Ages 18+.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #477 - Spotlight on Family Sagas

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing * by Mira Jacob opens with celebrated brain surgeon Thomas Eapen sitting on his porch at his home in New Mexico talking to dead relatives. At least that is the story his wife, Kamala, prone to exaggeration, tells their daughter, Amina, a Seattle area wedding photographer. Knowing that she has been manipulated, Amina nevertheless, arranges for a visit home where she soon realizes that something may actually be wrong with her father. The trouble might be rooted in the family's visit to India some twenty years ago; the tension between her father and Ammachy, her grandmother and family matriarch; and the mystery behind the death of her older brother, the rebellious and brilliant Akhil.

"(L)ight and optimistic, unpretentious and refreshingly witty... Jacob has created characters with evident care and treats them with gentleness even as they fight viciously with each other. Her prose is sharp and true and deeply funny." "(A) winning, irreverent debut novel about a family wrestling with its future and its past."

Matthew Thomas's debut - We Are Not Ourselves * * is "a very moving book about the dangers of always wanting more."

Smart and ambitious Eileen Tumulty, dutiful daughter born to hard-drinking Irish working-class parents, looks for a better life for herself by training as a nurse. When she marries Ed Leary, a quiet neuroscientist, she is disappointed with his choice teaching at a community college despite more lucrative and prestigious offers. With their Jackson Heights (Queens) neighborhood in decline, Eileen is desperate to move out of the city (and up the social ladder), into a fixer-upper that they could ill afford. Then Ed is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.

"Thomas works on a large canvas to create a memorable depiction of Eileen's vibrant spirit, the intimacy of her love for Ed, and the desperate stoicism she exhibits as reality narrows her dreams. Her life, observed over a span of six decades, comes close to a definitive portrait of American social dynamics in the 20th century. Thomas's emotional truthfulness combines with the novel's texture and scope to create an unforgettable narrative."

Thirty-five years (and 20-some titles) after her wildly successful generational saga set in Australia - The Thorn Birds (based on her family's history), Colleen McCullough returns to the genre with Bittersweet, an epic romance set in the decades after WWI, about two sets of Latimer twins, all trained as nurses but each with her own ambitions.

"McCullough's background in medicine is apparent as she seamlessly weaves in information about the history of nurse's training in Australia and the development of modern pathology. Bittersweet is both a fascinating exploration of the bonds between sisters and a fine historical novel."

* = starred review
* * = 2 starred reviews

Let's Talk About MeL, Baby!

We frequently refer patrons to the MeLCat when we don't have a book on our shelves that they are looking for; but I never knew about this awesome portal for educators till now. Developed and maintained by educators for educators, parents, and students, it is a one-stop collection of assessments, lesson plans, online interactive sessions, and videos, all aligned to the CCSS (Common Core State Standards) and the Michigan standards. Interested? Visit M.O.R.E. by clicking on the Teachers tab at MeL.org and register for a free account to be able to use all the tools available in the portal.

New CDs: Fleetwood Mac!

Fleetwood Mac fans will be happy about a recently added CD to the Ann Arbor District Library collection: Tribute to Fleetwood Mac. 17 different beloved Fleetwood Mac songs are covered by a variety of lesser known artists on this unique album and I really enjoyed hearing the twists that the different groups put on the classic songs. Some tracks sound nearly identical to the Fleetwood originals with only minor instrumental changes, while others sound like completely different tunes, barely recognizable as covers of the well-known originals. Tribute to Fleetwood Mac is definitely a must-hear for those who love the band (who, incidentally, are fully reunited and on tour this fall!).

AADL also recently added the Fleetwood Mac album Mirage to our collection, which the band released in 1982, after the 1979 Tusk. Although Mirage is not as well-known or loved as the unbeatable Rumours, it does have the wonderful tracks "Gypsy" and "Hold Me" on it and the whole album has a classic Fleetwood Mac feel.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #476 - "There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children." ~ Nelson Mandela

Long-time NPR feature reporter Martha Woodroof's debut novel Small Blessings * is one of August 2014 Indie Next Great Reads.

Tom Putnum, an English professor at a small Virginia college is resigned to a quiet hollow life, filling his days teaching Shakespeare and caring for the emotionally fragile Marjory, his wife who is a virtual shut-in. Then within a matter of days, Tom's life is upended. Twice.

Marjory is killed in a car accident and Tom learns that he has a son, product of a brief affair with a visiting poet a decade ago. Now the boy, Henry is on a train heading to live with Tom. When young Henry arrives, it's immediately clear that Tom can't possibly be his biological father, never mind his name is on the birth certificate. Even more inexplicable is the half a million dollars stashed in Henry's backpack.

Amid funeral plans, Tom and Agnes, his feisty mother-in-law, begin to make a home for Henry, with help from Rose Callahan, a charming young woman and a newcomer in town whom Tom and Marjory have befriended.

"A heartwarming story with a charmingly imperfect cast of characters to cheer for, Small Blessings's wonderfully optimistic heart that reminds us that sometimes, when it feels like life has veered irrevocably off track, the track shifts in ways we never can have imagined."

Four distinct voices narrate the story in Laura McBride's debut novel We Are Called to Rise * (the title taken from a poem by Emily Dickinson) - 8 year old Bashkim, the son of Muslim immigrants from Albania ill prepared for American life; 50-something Avis whose troubled marriage is compounded by her son's abusive behavior after three tours of duty in Iraq; Roberta, a seasoned court-appointed advocate for children; and Specialist Luis Rodriguez-Reyes - injured and traumatized after losing his best friend in Afghanistan. In a single moment, these disparate lives intersect. Faced with seemingly insurmountable loss, each person must decide whether to give in to despair, or to find the courage and resilience to rise.

Set in a Las Vegas rarely experienced by tourists, it is a story about families - the ones we have and the ones we make. "It challenges us to think about our responsibilities to each other and reminds us that compassion and charity can rescue us, even in our darkest moment."

For those who enjoyed Blessings by Anna Quindlen; Rush Home Road by Lori Lansens; Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts; and The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin.

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #475 - “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” ~ Rumi

It seems to the world that 27 year-old Holly Jefferson is finally getting back on her feet, running her bakery, Cake after losing her husband in a tragic accident almost 2 years ago, never mind that she has trouble sleeping and has no social life to speak of. The commission of a bizarre cake brings Holly into the path of Ciaran Argyll - charming, privilege, incredibly handsome, and totally out of her league. But she has to admit - sparks fly.

Since You've Been Gone British author Anouska Knight's debut, "offers up a poignant look at grief and how it can serve to inspire or cripple us in equal measure."

"The perfect summer read: warm, sexy and addictive. " ~ Jenny Colgan

In Kim Wright's The Unexpected Waltz,, Kelly, a 52-year-old wealthy widow accidentally stumbles into a dance studio where she impulsively signs up for introductory ballroom-dancing lessons, and quickly becomes drawn to the studio's colorful students and instructors. Meanwhile, her volunteer work brings her into contact with a young cancer patient who challenges Kelly to embrace her new experiences.

"(Wright) expertly guides us through a moving, layered, and lyrical exploration of transformation."

A Year After Henry by Cathie Pelletier. Approaching the one-year anniversary of Henry Munroe's death, his family is still struggling to adjust. His wife Jeannie mourns their failed marriage more than she does his death. Henry's buxom mistress Evie Cooper has taken up with his brother Larry - divorced, under-employed and unhappily living with his elderly parents. Meanwhile, Henry's teenage son, Chad, is adrift in his grief, turning to drink.

"Sensitive yet witty, Pelletier's wise examination of one of life's most tragic episodes brims with hopeful understanding."

The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances by Ellen Cooney. This is the story of two women and a whole pack of dogs who, having lost their way in the world, find a place at the Sanctuary.

24 year-old Evie is clever, evasive, defiant and rebellious. Just out of rehab and utterly alone, she is determined to make a fresh start. So she lies her way to the mountaintop lodge which is home to a canine rescue and rehab center run by a handful of nuns. Never mind that Evie knows nothing about animals, she is a quick and keen learner. Drawn to the challenge, she finally finds the second chance she so desperately craves. In time, she also comes to know Mrs. Auberchon, the stern and defensive caretaker of the inn at the base of the mountain whose icy reserve masks painful secrets.

"Cooney has crafted an uncomplicated, feel-good, canine-filled tale of cross-generational friendship, healing, and solidarity."

No waiting for most of these readalikes:
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen; Return to the Beach House by Georgia Bockoven (a FFF); The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice; and The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler.

I Can't Stop Watching YouTubers: Books and Media for YouTuber Fans

2014 is the Year of the YouTuber.

That's right, guys. Internet fame is now as easy as turning on your camera and doing whatever you do best, whether that's applying makeup with extra finesse, doing dance covers of K-Pop songs, or just generally being weird...and there's A LOT of weird out there on the internet. "YouTubers," as the famous video bloggers of YouTube are so cleverly called, have been around for years and years, but THIS year a number of them are putting down their cameras and throwing themselves into other media endeavors. Hence: The Year of the YouTuber. Catchy, right? If you're a YouTuber addict, here are a few dates (and titles!) to mark down on your calendars:

Hannah Hart, expert pun-maker, intrepid explorer of all the world's liquor cabinets, and creator of the YouTube show "My Drunk Kitchen," is putting out her first book on August 12, 2014. Aptly titled My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking, and Going with Your Gut, this book will contain pages, pictures....possibly even words! And of course, recipes, wisdom, and cooking tips from the Tipsy Chef herself. This book is sure to be a blast to read and use, both for those who drink and those who don't!

Next, we'll take a stroll outside the world of books. You don't mind, right? Libraries aren't just about books, you know! If any library has proven that, I'm pretty sure we have. Troye Sivan, 19-year-old Australian YouTuber, actor, and now singer-songwriter, will be releasing a new EP titled TRXYE on August 15, 2014. Troye officially announced his new endeavor at VidCon 2014 (causing the entire fandom to go insane and crash his website...typical) and released his first single "Happy Little Pill" on July 25, 2014. For those who are a big fan of Troye or of snyth-pop music, this'll be one to keep your eye out for.

Next up we have Grace Helbig. Comedian. Actress. Youtuber. Generally awkward person. Grace, has basically got it all. And she's willing to share "it all" with you! Formerly of "DailyGrace" and currently of the "ItsGrace" YouTube channel, Grace has been kind enough to share her infinite fake wisdom with the world in her upcoming book Grace's Guide: The Art of Pretending to Be a Grown-up. This one is set to be released on October 21st and if you're a young adult looking for uncomfortable anecdotes or advice on doing a really good impression of a grown-up (mortgages and filing your taxes and....oil changes...look, I don't know how adults live) then this is the book for you! This is following Grace's debut into film-making earlier this year with the comedy film Camp Takota, made alongside fellow YouTubers Mamrie Hart and Hannah Hart (remember her? From two paragraphs ago?).

Last, but certainly not least, Zoe Sugg (a.k.a. Zoella), British beauty vlogger and blogger, announced in June that she, too, would be taking the dive into the world of books with her fictional novel Girl Online. The novel follows Penny, who is known in the real world as a school-going, drama-having, normal girl with a crazy family. But to the internet she's "GirlOnline," a famous blogger and internet-personality. Over the course of the story Penny is dragged off to New York by her parents, struggles to maintain her online cover, and falls a little bit in love with a boy who has a secret of his own. Girl Online is set to be released on November 25, 2014, so it'll be a bit of a wait, but surely worth it to see what sort of writer Zoella will be off the screen. A blogger writing about a blogger? How meta is that?

The library has some of these but not all, so keep checking back as those release dates get closer! And remember, if there's something we don't have, The Michigan eLibrary is always a good back-up plan!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #474 - "But mothers lie. It's in the job description.” ~ John Green

Two young women are witnesses to their mothers' murders. One of them might be a killer.

Elizabeth Little, author of 2 nonfiction books knocks it out of the park with Dear Daughter *, an "Agatha Christie meets Kim Kardashian... (a) sharp-edged, tart-tongued, escapist thriller", which Tana French praised as "The best debut mystery I've read in a long time"; and Kate Atkinson called "A really gutsy, clever, energetic read, often unexpected, always entertaining.... In the world of crime novels, Dear Daughter is a breath of fresh air."

After spending 10 years in prison for murdering her mother, former It Girl Janie Jenkins is out on a technicality. Her memory of the night in question is hazy, and there is no love lost between them, but she is determined to chase down the one lead she has on her mother's killer. As Janie makes her way (with a false identity) to an isolated South Dakota town, she discovers that even the sleepiest towns hide sinister secrets, and will stop at nothing to guard them.

On the run from a crime blogger convinced of her guilt, a suspicious police chief, maybe even a murderer, Janie must choose between the anonymity she craves and the truth she so desperately needs.

Set in the frozen tundra of rural Montana, Bone Dust White * is Karin Salvalaggio's literary mystery debut. The insistent pounding on her door brings Grace Adams to her bedroom window where she witnesses a man coming out of the woods, stabbing a woman and leaving her to die on Grace's doorstep. Before help arrives, Grace realizes the victim is her mother, Leanne who disappeared more than a decade before.

A heavily-pregnant Detective Macy Greeley is assigned to the case. She needs to track down the killer and find out what the murder has to do with Grace. But the town of Collier is just as hard-bitten now as it was 11 years ago when Macy worked a still-unsolved grisly sex-trafficking and multiple-homicide case. But no one is talking, least of all Grace, whom Macy believes knows a lot more than she's telling.

"The sharp twists, idiosyncratic characters, and vivid setting should appeal to fans of C. J. Box and Nevada Barr."

"This complicated, peel-away-layers debut procedural intoxicates from the opening page.... Recommend for fans of Archer Mayor, Gwen Florio, and Craig Johnson."

* = starred review

Terms and Conditions May Apply

Debut author Robert Glancy certainly impressed with his 2014 novel Terms & Conditions. The narrator begins the tale with the realization that he has no idea who he is. Frank is told he was in a car accident after what his brother called through a slip of the tongue, a "little episode." Frank goes on a personal quest for himself and the answers to what really happened that fateful day. Clues start to come back to Frank in flashes- a white door, plastic anatomical models, a book his wife wrote... but what does it all mean? "Terms & Conditions" has the qualities of a thriller in its pacing and gradual reveal of information while also feeling like a noir detective novel. Readers will discover alongside Frank which characters are reliable friends and who is truly trustworthy.

"Terms & Conditions" will have readers both on the edge of their seats and laughing! My favorite element used in this novel is the footnote, reflecting the style of legal documents. Nearly every page has at least one footnote further elaborating on Frank's thoughts and dark sense of humor. However, the novel remains approachable to all audiences and comes highly recommended for both mystery and humor lovers!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #473

The Miniaturist * by Jessie Burton is the sole debut among LibraryReads Picks for August 2014! And for good reasons.

After a hasty wedding on a brisk autumn day in 1686, 18 yr.-old Nella Oortman arrives at wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt's splendid home on the Herengracht Canal as his new wife. While the much older Brandt is kind but distractedly distant and consumed with the running of his business, his sharp-tongued sister Marin is less than welcoming. Nella is charmed, however, with the extraordinary wedding gift Brandt presents her - a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist, an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways.

"In a debut that evokes Old Master interiors and landscapes, British actress Burton (Oxford) depicts a flourishing society built on water and trade, where women struggle to be part of the world. Her empathetic heroine, Nella, endures loneliness and confusion until a sequence of domestic shocks forces her to grow up very quickly."

"Enchanting, beautifully written, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth."

For readers who enjoyed Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland; Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier; and The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann.

* = starred review

Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People

“The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose”. – Charles Dickens

There are people who like to go for a walk and then there are…walkers. Famously, John Muir, Henry Thoreau, Charles Dickens and Ralph Waldo Emerson, among many others, were known for their love of long-distance walking. Add to that list Robert and Martha Manning, who have written Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People.

This book highlights 30 hikes on every continent which can be taken by “ordinary people”. They range from the 11 mile Cinque Terre trail in Italy, to the Camino de Santiago at 480 miles (which does not sound ordinary to me). Most qualify as only low to moderately challenging and the average length is more like 100 miles. The many color pictures attest to the fact that they are all beautiful, taking the intrepid walker through some of the most lovely terrain imaginable.

The Mannings tell you everything you need to know about each walk, including over-night accommodation possibilities along the way, where to hang out when you are not walking, what to bring, what the food is like, where the pubs are, a little bit of the history of the trail and, briefly, some of their own experiences on each trail, for they have walked them all. Partly a how-to guide but, more importantly, a why-to guide, they place long walks in the “must do” and "can do" categories of lifetime adventures.

So, where to begin? I have no immediate plans to take a long, long walk in Europe, but one can dream. That is what this book is really good for: inspiring the latent long-distance walker to imagine the possibilities. In the meantime, there are lovely walks all over Ann Arbor and we have books to guide you in that adventure, much closer to home.

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