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Good road trip books, #TravelTuesday

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve written about books here on HeidiTown, which is odd because I read a lot of books… but perhaps I should rephrase that – I listen to a lot of books. Ryan and I are both Audible addicts.

I listen when I’m exercising and of course, I listen any time I’m in my car. It’s especially fun to listen on road trips because then Ryan and I can enjoy a story together.

I thought I’d share some of my recent favorite road trip books with you. These also happen to be books about traveling, making this the perfect #TravelTuesday post.

Good road trip books The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Henry Fry

By Rachel Joyce

This is the story of a pensioner (American’s say retiree) who decides to walk across England to visit an old friend. This book is laugh out loud funny, but also thoughtful and even brought me to tears at some points.

I enjoyed listening to this one as I walked my three miles each day; it made me feel that much closer to Henry Fry.

Ryan and I both liked “The Unlikely Pilgrimage” so much that we downloaded Joyce’s follow-up novel, “The Love Song of Miss Qeenie Hennessy.” While it was a good read, I didn’t like it quite as much as the first book.

Good road trip books The River of DoubtThe River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Days

By Candice Millard

This is an absolutely fascinating book about Theodore Roosevelt’s unbelievable adventure exploring an uncharted area of the Amazon. I have always loved books about exploration and this is one of the best I’ve read (or in this case, listened to).

I love how Millard focuses not only on Roosevelt’s journey, but also on the natural world around him. Her detailed descriptions of the Amazonian rain forest are some of my favorite parts of the book.

Good road trip books Turn Right at Machu Picchu

Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time

By Mark Adams

Reading “The River of Doubt” refueled my interest in South America. After all, one of my favorite books of all time is “The Lost City of Z“ by David Grann, who is an outstanding writer.

I don’t have an obsession with Machu Picchu and while it’s on my lists of places I’d like to visit one day, there are lot of destinations higher on the list. While I enjoyed “Turn Right at Machu Picchu” it didn’t really inspired me to move Machu Picchu up the list.

If you’re one of those folks infatuated with Machu Picchu, this is a must-read.

Stories for the road – very short book reviews

When you road trip as much as Ryan and I have been this summer, it’s a good idea to download some great books. After all, about 15 minutes into summer road trip number two, you’ve ran out of stuff to talk about with your significant other.

I thought I’d share what we’ve been listening to on the road around Colorado. We use the Audible app for Droid (and this is NOT a paid advertisement!). There are different types of plans, but we pay a monthly fee that gives us credit towards one book. We buy more than one book per month, since Ryan likes to listen while he works, and I like to listen when I’m driving or working out. Once you purchase a book it’s available in your Audible library online and available through the app on your phone.

So without further ado, here are some of our favorite Audible books from our many road trips. I love books and I love writing about books, so this is a bit longer than a normal blog post, so feel free to scroll until something catches your eye.

Game of Thrones book coverGame of Thrones – Books 1 through 5

We’ve been listening to the “Game of Thrones” series by George R.R. Martin and narrated by Roy Dotrice for a really, really long time. We finally finished the last book earlier this year. It was a sad moment because Martin is currently working on books 6 and 7, so we now wait with the bated breath for “the rest of the story.”

The best part? Roy Dotrice is a wonderful narrator. He has made these books come alive for me, and although I have enjoyed the HBO interpretation of the series thus far, it will always be the version Mr. Dotrice put in my head that will remain special to me.

The worst part? Even the biggest fans of Martin have to admit that sometimes he goes on and on for just a bit too long. There are parts of these books that are laborious, but that’s why listening to it makes it so much easier – your eyes don’t get tired.

Hannibal & Me book coverHannibal & Me: What History’s Greatest Military Strategist Can Teach Us About Success & Failure

Ryan listened to this one first, but during several recent road trips I’d listen to parts of it while he was sleeping. I listened to most of it on my daily walk at the lake. We both really loved this book and I’ve been telling everyone I know to read it. I even wrote a short book review of it for The Armory, A Shared Workspace’s blog and you can read it here.

The best part? Continue reading

“Blind Descent” exploring the deepest caves on earth

While I do not intend to write regular book reviews on HeidiTown, if the mood strikes, I will share a book with my readers. I am currently reading “Blind Descent” by James M. Tabor, a writer and former on-camera host of the PBS series, “The Great Outdoors.”

Tabor’s previous book, “Forever on the Mountain,” is about the 1967 climb of Alaska’s Mt. McKinley, a trip that resulted in 7 lives lost, making it the most tragic climbing accident in American history.    

Tabor’s new book chronicles the adventures of a different sort of explorer, the men and women who seek to find the deepest caves on earth. While we are accustom to hearing about climbers who attempt to summit the highest peaks in the world, these extreme cavers receive little if any publicity for their exploration, even though their feats are just as hazardous, if not more, than scaling K2 or Everest.

I often read books in this genre, but seldom do I find one as well-written as “Blind Descent.” Tabor rappels the reader into the ever-present darkness of these “super caves,” and at times it is a terrifying experience. These extreme cavers spend days upon days underground in the name of science and discovery, but also adventure.

Not only does Tabor take us on these caving explorations, but he also explores the personal lives of these extreme cavers. He gives the reader an inside look at what drives a person to do this type of dangerous activity, and what they are willing to risk, and lose, in order to fulfill their goals.      

As a state full of explorers and adventurers, I believe “Blind Descent” will appeal to many of HeidiTown’s Colorado readers.

I highly recommend this book. To learn more visit  


Book Review: “Lone Survivor”

Review by Matt Dworak

I just finished reading the book “Lone Survivor” by Marcus Luttrel and felt compelled to share.   My brother Drew had recommended the book.   Drew’s not a big reader and when he said he finished the book in two days that caught my attention.  

I should also mention that after finishing the book I had my wife read it, for women’s perspective.   She enjoyed the book but did make the comment along the lines that it was “seeping testosterone”.   She also mentioned that he was fairly anti-liberal, however I though he did a great job illustrating how those who write the rules of engagement will never be in a position where they will have to follow them.

The story is about the Navy SEALs who were killed in “Operation Redwing” in the mountains of Afghanistan.   The author was the sole survivor of a four man SEAL team that made it out alive.  

I think most everybody knows of the SEALs, the navy’s elite special operations force and has some idea about the intensity of their training.   But until reading the book I really had no idea how brutal their training really is.   The first half of the book tells about the training they go through, which blew me away.   I truly cannot imagine enduring what they go through, both physically and mentally.   It will definitely make you feel like a loser for skipping that last health club workout.    

The second half describes “Operation Redwing”,  where Luttrell and his four-man SEAL team were assigned to capture the Taliban leader Ahmad Shah.   The SEALs were inserted deep behind enemy lines when they were discovered. Hugely outnumbered they had no choice but to fight their way out.   The account of the ensuing firefight and Luttrell’s escape from enemy hands is very graphic, reader be warned, but I don’t think the story could be told any other way.

I’m no book critic but when I read something that changes my perspective on the world I’m living in, I have to encourage others to do the same.   Hopefully I think twice, the next time I complain about anything for whatever reason.  I really don’t have anything in my life worth complaining about.

My hat’s off to all those who have served our great county.


Matt Dworak is an avid outdoorsman and  Colorado native who resides in Fort Collins with his wife and their two young sons. You can read about his  numerous  adventures at”

Author Sandra Dallas coming to Reader’s Cove

Author Sandra Dallas  has been called the “quintessential American voice.”    

She is a New York Times Best Seller and on April 13, from 6 to 8:30 p.m.  she will be at Reader’s Cove in Fort Collins, Colorado, speaking about her latest book, “Whiter Than Snow.”

I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Dallas talk several years ago when she was the keynote speaker at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference.  

I’ve heard many authors speak  and Dallas is by far one of the very best.   I also had the opportunity to meet Dallas afterwards, and was impressed with her down-to-earth attitude and genuine care for aspiring authors.

Some of Dallas’ other works include “Tallgrass” and “Prayers for Sale.”

I’d highly recommend this Reader’s Cove event.

Visit Reader’s Cove at

Visit Sandra Dallas at

“Alice in Wonderland” – Down the 3D rabbit hole

Alice 2010 Disney

Rated PG

Directed by Tim Burton

Starring Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Matt Lucas, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman, Barbara Windsor

Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 3.75/5

Word of Warning: This one is properly rated. Although it’s dark, partly due to the 3D glasses, I don’t think it would be terribly frightening for the little ones.

The original “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was a book written by Englishman Lewis Carroll in 1865. It is considered the quintessential example of the  “literary nonsense” genre. Burton’s new “Alice” doesn’t quite live up to that description. Although the world he has created is a bit nutty, it’s not quite as nonsensical as Carroll’s Wonderland.

According to my husband, who is more of an “Alice” aficionado than I am, the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) wasn’t quite mad enough. My husband is also a big fan of Tim Burton, and he felt “Alice” didn’t feel as though it had enough of Burton’s style in it. That being said, he enjoyed the movie, but I enjoyed it even more.    

This is the story of Alice Kingsley, a 19-year-old whose future is being planned out for her without any consideration of her wants or desires. This was a fairly typical situation for young women of the time period. When Hamish Ascot, a sniveling Lord, asks for Alice’s hand in marriage, she is expected to say yes, but instead she flees into the forest where she falls down a rabbit hole.

Alice finds herself in a strange and magical land where she meets odd creatures and animals that are able to speak. Everyone seems to know her, and yet she doesn’t know anyone in this peculiar place. She finds herself wrapped up in an adventure story where she is destined to play a large role. All the while, she continues to believe she is dreaming.

Her adventure in Wonderland starts out  feeling familiar, in a dark wooden room with lots of differently sized doors. There’s even a bottle marked “Drink Me” and a cake with the words “Eat Me” written on it. But that’s where the familiarity starts to fade. This Alice is caught up in a very different story than the younger Alice, a slightly more dangerous tale.

Interestingly, Tim Burton had never filmed on green screen before and ninety percent of “Alice” is filmed on green screen. According to once source, the green screen scenes were filmed in a relatively short period – 40 days – leaving the cast and crew a little nauseated. It’s said Burton actually wore a pair of lavender lenses fitted onto his glasses to cut down on the overload of green.

With a mix of live actors and animation, I enjoyed this whimsical, 3D Alice story. Purest will likely have issues with the movie, but it’s an enjoyable film on it’s own merits. Perhaps the Mad Hatter could be madder and the ending could be a little less contrived, but this one is worth the full price of admission, and be sure to see it in 3D.

Also appearing in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor.

“Shutter Island” – the criminally insane always make for a good, scary story

Shutter-Island 2

Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo star as two 1950s U.S. Marshals sent to Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a dangerous mental patient.

Rated R

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Max Von Sydow, Emily Mortimer, Jackie Earl Haley, Patricia Clarkson

Heidi’s Illustrious Rating: 4/5

Word of Warning: Frightening, but it’s not one of those trendy, cheap-scares kind of films where ghosts crawl on the ceiling and come out of television sets.

There is a lot on the line when someone like Scorsese is sitting in the director chair, and I was anxious to see if “Shutter Island” would live up to the standards of its renowned director.

“Shutter Island” is based on a book by the same named authored by Dennis Lehane, who also wrote “Mystic River” and “Gone Baby Gone.” It is the third film Martin Scorsese and Leonardo Dicaprio have worked on together.

The year is 1954, and U.S. Marshals Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Ruffalo) have been summoned to Shutter Island. The island is home to a hospital/prison for the criminally insane, and a dangerous patient has vanished.

The film’s opening sequence – sweeping cinematography of a dark island shrouded in a damp, low lying fog of gloom, accompanied by frantic piano music – sets a terrifying tenor.

When the two marshals arrive on the island, the mood of the place is unsettled. They meet with the hospital’s chief psychiatrist, Dr. Cawley (Kingsley), who despite his friendly nature, seems to be hiding a more sinister side, or perhaps we just think that because Kingsley is so good at sinister.

The marshals find that patient Rachel Solando has mysteriously escaped from her room, leaving only a cryptic note hidden behind her bureau. As the two start their investigation Daniels is plagued with flashbacks of his time in the war and emotional flashbacks involving his late-wife. As the marshals dig deeper, it becomes apparent that all is not as it seems on Shutter Island.

The criminally insane always make for good, scary stories and “Shutter Island” is both beautiful and alarming. Crafted to transport the audience into the tale, by pulling them in with music and emotional, the story wraps the audience into a cocoon of paranoia. In this way, the viewers are connected to Daniels, who is also becoming more and more apprehensive as his investigation deepens.

In “Shutter Island” Scorsese has pulled off a sort of Hitchcockian thriller, tightly holding the viewer’s hand as he leads them down an unpredictable and eerie path. I like this movie. It keeps the viewer guessing without insulting his or her intelligence.

I think Scorsese is tops when it comes to the craft of movie making. He’s made several of my favorites, including “The Age of Innocence” (1993). Scorsese is a storyteller who paints a dazzling and vivid picture, but also draws in the rough edges. I definitely recommend “Shutter Island.”

For a different take on “Shutter Island’ visit

Also appearing in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor.

Books: Top picks of 2009

PowellsGrowing up in the Pacific Northwest, Powell’s has been part of my bookstore going experience since childhood.   If you are a book lover  it’s worth a trip to Portland, Oregon to visit Powell’s Books.   The original store was open in 1971, and now there are six locations around Portland.

I didn’t read much in 2009.   I started many books, but completed few, therefore I’ve  written very little about books here at HeidiTown.   When I saw a list of Powell’s  staff top book picks of 2009, I thought I’d share it with my audience.

Click here to see the complete list.

Love books? Like movies? Listen up!

Fight Club

Lyric Cinema Café, located at 300 East Mountain Ave. in Fort Collins, Colorado, is starting a book club. The  club will meet on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. The evening will include a chat about the book, followed by a viewing of the movie based on the book at 7 p.m.

January’s book is “Fight Club“ by Chuck Palahniuk, and Old Firehouse Books  at 232 Walnut Street, Fort Collins,  has copies of the book.

Join other book/movie fans this January 26, 2010, at Lyric Cinema Café.  To see a list of upcoming books visit Remember, Lyric Cinema Cafe offers a variety of food and drinks, including wine and locally brewed beer.

Become a FAN of Lyric Cinema Café at

Become a FAN of Old Firehouse Books at

Become a FAN of HeidiTown at

“Galway Bay” author to visit Fort Collins

Author and filmmaker Mary Pat Kelly is coming to Fort Collins. Thanks to the organizers of the Fort Collins Irish Festival, Ms. Kelly will be conducting a book signing and presentation at Barnes & Noble on S. College Avenue on Sunday, November 22, 2009, beginning at 2 p.m.

Ms. Kelly is the author of five books, her most recent, “Galway Bay,” has received high praise from Pulitzer Prize winner Frank McCourt (author of “Angela’s Ashes”).

“Galway Bay” is the epic journey of one Irish family, emigrating from Ireland to Chicago, Illinois in the 1800s. The story spans six generations and is loosely based on the life of Ms. Kelly’s great-great-grandmother.

Find out more about Mary Pat Kelly, and order her book at

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