In the Hot Seat

While I enjoy writing about cutting-edge technologies that remain theoretical science or exist only in labs paid for by billion-dollar grants (here’s lookin’ at you, jetpacks), I would be remiss if from time to time I didn’t also cover the technological triumphs we can achieve in our own garages and basements.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

When Fayre kills a fae disguised as a wolf in the woods near her home, she is forced to leave the mortal realm behind forever and live out the rest of her life with the Fae as retribution. As she experiences the wonders of this dangerous, beautiful world and grows ever closer with Tamlin, her captor and one of the High Fae, she soon discovers that a dark, wicked force is threatening both realms--and she must find a way to stop it.

V is for Villain by Peter Moore

In this fun action and adventure novel, the main character could be the hero, or decide to become a villain instead.  Brad is a genius, but feels overshadowed by his older brother Blake.  Blake is a real life superhero, who fights for the benevolent Justice Force.  To compete, Brad befriends dangerous bad-girl Layla, who has a superpower so intense that it is illegal and must be kept secret.  Following Layla gets Brad into some serious trouble with the criminal underworld.

Stepdog: A Memoir by Mireya Navarro

When this Pulitzer Prize-winning writer met, fell in love with and married fellow reporter Jim, she anticipated the challenges of winning the favor of his pre-teen children. Never did she expect the difficulties she would face being accepted by his dog Eddie. Quickly she found herself in full-on war with her husband’s pet and his hostile, conniving presence. Ultimately a triumphant story, Stepdog is a reminder of the unforeseen obstacles, not only of the four-legged variety, that can get in the way of happily ever after.

Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller

When Kimberly Rae Miller was a little girl, she wished for three things: “new dolls, a best friend, and for her house to burn down.” Miller’s dad is a hoarder and filled the family house with paper and broken electronics. In her memoir, the author recounts a painful childhood, building walls so other kids would not discover her secret, fearing lice would crawl out of her hair in the middle of class, and being so anxious about cleaning once she went away to college that she would study YouTube videos to make sure she was cleaning the “right” way.

You by Caroline Kepnes

A psychological thriller, disturbingly told from the stalker’s POV, this one is different. For one thing, it’s written all in the second person, which takes a little getting used to. And while there’s maybe a fine line between devotion and obsession, MC Joe has crossed way over into downright creepy territory to fulfill his desire for the enigmatic and perhaps equally weird Beck. This first novel got a big boost when Stephen King tweeted it was one of his favorites of 2014. Fans of Gone Girl might especially appreciate this twisted tale of star-crossed love gone bad. 

The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes

Hallelujah Calhoun has been publicly shamed. The boy she loved, Luke Willis, accused her of something horrible in front of all their friends, and now no one will talk to her. When their youth group goes on a retreat in the Smoky Mountains, Hallelujah purposefully goes out of her way to get some space, and two of her friends follow her into the woods. But since no one knows where they are, they promptly find themselves lost with only a couple of granola bars between them.

Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle that Set Them Free by Hector Tobar

Journalist Tobar has written an exciting account of the amazing rescue of 33 miners trapped underground for two months in 2010. Using journals written by the miners during their ordeal as well as interviews with the men, family members and rescuers, the author traces the emotional ups and downs of everyone involved, as well as the inside story of exactly how this unbelievable story ends happily. 

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Archery: Even Cooler Than in the Movies

I like to think I started my blogging career here at the DGPL Technology Blog on the right foot. Rather than cover life-saving advances in medical technology or revolutionary consumer electronics, I chose to write about burrito vending machines. The week after that, I wrote about jetpacks. It’s been a good nine months since I started, but my goal has always been to explore fun and quirky technologies, regardless of their practical implications for life in Downers Grove. Today’s column, I’m happy to report, will be no different.

Baked Occasions: Desserts for Leisure Activities, Holidays, and Informal Celebrations

The delectable photographs and beautifully decorated cakes and desserts, by the owners of Brooklyn bakery Baked (, make this cookbook stand out. By cleverly arranging recipes by month, you can easily find recipes for many occasions from Easter Coconut Sheet Cake to St. Patrick’s Drunk Bundt Cake. Many of these recipes are standbys in their bakery and others bring a fun approach to those quirkier holidays. The Baked Ultimate Birthday Cake is first on my list to try!

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Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman

“You are indestructible.” These are the last words that Jake’s foster father whispers to him in the midst of a violent car crash. Jake survives the crash, his foster father does not, and soon Jake realizes that these were more than just words - he is now invincible. Jake and his friends begin testing and transferring the power, trying to unravel the mysterious life of Mr. Fielding and the origins of his indestructibility.

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande

Death is not a topic that most people want to think about, but in this fascinating book, bestselling author and respected surgeon Atul Gawande discusses how we can face the end of our lives with dignity and grace. In the United States, we are all too familiar with nursing homes for the elderly, intensive care units for the very ill and astronomical medical bills when faced with a terminal illness. Gawande believes there is a better way and provides eye-opening examples.