When Doug Mack picked up a 1963 edition of Europe on Five Dollars a Day, he stumbled on an inspired idea: to boldly go where millions have gone before, relying only on the advice of a travel guide that’s nearly a half century out-of-date. Add to the mix his mother’s much- documented grand tour through Europe in the late 1960s, and the result is Europe on Five Wrong Turns a Day, a funny and fascinating journey into a new (old) world, and a disarming look at the ways the classic tourist experience has changed – and has not – in the last generation.

After a whirlwind adventure spanning eight countries – and costing way more than five dollars a day – Mack’s endearing account is part time travel, part paean to Arthur Frommer’s much-loved guide, and a celebration of the modern traveler’s grand (and not-so-grand) tour. (provided by publisher)

What happens when an adventure travel expert – who’s never actually done anything adventurous – tries to re-create the original expedition to Machu Picchu? That’s exactly what Mark Adams does in Turn Right at Machu Picchu and lucky for us, we get to ride along vicariously.

July 24, 1911, was a day for the history books for on that rainy morning, the young Yale professor Hiram Bingham III climbed into the Andes Mountains of Peru and encountered an ancient city in the clouds: the now famous citadel of Machu Picchu. Nearly a century later, news reports have recast the hero explorer as a villain who smuggled out priceless artifacts and stole credit for finding one of the world’s greatest archaeological sites.

Mark Adams has spent his career editing adventure and travel magazines, so his plan to investigate the allegations against Bingham by retracing the explorer’s perilous path to Machu Picchu isn’t completely far- fetched, even if it does require him to sleep in a tent for the first time. With a crusty, antisocial Australian survivalist and several Quechua-speaking, coca-chewing mule tenders as his guides, Adams takes readers through some of the most gorgeous and historic landscapes in Peru, from the ancient Inca capital of Cusco to the enigmatic ruins of Vitcos and Vilcabamba. Along the way he finds a still-undiscovered country populated with brilliant and eccentric characters, as well as an answer to the question that has nagged scientists since Hiram Bingham’s time: Just what was Machu Picchu? (description from the publisher)

guest review by Georgann

Seizure is the second in Kathy Reichs new YA series, Virals. The background from book one, Virals: a group of four teens and their wolf-dog are contaminated with a man-made virus. It gives them special wolf-like powers. They don’t turn into werewolves; rather, they get super-enhanced senses.

I liked Virals, but Seizure is even better! Our heroes are a group of ordinary teens, verging on “nerdy” but OK with their lowly status on the high school totem pole. These are great characters. In this novel, the group tracks down a long-lost pirate treasure in an effort to save the island on which they live. You just gotta love these kids! Although they are forever off doing things their parents continually ground them for, they just keep after their goal.

I enjoyed letting my imagination soar with the kids as they get into and out of one scrape after another. They are an entertaining group to spend time with! I chuckled out loud more than once. But I also enjoyed the suspense. they get into some dangerous situations, ala Indiana Jones, and I had to keep reading. Will they get through this? Will they get caught? How will this situation turn out? Will they find the treasure and save their home?

I had a day off and read this book in one sitting! It was that fun! Now, if I can only remember what all happened by the time book 3 comes out. Look for Code in 2012.

Ann Patchett’s latest novel, State of Wonder, takes the reader deep into the heart of the Brazilian jungle.  Dr. Mariana Singh, who conducts research for a pharmaceutical company in Minneapolis, has just been informed that her co-worker, Dr. Anders Eckman, has died of a mysterious fever in the Amazon.  At the time, Dr. Eckman was attempting to find the pharmaceutical company’s top research scientist, Dr. Annick Swenson, who has ceased all contact with the CEO of the company.  Dr. Singh has been recruited to travel to South America in order to find out more about Dr. Eckman’s death and to make contact with Dr. Swenson about the status of her research, which may culminate in a lucrative new drug for the company.

 After a long trip to Brazil, Dr. Singh learns more about Dr. Swenson’s remarkable research and its ethical connotations.  While trying to process what Dr. Swenson has uncovered and the worldwide implications of her findings, Dr. Singh learns the truth about what has happened to her colleague, Dr. Eckman. State of Wonder is full of adventure, scientific breakthroughs, ethical dilemmas and coming to terms with the triumphs and mistakes of the past.   Actress Hope Davis reads the audiobook and does a superb job of narrating this complex story.

On a side note – about 12 years ago I heard Patchett read from her book “The Magician’s Assistant” in Nashville, Tennessee.  Although the book sounded fascinating, I never got around to reading it.  After listening to this audiobook, I can’t wait to go back and listen to “The Magician’s Assistant.”

Wow! This is a great book for travel dreamers or doers.  Subtitled A Rough Guide to Travel Adventures by Greg Witt, Ultimate Adventures showcases all sorts of exotic locations — some places I’ve never even heard of, but now can’t wait to see.  And though there are many adventures which are geared more to the adrenaline junkie, there are still plenty of “soft” experiences for the more conservative traveler.  For instance, I know I’ll never ever attempt a 51-day ski trip to the South Pole or ice diving in Russia’s White Sea.  But maybe I could handle hiking New Zealand’s Milford Trek, as I’ve had friends who’ve successfully completed it.

One handy feature is a 5-star rating system covering 4 elements: physical, psychological, skill level and wow! factor.  This is designed to help the reader decide if this trip is a good match for their abilities.  For example, climbing Mt. Kilamanjaro is ranked high (4) for the physical endurance required, only a 2 for the skill level needed (it’s basic hiking, not technical rock climbing) but it scores a 5 for Wow factor.

It’s well-organized (by continents); the photos are breathtaking and the descriptions should inspire even the stodgiest couch potato.  As a librarian, I don’t need to buy many books, but I do plan to purchase this one!

Neil Gaiman’s fairy tale novel Stardust is a charming story of love and adventure.  Tristran Thorn is a young man who has for years pined away after the most beautiful girl in the village of Wall, Victoria Forester.  One night Tristran bravely asks to kiss her, and though she refuses, she tells him that she will fullfill his greatest desire if he can bring her the falling star they just saw.  Tristran at once sets off on this journey, which starts with the forbidden action of leaving Wall and venturing into Faerie, a realm filled with creatures and magic Tristran never imagined.  Little does Tristran know he has been to Faerie before, and on the course of his adventure he will learn shocking truths about his heritage, as well as what it means to find true love.

This book was an absolute joy to read.  It has a little bit of something for everyone: romance, action, adventure, humor, and so much more.  There are a lot of storylines that don’t initally seem to be related (Tristran’s journey to find the star, an old witch looking to restore her youth, brothers fighting over who will rule their kingdom now that their father has passed, and a woman selling glass flowers at the local faerie market), but they all come together beautifully in the end.  Gaiman does a lovely job of crafting a new and unique world, and the details really make both Wall and Faerie come alive.  I recommend Stardust to anyone who loved fairy tales in their youth, because Gaiman has done a great job at creating one for grown-ups.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde fits into a lot of different genres:  it’s a little bit sci-fi, literary fiction, humor and thriller.  In an alternate 1985 in England, Thursday Next is a LiteraTec working to solve literary crimes (typically small-time stuff like copyright infringement).  But her career takes a more drastic turn when criminal mastermind Acheron Hades steals the original manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens.    And so begins a game of cat and mouse between Thursday and Acheron in which she is constantly escaping death, though just barely.  Things take a turn when a character goes missing from Dickens’ novel:  it turns out that Thursday’s uncle has created a device that allows a person to jump into a literary work, and Acheron has found the device and kidnapped the character, changing the whole story.  And if his demands aren’t met, Acheron will take things to the next level and do the same to the beloved Jane Eyre herself, removing her from her classic novel and thus changing the face of classic literature forever.

It took me a while to really get into this book, but once Acheron has made the threat on Jane Eyre, it gets hard to put down (especially for a Jane Eyre fan!).  This is a very unique book, especially with the alternate history that is involved; it’s not the world that we know today, and this includes the ending to Jane Eyre itself.  If you’re into the classics and enjoy a little bit of a sci-fi edge to your books, I recommend picking up this book.

I love sci-fi and fantasy novels, and I have been meaning to read this classic sci-fi work for ages.  The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the story of Arthur Dent, an Englishman rescued moments before the destruction of Earth with the help of Ford Prefect, his best friend who turns out to be from another planet.  As the title suggests, the two hitchhike through the galaxy in search of a mythical planet called Magrathea and meet new friends, including the President of the Galaxy, his girlfriend, and a depressed robot.  The book is absolutely hilarious.  The galaxy Adams has created is interesting and well-developed, and we get to learn a lot about it through random and laugh-out-loud details.  One of my favorite things about it is the encyclopedia that Ford is writing, which guides newbies like Arthur through the galaxy and defines all the different creatures, technological advances, and concepts.  If only our encyclopedias on Earth had Ford Prefect’s sense of humor!

The movie version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy stars Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, and Zooey Deschanel.  It follows pretty closely to the book and has great performances by Freeman as Arthur and the always amazing Alan Rickman as the voice of Martin.  However, I feel compelled to be honest and say that I didn’t really care for this movie.  I don’t know what it was about it, but something was just lost in the translation from book to movie.  For example, they did include narration of the encyclopedia entries, which I loved in the book.  But by the fifth or sixth little aside in the movie, I was pretty tired of the constant interruptions.  The book packed in all that detail without making it a laborious effort to get through, which is a feat that the movie didn’t accomplish in my opinion.  But then again, that’s just my opinion.  So if you liked the book as much as I did, I encourage you to check out the movie and see what you think!

I’m a little embarrassed to admit that until recently, I had no idea that the movie The Princess Bride was a book first.  So this is one of those rare instances where I saw the movie before I read the book.  Typically that hinders my enjoyment of the book, but I can solidly say that this wasn’t the case with The Princess Bride.

Everyone knows how the movie The Princess Bride goes:  Buttercup realizes she loves the farmboy Westley just as he is about to leave the country to make a name and fortune for himself.  After receiving word that he is dead, and knowing she will never love again, she agrees to marry the dreadful Prince Humperdink.  When Buttercup is kidnapped shortly after the announcement of their engagement, the story pushes forward with adventure, romance, and many surprises and beloved characters along the way.  It’s fun, romantic, and easily quotable.  I know I’m not the only person who at any mention of the movie must say, “Hello.  My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”

I’m happy to say that even though I saw the movie first, I found the book The Princess Bride by William Goldman even more enjoyable.  The movie followed the book’s plot very closely, but the book has lots of valuable extra detail and backstory that you miss out on in the movie.  The book also included many fun little asides by the author, who wrote the book as though it’s an abridgement of a classic tale.  His little notes peppered in about what parts were so dreadful he had to cut them out and what happened when the original tale was read to him as a child made the book such a fun read that I couldn’t put it down.  If you’re looking for a book with a little bit of everything (humor, adventure, sword fights, romance, and so much more), I highly recommend checking out this book and then watching the very faithful film adaptation.

Recently the magazine Time Out New York listed the 30 best summer blockbusters ever. Borrow some these DVDs from the library and stage your own summer film festival!

Here are the top 10:

10. Aliens (1986) Sigourney Weaver

Ripley returns to the alien planet to stop them from killing off an entire colony. But when she gets there along with a group of marines, they only find one survivor, a small girl. Now they must fight hordes of aliens to save her.

9.Face/Off (1997) John Travola, Nicolas

A federal agent assumes the identity of a presumed-dead terrorist who killed his son. When the terrorist wakes up, he assumes the identity of the agent.

8. Terminator 2 (1991) Arnold Schwarzenegger

A shape-shifting cyborg is sent to the past to kill young John Conner before he can grow up to lead the resistance. But the resistance manages to send a protector back in an attempt to save him.

7. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill

Fleeing the evil Galactic Empire, the rebels abandon their new base on Hoth. Princess Leia, Han Solo, R2-D2 and C-3P0 escape in the damaged Millennium Falcon. Later, on Bespin, they are captured by Lord Darth Vader. Luke Skywalker, meanwhile, follows Ben Kenobi’s posthumous command and receives Jedi training by Yoda on Dagobah.

6. Fahrenheit 9/11

Using actual footage and declassified documents, Michael Moore examines the Bush administration’s financial ties to the bin Laden family, Saudi Arabia, and our involvement in Iraq, both before and after the attacks on the World Trade Center.

5. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore

Elliott is a young boy from a broken home who discovers an extra-terrestrial creature that has been stranded on Earth – light years from home. Together they form a universal friendship, and Elliott helps E.T. ‘phone home.’

4. Ghostbusters (1984) Dan Akyroyd, Bill Murray

After being kicked out of their university, parapsychology professors Spengler, Stantz and Venkman decide to go into business for themselves by trapping and removing ghosts from haunted houses. After some initial skepticism, business is soon booming as The Ghost Busters rid New York of its undead. When a downtown skyscraper becomes the focal point of spirit activity linked to the ancient god Gozer, however, the problem may be more than the team can handle.

3. Star Wars (1977) Mark Hamill, Sir Alec Guinness, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

Star Wars: A New Hope opens with a rebel ship being boarded by the tyrannical Darth Vader. The plot then follows the life of a simple farmboy, Luke Skywalker, as he and his newly met allies (Han Solo, Chewbacca, Ben Kenobi, C-3PO, R2-D2) attempt to rescue a rebel leader, Princess Leia, from the clutches of the Empire. The conclusion is culminated as the Rebels, including Skywalker and flying ace Wedge Antilles make an attack on the Empires most powerful and ominous weapon, the Death Star.

2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Harrison Ford, Karen Allen

Indiana Jones battles fierce Nazis in hopes of stopping them from using the power of the lost Ark of the Covenant.

1. Jaws (1975) Roy Scheider

A Long Island vacation town is preyed upon by a man-eating shark. Recently appointed Police Chief Martin Brody faces domestic troubles and searing criticism for not closing the beaches in the wake of the deadly shark attacks. Now, Brody must decide how to retake the waters, employing the aid of a young ichthyologist and a vengeful fisherman.