Ages 18+.

Film Screening: "Going Blind"


U of M's Hatcher Graduate Library will be screening the film "Going Blind" on Wednesday, April 15th from 5-7 PM. It's a documentary of personal stories of people coping with vision loss, and bringing awareness to low vision therapy. While you're at the Hatcher Graduate Library, check out the exhibit promoting the Washtenaw Library for the Blind & Physically Disabled. If you have any questions about the service, please give us a call at 734-327-4224 or send us an email: wlbpd@aadl.org.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #522 "I think all families are creepy in a way." ~ Diane Arbus

"(W)holly absorbing and emotionally rich", contributing editor of Vanity Fair Lili Anolik (Princeton, MFA Boston University) sets her debut Dark Rooms * * in an exclusive New England prep school.

Edgar Allan Poe once observed that "the death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic of the world." Nica Baker is beautiful - a 16 year old homecoming queen, popular, secretive and utterly wild. She has been murdered - a single gunshot wound, found not far from home. The police was quick to close the case when another classmate from Chandler Academy (a private feeder school to the Ivies) committed suicide, leaving a note as confession, apparently unrequited love gone wrong. But Grace, Nica's older sister was not convinced.

Deferring her enrollment to Williams, Grace takes a job on campus and obsessively goes about trying to identify the real killer. As she starts to penetrate the myriad lies and secrets in this insular community, the picture that emerges is far from pretty - especially condemnable are the adults they have come to respect and trust. "However, the story line just scratches the surface of this insightful, complex novel, which is all about angst: broken relationships, class and social issues, the human psyche. "

"Compulsively readable, (it) combines the verbal dexterity of Marisha Pessl's Special Topic in Calamity Physics and the haunting atmospherics and hairpin plot twists of Megan Abbott's Dare Me." Readers who enjoyed Reconstructing Amelia and The Starboard Sea might find much to like here too.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Library Lists: Americana

The amazing variation of lifestyles in the United States make for fascinating literary portraits of the people, families and groups living in this country. Compiled here are ten amazing books, both fiction and nonfiction, that explore deeply the culture and beliefs of our nation.

South of Superior: An eye-opening book, set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, that offers subtle explanations for why people make the choices that they do, and why we often find ourselves unable to escape our pasts.

Shotgun Lovesongs: A moving portrait of the relationships between four men who all grew up in the same small Wisconsin town, and of what holds them there and what drives them away.

Rock Springs: In ten stories all set in the American West, author Richard Ford employs carefully sculpted prose to explore the themes of loneliness and hope that permeate the lives of people who live there.

A Thousand Acres: Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is unexpectedly fast-paced and shocking. Set on a family farm in Iowa, the exclusion of the youngest daughter from the will sets off a chain of events that bring long-suppressed truths and emotions to the surface. Also try Smiley’s most recent book, Some Luck, for another fantastic American family drama.

Pulphead: Essays: Author John Jeremiah Sullivan takes readers on a whirlwind tour of America’s cultural landscape, describing unique aspects of popular culture and drawing forgotten and unknown groups and areas into the light.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café: Fannie Flagg’s classic novel takes place simultaneously in the 1980s and 1920s, and has been beloved since its initial publication in 1987. Fried Green Tomatoes is he story of the famous Whistle Stop Café, operational from the 1920s-1960s and the amazing cast of characters that kept it operational, as well as of modern-day woman, Evelyn, who is inspired to change her life after hearing stories about the Whistle Stop Café from a woman living at the nursing home where she visits her mother-in-law weekly. Many of Flagg’s other books are also hilarious and heartwarming portrayals of life in the South.

Winesburg, Ohio has been touted as one of the 100 greatest novels of all time. Before Richard Ford, there was Sherwood Anderson, who wrote Winesburg, Ohio in 1919 and, with it, evoked “with lyrical simplicity quiet moments of epiphany in the lives of ordinary men and women.”

The English Major: Jim Harrison tells a unique version of the American road trip story through the eyes of protagonist Cliff, a divorced sixty-something ex-teacher who has just lost his share of the family farm. His adventures take him on a whirlwind tour of America, on a personal mission to rename all the states with names he feels are better suited.

Prodigal Summer: Barbara Kingsolver’s 2000 book is set in rural Appalachia, and delves deeply into three separate storylines that gradually merge together with Kingsolver’s expert grace.

East of Eden: Described as Steinbeck's magnum opus, the sprawling novel follows the destinies of two families in the Salinas Valley in California whose lives mirror the fall of Adam and Eve and rivalry between Cain and Abel. Even those who typically don’t enjoy Steinbeck have a soft spot for East of Eden and its intensely developed characters and faster-paced action.

Want more Americana? Check out this list for tons more books, both classics and lesser-knowns, on traditional and non-traditional American culture.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #521 "Grief is a curious thing, when it happens unexpectedly. It is a Band-aid being ripped away, taking the top layer off a family. And the underbelly of a household is never pretty, ours no exception." ~ Jodi Picoult

Staten Island native Eddie Joyce (Harvard, Georgetown Law) sets his debut Small Mercies in familiar territory.

Ten years after their youngest son Bobby, a firefighter perished during 9/11, the Amendolas, an Italian-Irish American family is trying to come to terms with their loss. Mother Gail, a recently retired-schoolteacher starts her day by checking on Bobby's room as if she might find him there. Father Michael, a former firefighter himself is watchful and devoted but suffers quietly from guilt and missed opportunities. Older brother Peter, ambitious and brash, escapes to Manhattan and is living the good life of a corporate attorney. Franky, the middle child forever the misfit, still cannot hold a job or his liquor. Tina, Bobby's widow, is finally ready to look towards the future.

As the family gathers together for Bobby Jr.'s birthday party, they must each find a way to accept a new man in Tina's life while reconciling their feelings for their lost loved one. "Presented through multiple points of view, Small Mercies explores the conflicts and deep attachments that exist within families. Heart-wrenching and profoundly relatable, Joyce's debut is a love letter to Staten Island and a deeply affecting portrait of an American family."

For other well-observed portraits of the American family, we suggest Alice McDermott's After This; Stewart O'Nan's Wish Your Were Here; Jami Attenberg's The Middlesteins; and Richard Russo's Empire Falls.

George R.R. Martin Releases New "Winds of Winter" Chapter


George R.R. Martin has released a new chapter from The Winds of Winter, his long-awaited sixth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. There is still no official release date for The Winds of Winter, so stay tuned. In the meantime, fans can enjoy this latest glimpse of what is to come of our friends in Westeros. And to further tide over anxious fans there's A World of Ice and Fire, a comprehensive history of the world Martin has created, from the Andals and the First Men to Robert's Rebellion and beyond.

The new chapter is from the point of view of Sansa Stark, who is now... well, I won't say. Read the books, or watch the show! The speculation is that because the Game of Thrones TV show characters' story lines are veering further away from their counterparts in the books, Martin wanted to get his interpretation of Sansa out there ahead of HBO's Game of Thrones season 5 premiere on April 12. I prefer to think that he's just a benevolent creator who knew his fans needed a crumb before the feast. But maybe "benevolent" isn't quite the right word. Is "beneviolent" a word?

And remember, maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but The Winds of Winter is coming!

New Adult Fiction: Viper Wine

Viper Wine, the debut by Hermione Eyre, is far from your typical historical fiction novel. Considered a great beauty of her day, Venetia Stanley is popular at the 17th century court of Whitehall palace, adored by her husband, and revered by painters and poets who all wish to pay homage to her looks. After years of marriage and motherhood, however, Venetia feels that her looks are beginning to fade, and asks her husband, Sir Kenelm Digby, a charismatic inventor who dabbles in alchemy, to assist her in finding a potion or elixir that will preserve her youth. He refuses, claiming that she is perfect just the way she is. Forced to look elsewhere for help, Venetia is eventually given a potion that contains viper’s blood and opium, and that works…. for awhile. As other women at the court follow in Venetia’s footsteps, the elixir becomes all the rage, with disastrous consequences.

Eyre draws obvious parallels between Venetia’s desire for physical perfection and today’s obsession with beauty and looks. She even deftly weaves into Viper Wine cameo appearances by today’s celebrities, including Naomi Campbell and Groucho Marx, thus creating a truly unique reworking of the idea of the historical novel. Venetia Stanley, her husband, and several other characters are actual people from the era of Charles I, and it’s clear that Eyre devoted extensive time to the research of this book. This fascinating exploration into how far we have gone… and continue to go, to achieve beauty will appeal to even those who typically avoid historical fiction.

The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones

The new season of Game of Thrones is almost here and for many fans April 12th cannot come soon enough! If you're as excited as I am about the return of the new season, you may be on the lookout for any small sliver of (non-spoiler!) Game of Thrones news or for more content to devour before the start of the 5th season.

A recent addition to our collection is The World of Ice and Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones, a comprehensive history of the Game of Thrones universe. As many of George R. R. Martin's fans know, one of his many strengths is the complex worldbuilding within the Game of Thrones novels. The World of Fire and Ice does an amazing job of simplifying the plethora of information offered throughout the series into a (relatively) concise history of the Game of Thrones world.

This 326 page mega-book contains detailed maps of the Game of Thrones world, color illustrations, full family trees for each of the major Houses, and an extended history with cultural information spanning the entire Game of Thrones universe. It also includes all-new material that George R. R. Martin wrote specifically for this collection. This incredibly informative companion novel is a must read for fans searching for an in-depth look at the history of Essos, Westeros, and everywhere in between.

Looking for a quicker way to get reacquainted with your favorite Game of Thrones characters and their backgrounds? Give the Game of Thrones graphic novels a try! For more information about the HBO television series specifically, be sure to take a look at Inside HBO's Game of Thrones for a cool sneak peek at what happens behind the scenes of one of the most popular shows on television.

New Music at the AADL!

The AADL has tons of brand new CDs for fans of all musical genres. Top 40 pop, country, indie, Motown, classical… you name it, and we’ve got it! Here are some of the newest additions to the AADL collection:

Sweet Talker is Jessie J’s latest album, featuring collaborations with stars like Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and 2 Chainz. The hit song Bang Bang, which Jessie J first performed at the MTV VMA awards last year, is on this album, along with “Burnin’ Up,” “Seal Me With a Kiss” and “Loud,” all songs that radio listeners will recognize.

Strangers to Ourselves is the sixth album by alternative rock band Modest Mouse. Modest Mouse had been on somewhat of a hiatus before this album’s release; their last album before this was released back in 2007. Strangers to Ourselves has received mixed reviews from critics but has been touted by some as a great example of the band’s growth and evolution over the years. Fans of the band will certainly want to give it a shot.

The Basement Tapes Raw contains thirty-eight highlights from sessions that Bob Dylan recorded with The Band in 1967. These were all restored from the original tapes.

Country fans won’t want to miss Luke Bryan’s Spring Break… Checkin’ Out album, the seventh and last entry in his Spring Break collection, featuring 5 new tracks. Most of the songs focus on the fun Bryan has had performing at spring break locations over the past years, and the album is lighthearted and fun, despite receiving only average reviews from many critics.

Love The Hunger Games? Don’t miss the soundtrack for Mockingjay: Part 1!

The AADL has also recently purchased new copies of older favorites, including albums by the Staple Singers, Marvin Gaye, and Electric Light Orchestra.

Find all these and more new additions to our music collection by browsing the "New CDs" category under "New Items" on the catalog page of our website.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #520

Plague Land * * by S.D. Sykes. Dispatched to a monastery at the age of seven, now at seventeen Oswald de Lacy assumes the title Lord of Somershill Manor when his father and two older brothers too, succumb to the Plague that has decimated the countryside. Left at home are his overbearing mother and his dangerous and unmarried sister Clemence.

In quick succession, local villagers Alison Starvecrow and her sister are found murdered, which the ambitious village priest blames on a band of demonic dog-headed man. It is now Oswald's responsibility to solve the crimes. But every step Oswald takes seems to lead him deeper into a dark maze of political intrigue, family secrets and violent strife.

"Sykes adds an intricate and intriguing debut (the first of a planned series) to the ever-widening pool of medieval-era mysteries. Thrilling plot twists and layered characters abound in this rich tale of murder and mystery in 14th-century Kent."

Readers might enjoy watching the Brother Cadfael series, based on mysteries by Ellis Peters; and Hugh De Singleton series by Melvin R. Starr.

Sadly, this brings to mind The Siege Winter, a stand-alone by the late Ariana Franklin (and completed upon her death by her daughter Samantha Norman), whose award-winning series based on the character of Adelia Aguilar, a medieval woman forensic pathologist will be fondly remembered by historical mystery fans.

* * = 2 starred reviews

AADL is an Ann Arbor Film Festival Community Partner

Ann Arbor Film Fest LogoAnn Arbor Film Fest LogoThe Ann Arbor Film Festival is here again, and with it comes another year of films, events, and community partnership. AADL will once again be an official AAFF community partner for Films in Competition 4, on Saturday March 28 at 11 am at the Michigan Theater, which features films especially for viewers and filmmakers age 6 and up.

You can check out the list of films playing and buy tickets on the Ann Arbor Film Fest’s website. Make sure to enter the code AAFF53_AADL for half off your advance ticket – normally $6!

When you come to the screening, you’ll even have a chance to hear the premieres of the film scores participants created in our Making Movie Music workshop, held in conjunction with the AAFF.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is the longest-running independent and experimental film festival in North America. The 53rd AAFF takes place March 24-29, 2015 and presents over 200 films from across the world with dozens of world premieres. For more information, please visit the Ann Arbor Film Festival’s website.

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