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The Agatha Awards, named for the genre’s legendary practitioner, Agatha Christie, are sponsored by Malice Domestic, a nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating traditional mysteries. The group’s Web site defines these books as “mysteries which contain no explicit sex or excessive gore or violence. Materials generally classified as "hard-boiled" are not appropriate." To be eligible, a mystery novel must have been published by a living author during the calender year of 2015. Prizes were awarded on April 30, 2016 during the organization's annual convention.

Best Contemporary Novel:

longuponthelandLong Upon the Land by Margaret  Maron
The 20th novel in the Judge Deborah Knott mystery series, Long Upon the Land delves into the history of Deborah's locally-notorious bootlegger father, Kezzie Knott. On a quiet August morning, Kezzie makes a shocking discovery on a remote corner of his farm: the body of a man bludgeoned to death. Investigating this crime, Deborah's husband, Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Bryant, soon uncovers a long-simmering hostility between Kezzie and the slain man over a land dispute. Meanwhile, Deborah is given a cigarette lighter that once belonged to her mother. The cryptic inscription inside rekindles Deborah's curiosity about her parents' past, and how they met. For years she has wondered how the daughter of a wealthy attorney could have married a widowed, semi-illiterate bootlegger, and this time she's determined to find the answer. "...combines strong plotting, a superb cast of recurring characters, and a rare sense of place that transports readers to rural North Carolina." (Publishers Weekly)

Best Historical Novel:

dreamingspiesDreaming Spies by Laurie R. King
King's 13th installment of the series starring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes finds the spouses on their way to California to deal with some family business that Russell has been neglecting for far too long. Along the way, they plan to break up the long voyage with a sojourn in southern Japan. Aboard the ship, intrigue stirs almost immediately. Holmes recognizes the famous clubman the Earl of Darley, whom he suspects of being an occasional blackmailer. And then there's the lithe, surprisingly fluent young Japanese woman who befriends Russell. She agrees to tutor the couple in Japanese language and customs, but Russell can't shake the feeling that Haruki Sato is not who she claims to be. Once in Japan, Russell's suspicions are confirmed. From the glorious city of Tokyo to the cavernous library at Oxford, Russell and Holmes race to solve a mystery involving international extortion, espionage, and the shocking secrets that, if revealed, could spark revolution and topple an empire. "Any time spent with the Russell-Holmes duo is a delight." (Booklist)



Contemporary Books Discussion Group

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

 Tuesday, May 10 @ 7:30 pm   Final GMIR logo sml

stationelevenThe Contemporary Books Discussion Group will meet to discuss this year's Great Michigan Read selection, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, next Tuesday at the Library. All readers are welcome to share their thoughts about this best-selling novel set in northern Michigan in the near future after a flu pandemic has wiped out most of humanity. The Traveling Symphony, a troupe of Shakespearean actors and musicians, travel the shores of the Great Lakes performing for the small communities settled there. They operate under one credo: "Survival is insufficient."

The Great Michigan Read is presented by the Michigan Humanities Council, with support from Meijer and the National Endowment for the Humanities and a host of other sponsors.

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Now (or soon) playing:

family fangThe Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Buster and Annie Fang are the grown-up children of performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang, a pair of famous and outrageous artistes dedicated to subverting normality. Willingly or not, Buster and Annie often starred in their parents' zany stunts, which made their childhood anything but normal. It's not surprising that they're now having difficulty coping with the real world. When the lives they've built come crashing down, brother and sister have nowwhere to go but home, where they discover that Caleb and Camille are planning one last performance - their magnum opus - whether the kids agree to participate or not. "A fantastic first novel that asks if the kids are alright, finding answers in the most unexpected places." (Kirkus Reviews) The film adaptation, directed by and starring Jason Bateman, with Nicole Kidman and Christopher Walken, opens on May 6.


troubledmanWallander/ The White Lioness, The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell
The final season of this BBC series about Swedish detective Kurt Wallander, who  investigates a series of violent and terrifying murders in the beautiful setting of southern Sweden, airs on PBS May 8 through May 22. Dealing with northern Europe's most violent and deranged criminals, Wallander also battles personal demons and appalling health habits, which leads to diabetes. Now, as he starts to lose his memory, his greatest fear is that he is succumbing to the same disease that felled his father: Alzheimer's. Kenneth Branagh stars as the morose detective and describes him as an "existentialist who is questioning what life is about...(with) a personal life that is a kind of wasteland." The final season is indeed final, there will be no more Wallander books - Henning Mankell passed away last October.


ladysusanLove and Friendship/Lady Susan by Jane Austen
Director Whit Stillman's romantic comedy is based on one of the lesser-known novels of Jane Austen, Lady Susan, which was written in 1794 but not published until 1871. The plot concerns the widowed Lady Susan Vernon and her schemes to find the best possible husbands for both her young daughter and herself before their funds run out. Susan is attractive, intelligent, shrewd, witty, and totally without scruples in the pursuit of her objectives. She also has a preference for younger men. Stillman's film, Love and Friendship, borrows the title from another of Austen's early works and is supplemented by Stillman's novelization, Love and Friendship: In Which Jane Austen's Lady Susan Vernon is Entirely Vindicated, described in its promotional blurb as "pitch-perfect Austenian sensibility and wry social commentary... a sharp comedy of manners, and a fiendishly funny treat for Austen and Stillman fans alike." The movie stars Kate Beckinsale and opens on May 13.



May the 4th Be with You!

bloodlinWednesday, May 4, is the celebration of all things Star Wars and, as was demonstrated last December, the Force newly awakened is strong indeed. The Star Wars franchise has generated thousands of devoted fans - and related items beyond counting, like movies, cartoons, video games, comics, books, blogs, toys, costumes, and memorabilia etc. There's enough Star Wars fiction to keep the most devoted geek traveling throughout the galaxies (near and far, far away) for a long, long time.

Claudia Gray's new novel, Bloodline, will be released on May 3, just in time for this year's observance. Gray's story focuses on Princess Leia in the years before the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The Empire has been defeated and Leia is now a respected senator grappling with the dangers that threaten to cripple the fledgling democracy--from both within and without. Underworld kingpins, treacherous politicians, and Imperial loyalists are sowing chaos in the galaxy. Desperate to take action, senators are calling for the election of a First Senator. It is their hope that this influential post will bring strong leadership to a divided galaxy. As the daughter of Darth Vader, Leia distrusts the prospect of any one person holding such a powerful position, but a new enemy may make this path Leia's only option. Jen Heddle, senior editor for fiction at Lucasfilm, opines that this is a must-read for all Star Wars fans, see her reasons why at



On April 28, at their 70th annual banquet in New York, The Mystery Writers of America presented the Edgar Allan Poe Awards honoring the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction and television published or produced in 2015.




Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy

Prior Edgar Award winner Roy (Bent Road) twists a suspenseful tale about a Southern town and the secrets of two families touched by an evil that has passed between generations.




sympathizerThe Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

On all of the "Best" lists and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction just ten days ago, Nguyen's novel is "one of the best recent novels to cover the Vietnamese conflict from an Asian perspective..." (Library Journal)






The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

In the summer of 1986, two tragedies rocked Oklahoma City. Six movie-theater employees were brutally killed in an armed robbery. Then a teenage girl vanished from the annual state fair. Neither crime was ever solved. Twenty-five years later, the reverberations of those unsolved cases continue to echo through the lives of those devastated by the crimes.





2016 Hugo Awards Shortlist

hugoawardThe finalists for the other set of science fiction and fantasy awards for the best in the genre were announced on April 26. As the Hugos website explains,"The Hugo Awards, presented annually since 1955, are science fiction’s most prestigious award. The Hugo Awards are voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Convention (“Worldcon”), which is also responsible for administering them." (The Nebula Awards are bestowed by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.) The winners of this year's Hugos will be announced at MidAmeriCon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention on August 20, 2016.


Best Novel Finalists:


(The Hugo Award Logo is a service mark of the World Science Fiction Society.)


2015 Nebula Award Nominees Announced

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America recently announced the finalists for the 2015 Nebula Awards for science fiction and fantasy writing. Nominees are named in the best novel, novella, novelette, short story, dramatic presentation, and young adult categories, and the voting takes place throughout March. The winners will receive their prizes during the  SFWA Nebula Conference in May.


Nominees for Best Novel:

updraftRaising Caine, Charles E. Gannon
The Fifth Season, N.K. Jemisin
Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie
The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu
Uprooted, Naomi Novik
Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard, Lawrence M. Schoen
Updraft, Fran Wilde


(SFWA® and Nebula Awards® are registered trademarks of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.) 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

 Wednesday, April 27 @ noon   Final GMIR logo sml

stationelevenThe Brown Bag Books Discussion Group will meet to discuss this year's Great Michigan Read selection, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, tomorrow at the Library. All readers are welcome to share their thoughts about this best-selling novel set in northern Michigan in the near future after a flu pandemic has wiped out most of humanity. The Traveling Symphony, a troupe of Shakespearean actors and musicians, travel the shores of the Great Lakes performing for the small communities settled there. They operate under one credo: "Survival is insufficient."


The Great Michigan Read is presented by the Michigan Humanities Council, with support from Meijer and the National Endowment for the Humanities and a host of other sponsors.

 MHCportraitColor thumb            neh



May 2016 LibraryReads List

The top ten books published this month that librarians across the country love

library reads logo websiteThis monthly list is created by librarians and library staff to help connect readers to new books and authors. An online community of librarians vote each month on their favorite new books and the results are tallied. "The list is a straightforward calculation: whichever ten books get the most nominations go onto the monthly list. The book with the most nominations becomes the #1 Pick. It’s as simple as that." The list is not meant to be a "best" list - just a list of collective favorites - books librarians loved and want to share.



#1 for May 2016:

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

brittmarieblog 195x300Britt-Marie can't stand mess and she is not one to judge others - no matter how ill-mannered, unkempt, or morally suspect they might be. When she finally walks out on her cheating husband and has to fend for herself in the miserable backwater town of Borg, she is more than a little unprepared. Employed as the caretaker of a soon-to-be demolished recreation center, the fastidious Britt-Marie has to cope with muddy floors and unruly children. She finds herself being drawn into the daily doings of her fellow citizens, an odd assortment of miscreants, drunkards, layabouts - and a handsome local policeman whose romantic attentions are as unmistakable as they are unwanted. Most alarming of all, she's given the impossible task of leading the supremely untalented children's soccer team to victory. It's a lot of ask of a socially awkward busybody, but Britt-Marie has hidden depths: more imagination, bigger dreams, and a warmer heart that anyone around her realizes. "Insightful and touching, this is a sweet and inspiring story about truth and transformation. Fans of Backman's (A Man Called Ove) will find another winner in these pages." (Publishers Weekly)


400th Anniversary of Shakespeare's Death       Shakespeare

William Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616. Although it's been 400 years, he is as important to Western history and culture as ever. Most people have read, studied, or watched his plays; he introduced an estimated 3,000 words into the English language, and coined everyday phrases that we still use. His works have been translated into 80 languages, a fact that  demonstrates the universal influence and appeal of his genius. Shakespeare's plots and themes have been the basis for countless other works of art, books, plays, movies, and more.

Late last year, the publishing company Hogarth Press launched a several-book project enlisting contemporary writers to reimagine and update William Shakespeare's plays as novels. The first writer to be shylockapproached was Jeanette Winterson,, who chose to reinterpret
vinegargirlThe Winter's Tale, one of Shakespeare's lesser-known plays, as a modern novel called The Gap of Time. Man Booker Prize-winner Howard Jacobson released his updated reinterpretation of The Merchant of Venice as Shylock is My Name in February. Novelist Anne Tyler's retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, titled Vinegar Girl, will be published in June. Other all-star writers have also joined the project: Tracy Chevalier will adapt Othello; Margaret Atwood will rewrite The Tempest; Gillian Flynn is working on HamletJo Nesbo will recycle Macbeth; and Edward St. Aubyn will re-boot King Lear. Shakespeare's extraordinary legacy will never fade, as the Bard himself put it, "Death makes no conquest of this conqueror; For now he lives in fame, though not in life."


Charlotte Bronte's 200th Anniversary

charlotte bronteCharlotte Bronte, the renowned British author of Jane Eyre and other novels and poetry, was born 200 years ago on April 21, 1816 in Yorkshire, England.  She and her sisters, Emily and Anne, would become celebrated writers, publishing first under male names to obscure their gender and avoid controversy. Although at least for Charlotte's novel Jane Eyre, that strategy didn't quite work. As hard as it might be to believe now, with the book firmly established in the literary canon, Jane Eyre was considered controversial when first released. Jane is a strong female protagonist who speaks out against privilege and inequality, sexism, and the oppression of religion, and insists on living her life with self-respect and her own sense of morality. One of the book's early reviewers found it to be "an anti-Christian composition." Others found the writing "coarse" for its references to "animal passions" (read sex) and that "Jane Eyre is throughout the personification of the unregenerate and undisciplined spirit." (Quarterly Review). 

Join the birthday celebration, reconsider Charlotte Bronte and Jane Eyre - its more than 9th-grade required reading. Or sample some other fiction written in homage to Charlotte and Jane.

janesteeleJane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
"Reader, I murdered him." A reimagined Jane Eyre about a sensitive orphan, Jane Steele, who suffers first at the hands of her spiteful aunt and predatory cousin, then at a grim school where she fights for her very life until escaping to London, leaving the corpses of her tormentors behind her. After years of hiding from the law, Jane thrills at discovering an advertisement.  Her aunt has died and her childhood home has a new master: Mr. Charles Thornfield, who seeks a governess. As Jane falls in love with the gruffly tragic Mr. Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she marry him without revealing her own murderous past? "A must for Brontë devotees; wickedly entertaining for all." (Booklist)



readerimarriedReader I Married Him: Stories Inspired by Jane Eyre edited by Tracy Chevalier
Twenty of today's most celebrated women authors have spun original stories, using the opening line from Jane Eyre as a springboard for their own flights of imagination. Tracy Chevalier, Audrey Niffenegger, Elizabeth McCracken, Francine Prose, Tessa Hadley, Lionel Shriver, Jane Gardam, and more contributed to this collection of unique, inventive, and poignant stories in  homage to the literary genius of Charlotte Brontë, and demonstrate once again that her extraordinary vision continues to inspire readers and writers. "A clever idea well-executed; a treat for fans of short fiction and for Brontë’s many ardent fans." (Kirkus Reviews)




becomingjaneBecoming Jane Eyre by Sheila Kohler
A beautifully imagined tale of the Bronte sisters and the writing of Jane Eyre. In 1846 at a  cold parsonage on the gloomy Yorkshire moors, a family seems cursed with disaster. A mother and two children dead. A father sick and bitter, without fortune. A son destroyed by alcohol and opiates. And three strong, intelligent young women, reduced to poverty and spinsterhood, with nothing to save them from their fate. Nothing, that is, except their remarkable literary talent. At the story's center is Charlotte and the connections between one of fiction's most indelible heroines and the remarkable woman who created her. "Kohler gives us a more multidimensional, passionate and temperamental Charlotte than most biographies." (Publishers Weekly)


secretadventuresThe Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte by Laura Joh Rowland
Upon learning that she has been falsely accused of plagiarism, the normally mild-mannered Charlotte Bronte sets off for London to clear her name. But when she unintentionally witnesses a murder, Charlotte finds herself embroiled in a dangerous chain of events that forces her to confront demons from her past. With the clandestine aid of the other Bronte sisters, Emily and Anne, and of the suspiciously well-informed but irresistibly attractive brother of the victim, Charlotte works to unravel a deadly web of intrigue that threatens not only her own safety but the very fabric of the British Empire. "Bronte fans will delight in Rowland's portrait of Charlotte, who closely parallels Jane both in personality and station....enchanting..." (Publishers Weekly)



pulitzer2untitledThe Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Yesterday, April 18, 2016, the 100th class of Pulitzer Prize winners was announced; 2016 marks the centenary of the venerable prizes established by publisher Joseph Pulitzer through a bequest in his will. The first prizes honoring excellence in journalism and the arts were awarded in 1917 for work done in 1916.



This year's ficton winner, The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, though not a widely popular choice, has been nominated for several literary prizes, was on several "Best" lists, and won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction in January. The plot invokes memories of the Vietnam War and tells the story of a South Vietnamese army captain with divided loyalties. He is brought up by a poor Vietnamese mother and an absent French father, attends a university in America, but then returns to Vietnam as a double agent for the Communist cause. The book has been variously described as a thriller, a mystery, a war story, an historical novel, and a political satire. The Library Journal review concluded: "Ultimately a meditation on war, political movements, America's imperialist role, the CIA, torture, loyalty, and one's personal identity, this is a powerful, thought-provoking work. It's hard to believe this effort, one of the best recent novels to cover the Vietnamese conflict from an Asian perspective, is a debut."



Now (or soon) playing:

nightmanagerThe Night Manager by John Le Carre
Actors Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie star in this BBC-produced mini-series based on the 1993 novel by spymaster-in-chief John Le Carre, and scheduled to air in the U.S. on AMC on April 19. Le Carre's story follows Jonathan Pine, a former British soldier working as a Cairo hotel manager who is enlisted by the British and U.S. intelligence agencies to bring down the world's most powerful international arms dealer. Unfortunately, this means Pine must become a criminal himself. Two of Le Carre's numerous espionage tales, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People, were adapted for television years ago to great critical and commercial success and this project has already received rave reviews in England where it has already aired.


hologramkingA Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
In a rising Saudi Arabian city, a struggling businessman pursues a last-ditch attempt to stave off foreclosure, pay his daughter's college tuition, and finally do something great. The film adaptation stars Tom Hanks as Alan Clay, a man fighting to hold himself and his splintering family together in the face of the global economy's relentless onslaught. He waits (and waits) for his chance to sell the country's elusive King on the idea of a revolutionary, new IT communications system involving holograms. While stuck in his desert limbo, he befriends the young Saudi man assigned to be his driver. The New York Times called Eggers' book, "a clear, supremely readable parable of America in the global economy that is haunting, beautifully shaped and sad." The film opens on April 22.


gameofthronesGame of Thrones, Season 6/A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
Unless you've been exiled far beyond the Wall, you know that HBO's wildly popular adaptation of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire epic fantasy series returns to TV for a sixth season on Sunday, April 24. And, as you have probably heard, that the show's producers and writers have outpaced Martin's creative output, since there is no new book coming soon. Martin recently announced that the sixth installment of the series, The Winds of Winter, is not finished. So the TV series is in somewhat uncharted territory, as far as readers know. Will it really matter? The series has diverged from the books on several points and film adaptations of books are seldom absolutely faithful to the source material. Now readers and non-readers will be equally informed (or not) about the fate of Westeros.



Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction

baileysLaunched in 1996 and celebrating its 20th anniversary, (and originally known as the Orange Prize) this literary prize is awarded annually and celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world. The winner receives a cheque for £30,000 (about $50,000) and a limited edition bronze sculpture known as a ‘Bessie’. On April 11, this year's shortlist of six titles was announced. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on June 8.

The List:                                             

Cynthia Bond:  Ruby

Anne Enright: The Green Road

Lisa McInerney: The Glorious Heresies

Elizabeth McKenzie: The Portable Veblen

Hannah Rothschild: The Improbability of Love

Hanya Yanagihara: A Little Life


© 2014 BAILEYS Women's Prize for Fiction


Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel     Final GMIR logo sml

Plymouth patrons will once again join hundreds of communities across the state participating in the Great Michigan Read 2015 -16, the statewide one-book reading initiative sponsored by the Michigan Humanities Council, by reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. The Great Michigan Read aims to connect us as Michiganians by deepening our understanding of our state, our society, and our humanity.

stationelevenStation Eleven is the story of the Traveling Symphony, a troupe of Shakespearean actors and orchestral musicians traveling the shores of the Great Lakes in a post-apocalyptic Michigan. Striving to maintain their humanity in the altered landscape of a world where 99% of the population has been wiped out by a flu pandemic, the Traveling Symphony operates under one credo: “Survival is insufficient.”

                   Meet the Author:

We are delighted to host the Great Michigan Read author, Emily St. John Mandel,
EmilyStJohnMandelhere at the Library this spring. Join us as we welcome this award-winning novelist to Plymouth on Wednesday, May 18 at 1 pm when she will speak about her inspiration for Station Eleven and her experiences as a writer. Sign-up is requested at 734.453.0750, ext. 4 or online at

                       Read with us - Join the conversation:

Other activities at PDL will include two book discussions of Station Eleven:
Brown Bag Books will meet on Wednesday April 27 at noon, and the Contemporary Books Discussion Group will meet on Tuesday, May 10 at 7:30 p.m. All are invited for lively conversations about this thought-provoking book. No registration is necessary to participate. Copies of the book will be available for check-out at the Library. Reader’s Guides will also be available.

Travel with us as we envision the new world of Station Eleven.


The Great Michigan Read is presented by the Michigan Humanities Council, with support from Meijer and the National Endowment fo hte Humanities and a host of other sponsors.


Each year  PEN America, the literary and human rights organization founded in 1922 to advance literature and defend free expression, awards prizes for outstanding writing in many categories including fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry and translation. The winners were honored April 11 at a banquet at The New School in New York.

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction

inthecountryOne of the most prestigious (and lucrative) prizes is the one for a work of first fiction, worth $25,000, given to an author whose debut work, a first novel or collection of short stories published in 2015, "represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise."  This year's winner is  In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar, whose nine-story collection is about life in the Phillipines and the experiences of Filipino exiles, emigrants, and wanderers who uproot their families to begin new lives in the Middle East, the United States, and elsewhere.



PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

deliciousfoodsThe winner of the 2016 Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction  was announced April 5 by the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. The Foundation, a non-profit literary organization that honors the best work of fiction published by an American in a single calendar year. The award comes with a cash prize of $15,000. Author James Hannaham's second novel, Delicious Foodsabout a young widow separated from her son and held captive as a  laborer at a remote produce farm run by a shady food company. The book draws attention to labor exploitation and racism, drug addiction, and the plight of migrant workers.


PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction

bluesteyePulitzer Prize winner and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison was honored with this $25.000 award which "goes to a living American author whose scale of achievement in fiction, over a sustained career, places him or her in the highest rank of American literature." Morrison is well known for her books which include Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, Jazz, and God Help the Child. "Revelatory, intelligent, bold, her fiction is invested in the black experience, in black lives, and in black consciousness, material from which she has forged a singular American aesthetic," awards judge Louise Erdrich, herself a prize-winning novelist, said in a statement. "Toni Morrison not only opened doors to others when she began to publish, she has also stayed grounded in the issues of her time."



 Now (or soon playing):

alien hunterHunters/Alien Hunter series by Whitley Strieber
The Syfy channel continues with its adaptations of literary science fiction with this new series starting tonight, April 11, at 10pm. The story involves a secret government agency dedicated to fighting ruthless alien, as in extraterrestrial, terrorists. Texas Police detective Erroll "Flynn" Carroll connects with Special Agent Diana Glass to investigate a rash of mysterious disappearances: somebody is taking people and making it look as if they walked out on their own. Without fully understanding what Glass and her team are doing, Flynn steps into a hidden world of extraordinary challenge and danger. Carroll and Glass must chase the most brilliant and lethal criminals who have ever walked free - thieves and murderers from another world. The 13-episode series is based on Strieber's trilogy of novels: Alien Hunter, Alien Hunter: Underworld and the third, Alien Hunter: The White House, published on April 5th.



This week, PDL joins libraries in schools, campuses, and communities nationwide in celebrating National Library Week, a time to highlight the value of libraries, librarians, and library workers. First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is a national observance sponsored by the American Library Association (ALA) and libraries across the country each April. It is a time to celebrate the contributions of our nation's libraries and librarians, and to promote library use and support.

This year's theme is "Libraries Transform." PDL offers a variety of materials and services, from books and DVDS to home delivery and computer classes; from book discussions and and author events to papercrafts and storytimes; from chess club and video games to music performances and pilates sessions. There are resources to help you start your small business, develop your investment portfolio, learn a new language, prepare for tests like the SAT or other licensing exams, download ebooks, movies, magazines and TV shows, and operate a Cricut cutter. Something transformative for everyone!

Later this spring, at the Library, the Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors will hold a ribbon-cutting for The Fixit - our new Bike Service Station. The Fixit, located by our bike rack,  will include all the tools necessary to perform basic bike repairs and maintenance, from changing a flat to adjusting brakes and derailleurs. This equpment is made possible through the generous contributions of the Plymouth Lions Club and Serene Surroundings Landscape Service. Transform your ride at PDL!


A new season for the Detroit Tigers            natural

For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone;

The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.

Every year until his retirement in 2002, legendary sports broadcaster Ernie Harwell (the Voice of the Tigers) would read this selection, the Voice of the Turtle, from the Song of Solomon, to begin the new season and celebrate spring and the rebirth of hope. So, let's go, Tigers - play ball!




Shanghai Girls by Lisa See - Book Discussion

Read this year's Everyone's Reading selection and join our discussion at the Library:
the Contemporary Books Group will meet on Wednesday, April 13 at 7:30 pm. No registration is needed and copies of Shanghai Girls are available at the Library. Join us for a lively and interesting conversation.


Author Event Tickets - Still Available

Lisa See, author of Shanghai Girls, will speak on Tuesday, April 12 at 7pm at Temple Beth El, Bloomfield Township. Tickets are free, but limited - call the Library for ticket availability, 734.453.0750, ext 4.

This year, for the first time, The Detroit Institute of Arts is an Everyone's Reading partner. For information about the DIA's events and author appearance, call 313-833-4005 or visit



American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson

blooddefenseAmericans are once again mesmerized by the sensational 1995 guiltbyassociationmurder trial of football star O.J. Simpson now that the FX Channel has aired a 10-episode dramatized version of the events on its crime anthology series. The limited series explored the inside story of the trial with a riveting look at the legal teams battling to convict or acquit the football legend of the double homicide of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend, Ronald Goldman. Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor on the case for the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, came under severe media scrutiny during the trial for everything from her legal competence to her hairstyle.

After the trial and Simpson's acquittal, Clark turned to other legal work and became an author of a memoir and several legal thrillers. Her first four thrillers are about Rachel Knight, a tough female prosecutor in Los Angeles who takes her job very seriously. Of her debut novel, Guilt by Association, Booklist's reviewer stated, "A top-notch legal thriller that will leave readers wanting more. ... Here's that rare example of a celebrity thriller author justifying a major promotion campaign by delivering a genuinely high-quality novel." Clark's latest book, Blood Defense, due in May, shifts gears by focusing on female defense attorney Samantha Brinkman. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Clark  explains that "I wanted to do something different...So I wanted to write a character who was a little more wild and woolly than Rachel." When asked to comment on the FX series, Clark was positive, "I think it's really good, to be honest..."



Outlander, Season 2

dragonflyinamber2Cable channel Starz will begin the second season of this time-travel/historical/romance series, based on the popular novels by Diana Gabaldon, on April 9. This set of 13 episodes is based on the second book in Gabaldon's multi-volume story, Dragonfly in Amber, the further adventures of Claire Randall, a modern woman who travels back in time to 1700's Scotland, where she meets and marries Highlander Jamie Fraser. This installment chronicles Claire and Jamie's attempts to prevent the Jacobite rising that Claire knows will end disastrously for the Scots. The pair's efforts involve travel to Paris where they dabble in the politics of the royal court of Louis XV, which gives the showrunners the opportunity to dress the actors in lavish period costumes in sumptuous settings. The TV adaptation has been a major hit; Outlander has made Starz the second-most popular premium network behind HBO and has also helped sell 5 million more copies of Diana Gabaldon’s books. Who can resist the extraordinary beauty and stirring history of Scotland? As J. K. Rowling (an Edinburgh resident) put it, "It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful places in the world, the history is fascinating, the men are handsome and the whisky is delicious. But don't eat the macaroni pies."


April is National Humor Month

According to, "National Humor Month was conceived as a means to heighten public awareness of the therapeutic value of humor. Laughter and joy - the benchmarks of humor - lead to improved well-being, boosted morale, increased communication skills, and an enriched quality of life."

Some humorous reading material to enhance your month:

american housewifeAmerican Housewife: stories by Helen Ellis
Ellis' collection of twelve short, and really short, stories skewers wifely domesticity with smart satire and wacky humor combined with sharp insight and surprising depth. Critics have been effusive: "The funniest short story collection of 2016..." (Kirkus). "...archly, acerbically, even surreally hilarious..." (Booklist). "...not-to-be-missed collection..." (Library Journal). The stories take us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the set of a rigged reality television show, from the unique initiation ritual of a book club to the getaway car of a pageant princess on the lam, from the gallery opening of a tinfoil artist to the fitting room of a legendary lingerie shop. Meet the women of American Housewife: they wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it's cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. They pump the salad spinner like it's a CPR dummy. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven.


makesomethingupMake Something Up: Stories You Can't Unread by Chuck Palahniuk
From one of America's most non-conformist authors, who describes his work as trangressive, comes this collection of 22 old and new stories filled with his trademark dark humor and offbeat sensibility. The absurdity of both life and death are on full display. Fans of Fight Club and Palahniuk's other novels will find this essential reading and new readers will get a taste of his singular writing style and outrageous worldview. As the reviewer for Library Journal explains, "As usual, the author's tales cover a wide variety of life experiences, some we would rather not think about. Whether exploring deceitful fathers, children using their sexuality to manipulate their parents, or teens whose latest fad is electrocuting themselves into a permanent stupor, Palahniuk takes his usual strange, off-kilter viewpoint on things we all deal with in life: fitting in, the desire for success, etc. ...You either love Palahniuk or hate him." Or as Booklist reviewer put it, "The anthology lines up 22 of Palahniuk's best short stories with no interest in easing you into or out of the disturbing, hilarious, and bizarre roller coaster of transgressive creativity."



March 30 is National Doctors Day

iStock sphygmomanometer XSmallPresident George W. Bush signed Proclamation 6253 in 1991 establishing March 30 as National Doctors Day in order to "recognize our Nation's physicians for their leadership in the prevention and treatment of illness and injury ..." Doctors "carry on the quiet work of healing each day in communities throughout the United States -- indeed, throughout the world. Common to the experience of each of them, from the specialist in research to the general practitioner, are hard work, stress, and sacrifice. All those Americans who serve as licensed physicians have engaged in years of study and training, often at great financial cost. Most endure long and unpredictable hours, and many must cope with the conflicting demands of work and family life." So, wish the doctor(s) in your life a Happy Doctors Day!


In honor of the day, consider these literary doctors and their contributions to the world's health and well-being:
(with apologies to the medical profession)


doctorzhivagoDoctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
The epic story of the life and loves of a poet-physician during the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. Set against this backdrop of cruelty and strife is Zhivago's love for the tender and beautiful Lara: pursued, found, and lost again, Lara is the very embodiment of the pain and chaos of those cataclysmic times.




 The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis drjekyllStevenson
Published as a 'shilling shocker', this dark psychological fantasy gave birth to the idea of the split personality. The story of respectable Dr Jekyll's strange association with 'damnable young man' Edward Hyde; the hunt through fog bound London for a killer; and the final revelation of Hyde's true identity is a chilling exploration of humanity's basest capacity for evil.



islandofdrmoreauThe Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells
Meant as a commentary on Darwin's theory of evolution, which H. G. Wells stoutly believed, the story centers on the depraved Dr. Moreau, who conducts unspeakable animal experiments on a remote tropical island, with hideous, humanlike results. Edward Prendick, an Englishman whose misfortunes bring him to the island, is witness to the Beast Folk's strange civilization and their eventual terrifying regression.




My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
mynameismaryMary Sutter is a brilliant, head­strong midwife from Albany, New York, who dreams of becoming a surgeon. Determined to overcome the prejudices against women in medicine, Mary leaves home and travels to Washington, D.C. to help tend the legions of Civil War wounded. Under the guidance of two male surgeons Mary pursues her medical career in the desperately overwhelmed hospitals of the capital.




Doctor Who: Shada: the lost adventure by Douglas Adams by Gareth Roberts
The Doctor's old friend and fellow Time Lord Professor Chronotis has retired to Cambridge University, where nobody will notice if he lives for centuries. He took with him a few little souvenirs, like The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey. Foolishly, he has loaned this immensely powerful book to clueless graduate student Chris Parsons, who intends to use it to impress girls. The Worshipful and Ancient Law is among the most dangerous artifacts in the universe; it cannot be allowed to fall into the wrong hands. Like those of the sinister Time Lord Skagra. He wants the book. And he wants the Doctor...




Jim Harrison (1937-2016)

offthesideLarger-than-life author Jim Harrison passed away this weekend truenorthat the age of 78. A Michigan native, he was born Up North in Grayling, lived in nearby Reed City and graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in comparitive literature. Several of his novels are set in rural Northern Michigan and the woods of the Upper Peninsula, and feature independent men who hunt and fish and lead rambling lives searching for freedom from modern restrictions. His most famous work, Legends of the Fall, about a Montana family during World War I, was made into a movie starring Brad Pitt as one such man. Harrison's writing and his own rugged lifestyle and outsize appetites for food, drink, and adventure drew frequent comparisons to Ernest Hemingway, an association which he loathed. He spent the last few years living on ranches in Montana and Arizona where "he could engage in the essential, monosyllabic pursuits that defined the borders of his life: to walk, drive, hunt, fish, cook, drink, smoke, write." (NYTimes) Over his long career he published 21 volumes of fiction, 14 books of poetry, 2 books of essays, a memoir, and a children’s book. His most recent book of fiction, The Ancient Minstrel, was published this month.


Author Events in (or around) Plymouth

Local readers will have their pick of authors to meet and greet in the next two months - several author events are planned in our area, featuring best-selling writers with national recognition. Some events are free, some are luncheons for which tickets must be purchased, but there will certainly be an event to please everyone.

In chronological order, the better to mark your calendar:

Everyone's Reading - Lisa See

lisaseeLisa See, author of Shanghai Girls, this year's Everyone's Reading selection, will speak on Monday, April 11 at 7pm at the Smith Theatre on OCC's Orchard Ridge Campus, Farmington Hills and Tuesday, April 12 at 7pm at Temple Beth El, Bloomfield Township. Tickets are free, but limited - call the Library for ticket availability, 734.453.0750, ext 4.


Bryan Gruley

Bryan20GruleyThe Friends of the Plymouth District Library will host mystery writer Bryan Gruley at their annual luncheon on Friday, May 6, 2016, 11 :30 a.m. at Fox Hills Golf and Banquet Center. Mr. Gruley’s work includes Starvation Lake: A Mystery, The Hanging Tree and The Skeleton Box. He shared in the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks in his time on staff with The Wall Street Journal. Cost per person is $30 – reservations will be accepted until April 22 at 12noon. Download a reservation form here.


Metro Detroit Book and Author Luncheon

The next Metro Detroit Book and Author Society Luncheon will be held on Monday, SteveHamiltonMay 16 at the Burton Manor in Livonia. Ticket sales ($40) begin on April 4, by phone at 586-685-5750, ext. 102 or online at Featured authors this spring are Lesley Stahl, Steve Hamilton, Mary Norris, and Dorothea Benton Frank.


Great Michigan Read - Emily St. John Mandel

EmilyStJohnMandelPDL is once again participating in the Michigan Humanities Council's Great Michigan Read. This year's selection is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. As part of our programming, we are delighted to host the author at our Library on Wednesday, May 18 at 1pm, when Ms. Mandel will speak about the inspiration for Station Eleven and her experiences as a writer. Join us as welcome this award-winning novelist to Plymouth. Registration is open, call 723-453-0750, ext. 4, or register online at



Vogue's Spring Books Guide: Bad Girls Reign Supreme

In the spirit, if not the letter, of Women's History Month, Megan O'Grady, a Vogue Magazine contributor, has posted a short list of spring debut novels by women about women, especially young women willing to do what it takes to get ahead. She makes the point that in books, as in life, women no longer have to behave themselves to appear "likable." The books on the list contain feisty female millennials who strive for purpose and long for experience as they come of age in a precarious world. So, are they really bad or just young? 


sweetbitterSweetbitter by Stephanie Danler
Leaving a mundane, provincial past, 22-year-old Tess comes to New York in the stifling summer of 2006. Alone, knowing no one, living in a rented room in Williamsburg, she manages to land a job as a "backwaiter" at a celebrated downtown Manhattan restaurant. She learns to navigate the chaotic, enchanting, punishing, and privileged life she has chosen, as well as the remorseless and luminous city around her. What follows is her education: in oysters, Champagne, the appellations of Burgundy, friendship, cocaine, lust, love, and dive bars. As her appetites awaken--for food and wine, but also for knowledge, experience, and belonging--she is helplessly drawn into a darkly alluring love triangle. "Throughout, Danler evokes Tess's voice-intimate, confiding, wonderstruck, depressed-with deft skill. This novel is a treat, sure to find a big following." (Publishers Weekly)


Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moorewreckandorder
Decisively aimless, self-destructive, and impulsively in and out of love, Elsie is a young woman who feels stuck. She has a tumultuous relationship with an abusive boyfriend, a dead-end job at a newspaper, and a sharp intelligence that's constantly at odds with her many bad decisions. When her initial attempts to improve her life go awry, Elsie decides that a dramatic change is the only solution. Elsie uses an inheritance to support her as she travels to Paris and Sri Lanka, hoping to accumulate experiences, create connections, and discover a new way to live. "The book has a broad appeal, and many young women will keep it stacked on their bookshelf ... and cart it with them like a talisman through the various bad apartments of their 20s." (Publishers Weekly)


maestraMaestra by L. S. Hilton
A thriller with elements of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl. By day, Judith Rashleigh is a put-upon assistant at a prestigious London art house. By night, she's a hostess at one of the capital's notorious champagne bars. Desperate to make something of herself, Judith knows she has to play the game. But when Judith is fired for uncovering a dark secret at the heart of the art world, and her honest efforts at a better life are destroyed, she is enraged. Like a female Tom Ripley, (Patricia Highsmith's con artist protagonist) she schemes, steals, cheats, and murders - doing anything to survive and conquer the high society life she covets. "Hilton's debut is not for the faint of heart as Judith's exploits-from sex parties to murders-are described graphically. Still, with the book already optioned for a movie, interest will be high for this scandalous, thrilling tour through Europe and the art world." (Library Journal)



BookShots by James Patterson

zooIIAs if James Patterson hasn't already conquered the publishing crosskillworld with his voluminous output of titles each year! Now, he seeks a new audience: people who no longer read books. To attract those who prefer spending time on TV shows, movies, social media, and videogames, he has created a new line of short, plot-driven novels that are under 150 pages in length and meant to be read in one sitting. He will write some of the books himself or with others, and plans to release several per month. BookShots will not only be shorter than standard novels, they will be cheaper too, less than $5. Patterson's publisher plans to release 21 BookShots in 2016, starting in June with Cross Kill (Alex Cross) and Zoo II, a companion to his sci-fi thiller, Zoo. Patterson explains," You can race through these - they're like reading movies. It gives people some alternative ways to read." Short fiction is not always an easy sell or the most profitable for publishers, but if anyone can pull this off, literary juggernaut Patterson can.


(Short) Story Prize

fortunesmilesOn March 2, 2016, author Adam Johnson won the annual Story Prize, worth $20,000, for his short story collection, Fortune Smiles. The title is an apt one, since Johnson also won the 2015 National Book Award for the same book. Fortune and book reviewers have certainly smiled on Johnson's work - in 2013 he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, The Orphan Master’s Son. 

Fortune Smiles is a set of six stories, set in diverse locations, that delve deeply into love and loss, natural disasters, the influence of technology, and how the political shapes the personal. Lauren Groff, also a finalist for the National Book Award for her book, Fates and Furies, reviewed Fortune Smiles for The New York Times and found much to admire, "Adam Johnson’s stories certainly deserve this kind of slow and loving attention. As a writer, he is always perceptive and brave; his lines always sing and strut and sizzle and hush and wash and blaze over the reader. “Fortune Smiles” is a collection worthy of being read slowly and, like very good and very bitter chocolate, savored."



National Book Critics Circle Awards

On March 17, 2016, in New York, the winners of the National Book Critics Circle Awards for books published in the U.S. during 2015 were announced. The National Book Critics Circle Awards, founded in 1974 at the Algonquin Hotel and considered among the most prestigious in American letters, are the sole prizes bestowed by a jury of working critics and book-review editors. Prizes are awarded in several categories, including fiction, biography, poetry and criticism.

selloutThe winner in the fiction category is Paul Beatty for his edgy novel, The Sellout. Beatty's novel is a biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and racial equality in  the so-called "post-racial" America. The disaffected protagonist proposes to save his neglected town, which has been literally wiped from the map of California, by reinstating racial segregation and slavery. "Beatty gleefully catalogues offensive racial stereotypes but also reaches further, questioning what exactly constitutes black identity in America. "Wildly funny but deadly serious, Beatty's caper is populated by outrageous caricatures, and its damning social critique carries the day." (Publishers Weekly)


The other Finalists for the Fiction Award:

Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies

Valeria Luiselli,  The Story of My Teeth,

Anthony Marra,  The Tsar of Love and Techno

Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen


 shamrock symbol jonadab 01Erin Go Bragh!

March 17th is the day to celebrate all things Irish and green - green shamrocks, green clothes, green beads and, of course, green beer!

Transport yourself to the Emerald Isle with a book.



fewofthegirlsA Few of the Girls by Maeve Binchy
As quintessentially Irish as one can be, the late Maeve Binchy (1940-2012) wrote wonderful, evocative stories about life in modern Ireland. Always sympathetic and good-natured, her novels center on family, friends, and community connections, showcasing human nature at its best and worst, and often have happy, though sometimes surprising, endings. In the Guardian's obituary, author Anne Enright is quoted as saying, "Maeve had an unsurpassed grasp of what makes a good story  ... reading her was like being with a good friend: Wise, generous, funny and full-hearted, she was the best of good company on the page and off it."  A Few of the Girls is a collection of short stories written throughout Binchy's long career, some for publication, others for friends or charity, which have never been published in the U.S. "In true Binchy fashion, these gentle stories revolve around universal themes of love, loyalty, friendship, compassion, and perseverance. The exploration of human relationships never ceases to fascinate and the author's ability to empathetically depict the ups and downs of ordinary people living in authentic circumstances translates well to a briefer format. Tying all the stories together is, of course, their trademark comfy settings, and devoted fans will relish another armchair visit to Ireland." (Booklist)


 Shanghai Girls by Lisa See



Lisa See Tickets available:

lisaseeLisa See, author of Shanghai Girls, this year's Everyone's Reading selection, will speak on Monday, April 11 at 7pm at the Smith Theatre on OCC's Orchard Ridge Campus, Farmington Hills and Tuesday, April 12 at 7pm at Temple Beth El, Bloomfield Township. Tickets are free, but limited - call the Library for ticket availability, 734.453.0750, ext 4.

This year, for the first time, The Detroit Institute of Arts is an Everyone's Reading partner. For information about the DIA's events and author appearance, call 313-833-4005 or visit

Read the book and join the discussions at the Library: Brown Bag Books will meet on Wednesday, March 23 at noon, and the Contemporary Books Group will meet on Wednesday, April 13 at 7:30 pm. No registration is needed. Copies of Shanghai Girls are available at the Library.


julius caesarOn the Roman calendar the Ides of March corresponds to March 15 - the day that has become notorious for the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE. Caesar was killed because his political opponents feared that he would use his power to overthrow the Senate and declare himself king of Rome, destroying the Republic. Caesar had been a triumphant general with campaigns in Gaul (as any Latin student knows), Egypt (think Cleopatra) and Britain, and had extended Rome's dominance across Europe and the Mediterranean region. He had also used his armies to win a civil war that left him with unrivaled military might and political influence. According to Plutarch, a soothsayer had warned Caesar that harm would come to him by the Ides of March, as the line in Shakespeare's play dramatizes. Caesar was stabbed 23 times by a group of conspirators who intercepted him on his way to the Senate that day.


Discover the political intrigue that was ancient Rome:

triumphofcaesarThe Triumph of Caesar by Steven Saylor
Saylor's Roma Sub Rosa series covers the Roman Republic in the times of Caesar, Pompey, Cato, and Cicero, as experienced by Gordianus the Finder, an ancient-world private eye who is employed by the rich and powerful elite for his competence and discretion. In this installment, the Roman civil war has come to its conclusion - Pompey is dead, Egypt is firmly under the control of Cleopatra (with the help of Rome's legions), and for the first time in many years Julius Caesar has returned to Rome itself. Appointed by the Senate as Dictator, the city abounds with rumors asserting that Caesar wishes to be made King - the first that Rome has had in centuries. And that not all of his opposition has been crushed. Caesar's wife, Calpurnia, hires Gordianus to investigate her fears for Caesar's life. "Fast-paced action, a deeply realized main character, and accessible history make this series first-rate on all fronts." (Booklist)


godsofwarThe Gods of War by Conn Iggulden
Part of Iggulden's Emperor series, and set in Rome in 53 BCE, the novel sets up the confrontation between Caesar and his enemies in the Republic. Fresh from victory in Gaul, Julius Caesar leads battle-hardened legions across the fabled Rubicon river - threatening Rome itself and initiating civil war. Even the master strategist Pompey is caught unprepared by the strike, and forced to abandon his city. The armies of Rome will face each other at last, led by the two greatest generals ever to walk the seven hills. Even as the he extends his military dominance, Caesar also cultivates political allies like Marcus Brutus, Mark Antony, Octavian, and, of course, Cleopatra. "Brimming with military, political, and romantic intrigue, this action-packed epic provides a breathtaking panorama of one of the most exciting episodes in the ancient world and breathes new life into a legendary historical figure." (Booklist)


caesarswomenCaesar's Women by Colleen McCullough
This is the fourth installment of McCullough's Masters of Rome series which follows the decline of the Republic and the rise of Julius Caesar. Caesar repeatedly foils the plots of his adversaries as he amasses power and influence, essentially ruling Rome as a king without a crown. Throughout his climb, he depends on the women in his life for support and advantage. He relies on his astute mother for advice, marries strategically, seduces the wives of his rivals, and dangles the hand of his beloved daughter in matrimony as bait for political alliances. "With great brio, and ample attention to Roman customs and rites, as well as to the religious, sexual and social institutions of the day, including slavery, McCullough captures the driven, passionate soul of ancient Rome." (Publishers Weekly)



Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None

and then there were none agatha chrisiteAgatha Christie's 1939 classic "locked room" or in this case, island, mystery has been televised by the BBC as a four hour mini-series to be shown in this country on the Lifetime Channel tonight (March 13) and Monday (March 14). Setting this story apart from Christie's usual mysteries is the lack of a primary detective like Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot. Instead, there are ten strangers with dubious pasts who are lured to Soldier Island, an isolated rock near the Devon coast in southern England. Cut off from the mainland, with their hosts mysteriously absent, they are each accused of a terrible crime, and mysteriously begin to die one by one, in accordance with the lines of a nursery rhyme. The series stars many distinguished British actors, including Sam Neill, Charles Dance, Miranda Richardson, Anna Maxwell Martin, and Aidan Turner, all of whom will be familiar to regular BBC/Masterpiece viewers. Of the production, reviewer Maureen Ryan of Variety says, "The results are astoundingly and almost absurdly entertaining."


April 2016 LibraryReads List

The top ten books published this month that librarians across the country love

library reads logo websiteThis monthly list is created by librarians and library staff to help connect readers to new books and authors. An online community of librarians vote each month on their favorite new books and the results are tallied. "The list is a straightforward calculation: whichever ten books get the most nominations go onto the monthly list. The book with the most nominations becomes the #1 Pick. It’s as simple as that." The list is not meant to be a "best" list - just a list of collective favorites - books librarians loved and want to share.



#1 for April 2016:

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice
by Curtis Sittenfeld

eligibleThis version of the Bennet family--and Mr. Darcy--is one that you have and haven't met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help--and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray. Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master's degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won't discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane's fortieth birthday fast approaches. Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible . At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip's friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming.  . . . And yet, first impressions can be deceiving. "Sittenfeld has updated some of the characters and story lines to better fit a contemporary setting, but her charming retelling is a delightful romp for not only Austen devotees but lovers of romantic comedies and sly satire, as well." (Booklist)


Now (or soon) playing:

christthelordThe Young Messiah/Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt by Anne Rice
Anne Rice, famous for vampire fiction (Interview with the Vampire), turns her attention to the Biblical story of seven-year-old Jesus, and his family's return from Egypt to Nazareth after the death of King Herod. The novel explores Jesus' childhood as he learns of his divine origins and discovers his emerging talents. Seeking answers about his unique abilities, he turns to his parents, and then, to legend and faith to understand his destiny. "The story is told from Jesus's point of view, and the strength of the book weighs heavily on Rice's ability to make him believable both as a child and as the son of God; she does a winning job." (School Library Journal) The film will be released on March 11 and stars newcomer Adam Greaves-Neal as young Jesus and Sean Bean (Game of Thrones) as a Roman Centurion.


trunkmusicBosch/Trunk Music, The Last Coyote, and The Drop by Michael Connelly
This Amazon Studios production, presented on Amazon Prime, begins its second season on March 11. Based on the detective novels of Michael Connelly and featuring his protagonist Harry Bosch, an idiosyncratic loner and LAPD police detective, the second season's plots are taken from three of Connelly's 19-book series. Titus Welliver returns as Bosch, newly returned to work after a suspension and assigned to investigate the dead body of a Hollywood producer found in the trunk of a car on Mulholland Drive. The two bullets in his head, execution-style, suggest mob connections, but the LAPD's Organized Crime Unit seems oddly uninterested. "Offering a sultry femme fatale, plenty of seamy and sordid--albeit palm-lined--mean streets, and half a school of red herrings, this atmospheric novel is truly one of the year's best entertainments." (Booklist)


sidneychambers perilsGrantchester/Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night by James Runcie
PBS Masterpiece had a hit with the first season of this detective drama, based on the short stories of James Runcie, about a young and handsome clergyman who joins with a local cop to solve crimes in his 1950's English village. Reverend Sidney Chambers with his love of jazz music, his WWII flashbacks, and his complicated love life, is called upon to investigate the unexpected fall of a Cambridge don from the roof of King's College Chapel; a case of arson at a glamour photographer's studio; and a poisoning in the middle of a crucial game of cricket, all while pondering the question of a suitable marriage. The series will air on PBS stations starting on March 27 and stars James Norton as Chambers.




Metro Detroit Book and Author Luncheon - Monday, May 16, 2016

The next Metro Detroit Book and Author Society Luncheon will be held on Monday, May 16 at the Burton Manor in Livonia. Ticket sales begin on April 4, by phone at 586-685-5750, ext. 102 or online at Featured authors this spring are Lesley Stahl, Steve Hamilton, Mary Norris, and Dorothea Benton Frank.

The Metro-Detroit Book & Author Society was created for the sole purpose of presenting a luncheon featuring major national authors. The Society strives to present top national authors in a comfortable, casual setting, with an opportunity to buy signed books and meet the authors. Guest authors have included Bonnie Jo Campbell, David Maraniss, Steven King, James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Michael Connelly, Greg Isles, Kathy Reich, Erik Larson, and Debbie Macomber

The Metro-Detroit Book & Author luncheons are considered one of the largest and best one-day author events in the country.





These prizes are literary awards established in 2013 at Yale University and endowed by a significant bequest from the estate of Donald Windham, a writer who died in 2010. Each winner receives $150,000, making them among the most lucrative of the American literary prizes given to writers for fiction, non-fiction, and drama. "The mission of the prizes is to call attention to literary achievement and provide writers with the opportunity to focus on their work independent of financial concerns."

Tessa Hadley (The Past), Jerry Pinto (Em and the Big Hoom), and  C. E. Morgan (Sport of Kings) were recently named as this year's recipients of the awards in the fiction category.


Final-GMIR-logo-smlEmilyStJohnMandelStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

PDL is once again participating in the Michigan Humanities Council's Great Michigan Read. This year's selection is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. As part of our programming, we are delighted to host the author at our Library on Wednesday, May 18 at 1pm, when Ms. Mandel will speak about the inspiration for Station Eleven and her experiences as a writer. Join us as welcome this award-winning novelist to Plymouth. Registration is open, call 723-453-0750, ext. 4, or register online at

The Great Michigan Read is the statewide community reading program sponsored by the Michigan Humanities Council which "aims to connect us as Michiganians by deepening our understanding of our state, our society, and our humanity," through the reading and discussion of one book.

The Great Michigan Read is presented by the Michigan Humanities Council with support from Meijer, the National Endowment for the Humanities and a host of other sponsors.”


Pat Conroy (1945-2016)

princeoftidesPopular author Pat Conroy passed away on Friday, March 4 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 70. His best-selling novels, like The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides, and Beach Music, often featured family drama and dysfunction that were based on the events of his own traumatic childhood and his characters were frequently thinly-veiled portraits of his parents and siblings. Not all of his relatives appreciated their depictions, several broke off relations with him because of them. Conroy's books are also known for their Southern sensibilities and the sumptuous descriptions of the marshes and lowcountry of his native South Carolina, especially near Beaufort. In addition to his novels, he also published several works of non-fiction, including memoirs and a cookbook. Four of his books were made into successful movies: The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides, The Water is Wide (Conrack), and The Lords of Discipline. "“One of the greatest gifts you can get as a writer is to be born into an unhappy family,” Mr. Conroy told the writer John Berendt for a Vanity Fair profile in 1995. “I could not have been born into a better one.” He added: “I don’t have to look very far for melodrama. It’s all right there.”" (NyTimes)

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

book groupTuesday, March 8, 2016 @ 7:30gosetawatchman2

The Contemporary Books Discussion Group will meet this Tuesday to discuss Go Set a Watchman, the late Harper Lee's recently discovered and published companion book to her 1960 classic, To Kill a Mockingbird. The latest book's origins and contents have created much comment and controversy, to say the least. Please join us for an interesting discussion.


March is Women's History Month

NWHP-Logo-smallWomen's History Month had its origins as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as "Women's History Week." In 1987 after being petitioned by the National Women's History Project, Congress designated the month of March as "Women's History Month" in perpetuity to highlight the achievements of women and their contributions to intellectual and social progress throughout human history. It's possible that next March, Women's History Month may celebrate another achievement: the election of the first woman U.S. President.

(Historical content and image courtesy of the National Women's History Project and the Library of Congress.)


Discover some accomplished women:

georgiaGeorgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe by Dawn Tripp
In 1916, before she becomes a celebrated artist, Georgia O'Keeffe is a young, unknown art teacher who travels to New York to meet Alfred Stieglitz, the famed photographer and art dealer. O'Keeffe is quickly drawn into Stieglitz's sophisticated world, becoming his mistress, protégé, and muse, as their attraction deepens into an intense and tempestuous relationship. Yet as her own creative force develops, Georgia begins to push back against what critics and others are saying about her and her art. And soon she must make difficult choices to live a life she believes in. "Tripp has hit her stride here, bringing to life one of the most remarkable artists of the 20th century with veracity, heart, and panache." (Publishers Weekly)


dreamloverThe Dream Lover by Elizabeth Berg
Aurore Dupin is leaving her estranged husband, a loveless marriage, and her family's estate in the French countryside to start a new life in Paris. There, she gives herself a new name-George Sand-and pursues her dream of becoming a writer, embracing an unconventional and even scandalous lifestyle. Sand's many lovers and friends include Frédéric Chopin, Gustave Flaubert, Franz Liszt, Eugène Delacroix, Victor Hugo, Marie Dorval, and Alfred de Musset. As Sand welcomes fame and friendship, and becomes one of the most gifted novelists of her time, she  constantly fights against the constraints of 19th century French society, asserting her need to write and live an independent life. "...this (is a) beautiful, imaginative re-creation of a brilliant, complicated writer, feminist, romantic, and activist." (Library Journal)


circlingthesunCircling the Sun by Paula McClain
McClain, author of The Paris Wife, transports readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920's where future aviator Beryl Markham is raised by an unconventional father and the native Kipsigis tribe who shared his estate. Her upbringing transformed her into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild. She became a professional horse trainer at a time when there were no female horse trainers, and later was introduced to flying by her lover, Denys Finch Hatton. Markham became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1936 and was, for a time, the only professional female pilot in the world. "McLain sustains a momentum as swift and heart-pounding as one of Beryl's prize horses at a gallop as she focuses on the romance, glamour, and drama of Beryl's blazing life, creating a seductive work of popular historical fiction with sure-fire bio-pic potential." (Booklist)




On February 19th, novelist Nelle Harper Lee passed away 03 harper lee 2 w750 h560 2xquietly in Monroeville, Alabama at the age of 89. Famously reclusive for much of her adult life, after writing her first book, To Kill a Mockingbird, she was laid to rest on February 20th following a private funeral service attended by about 40 people. She was buried next to her father at Pineville Cemetery, near the graves of her mother and sister.

It was her father, attorney Amasa Coleman Lee, who inspired her to create her most admired fictional character, the honorable and compassionate small town lawyer, Atticus Finch, who takes on the defense of an unjustly accused black sharecropper in 1930's Jim Crow Alabama. Lee's novel about racial inequality won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 after its 1960 publication and has since sold over 40 million copies. It is considered a modern classic and is taught in schools nationwide. It was made into a successful film starring Gregory Peck in 1962. Despite her literary acclaim, Lee returned to Monroeville, shunning interviews and public appearances for years.

gosetawatchman2To Kill a Mockingbird remained Lee's only book for decades until 2015, when it was announced that another manuscript had been discovered among her papers. Published in July amid heated debate about its provenance, the new book, entitled Go Set a Watchman, and set twenty years after the events in Mockingbird, contains several of the same characters. Eager readers were dismayed to learn that the beloved Atticus Finch is reimagined as an aging bigot angered about the social changes brought about by the Civil Rights movement. The early reviews were mixed but respectful, some suggesting that Go Set A Watchman created a more nuanced, realistic Atticus in place of the saintly man most remember. It became the best-selling book in the U. S. for 2015 and its effect on Harper Lee's literary legacy will be debated for quite some time.


oscarBooks to Movies - The 88th Academy Awards

On Sunday, February 28, Hollywood royalty will be parading on the red carpet just before the awards show which will bestow honors on films made in 2015 and the actors and personnel who created them. Many of the Oscar-nominated films are based on books, both fiction and non-fiction.

And the books/nominees are:

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

Bridge of Spies: a True Story of the Cold War by Giles Whittel

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

The Price of Salt/Carol by Patricia Highsmith

The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

The Martian by Andy Weir

 The Revenent: a Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke

 Room by Emma Donoghue

 In Another Country: Selected Stories by David Constantine





March 2016 LibraryReads List

The top ten books published this month that librarians across the country love

library reads logo websiteThis monthly list is created by librarians and library staff to help connect readers to new books and authors. An online community of librarians vote each month on their favorite new books and the results are tallied. "The list is a straightforward calculation: whichever ten books get the most nominations go onto the monthly list. The book with the most nominations becomes the #1 Pick. It’s as simple as that." The list is not meant to be a "best" list - just a list of collective favorites - books librarians loved and want to share.



#1 for March 2016:

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

summerbeforethewarThe bestselling author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand returns with a breathtaking novel of love and war set in the small, coastal town of Rye in East Sussex, England during the summer of 1914 - before World War I. Hugh Grange, on vacation from his medical studies, is visiting his Aunt Agatha, who lives with her husband in this bucolic community. The progressive and formidable Agatha has just risked her carefully built reputation by pushing for something radical: the appointment of a woman teacher to replace the old Latin master. When Beatrice Nash arrives, it is clear she is significantly more freethinking and attractive than anyone believes a Latin teacher should be. For her part, mourning the death of her beloved father, Beatrice simply wants to be left alone to pursue her teaching and writing. But just as Beatrice comes alive to the beauty of the Sussex landscape and the colorful characters who populate Rye, the perfect summer is about to end."...this novel is just the ticket for fans of Simonson's debut, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (2010), and for any reader who enjoys leisurely fiction steeped in the British past." (Booklist)



 Shanghai Girls by Lisa See

In March and April, PDL will participate in Everyone’s Reading, the one-book community reading program sponsored by 15 Metro Detroit public libraries in Oakland and Wayne counties. Everyone’s Reading promotes public dialogue through the shared experience of reading and discussing the same book with friends, neighbors, and other members of our community.

Shanghai GirlsTHIS YEAR'S SELECTION is Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, best-selling author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and China Dolls. Set in 1937, Shangahi, the so-called Paris of Asia, the story centers on two sisters, Pearl and May Chin, who are having the time of their young lives as modern "Shanghai girls," until their father tells them that to repay his gambling debts he must sell the girls as wives to men who have traveled from Los Angeles to find Chinese brides. After surving the Japanese invasion of China and the grueling journey to America, the girls are reunited with their husbands in L.A. 's Little Chinatown, where they settle in to raise their families. But when the Communists take over China in 1949, all Chinese people in America are viewed with suspicion. Its then that secrets from their past return with devastating results.

PARTICIPATE by reading the book and joining the book lisaseediscussions at the Library: Brown Bag Books will meet on Wednesday, March 23 at noon, and the Contemporary Books Group will meet on Wednesday, April 13 at 7:30 pm to discuss the book. No registration is needed. Copies of Shanghai Girls will be available at the Library.

Lisa See
will speak on Monday, April 11 at 7pm at the Smith Theatre on OCC's Orchard Ridge Campus, Farmington Hills and Tuesday, April 12 at 7pm at Temple Beth El, Bloomfield Township. Tickets are free, but limited - call the Library for ticket availability, 734.453.0750, ext 4.

This year, for the first time, The Detroit Institute of Arts is an Everyone's Reading partner. For information about the DIA's events and author appearance, call 313-833-4005 or visit

Join us as we explore the Chinese experience of immigration and assimilation in the Shanghai Girls.


It's almost Valentine's Day!
 doubleheartsGet your heart racing with a love story.


Love in lowercase by Francesc Miralles
When Samuel, a lonely linguistics lecturer, wakes up on New loveinlowercaseYear's Day, he is convinced that the year ahead will bring nothing new, until an unexpected visitor slips into his Barcelona apartment and refuses to leave. The appearance of Mishima, a stray, brindle-furred cat, becomes the catalyst that leads Samuel from the comforts of his favorite books, foreign films, and classical music to places he's never been (next door) and to people he might never have met (a neighbor with whom he's never exchanged a word). Even better, the Catalan cat leads him back to the mysterious Gabriela, whom he thought he'd lost long before, and shows him that sometimes love is hiding in the smallest of characters.


onlyloveOnly Love Can Break Your Heart by Ed Tarkington
Yes, that Neil Young song. In Spencerville, Virginia, 1977, eight-year-old Rocky worships his older brother, Paul. Sixteen and full of rebel cool, Paul spends his days cruising in his Chevy Nova, cigarette dangling from his lips, arm slung around his beautiful, troubled girlfriend. Paul is happy to have his younger brother as his sidekick. Then one day, in an act of vengeance against their father, Paul picks up Rocky from school and nearly abandons him in the woods. Afterward, Paul disappears. Seven years later, Rocky is a teenager himself. He hasn't forgotten being abandoned by his boyhood hero, but he's getting over it, with the help of the wealthy neighbors' daughter, ten years his senior, who has taken him as her lover. Unbeknownst to both of them, their affair will set in motion a course of events that rains catastrophe on both their families.


Love Love by Sung J. Woo
Judy Lee's life has not turned out the way she'd imagined. She's divorced, she's broke,lovelove and her dreams of being a painter have fallen by the wayside. Meanwhile, her bother Kevin, an former professional tennis player, has decided to donate a kidney to their ailing father -- until it turns out that he's not a genetic match. His father reluctantly tells him he was adopted, but the only information Kevin is given about his birth parents is a nude picture of his birth mother. Kevin's quest to learn the truth about his biological parents takes him from tony Princeton to San Francisco's seedy Tenderloin district, from the squeaky clean tennis court to the gritty adult film industry.Told in alternating chapters from the points of view of Judy and Kevin, the novel is a story about two people figuring out how to live, how to love, and how to be their best selves amidst the chaos of their lives.


improbabilityofloveThe Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild
Annie McDee, thirty-one, is working as a chef for two rather sinister art dealers and recovering from the end of a long-term relationship. When she is searching in a neglected secondhand shop for a birthday present for her unsuitable new lover, a grimy painting catches her eye. The painting becomes hers, and as it turns out, Annie has stumbled across a lost masterpiece by one of the most important French painters of the eighteenth century. And it has its own point of view - narrating its history in its own chapters. Soon Annie finds herself pursued by interested parties who would do anything to possess her picture. In her search for the painting's identity, Annie will unwittingly uncover some of the darkest secrets of European history--as well as the possibility of falling in love again.



mardigrasbeadsLaissez les bons temps rouler!

February 9 is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras in French, the traditional time for music, masks, feasting, and revelry in the streets of New Orleans prior to the beginning of the Lenten season.

But it's not all parades and colored beads in these mysteries... 


fattuesdayFat Tuesday by Sandra Brown
Burke Basile is a cop with nothing left to lose. Haunted by his partner's death, his marriage and his career over, he focuses on his nemesis, Pinkie Duvall, a flamboyant attorney who helps killers evade justice. Burke's shocking revenge centers around kidnapping Remy, the lawyer's trophy wife. But Burke hasn't planned on the electric attraction he'll feel for this desperate woman, who rose from the slums of New Orleans to marry a man she can never love. Nor can he predict the fierce duel that will explode as the clock ticks toward midnight on Fat Tuesday, when all masks will be stripped away. "...Brown expertly pushes her story toward an explosive Mardi Gras conclusion." (Publishers Weekly)


deathswatchDeath Swatch by Laura Childs
Jekyl Hardy is hosting a Mardi Gras party in his French Quarter apartment, amid Zydeco rhythms and popping champagne corks. On a wild night like this, anything can happen. The guests--including scrapbook-store owner Carmela Bertrand--never imagine it will be murder. But as the evening progresses, Jekyl's neighbor, float designer Archie Baudier, is found on the balcony choked to death with a barbed wire garrote. Buried up to her neck in strange clues, Carmela is sure of only one thing: whoever killed Archie is now following her--straight into the madness of Mardi Gras. "...Childs paints a picture of New Orleans sure to appeal..." (Publishers Weekly)


Happy Chinese New Year!

yearofthemonkeyThe Chinese year 4714, the Year of the Monkey, begins on February 8, 2016. New Year's festivities traditionally start on the first day of  the month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest. In China, where the New Year's observance is the most important of the holidays, people may take weeks from work to prepare for it and celebrate. There are fireworks, parties and family visits, dragon dances, and red decorations everywhere. Each year is associated with one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. It's said that people born in monkey years are witty, intelligent, and have magnetic personalities. Other personality traits, like mischievousness, curiosity, and cleverness, make them masters of practical jokes.

Celebrate by reading about China, past and present.

frenchconcessionFrench Concession by Xiao Bai
An atmospheric, noir tale of espionage and international intrigue set in 1931 Shanghai,  home to spies, criminals, and revolutionaries. After an important official in the Nationalist Party, newly arrived from Hong Kong along with Leng, his unhappy wife, is assassinated and his gunman kills himself, Leng goes missing. Franco-Chinese photographer Hsueh, coerced to work with the police, agrees to find her while also protecting his lover, Therese, who is secretly selling guns to the Shanghai gangs. As his investigations lead him deeper into the underworld of Shanghai, he is torn between the two women while trying his best to stay alive. “[An] absorbing novel of character and mood…" (Library Journal)


China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
This funny novel of modern China tells the story of Rachel Chu, engaged to the most chinarichgirlfriendeligible bachelor in Asia, but still unhappy because her birthfather, a man she never knew, cannot walk her down the aisle. Guess who turns up at her wedding? Upon meeting her father and a half-brother too, Rachel is swept up into their luxurious, fabulously rich lifestyle with their eccentric, pampered friends. They frolic through Asia's most exclusive clubs, auction houses, and the estates of the mainland China elite, experiencing what it means to be China-rich. "Lovers of clothes, cuisine, and cars will find themselves at home in Kwan's second smart and snarky send-up of the Chinese jet set." (Booklist)


fourbooksThe Four Books by Yan Lianke
During the years of Mao's Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) at rural re-education centers for intellectuals, artists and academics were detained to strengthen their loyalty to Communist ideologies. Here, the Musician and her lover, the Scholar--along with the Author and the Theologian--are forced to carry out grueling physical work and are encouraged to inform on each other for dissident behavior. The prize: winning the chance at freedom. They're overseen by a young supervisor, the Child, who delights in reward systems and excessive punishments. When agricultural and industrial production quotas are raised to an unattainable level, the compund dissolves into lawlessness. And then, as inclement weather and famine set in, they are abandoned by the regime and left alone to survive. "The novel is a stinging indictment of the illogic of bureaucracy and tyranny, but the literary structure is tight and the prose incredibly accessible. Readers will have difficulty putting this down." (Publishers Weekly)


Jade Dragon Mountain by Elsa Hart
A mystery set along the mountainous border of China and Tibet in 1708, where Li Du , once jademountainan imperial librarian, now a disgraced exile, arrives in Dayan, the last Chinese town before Tibet, to find it teeming with travelers, soldiers, and merchants. All have come for a spectacle unprecedented in this remote province: an eclipse of the sun commanded by the Emperor himself. When a Jesuit astronomer is found murdered in the home of the local magistrate, blame is hastily placed on Tibetan bandits. But Li Du suspects this was no random killing. "Decorated with a careful attention to detail, this old-fashioned mystery suits its setting in atmosphere and pacing, drawing the reader into an exotic territory." (Booklist)



2016 PEN Literary Awards Shortlists

PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction

Each year  PEN America, the literary and human rights organization founded in 1922 to advance literature and defend free expression, honors outstanding writing in many categories including fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry and translation. One of its most prestigious (and lucrative) prizes is the one for a work of first fiction, worth $25,000, given for a book that "represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise." Five titles have made the shortlist and the winner will be announced on April 11 at the 2016 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony in New York.


In the Country: Stories by Mia Alvar                                mrandmrsdoctor

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

Mr. and Mrs. Doctor by Julie Iromuanya

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness by Jennifer Tseng



 Now (or soon) playing:

choiceThe Choice by Nicholas Sparks
Travis Parker has everything a man could want: a good job, loyal friends, even a waterfront home in small-town North Carolina. In full pursuit of the good life - boating, swimming , and regular barbecues with his good-natured buddies -- he holds the vague conviction that a serious relationship with a woman would only cramp his style. That is, until Gabby Holland moves in next door. Despite her misgivings, they fall in love. Years later Travis must face a life and death decision following a serious car accident. "Sparks is a master at creating beautiful, old-fashioned courtships coupled with bittersweet dilemmas, and this is no exception, as it pulls the reader into the story just as The Notebook (1996) did."(Booklist) The film, starring Benjamin Walker and  Teresa Palmer, opens February 5.


prideprejzombiesPride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." This wacky literary mash-up starts with a mysterious plague that has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton--and then the  dead start returning to life. Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers--and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield. "It is silly, of course,... but it's also a great deal of fun-particularly when Elizabeth dreams about beheading her wayward sister Lydia." (Library Journal) Actress Lily James of Downton Abbey and Cinderella fame stars as Elizabeth in this adaptation that also opens on February 5.


king11/22/63 by Stephen King
King imagines an alternative history for the assassination of President Kennedy in this time travel novel about a present-day high school teacher who enters a portal to the past intent on preventing the tragedy. So begins Jake's new life as George Amberson, in a different world of Ike and JFK and Elvis, of big American cars and sock hops and cigarette smoke everywhere. From the dank little city of Derry, Maine to the warmhearted small town of Jodie, Texas, where Jake falls dangerously in love, every turn is leading eventually, of course, to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and to Dallas, where the past becomes heart-stoppingly suspenseful, and where history might not be history anymore. "...King remains an excellent storyteller, and his evocation of mid-20th-century America is deft. Alternate-history buffs will especially enjoy the twist ending." (Library Journal) The eight-part miniseries is produced by J.J. Abrams and will stream on Hulu on February 15 with James Franco as Jake.


howtobesingleHow to Be Single by Liz Tuccillo
Julie Jenson is a single thirty-seven-year-old book publicist. When her friend Georgia’s husband leaves her for a samba teacher, she forces Julie to organize a single girls’ night out to remind her why it’s so much fun not to be tied down. But the night ends up having the opposite effect on Julie. Fed up with the dysfunction and disappointments of singledom, Julie quits her job and sets off to find out how women around the world are dealing with this dreaded phenomenon. During her travels, Julie falls in love, gets her heart broken, and learns more than she ever dreamed possible. All the while her friends at home are grappling with their own issues - seeking love and being single in New York. The upcoming film stars Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnson and Alison Brie with a February 12 release. (Just in time for Valentine's Day!)



February is African American History Month

Initially started in 1926 as Negro History Week, the commemoration of the struggles and achievements of African Americans in America was expanded to a month-long celebration in 1976. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Every president since has proclaimed February as African American History Month in order to honor the importance of contributions made by African American citizens to our society.

The examination of the African American experience in literature, both fiction and non-fiction, is a major contribution to our collective culture and national discourse. Taryn Finley, a columnist for the Huffington Post, introduced his list of "25 Books by Black Authors From 2015 You Need to Read," with the comment, "These books are so necessary," and described them as "thought-provoking, page-turning, nail-biting, and "aha" inducing."

Fiction on the list:

boysnowbirdBoy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty. She marries Arturo, a local widower, and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman. Like the fairy tale on which it is based, aesthetic obsessions begin to play out when Arturo and Boy's daughter Bird is born noticably dark-skinned. Boy, who is white, thus discovers that her husband's family are African-Americans passing as white. Boy sends Snow to be raised by an aunt while Bird grows up curious about the step-sister she is not allowed to know. "Oyeyemi delves deeply into the nature of identity and the cost of denying it in this contemplative, layered novel." (Booklist)

The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Recently chosen as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Beatty's novel is a selloutbiting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and racial equality in  the so-called "post-racial" America. The disaffected protagonist proposes to save his neglected town, which has been literally wiped from the map of California, by reinstating racial segregation and slavery. "Beatty gleefully catalogues offensive racial stereotypes but also reaches further, questioning what exactly constitutes black identity in America. "Wildly funny but deadly serious, Beatty's caper is populated by outrageous caricatures, and its damning social critique carries the day." (Publishers Weekly)


jam on the vineJam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett
Ivoe Williams, the precocious daughter of a Muslim cook from central-east Texas, first ignites her lifelong obsession with journalism when she steals a newspaper from her mother's white employer. She earns a scholarship to the prestigious Willetson College, only to return over-qualified to the menial labor offered by her hometown's racially-biased employers. Fleeing the Jim Crow South with her family, she settles in Kansas City, where she and her former teacher and lover, Ona, found the first female-run African American newspaper, Jam! On the Vine. In the throes of the Red Summer--the 1919 outbreak of lynchings and race riots across the Midwest--Ivoe risks her freedom, and her life, to call attention to the atrocities of segregation in the American prison system. "In her first novel, Barnett skillfully plumbs historical accounts of black American life in the Jim Crow era and weaves them into an engaging and enlightening family saga." (Booklist)


The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
The Turners have lived on Yarrow Street for over fifty years. Their house has seen thirteenturnerhouse children grown and gone--and some returned; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit's East Side, and the loss of a father. The house still stands despite abandoned lots, an embattled city, and the inevitable shift outward to the suburbs. But now, as ailing matriarch Viola finds herself forced to leave her home and move in with her eldest son, the family discovers that the house is worth just a tenth of its mortgage. The Turner children are called home to decide its fate and to reckon with how each of their pasts haunts--and shapes--their family's future. "The conversations between them are honest and sometimes humorous (comparing Detroit's dilapidation to the zombie-apocalypse is classic), while details regarding the degeneration of Detroit's once-thriving African American communities are heartrending." (Library Journal)


balmBalm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
The Civil War has ended, and Madge, Sadie, and Hemp have each come to Chicago in search of a new life. Free-born Madge has the power to discern others' suffering and ease it, but she cannot heal her own damaged heart. To mend herself, she must return to Tennessee to face the women healers who rejected her as a child. Widowed Sadie can commune with the dead, but until she makes peace with her father, she, too, cannot fully engage her gift. Searching for his missing family, Hemp, a former slave, arrives in this northern city and hopes for redemption. In the bitter aftermath of a terrible, bloody war, as a divided nation tries to come together once again, Madge, Sadie, and Hemp will be caught up in a  battle for survival in a community desperate to lay the pain of the past to rest. "In gorgeous, compassionate prose, Perkins-Valdez continues our national conversation about people working together to heal our communities." (Washington Post)


Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile
Why exactly Charley Bordelon's late father left her eight hundred sprawling acres of queensugarsugarcane land in rural Louisiana is as mysterious as it was generous. Recognizing this as a chance to start over, Charley and her eleven-year-old daughter, Micah, say good-bye to Los Angeles. They arrive just in time for growing season but no amount of planning can prepare Charley for a Louisiana that's mired in the past: as her judgmental but big-hearted grandmother tells her, cane farming is always going to be a white man's business. As the sweltering summer unfolds, Charley must balance the overwhelming challenges of her dilapidated farm with the demands of a homesick daughter, a bitter and troubled brother, and the startling desires of her own heart. "Reading this book is inhabiting, briefly, the backbreaking and brutal yet rewarding life that is sugarcane farming. Baszile has also created a cast of vibrant characters, and her strong African-American women in particular carry the novel." "...a fascinating look into the world of the contemporary South." (Washington Independent Review of Books)


* Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Outstanding Genre Fiction

rusareadinglistSince 2007, the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA, a division of the American Library Association) has assembled The Reading List in order to highlight outstanding genre fiction. The list was announced during the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting, held January 8-12. A committee of twelve librarians selects one book to represent the best in each of 8 different categories. They also include read-alike suggestions and display the short lists of titles considered for each category. The categories include adrenaline (including suspense, thriller and adventure), fantasy, historical fiction, horror, mystery, romance, science fiction and women’s fiction.

The 2016 Selections:

rejaneAdrenaline - Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Fantasy - Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Historical Fiction - Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans

Horror - The Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp

Mystery -The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

Romance - Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl

Science Fiction - Golden Son by Pierce Brown

Women’s Fiction - Re Jane by Patricia Park



natlbookcriticscircleNational Book Critics Circle Awards

On January 18, the committee of judges for the National Book Critics Circle Awards announced the finalists for the best books of 2015 in several categories: fiction, non-fiction, biography, autobiography, criticism and poetry. The prizes are among the most prestigious American literary awards for books published in English in the U.S., and are judged by a panel of book critics and book review editors. The awards will be presented on March 17, 2016 in New York.


Finalists for Fiction:

tsaroflovePaul Beatty, The Sellout

Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies

Valeria Luiselli,  The Story of My Teeth,

Anthony Marra,  The Tsar of Love and Techno

Ottessa Moshfegh, Eileen



The 2016 Edgar Nominees


On January 19, 2016, the Mystery Writers of America announced the finalists for the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, the premier award for the mystery/crime genre. The winners will be announced at a gala ceremony in New York on April 28.


Best Novel Nominees:







The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter
The Lady From Zagreb by Philip Kerr
Life or Death by Michael Robotham
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy
Canary by Duane Swierczynski
Night Life by David C. Taylor


Best First Novel Nominees:







 Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton
Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm



February 2016 LibraryReads List

The top ten books published this month that librarians across the country love

library reads logo websiteThis monthly list is created by librarians and library staff to help connect readers to new books and authors. An online community of librarians vote each month on their favorite new books and the results are tallied. "The list is a straightforward calculation: whichever ten books get the most nominations go onto the monthly list. The book with the most nominations becomes the #1 Pick. It’s as simple as that." The list is not meant to be a "best" list - just a list of collective favorites - books librarians loved and want to share.



#1 for February 2016:

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

saltottheseaA World War II novel that shines a light on one of the war's most devastating, yet unknown, tragedies: the maritime disaster of the  Wilhelm Gustloff. In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia, and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety. Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival. "At once beautiful and heart-wrenching, this title will remind readers that there are far more casualties of war than are recorded in history books." (Library Journal)


Remember! Celebrate! Act!
King's Legacy of Freedom for our World

Monday, January 18, is the day designated for the observance of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the day to commemorate his legacy of non-violent social change and commitment to equal rights and justice for all. Civic organizations, churches, and local governments across the country have programs, services, and other special events planned. In the announcement for this year's observances, Dr. Bernice King of the The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, challenged everyone to embrace the philosophy of non-violence as a way of life, as well as a method for resolving social, economic and political conflicts.

grantparkAuthor and columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. explores the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King's life and message in his latest novel, Grant Park, which tells the story of two journalists and alternates between the time periods of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 assassination and election day 2008. Grant Park begins in 1968, with Martin Luther King's final days in Memphis and then moves to the eve of the 2008 election. Disillusioned columnist Malcolm Toussaint, fueled by yet another report of unarmed black men killed by police, hacks into his newspaper's server to post an incendiary column that had been rejected by his editors. Toussaint then disappears, and his longtime editor, Bob Carson, is summarily fired within hours of the column's publication. As Carson tries to find Toussaint, both are forced to remember the choices they made as idealistic, impatient young men, when their lives were changed profoundly by their work in the civil rights movement. "Pitts effectively builds the backstory in which young Malcolm witnesses King's fatal shooting in Memphis, and young Bob falls in love with the political black activist Janeka Lattimore, who now resurfaces in his life. The sharply etched characters, careful attention to detail, and rich newspaper lore propel Pitts's socially relevant novel." (Publishers Weekly)


Six Books to Curl Up With This Winter

Now that our long-overdue winter weather has arrived, it's a good time to pick up a book or two. The Wall Street Journal's Jennifer Maloney has posted a list of the "buzziest " titles for this season, "which range from family dramas to ghost stories." The books on the list also have some great cover art, guaranteed to catch your eye. Here are three, check out the rest of the list here.

mrsplitfootMr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
"Zombies are out, ghosts are in." Ruth and Nat are orphans, packed into a house full of abandoned children run by a religious fanatic. To entertain their siblings, they channel the dead. Decades later, Ruth's niece, Cora, finds herself accidentally pregnant. After years of absence, Aunt Ruth appears, mute and full of intention. She is on a mysterious mission, leading Cora on an odyssey across the entire state of New York on foot. Where is Ruth taking them? Where has she been? And who -- or what -- has she hidden in the woods at the end of the road?


yourheartYour Heart Is A Muscle The Size of A Fist by Sunil Yapa
Set amid the heated conflict of Seattle's 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, young Victor--a nomadic, scrappy teenager who's run away from home--sets out to sell as much marijuana as possible to the throng of WTO demonstrators determined to shut down the city. With the proceeds, he plans to buy a plane ticket and leave Seattle forever, but it quickly becomes clear that the history-making 50,000 anti-globalization protestors are testing the patience of the police, and what started out as a peaceful protest is threatening to erupt into violence. Over the course of one life-altering afternoon, the fates of seven people will change forever: foremost among them police Chief Bishop, the estranged father Victor hasn't seen in three years.


whatisnotyoursWhat Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
By the author of the novel, Boy, Snow, Bird, this is a collection of short stories centered on the idea of keys, "literal and metaphorical." The key to a house, the key to a heart, the key to a secret. In "Books and Roses" one special key opens a library, a garden, and clues to at least two lovers' fates. In "Is Your Blood as Red as This?" an unlikely key opens the heart of a student at a puppeteering school. "'Sorry' Doesn't Sweeten Her Tea" involves a "house of locks," where doors can be closed only with a key, with surprising developments. And in "If a Book Is Locked There's Probably a Good Reason for That Don't You Think," a key keeps a mystical diary locked (for good reason).


The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

carnegie fic medal photo webOn Sunday, January 10, at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston, the American Library Association announced the winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. The award, established in 2012, recognizes the best in fiction for adult readers published in the U.S. during the last year. The Medals are funded through a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and co-sponsored by ALA's Booklist magazine and the Reference and User Services division of ALA. Winning authors, who receive a $5,000 cash award, are picked by library professionals.

sympathizerThe Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen tells the story of a South Vietnamese army captain with divided loyalties, brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, who went to university in America, but then returns to Vietnam as a double agent for the Communist cause. "Nguyen's cross-grained protagonist exposes the hidden costs in both countries of America's tragic Asian misadventure. Nguyen's probing literary art illuminates how Americans failed in their political and military attempt to remake Vietnam but then succeeded spectacularly in shrouding their failure in Hollywood distortions. Compelling and profoundly unsettling." (Booklist)

Now (or soon) playing:

peachcobblerMurder She Baked: A Peach Cobbler Mystery/Peach Cobbler Murder by Joanne Fluke 
On Sunday, January 10, the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel will air another TV adaptation of one of mystery author Joanne Fluke's cozy series about small town baker/sleuth Hannah Swensen. This time, Hannah finds herself the prime suspect when Shawna Lee, the Southern belle co-owner of a new, rival bakery in Lake Eden, turns up dead. Hannah has to prove that she wasn't the only one with a motive to eliminate the competition. Once again, Hannah is played by Alison Sweeney (Days of Our Lives, Biggest Loser). Fluke's next book in the series, Wedding Cake Murder, is due in February.



magiciansThe Magicians by Lev Grossman
Quentin Coldwater is a brilliant, but miserable, high school math genius, secretly fascinated with a series of children's fantasy novels set in a magical land called Fillory. He finds real life is disappointing by comparison. When Quentin is unexpectedly admitted to Brakebills, an elite, secret college of magic, it looks like his wildest dreams have come true. But there he discovers that the magical world from his favorite childhood books is not only real but poses a danger to the rest of humanity. His childhood fantasies turn out to be much darker and more dangerous than he ever could have imagined. The 12-episode series is scheduled to premiere on January 25, on the Syfy channel.


warandpeaceWar and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy's voluminous novel centers broadly on Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the best-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of a count who is fighting for his inheritance;  Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves behind his family to fight in the war against Napoleon; and Natasha Rostov, the beautiful young daughter of a nobleman, who intrigues both men. As Napoleon's army invades, Tolstoy vividly follows these characters as they struggle with the problems unique to their era, their history, and their culture. The British-American miniseries stars Paul Dano, Lily James, and James Norton and will air on A&E, Lifetime, and the History Channel as four two-hour episodes, eight hours total, beginning on January 18.


11 Books You Have to Read in January (Entertainment Weekly) has posted a list of eleven new eventhedeadbooks that they claim are the must-reads for this month, with "11 effusive recommendations..." The list contains popular fiction, memoirs, thrillers, mysteries, and novels with "beautiful literary prose. Included are several familiar, award-winning authors with new books, like Joyce Carol Oates, Benjamin Black (John Banville), and Elizabeth Strout, along with debut works by Sunil Yapa and Abby Geni, and the latest page-turners by Melanie Benjamin, Elizabeth McKenzie and Christobel Kent. A little something for everyone.


MInotablebooksOn Sunday, in the Detroit Free Press, The Library of Michigan revealed the list of the 2016 Michigan Notable Books - 20 books that highlight the diversity of Michigan's people, places, issues, and events. The books must have been published during the last year, and be about Michigan or the Great Lakes region, or authored by a Michigan writer. The books are chosen by a committee of librarians, reviewers, booksellers, and authors working with the Library of Michigan's Center for the Book, to showcase the best of our state's literary culture and to raise awareness of the quality of Michiagn authors. The list contains novels, short stories, history, poetry, memoirs, biographies, an art exhibition catalog, and even a cookbook. "These are books that help us understand what it means to be from Michigan." (Detroit Free Press)

One of the novels, The Turner House by Angela Flournoy, about the Turner family and turnerhousethe fate of their long-time home on Detroit's east side, was a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award. "In this wonderfully lively debut novel, Flournoy tells the story of a complicated family, stepping back in time to show the parents' early married days in the 1940s, their move north to Detroit from the rural South, and how their children each experienced a different version of the neighborhood, which comes to symbolize both the hopes and dashed dreams of Detroit's lower-middle-class blacks. Encompassing a multitude of themes, including aging and parenthood, this is a compelling read that is funny and moving in equal measure." (Booklist)


The Winds of Winter is not coming yet.

gameof thrones


This week it was announced that the sixth installment of the fantasy saga, A Song of Ice and Fire, titled The Winds of Winter, while long promised by author George R.R. Martin, is not ready, and will not be released before the new season of HBO’s adaptation, Game of Thrones, begins airing again in mid-April. On his blog, Martin posted these words, "THE WINDS OF WINTER is not finished.” Martin decided to make a public announcement about the missed deadline because of the intense pressure from multitudes of fans who are worried that the HBO show will "spoil" the novels by revealing information about the various plots. He added: “The show moved faster than I anticipated and I moved more slowly." Will it really matter? The series has diverged from the books on several points and film adaptations of books are seldom absolutely faithful to the source material. Now readers and non-readers will be equally informed (or not) about the fate of Westeros.


The Shannara Chronicles

elfstonesOn January 5, MTV is launching its own big-budget, 10-episode fantasy/sci-fi series based on the multi-volume saga by Terry Brooks and set on a futuristic Earth long afer the collapse of civilization due to chemical and nuclear wars. Technology is primitive and magic has re-emerged as power. The world is divided into the Four Lands, each the primary home of different peoples: elves, trolls, dwarves, and humans. After living in relative peace for hundreds of years, new threats to the existence of the planet have emerged and the heirs of Shannara must combat the evil and save the world. The first in the series, The Sword of Shannara, introduces Shea Ohmsford, the last of the Shannara bloodline. The plot of the TV series is taken from the second book, Elfstones of Shannara, which continues the story with Wil Ohmsford, Shea's grandson, who, with the Elven Princess Amberle, must battle  a demon army. According to Brooks, using the material from the second book makes for better TV drama, "I felt that Sword was too male-dominated," ... Elfstones has "a love (triangle), a great ending and just a better story all around." Comparisons have been made to Star Wars, Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings and advance reviews have been positive.


January 2 is National Science Fiction Day

planetfallWhy January 2nd?  It's the birthday of Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), the preeminent and prolific science fiction author and master of "hard science fiction." Best known for his Foundation and Robot (I, Robot) series, Asimov published over 500 books over his long career and won every science fiction award possible. Asimov's work influenced generations of science fiction writers and was instrumental in elevating the genre from the fringe of pulp magazines to the literary mainstream. Case in point: This week, The New York Times Sunday Book Review has initiated a new book review system for science fiction and fantasy called Otherworldly. This will be a bi-monthly column by sci-fi writer N.K. Jemisin that will introduce general readers to the latest in science fiction books and authors. The first column appeared online on December 28th and reviewed four books, one recently released and three due in January. Mainstream, indeed.


Downton Abbey - The Final Season

mannersThe sixth and final season of the PBS Masterpiece series begins in the U.S. on Sunday, January 3. It will be the end of an era in many senses of the phrase. Downton Abbey is the most-watched drama in the PBS network’s history, averaging nearly 13 million weekly viewers in its most recent season. The end of the saga of the aristocratic Crawleys and their loyal servants will be bittersweet not only for the characters, the cast, and the network, but also for all those ardent viewers who fell in love with the by-gone early 20th-century English manor lifestyle depicted each week. (The dresses, the hats!  The Dowager Countess, Carson!)

Although Downton Abbey is drawing to a close, readers can still indulge their taste for English stately homes with these titles:

Meadowlands by Elizabeth Jeffreymeadwolands
August, 1914. The silver wedding celebrations of Sir George Barsham, MP, and his wife, Lady Adelaide, are overshadowed by the declaration of war with Germany. Over the following months, as the male estate workers head for the Front and the maids disappear to work in the newly-opened munitions factory, the Barsham family's comfortable, aristocratic lifestyle is set to change forever. Young James Barsham enlists as an officer and heads for Flanders, leaving Lady Adelaide's maid Polly devastated. To Lady Adelaide's dismay, her younger daughter Millie learns to drive an ambulance, while Millie's sister Gina finds fulfilment in helping the local wives and children of departed soldiers. The four Barsham siblings will be tested as never before.


fiercombeFiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan
A house as old as Fiercombe Manor holds many secrets within its walls. This dual-narrative historical novel is about two women who lived at the same country estate but at different times: pregnant Alice in 1933 and pregnant Lady Elizabeth in 1903. Alice is unmarried and disgraced, living at the secluded manor under the care of the housekeeper until the baby is born and given up for adoption. Lady Elizabeth awaited the birth of her second child, fervently hoping he would be the boy her husband desired. But as her time neared, she was increasingly tormented by memories of what happened with her first baby and terrified that history would repeat itself. All was not, and is not, well in the picturesque Gloucestershire valley - Fiercombe's beauty is haunted by the family's tragic past.


Enter Pale Death by Barbara Cleverlyenterpaledeath
One morning before dawn at her regal country estate, Lady Lavinia Truelove is crushed to death by a horse. Classified as 'death by misadventure', this appears a gruesome accident, but Scotland Yard Detective Joe Sandilands suspects foul play. His suspicions are aggravated by his personal grievances toward Sir James Truelove, Lady Lavinia's widower and the influential academic patron of Dorcas Joliffe, whom Joe one day hopes to marry. As Joe's investigation yields surprising secrets about one of England's most powerful families, he discovers secrets about Dorcas. "Sandilands finds a complex web of upstairs-downstairs relationships harboring high-stakes secrets, with an unexpected connection to Dorcas, and the whodunit evolves into an expertly crafted locked-room mystery. Sandilands' many fans, and readers who love Downton Abbey... will revel in this elegant, intricately woven mystery set in the early twentieth century." (Booklist)

cavendonwomenThe Cavendon Women by Barbara Taylor Bradford
The stunning sequel to Barbara Taylor Bradford's Cavendon Hall follows the Inghams' and the Swanns' journey from a family weekend in the summer of 1926 through to the devastation of the Wall Street crash of 1929. It all begins on a summer weekend when, for the first time in years, the earl has planned a family gathering. Charles Ingram has married Charlotte Swann, and has left the management of the estate to his four daughters, Daphne, Diedre, DeLacy, and Dulcie, as well as his son, Miles, while on his honeymoon. As the family members come together, secrets, problems, joys, and sorrows are revealed. As old enemies come out of the shadows and the Swanns' loyalty to the Inghams gets tested in ways none of them could have predicted, it's up to the Cavendon women to band together and bring their family into a new decade, and a new way of life.


The Lake House by Kate Morton
lakehouseLiving on her family's idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure. One midsummer's eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined. Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo's case has never been solved. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective, is staying at her grandfather's house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate--now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone.



Now (or soon) playing:

revenantThe Revenant: A novel of revenge by Michael Punke
A gritty, true survival story set in 1823, about the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company and their brutal frontier life. Trapping beaver, they contend daily with the threat of Indian tribes turned warlike and other prairie foes, like the unforgiving landscape and its creatures. Mountain man Hugh Glass is among the Company's finest men, an experienced frontiersman and an expert tracker. But when a scouting mission puts him face to face with a grizzly bear, he is viciously mauled and not expected to survive. The Company's captain dispatches two of his men to stay behind and tend to Glass before he dies, but when the two men abandon him instead, Glass is driven to survive by one desire: revenge.

By all accounts the making of the movie adaptation was as grueling as Glass' journey - the filming on location in remote parts of Canada and Argentina for the sake of authenticity was described as a "living hell" by one source. The director, Alejandro G. Iñárritu, is known for his painstaking perfectionism. He set out to recreate the frontier experience as realistically as possible, without using sets or green screens, in order to match the spare, flinty style of the novel. When the story called for Glass to attempt to eat raw bison liver, Leonardo DiCaprio (starring as Glass) was presented with the real thing. The resulting scene was pure cinema verite.


10 Short Books You Can Read Before The End Of The Year

grownupToo tired, busy, or intimidated by the latest spate of long novels Guest Cat 158 237 c1 smart scalepublished
in the last year or two? (Think City on Fire, 903 pages; The Goldfinch, 771 pages; A Little Life, 720 pages.) Maddie Crum, Books and Culture Writer for the Huffington Post, wants to remind us that good things still come in small packages. Hence her list of recent books that you can read in-between your holiday parties and festive commitments. Comprised of short stories, slim novels, fairy tales, fables, and essays, all the titles are around, or under, 200 pages. Just long enough for a literary break from the hectic holiday season.


The Best Book Covers of 2015

voicesinthenightThe December 11 issue of the New York Times Book Review
makingnicecontained this list compiled by Matt Dorfman, the Book Review's Art Director. In his article, Dorfman emphasizes the influence a well-designed book cover can have on a reader, "the covers that lure me into the pages often do so by posing questions that I don’t want to ignore." So here are some of the book covers from 2015 that made him "stop, stare and ask aloud to no one in particular what the cover means, only to turn to the first page and then the following and then the one after that and onward." Take a look and see if you agree.


The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson

wreathNovelist Melody Carlson is no stranger to Christmas stories - besides her year-round popular fiction for adults and teens, she is the author of several inspiring yet entertaining Christmas books, including the bestselling The Christmas Dog, The Christmas Pony, and The Christmas Cat.



christmasjoyrideIn The Christmas Joy Ride, (pun intended)  Carlson brings together eighty-five year-old Joy (also known as Christmas Joy on her blog) and her younger neighbor Miranda for a holiday road trip. When Joy tells Miranda that she plans to drive an old RV decked out in Christmas decorations from their Chicago neighborhood to her new retirement digs in Phoenix--in the dead of winter, no less--the much younger Miranda insists that Joy cannot make such a trip by herself. Besides, a crazy trip with Joy would be more interesting than another Christmas home alone. Jilted, unemployed, and facing foreclosure, Miranda feels she has nothing to lose by packing a bag and heading off to Route 66. But Joy has a hidden agenda for their joyride in addition to spreading Christmas cheer along the way--and a hidden problem that could derail the whole venture. Join them as they get their kicks on Route 66!

A Christmas Escape by Anne Perry

wreathBest-selling mystery author Anne Perry has been releasing holiday mysteries since 2003 -
A Christmas Escape is her 13th. Known primarily for her two long-running detective series set in Victorian England (the William Monk/Hester Latterly mysteries and the Thomas Pitt/ Charlotte Pitt mysteries) Perry also wrote a 5-book series of novels set during World War I. Her stand-alone holiday books are also historicals, usually set in the Victorian or Edwardian eras, anywhere from 1837 to 1912, and often feature some of the secondary characters who appear in her other books.

christmasescapeIn A Christmas Escape, Charles Latterly, Hester Latterly's brother, seeks to recover from his wife's recent death by traveling to the Italian island of Stromboli, in the Tyrrhenian Sea, for some holiday relaxation. Unfortunately, there's no holiday cheer to be found among his fellow guests, who include a pompous novelist, a stuffy colonel, a dangerously ill-matched married couple, and an ailing old man. The one charming exception is orphaned teenager Candace Finbar, who takes Charles under her wing and introduces him to the island's beauty. But the tranquility of the holiday is swiftly disrupted by a violent quarrel, an unpleasant gentleman's claims of being stalked, and the ominous stirrings of the local volcano. Then events take an even darker turn: a body is found, and Charles quickly realizes that the killer must be among the group of guests. "As enjoyable as a cup of rum-laced eggnog and a slice of gingerbread, ... A Christmas Escape is a delightful cozy with its charming characters that mirror 19th century manners and attitudes." (New York Journal of Books)


January 2016 LibraryReads List

The top ten books published this month that librarians across the country love

library reads logo websiteThis monthly list is created by librarians and library staff to help connect readers to new books and authors. An online community of librarians vote each month on their favorite new books and the results are tallied. "The list is a straightforward calculation: whichever ten books get the most nominations go onto the monthly list. The book with the most nominations becomes the #1 Pick. It’s as simple as that." The list is not meant to be a "best" list - just a list of collective favorites - books librarians loved and want to share.



# 1 for January 2016:

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

mynameislucyWritten by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout (for Olive Kitteridge, 2008) this new novel illuminates the unspoken but nonetheless loving relationship between a mother and daughter. Lucy Barton is in the hospital recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn't spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy's childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy's life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters, and if she can admit it, her bond with her mother. The central details of Lucy' traumatic childhood are slowly and indirectly revealed in the short chapters as the reader comes to understand the complexity of this mother-daughter connection. "In a compact novel brimming with insight and emotion, Strout relays with great tenderness and sadness the way family relationships can both make and break us." (Booklist)




The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge 
by Charlie Lovett

furtheradventuresThis charming sequel to Charles Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol, is set twenty years after Scrooge was famously converted to kindness by the Christmas Eve visitation of three ghosts. He now roams the streets of London all year, even in the stifling heat of July, sharing his Christmas spirit, much to the annoyance of his creditors, nephew, and his employee Bob Cratchit. When Scrooge decides to help his former partner Jacob Marley find peace in the afterlife, he find he needs the assistance of the very people he's annoyed. He also has to call on the same ghosts who visited him two decades earlier. By the time they're done, they've convinced everyone to celebrate Christmas all year long. Written in convincing Dickensian prose, Lovett's story is a loving and amusing tribute to that quintessential Victorian Christmas fable. "...this is an excellent companion to the original Christmas classic." (Library Journal)


Now (or soon) playing:

childhoodsendChildhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
This very popular and influential classic by one of greats of science fiction, the late Arthur C. Clarke, was first published in 1953. The story follows the peaceful alien invasion of Earth by the mysterious Overlords. Without warning, the giant silver ships from deep space had appeared in the skies above every major city on Earth. In fifty years they had eliminated ignorance, disease, and poverty, but also humankind's culture and identity. The next step: the evolution of human children into components of the Overmind, a powerful being of thought and energy that absorbs and assimilates races once they have matured enough. The Syfy Channel's three-part adaptation will begin on Monday, December 14.


leviathanwakesThe Expanse/ Leviathan Wakes by James S. A. Corey
Leviathan Wakes is the first book of the Expanse series by writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck who collaberate under the name James S. A. Corey. The series imagines a future where humans have colonized the solar system with Mars and the Astroid Belt as semi-independent territories. But interplantery tensions are building. When a reluctant ship's captain and washed-up detective find themselves involved in the case of a missing girl, what they discover brings the solar system to the brink of civil war, and exposes the greatest conspiracy in human history. The ten episode TV series is also scheduled to air on Syfy on Monday, December 14.


Dashing Through the Snow by Debbie Macomber

wreathOn Sunday, December 13, the Hallmark Channel will broadcast the TV adaptation of Debbie Macomber's Christmas novel, Dashing Through the Snow, starring Meghan Ory and Andrew Walker. Macomber, a perennial best-seller and well-known for her 100-plus heartwarming romances and family stories, has written Christmas-themed books most years since 1986.



dashingthroughthesnowDashing Through The Snow is a story of two people in a hurry.  Ashley Davison is a graduate student in California, who desperately wants to spend the holidays with her family in Seattle. At the airport, she meets Dashiell Sutherland, a former army intelligence officer, who has a job interview in Seattle and must arrive by December 23. Though frantic to book a last-minute flight out of San Francisco, both are out of luck: every flight is full, and there's only one rental car available. Ashley and Dash reluctantly decide to share the car, but neither anticipates the wild ride ahead. As the pair heads north, their adventures include car trouble, adopting a puppy and being secretly tailed by federal agents, who believe Ashley is up to no good. Not to mention the hint of romance in the air. "Featuring an over-the-top plot line and a few characters who will have you laughing out loud, including a mechanic with a space alien wife and an overzealous FBI agent, this Christmas romance from best-selling author Macomber (Mr. Miracle) is both sweet and sincere." (Library Journal)


Newsweek's The Year in Reading: The Best (and Worst) Books of 2015

On December 3, Culture writer Alexander Nazaryan of Newsweek Magazine posted his list youtoocanof the noteworthy books published in 2015.  What distinguishes his list from all the other year-end "Best Of" lists is his willingness to challenge prevailing literary judgments. Not only does he pick a "Best Novel" and "Most Impressive Work of History", he also names the  "Most Overated Novel, Any Length," "Worst Cover," and "Worst Harper Lee Character to Have Named Your Boy-Child After." He declares Brooklyn to be the "Worst Place to Set Your Novel," and suggests Staten Island because the ferry is free. One category not often seen on any similar list is "Ballsiest Debut," won by the novel, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman, which Nazaryan describes as "strange in the most alluring of ways." BTW, the "Most Overrated Novel" kudos go to City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg.


Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster

forceawakensThe long wait is almost over - next week many of us will return to that galaxy far, far away as the Force awakens with a new action-packed movie adventure featuring Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2, and Luke Skywalker, and introducing a cast of exciting new characters. Darth Vader may have been redeemed and the Emperor vanquished, but peace can be fleeting, and evil does not easily relent.

To coincide with the release of the movie, Lucasfilm chose well-known scifi author Alan Dean Foster to write the official novelization, which continues the epic story several decades after the events of Return of the Jedi. The hardcover will be released on January 5, 2016. Foster is well versed in the Star Wars canon: he was the ghostwriter for the original novelization of Star Wars, although it was credited to George Lucas at the time. Foster, a prolific science fiction and fantasy author with several series and stand-alone novels to his credit, created the Pip and Flinx series, set in the Humanx Commonwealth, an interstellar political union of several species, including humans and insects. The young hero, Philip Lynx ("Flinx") and his constant companion, a flying snake/minidragon named Pip, use their special empathic powers to do battle with the forces that threaten their worlds.


LibraryReads banner2 favoritesLibraryReads Favorite of Favorites 2015

LibraryReads is marking its second year anniversary by creating the second Favorite of Favorites list, with library staff voting on their top ten favorite books from the October 2014 through September 2015 lists. The Favorite of Favorites list takes the place of the traditional December list and is the result of online voting by over one thousand librarians.

The #1 Favorite of Favorites for 2015 is The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins.
A dark psychological thriller with several unreliable narrators, the foremost being frequently drunk Rachel, whose entire life is a lie. Rachel is obsessed with her ex-husband and his new wife, whom she stalks while in an alcoholic fog. She is also obsessed with a young married couple she notices from her passing train each day. When the wife disappears, Rachel decides to go to the police with her "observations" of the couple's relationship.  Of course, no one takes her seriously. Booklist called it "a wicked thriller, cleverly done...melding the voyeurism of Rear Window with the unreliable narration of Gone Girl." The film starring Emily Blunt will be released in 2016.

The full list, in order of most votes received, is:

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Eric Larson

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

                                             A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson


wreathKaren Kingsbury's The Bridge        

A film adaptation of The Bridge by popular inspirational author Karen Kingsbury wil be broadcast on the Hallmark Channel on December 6. Kingsbury's heartwarming books are usually best-sellers, making her one of America’s favorite novelists. More than 25 million copies of her award-winning books are in print, including several million copies sold in the past year.

bridgeThe Bridge is a Christmas love story set against the demise of the American bookstore. Molly Allen lives in Portland, but she left her heart back in Tennessee with a man she walked away from five years ago. Ryan Kelly lives in Nashville after a broken engagement and several years on the road. He can still hear Molly's voice encouraging him to follow his dreams. At least he can visit The Bridge--the oldest bookstore in historic downtown Franklin--and remember the hours he and Molly once spent there. For thirty years, Charlie and Donna Barton have run The Bridge, providing the people of middle Tennessee with coffee, conversation, and shelves of good books. But last spring, the hundred-year flood swept through Franklin and destroyed nearly every book in the store. And as Christmas nears, Charlie, already broke and despairing, is involved in a devastating car accident that leaves him in a coma. To help his friend, Ryan decides to organize a book drive and gather donations to rebuild the store. And reaches out to Molly. "...those who know the Jimmy Stewart holiday film (It's a Wonderful Life) don't have to guess how things turn out. Kingsbury fans may acquire a new holiday favorite read..." (Publishers Weekly)


200th Anniversary of Jane Austen's Emma


Jane Austen's novel about Emma Woodhouse, ("handsome, clever, and rich") and her attempts at matchmaking among the genteel set in 19th-century England was published in December 1815. Despite the literary love lavished on Pride and Prejudice, many Austen scholars and critics agree that Emma is Austen's finest work. It too explores issues of marriage, social class, and correct manners, and focuses on Emma's fondness for meddling in other people's love lives, usually with consequences she doesn't intend. But it all ends well, of course.


Like all of Austen's books, the story has been updated, re-told, re-packaged, and adapted for various media presentations. (Remember Clueless?) Scottish novelist Alexander McCall Smith emma2(No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency) released his contemporary version of the tale earlier this year, as part of HarperCollins' series of Jane Austen reboots, transforming Emma into a newly graduated interior designer who returns to her hometown to find village affairs in disarray. Not for long - Emma proceeds to do what she does best: offer guidance to those less wise in the ways of the world and put her matchmaking skills to good use. "McCall Smith's charming prose and gentle humor marry marvelously with Austen's iconic affairs of the heart, so well that the book reads like a Regency piece....this retelling gives Austenphiles an enjoyable opportunity to visit with the Woodhouse clan and is sure to be a hit with McCall Smith's legion of fans." (Library Journal)


2015Its that time of year - the "Best Books" lists of 2015 are multiplying. Every media source, whether newspaper, magazine, TV show, blogger, celebrity, or pundit, seems to print, publish or post a "Best Books of 2015" list.  And we all love a list!

There's the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2015, Amazon Editors Top 100, Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction, Library Journal's Top Ten, Publishers Weekly Best of 2015, the Washington Post's Top Ten, Bookpage's Best Boooks of 2015, and the LibraryReads Favorite of Favorites - to name a few.

Its always interesting to compare the lists  - only a few books appear on all or most. To every reviewer, his or her own "Best" books.


Now (or soon) playing:

secretintheireyesThe Secret in Their Eyes by Eduardo A. Sacheri
Benjamín Chaparro is a retired detective still obsessed by the brutal, decades-old rape and murder of a young married woman in her own bedroom. While attempting to write a book about the case, he revisits the details of the investigation. As he reaches into the past, Chaparro also recalls the beginning of his long, unrequited love for Irene, then just an intern, now a respected judge. Interweaving past and present, this mystery explores the murky boundaries between justice and revenge, and asks the question: how far would you go to right an unfathomable wrong? Sacheri's novel was previously adapted into the 2009 Argentine film The Secret in Their Eyes, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. The American version stars Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.


danishgirlThe Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
Inspired by the real-life circumstances of Danish painter Einar Wegener, the first man to become a woman via surgery, and his California-born wife, Greta, and set against the glitz and decadence of 1920s Copenhagen, Dresden, and Paris, this novel  explores the struggles of both spouses to understand and cope with Einar's transformation into the woman they call Lili. Ebershoff eloquently portrays the intimacy that defines a marriage, and the love between a man who discovers that he is, in fact, a woman, and the woman who would sacrifice anything for him. For the controversy and condemnation that follow them as Einar evolves into Lili also forces Greta to re-create herself as a brave and resilient individual able to face the consequences of their unconventional love. The movie stars Eddie Redmayne and opens in limited release on November 27.


A little mystery with that turkey?

thanksgivingangelsThanksgiving Angels by Alice Duncan
It's 1926, and former Bostonian high-society girl, Mercy Allcut, who relocated to Los Angeles specifically to escape her overbearing mother and father, is dismayed that she has to spend Thanksgiving week with them at the new winter home they purchased in Pasadena. Her parents consistently disapprove of everything about her, especially her job working for Private Investigator Ernie Templeton. Her holiday becomes even more miserable when a woman is flung to her death from the second-story staircase railing and Mercy and her boss are called upon to solve the crime. Suspects abound and include everyone from the murdered woman's male secretary to a high-strung star of the silver screen, and even Mercy's brother-in-law. "The latest sprightly addition to Duncan's Mercy Allcutt series (Fallen Angels, 2011; Angels of Mercy, 2012) is a delightful concoction composed of equal measures of charmingly quirky characters, fascinating 1920s period details, and just the right dash of dry wit." (Booklist)



Washington Post's 10 Best Books of 2015

The Washington Post's Book World reviewers have weighed in with their top ten books of 2015, titles they found "exceptionally rewarding," and another 100 of various genres "you shouldn't miss." The top ten list contains both fiction and non-fiction with several books that have produced critical and media buzz.

Novels in the Top Ten:

purityThe Book of Aron by Jim Shepard (finalist for the 2016 Andrew welcometobraggCarnegie Award; finalist for the 2015 Kirkus Prize)

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (shortlisted for the National Book Award; 2015 Kirkus Prize finalist)

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Winner of the 2015 Kirkus Prize; finalist for the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Award; shortlisted for the 2015 National Book Award; shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Award))

Purity by Jonathan Franzen (Amazon Best Books of 2015, Top Twenty; Kirkus Best Books 2015)

Welcome to Braggsville By T. Geronimo Johnson (longlisted for the 2015 National Book Award)






Fortune Smiles: Stories by Adam Johnson

fortunesmilesOn Wednesday evening, November 18, the National Book Foundation announced the winners of the 2015 National Book Awards. The unexpected winner of the fiction award was Adam Johnson for Fortune Smiles, a collections of short stories. Although another short story collection won the prize last year (Redeployment by Phil Klay) the prize is most often given for a novel. Johnson is no stranger to awards, having won a Pulitzer in 2013 for The Orphan Master’s Son. Fortune Smiles is a set of six stories that delve deep into love and loss, natural disasters, the influence of technology, and how the political shapes the personal. Critics have been effusive in their praise, declaring that Johnson is one of America's best living authors. Lauren Groff, also a finalist  for the ficiton prize for her book, Fates and Furies, reviewed Fortune Smiles for The New York Times and found much to admire, "Adam Johnson’s stories certainly deserve this kind of slow and loving attention. As a writer, he is always perceptive and brave; his lines always sing and strut and sizzle and hush and wash and blaze over the reader. “Fortune Smiles” is a collection worthy of being read slowly and, like very good and very bitter chocolate, savored."


Now (or soon) playing:

maninthehighcastleThe Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
The first season of the Amazon Studios dystopian alternate history series, based on science fiction legend Dick's book, begins on Noveber 20. The story is set in 1962 in the United States after the Axis powers (Germany and Japan) won World War II. The country has been partitioned into three parts: The Japanese puppet state which comprises the former United States west of the Rocky Mountains; a Nazi puppet state that comprises the eastern half of the former United States; and a neutral zone that acts as a buffer between the two areas. The novel explores American life under totalitarian rule and the stresses and intrigues between the victorious Axis governments. The Man in the High Castle won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963.


carol Carol/The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith
A chance encounter between two lonely women leads to a passionate romance in this  classic by Highsmith, renowned author of the psychological thrillers, Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Therese, a struggling young sales clerk, and Carol, a homemaker in the midst of a bitter divorce, abandon their oppressive daily routines for the freedom of the open road, where their love can blossom. But their newly discovered bliss is shattered when Carol is forced to choose between her child and her lover. Originally published in 1952 under a pseudonym, The Price of Salt was heralded as "the novel of a love society forbids." The film stars Cate Blanchett as Carol and Rooney Mara as Therese and has become a critical favorite and serious Oscar contender.


plumpuddingMurder She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery/Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke
This holiday season, baker Hannah Swensen is making plum pudding and trying to solve the murder of a man in his own office. It turns out the list of suspects who would have wanted to see the guy dead is a long one, from a bitter ex-wife to exasperated investors. But Hannah is on the case, in time to nab a murderous Scrooge who doesn't want her to see the New Year. This entry in Fluke's cozy mystery series contains recipes for a complete Christmas dinner. The TV adaptation will air on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel on November 22.



frankenstein2Victor Frankenstein/Frankenstein or, The modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
Mary Shelley's Gothic horror story of a monster assembled by a scientist from parts of dead bodies who develops a mind of his own as he learns to loathe himself and hate his creator, is given a new twist in this latest movie adaptation, set to open on November 25. Told from Igor's perspective, the story relates the troubled young assistant's dark origins, his redemptive friendship with the young medical student Viktor Von Frankenstein, and the experiments that get them into trouble with the authorities as they attempt to create life from death. The film stars James McAvoy as Dr. Frankenstein and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) as Igor.



2015 Goldsmiths Prize: Beatlebone by Kevin Barry

beatleboneBritain's Goldsmiths Prize was established in 2013 "to celebrate the qualities of creative daring... and to reward fiction that breaks the mold or opens up new possibilities for the novel form. The annual prize of £10,000 (about $15,000) is thus awarded to a book that is deemed genuinely novel and which embodies the spirit of invention that characterizes the genre at its best."

Irish writer Kevin Barry won the prize for his second novel, Beatlebone, which invents a trip taken by Beatle John Lennon to vist a small island off the west coast of Ireland. It is 1978, and John Lennon has escaped New York City to try to find the island  he bought nine years prior. Leaving behind domesticity, his approaching forties, his inability to create, and his memories of his parents, he sets off to find calm in the comfortable silence of isolation. But when he puts himself in the hands of a shape-shifting driver full of Irish charm and dark whimsy, what ensues can only be termed a magical mystery tour. "With echoes of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and The White Album, Barry has created an unusual novel, remarkable in structure as well as tone, that channels the contradictory nature of Lennon himself." (Booklist)

"Intricately weaving and blurring fiction and life, Beatlebone embodies beautifully this prize’s spirit of creative risk. We’re proud to crown it our winner.’" (Josh Cohen, Chair of Judges).

Barry won the International Dublin Literary Award for his novel City of Bohane in 2013.

2015 World Fantasy Awards: Best Novel

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

boneclocksThe 2015 World Fantasy Convention was held in Saratoga Springs, NY on Nov 5-8 where the World Fantasy Awards were announced. The World Fantasy Convention is an annual gathering of professionals, collectors, and others interested in the field of Light and Dark Fantasy art and literature.To be eligible for the awards, material must have been published in 2014 by a living author. Mitchell, perhaps best known for his earlier novel, Cloud Atlas, writes books that often blend several genres while spinning interconnected tales that come together with strong plotting and masterful prose. "With its wayward thoughts, chance meetings, and attention to detail, Mitchell's  novel is a thing of beauty." (Publishers Weekly)


2015 Anthony Awards: Best Novel

After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman

afterimgoneThe Anthony Awards for mystery fiction written in 2014 were announced on October 10 at the annual World Mystery Convention (Bouchercon) held in Raleigh, North Carolina. Bouchercon is an annual crime fiction event, bringing together authors, fans, publishers, reviewers, booksellers, and editors. The convention and the awards are named after Anthony Boucher, writer, editor, and critic of science fiction and mystery who helped found the Mystery Writers of America in 1946. Lippman, the author of many well-regarded mystery novels, creates an intriguing story that explores how one man's disappearance echoes through the lives of the five women he left behind--his wife, his daughters, and his mistress. In 1976, Bambi's comfortable world implodes when her husband Felix, facing prison, vanishes. Though Bambi has no idea where her husband--or his money--might be, she suspects someone does: his devoted mistress, Julie. When Julie disappears ten years to the day after Felix went on the lam, everyone assumes she's left to join her lover, until her remains are discovered in a secluded park. Felix left five women behind. Now there are four...



Library Journal's Best Books 2015: Top Ten

Not to be outdone, LJ has released their lists of Best Books of the year, divided into a "Top Ten" and then "More of the Best," and then lists in various genres. As editor Henrietta Verman writes,"We agonized, we discussed, we pondered, and most of all we read, read, read. The results are below: lists of what the LJ Reviews team can honestly say are the best titles published in 2015. They include a Top Ten list of the most outstanding titles of the year, both fiction and nonfiction; followed by “More of the Best,”—the titles that we just couldn’t let go of although they didn’t make it to the top ten; and the best of a variety of genres, from poetry to arts and crafts."

Novels in the Top Ten:

didyoueverDid You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg (long-listed for the bestboyNational Book Award)

Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb (LibraryReads pick for August 2015)

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (shortlisted for the National Book Award; 2015 Kirkus Prize Finalist))

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen (a finalist for the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence)



Publishers Weekly - Best Books of 2015

fatbobPW's editors recently released their list of "Best" books of 2015, conveniently divided into genres such as fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, poetry, non-fiction etc. On the mystery/thriller slate is a book with one of the best titles (and cover art) of the year, Is Fat Bob Dead Yet? by Stephen Dobyns, an intricate crime novel set in New London, Connecticut. A newcomer to the city, Connor Raposo has just witnessed a gruesome motorcycle accident on Bank Street. At least he thinks it was an accident. But then he sees a familiar man--who else would wear an Elvis pompadour in this day and age?--lurking around the crime scene. Where does Connor know him from? And why does everyone he knows keep showing up dead? Author Dobyns' dark humor animates this comic suspense novel about a small-time con operation, a pair of combative detectives, a homeless man named Fidget, and a federally protected witness.  "The latest offering from veteran novelist and poet Dobyns (The Burn Palace) delights with quirky characters, absurd situations, language play, and keen insights. Recommended for those who enjoy dark humor and complicated plots in their mysteries." (Library Journal)





wayofthewarriorWednesday, November 11 is Veterans Day, designated by the Federal government as a holiday to honor the people who served in the U.S. Military Forces "for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good." To better understand and honor these sacrifices and struggles of our service members, consider a book in a genre not always associated with war stories and battle reporting: Way of the Warrior: a romance anthology to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. This set of short stories is written by several prominent romance authors, including Suzanne Brockman, Julie Ann Walker, and Catherine Mann, all writers who have penned books in the romance sub-genre known as "military/romantic suspense." All of the stories center on our modern-day heroes - the men and women who keep our country safe - and explore a view of their lives (and loves). "A heartfelt tribute to our military personnel and the sacrifices they and their families make. This anthology is a hands-down winner and would be welcome in all popular romance collections. All proceeds will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project." (Library Journal)

The Wounded Warrior Project was founded in 2002 and provides a wide range of programs and services to veterans and service members who have survived physical or mental injury during their brave service to our nation.  The Project's Mission: "To foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation's history."



Jewish Book Month (November 6-December 6) began in 1925 in a library in Boston
where a librarian set up a jewishcouncildisplay of Jewish-themed books. Other communities across the county adopted the custom in what was known as Jewish Book Week. In 1943, the celebration was extended to a month-long observance each year in the month before Hanukkah as a way of promoting Jewish books nationwide. Jewish Book Month is a program sponsored by the Jewish Book Council which serves as the coordinating body of Jewish literary activity in North America in both general and Jewish venues.

Recent Jewish Fiction:

dayofatonementThe Day of Atonement by David Liss
Returning to mid-eighteenth-century Lisbon to avenge the death of his father, who had been forced to convert to Christianity, Sebastian Foxx, the protege of bounty hunter Benjamin Weaver, stealthily collects funds and identifies friends and allies among Inquisition spies. Set in Lisbon during the time of the earthquake of 1775.



The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis                               
One momentous day in the life of Baruch Kotler, a Soviet Jewish dissident who now finds himself a disgraced Israeli politician. When he refuses to back down from a contrary but principled stand regarding the settlements in the West Bank, his political opponents expose his affair with a mistress decades his junior, and the besieged couple escapes to Yalta, the faded Crimean resort of Kotler's youth. The 2014 National Jewish Book Award winner for fiction.


secretchordThe Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks
A retelling of the story of King David, the slayer of the giant Goliath, through the eyes of those around him, including his wives, prophets and son, Solomon. The novel traces the arc of King David's journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage. By the author of People of the Book.



The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro
When Alizée Benoit, a young American painter working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), vanishes in New York City in 1940, no one knows what happened to her. Not her Jewish family living in German-occupied France. Not her arts patron and political compatriot, Eleanor Roosevelt. Not her close-knit group of friends and fellow WPA painters. The story alternates between the 1930's, the 1940's, and the present as Alizée's great-niece tries to find out what happened to her aunt. (A November LibraryReads pick.)



The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

Local author and Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom has written a new book,
The Magic The Magic Strings of Frankie PrestoStrings of  Frankie Presto, that will be released next week on November 10. In his first novel since The First Phone Call fom Heaven in 2013, Albom recounts the life of fictional guitarist Franke Presto, "the greatest guitar player to ever walk the earth." As most readers know, Albom loves music and is a talented amateur musician, so it seems appropriate that the novel's narrator is Music itself. Music tells Frankie's story from his orphaned childhood and the discovery of his musical talent to his death while performing at a concert. His earliest possession, given to him by his first teacher, is an old guitar and six magical strings. Frankie's musical genius soon mesmerizes both his audience and other artists, and he becomes a rock star, yet his gift becomes his burden, as he realizes that he can actually affect people's futures: his guitar strings turn blue whenever a life is altered. Overwhelmed by life, loss, and this power, he disappears for years, only to reemerge in a spectacular and mysterious farewell. "...Albom can elicit tears when he writes about loss, and he has fun with you-are-there butterfly-effect anecdotes, as when Frankie tells Hank Williams not to buy a baby blue Cadillac, the car in which he would ride to his death." (Kirkus)


Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

brooklynScheduled for release this week, the film adaptation of Colm Toibin's 2009 novel, Brooklyn, has a screenplay by author Nick Hornsby (About a Boy) and stars Saorise Ronan, of Atonement and Grand Budapest Hotel fame. The movie was a hit at the  Sundance Film Festival when it premiered there earlier this year, receiving a standing ovation from the audience. The book tells the story of a young Irish woman living in 1950's Brooklyn who is torn between her new American life, and love, and the family she left behind. Eilis Lacey came of age in small-town Ireland in the years following World War Two. Though skilled at bookkeeping, she could not find a proper job in the miserable Irish economy and so emigrated to America, leaving her fragile mother and sister. Despite her homesickness, Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, studies accounting at Brooklyn College, and meets Tony, a blond Italian, who slowly wins her over with his persistent charm. As she gradually adjusts to the opportunities and freedoms of the big city, devastating news arrives from Ireland and threatens the promise of her new life. "Toibin conveys Eilis's transformative struggles with an aching lyricism..." (Library Journal)


Celebrate Native American Heritage Month


Since 1990, each President has designated November as the month to honor "the significant contributions the first Americans made to the establishment and growth of the U.S." According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the effort to gain recognition of the value of Native American culture started in the 1900's with various states and organizations declaring certain days as American Indian Days. This month not only honors the diverse traditions, cultures, and histories of Native Americans, but also serves to educate the general public about the challenges Native peoples faced in the past and continue to face in the present.

dyinggrassAuthor William T. Vollman has written a series of novels, called the Seven Dreams, that explores the military and cultural collisions between Native Americans and Europeans in American history. In his latest, The Dying Grass, (fifth in the series)  he tells the story of the Nez Perce War, with flashbacks to the Civil War. Defrauded and intimidated at every turn, the Nez Perces finally went on the warpath in 1877, subjecting the U.S. Army to its greatest defeat since Little Big Horn as they fled from northeast Oregon across Montana to the Canadian border. Although acknowledging that Vollman is an idiosyncratic writer, the reviewer for The Washington Post declared the novel was, "the reading experience of a lifetime." "Vollmann has written a masterpiece that delivers us to the far shore of our past, a past that is still at war with the ghosts of its decisions. “The Dying Grass” is brilliant and alive."


Short Story Collections

Fans of short fiction have reason to be pleased this month: there have been several impressive short story collections by celebrated authors published during the last few weeks.



Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Michigander, and Notable Author, Campbell (Once Upon  a River) offers her third short story collection about strong, stubborn women from rural, working-class backgrounds who are at once scrappy, vulnerable, wise, cruel, and funny. Each story rings with Campbell's signature empathy and dark humor as her protagonists get themselves in and out of trouble. "...Campbell delivers 16 commanding, piquant, and reverberating stories about womanhood besieged and triumphant." (Booklist)


Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCannthirteenways
Irish-born novelist McCann (Let the Great World Spin) charts the role of chance and the profound consequences of even our smallest moments in his first short-fiction collection in more than a decade. The book, comprised of one novella and three stories, explores the characters' lives from various perspectives, as if viewed from a series of security cameras or reflected through our now-pervasive tracking technologies. "...these four works prove McCann a master with a poet's ear, a psychologist's understanding, and a humanitarian's conscience." (Publishers Weekly)


earlystoriesThe Early Stories of Truman Capote by Truman Capote
Recently rediscovered in the archives of the New York Public Library, these short stories were written by Truman Capote in his teens and early twenties, before he penned such classics as Breakfast at Tiffany's, and In Cold Blood. This collection of 17 pieces showcases the young Capote developing the unique voice and sensibility that would make him one of the twentieth century's most original writers. Spare yet heartfelt, these stories about life's outsiders are filled with compassion and feeling at every turn.


The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marratsaroflove
Marra, author of the highly-regarded novel, A Constellation of Vital Phemomena, once again sets his stories in the wartorn areas of Russia, Siberia, and Chechnya. His nine interconnected tales span several decades of Russian experience, from 1937 to the present, through wars, political strife, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, to probe the love, loyalty, and betrayal that accompany such times. "Marra, in between bursts of acidic humor, summons the terror, polluted landscapes, and diminished hopes of generations of Russians in a tragic and haunting collection." (Booklist)



boo    Looking for a frightfully good book?

Ready for Halloween? If not, here are a few reading suggestions to get you in the proper mood. The editors at Bookpage have compiled a list of "the 10 creepiest, most chilling, spine-tingling reads of 2015," and Maddie Crum, Books and Culture Writer at the Huffington Post, has assembled her list of "10 Scary Books That Will Seriously Keep You Up At Night." Lock all the doors and windows, turn all the lights on, and try not to lose too much sleep - Happy Halloween!

houseofechoesHouse of Echoes by Brendan Duffy
When a young couple and their children move to a remote town in upstate New York for peace, quiet, and a new start, they discover that the villagers are strange, the woods are threatening, and their inherited mansion is haunted. (Think The Shining or Twin Peaks.)  "This creepy page-turner will appeal to fans of Stephen King and anyone who loves a good ghost story." (Library Journal)


The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahonnightsister
The Tower Motel, long abandoned and crumbling, was the preferred playground for three young girlfriends, until the day they found something awful there that ended their friendship. Now adults, they reunite to confront their gruesome discovery and the secret that continues to haunt them. McMahon (The Winter People) "effectively creates an atmosphere of horror..." (Publishers Weekly)

diaryDiary by Chuck Palahniuk
The novel starts as a diary written by Misty while her husand lies in the hospital in a coma after a suicide attempt - he had been leaving vile messages in the houses he built and people were suing. An aspiring artist, Misty had given up her painting long ago, but now begins again as if possessed, and the town's inhabitants seem strangely keen for her to continue."What follows is a blend of paranoiac horror along the lines of Rosemary's Baby..." (Library Journal)




MInotablebooksThe Ann Arbor District Library, the Library of Michigan and the Library of Michigan Foundation are pleased to present a special event, Night Of Notable Authors, on Saturday, October 24, featuring 15 authors who were awarded the distinction of having their work selected as a Michigan Notable Book. Every year, the Library of Michigan honors up to twenty of these books, either written by a Michigan resident or about Michigan or the Great Lakes.

The Panel Discussion, at the Ann Arbor downtown Library, starts at 6pm and features four well-known Michigan authors: Loren D. Estleman, Mardi Jo Link, Anna Clark, and Jerry Dennis.

The Reception and Book Signing in the Lobby from 7:30-8:30 will allow guests to mingle with all 15 Notable Book Authors. Books will be available for purchase and refreshments will be served.


November 2015 LibraryReads List

The top ten books published this month that librarians across the country love

library reads logo websiteThis monthly list is created by librarians and library staff to help connect readers to new books and authors. An online community of librarians vote each month on their favorite new books and the results are tallied. "The list is a straightforward calculation: whichever ten books get the most nominations go onto the monthly list. The book with the most nominations becomes the #1 Pick. It’s as simple as that." The list is not meant to be a "best" list - just a list of collective favorites - books librarians loved and want to share.



# 1 for November 2015:

thejapaneseloverThe Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

An exquisitely crafted love story and multigenerational epic that sweeps from San Francisco in the present-day to Poland and the United States during the Second World War. In 1939, as Poland falls to the Nazis, young Alma Belasco's parents send her away to live in safety with an aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family's Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to blossom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei and his family are declared enemies and forcibly relocated to internment camps run by the United States government. Throughout their lifetimes, Alma and Ichimei reunite again and again, but theirs is a love that they are forever forced to hide from the world. Decades later, Alma is nearing the end of her long and eventful life. Irina Bazili, a care worker struggling to come to terms with her own troubled past, meets the elderly woman and her grandson, Seth, at San Francisco's charmingly eccentric Lark House nursing home. As Irina and Seth forge a friendship, they become intrigued by a series of mysterious gifts and letters sent to Alma, eventually learning about Ichimei and this extraordinary secret passion that has endured for nearly seventy years.


carnegie-fic-medal photo webToday, the American Library Association announced the 2016 shortlist for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in fiction and non-fiction. The awards, established in 2012, recognize the best in fiction and non-fiction for adult readers published in the U.S. during the last year. The Medals are funded through a grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and co-sponsored by ALA's Booklist magazine and the Reference and User Services division of ALA. Winning authors, who receive a $5,000 cash award, are picked by library professionals. The 2016 Carnegie Medal winners will be announced at the RUSA Book and Media Awards in Boston on Sunday, January 10.


Fiction Finalists:

sympathizerThe Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Nguyen tells the story of a South Vietnamese captain with divided loyalties, brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, who went to university in America, but then returns to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. "Ultimately a meditation on war, political movements, America's imperialist role, the CIA, torture, loyalty, and one's personal identity, this is a powerful, thought-provoking work." (Library Journal)



The Book of Aron by Jim Shepard
Aron, one of the children of the Warsaw Ghetto who smuggle bookofaronand trade things to keep their people alive, is rescued by a Jewish-Polish doctor who instills in him the importance of revealing to the world the atrocities they have all suffered. The author "explores, with awe, our instinct to adapt and survive; and through the evolving consciousness of his phenomenally commanding young narrator, exposes the catastrophic impact of war and genocide on children." (Booklist)


littlelifeA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that follows four male classmates from a  small Massachusetts college who move to New York to make their lives. The troubled Jude, fighting an abusive past, is their center of gravity throughout the years. Winner of the 2015 Kirkus Prize For Fiction and shortlisted for just about every other literary prize this award season, "this heartbreaking story certainly won't be easily forgotten." (Library Journal)



Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala

beastsofnonationBeasts of No Nation is based on the harrowing novel by Uzodinma Iweala about a child soldier, Agu, recruited into a unit of guerilla fighters during a civil war in an unnamed African country. Haunted by his father's own death at the hands of the militants, Agu is vulnerable to the dangerous yet paternal nature of his new commander and becomes increasingly divorced from the life he had known before the conflict started. Netflix bought the rights to the novel, and released the film simultaneously online (Netflix on-demand streaming) and in a limited way in some theaters yesterday (October 16). Several larger theater chains are boycotting this release, since it violates the usual 90-day window of exclusivity for movies in theaters. This marks Netflix's first foray into feature filmmaking and distribution, and upends the traditional business model for movies releases. Netflix is gambling that the public will recognize that this is not just another made-for-TV movie, but a full-scale theatrical feature film made available on different platforms to accommodate the many ways viewers now experience entertainment.


kirkus-prize-2015-170x1702015 Kirkus Prize for Fiction

On October 15, the editors of Kirkus Reviews, the book reviewing journal, announced the winners of the Kirkus Prizes for literature published and reviewed between November 1, 2014, and October 31, 2015. This is the second year for these prizes which were established to honor "the 81 years of discerning, thoughtful criticism Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large." Author Hanya Yanagihara is the winner of the Fiction Prize of $50,000 for her novel, A Little Life. The book is also shortlisted for the National Book Award, the winner of which will be announced on Nov. 18, and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize (which it did not win).

littlelifeA Little Life follows four male classmates from a small Massachusetts college who move to New York to make their way, buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, is Jude himself -  by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator, yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood that he fears will define his life forever. "By the time the characters reach their 50s and the story arrives at its moving conclusion, readers will be attached and find them very hard to forget." (Publishers Weekly)



Fiction Shortlist Announced









As promised, this morning, The National Book Foundation released the shortlist of five finalists for this year's National Book Award for Fiction (winnowed from the longlist of ten). The winner will be announced on November 18.

Fiction Finalists:

Karen E. Bender, Refund

Angela Flournoy, The Turner House

Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies

Adam Johnson, Fortune Smiles

Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life


manbookerMarlon James wins for A Brief History of Seven Killings

 Jamaican author, Marlon James, has won the Man Booker Fiction Prize for his 600-plus page book about the attempted assassination of reggae singer Bob Marley in the 1970's. On December 3, 1976, just before the Jamaican general election, seven gunmen stormed the singer's house, machine guns blazing. The attack wounded Marley, his wife, and his manager, and injured several others. James uses this attack to explore the explosive world of Jamaican gangs and politics and deftly chronicles the lives of a host of unforgettable briefhistoryofsevencharacters - gunmen, drug dealers, one-night stands, CIA agents, even ghosts - over the course of thirty years as they roam the streets of 1970s Kingston, dominate the crack houses of 1980s New York, and ultimately reemerge into the radically altered Jamaica of the 1990s.

Michael Wood, chair of the Man Booker judges's committee, described A Brief History of Seven Killings as the "most exciting" book on the shortlist for this year's prize since it  is "full of surprises" as well as being "very violent" and "full of swearing". James is the first Jamaican author to win this prize, worth about $76,000.


gapoftimeThe Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

As reported by The New York Times, the publishing company Hogarth has launched a several-book project which enlists contemporary writers to reimagine and update William Shakespeare's plays as novels. One of the first writers to be approached was Jeanette Winterson, author of several novels, and the memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, who chose to reinterpret The Winter's Tale, one of Shakespeare's lesser-known plays. Winterson centers this story of love and jealousy around a London banker who believes his wife is cheating on him with his best friend and destroys both his marriage and his friendship with his suspicions. Eight other all-star writers have also joined the project: Tracy Chevalier will adapt Othello; Margaret Atwood will rewrite The Tempest; Gillian Flynn is working on Hamlet; Anne Tyler will re-cast The Taming of the Shrew; Jo Nesbo will recycle Macbeth; Howard Jacobson will take on The Merchant of Venice; and Edward St. Aubyn will re-boot King Lear. The project is timed to loosely coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death in 2016. "He was not of an age, but for all time!" - Ben Jonson.


World Zombie Day 2015

zombieWorld Zombie Day is an international annual event that grew from Pittsburgh’s first Zombie Walk at Monroeville Mall in 2006 – the site where George Romero filmed Dawn of the Dead - and continues 10 years later to encourage all fans of zombie culture to come together in an international effort to relieve hunger and homelessness. As many as 50 cities worldwide participate in the festivities on various dates in October, including London (Oct.10) and Pittsburgh (Oct.17).

Coincidentally (?) the hit AMC series, The Walking Dead, starts walkingdeadinvasionits sixth season this Sunday, October 11 at 9pm. This horror-drama, set in a world overrun by zombies, is based on the graphic novels/comics of Robert Kirkman and centers on the efforts of the last remaining humans to survive the zombie apocalypse. Kirkman and other collaborators, like Jay Bonansinga, have also continued the story in a series of sci-fi books, the latest: Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead: Invasion, released on October 6. As Rick would say, "keep walking."

Now (or soon) playing:

bigstonegapBig Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani
It's 1978, and Ave Maria Mulligan is the thirty-five-year-old self-proclaimed spinster of Big Stone Gap, a sleepy hamlet in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She's also the local pharmacist, the co-captain of the Rescue Squad, and the director of The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, the town's long-running Outdoor Drama. When she discovers a skeleton in her family's formerly tidy closet, her conventional life comes unraveled. Suddenly, she finds herself juggling two marriage proposals, conducting a fierce family feud, and planning a life-changing journey to the Old Country. Author Trigiani wrote the screenplay for the movie, which opens October 9, and stars Ashley Judd, Patrick Wilson, and Whoopi Goldberg.


lastkingdomThe Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell
BBC America's television adaptation of Cornwell's historical novels, known as the Saxon Stories, premieres on October 10. Starting with The Last Kingdom, the series is set in ninth and tenth century England during the invasion and occupation of England's four kingdoms by the Danish Vikings and the struggle of King Alfred the Great of Wessex to free and unite the country. The story is seen through the eyes of Uhtred, a dispossessed English nobleman. Captured as a child and raised by the Danes, he now finds his allegiances divided between the kingdom of his ancestry and the people who raised him. An expensive, epic adaptation with an international cast, this 8-part series is seen as an attempt by BBC America to entice the audience of HBO's Game of Thrones with a new medieval saga.

roomRoom by Emma Donoghue
To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. . . . It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack's curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer. Using all her determination, ingenuity, and motherly devotion, Ma devises a bold escape plan that depends on luck and Jack's courage. What she cannot know is how startling the consequences will be when her plan succeeds. The film opens on October 16 and stars Brie Larson as Ma.



“The Great Michigan Read is presented by the Michigan Humanities Council with support from Meijer, the National Endowment for the Humanities and a host of other sponsors.”

kirkus-prize-2015-170x1702015 Kirkus Prize Finalists

The literary journal, Kirkus Reviews, has announced the finalists for its book prizes in fiction, nonfiction and children's literature, worth about $50,000 each, which makes them among the most lucrative in the literary world. This is the second year for these prizes which were established to honor "the 81 years of discerning, thoughtful criticism Kirkus Reviews has contributed to both the publishing industry and readers at large." All books published from Nov. 1, 2014 to Oct. 31, 2015 that received a starred review in Kirkus - more than 1,000 titles - are eligible for consideration. The winners will be announced on October 15.


Finalists for the Fiction Prize:

The Incarnations by Susan Barker

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli

The Book of Aron by Jim Shepherd

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara