Ages 18+.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #510 - She waited for the train to pass. Then she said, "I sometimes think that people’s hearts are like deep wells. Nobody knows what’s at the bottom..." ~ Haruki Murakami

Just adding my 2¢ to the well-deserved buzz on The Girl on the Train * * * by Paula Hawkins, a debut psychological thriller that will make you take a harder look at people you think you know.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning to London. As it flashes past suburban homes and stops at a signal, she watches the goings-on in the enviable lives of a prosperous young couple, just a few doors down from where she used to live. And then she saw something shocking. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in the unfolding nightmare. Film rights optioned to DreamWorks.

It's funny that this morning's New York Times interview with the author should mention that "Hawkins joins the ranks of a new generation of female suspense novelists — writers like Megan Abbott, Tana French, Harriet Lane and Gillian Flynn — who are redefining contemporary crime fiction with character-driven narratives that defy genre conventions. Their novels dig into social issues, feature complex women who aren’t purely victims or vixens, and create suspense with subtle psychological developments and shifts in relationships...", as I was just about to blog Harriet Lane's latest - Her * *.

When Nina Bremner recognizes Emma Nash on a London street, it sends a shockwave through her well-ordered life. She craftily engineers an incident with a lost wallet to strike up a conversation and a friendship with the unsuspecting Emma, who is overwhelmed with motherhood with a toddler and late pregnancy. Desperate for adult company, Emma is swept away by Nina's generosity and compassion. What draws Nina to Emma is murkier.

"With chilling precision, Lane narrates the re-entwining of these two women's lives through domestic details. Afternoon teas, disastrous shopping trips, cluttered homes and even well-populated playgrounds begin to seep with danger. And the net inexorably tightens. A domestic thriller of the first order."

Flying somewhat under the media radar is yet another British psychological thriller - A Pleasure and a Calling * * by Phil Hogan, his first major US release.

William Heming is your well-mannered neighborhood real-estate agent in a small English town. But unbeknownst to his clients, Heming keeps the keys to every property he has ever listed, and snoops on all the occupants at will, and often brazenly makes himself at home. This secret "pleasure" turns sinister when a rude dog walker offends Heming, who takes it upon himself to serve justice, thus setting off a dramatic and deadly chain of events.

"Hogan's Mr. Heming is a monumentally diabolical character, the fact that he narrates the story further ups both the stakes and the tension. Readers won't soon forget this first-rate, white-knuckle suspense novel."

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

Find Out How to Cut Costs & $ave!

Want to learn how to save money on your energy and water bills? Join us Wednesday, February 4th at 7:00 PM @ Malletts Creek Branch! If you're a DTE customer, you can receive a free, in-home assessment from them that provides you with items that can start saving you money on your utility bills pronto. In fact, you can borrow one of our energy meters to find out exactly which of your appliances or electronics are the energy-suckers. What sorts of items are provided by DTE, you ask? A whole bunch of new compact fluorescent light bulbs in a variety of styles; water-saving faucet aerators & shower heads. Learn all about the complimentary DTE Home Energy consultation and sign up for one for your home.

Center for Japanese Studies Special Event

Each year, approximately 30,000 Japanese die by suicide, a rate nearly double that of the U.S. The Center for Japanese Studies is hosting a local effort to educate the public about this problem by sponsoring a series of three free events over three days that combines film, lecture and discussion. It begins Thursday, February 5th, 12-1:30 at the School of Social Work with four brief presentations by Japanese Studies experts and U of M faculty, under the theme "Beyond Seppuku: A multidisciplinary Context to Suicide in Japan". On Friday, February 6th from 6:00-8:00 PM will be the screening of the award winning documentary Saving 10,000: Winning a War on Suicide in Japan at Palmer Commons. A discussion on suicide issues in the Japanese population will be led by a diverse panel after the screening.On Saturday, February 7th from 10:00 AM-Noon at the Holiday Inn, Livonia this film will be screened and the discussion afterword will be in Japanese. For more information email: umcjs@umich.edu

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #509 - “You can't fly if your wings are holding the baggage of yesterday...” ~ Steve Maraboli

The weather outside is frightful. All the more reason to curl up with Dictatorship of the Dress * * by ex-librarian Jessica Topper.

It looks like everyone loves a bride-to-be. Former Marvel Comics illustrator Laney Hudson, recipient of unexpected kindness and first-class upgrade is not about to tell anyone that the 10-lb. pearl & lace confection inside the blue-and-silver-satin garment bag does not belong to her. She has been asked to deliver it to Hawaii for her mother's fairytale nuptial and to prove, once and for all that she is capable of doing something right.

At a Chicago layover, a massive snowstorm cancels all flights out, stranding Laney and her first class seatmate "tech-boy" (on account of his endless parade of gadgets) whom, the airline crew has mistaken to be her groom. This is when Laney's little white lie turns into a hot mess.

En route to his Vegas bachelor party, the last thing software designer Noah Ridgewood needs is some dress-obsessed, shoeless (due to a little mishap at LaGuardia) bridezilla landing in his first-class row. But being stuck in the honeymoon suite of a Chicago hotel with Laney overnight turns out to be more than either one of them bargains and could hope for.

In this riveting and pitch-perfect contemporary, first in the Much "I Do" About Nothing series, "Topper develops Laney and Noah as individuals through their recollections of significant events in their lives; Laney's struggles with the baggage of her past and Noah's battles to make the right decisions in his are chronicled with an honesty and charm that is heartwarming and spellbinding. Topper's tale of loss and love is a winner."

Readalikes:
The Man You'll Marry by Debbie Macomber, and The Dream Dress by Janice Thompson, in her Wedding by Design series. Readers might also want to check out in our collection, her Wedding by Bella series.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Lydia Loveless' amazing album Somewhere Else

Wow! I can’t get enough of Lydia Loveless’ newest album, Somewhere Else. I’m almost to the point where I want to stop listening to it… but I just can’t. I’d come close to saying that it might be my favorite album of all time… but that award is still firmly and deservedly in the hands of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (shameless Fleetwood pitch). Somewhere Else is an amazing mix of rock, pop, folk and country that quite a few critics have actually called “a little Fleetwood Mac-y,” so I guess that explains why I like it so much. In all seriousness though, this album is awesome!

Somewhere Else is actually Loveless’ third studio album, and she scrapped an entire album’s worth of songs before finding the 10 tracks that suited her that appear on the album. Many of the songs are about love and relationships found and lost, but the lyrics are far from cookie-cutter. In fact, they’re some of the most poignant and poetic lyrics I’ve ever heard, filled with unexpected analogies and amazing imagery. She has said, in fact, that many of her songs are adapted from poetry that she has written over the years. Paste magazine describes the album in this way: "an album of blood and guts and emotions—anger and yearning and lust—that are so honest and immediate that they beg to be shared. The strength in Loveless’ vocals is how deftly she moves between tough and vulnerable, the emotions in both realms sincere and familiar."

Loveless grew up in rural Ohio on an 80-acre farm and was homeschooled. She started learning to play the guitar when she was 12, but didn’t become passionate about it until she began learning Hank Williams songs at age 15. Loveless, her father, and her two older sisters were briefly in a band together, but after they disbanded, Loveless released her first album, The Only Man, in 2010, followed by Indestructible Machine in 2011, and finally, the wonderful Somewhere Else in 2014.

Still Puzzled about Health Care?

Are you or anyone you know still in the market place for health insurance? We will have answers for some of your questions!

Monday January 26, 2015: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Malletts Creek Branch: Program Room

In partnership with the Washtenaw Health Initiative (WHI) and the U-M group, the Health Policy Student Association, this session will provide information about health insurance options and will also provide information to refer community members to services that can directly enroll people into the coverage they’re eligible for. Some community members are enrolled in coverage that requires re-enrollment each year. The speaker will have information and assistance for attendees to learn about re-enrollment. Enrollment will not be conducted on-site.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

The film that almost wasn’t has now finished. After the legal battle the prevented The Hobbit trilogy from being made closer to when the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed, fans wondered if Peter Jackson’s adaptation would ever set foot in theaters. This many years later, so completes the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

The third and final film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, completes the (essential) story that was told in Tokien’s lone novel The Hobbit.

It’s the story of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who heads off on an epic quest to help the dwarves reclaim Lonely Mountain and its treasure from the dragon Smaug. Along the way is high adventure and many encounters with other creatures, namely the band of dwarves that he travels with. It is on this journey that Bilbo meets the creature Gollum, and where he first lays hands on “the one ring” that changes his life, and that of Middle Earth, for all time. This third film picks up right where the second film left off, after the introduction of Smaug. So make sure you watch The Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug first.

As a super fan of LOTR and The Hobbit, I loved seeing both trilogies, and am sad that this is the last(?!) time it’ll be on the big screen as we now know it. With the credits rolling in the last film, with Billy Boyd singing a last goodbye, well it may have caused me to well up.

A New Dental Clinic in Washtenaw County!

For folks who are uninsured & low income, dental concerns can be a big pain and we know they can lead to other medical issues. This new clinic, located in the Haab Health Building on Huron Street in Ypsilanti, will serve adults and children who are uninsured or low income, or who are enrolled in Medicaid, MIChild or Healthy Kids. The Dental Clinic is a program of Washtenaw County Public Health in partnership with Michigan Community Dental Clinics (MCDC), St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and the Washtenaw Health Plan and opens in February, 2015. They are now taking appointments. Call 877-313-6232 to schedule. Llame al 877-313-6232 para hacer su cita.

The Warren Commission Report is an awesome graphic novel!

I sat down to read The Warren Commission Report: A Graphic Investigation into the Kennedy Assassination, and finished it in one sitting. I loved it! I didn't know too much about the JFK assassination prior to reading this super-cool graphic novel, and it was so great to learn about it and its aftermath through Dan Mishkin's carefully chosen language and information, accompanied by the beautiful art of Ernie Colon and Ann Arbor resident Jerzy Drozd. This book details the events of the assassination itself, the findings of the Warren Commission, and explores the controversies and conspiracy theories that still surround the event. The book "speaks to theorists and skeptics alike, breaking down how decisions made in the days that followed the assassination not only shaped the way the commission reconstructed events, but also fostered the conspiracy theories that play a part in American politics to this day," reads the jacket, and I agree wholeheartedly. I appreciated that the book was not the least bit didactic, but simply well-researched and presented clearly and concisely.

If you're at all interested in learning more about the JFK assassination, I would highly recommend starting with this fantastic graphic novel.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #508

January brings a number of terrific debut novels. The one I am most excited to share is Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm (MFA, Helen Zell Writers Program at the University of Michigan). Follow her on Facebook, and plan to attend her signing @ Literati, 7pm on January 27.

She calls herself Julie now, from California. For the past 2 years, Grace restores bric-a-brac, repairs antiques and jewelry in a Paris chop shop, and lives alone in a shabby room. Regularly, she checks the Garland (TN) newspaper online for news of a case involving robbery of The Wynne House, a local heritage estate and museum, and the two young men caught for the crime, a heist that Grace meticulously engineered. Now, Grace's past and carefully constructed lies are about to catch up with her half way around the world, as the two men are being paroled.

In a series of flashbacks, from small-town USA to the Manhattan art scene, and the backstreets of Europe, we follow the "unbecoming-of-age" of a young woman with a special gift for restoration and for reinventing herself with equal deftness.

"Mesmerizing, nail-biting, atmospheric, and sensual... Unbecoming is an intricately plotted and psychologically nuanced heist novel that turns on suspense and slippery identity."

"Scherm mixes a character study with a caper novel full of double-crosses, lies, and betrayals... She is at her best when describing precious objects: a Dutch master's still life, a James Mont cigar box with hidden compartment, an ornate centerpiece with fanciful fruit and figurines, and silver spoons ignored by their owners but appreciated by the professional hired to evaluate them."

Readers looking for an elegantly well-played cat-and-mouse game should delight in Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1954); The Thomas Crown Affair (1968, and the 1999 remake); and White Collar, the just concluded (sadly) tv series.

Fans of Gillian Flynn who appreciate "(a) bleak tone, deeply flawed protagonist, and dysfunctional relationships" wouldn't want to miss this one. And let's not forget Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels as read-alikes.

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