Arts

Arts and culture

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3 Romances For Your August Escape

6 hours ago

Maya Rodale is a best-selling romance author.

The lazy days of August call for some wonderfully escapist fiction, and here are three excellent romance novels that deliver. Whether in a small Southern town or a palace in China, these stories show couples discovering that true love is real — and closer than they might expect. All it takes is open eyes and an open heart to find the happily-ever-after waiting nearby.

Salisbury University's Cultural Calendar week of August 21st

Writers are drawn to oddballs and outsiders, in much the way that dogs out for a walk veer toward fellow canines. The endearing pre-adolescent narrator of Camille Bordas' novel, How To Behave in a Crowd, is the youngest of six siblings growing up in a small French village. He's the odd man out because he's the most normal of the lot: All of his older sisters and brothers have skipped multiple grades, and three of them earn PhDs during the course of this book.

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In the event of a zombie attack, author Max Brooks will be ready. His books The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z are fictional manifestations of his own fears and anxieties — and his impulse to overcome them by preparing for the worst.

"The notion of learning how to survive when the old world rules no longer apply ... pretty much sums up everything I write about," Brooks says.

Kamila Shamsie's Home Fire opens with a scene that will likely be familiar to any Muslim who lives in, or has traveled to, the West. Isma Pasha waits in a British airport while security officers check her luggage, go through the browser history on her laptop, and demand "to know her thoughts on Shias, homosexuals, the Queen, democracy, The Great British Bake Off, the invasion of Iraq, Israel, suicide bombers, dating websites."

The thing that makes actor Bruce Campbell a cult favorite has less to do with his output (which includes such cheeseball epics as Bubba Ho-Tep and Man with the Screaming Brain) and more to do with his input – that is, the quality he can be counted upon to bring to even the schlockiest table: It's an artisanal cocktail of Dad-joke corniness, jockish swagger, withering derision and a willingness – nay, a palpable need – to come off looking like a jerk.

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There are a lot of artists, singers and writers who make us see the world a little bit differently, but not many who inspire a brand new color.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PURPLE RAIN")

PRINCE: (Singing) Purple rain, purple rain.

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Back when Amazon first introduced the Kindle, and e-books were all the rage, a lot of people thought printed books and the stores that sell them were going the way of dinosaurs. But a decade later, print is outselling digital, and many independent bookstores are thriving. Even Amazon is opening brick-and-mortar stores (seven so far).

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Nicole was only 23 when she had a double mastectomy following a breast cancer diagnosis. After she recovered, Nicole got a chest tattoo that symbolizes how she wants to live life after cancer.

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Growing up in southwestern Virginia in recent decades, poet Molly McCully Brown often passed by a state institution in Amherst County that was once known as the "Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded."

The central plot mechanic that'll drive us to the end of this Game of Thrones season finally reveals itself: Jon needs to prove to ally and enemy alike that the White Walkers are both real and spectacular.

The film The Glass Castle is based on Jeannette Walls' best-selling memoir of the same name. It's the story of her family's tortured upbringing moving around the country and living in poverty with parents who were obsessed with being free of convention. The film stars Brie Larson as Jeannette, Naomi Watts as her mother and Woody Harrelson as her dad, Rex, an alcoholic whose rages and redemptions loomed large over his family.

The Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra will have a guest conductor this week: Dennis Prager. He'll conduct Haydn's Symphony No. 51 at an orchestra fundraiser.

Martha Anne Toll is the Executive Director of the Butler Family Fund; her writing is at www.marthaannetoll.com.

In the 1980s, quarterback Joe Montana of the San Francisco 49ers was known as the premier passer in the game. But you wouldn't even know his name if there hadn't been someone on the other end to catch his passes. Most often, that was wide receiver Jerry Rice, and today we've invited the Football Hall of Famer to play a game called "Take a seat, Joe Montana! It's time for Hannah Montana." Three questions for Jerry Rice about that other great Montana — Hannah.

Click the audio link above to see how he does.

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(SOUNDBITE OF NOCTURNAL ANIMAL NOISES)

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Great scandals often begin in passion or ambition. But how do you explain France's l'affaire Bettencourt?

Liliane Bettencourt, one of the richest women in the world, is now locked off from the world by Alzheimer's disease. She is heir to the L'Oreal cosmetics fortune of nearly $40 billion. Why would she have given perhaps as much as a billion dollars in cash, real estate, and art to François-Marie Banier, an artist and photographer who is a quarter of a century younger and openly gay? Was it extravagant support for a friend — or the cruel swindle of a senior citizen?

Nina Martyris is a literature-focused freelancer. Her writing has appeared on The New Yorker's website, The Paris Review Daily, The Guardian, NPR and elsewhere.

Liliane Bettencourt, the beautiful heiress to the L'Oréal cosmetics empire and richest woman in the world, had everything. But she was also bored stiff. Enter François-Marie Banier, a handsome, talented, brazen, witty, gay novelist and photographer, an aesthete known to have a way with older women.

Within weeks of being diagnosed with breast cancer at 29 years old, Nicole O'Hara of Phoenix, Md., underwent a double mastectomy. She had breast reconstruction during the same operation; then it was on to chemotherapy.

The ordeal left O'Hara with "big, ugly, red inflamed scars and stitches and drains," she says.

"It [was] a battlefield."

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Most people go to the fair to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl or eat funnel cakes, but not our Planet Money team. Robert Smith and Kenny Malone traveled to the Ohio State Fair to learn the secret art of selling people things they might not need.

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Starting in late summer, national forests in Northwestern states like Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Idaho fill with eager berry hunters hoping to find a cache of dark maroon huckleberries. It's common for demand to exceed supply, leading to conflicts between Native Americans who have certain reserved picking areas, commercial pickers, and families hoping to continue their summer traditions.

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