Ages 18+.

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.

Waiting (not so) patiently for Pioneer Girl: an annotated autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder?

Me too! I am crazy about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and learning more about her life after the books and her work as a writer. Pioneer Girl was Laura’s first attempt at writing her memoirs, and unlike her beloved Little House series, this book was aimed at adults. Pamela Smith Hill and the South Dakota Historical Society have done an incredible job of filling out Laura’s story - adding details about minor characters she encounters along the way, or explaining how events in this book were later fictionalized and expanded in later works. It’s a dense read, but Laura lovers will be amazed at all the new things there are to learn about her life and times.

While you’re waiting for Pioneer Girl, try:

- William Anderson - William Anderson is a big name in Laura Ingalls Wilder scholarship. Not only has he written multiple books on her, he has helped found and secure some of the home sites and museums, such as at Rocky Ridge, Laura and Almanzo’s home and farm in Missouri. Especially check out The Little House Guidebook and Pioneer Girl: the story of Laura Ingalls Wilder. These were written for a youth audience but any Laura fan will appreciate the historic photos.

- Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink - Caddie Woodlawn is a spunky eleven-year-old tomboy in 1860s Wisconsin, and these stories of her adventures in the woods are based on the stories of the author’s grandmother. This is the nearest readalike to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s own writing in my opinion, and due to episodes of friction between the Native Americans and the settlers, it’s probably shares the most with Little House on the Prairie.

- The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure - Blogger McClure travels from Laura location to Laura location - from wading in the banks of Plum Creek to sleeping in a covered wagon during a hailstorm on the South Dakota prairie - and encountering varieties of Little House fans from lookalike contest competitors to doomsday-prepping butter churners.

- Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen - This novel tells the story of Lee Lien, whose childhood is spent crisscrossing the Midwest as her family moves from managing one Asian buffet to another. Now an adult, Lee stumbles upon a family heirloom that may connect her family to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter. In tracing Wilder family history, she makes some discoveries about her own family as well.

- Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden - This biography of the author’s grandmother tells of two college friends from New York who take on an invitation to become teachers rural Northwest Colorado in 1916 - and enter a whole new world with different social conventions, students who have to ski to class on barrel staves and don’t know who the president is, and the challenge of being the only marriage prospects for miles around.

Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home, is coming to Ann Arbor

Hugely popular graphic novelist Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama, and many other graphic novels, will be coming to the Michigan Theater on January 22, 2015. Bechdel's work intertwines political and personal spheres. She uses stories of her father's life before gay rights and her mother's life prior to the women's rights movement to portray intimate images of oppression. In Fun Home, her most popular work, Bechdel shares her personal tales of coming-of-age and coming out in the 1950s and 1960s, under the shadow of her parents' unhappy marriage and nation-wide homophobia.

Bechdel's talk at the Michigan Theater will begin at 5:10pm. The event is free and open to the public. You can read more about Bechdel and the event itself here.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #507 -“In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you let go?” ~ Gautama Buddha

Before I Go * by Colleen Oakley, given the premise, could have been a sentimental tearjerker but instead, yes, it is heart-wrenching of course, but surprisingly upbeat and life-affirming.

27 year old grad. student Daisy Richmond beat cancer once but on her third "Cancerversary", the cancer is back - Stage IV, aggressive and inoperable. She knows she won't be around for husband Jack's graduation from vet school - something they have worked, sacrificed and delayed their life-plans (kids and vacations) for. What terrifies Daisy most is not dying, but leaving brilliant, domestically-challenged, absent-minded Jack on his own. So instead of planning some "make-a-wish" grown-up getaway for her last days, she is going to find Jack a wife with the time she has left.

With the help of her best friend Kayleigh, Daisy systematically scouts out dog parks (must love dogs) coffee shops and online dating sites looking for the perfect match for Jack. But when it looks like she is way too successful in her quest, Daisy has a change of heart.

Debut novelist Oakley "expertly tugs at the heartstrings with well-rounded characters and a liberal dose of gallows humor."

For readers who enjoyed Hello Goodbye by Emily Chenoweth (a FFF); P.S. I love you by Cecelia Ahern that has been adapted into film; Hannah's List by Debbie Macomber; and Promises to Keep by Jane Green - novels that deal with difficult issues of illnesses and grief, holding on and letting go of the ones we love.

* = starred review

Let Freedom Ring: Celebrating the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Music

On Monday, January 19, AADL will celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy in music, with two very special performances at the Downtown Library.

All ages are invited at 1 p.m for acclaimed percussion group Biakuye presenting a cross-cultural experience rooted in American innovation and African tradition.

In Akan languages, biakuye means unity, and their style unites percussionists from varied backgrounds, traditional instruments and found objects, and West African musical traditions and American jazz concepts.The group's members come from both Africa and the United States, and have a local connection. Mark Stone and Roger Braun attended the University of Michigan together, studying percussion. Mark spent a year in Ghana while at U of M, where he met master drummer Kofi Ameyaw. The three later formed Biakuye, and have since added and rotated members, but their unique and energetic sound remains, celebrating cultural unity and collaboration. Biakuye will perform in the Downtown Library Multi-Purpose Room.

In the evening, Baritone Emery Stephens and accompanist Alvin Waddles will give an interactive lecture and concert highlighting the musical legacy and achievements of African-American composers and arrangers.

They will discuss such recognizable tunes as “This Little Light of Mine,” “It’s Me, O Lord,” “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and composers such as Harry T. Burleigh, John Work, and Margaret Bonds. Both Emory Stephens and Alvin Waddles have performed, studied, and taught throughout the area and around the country and will join us for an entertaining and informative performance at 7 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room.

Can’t make it? Use these lists of books on Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement for children, teens, adults, graphic novels, and picture books to mark the day.

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

Katherine Rundell, author of Rooftoppers, has done it again. Her newest children’s fiction novel, Cartwheeling In Thunderstorms is a fantastic treat of words and imagery.

Young Wilhelmina Silver, better known as Will, Cartwheel, or Wildcat, lives half-wild in Africa on a farm with her English born father and best animal friends. She spends time running the plains with her best friend Simon, and the monkeys and hyenas she’s grown to love and care for. Will is as feisty as can be and the boys are no match for her wit and spunk. Whip-smart, spontaneous, and ever a dreamer, Will’s happy and magical world gets ripped apart when the family farm is sold and she is sent to a boarding school in London, where she sticks out like dirty thumb.

It’s a charming story with an irresistable voice in Will Silver.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #506

Wildalone * by Krassi Zourkova opens with an enchanting tale of a monk's erotic encounter with samodivias (or wildalones), and thus sets the scene for this "darkly imaginative debut novel full of myth, magic, romance, and mystery. "

Thea(dora) Slavin, a Bulgarian piano prodigy arrives on the Princeton campus and is immediately thrown into the maelstrom of freshman activities. Beyond the requisite college-life adjustments, she is juggling a demanding schedule of classes, practice and performance, as well as struggling to adapt to unfamiliar American ways.

Privately, Thea is harboring a secret ambition - to find out what happened to her sister Elza who died violently 15 years ago as a Princeton freshman and her body went missing mysterious before the family had a chance to claim it. Thea grew up in the family's oppressive silence concerning Elza's death and is determined to find out what happened.

Her first clue comes from an unlikely source - her Art History professor who leads and baits her to a Greek vase in the Museum, depicting the Dionysian Mysteries. Then there is her shadowy "stalker", a devilishly handsome and exceedingly enigmatic young man who fades in and out of her consciousness. Before long, she finds herself romantically entangled with not only Jake Estlin, but also with his older brother Rhys, gradually being drawn into a sensual mythic underworld as irresistible as it is dangerous - one that might yield the answers to Elza's fate, as well as the terrifying truth about her own family.

(Bulgarian native) "Zourkova (Princeton, Art History and Harvard Law) pulls off a balancing act that few debut authors manage: a clever, dark (paranormal) romance steeped in mystery, with a bittersweet thread of melancholy and keen sense of place."

"Mesmerizing and addictive,... a bewitching blend of Twilight, The Secret History, Jane Eyre, and A Discovery of Witches." The ending strongly hints at a sequel. Let's hope we won't have to wait long.

* = starred review

Syndicate content