Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die

The title of this book says it all, really. In this darkly humorous collection of short stories, a machine can take a blood sample and produce a slip of paper that will tell you in one to a few words how you will meet your demise. And all for $19.95! Your result, however, can be most vague. Results such as DROWNING, CANCER, OLD AGE may not be as clear-cut as they seem. For example, your death prediction may be “BURIED ALIVE”. But what if being buried alive does not necessarily mean buried alive in dirt? What if you were buried alive in a building that collapsed? Knowing the “prediction” usually only results in more questions. I really love the quote on the cover of the book by author Cory Doctorow. “Existentialism was never so fun. Makes me wish I could die, too!”

If the premise alone of Machine of Death does not entice you, following are just some of the titles of the stories in this collection:
ALMOND
PIANO
HIV INFECTION FROM MACHINE OF DEATH NEEDLE
IMPROPERLY PREPARED BLOWFISH
COCAINE AND PAINKILLERS

The Castle, on DVD

In the Australian comedy The Castle, Darryl Kerrigan is a man in love with his home, his castle, and he has added many “extensions” to his no-so-humble abode, adding originality and charm. The backyard of his home just happens to be an airport runway. He lives in his house with his close-knit and quirky family, including his crafty, cooking wife, and one of his three grown children. After being faced with a government enforced eviction so that the airport can expand, happy-go-lucky Darryl and his neighbors put up a fight and head to high court, sighting Australian constitution as their defense. Narrated by one of the Kerrigan teenagers, this off-beat film will have you in stitches.

P.S. Don’t Laugh Too Hard

P.S. I Hate It Here!: Kids’ Letters From Camp, selected and edited by Diane Falanga, is a collection of letters that kids sent to their parents. The author got the idea after receiving a letter from camp from her daughter. After sharing it with fellow parents, Falanga found that they, too, had letters to share. If you like reading letters such as those in Found Magazine, or you think kids say the darndest things, these letters will make you laugh.

The kids write about flying ants, slow dancing with girls, and trees falling on cabins. Some inform their parents of ailments such as lice, rashes, exposed bone, and chlorine-induced migraines. One boy begs his parent to let him get a mohawk, while many send desperate requests for food (not junk food, but Doritos).

As the title suggests, some of the kids hate camp and want to go home. One cries “histarkally,” another feels like they’ve been shot in the head, and one writes that they have “thrown up because of worryness.” Not all of these honest and heartfelt letters are woeful though, as there are a few kids who beg to be signed up for next year.

When reading these letters you truly feel for the kids, but you can't help but laugh and be reminded of your own 5th grade camp experience.

Family Guy's Alex Borstein and Cherry Cheva !!

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Alex Borstein, the voice of Lois on the Fox TV show Family Guy and the former star of MADtv (Ms. Swan) returns to the Library to discuss Family Guy and her screenwriting career. Joining her is Ann Arbor's own Cherry Cheva, now a writer/producer on Family Guy and the author of teen novels, She's So Money and Duplikate. Do not miss this opportunity to get an inside look at one of the most popular and creative shows on TV. Family Guy has been nominated for many awards, including eleven Primetime Emmy Awards, of which it won three. In 2009, it was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, the first time an animated series was nominated for the award since The Flintstones in 1961.

Monday, November 8, 7-9 pm, Downtown Library, Multi-Purpose Room, Grades 9-Adult

Is it just me? Or is it nuts out there?

Have you ever thought: Is it just me? Or is it nuts out there?

If so, Whoopi Goldberg’s new book Is it just me? is the perfect book for you!

Whoopi talks about how American Society has become more cavalier about what conduct we think is publicly acceptable, e.g. talking on cell phones in restaurants and church, wearing enough perfume to make others gag, and forgetting about boundaries by touching pregnant women’s bellies! This book is a funny and honest portrait of how new behaviors in our culture, such as talking during a film in a theater and replacing polite requests with insurmountable demands, are the new norm.

Whoopi also has advice on etiquette for little readers, in Whoopi's Big Book of Manners. In this book aimed at children aged 4 to 8 years old, Whoopi details common social graces, such as complementary words and words of gratitude, cleaning up after oneself, apologizing, table manners, and how to be a good sport.

Check out these books today!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #223

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How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe* is NOT, a how-to manual. Author Charles Yu a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award winner (for his short story collection Third Class Superhero) delivers his debut novel, a razor-sharp, ridiculously funny, and utterly touching story of a son searching for his father . . . through quantum space-time.

Minor Universe 31 is a vast story-space on the outskirts of fiction, where paradox fluctuates like the stock market, lonely sexbots beckon failed protagonists, and time-travel is serious business. Every day, people get into time machines and try to do the one thing they should never do: change the past. That’s where Charles Yu, time travel technician—part counselor, part gadget repair man—steps in. He helps save people from themselves. Literally.

When he’s not taking client calls, Yu visits his mother (stuck in a onehour cycle, she makes dinner over and over and over) and searches for his father, who invented time travel and then vanished. Accompanied by TAMMY, an operating system with low self-esteem, and a nonexistent but ontologically valid dog named Ed, and using a book titled How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe as his guide, Yu sets out, and back, and beyond, in order to find the one day where he and his father can meet in memory.

"A fascinating, philosophical and disorienting thriller about life and the context that gives it meaning."

Critics are comparing Yu to Mark Danielewski and an early Douglas Adams. Don't miss this one.

* = Starred review

October's Books to Film

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Now a Focus Features film, teen novelist Ned Vizzini's It's Kind of a Funny Story is a "whimsical coming-of-age story".

Craig Gilner sees entry into Manhattan's Executive Pre-Professional High School as the ticket to his future. At his new school, Craig realizes that he isn't brilliant compared to the other kids and soon sees his once-perfect future crumbling away. The stress becomes unbearable. One night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig's suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, isolated from the crushing pressures of school and friends, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.

Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness. For a novel about depression, it's definitely a funny story.

Based on the graphic novel** by Posy Simmonds Tamara Drewe (trailer) is loosely inspired by Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. It delightfully skewers modern mores and manners with great wit and understanding for the foibles of humanity.

At a bucolic writers' retreat run by Beth and Nicholas Hardiman, where Dr. Glen Larson, an American professor and struggling novelist, is staying. An ambitious young Tamara Drewe, mourning the loss of her mother, has returned to her family home nearby. A bookish girl not so long ago, Tamara is now a gossip columnist at a London paper and undeniably sexy. She quickly has every man in the vicinity falling at her feet. Meanwhile, long-suffering Beth sees to the needs of the writers while managing the farm, the household, and the many affairs of her husband, a best-selling detective novelist.

** = starred reviews

Groucho Marx Turns 120

What can I say about comic legend Groucho Marx that he didn't say better? In honor of Groucho's birthday on October 2nd, I bring to you some of his finest one-liners:

"I don't want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member."
"I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury."
"I married your mother because I wanted children. Imagine my disappointment when you came along."
"I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception."
"Don't look now, but there's one too many in this room and I think it's you."

The AADL owns several Marx Brothers films, including those that many consider their three best: Duck Soup, Horse Feathers, and Animal Crackers. Check out the cigar smoking, fake mustache wearing, joke a minute Groucho Marx today from your local library.

101 Places Not to See Before You Die

Didn’t get time to travel over the summer? Don’t fret. Author Catherine Price’s new book 101 Places Not to See Before You Die describes in detail all of the places you never should have bothered to see. From The Museum of Tap Water in Beijing (sounds thrilling) to the germy Blarney Stone in Ireland, Price has done the legwork so you don’t have to. One particularly exciting-sounding destination that caught my attention is the Karostas Cietums Prison Hotel in Liepaja, Latvia where, and I quote, “guests” of the prison sleep on iron beds or prison bunks. For an extra-special occasion, you can arrange to be abducted at your workplace and delivered to the hotel.” Check out the author’s blog to follow Price’s further adventures in travel madness.

Laugh Yourself Into a Stitch With The Manny Files

Don't read this book around other people. You'll probably find yourself giggling aloud and folks nearby will constantly want to know what's so funny. The Manny Files chronicles the life of Keats Dalinger, an eight year old boy with a lower-than-average self image but a ton of charisma. What he needs is the help of the manny (a male nanny) -- a cross between David Sedaris and Mary Poppins -- who is hired by the Dalinger family to help take care of Keats and his three sisters.

The manny's mantra (written on a coconut in Keats' lunchbox) is "Be interesting," and he sets the standard for that advice. From dressing up in wacky costumes at the bus stop to setting up a picnic in the bathroom, every day is interesting when the manny's around. Unfortunately, Keats' sister, Lulu, is an expert at getting nannies fired, and when she starts a journal -- aptly named The Manny Files -- of all the things the manny does "wrong", Keats must defend his role model.

I've been recommending this book left and right because of all the giggles it's brought into my life, and so far no one I know has been disappointed. It's in the youth chapter book section, but don't let that stop you from having fun with the manny.

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