When journalist Beth Howard’s young husband dies suddenly, she packs up the RV he left behind and hits the American highways. At every stop along the way – whether filming a documentary or handing out free slices on the streets of Los Angeles – Beth uses pie as a way to find purpose. Howard eventually returns to her Iowa roots and creates the perfect synergy between two of America’s greatest icons – pie and the American Gothic House, the little farmhouse in Eldon, Iowa immortalized in Grant Wood’s famous painting, where she now lives and runs the Pitchfork Pie Stand.

Making Piece powerfully shows how one courageous woman triumphs over tragedy. This beautifully written memoir is, ultimately, about hope. It’s about the journey of healing and recovery, of facing fears, finding meaning in life again, and moving forward with purpose and, eventually, joy. It’s about the nourishment of the heart and soul that comes from the simple act of giving to others, like baking a homemade pie and sharing it with someone whose pain is even greater than your own. And it tells of the role of fate, second chances and the strength found in community.

October 2

People Like Us– Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks

A twenty-something, fast-talking salesman’s latest deal collapses the day he learns his father has suddenly died. Against his wishes, Sam is called home to put his father’s estate in order and reconnect with his estranged family. While there, he uncovers a startling secret that turns his entire world upside down – he has a 30-year-old sister he never knew existed Rated PG-13

October 9

The Raven – John Cusack,

Baltimore 1849. While investigating a horrific double murder, police detective Emmett Fields makes a startling discovery: the killer’s methods mirror the twisted writings of Edgar Allan Poe. Suspecting Poe at first, Fields ultimately enlists his help to stop future attacks. But in this deadly game of cat and mouse, the stakes are raised with each gruesome slaying as the pair races to catch a madman before he brings every one of Poe’s shocking stories to chilling life, and death. Rated R

October 11

Prometheus – Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender

Explorers have discovered a clue that brings them to the origins of mankind on Earth. This leads them on a journey that takes them to the darkest corners of the universe.Rated R

 

October 16

Moonrise Kingdom – Bruce Willis, Bill Murray

Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, tells the story of two twelve-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. As various authorities try to hunt them down, a violent storm is brewing off-shore, and the peaceful island community is turned upside down in more ways than anyone can handle.PG – 13

Madagascar 3 – Europe’s Most Wanted – Voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock

Your favorite characters are back in their most hilarious adventure yet! Alex, Marty, Melman and Gloria are on the run through Europe in this wildly-entertaining and outrageous comedy critic’s call ‘charming and very funny’! With the fame-loving King Julian and take-charge Penguins, the whole crew joins the circus to escape Captain Dubois of Animal Control Rated PG

Tyler Perry’s Medea’s Witness Protection – Eugene Levy, Tyler Perry

Madea’s back in an all-new movie. A Wall Street investment banker has been set up in a mob-backed Ponzi scheme, forcing him to be put under witness protection with his entire family in Madea’s house down South. Rated PG-13

Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter – Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper

Abraham Lincoln, history’s greatest hunter of the undead, must risk the presidency, his family, and his life to protect America from the bloodthirsty vampires.Rated R

 

October 30

Dark Shadows – Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter

Imprisoned vampire Barnabas Collins is inadvertently freed from his tomb and emerges into the very changed world of 1972. He returns to Collinwood Manor to find that his once-grand estate has fallen into ruin. The dysfunctional remnants of the Collins family have fared little better and are in need of his protection. Rated PG-13.

 

Were Thomas Jefferson to walk the grounds of Monticello today, he would no doubt feel fully at home in the 1,000-foot terraced vegetable garden where the very vegetables and herbs he favored are thriving.

Extensively and painstakingly restored, Jefferson’s unique vegetable garden now boasts the same medley of plants he enthusiastically cultivated in the early nineteenth century. The garden is a living expression of Jefferson’s genius and his distinctly American attitudes. Its impact on the culinary, garden, and landscape history of the United States continues to the present day.

Graced with nearly 200 full-color illustrations, A Rich Spot of Earth is the first book devoted to all aspects of the Monticello vegetable garden. Hatch guides us from the asparagus and artichokes first planted in 1770 through the horticultural experiments of Jefferson’s retirement years (1809-1826). The author explores topics ranging from labor in the garden, garden pests of the time, and seed saving practices to contemporary African American gardens. He also discusses Jefferson’s favorite vegetables and the hundreds of varieties he grew, the half-Virginian half-French cuisine he developed, and the gardening traditions he adapted from many other countries. (description from publisher)

After hearing a glowing review on NPR praising this witty and charming book, I quickly placed a hold on a copy of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.  Told primarily through emails, faxes, letters, and transcripts of taped conversations, the novel explores the events leading up to agoraphobic housewife Bernadette Fox’s disappearance.  She and her Microsoft bigwig husband promise their gifted daughter Bee that if she gets straight A’s at her prestigious middle school, she can have anything she wants as a graduation gift.  Bernadette’s worst nightmare comes true when Bee succeeds and chooses a family trip to Antarctica.  She attempts to cope with this sudden obligation to be around (gasp) people; she even hires a virtual assistant in India to make all the vacation preparations!  That’s why it is such a shock when Bernadette disappears just before they are due to embark on the trip.  Bee compiles these documents looking for clues, hoping against all evidence that she can bring her mom home again.

Semple was a writer for Arrested Development and it shows in this book, in which witty dialogue and over-the-top scenarios abound.  Bernadette’s feud with the PTA moms at Bee’s school, most notably with the one who lives next door, is ridiculous and hysterical.  Neighbor tresspasses to insist that Bernadette remove some unsightly blackberry vines?  Better erect a 5 ft. x 8 ft. billboard telling her to stay off the property, of course!  But despite all of the wacky humor, at the heart of this novel is a very touching mother-daughter relationship.  Bee will stop at nothing to find out what happened to her mother, and it is her unconditional love and determination that will render you unable to stop reading until you find out how their story ends.

If you adore Harry Potter, do yourself a favor and check out Harry Potter: Page to Screen, the Complete Filmmaking Journey. It’s a big, heavy, hardcover behemoth absolutely stuffed with photographs and text from all 8 Harry Potter films. Interviews with the cast and crew give insider information, and viewpoints from the set designers, costume designers, directors and actors show how meticulously the details of these movies were planned. From the small things – Hermione doesn’t wear red or green, as “those are Ron colors,” the story behind Harry’s blue eyes (a controversial change from the books’ oft-referenced bottle green), and the talon design of Bellatrix’s wand – to the big things: hours of makeup for dozens of actors cast as goblins; the complex design of the set for Snape’s final scene; the massive miniatures built to stand in for Hogwarts castle, and the equally massive undertaking of covering those miniatures with “snow” for the winter scenes (and then meticulously brushing and cleaning that “snow” away before the salt it was made of could corrode the material beneath).

Whether you’re into the boy wizard or just into movie magic, you’ll adore this book. It inspired me to re-read the novels and re-watch the movies, which of course launched a relapse of full-on Potter mania at my house! These are some of the other library items I’ve been checking out:

Adam Newman’s destiny has been predetermined as far back as he can remember in Francesca Segal’s debut novel, The Innocents.

In his close knit Jewish community of North London, Adam has known everyone since birth, including Rachel Gilbert, to whom he is now engaged.  Adam and Rachel have been a couple since their were 16 years old and their wedding is fast approaching.  The couple has a seemingly perfect life – Adam has been embraced by Rachel’s family, especially her father, who has become a father figure to Adam after he lost his own father at a young age.

Their life is moving ahead rapidly when Rachel’s cousin, Ellie, surprisingly appears in town and everything Adam has every known is thrown into upheveval.  As his attraction to Ellie is growing, he is torn between the life that has been scripted for him and a life that he never could have imagined with a person he has not seen for years. This love triangle is coupled with another scandal that could tear his new family apart.

Segal takes her inspiration from Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, but spins a story that is fresh and modern.  I am eagerly waiting for Segal’s next novel.

 

One of the most buzzed-about books of the summer, The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker raises the question:  what would happen if the Earth’s rotation suddenly began to slow down?  Narrated by 11-year-old Julia, the novel explores not only the ramifications of this global disaster but also how it affects the already tumultuous time between childhood and adolescence.

I read this book several weeks ago and held off on blogging about it because, frankly, I was disappointed.  But I realize now that perhaps I just went into it with the wrong expectations.  As a reader who adores sci-fi and fantasy literature, I felt that the earth’s slowing rotation and its effects were extremely underdeveloped.  I wanted more information about why it happened, good descriptive passages about the effects it had on life all over the planet, and to feel the sense of danger and dread that should have been felt with this sort of catostrophic event.  But that’s not really the focus of this book, and if you go into it prepared to practically ignore the science of it all, it becomes a better story.

The Age of Miracles is really a coming-of-age story about Julia, who just so happens to live in a time when the earth’s rotation is slowing.  It’s a novel about growing up and the changes that come along with it no matter what kind of crisis is happening in the outside world: friends still grow apart, bodies still change, your parents still don’t understand you.  The passages focusing on Julia’s feelings and her relationships are beautifully written.  Walker quickly draws the reader into Julia’s story and makes you care about her; you’ll want to jump right into the book and punch the bully who picks on her at the bus stop right in front of the boy she likes.  Overall I would recommend this book if you’re looking for a nicely written coming-of-age story in a unique setting, but aren’t too concerned about sci-fi elements.

Before you see these movies on the big screen, check out the books!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (September 21) – Charlie struggles to cope with complex world of high school as he deals with the confusions of sex and love, the temptations of drugs, and the pain of losing a close friend and a favorite aunt.

Cloud Atlas (October 26) – Recounts the connected stories of people from the past and the distant future, from a nineteenth-century notary and an investigative journalist in the 1970s to a young man who searches for meaning in a post-apocalyptic world.

Anna Karenina (November 16) – Trapped in a stifling marriage, Anna Karenina is swept off her feet by the dashing Count Vronsky.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II (November 16) – Having made her choice between living a fully human life or joining the world of immortals to be with her beloved Edward, Bella finds her future threatened by a series of events with potentially disastrous consequences.

Life of Pi (November 21) – After the tragic sinking of a cargo ship, a solitary lifeboat remains bobbing on the wild blue Pacific. The only survivors from the wreck are a sixteen-year-old boy named Pi, a hyena, a zebra (with a broken leg), a female orang-utan – and a 450-pound Royal Bengal tiger.

*all book descriptions from publishers

Indoor plants have gotten a bad rap and are often associated with dusty and dowdy African violets, languishing philodendrons, and bloom-free orchids. No longer! It’s time for plant lovers to dust off their houseplants, update their image, and discover just how exciting, trendy, and crucial plants can be in the home.

The Unexpected Houseplant, by renowned plant authority Tovah Martin, isn’t your typical houseplant book. Martin’s approach is revolutionary – picture brilliant spring bulbs by the bed, lush perennials brought in from the garden, quirky succulents in the kitchen, even flowering vines and small trees growing beside an easy chair. Along with loads of visual inspiration, readers will learn how to make unusual selections, where to best position plants in the home, and valuable tips on watering, feeding, grooming, pruning, and troubleshooting, season by season.

Martin also brings an evangelist’s zeal to the task of convincing homeowners that indoor plants aren’t just a luxury – they’re a necessity. In addition to the design flair they add to a home, houseplants clean indoor air, which can be up to ten times more polluted than outdoor air. Comprehensive, up-to-the-minute, and illustrated with gorgeous photography by Kindra Clineff , The Unexpected Houseplant is for beginners, green thumbs, decorators, and anyone who wants to infuse a bit of surprising green into their décor.

Making a home is a lifelong pursuit and it starts with your very first place. Good Bones, Great Pieces shows you how to make the best choices for a comfortable and welcoming home.

Suzanne and Lauren McGrath, a mother-daughter design team, operate the popular blog Good Bones, Great Pieces. At the core of their philosophy is the belief that every home should have seven essential pieces that can live in almost any room and will always be stylish. The authors explain how to place iconic items of furniture like the love seat and the dresser and rotate them throughout the home as the style or need changes.

Illustrated with photographs of homes and apartments that the McGraths have designed as well as apartments by famous designers, this book is a wonderful resource, whether you are starting out with your first apartment or rethinking the design of your home. (description from publisher)