Fabulous Fiction Firsts #525 - “At some point you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead. The one thing is finding the courage to do it.” ~ Suzanne Collins

The Fire Sermon * * * by award-winning poet Francesca Haig has been billed as The Hunger Games meets The Road - a richly imagined first novel in a new post-apocalyptic trilogy, and is poised to become the next must-read hit.

Four hundred years after a catastrophic nuclear fire destroyed much of Earth and its civilization, genetic mutation dictates that each human is born with a twin. Of each pair, one (an Alpha) is physically perfect, the other (an Omega) is burdened with some form of deformity. While the Alphas are designated as the ruling class, the Omegas are branded and banished to strictly controlled colonies. For all their superiority, Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: whenever one twin dies, so does the other.

Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side-by-side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.

"Haig's prose is gorgeous and engaging, particularly when she describes the desolate landscape, now peppered with ruins from the Before. Fans of dystopias will appreciate this adventure-filled yet character-focused tale that offers hope and explores (in a refreshingly nuanced way) the moral complexities involved in defeating an oppressive and backward government structure."

A great addition to the recent crop of dystopian novels.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

Award Winning Audiobook: Ready Player One

Ready Player One 2011. 15 hrs., 41 min.

Awards: The book received an Alex Award from the American Library Association and won the 2012 Prometheus Award.

Author: Ernest Cline

Narrator: Wil Wheaton

It is the year 2044, and Wade Watts is like everyone else - he escapes the horrible circumstances of his life by spending nearly all his time in the OASIS, a limitless world of virtual reality. Ready Player One is the story of a massive treasure hunt, where clues are only solved by players with the greatest knowledge of 1980s pop culture, and the quest for money and power undermines the future of the human race. This fast paced and engaging audiobook is enhanced by Wil Wheaton’s expert voice acting, and as a self proclaimed geek, the narrator is a perfect fit.

For similar audiobooks, check out:

Surface Detail by Iain Banks
Makers by Cory Doctorow
Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
The Magicians Trilogy by Lev Grossman

The 2015 Reading List

While most of the country's households were glued to the Superbowl, and Chicago was slammed with a memorable snowstorm, the intrepid librarians at ALA Midwinter announced this past year's best of the best in genre fiction - the Reading List. The winner in each of the 8 categories are:

Adrenaline
Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
Detroit serves as the economically battered backdrop of this inventive, visceral suspense story about a series of bizarre murders that draws a group of memorable characters into a complex web of violence. Smart, stylish and addictive, this page-turner shows how the American Dream has failed many on a personal level.

Fantasy
The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
Following the sudden, suspicious deaths of his entire family, exiled half-goblin Maia becomes emperor, a role requiring diplomacy and adherence to strict protocols. Focusing on the intricacies of court life, this elegant novel unfolds at a pace that allows readers to savor the rich tapestry of character, setting and plot.

Historical Fiction
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
Banished from the court of Versailles, spirited Charlotte-Rose de la Force meets a nun who weaves together the strands that form the Rapunzel fairy tale, revealing its surprising origins. A captivating marriage of history and folklore featuring characters true to their time periods, yet timeless in their dreams and desires.

Horror
The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman
Beneath the streets of 1970s New York, Joey meets the merry children, a gang of ancient child vampires, and discovers that immortality isn't all fun and games. Gritty, clever and gonzo, this fresh take on the vampire mythos gets darker and creepier as the pages turn.

Mystery
Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver
This classic English mystery follows Amory and her estranged husband, Milo, whose paths cross at a seaside resort, where suspicious deaths implicate Amory’s former fiance, Gil. A vivid mystery that sparkles with personality as Amory and Milo puzzle out the truth behind the murders and negotiate their own complicated relationship.

Romance
Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev
Comic misunderstandings ensue when playboy Bollywood director Samir travels to America to secure an annulment for his brother, married at age four to Mili in a traditional arranged Indian wedding ceremony. Appealing protagonists, a diverse supporting cast and a colorful multicultural backdrop lend this charming story unexpected emotional depth.

Science Fiction
The Martian by Andy Weir
Stranded on Mars, wisecracking botanist Mark Watney proves that an astronaut has to be smart, resourceful and, perhaps, a little crazy to survive. Strong characterization, well-researched but accessible technical detail, and a deft blend of suspense and humor will please science enthusiasts and fans of survival stories on any planet.

Women's Fiction
My Real Children by Jo Walton
Patricia Cowan, an elderly woman suffering from dementia, remembers two different lives, two different careers, two different families and two different worlds. A striking novel of how tragedy turns to joy and heartbreak turns to love with a narrative twist that hooks the reader and never lets go.

Check out the shortlists and readalikes, in the complete list.

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!

Audiobook for Kids: The Fourteenth Goldfish

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm offers a fresh, funny, and surprisingly thoughtful take on a classic science fiction premise: a potion to make you young again.

Sixth-grader Ellie’s life with her colorful drama-teacher mom is turned upside-down when her old-fashioned, opinionated grandfather moves in with them. The twist? Her grandfather is a scientist who has uncovered the secret to anti-aging and is now a thirteen-year-old boy! While trying to help her grandfather recover the anti-aging potion from his lab, Ellie finds new friends, develops a growing love for science and a greater understanding of her unconventional family.

I found the audiobook to be a particular treat, with a narrator who not only sounds like a middle-school girl but also delivers lines with such perfect comic timing that I found myself laughing out loud again and again.

Fans of The Water Castle or other science-centered books for girls will definitely want to check it out.

New Teen Fiction at the AADL!

Wow! A fresh crop of exciting new teen books is on order at the AADL. Here’s a preview of just a few of the upcoming new arrivals:

Anatomy of a Misfit is Andrea Portes’ very first novel. It’s already gaining notoriety for being “hilarious, devastating, and ultimately triumphant” and is based loosely on real events from the author’s life. Anika is the third most popular girl in school and works hard to maintain her social position even though on the inside her thoughts are dark and diabolical AND she has a crush on the nerdiest guy in school (although, in her defense, he has come back from summer vacation way better looking than he was last spring). Readers will love Anika’s witty commentary and the high school setting is portrayed poignantly. The book rockets towards its final, wrenching tragedy, but readers should stick it out to the ultimate, victorious ending.

The Jewel, by Amy Ewing, is the first book in the new Lone City series. Violet is purchased at auction by the Duchess of the Lake to serve as a surrogate mother for future royal children. As Violet fights to stay alive through the struggles of her daily existence it begins to seem as though her fate might be a hopeless one. Then, she meets the gentleman hired to be a companion to the Duchesses’ niece and everything changes. Suddenly, her life seems worth living again as the two begin an illicit romance. The consequences of this romance, however, are more than either of them had bargained for.

Split Second, by Kasie West, is the sequel to the popular Pivot Point, which was published in early 2013. In Pivot Point, readers were introduced to Addie, who has the remarkable ability of being able to see the future of both potential outcomes when she is faced with a choice. Split Second continues with the story of Addie, who has recently realized that she also has the ability to manipulate time… but not without a price. In order to mitigate the effects of her time manipulation, Addie must enlist the help of her best friend Laila as well as that of a handsome new boy at school who seems immune to her charms.

Other teen books recently added to the collection include Deliverance, the third book in the Defiance series, Sway, the story of a boy who woos a girl for his best friend… but then develops feelings for her himself, and Magnolia, the story of two Southern teenagers who realize that their hatred for one another might actually be love after a devastating storm sweeps through their town.

If you’re browsing for these or any other teen titles, don’t forget that our teen collection at the Downtown library is now located on the third floor!

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner (2014) film began showing in theaters in September, but The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, has been thrilling readers since 2009. A post-apocalyptic science fiction book written for young adults, The Maze Runner will especially appeal to readers of dystopian literature like The Hunger Games and Divergent.

The Maze Runner audiobook, read by Mark Deakins, offers a captivating experience of Dashner’s novel. The narration is well-characterized and Deakins voice is clear and articulate. As the plot builds, Deakins' rendition of the characters brings their struggle to life, drawing his listeners further into the story.

The adventure begins with Thomas, a teenage boy who doesn’t remember anything about his life before the moment he arrives in The Glade. He quickly learns that, though he is welcomed by the other boys and The Glade is safe, the maze surrounding it is inhabited by dangerous creatures. Thomas is plagued by the thought that he has been sent to The Glade for a reason and is desperate to explore the maze in search of an exit. The Gladers have only one connection to the outside world: a lift, operated by The Creators, that offers supplies and a new boy every thirty days. The day after Thomas arrives, everyone is shocked when the lift delivers another member to their group. This time, it includes a message: “She’s the last one.”

The Glade community has survived with teamwork and commitment to their common goals - survival and escape. The appearance of Thomas and the girl changes everything, and Thomas must convince The Gladers to accept him before they can work together, and before time runs out.

If you've seen the movie or read the book, the AADL has the other audiobooks in The Maze Runner series, too! The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure, and the prequel The Kill Order are all read by Mark Deakins and promise to be as exciting and engaging as book one. Still want more? Mark your calendar, because James Dasher has announced his plan to release another prequel to The Maze Runner, called The Fever Code, in 2016.

Star Wars Reads!

On Saturday, October 11 libraries and book stores across the country will be celebrating the 3rd annual Star Wars Reads Day! It’s a day to celebrate reading and all things Star Wars. Last year over 2,000 Star Wars Reads Day events took place! Do you geek Star Wars? Do you geek books?

Hey kids, maybe you’re into Star Wars graphic novels, chapter books, easy readers, or informational books. Or maybe you dig all things LEGO Star Wars! Adults, maybe you’re into Star Wars graphic novels, science fiction books, or informational books. There are also plenty of Star Wars graphic novels and novels for teens too. AADL has many books to choose from for all ages.

Don’t forget about the Star Wars television shows and movies also available for consumption!

This Saturday at noon at Malletts Creek we are hosting a craft program featuring Star Wars themed crafts for children in Grades K-5. Join us! May the Force be with you no matter how you choose to celebrate or what books you choose to read.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #461 - “Human reason can excuse any evil; that is why it's so important that we don't rely on it.” ~ Veronica Roth

The Library Journal April Debut of the Month was The Bees * by Laline Paull.

Narrator Flora 717 is a lowly sanitation bee, born to "accept, obey, and serve" the Queen, and to abide by the strict hierarchies of the hive. Early on, Flora shows herself unique in many ways, some prove useful in a time when the hive is at risk. But when Flora discovers she is fertile, her desire to protect her egg will cast her in a totally new light, emboldening her to even challenge the Queen's role as mother to all.

"A powerful story reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale in which one original and independent thinker can change the course of a whole society."

Readers of the dystopia genre might also enjoy:

Shades of Grey: the road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde. Welcome to Chromatacia, where for as long as anyone can remember society has been ruled by a Colortocracy. Social hierarchy is based upon one's limited color perception. In this world, you are what you can see, and Eddie Russett, a better-than-average red perception wants to move up.

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist. A gripping exploration of a society in the throes of an experiment, in which the "dispensable" ones are convinced under gentle coercion of the importance of sacrificing for the "necessary" ones.

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. In the future United States, one woman wakes up to discover that her skin color has been changed to red as punishment for an abortion which has been outlawed. Now she must embark on a dangerous journey in order to find refuge from a hostile and threatening society.

* = starred review

Nerd Nite Ann Arbor: June 19, presented by AADL at LIVE 102 S First St.

Thursday June 19, 2014: 7:00 pm to 9:30 pm -- LIVE (102 S 1st Street)

This event is intended for Adults
This event will be recorded

For the last year, crowds have gathered each month in the early evening - in bars and venues around Ann Arbor. Around 7pm, it begins: three boisterous speakers geek out up front. What is this? Some secret club?

Nope! It's Nerd Nite Ann Arbor! And it's open to anyone and everyone who loves to learn or share what they love.

For the uninitiated, Nerd Nite (NN) has been described as “...like the Discovery Channel™…with beer!” Sounds fun, right? It is! NN is held monthly in 70+ cities, giving several folks the opportunity to give 18-21minute fun-yet-informative presentations across all disciplines. Imagine learning about everything from the science of the Simpsons to the genealogy of Godzilla. Fun stuff!

The next Nerd Nite will be Thursday, June 19 at LIVE (102 S 1st St.). Doors open at 6:30, and speakers start at 7pm.

This month, we'll consider the ethical system that governs the United Federation of Plants, the Prime Directive; hear some interesting/weird stories a researcher found while writing a book on Ann Arbor architectural history, and learn about a parasite that can literally manipulate the behavior of its human host!

Marcus Dillon - Prime Directive: The Ethics of Star Trek
Patrick McCauley - Obsessively Researching Historic Buildings, and the Weird Things You Find
Aric J Schultz - Meet your Puppet Master: Toxoplasma gondii

So show up, have a drink, meet other nerds, and learn a bunch of awesome new junk!

Want to see past topics and a little more info? Check NNA2's site.

AADL is sponsoring this month's event, so there will be NO COVER (usually $5)!

Mark your calendars and spread the word! Any and all nerds (and non-nerds!) who love learning and having a great time are welcome to join us for the AADL + NNA2 Mashup!

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