Ages 18+.

NPR’s Books to Read, Books to Give

It’s that time of year when all the “best of” lists start popping up. NPR always puts together a nice, categorized list of recommended books called the Book Concierge. This year is no exception.

The site features NPR staff and critics guide to 2014’s great reads, and is easily filtered into categories for easy browsing, and you can choose more than one category. Want adult fiction AND a love story AND a short read – you can easily pluck it out using the filters! The lists include adult, young adult and children’s books. Give it a whirl and see what books you missed this year. Choosing new books was never so easy!

Girls Like Us: Great for Group Discussions and Teen Book Clubs!

Gail Giles's new teen novel, Girls Like Us, weaves the heart-wrenching tales of two young women thrown together by what at first seems like bad luck. Quincy and Biddy were in the special education program together in high school, and they were anything but friends. Biddy had a reputation with the boys and Quincy was well-known for her mean streak. When they learned they'd be living together cooperatively, they thought life couldn't get any worse.

Told from the alternating perspective of each woman, "Girls Like Us" slowly reveals abusive childhoods and cruel experiences that have shaped who they are today. Everywhere they go they carry the insults slung at them like parasites, the words so deeply ingrained that they are accepted as truth. Although much of the intertwined tale of Biddy and Quincy is an unflinching look at human cruelty, the heart-warming moments of gradual friendship make this novel worth the emotional toll. It both empowers readers and inspires reflection on memory, change, hope, friendship, and family.

Gail Giles has written several books for teens, including What Happened to Cass McBride? and Playing in Traffic. "Girls Like Us" appeared on the longlist for the 2014 National Book Award in Young People's Literature, and was inspired by several previous students in Giles' 20 years of teaching special education classes.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #501 - “Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it." ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love.

2 UK debuts. 2 young women rising out of bleak adolescence to realize the individuals they are meant to be.

British cultural critic Caitlin Moran follows up her 2012 New York Times bestselling memoir How To Be a Woman with a debut novel - How to Build a Girl * * that draws from her own experience, having joined the music weekly Melody Maker at an very young age before becoming a prize-winning columnist at the London Times.

14-year-old Johanna Morrigan, the product of a large dysfunctional council-flat welfare family in the West Midlands, decides to remake herself after an embarrassing appearance on national TV. Almost overnight, the freaky fat girl who is at once "endearing, ­hilarious, pathetic, and wise" becomes the feared music reviewer Dolly Wilde (named after Oscar's niece - "this amazing alcoholic lesbian who was dead scandalous"), drinking regularly, having lots of sex, and writing acidulous reviews of rock bands. But is that enough?

"Moran's coming-of-age debut novel is both poignant and laugh-out-loud funny, a treat for young adults as well as those who remember the era (1990s) and its music."

In Making Marion : where's Robin Hood when you need him? * * by Beth Moran, Marion Miller leaves behind her job as a library assistant, a doctor-fiance and a childhood of neglect and abuse in Ballydown, a hamlet in Northern Ireland for Nottinghamshire, to uncover her father's secret past.

Searching for Sherwood Forest Visitor Center lands her at the Peace and Pigs campsite, an impromptu job offer, and a place to call home. Though hard work and the determination to overcoming her shyness earn her friendship and acceptance, the locals refuse to talk when shown the photograph of her father as a young man, dressed as Robin Hood. Only Reuben, heir to Hatherstone Hall is willing to come to her aid, motivated by a connection to his family history.

"Roaming pigs, food fights, and conspiring chickens add flavor to this delightful debut, which also touches on mother-daughter relationships, family secrets, and finding love, and yourself."

"One of the best inspirational novels of the season", it will appeal to fans of Jane Green, Marian Keyes, and Jill Mansell.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Small Gems (and Fabulous Fiction Firsts #500)

It's that time again. As we approach winter solstice, the days are getting shorter and we are getting into high gear for the holidays, don't despair. Here are some suggestions for SHORT titles that you could curl up with.

46 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read In A Day, great reads under 200 pages. Mostly.

From GoodRead: Popular Under 200 Pages Books - wonderful time to catch up on some classics and new award winners. The Huffington Post also jumps on the bandwagon with their thoughtful and inspired reading list. Here is a list for nonfiction readers.

My personal find this year?

Our Lady of the Nile (in French) by Scholastique Mukasonga, winner of the 2012 Renaudot Prize and the Ahamadou Kourouma Prize - a moving and nuanced portrait of violence and survival; a debut novel of "rugged beauty and unbearable suspense".

The conflict between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority is expressed through the microcosm of Our Lady of the Nile, a Catholic boarding school for wealthy and influential young ladies in Rwanda. Virginia and Veronica are two Tutsi girls in the lycee because of quotas, and they are keenly aware of the dangers they face as ethnic minority. When Gloriosa, the daughter of a Hutu politician, starts telling lies about being attacked by Tutsis, the retaliatory violence costs Veronica her life and Virginia her education.

Born in Rwanda in 1956, the author experienced from childhood the violence and humiliation of ethnic conflicts. In 1973, she was forced to flee to Burundi and settled in France in 1992. Two year later, she lost 27 members of her family to the genocide of the Tutsi.

Slightly longer but spectacular in every way is Lily King's Euphoria * * *, a thinly-veiled account of the love affair between Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, her third husband while she was married to Reo Fortune as they were conducting anthropological research in the remote territories of New Guinea. (Readers curious as to the accuracy of the storyline might want to check out this article called "Mead's Folly").

"A taut, witty, fiercely intelligent tale of competing egos and desires in a landscape of exotic menace—a love triangle in extremis… The steam the book emits is as much intellectual as erotic…King is brilliant.”

Little wonder that it has been named winner of this year's Kirkus Prize for Fiction and the New England Book Award. New York Times, as well as Time Magazine, and NPR named it one of the 10 Best Fiction of 2014. I promise you that it is well worth the wait.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

Waiting (not so) patiently for The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters?

British author Sarah Waters is beloved for skillfully incorporating suspense, illicit attractions, and even supernatural elements, into her atmospheric historical fiction novels. The Paying Guests takes place in the upper class home of the Wrays, a mother and daughter who have fallen on hard times after WWI and make ends meet by taking in “paying guests.” The addition of a working class couple to the family dynamic initiates a series of changes, not least of which is daughter Frances’ attraction to her new boarder.

The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt - Byatt’s historical fiction/family saga explores privileged, artistic families in pre-WWI Britain, and the darkness and social struggles that lie beneath the surface.

The House at Riverton by Kate Morton long-simmering secrets come to light when a filmmaker comes to fact-check details of a 1924 event with a now-elderly maidservant, who recounts the loves, rivalries, and secrets of the family she served.

The Lodger by Louise Treger - Against the background of the British suffragette movement, Dorothy Richardson’s life takes a turn for the unconventional when she begins an affair with a friend’s husband, only to have her attractions shift when a new woman moves into her boarding house.

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters - The story follows four Londoners during and after WWII who are recovering their senses, trying to restart their lives, and guarding their secrets now that the blackouts are over and the fighting is done.

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones - Enjoying Downton Abbey-style luxury while teetering on the edge of debt, a Torrington-Jones family gathering at their estate unexpectedly becomes a sanctuary for survivors of a nearby railway accident, but the circumstances become murkier as constructs of class and society fall away.

The ABC's of Washtenaw Literacy

A great way to boost your resume AND help to increase the self-esteem of community members is to volunteer for Washtenaw Literacy.
When adults improve their literacy skills they become more productive employees, more engaged parents, and more responsible health care consumers. It is a tool that leads to lowered dependence on supportive social services. The opportunity to teach adults who are ready to learn is one we can't afford to miss!

Here's one last date for the year to learn more about volunteering for Washtenaw Literacy. You must register by emailing info@washtenawliteracy.org or by clicking here.

Thursday, December 11th 7:00-8:00 PM
Ann Arbor District Library - Traverwood Branch
3333 Traverwood Drive
Ann Arbor, MI 48105

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #499

Having been a fan of Tony Parsons for many years now, I have been waiting with bated breath for The Murder Man * - his first try at crime fiction. And let me tell you, you won't be getting much sleep.

Meet DC Max Wolfe - recent widower (to cancer), single father (daughter Scout, 5), indulgent owner (Stan, holy terror of a puppy), insomniac, caffeine junkie, and a new transfer to London's Homicide and Serious Crime.

Someone has been violently killing members of London society. First, it was Hugo Buck, a pedigreed banker with an appetite for the hired help. Then there was the homeless junkie Adam Jones. Nicknamed "Bob the Butcher" by the press and social media, the killer is strong enough and smart enough to kill with a single knife stroke, and bold enough to kill in public. The victims first appeared to have absolutely nothing in common, except for a decade-old group photograph. Wolfe noticed that at each of the murder scene, someone had painted in blood "#KILLALLPIGS".

The hunt leads Wolfe to Potter's Field, an exclusive private school; a long-buried brutal murder; and right into the killer's path.

"Spectacular - tense but human, fast but authentic..." ~ Lee Child

"A relentless plot, evocative prose, and compelling (and wrenching) portraits of the characters, good and evil, conspire to make this a must-read. And I have two words for hero Max Wolfe: More. Soon." ~ Jeffery Deaver

Enough said.

If you are fascinated with the private (sorry, public school) culture, you might also enjoy The Secret History, Donna Tartt's debut novel (arguably her best, in my humble opinion); and A Murder of Quality, an early George Smiley novel by John Le Carre.

* = starred review

Tons of Popular New CDs at the Library!

Lots of brand new CDs are on order for the AADL and now is the time to get on the holds list! Here are just a few of the exciting new titles we have coming:

1989, by Taylor Swift, produced two number one singles this year: “Blank Space” and “Shake It Off.” This is the singer’s fifth studio album and what she has said is her first “official pop album,” as opposed to her country and country-pop albums of the past. In their annual list, Rolling Stone named 1989 #10 on the 50 Best Albums of 2014.

24 karat gold: songs from the vault, is Stevie Nicks’ much publicized eighth solo album. Most of the songs are new versions of demos that Nicks recorded in the 70s and 80s, with a few from the 90s thrown in, along with a cover of Vanessa Carlton’s “Carousel.” The album debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200 and has been well-received by music critics.

747, by Lady Antebellum, released in late September of this year, is the sixth studio album by the popular country group. Their single “Bartender,” from this album, hit number 1 on the US Country Airplay chart this past summer and the album itself debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200. Fans love Lady A’s easy, often celebratory country-pop tunes, and 747 did not disappoint!

Art Official Age, marks the return of Prince “with a contemporary concoction of soul, R&B, and funk with immediate and prominent melodies.” This is Prince’s thirty-third studio album (!), and was released in conjunction with a second album, Plectrumelectrum, by Prince and his all-female touring band, 3rdeyegirl. Prince’s fans have been pleasantly surprised by this album, and excited that the artist’s musical talents have far from diminished over the years.

You can browse the “New CDs” section of our catalog to see these titles and the other brand new music that the library has!

Waiting (not so) patiently for The Rosie Effect

Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Effect will be released on December 30, and fans of Simsion’s hilariously charming first novel The Rosie Project, cannot wait.

In The Rosie Project, genetics professor and master of regimented routines and social missteps, Don Tillman, strikes out in search of a romantic partner, and instead gets entangled in determined grad student/bartender Rosie’s scheme to identify the father she never knew through genetic testing. Hijinks ensue, and the bumpy road of life and love continues straight through The Rosie Effect.

To tide you over while you wait for The Rosie Effect to be released, here are a few titles that share some elements with Simsion’s quirky but lovable stories.

- How to Tell Toledo From the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer - alternate reality scientific endeavors and comedy come together in this love story of two scientists who were secretly groomed by their astrologist mothers to be soulmates.

- The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls - light-hearted love story with quirks galore, about falling for someone who doesn’t exactly add up to your ideal partner.

- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - British author Moyes brings great humor and humanity to the story of an angry quadriplegic and the big-hearted, well-meaning, accident-prone, insecure woman who becomes his caretaker.

- The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart - Stuart's historical fiction/mystery/romance is populated with a cast of eccentrics including an Indian princess, a cycling-obsessed doctor, and a maid with unusually large feet, centered around Queen Victoria's haunted Hampton Court, where impoverished aristocrats go to live out their last complaint-filled years. The plot is sprawling, the characters are ridiculous, and the conclusion packs a heartfelt wallop.

- Something Missing by Matthew Dicks - Martin, an OCD thief with an eye for order and a penchant for routine, makes his living stealing minor things from his “clients” and will go to great lengths to keep their lives - and his invisible role in them - unchanged.

Two New, Amazingly Illustrated Picture Books for All Ages!

Two beautifully illustrated picture books have just been added to the library collection.

Before After, by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Aregui is a wordless book that depicts amazing, related images on each of its pages. On one of the first pages is a drawing of a flower bud and on the opposite page, the beautiful daisy is in bloom. Later in the book, you see a coffee plant, and turn the page to see a steaming cup of coffee itself. I particularly enjoy the humor that subtly permeates this book. For example, on one page there is the image of an egg and on the opposite, the image of a chicken. When readers turn the page, they first see the image of the chicken, and on the opposite page the image of the egg. This is a stunning book and truly worth a perusal by readers of all types.

Telephone, by Mac Barnett and Jen Corace is a hilarious and wonderfully illustrated book about birds sitting on a telephone wire…playing Telephone. When mother mourning dove tells cardinal to “Tell Peter: fly home for dinner,” things get immediately jumbled when baseball-playing cardinal tells goose, “Tell Peter: hit pop flies and homers.” Things only get more confusing from there. I loved the individual personalities of the birds in this book, conveyed so well through Corace’s drawings. This is definitely a fun read!

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