the arsonistThe Arsonist by Sue Miller is my latest foray into audiobooks. Miller has weaved a suspenseful story full of family drama and community intrigue within a small New England town.

Frankie Rowley has returned to Pomeroy, New Hampshire, the small village and farmhouse where her family has always spent the summers. Frankie has worked in East Africa for the last 15 years, but came home after she realized that she has never really quite fit in over there. The adjustment back to the states is hard on Frankie, leaving her walking along a country road on her first night back. Waking up the next morning, Frankie discovers that a house up the road has been burnt to the ground. Fires keep popping up around the community, putting people on edge and dividing the town even further.

In addition to the community drama around the fires, Frankie’s mother Sylvia is becoming more concerned over her husband’s erratic behavior. He is forgetting more and more some days, while on others, he seems just fine. Frankie and her sister, Liz, are trying to help, but Liz has a family of her own to deal with now and is hoping Frankie will help relieve her stress. Frankie, herself, has fallen for Bud Jacobs, a Washington DC transplant to Pomeroy, who has taken over the town’s small newspaper. All of these relationships become even more entangled in a very small town under great stress due to all of the arson activity and the divide between the summer people and year-rounders.

The Arsonist is the second book that I’ve listened to where the author has been the narrator and the stories really benefit from the author’s telling. The author is able to truly tell how she wants the characters to talk and how she sees them interacting with each other. You also notice a distinct connection between the narrator and each character because the author cares more about and has a more vested interest in how the characters are being portrayed. Check this book out and let me know what you think!

This book is available in additional formats:

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.

online colorWe had some sizzling hot temperatures this month – just right for some indulgent Summer Reads! How did you do? Did you find something wonderful, or did the month slip by too fast?

I read Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen and it certainly put me in a summer vacation mood – four strangers rent an idyllic cottage on a quiet island on the coast of Maine for a month and something magical happens – relationships are repaired, spirits lifted, strangers become friends. Based on the beloved classic Enchanted April (which takes place in 1920s Italy), Enchanted August is a modern retelling that is charming, fun and relaxing to read. I recommend it highly!

For totally unnecessary extra credit, I started reading Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard because who wouldn’t want a summer escape to Provence? A follow-up to her popular Lunch in Paris, this follows her growing family and their move to Provence. It’s lovely, full of evocative descriptions of the gorgeous countryside, the layers of history and, especially, the incredible food. Mostly, when I’m reading this I feel hungry (and a bit envious because – Provence!) I haven’t finished yet, but it’s been a lovely read so far. (I also recommend her previous book because – Paris!)

Now it’s over to you – what did you read this month? And don’t forget to come back tomorrow when we introduce the next topic in our year of Online Reading Challenges!

Books mentioned in this post:

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Guest CottageThe Guest Cottage by Nancy Thayer is a great companion to Enchanted August (see blog post of July 15th). Not only are both set in idyllic New England islands, both novels  are self-limiting in that the cottage rental is for the month of August. (Is this a east coast thing? It seems very exotic to this midwesterner).

The knowledge that this a short-term co-habitation allows for a pleasantly predictable dramatic arc (meet-cute, attraction, development of romance and friendship, sadness of the looming end of summer).

The characters in both books are suffering from unsatisfactory or dysfunctional family situations, and are looking for healing, as well as escape, however brief. They find all this, as well as transformation and joy.

This is the first Nancy Thayer book I’ve read, and I’m happy to find that she has many more in her backlist. She actually lives in Nantucket so her writing has the ring of authority.

What is therapeutic is the satisfaction she obviously takes in the quotidian tasks of cooking, grocery shopping,  cleaning up, and so on. Life on the island also consists of going to the beach, sailing, visiting quaint shops and getting ice cream. One could do a lot worse than spending time in these fictional worlds.

haute dogsHaute Dogs gives the classic cookout staple a fresh and tasty twist, with recipes inspired by everything from south-of-the-border BBQ to Japanese fusion to modern food-cart cuisine.

Handcraft your own top-notch dogs, buns, and condiments with step-by-step from-scratch instructions, and brush up on your hot dog history with an in-depth look at tasty traditions from the U.S. and beyond.

Just in time for summer, this indispensable guide will make your grilling extraordinary. (description from publisher)


waywaybackThere comes a point in most people’s lives when they begin to realize that they’re finally an adult.  For me that moment came the first time I re-watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and I realized that I sympathized more with the adults and Ferris’ sister than Ferris.  Since that day, I’ve noticed a trend in my entertainment sympathies.  I watched Easy A and my favorite characters were Olive’s parents (hilariously played by Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci). I’ve been re-watching The Cosby Show, and my affinity has swayed from Theo to Clair.

So when I watched The Way, Way Back, I was expecting the same.  Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash*, the writers of the Oscar winning The Descendants screenplay, this is a smart, funny movie about the pain of growing up and the fear of becoming the wrong kind of adult.  Liam James is remarkably and heartbreakingly convincing as Duncan, a 14-year-old spending the summer with his mom, Pam (Toni Collette) at her boyfriend Trent’s beach house.  Trent, played by a surprisingly unlikable Steve Carrell, is the aforementioned wrong kind of adult.  He is obsessed with the “supposed to” in life, caring more about things and image than people.  When Duncan finds a job at the local water park, he begins to meet people that have chosen a different path toward adulthood (and have reached it in varying degrees).

There are a lot of reasons to recommend this movie.  The supporting cast — Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, AnnaSophia Robb, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, and the scene stealing Allison Janney — is fantastic, and the movie is hilarious.  But I loved the movie because of how much I cared about Duncan.  Teens are often portrayed as arrogant and reckless or completely socially inept nerds, but most kids live somewhere in the middle.  James’ performance and Faxon and Rash’s writing helped give me a chance to root for the teen again, which is almost like reclaiming my youth.

I’d recommend this movie for fans of Little Miss Sunshine, Crazy Stupid Love, or Adventureland.

*The Dean from Community has an Oscar!

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!


From garden to grill to fork, nothing tastes better than freshly harvested vegetables grilled to perfection alongside savory meats and plump grilled fruits. The Gardener and the Grill by Karen Adler is the grilling guide for gardeners, seasonal eaters, and “flexitarians” everywhere, and anyone enamored of the powers of the grill.

Keep the grill hot long after summer’s finished with Planked Butternut Squash with Sage and Brie; Grilled Gazpacho; a Blackened Fish Po’Boy with Grilled Green Onion Mayonnaise; Pizza Primavera; Wood-Grilled Shrimp and Yellow Peppers; Tandoori Turkey Burgers: and Grill-Baked Apples with Cinnamon Nut Stuffing. With seasonal recipes, tips on grilling for preserving, a burgeoning “griller’s pantry” of rubs and versatile sauces, and more than 100 vegetarian recipes, this is the must-have resource for eager and experienced grillers and gardeners alike. (description from publisher)

Right about now, in the frigid frost of  a typical Midwestern mid-winter, a nice hot beach read can come to the rescue.   Fortunately, Dorothea Benton Frank’s Lowcountry Summer fills the bill.  Previous fans will find familiar ground in this sequel to her bestselling novel, Plantation. Though Frank resides in New York, she was born and raised on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, and her knowledge of the area and it’s cultural customs certainly seem to authenticate the already colorful characters.

For some reason, I don’t know why, maybe it was all the references to the mouth-watering food they were eating , but the narrator kept reminding me of Paula Deen.  But then she’d reinvent herself when describing her laugh-out-loud love-life, and yet again when trying to deal with a drunken sister-in-law or comfort her grief-stricken brother.  So there’s more than just sass and sex  — there’s all the dynamics of complicated family relationships with some unexpected and poignant outcomes thrown in along the way.

I think the thing I enjoyed most was how she used dialog for the narrator, Caroline.  For example, Caroline might respond verbally one way (to her 19 year old son in college who’s shacking up with an older single mom) but she also lets the reader know her real thoughts, as shown here:

“But it’s nothing really.  I just go over to her place for dinner, that’s all”

Oh. My. God.  He was having sex.  My son was having sex!

“Oh, Is she a good cook?”  She had better not be a good cook.

See what I mean?  So, come to the library,  pick up a copy and than pretend you’re on vacation on a beach near Charleston.

Americans consume 20 billion hotdogs a year.  The key to keeping them “consumed” is to not think about what’s in them, but that’s neither here nor there.

It’s the season, and we’re only a a month an a half away from the ridiculous gorge-fest that is Coney Island on July 4th.

Becky Mercuri has assembled a list of the best hotdogs, some quite artisanal in nature in The Great American Hot Dog Book.  It’s a foodstuff so interwoven into the American tapestry as to be synonymous with baseball and apple pie — and last time I checked people weren’t meandering up and down the bleachers at Modern Woodmen park hollering to, “Getcher red hot apple pie…”

She has the best weenie eateries grouped by region, so plan your California vacation accordingly so you can get one of Pink’s Pastrami Burrito Dogs.

One all-kosher beef I’ve got with the book is no pictures.