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.

bbqJust in time for warmer temps (really, one of these days – it’s going to get warm, maybe even hot) the month of May is a great time to plan your barbecue strategy. There are lots of big reasons to fire up the grill this summer – Father’s Day, 4th of July, family reunions, graduations – but you don’t really need an excuse to get cooking. If you’re looking for tips or fresh ideas, stop by the library – we have more barbecue/grilling/outdoor cooking books than you can shake a barbecue brush at.

Serious Barbecue: Smoke, Char, Baste and Brush Your Way to Great Outdoor Cooking by Adam Perry Lang

Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ Book by Chris Lilly

Wood-fired Cooking: Techniques and Recipes for the Grill, Backyard Oven, Fireplace and Campfire by Mary Karlin

500 Barbecue Dishes: the Only Barbecue Compendium You’ll Ever Need by Paul Kirk

Bobby Flay’s Grill It by Bobby Flay

Jerk from Jamaica: Barbecue Caribbean Style by Helen Willinsky

Barbecue Nation: 350 Hot-off-the-Grill, Tried-and-True Recipes from America’s Backyard by Fred Thompson

national-parksOr explore a historic house. Or visit one of the natural wonders of this country. Celebrate National Parks Week (April 18-26) and discover some of the special places of America.

The United States established the first national park in the world in 1872 with Yellowstone National Park. Since then, the National Park service has developed hundreds of parks, recreation areas, historic sites, monuments and memorials throughout the country. Everyone’s familiar with the famous sites, like the Grand Canyon or Yosemite but there are many more worth visiting ranging from the seashores of North Carolina to Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home in Kentucky to the volcanoes of Hawaii. The National Parks offers tons of services including ranger talks and ranger-led walks, preservation of the natural and historic treasures and multiple recreational opportunities, almost all of which are free or very low cost.

While it might be a little late to visit a park this week, now is the perfect time to plan your summer vacation or your next weekend getaway. Be sure to check out the books available at the library including:

National Parks of the American West for Dummies

Haunted Hikes: Spine Tingling Tales and Trails from North America’s National Parks by Andrea Lankford

Great Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Parks by Lonely Planet

National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States

Great Lodges of the National Parks by Christine Barnes

Yellowstone: a Natural and Human History by David Wallace

Is it hot enough for you? This period, from July 3 to August 11, is traditionally the hottest time of the year (at least in the Northern Hemisphere) and is commonly known as the “Dog Days of Summer.” According to Brady’s Clavis Calendarium, 1813, this was thought to be an evil time “when the sea boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid . . .” If you can imagine life without air conditioning, some of these conditions would still prevail today!

How did this term originate? Well, in ancient times the star Sirius (also known as the Dog Star) was thought to be the cause of the hot, humid weather because in the summertime the star rose around the same time that the sun did. Their solution was to sacrifice a brown dog, hoping it would “appease the rage of Sirius” (from Chase’s Calendar of Events, 2008).

Fortunately, we longer sacrifice dogs or blame them for the hot weather. In fact, lots of folks really do love their dogs. If you’re looking for a good dog book this summer try one of these:

Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farm by John Katz

Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog by John Grogan

James Herriot’s Dog Stories by James Herriot

Cesar’s Way: the Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems by Cesar Millan and Melissa Jo Peltier