What's hot – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Expect Pottermania to break out this summer when the final book in the series is likely to be sprung on the millions of J.K. Rowling fans along with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix , the movie version of the fifth book.
What's not – A Million Little Pieces and other sensational memoirs
Oprah declared that James Frey's story of addiction and recovery had few redeeming virtues after the Smoking Gun Web site uncovered its multitude of falsehoods, and Augusten Burroughs found himself facing a lawsuit over the truthfulness of his best-selling memoir Running With Scissors .
What's hot – Alternative fuels
It's not just about gas-electric hybrids like the Toyota Prius. General Motors is making more cars that run on E-85 – 15 percent gasoline and 85 percent ethanol, a renewable fuel made from corn. GM also announced plans to make so-called “plug-in” hybrids that can rely almost exclusively on electricity and use gasoline as an emergency backup.
Then there's diesel. Once considered a sooty poor cousin of gasoline, it now powers half the cars in Europe.
Diesel engines achieve 20 percent to 40 percent more fuel efficiency than gasoline. Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen and Chrysler are all teaming up to introduce more clean-burning diesel engines to American roads in 2008. Beginning Jan. 1, 2008, California will require that all diesel sold in the state contain at least 1 percent biodiesel.
What's not – The minivan
The family car of the 1980s became a punch line in the 1995 movie Get Shorty . Now they're headed for the scrap heap. This fall, Ford announced plans it will stop making the Freestyle. And General Motors is converting its minivan assembly lines to manufacture so-called crossover SUVs, like the Saturn Outlook.
What's hot – “Surge” as in “troop surge”
We can hear it now: “I need a caffeine surge,” or “Don't give me any of that anger surge.”
What's not – “Stay the course”
Now seen as the mantra of stubborn people who refuse to face reality until it comes up and bites them in the butt.
What's hot – Exotic fruit
Once considered oh-so exotic fruit becomes mainstream in the marketplace. Now it's de rigueur for produce sections to stock everything from cherimoyas to tamarillos, Asian pears to lychee nuts. This year will bring three new-to-the-U.S. treats from Thailand: fresh mangosteins, guabanas and antemoyas.
What's not – Canned and “normal” fruit
Cans of machine-sliced fruit packed into sickly sweet syrup lose their luster. Delicious apples aren't delicious; they lose out to other more flavorful apple varieties such as Fuji and juicy heirlooms such as Arkansas Black.
What's hot – Napping
Take a Nap, Change Your Life (Workman Publishing, $12.95) scientifically validates that a 15-20 minute nap can reduce risk of heart attack and aid in weight loss. Research is by Dr. Sara C. Mednick at the Salk Institute at the University of California at San Diego.
What's not – Extreme thinness
Fashion-show organizers in France and Italy decry the walking corpse look, saying it fosters an unhealthy ideal of women's bodies. Will clothing designers, who seem to prefer hangers with legs to real women, get on board?
What's hot – Justin Timberlake/Christina Aguilera
Coming off one of the biggest albums of '06, JT is making women swoon in arenas (on his hotly anticipated tour) and at multiplexes (via Alpha Dog in theaters, Black Snake Moan later in '07 and a vocal part in the next Shrek flick).
Having gotten Back to Basics with the jazzy-funky single “Ain't No Other Man,” the formerly “Dirrty” Xtina is apt to stake her claim as today's dominant female pop vocalist.
What's not – Britney Spears
Paris Hilton's new gal pal is reportedly recording a comeback album. It'll have to be a masterpiece to wipe away the memory of those panty-free pictures.
What's hot – Hawaii
Yeah, it's already too crowded. But new rules this year requiring passports to fly to Mexico or the Caribbean mean more sun-and-fun travelers without the little blue book will be heading to this tropical piece of the U.S.A.
What's not – Britain
The hyper-muscular British pound is at a 14-year high against the dollar. In 1985 the pound was worth about a dollar. Today, it's worth nearly $2. Nearly all foreign travel is more costly, but Northern Europe and Scandinavia are especially steep right now.
Orange County Register writers John Gittelsohn, Cathy Lawhon, Valerie Takahama, Cathy Thomas, Gary Warner and Ben Wener contributed to this report.
© 2007, The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.