May 29th, 2014

Best Books of Summer

beachAnnouncing my intention to attend a work conference in Detroit was my most successful dinner time conversation starter in years.  My son was confident the TSA would waive its rules for carry-on personal protection items in such circumstances, even when their website proved him wrong.  My husband insisted I take time to investigate the local real estate market for a $100 “investment” house with views of Canada.  Even having backpacked through Europe in my day, the conference’s promotional tagline “Detroit—it’s not as bad as you think” gave me pause.

After four days, I was missing both sweet tea and the sight of trees and green grass, neither of which downtown Detroit appeared to have.  But, in return, I’d found the Astoria bakery’s heavenly baklava, sky-high views from the People Mover and my long buried sense of adventure.  Detroit—it deserves better.

If an adventure into the unknown is not on your radar this summer, go along for the journey in one of these titles voted best books of the summer.

Lucky Us—Amy Bloom
Eva and her newly discovered half-sister leave depression-era Ohio for Hollywood only to be detoured on their epic road trip by a needy orphan, an accused German spy and their unrepentant father.  A comedic road trip that proves distance and fate need not tear a make-shift family apart.

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street—Susan Jane Gilman
Adopted by a guilt-ridden Italian ice cream vendor, Lillian leaves her Russian Jewish heritage behind as she ascends to the self-proclaimed role of America’s Ice Cream Queen.  A cooling rags-to-riches story designed for a hot summer day.

Carsick—John Waters
When the indie filmmaker of Hairspray and Crybaby decides to hitchhike from Baltimore to California holding a sign saying “I’m Not Psycho,” nothing can go wrong, can it?

Mr. Mercedes—Stephen King
Where would any self-respecting sociopath hide in a Stephen King novel released in the summer–the local neighborhood ice cream truck, of course.  The question is what path will lead to discovery and how many will be hurt on the way.

The Book of Unknown Americans—Cristina Henriquez
The Rivera family makes the journey from Mexico, where they ran a thriving construction business, to Delaware hoping for help for their brain-injured daughter.  Finding work at a local mushroom farm does little to ease the family’s fears as they have little English or money to sustain them.  A perspective on the American dream with roots close to home.

Vacationers—Emma Straub
Fired for dallying with an intern, Jim begins his two-week island vacation on the losing end of the silent treatment from his wife Franny.  Planned to celebrate their 35th anniversary, the trip gathers family and friends preoccupied with their own secrets and ambitions set to be revealed under the hot Mallorca sun.

Where are you headed this summer and what’s on your reading list?

March 24th, 2014

A Bucket List of Learning

At first, I thought she had been abducted by aliens. Or, more urgently, had run out of coffee. Either way, my phone was telling me I actually had a text from my mother, the woman notorious for always carrying her cell phone…in the off position.  But here, with formatting and grammar to make Emily Post proud, was a family birthday party invitation from my mother.  In the form of a text message!

After recovering from the shock and consulting my sisters, I learned this new skill had been born strictly out of necessity. My brother never answers a ringing phone (only a beeping text) and my mother was tired of being ignored. Those who don’t adapt see their grandchildren less.

Beyond practicality, this need to learn and grow throughout life can spring from untapped potential, latent desire or childhood dreams.  If you still wish you had pursued a writing career or gotten that certification in project management, it’s never too late.  The library now offers free online, instructor-led courses designed to boost your skills both personally and professionally.   Through Learn4Life, you can explore topics such as:

– Start Your Own Small Business
– Teaching Smarter With Smart Boards
– Start Your Own Edible Garden
– CompTIA Security+ Certification Prep
– Secrets of Better Photography
– Explore a Career in Medical Coding

Or, in my mother’s case, the course aptly titled “Get Assertive!” might just kick-start her plan for a summer vacation with the grand-kids. At least until my brother catches on…

What topics are on your to-learn bucket list?

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