Indigo Notebook

Poor Zeeta, whose globetrotting mother Layla has taken them to live in 15 countries. As Laura Resau's teen novel Indigo Notebook opens, Zeeta laments, “It’s always the same, no matter where in the world we happen to be. Just when I get used to noodle soup for breakfast in Laos, or endless glasses of super sweet mint tea in Morocco, or crazy little tuk tuk taxis in Thailand, Layla gets that look in her eyes . . .“

Now mother and daughter are in the Ecuadoran Andes, and Zeeta is helping an adopted American boy, Wendell, find his Ecuadoran birth-father. Indigo Notebook offers lush scenes, adventure and romance, as well as poisonous plants and creatures, and more than a touch of danger and human cruelty. But there is also plenty of parental love and support and peer friendship. Resau -- rhymes with SEE-saw -- writes in the acknowledgments, “Ian, thank you for giving me the support that lets me dream and fly -- I suspect that's why my books tend to involve true love and happy endings.” Resau, who visited AADL in the spring, is a cultural anthropologist and award-winning novelist who once lived in Latin America. Her latest book, The Queen of Water, came out earlier this year.

Do you feel the burn?

It seems like every other person in Ann Arbor is off to yoga, pilates or a spinning class. For the exercise-reluctant, signing up for a class forces you to go -- which is a big motivator for action. But classes cost money, and sometimes scheduled time. Don’t panic when I mention the next few words: home exercise video.

We’re not talking Jane Fonda here. Yes, you’ll feel the burn, MAJOR, but it’s not Jane, it’s Jillian and her DVD, 30 Day Shred. Jillian Michaels, trainer extraordinaire from the hit TV show The Biggest Loser, has many DVDs to get you working out hardcore to get quick results.

The first time I heard someone say they were going home to shred, I had no idea what they were talking about. Then I learned of Jillian’s 30 Day Shred. The DVD features a 30-day plan that has three, 20-minute workouts that progress in intensity, and include cardio, strength and ab work. The exercises are tough, and you’ll barely have time for a water break, but if you stick with it (or any workout routine for that matter) you’ll see and feel the results. Other DVDs by Jillian Michaels also available at AADL include 6 Week Six-Pack and Ripped in 30.

Balogh Fans Rejoyce, Dudley Prequel Released

Bestselling Welsh-Canadian author Mary Balogh has completed her three book "Mistress," or "Dudley," series with the recently published The Secret Mistress. Known for her thoroughly developed regency sagas, Balogh finally provided her fans with the story of Angeline Dudley and The Earl of Heywood (Edward Ailsbury).

Angeline Dudley, sister to the Duke of Tresham, is naïve and youthfully exuberant to the point of disapproval by this year’s most eligible bachelor, the Earl of Heywood. After his brother is killed in a curricle race, Edward is happy to do his familial duty of taking over as earl and doing what is proper: marrying and procuring heirs. Angeline, having met Edward's good friend Eunice Goddard, is determined in her scheme to see the two of them married. Little does she realize that there is a plot to see her settled with the stodgy, stick in the mud earl.

While Balogh’s novels are not fast paced, they have fantastic characterization and landscaping for novels of the romance genre. The storylines are developed enough to be believable and contain charm and wit to boot. Balogh is best known for her "Slightly" series about the Bedwyn family, the "Simply" series and her books about the Huxtable family.

The Eichmann Trial

Masterful writing and analysis with 50 years of hindsight grabs from the start as author Deborah E. Lipstadt recounts Adolf Eichmann’s capture in Argentina, the trial and, finally, the impact the proceedings generated worldwide.

The prosecution’s case, led by Israeli attorney general Gideon Hausner, set out to prove Eichmann’s claim of “just obeying orders” as a mid-level pencil pusher was a lie, using documentation, the testimony of interrogators, Eichmann’s own undeniable written recollections, and quite effectively, survivors’ testimony (most of whom never saw or even knew who Eichmann was).

Robert Servatius, a defense attorney previously at the Nuremberg Trials, represented Eichmann by objecting to the court’s jurisdiction, claiming no direct link to many atrocities, and oddly, asking the court “not to pardon and to forget” but to “heal wounds” by handing down a judgment that would erase the “blemish” caused by Israel’s abduction of Eichmann in Argentina.

Lipstadt’s strong suit is her analysis of the trial’s influence on concepts we think commonplace today that were not in 1961. The “We Must Never Forget” testimony of the survivors and the term “Holocaust” was cemented into worldwide consciousness, and the acceptance of universal jurisdiction for genocide provided direction to a world wrestling with meting out justice for barbaric acts of inhumanity.

Somewhere

Sofia Coppola, spawn of mega-talented director Francis Ford Coppola, has honed her own writing and directing talent over the years. The films she writes tend to be personal: with The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, and now Somewhere, she has offered viewers her own view of the world. Her films are sparse in dialog and rich in analytical thought. She described Somewhere as the most low-stress, pleasant shoot she’s had.

In Somewhere, Stephen Dorff portrays Hollywood star Johnny Marco. He’s a hot, young actor, living in the star-studded Chateau Marmont in LA, and living the life, but not having much fun. After we get inside Johnny’s head we are introduced to his eleven-year-old daughter Cleo, played by Elle Fanning. The film focuses on the story of the two characters and their relationship, especially while living in the unique and lonely world of Hollywood and stardom. This surprise visit ultimately shakes Johnny and wakes him up. After Cleo leaves, he’s faced with the fact that he has to make a change, to go somewhere, he’s just not sure where.

Queen of the Falls Is Over the Top

Next time you’re confronted with riding a monster Cedar Point roller coaster, think of the Queen of the Falls and ease your racing heart. An aging charm school teacher in Bay City, Michigan, finds she must close her school because of dwindling student enrollment. Over the years she had traveled and taught but had not saved much money. Now in her sixties she needs a get-rich-quick plan.

Author and illustrator, Chris Van Allsburg sheds light on this surreal, true story of 63-year-old widow Annie Edson Taylor who hatches the idea of riding over Niagara Falls as a means of financially securing her retirement. In typical Van Allsburg style, he mysteriously unfolds the story of Annie as she persuades a local cooper to build a custom-sized barrel and how she “sells” a carnival worker to pitch her soon-to-be famous feat to newspaper folks in Niagara, NY. Van Allsburg uses his trademark sepia tones to transport the reader back in time and to cast a sense of unbelievability – features that so many of his books are known for.

As the pages turn, the tension builds. Will Annie succeed? If so, will she also win the hearts and dollars of thousands of fans? Open this book and hold onto your hat!

Benjamin Franklinstein LIVES!

Wherein is contained an Accounting of the Preparation, suspension, and eventual Reawakening of the Subject in Modern Day, and his Quest to discover the Great Emergency by Matthew McElligott and Larry Tuxbury

Meet Victor Godwin, a young scientific nerd who says things like “That’s not what the science fair is about. You’re just messing around… A potato battery is a stupid project. It won’t win, Scott …”

Victor wants to win the science fair, so it’s a mixed blessing when Benjamin Franklin, preserved in suspended animation in a secret laboratory in Victor’s basement, accidentally wakes up and needs help navigating 21st century Philadelphia. Ben smells like a cave and burps sparks. Together Ben and Victor keep Ben charged up—but not too charged up—while searching for the Prometheans whom Ben believes may face an emergency. When Ben and Victor show up at the science fair, the results are unanticipated and very funny.

There are many things to like about Benjamin Franklinstein LIVES, including the warmth and scientific adventurism between Victor and Ben; all the lighthearted humor; and the clever, mock-18th century, black-and-white illustrations. Written for grades 4-6, the novel just might spark interest in the special traveling exhibit at the Downtown Library, Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World, on display through July 8.

Moondogs

Benicio heads to the Philippines to reconnect with his estranged father, a rich American businessman working overseas, in Alex Yates’ debut novel, Moondogs. Little does he know that his father has been kidnapped by a group of inept criminals who hope to sell the man to Moro terrorists. Benicio enlists the help of Reynato Ocampo, a legendary Filipino cop who has had several blockbuster films based on his real-life exploits. Ocampo is also the leader of a secret squad of super-soldiers with paranormal powers. As Benicio follows the trail of his missing father, he begins to piece together an understanding of the man his father really is.

The fast pace of the story and the outrageous shoot-’em-up action cleverly disguise the true heart of Moondogs, which is the reconciliation of a father and his son. Alex Yates takes a jumble of characters and settings and expertly forms them into one cohesive whole. With a first novel as good as this, we have a lot to look forward to from Yates.

The Switch, Switches it up

If you enjoy watching romantic comedies, you may find yourself hoping that the next one you view will be a little different, a little more off the beaten path than what studios now produce. The Switch is just that. This romantic comedy is about a family coming together in an unconventional way. Wally (Jason Bateman) is introspective, so much so that he finds it difficult to date women more than a few times. His best friend, Kassie (Jennifer Aniston), upon her fortieth birthday, has decided to find a sperm donor so that she can finally have a child. After drinking excessively at her insemination party, Wally “trades Diane Sawyer to the Vikings” and “hijacks Kassie’s pregnancy” (switches the donor sample with his own), and drama ensues.

One of the excellent performances in this film is that of the young actor Thomas Robinson. As Kassie’s son Sebastian, Robinson is perfect as the introspective kid who would rather have his birthday party at a kill shelter than a rock climbing facility. Jeff Goldblum’s ramblings throughout the film as Bateman’s best friend are also entertaining. At times, some of the comedic effort falls flat; but overall, if you enjoy romantic comedies, this film is worth a view.

Hard Times in Detroit

If Chrysler’s recent commercial was about pride, HBO’s Hung is about perseverance. Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane) is the hometown high-school coach whose all-American charm and charisma are no match for the rotten luck and economic woes that seem to come with—and represent—life in the Detroit area. Ray’s life is, both literally and figuratively, falling down around him like the city he calls home. In desperation, Ray decides to try to make ends meet by making use of what an inspirational speaker calls his “winning tool.”

The title of the series might be a reference to Ray’s winning tool, but it also refers to Ray’s Sisyphean plight. His new business is at least as harmed as it is helped by his diametrically-opposed pimps; his reputation as a local sports hero and stand-up guy is at constant risk; and his small clientele (when he has one at all) is made up of an unfortunate collection of characters who are...exceedingly real.

Although its methods are both novel and risque (Parents: this is HBO evening programming), Hung is essentially about how good-meaning people end up backed into corners by circumstances beyond their control, and how the means by which they fight their way out of those corners can be both heartbreaking and hilarious.

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