New Years' Intention

Truth be told, I’m not big on New Years Resolutions. The holiday hype and excitement tend to make me feel exhausted and inadequate before February finishes. Instead, I prefer to set an intention for the year, as I have found that this is a much more successful and forgiving way to make long term and consistent improvements. Like many, my intention for this next year is to eat better. More specifically, my goal is to learn how to nourish myself rather than just feed myself, and examine how certain foods add or detract from my well being. Ayurveda is the foundation of this type of thought.

Ayurveda is the ancient yogic study of the effect of food on your physical constitution, while factoring in one’s emotional nature and individual spiritual outlook. Sanskrit texts dating back 5,000 years teach of the three body types, or “doshas,” and how to best balance your whole being. One good place to start is with Suhas Kshirsagar’s “Hot Belly Diet”. Here you’ll learn the basics on how to determine your dosha, and create the optimum diet to improve overall health, balance hormone levels, and kick start your digestive ‘fire.’ Whether you suffer from chronic disease or acute ailments, deciphering your own ‘diet code’ is crucial to creating a balanced and healthy lifestyle.

Stunning Debut Fiction: Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper, is described as “a gorgeous literary debut about an elderly woman’s last great adventure walking across Canada. A beautiful novel of pilgrimage, of fulfilling lifelong promises, of a talking coyote called James, of unlikely heroes and hundreds of papier-mâché animals….”

Elderly Otto wakes up one morning to find his eighty-two-year-old wife gone from their bed. Upon walking into the kitchen of their home, he finds a carefully penned note from her saying that she has set off on a walk to fulfill her lifelong dream of seeing the ocean, and that she’ll try to remember to come back home. The only problem: the ocean is 2008 miles away from the couple’s home in Saskatchewan.

Otto surprisingly doesn’t pursue his beloved wife, but instead keeps himself busy and his worries at bay by carefully crafting hundreds of papier-mâché animals and writing Etta long letters that he does not know where to send. Otto’s close friend Russell, who has loved Etta from afar for decades, insists on finding Etta, however. He leaves his farm for the first time in his life determined to pursue her and bring her home safely.

Etta, meanwhile, steadfastly continues her journey to the ocean accompanied by a friendly coyote named James, and as her trip goes on the lines between memory, illusion and reality become increasingly blurry. The book itself is a mixture of memory and reality, too; it’s not told in chronological order, but rather blends emotions and experiences in the present with those from the past.

The stunning descriptions of Canada are a wonderful backdrop to this novel that “reminds us that it’s never too late to see the things you’ve longed to see, or say the things you’ve longed to say.”

Readalikes for Serial Fans


Millions of people are hooked on the new Serial podcast, in which journalist Sarah Koenig attempts to unravel the 1999 murder of Baltimore-area high schooler Hae Min Lee and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed for the crime. New episodes are released each Thursday, and binge-listeners of the show are eager to listen, re-listen, and debate the findings and their suspicions.

Here are a few nonfiction titles that might help pass the time between episode releases - each title features a crime, compelling characters, and an attempt to piece together the clues to make sense of the whole picture.

Blood Will Out - Walter Kirn's examination of a con artist who posed for years as "Clark Rockefeller," an ambiguously wealthy member of the upper crust, heavily features Kirn's own multi-year friendship with the man who turned out to be not just duplicitous, but dangerous as well.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt's story of Savannah is unique in that the crime around which the book is centered almost gets lost amid the outsized personalities of his cast of characters, which includes a flamboyant antiques dealer, a voodoo priestess, and the unforgettable scene-stealer Lady Chablis.

The Monster of Florence - author Douglas Preston becomes spectacularly entangled in this investigation of a violent serial killer stalking couples in the Italian countryside. The extreme ineptitude of the police force on this case is as appalling as the dedication of journalists like co-author Mario Spezi is admirable.

People Who Eat Darkness - award-winning journalist Richard Lloyd Parry traces the disappearance of a young woman in Japan through the search and investigation phases which lead finally to her murder trial, even at the risk of his own safety.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher - Kate Summerscale dissects Britain's infamous Road Hill House murder case which featured a locked room scenario, mishandled evidence, and in an unusual addition for 1860 - a detective, one of the first eight members of the newly-formed Scotland Yard.

What addictive stories have been satisfying your Serial cravings? Share them in the comments! Also - Adnan: guilty or no?

The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making

I have a new love. It’s called Hollandaise sauce. Velvety, lemon-butter, it partners with meat or fish, eggs, grains or vegetables. A very democratic sauce. One for all.

The only way to enjoy this delectable garnish is to make it yourself. You can be tres authentique and do it the long way, a la master chefs Jaques Pepin, Julia Child and Elizabeth David. Or you can totally cheat and follow the example of this brief Food Lab video. A stick blender and two minutes and you’ve got it.

But why stop there? Next up - homemade mayonnaise. For such a common condiment it is way more complicated. Which oil, whole egg or just the yolk, lemon juice or vinegar, arm-powered whisk or blender? That’s where a number of lovely books came to my rescue and taught me way more about sauces than I thought possible, especially this marvelous book, Modern Sauces: More Than 150 Recipes for Every Cook, Every Day. We have many, many others! You too can emulate the great cuisines of every continent with sauces and toppings which enhance flavor and presentation.

But my greatest discovery was this handy compendium to the self-sufficient and frugal gourmet, The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making. Very resourceful, inspiring, entertaining, and useful! Next up - homemade ketchup.

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!

Wowed by Science - Steve Jenkins books for children

Did you know that the giant squid has eyes that are 12 inches across? Did you know that if you line up every kind of plant and animal on Earth, one of every four will be a beetle? What about the fact that octopuses are highly intelligent and, in captivity, easily solve mazes and puzzles and escape their tanks? And who knew there were elephant-sized giant ground sloths roaming around South America 10,000 years ago???

Find these facts out and more in some of author/illustrator Steve Jenkins' amazing picture books for kids! The search for exceptional non-fiction books to feed hungry little minds is constant for those of us with curious tots. Sometimes it's a challenge, but it's usually rewarding - especially when you get to pour over Jenkins' stunning collage illustrations and quirky facts that will blow your mind (that's right, these books will amaze adults too!).

Many of Jenkins' books are about animals and the Earth. For great animal size comparisons, check out
Actual Size or Prehistoric Actual Size. For bug fanatics, get a look at different kinds of beetles and their actual sizes in one of my all time favorites, The Beetle Book. If you're interested in anatomy, go the extra mile with Bones. Feeling adventurous? Then grab a copy of The Top of the World to learn about Mount Everest.

There is so much to discover in Jenkins' books that we put together a list of recommended titles to help you find them. If you happen to be a teacher, take a peek at this classroom activities guide that complements the books. Whatever you do, though, have fun!

Winter work arounds

Michigan winters can be tough, especially when it comes to staying in shape. So why not develop a good at-home practice before we get snowed in?! Yoga is the perfect solution for combating the winter blues, keeping your energy levels up and extra pounds off the scale!

The AADL collection has options for everyone; monthly magazine selections, reading materials to develop and deepen your practice, and DVD’s for those looking to work on flexibility, strength or improve your sense of self. You can even experience yoga IN your library! Keep an eye on the events calendar for future programs, and be sure to join us next week at the Pittsfield branch for a children's yoga class!

Ree Drummond: The Pioneer Woman

Ree Drummond’s memoir of how she met, fell in love with, and married her rancher husband is hilarious, romantic, and charming. Titled The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, A Love Story and published back in 2011, the entirely true story definitely made me want to find my own cowboy out there somewhere! Ree was born in urban Oklahoma and went to college at USC, where she fell in love with the city life. After a few years in Los Angeles, she moves back home temporarily before she plans to move to Chicago. When she meets “Marlboro Man” one night in a smoky hometown bar and he begins to woo her, Ree’s plans change somewhat and before she knows it she finds herself the wife of a down-home Oklahoma rancher, living over an hour from the nearest grocery store and surrounded by cattle rather than skyscrapers. Ree’s stories of her new country life are completely heartwarming.

After publishing this lovely memoir, Ree was inspired to write more and has produced several fantastic cookbooks complete with delicious, easy recipes interspersed with more stories of family life at the ranch. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: recipes from an accidental country girl, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: food from my frontier, and The Pioneer Woman Cooks: a year of holidays, are all beautifully photographed, adorably written, and extremely handy to have in any kitchen!

Most recently, Ree has branched out into writing children’s books about Charlie the ranch basset hound, who is based off of the basset hound that she and her family own in real life. There’s Charlie the Ranch Dog, Charlie the Ranch Dog: where’s the bacon?, Charlie and the New Baby, and Charlie and the Christmas Kitty, as well as several other picture books about the lazy, mischievous dog.

For more information about Ree, and for additional recipes, stories, and photos, check out her awesome blog The Pioneer Woman.

Now Available at AADL: Instant Streaming of 'The Michigan Beer Film' and Podcast of Ann Arbor Brewing History

Michigan craft beer has taken off in recent years, developing hoards of dedicated followers and providing some truly amazing beers to our local communities. In fact, the Michigan beer scene is experiencing rapid growth and what better way to explore this fascinating (and fun) local craft industry than with The Michigan Beer Film?! Produced by Rhino Media, a Kalamazoo based visual media production company with lots of talent, The Michigan Beer Film is a top-notch documentary about the beer that our great state is crafting and the people behind it.

AADL is proud to be partnering with Rhino Media to make this film available through instant stream directly from our catalog! Just click on this link or search the catalog, sign in to your library account (linked to your AADL library card), and – voila! – watch the movie. Watch it instantly online without worrying about setting up apps, or going through a third party. Easy!

And if that’s not enough, check out this podcast interview with local beer historian and author of “Ann Arbor Beer” David Bardallis. He discusses the history of brewing in Ann Arbor for a fresh and entertaining perspective on our town’s important role in the making of Michigan beer.

Log On to Brainfuse!

AADL subscribes to a live online tutoring service called "Help Now" by Brainfuse, also known simply as "Brainfuse", and is available to anybody accessing it from inside any AADL location, or to cardholders from home or elsewhere.

There are several facets to Brainfuse that not only help with homework & study skills, but skill building and writing support.

Users can log on to Brainfuse to access EXPERT help in a variety of ways: live tutoring any time from 2:00 PM-11:00 PM except on Federal Holidays. Simply choose the grade or age level that suits the user’s needs, be it elementary, middle or high school, ESL or even computers and technology.

SkillSurfer is a learning library that contains thousands of lessons, quizzes, & tests to help users master academic concepts. Check out the STUDY portal and look at FLASHBULB, which is a library full of flashcards & self-tests for a huge array of subjects! Go to the COLLABORATE portal to schedule meetings with friends in their private virtual study rooms. There’s a writing lab where users can upload documents to a teacher and have them edit/critique their work within 24 hours. Brainfuse's "Send a Question" gives users the opportunity to ask a question any time of day and get a written response from one of their tutors within one business day.

Whether you are an English Language Learner, a student of any age or an adult trying to get back into the workforce, Brainfuse may have just the answer to your academic and technical questions.

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