Fabulous Fiction Firsts #431 - "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind..." ~ William Shakespeare

When the tough reviewers at Kirkus give a debut rom-com a starred review, you take notice. When every other major professional journal follows suit, you just have to dive in. And what a lark! Can't tell you how much I enjoyed Australian Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project * * * * which won the 2012 Victorian Premier's Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript.

A Genetics prof. at a Melbourne university, Don Tillman, socially awkward and emotionally challenged (all signs point to Asperger's, but you did not hear it from me) is looking for the perfect wife. He places his faith in the scientific instrument, a 16-page questionnaire he designs to weed out the unsuitable choices - the smokers, vegetarians, and the tardys. Barmaid Rosie Jarman is all these things but she is also beguiling, fiery, and intelligent. While Don quickly disqualifies her as a candidate for the Wife Project, he is more than willing to risk it all for a wildly impossible project of her own.

"Arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, The Rosie Project will resonate with anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of great challenges." One reviewer suggests that it will appeal to fans of the The Big Bang Theory, and fellow Aussie Toni Jordan's Addition (2009), with its math-obsessed, quirky heroine.

In Ramsey Hootman's engaging debut Courting Greta * Samuel, a shy and withdrawn former dot.com exec. is now teaching at Healdsburg High School. Between navigating ancient equipment, lesson plans, student culture and his physical handicap, he falls hard for the school's middle-aged tomboy gym teacher Greta Cassamajor (think Sue Sylvester), and discovers that change can come from unexpected places.

"In this poignant, witty debut, Ramsey Hootman upends traditional romance tropes to weave a charming tale of perseverance, trust, and slightly conditional love." For fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, and Matthew Quirk's Silver Linings Playbook.

* * * * = 4 starred reviews
* = starred review

Join Jane Austen and J.D. Salinger at the Michigan Theater next Friday!

Next Friday, September 13th, will be a big literary day at the Michigan Theater with the opening of both Austenland and Salinger.

Austenland, simply put, is a film about a woman who is obsessed with Jane Austen. Keri Russel plays Jane Hayes, a “seemingly normal” 30-something woman who risks “her life savings on a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women.” Along the way, she finds out that her own Mr. Darcy romance fantasies might not be so far-fetched… This romantic comedy also stars Jennifer Collidge, Jane Seymour and Bret McKenzie, and raises questions such as, "Who doesn't love men in tight breeches?"

Based upon the popular novel of the same title, Jane Austen enthusiasts everywhere will find themselves pulled into the fantasy land along with the characters in the film.

***

Salinger is the long-awaited documentary about one of the world’s most popular and adored authors, J.D. Salinger. The documentary “features interviews with 150 subjects, including J.D. Salinger‘s friends, colleagues and members of his inner circle who have never spoken on the record before, as well as film footage, photographs and other material that has never been seen.

The film is the first work to get beyond the Catcher in the Rye author’s meticulously built-up wall: his childhood, painstaking work methods, marriages, private world and the secrets he left behind after his death in 2010.”

Visit the Michigan Theater's website for more information about the films & showtimes!

Romance - Anytime, Anywhere, and For Keeps

In celebration of August being National Romance Awareness Month, we are reminded to "think about romance in a new way".

AADL has a new way to bring Romance into your reading experience.

We have contracted with Front Porch Romance, a Southeast Michigan independent publisher of Romance fiction to make available to our library card holders free, immediate and unlimited downloads of their titles.

We know you will be pleased - there is no waiting, hold lists, or expiration/due dates. That means once you have downloaded a title, it is yours to keep, for as long as you would like, on your reading device.

Click here for a complete list of the titles and start the romance now.

2013 Sizzling Summer Reads #2 - Feasting on Fiction

Fabri Prize-winner Eli Brown's Cinnamon and Gunpowder opens in 1819 when the renowned chef Owen Wedgwood is kidnapped by ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. He will be spared, she tells him, as long as he puts exquisite food in front of her every Sunday without fail. He works miracles in creating culinary masterpieces with the meager supplies on board the Flying Rose, tantalizing her with the likes of tea-smoked eel and brewed pineapple-banana cider as he watches her pushes her crew past exhaustion in her search for the notorious Brass Fox.

"Brown concocts a clever tale in which history, ethics, action, and romance blend harmoniously." "(S)izzling and swashbuckling".

Susan Rebecca White's A Place at the Table is inspired by the stories of chefs Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock, in which she tells the story of 3 troubled souls finding their way and making a place for themselves through the magic of the big city and a love of cooking.

Alice Stone, an African American girl growing up in North Carolina, whose upbringing was marked by racism; Bobby Banks, a gay man from Georgia, is ostracized by his conservative family and friends; and Amelia Brighton, whose privileged life is turned upside down by her husband's infidelity and a mysterious family secret. As the novel unfolds, these three are drawn together at a tiny café in New York City.

"With unforgettable characters, rich detail, and seamless narration,... (it) will long remain in the reader's mind and memory, a gentle reminder of the importance of acceptance in all its forms and the myriad connections that surround us."

Whitney Gaskell's Table for Seven is an entertaining tale of a monthly dinner club. It interweaves the lives of two couples - Fran and Will, Jaime and Mark; Audrey, a young widow; Leland, an elderly neighbor, and the extremely attractive, man-about-town bachelor, Coop.

A series of dramatic crises force the dinner club members to confront their own flaws and work on their lives. "Gaskell has mastered the art of putting the fun in dysfunctional."

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #416 - War Bonds

In I'll be Seeing You *, January 1943, Glory Whitehall, a young expectant mother with a toddler pulls a name out of a pail in a 4-H meeting and impulsively writes to the "Garden Witch" - Rita Vincenzo, the sensible wife of a professor in Iowa with a love of gardening. Worlds apart Glory (New England Society) and Rita, (from immigrant families, constantly struggles to make ends meet), they share however, the powerful bond of being at the home front, watching, waiting and worrying about love ones fighting overseas.

Over the course of 2 years, their correspondence brings comfort and encouragement against the tides of loneliness and anxiety as they share their most intimate secrets, hopes and fears, indiscretions and transgression, and recipes. Connected across the country by the lifeline of the written word, each woman finds her life profoundly altered by the other's unwavering support.

Authors Suzanne Hayes (Glory) and Loretta Nyhan (Rita) never met. They found each other on writers' blogs and collaborated seamlessly to give us a deeply moving novel filled with unforgettable characters and grace, a celebration of the strength of friendship.

Michigan native Jessica Brockmole's epistolary novel Letters from Skye * spans across two continents and two world wars to capture the love stories of two generations.

In the remote Isle of Skye, 24 yr.-old Elspeth Dunn, a published poet, is astonished to receive a fan letter from an American college student, David Graham. They find sharing their favorite books, wildest hopes, and deepest secrets easy and natural. Friendship blossoms into love as World War I engulfs Europe and David volunteers on the Western front.

Alternating with letters between Elspeth and David are ones between Margaret and Paul - the RAF pilot she is in love with, and those with her mother, who on the eves of World War II warns her against seeking love in wartime, an admonition Margaret doesn't understand. (Ah! the savvy reader has an inkling!) Then, after a bomb rocks their home, Margaret's mother disappears. With a single letter found among the debris as clue, Margaret sets out to find her mother, and the truth of what happened to her family long ago.

"Sparkling with charm and full of captivating period detail, Letters from Skye is a testament to the power of love to overcome great adversity".

Jessica Brockmole spent several years living in Scotland. The idea for the novel came on a long drive from the Isle of Skye to Edinburgh.

Readalikes: Elizabeth Berg's Dream When You're Feeling Blue and Sarah Blake's The Postmistress, and Kristina McMorris' Letters from Home.

* = starred review

2013 Sizzling Summer Reads #1 - Something to go with the heat

In National Book Award finalist Ken Kalfus's intellectual comedy Equilateral *, at the turn of the 20th Century, an obsessed British astronomer undertakes an massive project to build the Equilateral, a triangle in the Egyptian desert to signal to the highly evolved beings alive on Mars. But as work progresses, the local workers, a violent outbreak of malaria complicate matters while he himself is ensnared in a triangle of another sort - between his secretary who does not suffer fools, and Binta, a houseservant he covets but can't communicate with.

"Equilateral is written with a subtle, sly humor, but it's also a model of reserve and historical accuracy; it's about many things, including Empire and colonization and exploration; it's about "the other" and who that other might be. We would like to talk to the stars, and yet we can barely talk to each other."

If you enjoyed Overseas, Beatriz Williams's debut, you would not want to miss A Hundred Summers. 1938, Seaview (RI) where the Manhattan Danes and the Brynes have summered for decades, saw a reunion between former best friends Lily Dane and Budgie Greenwald who is now married to Nick, Lily's former fiance, and the charming Graham Pendleton, a celebrated Yankees pitcher recuperating from an injury.

Under the scorching summer sun, fueled with enough gin and gossips, the unexpected truth of Budgie and Nick's marriage bubbled to the surface just as a cataclysmic hurricane barreled unseen up the Atlantic. Lily and Nick must confront an emotional cyclone of their own, which would change their worlds forever.

Winner of a Costa Novel Award, Maggie O'Farrell bring us a beguiling family drama set during the legendary British heatwave of 1976 in Instructions for a Heatwave.

When Gretta Riordan's husband of 40 year went out for the paper on a sultry July morning and never returned, her three grown children converged on the family home for the first time in years. They each harbored secrets they were desperate to hide, even from those who loved them best, until the crisis at hand brought them together with hard-won, life-changing truths.

"Sophisticated, intelligent, and impossible to put down".

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #412

Big Girl Panties * by Stephanie Evanovich is one of the most anticipated debut this summer. Being released this coming week, it won't surprise me to see it hit every bestseller list and as many sand chairs.

In this contemporary take on My Fair Lady meets The Biggest Loser, recently widowed Holly Brennan, 32, is seriously afraid of flying. Logan Montgomery is seriously hoping she won't sit down on the seat next to him on a flight from Toronto where he has just finished a personal training session with one of his superstar athlete clients.

Well, you guessed it. Holly is mortified having to wedge her sweaty obese self into the coach seat next to this gorgeous Adonis while Logan is surprised to find he is actually charmed by Holly's sharp wit after the initial chagrin. In a moment of uncharacteristic generosity, Logan offers to get her back in shape. Before either of them can stop it, the easy intimacy of their training sessions leads to even more steamy workouts away from the gym. But can a man whose whole life depends on looks commit himself to a woman who doesn't fit his ideal? A "chubby- cherub" who will never see a single-digit dress size? Or would the "ugly duckling" have a few wise tricks up her fluffy boa (wink wink) for the "swan"?

A rollicking, sensuous, feel-good romantic comedy that takes on the issues of body image, eating disorder, self-acceptance and actualization.

"Quality writing, memorable characters, hot sex scenes, and an emotionally satisfying story add up to a marvelous gem".

* = starred review

Michael Hastings, brilliant journalist who brought down a General, has died

Michael Hastings, author and award-winning journalist for Buzzfeed, died yesterday in Los Angeles.

In the June 22, 2010 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, Hastings wrote a blistering piece on then-General Stanley McChrystal who was commander of American forces in Afghanistan. Quotes from McChrystal and his aides were so highly critical of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden that the General resigned shortly thereafter. Hastings received a 2010 Polk Award for this article.

Hastings' early career as a driven, heat-seeking missile for the truth included writing for Gentleman's Quarterly and Newsweek. Then in 2007, Hastings' world was rocked. He and his fiancee, Andi Parhamovich were both stationed in Baghdad (he was writing for Newsweek; she was an aide worker for The National Democratic Institute. Andi died in an ambush on January 17th and Hastings returned to his parents' home in Vermont, where holed up in their attic for two months while he wrote I Lost My Love in Baghdad: A Modern War Story (2008), a keening, bitter, loved-filled tribute to Andi.

Hastings' last hard copy book, The Operators: The Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War on Afghanistan came out last year. His last book, published earlier this year in Kindle-only format, is
Panic 2012: The Sublime and Terrifying Inside Story of Obama's Final Campaign

George Jones, Country-Western heartbreak crooner, has died

George Jones, whose beautiful sad country ballads consoled countless broken hearts, died today in Nashville.

Born in Pensacola, TX in 1931, Jones lived his songs. Famous for missing concerts when he was on a drunken tear, he survived drugs, car crashes, several divorces and repeated financial ruin. His third marriage, in 1969, to Tammy Wynette took the meaning of tempestuous into the stratosphere. They wrote and sang of the endless drama and tragedies in their relationship which lasted just six years, but produced some real blockbuster country songs, such as Good Year for the Roses and \We're Gonna Hold On. Their daughter, Georgette, told their story from her point of view in her 2011 memoir, The Three of Us: Growing Up with Tammy and George.

One of his most wrenchingly sad songs; He Stopped Loving Her Today, was pure George Jones at his mournful best. The song's subject yearns tragically for years for a lost love and dies with a smile on his face.

Jones won countless awards for his body of work. He was honored by the Country Music Association, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and last year he was presented with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Jones, who had been hospitalized on April 18th, was 81.

High-Seas Audiobook Adventure for Teens

One of the best things about listening to an audiobook is hearing the story in the character’s voice. In L. A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy, narrator Katherine Kellgren reads with a strong Cockney accent that brings the heroine dramatically to life.

After she is reduced to begging on the streets of London, teenager Mary Faber takes a chance at a new life by disguising herself as a boy, Jacky, and joining a British warship on the hunt for pirates. Things become even more complicated when she falls in love with fellow ship’s boy Jaimy and becomes the target of unwanted advances from another sailor. There’s plenty of adventure, romance and scares in this award-winning audiobook.

The audiobook series continues with Curse of the Blue Tattoo, Under the Jolly Roger, In the Belly of the Bloodhound, Mississippi Jack, My Bonny Light Horseman, Rapture of the Deep, and The Wake of the Lorelei Lee.

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