Affinity

Margaret Prior, an upper class woman in Victorian London, begins visiting the women of Millbank prison after a failed suicide attempt. She finds herself drawn to Selina Dawes, a spiritual medium sent to prison after the death of a woman during a séance. Margaret begins to believe Selina’s claims of occult power after a series of mysterious gifts appear. As the women’s relationship grows deeper, Margaret starts to develop a plan to free Selina from Millbank.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #163

This "wickedly brilliant" cozy by Canadian journalist Alan Bradley won the 2007 Debut Dagger Award of the Crimewriter's Association.

Set in a quaint English village, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie* features one of the most engaging amateur sleuths since Harriet the Spy.

11 year-old Flavia de Luce, a walking encyclopedia of the practical use of poison, is thrilled to find a corpse in the cucumber patch of the family's crumbling manor. A missing piece of custard pie, a dead snipe bearing a priceless "gift" on the door step, a retired librarian with a menacing secret and a shell-shocked WWII soldier are among her suspects but the bumbling police arrest her father for the crime. It is all up to Flavia to save the day.

Pure delight. Sequel likely, and most eagerly anticipated.

* = starred reviews

Ann Arbor Book Festival Is Upon Us!

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This year marks the 6th annual Ann Arbor Book Festival. Events have been going on throughout May, with the big street fest happening this weekend! The festival’s mission is “to promote reading, heighten awareness of literacy challenges, and showcase the rich culture of the written word in Michigan and beyond.” There are oodles of events happening all over town with an emphasis on books and reading. The events include book release parties, author readings, panels, fundraisers, live music, a spelling bee, and more! Be sure to check the full schedule for May 15- 17 to see what suits your fancy.

Saturday at the festival also marks the announcement of the winners of AADL’s “It’s All Write!” Short Story Contest.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #159

This delightful debut by Canadian author Elizabeth J. Duncan won the Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition and the William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant.

In The Cold Light of Mourning*, Penny Brannigan, a Canadian expat, has made the Village of Llanelen home for decades, having been seduced but the breathtaking view of this part of the Welsh countryside as a young backpacker. Now manicurist and owner of the Happy Hands Nail Care shop, she has become an integral fabric of the community. When a young bride goes missing after her nail appointment on her wedding day, Penny gets involved.

Her budding romance with the local police inspector, colorful village personalities, quiet domestic routines and the idyllic setting will engage readers longing for a new voice in contemporary cozies. Cold will please fans of fellow Canadian Louise Penny’s Three Pines series, and brings to mind Joan Hess's Maggody series as well as the Kate Austen novels by Jonnie Jacobs, and the Ruby Crane series, set in western Michigan by Jo Dereske.

* = Starred Review

Lost in India

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If you read The White Tiger and watch Slumdog Millionaire in the same week, like I just did, you may just feel like you’re lost in a bit of India. You may just find yourself thinking that the main characters of both, Balram Halwai and Jamal Malik, are both in fact white tigers.

In Adiga’s The White Tiger, Balram Halwai is the smartest boy in his village, the son of a rickshaw puller, a chauffeur, and future entrepreneur. He happily tells his tale in epistolary fashion, while sitting under a chandelier, to Chinese premier Wen Jiabo. Halwai is such a strong character and his tale is both heartwarming and frightening. A fascinating read, and truly worthy of the Man Booker Prize it won.

Another white tiger from the Darkness of India is Slumdog Millionaire’s Jamal Malik. In this Oscar winner for Best Picture, young Jamal is arrested for probable cheating on the popular game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. While being questioned, the story of his life and how he got to the brink of winning big unfolds in flashback form. Here is another young man with such charisma, pure of heart, and longing for only one thing. I’m not sure if I liked the ending, but it was a stunning movie.

Nebula Award Winner

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The Nebula Award is an annual award given by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America for the best U.S. book of those genres. The winner for best scifi/fantasy novel this year is Powers by Ursula K. Le Guin. It is the 3rd in the Annals of the Western Shore series. If you have never read Le Guin, this and her Earthsea series may be a good starting point. Located in the Teen collection, these series are some of the best written & exciting fantasy adventure books. Adults will want to read them too! Le Guin is an extremely prolific writer. She writes for adults, teens, and children as well as writing non-fiction, poetry, & short stories. Other book awards she has received include a Hugo and Nebula for the Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed: an ambiguous Utopia; & the Locus SF Award for the Telling. She is also one of the finalists for the 2009 Locus SF Award for Lavinia.

“Growing Up” Sibert Medal Award Winners

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The Sibert Medal is awarded anually to authors and illustrators of the most distinguished informational book of the year. The award has been given out since 2001 to some of the loveliest non-fiction titles for youth and teens! Many are chock full of pictures, illustrations and words, designed to create higher interest in informational topics. Here are a few stellar examples of past recipients:

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain: Peter Sis’ story is told in pictures, drawings, and memories of growing up in Czechoslovakia during the Cold War, and battling everything from Communism to the banning of rock music. This beautiful and charming book is a lighter way to read about and/or introduce a heavy topic.

Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hitler’s Shadow, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, chronicles the story of the generation of youth (over 7 million boys and girls) growing up devoted to Hitler and the Nazi movement. It also includes voices of youth who were opposed to the movement, as well as those of targeted Jewish youths. Quite a deep and interesting look at the youth that was so effected during Hitler's Germany.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #149

Pictures at an Exhibition, a title borrowed from the familiar Mussorgsky's suite for piano, is an impressive debut by novelist Sara Houghteling.

Picture presents a realistic rendering of the world of Parisian art dealers before and after the Nazi occupation. Daniel Berenzon, who represents the likes of Matisse and Picasso in his prestigious Paris gallery flees to the South of France during the Occupation. Upon his return, he finds the gallery burned and the hidden masterpieces gone.

It is Rose Clément (drawn from the real-life Louvre curator Rose Valland, whose documentation helped repatriate thousands of paintings) who heroically aids Max (Daniel's son) in his desperate effort to recover the stolen art. (The 1964 film The Train was inspired by this historical footnote).

A Hopwood Awards winner, Houghteling received her Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Michigan and a Fulbright to study paintings that went missing during the war. Her vivid descriptions of paintings and their power add to the allure of the novel.

Readers interested in the Nazi looting of art treasures across Europe should check out Lynn Nicholas' The Rape of Europa: the fate of Europe's treasures in the Third Reich and the Second World War or the documentation at the National Archive on the subject.

Impressive New Talent

In celebration of first time authors, a new Award is given out by ALA recognizing high quality teen lit. A couple titles that wowed the judges this year are, Curse Dark as Gold about a certain Jack Spinner, who can transform straw into gold and Charlotte Miller who works out a deal with Jack to save her family's mill. So much more going on than just a re-worked fairy tale. The Honor Titles for this award are, Me, the Missing, and the Dead, Graceling, Absolute Brightness, and Madapple

2009 Caldecott and Newbery Awards Announced

The American Library Association announced the winners of the Caldecott and Newbery awards this morning.
Neil Gaiman won the Newbery for The Graveyard Book. This was illustrated by Dave McKean.
House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes won the Caldecott Medal.

Kadir Nelson won the author medal of the Coretta Scott King award for We Are the Ship. Floyd Cooper won the illustrator medal of the Coretta Scott King award for his illustrations of The Blacker the Berry, which was written by Joyce Carol Thomas.

For a complete list of all the winners and honor books, go here.

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