Fabulous Fiction Firsts #446 - "It is all connected"

The first stand-alone apart from her popular Dandy Gilver historical manor-house cozies, Catriona McPherson gives us "a dark, absorbing, contemporary" mystery in As She Left It *, "(w)ith an appealingly quirky cast of characters and a nicely paced narrative."

13 years after her escape from an alcoholic mother, Opal Jones returns to the Leeds neighborhood to find very little has changed. Kind Margaret Reid still keeps an eye on the happenings on Mote Street while 'Fishbo' Gordon, Opal's trumpet-playing music teacher and Mrs. Pickess, the wicked witch,"hadn't change one iota, not a jot." The unsolved disappearance of Margaret's little grandson, Craig 10 years ago (whom Opal used to babysit) is the only event that unsettles her homecoming.

"Soon the resourceful Opal undertakes three missions: finding the missing child; locating the family of her beloved Fishbo; and solving the puzzle of papers found in the posts of the secondhand bed she just bought. Undeterred even by a threatening note and a break-in, Opal finds that little is what it seems as her own painful and hidden memories come to light."

Joining the exemplary on Kirkus Reviews' 2013 Best Fiction Books, As She Left It will appeal to fans of Tana French, Laura Lippman, and Chevy Stevens.

* = starred review

Filmmaking 101

Do you consider yourself a filmmaker? Maybe not yet, but check out these brand new AADL teen nonfiction titles - as well as these film-related events!

Stop motion animation: how to make and share creative videos gives you guidance to create your very own stop motion film! You probably knew you could make your drawings animated by flipping Post-It-Notes, but did you know you could use whiteboards, paper cutouts, Legos, or even Smartphones? Ternan also gives tips on how to edit and share your videos once they’re ready for the world to see.

You can also check out the brand new autobiography by award-winning Andrew Jenks, My adventures as a young filmmaker. Jenks has created multiple documentaries and the YouTube series “It’s About a Girl.” In his book, he includes photos, opinions, lists, and other personal tidbits.

If you like viewing or making films, be sure to attend AADL’s great upcoming January events:

View the Sundance Film Festival Award-Winner: American Promise on Thursday, January 23 at the Downtown Library. This thorough documentary follows two African-American boys from kindergarten all the way through high school, and shows their triumphs and defeats along the way.

On Tuesday, January 28 at the Downtown Library, you can learn from Community Television Network staff how to make your own iMovie and edit the footage.

Matilda and Hans

Once there was a good little cat named Matilda, and a not so good cat named Hans. Matilda always behaved and Hans always misbehaved. One night Hans let all of the animals in the zoo free and there was big trouble. Will Matilda help Hans? With a funny plot twist and a sneaky ending, this picture book will have you giggling. Matilda and Hans by Yokococo features delightful illustrations and an adorable storyline.

Teen author Libba Bray skillfully weaves together historical fiction and fantasy in The Diviners

Teen author Libba Bray first gained notoriety for her unusual Gemma Doyle series, which includes New York Times bestseller A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing. These books skillfully and unusually blend historical fiction with fantasy, merging the world of an early twentieth century girls boarding school with an alternative universe only accessible to those with the Sight.

After completing the Gemma Doyle trilogy, Bray wrote Going Bovine, the story of a 16-year-old boy with mad cow disease, which won the Printz award from the American Library Association. In 2012, however, Bray again delved into the fantasy/historical fiction genre and produced The Diviners, the first in a new trilogy. Set in 1920s New York City, The Diviners introduces Evie, a 17-year-old girl from Ohio exiled from the Midwest and sent to live with her uncle, who is the curator of the unusual Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult. Along with spending her time embracing everything that comes with living in Prohibition-era New York, Evie is drawn into an investigation dealing with a series of occult-related murders. And, although she does her best to keep it a secret from everyone around her, Evie’s supernatural power may be the only thing that will help catch the murderer at last!

Bray’s rare ability to accurately depict historic American settings while injecting them with believable fantastical turns has made fans of the Gemma Doyle trilogy and of Bray’s writing in general ecstatic over the release of The Diviners. Filling a truly unique niche in teen fiction, the book can be enjoyed by adults as well. The second book in The Diviners series, Lair of Dreams, will be published in August 2014, and you can read more about the series as a whole here.

Gemini is Back!

Friends in Song and StoryFriends in Song and StoryWe had too much fun at this concert last year so we are bringing back this song/story stew for young children on Sunday, January 19 at 2:00 pm at the Downtown Library. Giant books like Where is the Green Sheep? and Silly Sally, in call and response style, as well as traditional Shake-It-Up Tales, won’t leave anybody sitting still for long. I am thrilled to join Gemini for this musical event!Friends in Song and StoryFriends in Song and Story

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #445 - Dead man scheming

You really ought to start with Dead Anyway * * * (2012), the first in the Arthur Cathcart series by Chris Knopf. The BOCD was perfect for a recent family road trip. Don't let that scary-looking cover fool you.

A hit man shows up at the Cathcarts' Stamford, Conn. home and shoot them both in the head after he forces Florencia, owner of an insurance-brokerage firm to sign a piece of paper. His wife is dead but Arthur Cathcart survives, barely. With the help of his physician sister, he is declared dead. A crackerjack market researcher skilled with electronics, Arthur is able to create a series of new identities to stay out of sight while he plots and schemes to track down the "who" and the "why".

"Knopf's tale is suspenseful from the get-go, with an intellectual, yet visceral, vigilantism coursing through the pages,... (he) never misses an angle and manages to weave a bit of humor into a storyline that could have been purely dark. "

"(R)eminiscent of Richard Stark's (aka Donald Westlake) Parker novels with a dose of Grosse Pointe Blank", the Arthur Cathcart caper continues with Cries of the Lost * * (2013).

Readers who enjoy their mystery mixed with comedy would want to check out the author's "reflective, quietly loopy" Hamptons-based series featuring Sam Acquillo and Jackie Swaitkowski.

* * * = 3 starred reviews
* * = 2 starred reviews

Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads 2014 is Here!

January and February are Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads months. AA/Ypsi Reads is a community initiative to promote reading and civic dialogue through the shared experience of reading and discussing a common book.

This year's theme is A Very Good Read and the chosen book is Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, the story of a Lithuanian teen during WWII whose life is torn apart when the Soviets invade her home.

Check out the AA/Ypsi Reads webpage featuring resources, upcoming events and upcoming discussions.

Read Current Magazine's interview with Ruta Sepetys.

And don't miss this month's events:
Thursday, January 9, 7-8:30 pm at the Downtown Library Multi-Purpose Room
U-M History Professor Brian Porter-Szucs provides rich background and broader context for the book's milieu as he discusses WWII In Eastern Europe.

Tuesday, January 21, 7-9 pm at Washtenaw Community College, Morris Lawrence Building
Author Ruta Sepetys discusses her book as well as signs copies. The doors open at 6 pm.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #444

The World Noir imprint first came to my attention with this gritty and cinematic procedural - The Crocodile * by Maurizio De Giovanni, put out by Europa Editions.

Those of you with a soft-spot for the disgraced lone-wolf detectives would not want to miss this one.

A cold, methodical killer the newspapers are calling "The Crocodile", commits murders largely undisturbed around Naples' diverse neighborhoods. Like a crocodile he waits and watches until his prey is within range, and then he strikes. So far he targets only the very young, and the only clue found is a paper tissue left at each site with the murderer's tears on it.

Inspector Giuseppe Lojacono, a recent transfer from Sicily who spends his days playing games on his computer, senses that this might be his chance for redemption while his colleagues dismiss the murders as Mafia shenanigan.

The beautiful Laura Piras, a young prosecutor, aware of his preternatural skills and his incredible powers of observation, charges him with finding the link between the victims. In the process, he also finds another potential victim: a 6-month-old infant.

"The Crocodile offers an elegant narrative and vividly rendered characters. It's genuinely seductive."

"In this crisply translated (by Antony Shugaar) novel, De Giovanni explores Lojacono's loneliness and vulnerability while simultaneously revealing his brilliance as a detective." Check out the Commissario Ricciardi series by this winning team of author and translator.

* = starred review

The Puck Drops Here and the Winter Classic help ring in the new year in Ann Arbor!

At 1:00pm on New Years Day, hockey fans will pack The Big House in downtown Ann Arbor for the 2014 Winter Classic. The battle between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs is not only expected to shatter the record of the highest attendance ever at a hockey game, but is also expected to break the overall attendance record in the Big House, which currently stands at over 115,000.

To welcome visitors in town for the game and celebrate the New Year, local Ann Arbor groups have worked together to create The Puck Drops Here, an outdoor celebration being held in downtown Ann Arbor tonight. There will be over 6 hours of live entertainment throughout the event, most notably The Voice finalist and Ann Arbor native Michelle Chamuel, and a midnight ball drop on Main Street. Many Main Street restaurants plan to re-open their outside seating for the evening, so the guests can watch the festivities under the warmth of outdoor heaters.

In conjunction with this event, the Farmers Market space in Kerrytown will have family-friendly activities including a skating rink, ice carvings, and marshmellow roasting.

You can read more about activities related to these events at AADL. Kids will enoy Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet. Red Wings fans can explore The History of Hockeytown: Detroit Red Wings, 75 Years and The Winged Wheel: A Half-Century of Detroit Red Wings in Photographs. And, you can hear more of Michelle Chamuel’s work on Dancethink Systems, by My Dear Disco, the local band she was part of before competing on The Voice.

Happy New Year to all!

Bring in the New Year!

Get ready to bring in the new year! Come to the Pittsfield Branch on Tuesday, December 31, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. to make hats and noisemakers for your
celebration. This is for kids pre-school through 5th grade but everyone is welcome.
All supplies will be provided.

For other ideas for keeping kids busy, click here.

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