30 May 2016

6 Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List (BEA)

6 Books to Add to Your Summer 2016 Reading ListDid you think I had moved past BookExpo America? I hope not because, although I've gushed about the Audies, shared my love of totes, and told you about new books in food and cooking, I still have more books to talk about.

Today is all about my summer reading list. Later this week, I'll share a few fall books I'm excited about. Even though I received some 2017(!) galleys, I think I'll wait before discussing those books.

Beach Reading

6 Books to Add to Your Summer 2016 Reading List • Invincible Summer by Alice Adams: Four college friends face the new century with college degrees and all the hopes and dreams of the life to come. After the optimism of their twenties has been tempered by the realities of their thirties, the friends reunite in an effort to capture the heady days of their more naive youth. Set in Europe. "Okay, here's one. If you could know the answer to any question, what would it be?" (Little, Brown / June) • Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand: One dead celebrity chef + three widows + one small Nantucket cottage = one weekend of drama. Can the ex-wives guard their secrets and remain civil long enough to honor and mourn the man they all once loved? Classic Hilderbrand. "Deacon Thorpe is thirteen years old and still more a boy that a man when his father, Jack, tells Deacon they're taking a day trip out of the city, just the two of them." (Little, Brown / June)

Suspense and Mystery

6 Books to Add to Your Summer 2016 Reading List• The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware: This psychological thriller is set on a small cruise ship headed for the North Sea. Lo Blacklock, on board to write about the trip for a magazine, is enjoying the cushy assignment until one night she sees a woman being tossed overboard. But in the morning, no one is missing. What really happened? "In my dream, the girl was drifting far, far below the crashing waves and the cries of the gulls in the cold, sunless depths of the North Sea." (Gallery / July) • Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris: Jack and Grace have it all: plenty of money, good looks, and a solid place at high society's table. Their mutual devotion is something to be envied and admired . . . or is it? How come Grace is never seen out on her own? Why doesn't she ever say yes to lunch with the girls? Gripping suspense. "The champagne bottle knocks against the marble kitchen counter, making me jump." (St. Martin's Press / August)

Memoir: Country and Town

6 Books to Add to Your Summer 2016 Reading List• Raising Wild by Michael P. Branch: Life in the Nevada Great Basin Desert is not for everyone: poisonous animals and harsh weather are only two of the challenges. In this collection of essays, however, Branch lets us see the natural beauty of his home and how an intimate connection with the environment can strengthen ourselves, our families, and our friendships. Thoughtful reading. "It is true that on the day Eryn and I decided to have a kid we had been drinking quite a lot of gin." (Roost Books / August) • I'm Your Biggest Fan by Kate Coyne: On her journey from a young reporter for Page Six all the way up to executive editor of People magazine, Coyne has interviewed many of the major stars and celebrities. Not all of those encounters were pleasant, and some were down-right awkward, but few people have seen the rich and famous at their most authentic moments. Respectful, funny, and revealing. "Let's cut to the chase: Tom Cruise is insanely charismatic, so much so that you do feel as though you could maybe, kind of, possibly, convert to Scientology for him." (Hachette / June)

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28 May 2016

Weekend Cooking: For Grace (Documentary)

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page.

Review: For Grace (documentary) I don't even know how to begin to describe Mark Helenowski and Kevin Pang's amazing documentary For Grace, which focuses on Chicago chef Curtis Duffy and his move from working for someone else to opening his own restaurant.

Duffy's goal in life is nothing less than being the best in the world. You might think someone with that kind of drive could be a bit of a jerk, but Duffy turns out to be someone I'd be honored to work for, even though with my skills and experience, I'd have to be something completely unglamorous in the back rooms of his three-star restaurant, Grace. The documentary doesn't make Duffy out to be a saint but shows us there's a lot to admire.

Random thoughts:
  • If you didn't already know it, the restaurant business is damned hard, especially for those at the top and striving to be at the top.
  • It's possible to find success even with the worst of beginnings, especially if there is just one person who truly believes in you.
  • Curtis Duffy's food is absolutely stunning.
  • If you can watch this film without crying, I don't even know what to think.
For Grace is not just another food documentary about another chef and another restaurant;  instead, the film plays like a box-office movie. It's strong emotionally and visually and is sensitively and beautifully filmed and edited. I give For Grace my highest recommendation. Do not miss this. For those of you in the United States and UK, take advantage of this holiday weekend and sit down and stream this documentary.

Bravo to Mark Helenowski, Kevin Pang, and Curtis Duffy.

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26 May 2016

Giveaway: Fodor's Guide to the Western National Parks & PRH Audiobooks

Fodor's Guides and Penguin Random House AudiobooksSchool is almost out and summer is just around the corner, which means it's time for a family vacation. If you live in North America, or are planning a trip here, there's no better way to enjoy your time off than by visiting the national parks of the western states and provinces.

Did you know there were more than thirty-six national parks in the western areas of the United States and Canada? Any one of them (or plan to visit several!) can provide you and your family with the adventure of a lifetime, whether you're into mountains or deserts or the sea.

So how do you go about picking a park, learning about the wildlife, choosing an outdoor activity, and finding a place to stay and eat? Fodor's Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West has you covered. This guide takes you from the most popular parks to the most remote and answers all your questions about what to do and see, what to pack, and how much money you can expect to spend.

Of course, you've heard of Banff and Yellowstone, but why not explore one of the lesser-known parks, such as Wind Cave National Park (in South Dakota), Lassen Volcanic National Park (in northern California), or Petrified Forest National Park (in Arizona). Are you craving a bigger adventure? Check out Fodor's suggested road-trip itineraries, Visit the Canadian Rockies parks over the course of eight days or see the Black Hills and Badlands on a six-day road trip.

Fodor's Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West includes everything you need to plan your trip. You'll find such information as average temperatures, transportation options, lodging, and maps. Plus Fodor's offers great advice on year-round activities like horseback riding, hiking, skiing, and boating. The guide includes charts and lists so you can learn about the local birds, find the historic sites, enjoy the nightlife, and visit the nearby attractions.

One thing I really like is that Fodor's guides help you avoid unpleasant surprises. They rate the trails, activities, restaurants, and so forth by cost, appropriateness for families, strenuousness, and the like, so you can make sane, informed decisions ahead of time. Use the print guide along with the numerous national park resources found on FodorTravel website, and you'll be organized and ready to see it all.

Now that you're on your way to a great vacation, Listening Library reminds us to sweeten the deal with good family entertainment for car time, evenings in the lodge, and rainy afternoons. Audiobooks are a super way to keep everyone happy and entertained. Try a classic like Jack London's Call of the Wild (read by Jeff Daniels), a fun and funny story of family and friendship like Jennifer Holm's The Fourteenth Goldfish (read by Georgette Perna), or a mysterious adventure like Chris Grabenstein's Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library (read by Jesse Bernstein).

Do I have you all geared up for a fabulous family vacation? That's good because thanks to the nice people at Penguin Random House I can offer one of my readers (with a U.S.A. mailing address) a prize pack consisting of Fodor's Complete Guide to the National Parks of the West plus all three audiobooks!

All you have to do to be entered for a chance to win is to fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner via random number generator on June 3. Once the winner has been confirmed, I'll delete all personal information from my computer. This is a seriously awesome prize pack, so I wish you good luck!

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25 May 2016

Wordless Wednesday 395

A Sure Sign of Summer, 2016

Click image to enlarge. For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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24 May 2016

Today's Read: Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann

Review: Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine HeppermannWhat if you were a teenager who was doing well at parochial school and enjoying a decent social life but ended up pregnant? All your choices are difficult, and each comes with consequences. Addie has no doubt she made the correct decision, but she is not the same girl she was before.

Public School Kids Always Ask

How do you meet guys
if you go to an all-girls school? . . .

Even if we brushed with garlic toothpaste
we couldn't keep the vampires away.
Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann (Greenwillow, 2016, p. 1, uncorrected ARC)

Quick Facts
  • Setting: modern times, Minneapolis
  • Circumstances: Addie, a cross-country track star, starts dating Nick, a nice guy who plays the bass in a band. Soon they give into their passions, resulting in Addie becoming pregnant. After taking a pregnancy test, she tells Nick and her parents she wants an abortion. Afterward, her views on school, track, and her old friends change, and she must figure out who is she now.
  • Characters: Addie, a student at a Catholic high school; Claire, her friend and track rival; Nick, her boyfriend; various other classmates; her parents; her track coach; her English teacher; Juliana, an older girl who used to go to Addie's school
  • Genre, audience, style: contemporary fiction; young adult with strong cross-over to adults; a novel in verse
  • Themes: coming of age, finding one's self, making choices and living with them, friendship, dating, young love, family, relevancy of Catholicism
  • Thoughts: Heppermann explores tough issues in a respectful, nonjudgmental way. The poems are short and address different aspects of Addie's life over the course of seven months as she transforms from a carefree teen to young woman with a revised self-image. Addie has no regrets, but she has definitely changed—for example, her life is no longer an open book: Who will she tell about her abortion? How can she explain her new attitude about running? What about her religious training? Does still want to date Nick?
  • Recommendation: I read this all in one go, finding it difficult to put the book down. Later, I went back and read the poems more slowly, fully absorbing the words. No matter where you fall on the issue of a woman's right to choose, Ask Me How I Got Here will make you think. I loved it and recommend it without hesitation. Note too this would be a wonderful book club selection for adults and teens.

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