2015 Mitten Award Winner: Maple by Lori Nichols

Every year the Michigan Library Association gives out a Mitten Award for quality in youth picture books. This year the winner was Maple by Lori Nichols.

Maple follows the early life of a young girl named Maple and her best friend, a maple tree. The illustrations are vibrant and wonderfully drawn, and it's very easy to get pulled into Maple's little world. This is a great book for those who are about to have a new member in the family, or for those who already have a younger brother or sister, and there are sequel books as well!!!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #565 - Spotlight on Debut Mysteries

Winner of the 2013 Colorado Gold Contest for unpublished writers and a runner-up in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc * by Jennifer Kincheloe.

1907 Los Angeles. Heiress to a banking fortune Anna Blanc bristles under her domineering father and watchful chaperon. Using an alias, she takes a job as a police matron with the LAPD. An eager reader of crime novels, she could match wits with Sherlock Holmes. So when the city is plagued by a string of brothel murders, which the cops are unwilling to investigate, she takes on the investigation herself.

For fans of Rhys Bowen's Molly Murphy; Kerry Greenwood's Miss Phryne Fisher; and Ashley Weaver's Amory Ames series.

The White Shepherd by Annie Dalton. In this first of the Oxford Dogwalkers' series (and YA author Dalton's first adult thriller), a fragile young woman becomes an unlikely sleuth.

Anna Hopkins is walking Bonnie, her white German Shepherd, through Oxford's picturesque Port Meadow when they stumble upon the battered body of her friend, Naomi, a researcher. Before the police arrives, two women, Tansy and Isadora, appear on the scene and the women team up to support each other and take matters into their own hands when the Police concludes that Naomi was the latest victim of the Oxford Ripper.

Anna's distrust of the Police stems from a childhood trauma when she found her entire family brutally slaughtered, and the killer was never found. One of the first responder on the scene then is now the lead investigator of Naomi's murder.

"An inventive plot, charismatic characters, and even some black humor combine to make this a good choice for suspense junkies... its canine element will delight Susan Conant and Laurien Berenson fans."

* = starred review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #564

Gold Fame Citrus * * *, the debut novel by UM Assistant Professor Claire Vaye Watkins is truly worth the wait. (No doubt, my eager anticipation is due in part, to the New York Times book review by Emily St. John Mandel).

Set in the near future, when extreme drought and water shortage laid waste to much of the western states, Los Angeles is not longer the land of gold, fame and citrus. With mass exodus to lusher regions, only a few hardy souls remain. Luz, a 25-year old former model and her boyfriend Ray, whose survival skills are keeping them alive, are holed up in the abandoned mansion of a Hollywood starlet. But when they take in a very strange little girl, they realize that it's time to seek a safer place.

Danger lurks as they head east - sinkholes, patrolling authorities, bandits and the brutal sun. Seeking refuge in a rumored desert commune, Luz comes under the sway of the charismatic leader of an outpost in the desert, threatening the bond of their make-shift family.

"Immensely moving, profoundly disquieting, and mind-blowingly original, Watkins’s novel explores the myths we believe about others and tell about ourselves, the double-edged power of our most cherished relationships, and the shape of hope in a precarious future that may be our own."

Readers might want to check out Claire Vaye Watkins’s multiple-awards winning story collection, Battleborn, among them, the National Book Foundation “5 Under 35”, and the Story Prize.

This debut novel would likely remind readers of Swamplandia! by Karen Russell; Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel; and The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

* * * = 3 starred reviews

2015 Booker Prize Winner: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

Author Marlon James was awarded the 2015 Man Booker Prize for his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings on October 13 in London. The book, which tops 600 pages, is about the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in the 1970s. Its plot spans 3 decades and features 75 characters. Michael Wood, chair of the Booker Prize committee, described the book as the "most exciting" book on the shortlist, as well as being "full of surprises," "very violent," and "full of swearing".

James is the first Jamaican author to win the prize. This is only the second year that the prize has been open to all authors writing in English.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #559

Make Your Home Among Strangers * * is the debut novel by award-winner (Iowa Short Fiction Prize) Jennine Capó Crucet, a Miami native who served as a counselor/mentor to first-generation college kids at a nonprofit called One Voice, an experience that greatly informs her writing.

Set in both Miami and New York around the time the Elian Gonzalez immigration ordeal was unfolding, Cuban American Lizet Ramirez is the first in her family to attend college (made possible by a full-ride to a prestigious New England one), and the first to leave her blue-collared neighborhood of Little Cuba, a decision that might have precipitated the breakup of her family.

Academically and socially, Lize struggles on campus, and is looking forward to an unannounced Thanksgiving visit home - the same day that young Ariel Hernandez arrives in Miami and becomes the center of a public battle between anti-Castro Cubans and the U.S. Government, a conflict in which Lizet's mother, newly divorced and unmoored, becomes deeply involved.

"Told largely in flashback by an older and wiser Lizet, this coming-of-age story achieves a wry and wistful tone. Debut novelist Crucet depicts with insight and subtlety the culture shock, confusion, guilt, and humiliations of the first-generation college student surrounded by privilege."

"But above all, in Lizet's story, we have a thrilling, deeply fulfilling journey of a young woman stepping into her own power."

For further reading: How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez; The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez; and the much anticipated second novel We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of the 2012 Reading List award winner The Language of Flowers.

* * = 2 starred reviews

I'll Give you the Sun: Winner of multiple awards and honors!

I'll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson is a book about two twins, a boy and a girl named Noah and Jude. The story follows the two twins as they give their own perspective on an event that affected them both. The story is full of pairings, good and bad, right and wrong, freak and normal and even male and female. The book is beautiful in its differences, the way that it deals with some pretty heavy issues will give you a chance to pause and think about it. As Jude and Noah come to terms with all of the events that happen to them, including falling for the same boy, watch as Nelson weaves a beautiful tale masterfully.

The book won the Printz award as well as being an honors book for the Stonewall award it has won countless editors choice and best of awards as well. So if you want to check out what all the hype is about check out I'll Give you the Sun.

Harvey Award Winners 2015: Celebrating Great Comics and Graphic Novels

Another year, another group of great comics and graphic novels were celebrated at yesterday's Harvey Awards at the Baltimore Comic Convention. Without further ado, here are the Harvey Award winners for 2015:

Saga really cleaned house winning 3 out of the 4 awards that they were nominated for (Best Cover Artist: Fiona Staples, Best Continuing or Limited Series, and Best Artist: Fiona Staples)

Afterlife with Archie won Best Letterer award for Jack Morelli’s work

Teenage mutant ninja turtles : the ultimate visual history won Best Biographical. Historical or Journalistic Presentation.

Blacksad: Amarillo won Best American Edition of Foreign Material

Danny Miki won Best Inker for his work on Batman.

Best New Series went to Southern Bastards

Jim Henson’s Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow won Best Graphic Album Original

Best Writer went to Mark Waid for his work on Daredevil

Lumberjanes took home Best Original Graphic Publication for Younger Readers

Sex Criminals won the Special Award for Humor in Comics

Emmy Awards Winners

Last night the winners of the 67th Emmy Awards were announced at its usual star-studded event, this time hosted by funny man Andy Samberg. The awards recognize excellence within various areas of television and emerging media.

Top honors went to Game Of Thrones for Outstanding Drama Series and Veep for Outstanding Comedy Series. Olive Kitteridge won for Outstanding Miniseries.

Outstanding Actor/Actress nods went to Jon Hamm for Mad Men, Viola Davis for How to Get Away With Murder, Jeffrey Tambor for Transparent, Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep, Peter Dinklage for Game Of Thrones, Uzo Aduba for Orange Is the New Black, Allison Janney for Mom, and Tony Hale for Veep.

Be sure to check out the full list of winners to see who won for directing, writing, guest star appearances and more.

2015 Ignatz Award Winners Announced

The Small Press Expo (SPX) announced the winners of the 2015 Ignatz Awards for excellence in independent comics, and women artists swept all categories! Winners receive a brick, a nod to Ignatz's weapon of choice in the classic comic strip Krazy Kat by George Herriman.

Also worth a read are the nominees.

Man Booker Prize Shortlist Announced!

The Man Booker Prize Award finalists were announced today. Currently, American Yanagihara is a favorite to win, although competition is fierce, including previous Booker Prize finalist Tom McCarthy and Pulitzer Prize-winner Anne Tyler.

The nominees are:

Marlon James - A Brief History of Seven Killings
Tom McCarthy - Satin Island
Chigozie Obioma - The Fishermen
Sunjeev Sahota - The Year of the Runaways (US publication coming March 2016)
Anne Tyler - A Spool of Blue Thread
Hanya Yanagihara - A Little Life

This year continues the policy introduced in 2014 of allowing all authors writing in English, regardless of nationality, to be considered for the award. Michael Wood, chair of the judging panel commented that the selections on this year's list explore the darker areas of life, but stressed the quality of the books, saying, "What’s quite interesting is trying to work out how one can have such pleasure in books with such terrible stuff.”

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