Trouble with the Curve (2012) PG-13

I loved Trouble with the Curve, a baseball journey featuring an all-star cast. Clint Eastwood is Gus, a stubborn, ailing scout with a job in jeopardy. Amy Adams plays Mickey, his estranged daughter on the fast track of a big law firm. The two embark on a road trip to find the next great baseball star and along the way, meet Johnny (Justin Timberlake) – a former ballplayer, a rival scout, and a love interest for Mickey.

I appreciated seeing another side of the baseball game, plus enjoyed the interaction between the actors (the three mentioned above as well as John Goodman). I’ll definitely watch this one again!

For other baseball movies at Indian Prairie, check out our list. And Spring Training is underway. Are you ready for another season of Chicago baseball?
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The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick (2008)

I was motivated to pick up The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick after seeing the previews for the movie adaptation starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. I was not disappointed.

34-year-old Pat Peoples believes in silver linings despite his 4+ years in a mental institution, his “apart time” from his wife, and his underperforming Philadelphia Eagles. When he returns home, his father won’t talk to him, his mother is overly accommodating, and his friend Ronnie attempts to help by introducing his sister-in-law Tiffany.

In this quirky and heartening novel, Pat’s stream-of-conscious narration provides a unique perspective on life (including a hilarious take on classic literature). Nancy Pearl calls the novel “heartwarming, humorous, and soul-satisfying.”
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Hungry Girl to the Max by Lisa Lillien (2012)

Cooking is not my strong suit. So I was excited to discover Hungry Girl (aka Lisa Lillien) – she creates easy-to-follow (and healthy!) recipes. In her latest book, Hungry Girl to the Max, she covers everything from breakfast to dessert with party treats mixed in. The 650 recipes include hundreds of new recipes plus reprints of old favorites. I absolutely love the white lasagna and buffalo chicken salad. Next, I think I’ll try one of the foil packs. Visit her website to see chapter breakdowns and photos of the recipes.

MWF Seeking BFF: My Yearlong Search for a New Best Friend by Rachel Bertsche (2011)

In this funny and engaging memoir, 27-year-old Rachel Bertsche details her quest for new friends in a new city. After moving to Chicago with her boyfriend, Bertsche realizes that her close friends are scattered across the country. In an effort to find her next best friend, Bertsche joins cooking classes, meet ups, and improv classes and then schedules 52 friend “dates” throughout the year.

With a witty tone, Bertsche interweaves her experiences with research from friendship experts. Entertaining and a little bit educational. Check out MWF Seeking BFF to read more of her story. And before you get the book, read the blog that started it all.

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart (2007)

Summer at Tiffany is a delightful portrait of a moment in time. During the summer of 1945, Marjorie and her roommate Marty leave the University of Iowa for New York City. While jobs aren't quite as easy to procure as promised, they get hired as the first female pages (runners) at Tiffany’s flagship store.

More than 60 years later, Marjorie recounts that special summer: celebrity sightings (Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich – did you know her role in WWII?), saving pennies for a few treats, dancing with soldiers, her own summer romance, and experiencing V-J Day in Times Square.

When I think of 1945, World War II immediately comes to mind. Marjorie's story is a different slice of that year. As she said, everyone she knew was affected. Yet the story she shares is a 21-year-old small town girl experiencing the big city for the first time.

 

Spotlight: European Travel

I love to visit Europe. And in between those rare trips, I enjoy learning more about a new place. So whether you’re an armchair traveler or planning your next vacation, we have the DVDs to get you started on the right path.

Samantha Brown hosted Passport to Europe on Travel Channel. Check out the DVDs on France & Italy or England, Ireland, & Scotland. Each set contains 22 minute episodes on different regions in each of the countries listed. As your guide, Brown presents a charming mix of history and entertainment.
And then, of course, there is PBS darling and European travel guru Rick Steves. For the past 40 years, he’s spent about one-third of each year traveling throughout Europe. Take advantage of his expertise by checking out one of the Rick Steves’ Europe DVDs. The 30 minute episodes from 2000 to 2012 traverse the continent from old favorites England and France to newer shows on Sweden and Croatia. See episodes arranged by country with this complete guide to shows.

Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot (2012

After a five year wait, Heather Wells finally returns in Size 12 and Ready to Rock, the latest installment of this chick lit mystery series by Meg Cabot. Don’t worry if you haven’t read the previous three books – or, like me, you don’t remember the specifics – it’s easy to jump back into Heather’s zany life.

At 15, Heather Wells was a famous pop star who traveled the globe. At 30, she’s the assistant residence hall director at Fischer Hall (aka “Death Dorm”) in NYC. There’s another dead body and another mystery to solve, but more importantly, plenty of humor. I think I had a smile on my face for much of the novel. Escape for a few hours with this entertaining and engaging story.

To see how it all began, check out my review of Size 12 is Not Fat. And for more chick lit, check out our book list.

Harry Potter, Page to Screen: The Complete Filmmaking Journey by Bob McCabe (2011)

A must read for fans of Harry Potter and also recommended for movie buffs.

Harry Potter, Page to Screen details just about every aspect of the eight films. Learn how they cast the characters (and the directors); find out how they made Hagrid so tall; read a copy of The Daily Prophet; and discover how Daniel Radcliffe filmed the underwater scenes for Goblet of Fire. The author was on set for a time, so look for interviews with several of the cast and crew, plus exclusive photographs.

This hefty tome weighs over seven pounds and is over 500 pages long. And although I read the book all the way through (over the course of a month), you don't have to. It's great to page through and browse the pictures or artwork that interests you. Find the little details such as the glossy images underlying the text and the symbols used throughout the book.

The book contains chapters on each movie, then explores the art of Harry Potter with behind-the-scenes looks at characters, locations, creatures, and artifacts. Those interested in movie-making will enjoy the detail given to costuming, prop making, digital effects, and set design. It's amazing how much work goes into each detail. And the book itself is truly a visual treat.

Are you ready for J. K. Rowling’s newest book? Put yourself on hold for The Casual Vacancy today – it’s being released at the end of September.
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Jasmine Nights by Julia Gregson (2012)

Settle in and get swept away in this lush globetrotting tale set in 1942. As British fighter pilot Dominic Benson is recovering in a hospital, he is mesmerized by talented singer Saba Tarcan. The daughter of a Turkish engineer and a Welsh mother, Saba defied her family to audition for the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA). Her duties for ENSA are supplemented by a few side jobs for the British secret service

Their paths continue to cross as they travel to Cairo, Alexandria, and Istanbul to serve their country. With an engaging cast of characters and richly described settings, this is one historical novel you don’t want to miss. Read Jasmine Nights by Julia Gregson for a different perspective of World War II.

For one performer’s experiences of serving with ENSA, read this article from the BBC: here.

If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster (2011)

Do you have a mild obsession with HGTV? Not a huge fan of the Twilight craze? Then you'll probably enjoy the hilarious and often painful story of Mia and Mac and their first foray into home ownership and renovation

Mia writes Amish zombie romances for teens and shares scathing thoughts of "rival" Stephenie Meyer. She also has a deep abiding love for all things John Hughes...which proves to be her downfall. Ready to escape a crazy situation in a rental house in Chicago, Mia decides it's time to find her dream house in the suburbs. And that's when the nightmare begins.

Throughout the book, Lancaster makes several nods to Hughes and his trademarks. It's often laugh-out-loud funny. If You Were Here is a good beach read. And while I haven't read her memoirs, you can get an idea of her writing style by visiting her blog, Jennsylvania.

Check out If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster today.

 

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella (2012)

Going on vacation? Or just need to get away for a few hours? Pick up Sophie Kinsella's latest standalone novel -- it's the perfect escape.

Poppy Wyatt is the loveable heroine who, a week before her wedding, loses her antique engagement ring and her cell phone, then finds a discarded phone. And craziness and hilarity ensue.

She's desperately trying to hide the fact that she lost a family heirloom from her fiancé and his family, plus finalize wedding preparations. Oh, and that cell phone? It belongs to businessman Sam Roxton -- who doesn't appreciate Poppy interfering in his personal and professional life.

Enjoy the texts and emails between Sam and Poppy. Avid texters and Facebook users will appreciate the conversation more. And I love the footnotes -- another way for Poppy to share her wry observations. The secondary characters and the Scrabble games will bring a smile to your face. Read the novel without taking it too seriously -- suspending disbelief makes it an entertaining diversion for an afternoon.

Pick up a copy of I've Got Your Number today and get lost in this fun romance.

Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall (2011)

The worldwide phenomenon dazzles in this live concert at the Royal Albert Hall in her hometown of London, England. Recorded on September 22, 2011, Adele shares stories of her childhood and recent life, discusses the origins of her songs, and flat out entertains the crowd.

You’ll also see behind-the-scenes footage of Adele throughout the day leading up to the concert. Adele has an amazing voice and it is apparent here during the concert as she sings the best of her two albums plus covers a few songs. I especially enjoyed “Rumour Has It,” “Someone Like You,” and “Rolling in the Deep.” And her tribute to Amy Winehouse with Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" was beautiful.

Find the DVD Adele: Live at the Royal Albert Hall at the library (it includes a CD of her live performances). You can also check out her CDs at the library.

Want more Adele? Tune into NBC on June 5 for an hour-long interview and concert special with Adele and Matt Lauer. Billboard.com previews the event.

Paris in Love by Eloisa James (2012)

Shakespeare professor (as Mary Bly) and romance novelist Eloisa James takes a yearlong sabbatical and moves from New Jersey to Paris with her husband (Alessandro, a professor and an Italian knight) and two children (Luca, 15 and Anna, 11).

It's difficult to describe this book. It's a memoir. A travelogue. A love letter to the City of Light. A chronicle of everyday family occurrences. But it's done in such a way that draws you in and makes you feel as if you're there alongside Eloisa and her family in Paris. Anna will steal your heart. The antics of Milo, the family dog, will leave you chuckling.

The book grew out of Facebook status updates posted during her year abroad. Each chapter starts with a brief essay and is followed by short vignettes. Some are only a few sentences long; others are lengthy paragraphs. It works.

The writing is eloquent and witty. Although the format lends itself to reading in short spurts, you won't want to put this book down!

Read Paris in Love today! Also check out a TIME Magazine interview with the author about her famous parents, her writing life, and her decision to move to Paris.

Watch the author and her husband discuss the book and see some of Luca’s snapshots of Paris in this YouTube video.

Thompson Square by Thompson Square (2010)

This husband-and-wife duo’s debut album features catchy country rock songs. You may have heard their hit single “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not” on the radio. Fun lyrics, great music, and complementary voices make Thompson Square a great album to listen to for summer.

They’ve drawn comparisons to Sugarland (and even beat them out for the 2012 Academy of Country Music's Vocal Duo of the Year), but they have a sound all their own.

Check out a review of the album from The Washington Post. Visit their website for more on Thompson Square.

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (2005)

It’s more depressing than what I usually read – and sadder than what I typically enjoy. And yet, I couldn’t put it down. As Library Journal said, “It’s hard to believe that such an inherently sad story could be so entertaining, but Foer’s writing lightens the load.”

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is a rambling account from nine-year-old Oskar Schell, who is precocious, smart, and in a whole world of pain. His dad died on 9/11. When Oskar discovers a mysterious key in his dad’s closet, he embarks on a quest to solve one more riddle from his father.

Oskar is endearing and exasperating. The story is funny and sad, heartwarming and heartbreaking. The book has pages with an intimidating single block of text and pages with a single word. It is engrossing. And it made me want to hug my family.

Give this book a try – you won’t regret it.

Check the catalog for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and other books by Jonathan Safran Foer.