The Book of Delights by Ross Gay (4 out of 5)

•December 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This was another delightful surprise. Thanks to Mark for the advance and the recommendation. I have discovered in 2018 that I DO enjoy short stories and essay collections. I had previously shunned both, because they didn’t hold my attention. But what is the best way to hold someone’s attention when that someone can not focus? The answer is short stories and essay collections, kids! This was one of the better ones that I read in 2018. I strongly encourage you to pick it up.

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Harvest Of Secrets: A Wine Country Mystery by Ellen Crosby (4 out of 5)

•December 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

The newest installment of the Wine Country Mystery series finds Lucie, our lead, and her fiance Quinn, rushing through the final stages of Harvest season, in an attempt to get their vino out ahead of an incoming hurricane, which threatens to wipe out everything. Our favorite winemakers from Atoka, Virginia, are further unsettled when a skull is discovered in their family cemetery. Lucie’s first major crush, a renowned wine merchant by the name of Jean-Claude, arrives in town to be the lead winemaker at their neighboring winery. Things don’t quite go as planned when an irate Lucie goes to confront the snooty Rico Suave and finds him dead, stabbed to death with wine scissors. *No joke- they exist!* Between the investigation of Jean-Claude’s murder, trying to figure out who the unearthed skull belongs to, an immigration crisis which may be tied to the murder, trails of broken hearts left by the deceased winemaker, and the hurricane threat, things are hopping in wine country. Will they get to the bottom of the mysteries before someone else turns up dead, or will it cease being the days of wine and roses? Lucie and her winery always provide a comfortable setting for this niche mystery series, and this was no exception. Good stuff, and the only thing that confused me was why she kept her DNA/Ancestry search such a secret from her fiance and fellow siblings. That is a pretty commonplace thing these days, so I was a bit befuddled at the lengths Lucie went to when she makes contact with a potential family member. Otherwise, the same reliable good read from Ellen Crosby. This is out now in hardcover, brought to us by the fine folks at Minotaur Books, an imprint of St Martin Press.

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena (4 out of 5)

•December 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

This would have been 5 stars, except your blogger was quite annoyed at the sheer number of dead bodies by the end of the book. And of course it’s not the result of the winter storm all of our guests are in that’s the cause of the body count..it’s the all too common human foibles at fault. I had previously read two of her other books, and wasn’t terribly enamored with either. From THAT angle, this book was a huge improvement. But again, all of those bodies. The book is currently out and available in hardcover at your local independent bookstore. I won this advance through Goodreads.

Mitchell Inn in upstate New York seems like an idyllic getaway. Ten different guests converge upon the resort the same weekend that a furious winter storm arrives. Power gets knocked out quickly, and one of the guests is murdered. It seems like every one of these guests have secrets, not to mention the proprietors of the resort have their own skeletons. The atmosphere is chilling and written well into the plot that Lapena brings to the table. Some of these people need an attitude adjustment, and some of them get it, via murder. Lapena writes them into such interesting moral corners that murder is almost the only way to redemption. There was only one character that needed to have their yap duct taped shut, and the author took care of that character, and in fitting fashion. This was a very Agatha Christie-type mystery and an edge of the seat all of the way. Only one minor misstep made me take a star off of the rating, because it was a head scratcher. But seriously, if you want to start with Shari Lapena’s catalog, start with this one. Good, solid stuff.

Hippie by Paulo Coehlo (4 out of 5)

•December 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

No one should be surprised to see me reading this. I began my acquaintance with Coehlo when my friend Sheila told me I needed to read his classic work, The Alchemist. I did..still one of my favorites! This autobiographical work of fiction (Why isn’t there a word for it?) was a good distraction in October, when I wasn’t feeling well at all. I really enjoyed this book. Anyone who has dreamed of traveling and becoming one with yourself will appreciate this book.

After Woodstock ends, hippie havens spring up throughout the world. Paulo is a young Brazilian lad who wants to be a writer. He takes off on the first leg of his journey..with his then-girlfriend, on the “Death Train To Bolivia”, Peru, Argentina, and Chile. The second part of his journey is when he meets a new woman, Karla, and heads off with her to parts unknown; Amsterdam, Nepal, Europe, and Asia. All in an attempt to figure out the big picture, who he is, and if Karla is going to be the one in his life as his other half. Paulo’s interactions with all of the people he meets, the women, the locales, and the lessons learned, make a powerful case for travelling to destinations far and wide, and figuring out one’s life purpose. Coehlo has done it again, managing to transcend real-life into fiction and still managing to inspire those who pick up his books.

G’s Gift Guide: FOR THE MUSIC FAN: Thanks A Lot, Mr. Kibblewhite: My Story by Roger Daltrey (5 out of 5)

•November 28, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I wasn’t always enamored with The Who. My love of classic rock is well known, but I was one of those people who really loved one or five Who songs, but not the entire catalog. That worship was found at the altar of The Beatles, The Stones, ELO, Jimi, and The Doors. Sometime in the last ten years, I found myself digging into their catalog, and not just liking it, but LOVING it. I was a big fan of Keith Moon; not only the drumming, but the antics. I have always liked Daltrey’s voice, and Entwhistle’s steady bass. Pete Townsend was the one who always puzzled, and often bugged, me. Then his memoir, Who I Am, came out. I bought it and read it, and an amazing thing happened. I liked him a little more, yes, but the tone of his bio was often pretentious. I didn’t dig that. When I heard Roger had a book coming out, I was excited. I’m excited to report it didn’t let down. From his humble beginnings (including the identity of the Kibblewhite in the memoir’s title) to the unlikely start in The Who up to the highs and lows, life and death, and yes, the music, Daltrey’s look at his life and the lives of those around him, is surprisingly down-to-earth, funny, and heartwarming. There isn’t an ounce of ego in this book. How fucking refreshing. It’s a quick read and a welcome one, at that. Go out and grab a copy for that music fan in your life!

Freefall by Jessica Barry (4 out of 5)

•November 28, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I got this book as an advance a few months ago. My book colleague Seth picked it up for me at a midwinter conference he was at. Once I got rolling with this book, I couldn’t put it down! The only reason it didn’t get 5 stars from me was because the female character, presumed dead, was a bitch, and it was hard for me to shake that vibe. Our author is English, and the phraseology leaves a little to be desired, but if you can get past that, it’s smooth sailing. This isn’t out until January 8, 2019, but if you want a solid thriller, this is a good way to start out 2019. Harper Collins brings us this debut.

Allison has a life that most would envy- a handsome fiance and a luxurious home and lifestyle that most envy. But she’s on the run and scared. It goes from bad to extremely worse when the plane she is on crashes in the mountains of Colorado. Across the country, Maggie’s estranged mother gets the heartbreaking news that her daughter is presumed dead in the crash, along with her fiance. Maggie hasn’t heard from Allison in years, since her husband and Allison’s father lost his battle with cancer. Her attempts to reconcile had all been rebuffed…and now her only child is dead?? Maggie refuses to believe it, and starts her own investigation. The things she finds out about Allison would dishearten most people, but Maggie pushes on. In fact, she pushes the wrong people too far and too fast, and her life is now in danger. This was a good, although at times perplexing, look at the love between mother and daughter, and the disassociation that often happens when children grow up and move on. Decent, solid thriller that really grabs the reader halfway through and doesn’t let go until the end. Stick with it. The beginning and middle middle along a bit, but it’s worth sticking with.

Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia (4 out of 5)

•November 24, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I’m way behind! I read this one in mid-October. Her first book, Everything You Want Me To Be, still profoundly disturbs me. And I read it two years ago! This is her newest, also available in paperback, and brought to us by Atria/Emily Bestler Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. It is out and available in your local bookstore.

The middle of wilderness nowhere. That’s what I thought of the setting for this one, which is thousands of unclaimed, wild forest in Minnesota. The Boundary Waters is the location of Mejia’s latest. Ten years ago, a man and his son walked into The Boundary Waters, never to be seen since. Until a young man walks into an outdoors store and violent trashes it. Turns out the young man is the son who’s missing for the past ten years, and he’s sent to a psychiatric facility. Maya Stark is the young lady who ends up getting assigned to Lucas, and they forge a strange, unspoken bond. Turns out Maya has her own secrets. And all of these factor into her determination to reunite Lucas with his missing father. But how will she do this when he’s in isolation in a mental hospital and she is in charge of getting to the bottom of all of this? Where has Lucas been all this time? Is his father dead or alive? What caused his rage at the store? So many questions needing to be answered here. Mejia is a master of weaving a tangled family web, and many times you have no idea what is going down and with whom, until YOU are ensnared in it. And you have no desire to extract yourself. I didn’t connect with this one as much as her first, but it is still one hell of a great read. Especially with the father-son dynamic involved. Definitely worth your time.