Hot Reads for Adults

AS YOU WISH: INCONCEIVABLE TALES FROM THE MAKING OF THE PRINCESS BRIDE by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden

In 1987, Cary Elwes was a young, unknown actor about to embark upon his biggest leading role yet. The part was Westley, a swashbuckling Man in Black, in a “romance, adventure, fantasy, drama, comedy, action” film called The Princess Bride and it changed his life. Though the movie had an underwhelming theatrical run, it found an audience on home video and today it’s a beloved, and oft-quoted, classic.

Elwes’s memoir of the making of the film is as warm and wickedly-funny as William Goldman’s screenplay. He happily shares backstage antics (a couple of which sent him to the emergency room) and gushes over his costar, Robin Wright. The closest Elwes comes to dishing dirt is fondly telling a few drinking stories about André the Giant, who played Fezzik. Sidebars written by Rob Reiner, Mandy Patinkin, Billy Crystal, and other members of the cast and crew make it clear that everyone involved in production knew they were part of something special.

If viewing The Princess Bride puts a smile on your face, this book will, too.

Reviewed by Lynn Heitkamp

Refire! Don’t Retire: Make the Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life by Ken Blanchard and Morton Shaevitz

Larry and Janice are a couple who feel their lives have gone stale as they’ve gotten older. They go to a counselor and after each session Dr. Jeffrey sends them to meet a couple who have embraced the principle described in the chapter. The conversations sound like little lectures, and the format would be annoying if the content weren’t so good. The truth is, this book is a dynamic exploration of how to refire yourself emotionally, intellectually physically and spiritually. The concepts are easy to understand and the book successfully challenges the reader to take stock and try new things. Especially useful is the short series of reflections and action steps at the end of each section. Although aimed at those of retirement age, this book will be of value to anyone who feels that life has become routine and unfulfilling. Reviewed by Kate Tesdell

COLD COLD HEART by Tami Hoag

Dana Nolan was on the fast track to success as a TV reporter until she was captured by a serial killer who wanted to make her his 9th victim. “Where there is life, there is hope” becomes Dana’s mantra and she conquers this killer only to find out that this is just the beginning of a very long road back to her new normal. Suffering from closed head injuries, Dana goes back to her hometown to stay with her mother and step-father while she recovers. Still plagued by nightmares and missing memories, Dana decides to focus on a cold case from her past, the disappearance of her childhood friend Casey Grant. Dana will soon learn that things aren’t always as they appear and sometimes those closest to us are the most dangerous. The author offers a very insightful look at the misconception and agony of PTSD through Dana’s challenges. This well-written book will keep you on the edge of your seat and you won’t want to put it down.

Reviewed by Brenda Rodammer

CARE AND MANAGEMENT OF LIES by Jacqueline Winspear

This is a story of the beginning of World War I from a woman’s perspective. Kezia has married the brother of her childhood friend and moved to his farm in Kent, England. She is the daughter of a vicar, and has never cooked a meal or kept a house. She settles into her new role in her own particular way, not worrying too much about what others think. Two months later, England declares war on Germany. Soon Kezia’s husband, Tom, has enlisted, leaving her to run the farm with two remaining farmhands (who are unable to enlist.) Her friend and sister-in-law, Thea, also joins a medical unit as an ambulance driver and is off to war after Christmas. Kezia doesn’t want to worry Tom about changes taking place on the farm – she has been ordered to cut down the apple orchard to grow wheat for the army, for example. She fills her letters with imaginary meals that she has prepared for him, not mentioning any food shortages. There is a lot of detail about the food they ate. It was a charming story, but it ended rather abruptly. Reviewed by Fiona Swift

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GOOD CHEAP EATS: EVERYDAY DINNERS AND FANTASTIC FEASTS FOR $10 OR LESS by Jessica Fisher

You will know what’s for dinner after perusing this title. Popular blogger Jessica Fisher’s third cookbook is stuffed with dishes to delight kids and parents alike. The over 200 recipes are organized into 70 complete meals and include important designations such as meatless, dairy-free, gluten-free, slow cooker, make-ahead, and freezer-friendly. Helpful tips to reduce your food costs are also scattered throughout the text. Watch out, the rich photos will have your stomach growling!

Reviewed by Jennie Tuttle

RAYE OF LIGHT: JIMMY RAYE, DUFFY DAUGHERTY, THE INTEGRATION OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL, AND THE 1965-66 MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS by Tom Shanahan

In 1964, Jimmy Raye came from a segregated high school in North Carolina to play quarterback for Michigan State. Just a few years later, he was playing to a national TV audience in the Rose Bowl and later led the Spartans to a share in a national championship before moving on to a career playing and coaching in the NFL. In his foreword, former NFL coach Tony Dungy credits Raye for opening doors for him and other African American players and coaches.

 

Shanahan uses Raye and the 1965-66 Michigan State football program as a jumping off point to explore racism and sport in this book. It is a story bigger than just one player or team, but he chose to focus on the Spartans because head coach Duffy Daugherty actively recruited Southern black players at a time when the major college football programs in the South were still all-white. In the mid-1960’s, when civil rights couldn’t be taken for granted, Michigan State fielded fully integrated teams that won big and helped change the face of college sports forever.

 

Reviewed by Lynn Heitkamp

GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins

Some are comparing it to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window; others are comparing it to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl; I think it deserves to stand on its own. Rachel Watson travels the same train line every day. As she nears a particular strip of homes, she cannot make herself turn away from the daily rituals and relationships she watches unfold from a distance. We soon learn that part of Rachel’s draw to these homes has to do with her former life and her ex-husband. Wafting in and out of reality, Rachel fights many of her own demons daily, but soon finds herself fighting for the truth. What exactly did Rachel see and what does it mean? This book follows the lives of three women (Rachel, Megan, and Anna), weaving a web that binds them together in life . . . and in death. This chiller will keep you turning pages until the wee hours of the morning.

 

Reviewed by Jennifer Harden

FOOTSTEPS IN THE SNOW by Charles Lachman

Sycamore, Illinois in December 1957 was the quintessential Midwest small town. It was safe, secure, happy, and full of “Father Knows Best” families. In Sycamore no one locked the doors, and it was commonplace for children to go outside to play with friends. Commonplace, that is, until 7-year old Maria Ridulph simply vanished from her own street while her friend, Kathy, had gone inside to get her mittens. The town was galvanized into action. The men formed search teams and combed the area with guns and dogs, wives and mothers made coffee and sandwiches for them, and children were swept up and into the safety of families who would never see life quite the same way again. And after all the searching, the only clues seemed to be Kathy’s account of meeting a friendly man named Johnny, Maria’s doll, found in a neighboring yard, and some mysterious footsteps in the snow.

5 months later, in Galena, Illinois (some 120 miles from Sycamore), mushroom hunters came across the decomposed body of a small child who was determined to be Maria. Despite the efforts of the Illinois State Police, the case remained unsolved, and went cold for the next 55 years. The . . . → Read More: FOOTSTEPS IN THE SNOW by Charles Lachman

GOLDEN SON: BOOK 2 OF THE RED RISING TRILOGY by Pierce Brown

In a future where mankind has spread to inhabit the moons and planets of our solar system, humans are divided into castes designated by color: from Reds, who mine beneath the surface of Mars, up to Golds, the super-humans who lead the entire society. In Pierce Brown’s Red Rising we met Darrow, a smart and tough Red who, after his young wife is murdered by Mars’ leader, agrees to be transformed into a Gold in order to bring down the caste system from within. Darrow successfully navigates the challenges of the Golds’ brutal Institute then, in Golden Son, launches into his adult life. Quickly thrown into politics and intrigue at the highest level, Darrow begins to emerge as the leader the lower castes desperately need. Golden Son is a high action page turner that is nearly impossible to put down, with a doozy of a cliffhanger ending and non-stop twists and turns throughout. Darrow is a complex and intelligent character, and he is surrounded by a colorful cadre of friends and enemies. With all the ingredients of a first rate sci-fi classic, Golden Son manages to be the rare book that improves upon its predecessor. Reviewed by Beth Hale

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BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter

This is a novel overflowing with movement through place and time. From Italy to Scotland to Hollywood via 1962 to present day, Walter’s novel crosses decades, continents and genres to bring the reader a delightful tale of love, frustration, greed and patience. Captivating characters like the love-stricken Italian innkeeper, Pasquale Tursi; scorned young actress, Dee Moray; and impassioned film assistant, Claire Silver capture the heart and exotic locales fill the senses with the salty breezes of the Ligurian Sea and the chilling grittiness of urban Edinburgh. The joy and heartbreak of acting, writing, and producing works of art are humorously yet tenderly conveyed in this enchanting tale. Even Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor are players in this plot. Beautiful Ruins is an excellent read for a cold winter day or a day lazing at the beach. Neica Dey