabeth Kostova; and Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus) would not want to miss this.

1892: New Oxford grad. James Norbury finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat in London. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Alarmed, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling Yorkshire home determined to find him. After navigating alone in sinister, labyrinthine London, Charlotte discovers that her brother's disappearance can be traced to a secret organization of gentlemen - the terrifying and powerful inner circle of The Aegolius Club that include the most ambitious, and most bloodthirsty, men in England.

"(C)reepy . . . thrilling... This book will give you chills even on a hot day". **Spoiler Alert** Skip this one if you have issues with vampires.

Readalikes : "Owen's debut is an intriguing blend of historical, gothic, and supernatural fiction, this will appeal to devotees of the macabre and gothic set in the Victorian period, especially those who enjoy Charles Palliser's Rustication, and David Morrell's Murder as a Fine Art."

* = starred review

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