Ages 18+.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #449

Inspired by the true story of African-American WWII veteran Isaac Woodard, Deborah Johnson's The Secret of Magic * is a clear-eyed depiction of the post-war Deep South, and a young female attorney's attempt of the impossible - attaining justice for a black man.

Joe Howard Wilson called his father from a rest stop to let him know that he was within hours of being home. But he never arrived. Two weeks later, his body was found.

A newly minted attorney at the NAACP office in New York, Regina Robichard worked for a young Thurgood Marshall who sent her down to Revere, Mississippi, after receiving a letter asking that they look into the murder of a black war hero. The letter was signed by M(ary) P. Calhoun, a reclusive author whose novel The Secret of Magic about white and black children playing together in a magical forest, had captivated a young Regina.

"Johnson offers a completely engaging Southern gothic with unforgettable characters in this fictionalized account of a pivotal NAACP case from the 1940s".

"Passionate but never didactic, Johnson wisely allows the novel's politics to play second fiddle to the intimate, nuanced drama of the young black Yankee and middle-aged white Southerner in this provocative story about race in America that becomes a deeply felt metaphor for all human relationships."

* = starred review

Play Connection for Families with Children on the Autism Spectrum

Play with toys, pet gentle dogs and chat with Dr. Rick Solomon, from the Play Project on Sunday, February 2nd at the Downtown Library from 2:00 – 4:00 pm. We have a fun space for construction toys and a quiet space for relaxing. For this third Play Connection event we have the awesome Therapy Dogs from Therapaws joining us just for fun!

Play ProjectPlay Project

Adulting and The Defining Decade are great reads for twenty-somethings!

Young adulthood can be a challenging time. As someone who is navigating the ups and downs of my twenties right now, I am frequently surprised at the unique and unexpected situations that I am presented with as I continue to grow up. As young adults have become more forthcoming about the trials and tribulations of their twenties in recent years, many authors—some of them still young adults themselves—have stepped up to write books giving advice to twenty-somethings and sharing their own experiences. Hoping for some tips, I read two of these such books, both of which you can check out from AADL.

In Adulting, 27-year-old Kelly Williams Brown gives hilarious and practical advice to young adults on a huge variety of topics. She covers cooking, cleaning, moving to a new area, relationships with friends, family and significant others, jobs and working, and many other areas of importance. Brown admits that she is still growing up herself and shares many of her own successes and failures throughout the book. The idea for this book came from Brown’s blog, which you can peruse here.

The Defining Decade is written by clinical psychologist Dr. Meg Jay, and outlines why one’s twenties are an extremely important time period if one wants to be successful later in life. Jay argues against the “thirty-is-the-new-twenty” mentality and offers advice to those in their twenties while also sharing stories from her own practice and from the young people who come to her seeking help.

I found both of these books to be extremely interesting, entertaining and helpful, and I found myself agreeing with most of what the authors put forward. These two books are a great read for anyone in their twenties, for anyone who interacts with people in their twenties, and for anyone who feels like they may still have some growing up to do!

Red Libraries

In the epilogue of Rosamund Bartlett's Tolstoy: A Russian Life, she traces the evolution of the great writer’s place in the new Bolshevik state. Some of this appraisal, not surprisingly, was based on an article V.I. Lenin wrote in 1908 praising Tolstoy's immense pride in his mother country, while being critical of his lifelong attachment to the gentry. In a speech by Anatoly Lunacharsky, made on Sept. 9, 1928, the centenary of the Tolstoy’s birth, the Bolshevik journal Red Librarian stated that Count Leo Tolstoy was the only pre-revolutionary Russian writer to have maintained his popularity. Bartlett stated that rural Russians often waited for months to read the one copy of War and Peace from the local library. It’s good to know that libraries and the Red Librarian had a place in the Soviet Union, and that you can still get many of Tolstoy’s works at aadl!

The Story Prize finalists have been announced

The Story Prize, now in its 10th year, announced their three finalists competing for the top prize which recognizes an "...author of an outstanding collection of short fiction..." published in the previous year.

This year's finalists are:

Andrea Barrett, for Archangel -- Ms. Barrett is no stranger to literary awards. She won the 1996 National Book Award for Ship Fever and Other Stories. The four stories in Archangel span two centuries and use science as a backdrop for the protagonists' efforts to make sense of a dangerous world.

Novelist Rebecca Lee (The City Is a Rising Tide (2006) got the nod for her first short story collection, Bobcat: & Other Stories, seven tales that examine the messy interiors of human relationships in all their chaotic permutations.

It is hard to find a critic who did not rave about George Saunders' Tenth of December. This, his his seventh collection of short stories, already has won the Pem/Malamud Award for Excellence. In these ten short pieces, Saunders writes beautifully about heroism, PTSD, and hope in the face of a devastating medical crisis.

There is already a Story Prize winner. For the second time in its history it has award The Story Prize Spotlight Award. This year's recipient is Ben Stroud, for his ten-entry collection of historical fiction short stories, Byzantium, for which he received $1000.

The winner, who will receive a $20,000 purse and an engraved bowl, will be announced Wedneday, March 5th at the New School's Auditorium in New York City.

Golden Globes 2014

Last night, amidst the glitz and glamour that is Hollywood at its most celebratory, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association hosted the 71st Golden Globe Awards which recognize the best that movies and television have to offer.

Hosted again by the popular duo Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, more than two dozen prizes were received with the usual mix of speeches that ran the gamut from eloquent to a stunned scrambling for coherence, from blink-and-you'll-miss-it brevity to gassiness that shouted over the 'stop, you're done' musical cues from the orchestra.

Among the winners were:

12 Years a Slave for Best Motion Picture, Drama -- based on the 1853 memoir of Solomon Northup who was born a freeman in New York and then captured and enslaved in New Orleans.

Best Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama went to Cate Blanchett for her mesmerizing portrayal of a New York socialite who has lost it all and is forced to move in with her working-poor sister in San Francisco in Blue Jasmine, directed by Woody Allen, who took heat last night from his family and foes via Twitter, when he accepted a Lifetime Achievement award later in the evening.

Amy Poehler got to switch roles when she captured the category of Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy for her portrayal of Leslie Knope in the NBC hit series, Parks and Recreation.

Check out the complete list of winners here.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #447 - "The humble knitter sits in the center between heaven and earth" ~ Susan Gordon Lydon, The Knitting Sutra

Ah, what a great time to snuggle deep into your easy chair and immerse yourself in The Wishing Thread, writer Lisa Van Allen's debut novel - a "Chick-lit cozy meets magical realism with inevitably warm and fuzzy results."

For centuries (really!) the Van Ripper women, owners of The Stitchery, have always been "touched by a vague darkness, a miasma of speculation". When the matriarch Mariah dies, she leaves her three nieces this Tarrytown yarn shop, a "derelict architectural hodgepodge", by design as much as by willful neglect.

Aubrey, shy and reliable, has dedicated her life to weaving spells for the community while working as a librarian's assistant. Bitty, pragmatic and persistent, has long rejected magic in favor of a normal upbringing for her children, only to be frustrated by her daughter's instinctive interest in knitting. Meggie, restless and free-spirited, follows her own set of rules. Like it or not, they all share the ability to knit by request, the most ardent wishes into beautiful scarves and mittens, thus granting health, success, or even a blossoming romance, just for the asking. But no one more than the Van Rippers know that magic demands sacrifice.

Now the Stitchery is in danger as an unscrupulous developer plans to raze the town square and put up a shopping mall. The sisters are divided whether to stay or sell. Complicating matters is handsome handyman Vic Oliveira, who is making one of them question her allegiance to The Stitchery.

"In Allen's debut novel, knitting becomes a rich metaphor for the power of women, of the disenfranchised, of the desperate. Steeped in the spirit of Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," this bewitching tale will delight fans of magical realism."

Lovely blurbs by Meg Waite Clayton and Lisa Verge Higgins. Fans of Sarah Addison Allen will be delighted.

Best New Music At AADL

AADL is constantly adding to its diverse selection of new CDs. If you're seeking some great new tunes, consider the following must-hear material.

"The Electric Lady," Janelle Monae: The easiest way to categorize Janelle Monae's music would be "R&B," but the young singer-songwriter is far more versatile than that. As on her previous masterpiece, The Archandroid, she plays fast and loose with genres from funk to soul to rock to jazz...even a bit of baroque folk. Creating an android alter-ego for herself, she weaves bits of tongue-in-cheek sci-fi dialogue into the album, which plays like an hour of the funnest, funkiest radio you've ever heard. Featuring excellent guest artists from Prince to Erykah Badu. (Fun fact: if you haven't heard of Monae before, you've almost certainly heard her voice. She's featured on Fun's smash hit "We Are Young".)

"The Speed of Things," Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.: If you're seeking some locally-grown jams, look no further than the new record from Detroit indie-pop duo Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.. These guys seemed on the verge of major celebrity status with their previous record It's A Corporate World. While their latest isn't quite the big, radio-friendly push they need, it's still full of cheery, hooky, danceable tunes. (Just listen to "If You Didn't See Me (Then You Weren't On the Dancefloor)" and try NOT to spend the next hour humming that riff.)

"Dream River," Bill Callahan: Some may recognize Bill Callahan from his work under the name Smog, but he takes a more personal approach on this record, his fourth to be released under his own name. There's something fascinating, beautiful and a little spooky about Callahan's sparse, autumnal arrangements. You could describe the record's genre as "folk," but Callahan's whispery, often spoken lyrics are too unique to pin down to an established genre. Lie back and let Callahan's pensive lyrics and atmospheric arrangements wash over you.

Find more great new CDs here.

Fun Comedy/Detective Hybrid from Carl Hiaasen

"Bad Monkey," by Carl Hiaasen, is nothing short of morbidly hilarious. An ex-detective named Yancy is determined to win his job back on the Monroe County police force by proving he can solve one of the most gruesome and puzzling murder cases the beach town has ever seen. Yancy suspects foul play and will do anything to see that the truth comes to light.

Hiaasen's private eye style mirrors the darkness of "The Big Sleep" while incorporating ridiculous characters more reflective of "The Big Lebowski," with many characters that offer a slightly offensive vocabulary. Readers will laugh to tears over their uproariously selfish acts, such as when an enormous spec home diminishes natural wildlife and blocks the beautiful Florida sunsets and Yancy subjects the builder to constant pranks to destroy his business prospects. The novel also features an incredibly detailed setting complete with side stories that only augment the main plot line.

In addition to being the author of numerous novels, Hiaasen is also a regular columnist for The Miami Herald and the author of the children's book "Hoot."

Teen Novel: A Cautionary Tale of Sexting

Thousand Words by acclaimed author Jennifer Brown is a wrenching piece of realistic fiction that shows – not in a preachy way – that sexting is stupid and dangerous. This new book, written for readers in about grades 9-11, stars tenth-grader Ashleigh, who is pressured by her friends into texting a full-frontal nude photograph of herself to her boyfriend. The photo is meant for his eyes only, but when he leaves for college, there is a nasty break-up. Seeking revenge, he sends the photo to everyone on his contact list.

Ashleigh is shocked to find herself arrested and facing community service, and her ex-boyfriend may be headed for prison. The community – where Ashleigh’s father is superintendent of schools – is an uproar. Gradually, Ashleigh is able to work through layers of issues and find hope in a future, with help from a shy, kind and troubled young man she meets in community service. This is an engaging, beautifully written novel that parents and teens probably should discuss together. I thought it was an utterly believable story and a valuable literary cautionary tale.

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