Summer is here at last and it’s a great time to get out there and explore a new part of the world. The library has lots of great new travel books – here is just a sampling.

One of the best ways to explore is on foot and many of the great cities of the world are perfect for walking. National Geographic’s new series Walking shows you the highlights of Paris, New York, London and Rome.

Also from National Geographic, 100 Best Affordable Vacations offers advice on out of the ordinary vacation opportunities, from the Texas state fair to “unknown” national parks.

Embrace your American heritage and hit the road with Reader’s Digest The Most Scenic Drives in America, and discover the most beautiful road every time from Florida’s Road to Flamingo to Hawaii’s Oahu Coastal Lo; from British Columbia’s Sea to Sky Highway to Cape Cod’s Sandy Shore.

 We have lots of new travel books arriving every day for destinations all over the world. Whether you’re planning a trip-of-a-lifetime, or indulging in some armchair travel, you’ll find plenty of ideas for adventure at the library!

 

The kids are out of school, the temperatures are topping ninety degrees, and gas prices are creeping up: it must be summer, and with it, Beach Reading Season! Even if your vacation plans don’t take you as far as a sandy beach, you’ll still need the perfect novel to get lost in while your kids play in the pool or you soak up the sun on a porch swing. These books all share engrossing, captivating stories, but they’re still light enough to be picked up and set down whenever a distraction arises.

Just Kids by Patti Smith: This engaging memoir is one of the best of the past few years. Smith’s life story, centered around her love affair with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, takes place in an exciting city (New York in the ’70s) and is a great look at the development of artistic talent. Smith’s tender authorial voice is a lovely surprise and has earned high praise – an uncommon feat in the memoir genre.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss: for the fantasy fans, the perfect summer reading novel. Kvothe, the protagonist, is a brilliant boy wizard – but his journey and his wizard school are far darker and less predictable than the other Boy Wizard of recent cultural significance. And: Kvothe is much smarter and more devious than Harry could ever be, so though he isn’t as kind and endearing, he’s much more interesting. There’s plenty of action, but it’s got enough moral grey areas and gritty realism to keep it from being all fluff. If you loved Harry Potter, this is the logical next step.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: A paragon of the time-travel romance subgenre, this well-loved book is a treat. Claire, a WWII nurse, steps through a stone circle in Scotland from 1945 to 1743, where she is swept away by a dashing Scotsman. Her ensuing struggle is beautifully romantic and entirely thrilling, and has a lot more to offer than a simple love story. (If you’ve already read the Outlander series, try The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley for a similar experience)

Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas: The first book of the Wallflower series, this romance tells the story of Annabelle, who is torn between the seductive charm of her admirer Simon and her need to make a respectable marriage. The friendship Annabelle shares with the other “Wallflowers” – a group of four female friends – makes this series a favorite of romance readers.

 

The Summer Reading Program is in full swing for kids, teens, and adults. Stop by any library location to sign up!

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!