eating in the middleIn her inspiring New York Times bestselling memoir, It Was Me All Along , Andie Mitchell chronicled her struggles with obesity, losing weight, and finding balance. Now, in her debut cookbook, she gives readers the dishes that helped her reach her goals and maintain her new size.

In 80 recipes, she shows how she eats: mostly healthy meals that are packed with flavor, like Lemon Roasted Chicken with Moroccan Couscous and Butternut Squash Salad with Kale and Pomegranate, and then the “sometimes” foods, the indulgences such as Peanut Butter Mousse Pie with Marshmallow Whipped Cream, because life just needs dessert.

With 75 photographs and Andie’s beautiful storytelling, Eating in the Middle is the perfect cookbook for anyone looking to find freedom from cravings while still loving and enjoying every meal to the fullest. (description from publisher)

online colorIt’s August and time for a new theme for the Online Reading Challenge! This month it’s Games We Play.

Now wait non-sports fans – don’t leave yet! There are some amazing books on this list and you don’t have to be a fan of competition to appreciate and enjoy them. In fact, in many of these books, sports are in the background, lending color and atmosphere but are not crucial to the story. As for other, more sports-focused titles, you’ll still find that the most important part of the story is the people.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown. I recommend this book to everyone, it’s that good. It will appeal to anyone, no matter what your interests. It’s impossible to not get caught up in the stories of the young men who became team that set out to earn the right to represent the United States in the 1936 Olympics. It’s about struggling against impossible odds brought about by the Great Depression, about creating a family when you no longer have your own, about working together for a common cause. There’s a lot of history woven into the story, a chilling glimpse of what the world would be up against with the Nazi’s and just enough dramatic description of the rowing to help you appreciate this elegant and demanding sport. A winner on many levels. Read it.

Seabiscuit: an American Legend by Lauren Hillenbrand. Hands down, one of my favorite books ever. Beautifully written, rich in atmosphere and history, this is not only the story of the scrappy little horse that won the hearts of the nation, it’s about the people surrounding and touched by this horse – his hard scrabble jockey, the taciturn trainer, the owners that took a chance. Against the backdrop of the grim struggles of the Great Depression, this underdog up against the rich and privileged is a classic American success story. Don’t miss it – for the history, for the colorful characters, for the charming little horse that took everything thrown at him and just kept going.

Mysteries by Dick Francis. The late Dick Francis wrote dozens of mysteries, all set at least on the fringes of horse racing. He was a master of succinct, economical writing, creating action and tension with understated elegance. Sometimes the racing is nearly irrelevant, sometimes it is more central and it is usually English steeplechase (racing over jumps). Francis, who was himself an award-winning jockey, brings authenticity to the books. I’ve read most of these mysteries; the earliest titles are grimmer and more violent while the later ones emphasize atmosphere (although they are no less suspenseful). My favorites are Break In and Bolt which follow the same main character (unusual for Francis) who, like Francis once was,  rides for the Queen Mother. I love the English racing scene he describes, the strategy of the racing and the skill of the jockeys and horses as well as the nearly unbearable tension as the mystery ratchets up. I’d recommend any of Francis’ mysteries for quick, enjoyable reads.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. This harrowing story of an attempt to summit Mt Everest explores a wide variety of issues and emotions – is pursuing this nearly impossible task irresponsible and selfish? What is it doing to the ecosystem of the mountain? How is it affecting the lives of the natives, the often unsung heroes of the expeditions? Is the risk worth the price many have paid? I read the original article that appeared in Outside magazine and could barely make it through those few pages – this is an intense, unforgettable adventure, if you’re up for it.

Some other titles worth looking at include A Good Walk Spoiled (golf) and A Season on the Brink (college basketball) both by John Feinstein, Friday Night Lights (high school football) by Buzz Bissinger and A River Runs Through It (fly fishing) by Norman MacLean. And if you didn’t read it for Magical Realism month, I highly recommend The Art of Racing in the Rain (auto racing) by Garth Stein.

This is a nice mix of fiction and non-fiction, interesting historical settings and lots of suspense. One of the characteristics of these books is the dedication and enthusiasm individuals bring to their chosen field and, no matter how you feel about sports, these are traits that are always interesting and engaging.

My choice for this month is The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, which follows a promising college baseball player and what happens when a routine throw goes wrong. The reviews are good and I’m looking forward to reading it!

Now, what about you? What are you going to read this August? Let us know in the comments!

Books mentioned in this post include:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

vegetable butcherThe skills of butchery meet the world of fresh produce in The Vegetable Butcher, an essential, inspiring guide that demystifies the world of vegetables.

In step-by-step photographs, “vegetable butcher” Cara Mangini shows how to break down a butternut squash, cut a cauliflower into steaks, peel a tomato properly, chiffonade kale, turn carrots into coins and parsnips into matchsticks, and find the meaty heart of an artichoke.

Additionally, more than 150 original, simple recipes put vegetables front and center, from a Kohlrabi Carpaccio to Zucchini, Sweet Corn, and Basil Penne, to a Parsnip-Ginger Layer Cake to sweeten a winter meal. It’s everything you need to know to get the best out of modern, sexy, and extraordinarily delicious vegetables. (description from publisher)

sharp objectsSharp Objects was Gillian Flynn’s literary debut in 2006, followed after with Dark Places in 2009, Gone Girl in 2012, and The Grownup in 2014. Flynn’s first three works are all suspenseful, dark books full of thrilling chases, tragedies, secrets, and lies. I was introduced to Gillian Flynn through Gone Girl and immediately dived into her other books.

In Sharp Objects, Camille Preaker is working as a journalist for a second-rate newspaper, the Daily Post, in Chicago when her boss, Frank Curry, gives her a new assignment. Camille is to head to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri to cover the murder of one young girl and the kidnapping of another. Camille soon finds herself back in Wind Gap for the first time in eight years, working on her career-boosting serial-killer-in-the-making article.

In this psychological thriller, Camille struggles to break through small-town barriers to find the truth about what happened to those two girls. Once the body of the second girl is found, Camille finds herself swept into the story amidst all the rumors flying through town about who committed these vile acts. These murders are especially hard for Camille and her mother, as her younger sister died when she was 10 of a mysterious illness. Local police call on the help of a profiler from Kansas City, MO and Camille works closely with him to discover Wind Gap’s secrets.

Camille has secrets of her own. She comes from a dysfunctional family and one of the things she turned to to cope was self-mutilation. She was once institutionalized for this; her body covered in scars, words littering every surface of skin. Her trip back to Wind Gap forces her to relive her disturbed childhood, digging into old family secrets and things simmering under the surface. This book is truly suspenseful, leaving readers guessing about the murderer and the truth those simmering secrets until the very end.


This book is also available in the following formats:

the one and onlyThe One & Only by Emily Giffin is a book about family, whether it be your biological family or the family that you are raised with. Shea Rigsby has lived in Walker, Texas her entire life. After graduating from college, she even decided to stay in town and work in the athletic department at her alma mater. The thought of leaving her beloved hometown never even occurred to her.

Her best friend Lucy’s father, Clive Carr, is the head coach of the Walker college football team, a legend within both the coaching and local communities. He and his wife served as a second set of parents to Shea after her own parents divorced and her mother had a breakdown. Tragedy hits the Carr family, leaving them all reeling and Shea wondering if she is really happy with the way her life is going.

Breaking up with her slacker boyfriend, Shea finds encouragement from Coach Carr and decides to look beyond Walker to expand her life. New relationships and old relationships weave a messy web all around Shea, forcing her to leave her comfort zone and do things she never thought she would do. This book is truly chick lit with some serious football lingo thrown in. If you are fans of Emily Giffin or enjoy chick lit, check this book out.

fangirlHave you ever read fan fiction? Fan fiction is when fans of television series, movies, books, etc. write fiction about the different characters present within that certain TV series, movies, books, etc. Quite simple. A famous example of fan fiction is Fifty Shades of Grey, which is a Twilight fan fiction story. (If you look online, there are many, many other examples, as well as popular fan fiction websites.)

Fangirl focuses on Cath, a teenage girl just graduated from high school preparing to head to her first year of college. Cath is a GIANT Simon Snow fan. While other people love Simon Snow, Cath lives and breathes him. She has spun a new world for Simon through her fanfic website, “Carry On, Simon”. Simon Snow is a character in a magical series that Cath and her identical twin sister, Wren, write about online. Once college starts though, Cath and Wren begin to drift apart.

This first year of college is rough for Cath. She and her sister are going to the same college, but her sister doesn’t want to room with her, a fact that Cath can’t understand. Rooming with Reagan, a much older girl, and somewhat-rooming with Reagan’s ex-boyfriend, Levi, who never seems to leave their dorm room, Cath struggles to find her balance between the real world and the fanfiction world of Simon and Baz. Cath’s relationships with Reagan, Wren, Levi, and her father all add necessary personal touches to this book, allowing readers to draw connections between what Cath writes about in Simon’s world and what is actually happening in Cath’s world during the day-to-day.

This book alternates between sections of the Simon series, sections about Cath’s real life, and sections of various fanfiction(whether it be Cath’s or someone else’s). While all this switching may seem overwhelming, the book actually benefits from the many different points of view. Don’t give up! Stick with it and soon you’ll be sucked into Cath and Simon’s world.


This book is also available in the following formats:

  1. OverDrive ebook
  2. OverDrive e-audiobook
  3. CD audiobook

all the summer girlsAll The Summer Girls by Meg Donohue focuses on the lives of three friends: Philadelphia lawyer Kate, Manhattan mom Vanessa, and San Francisco writer Dani. Kate’s fiancé has dumped her on the same day she found out she was pregnant. Vanessa is dealing with news that her husband cheated on her with another woman and is searching the internet for a man she dated eight years ago. Dani has just been fired yet again in San Francisco and is turning to her good friends (drugs and alcohol) to cope.

Kate, Vanessa, and Dani have been best friends for years, but have drifted apart. Their separation is as much to do with where they each live, their adult lives, and a major event that happened eight years ago during their last summer at the shore, as it is with normal daily life. The three plan a long weekend getaway at Dani’s father’s house in Avalon, the place where they spent two weeks out of their summer every year until one deadly night eight years ago. Being back in this familiar place brings tension to the surface of their friendship, making them all realize just how much their choices eight years ago have shaped their lives today. Each woman is holding onto a big secret, one that each is afraid to tell, and yet all of their secrets are interconnected. Kate, Vanessa, and Dani are forced to come to terms with the decisions they made eight years ago as their friendship hangs in the balance.


This book is also available as an e-audiobook through OverDrive.

heartlandA pioneer in the local field-to-fork movement showcases the fantastic bounty of America’s Midwest with recipes from his storied St. Paul restaurant in Heartland: Farm-Forward Dishes from the Great Midwest.

Lenny Russo, chef at Heartland in St. Paul, was inspired by the lakes, fields, farms and orchards of his adopted homeland to create 100 delectable recipes including Midwestern Cassoulet, Sweet Corn-Black Barley Cakes, Chocolate-Sorghum Custard Tart, Freshwater Bouillabaisse, Wild Rice Salad with Baby Kale and Blue Cheese, Fennel-Cured Whitefish with Danish Brown Bread Salad and dozens more. (description from publisher)

low v2Rick Remender’s Low series is so far one of my favorite discoveries this summer. Low, Volume 2: Before the Dawn Burns Us brings to light the tragedies that the Caine family was faced with in the first volume and expands upon the ways the mother, Stel, is trying to rise up and save who she can.

In the first volume, the entire Caine family is torn apart with the father dead and the two daughters torn away from Stel and her only son. She vows to bring the family back together only to fall into despair. The sun has gone radioactive forcing all of the Earth’s inhabitants underwater, knowing they cannot stay there forever and hoping for an eventual inhabitable world to be found elsewhere. Shoot forward ten years and a probe has been recalled to the surface of the Earth, one that shows Stel that there is an inhabitable world elsewhere. She must get to the probe first and  find her children along the way.

In volume 2, Stel wrestles with herself as she feels her hope in the future fading, something that had previously seen her through numerous bad situations. Stel struggles to salvage what she can of her mission to find the probe and ultimately save all of humanity, while a side story shows Stel’s estranged daughters working to find themselves and each other after their horrific split from their parents. One of her daughters, Della, is the relentless Minister of Thought, living in a totalitarian state where hope and optimism are squashed. Stel and two members of Marik’s surviving gladiator team are still searching for the probe. This second volumes is full of tragedy, loss, and hopelessness, but is ultimately about what happens to all of us when we lose hope and try to find it again.

online colorHello Readers! How is your July challenge coming along? Find anything amazing? Or are you going to keep yourself safely grounded in 2016?

I have been reading 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Well, I’ve been attempting to read it. King is very…….wordy, isn’t he? And this is a very long book. He’s a great storyteller, but this is not my favorite writing style. I’m not sure I’m going to finish a Time Travel book this month, but don’t let that stop you – this is such a fun and intriguing trope and kind of mind twisting – what would you change? what would be the consequences and ripple effects?

If you are struggling to find a Time Travel book that intrigues you, you might want to look at some of the alternate history books that are out there which also play around with the question of what if? What if the Nazi’s had prevailed and won World War II? (Try Fatherland by Robert Harris) What if Alaska became a Jewish refugee settlement in 1941 and Israel no longer existed? (Read the hilarious The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon) What if the Black Death had killed 99% of Europe’s population instead of one-third? (Find out in The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson) What if Roosevelt lost the 1940 Presidential election and now anti-Semitism is accepted in America? (Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America examines this idea.) What if dragons had been used by the English to help defeat Napoleon? (I’m not kidding and it’s actually a terrific book, especially if you’re a fan of Patrick O’Brien’s Master and Commander series or a fan of Jane Austen. Really. Naomi Novik creates a believable and fascinating world in His Majesty’s Dragon, the first in the Temeraire series)

The only question left now is, where will you travel to? Let us know in the comments!

Titles mentioned in this post include:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.