The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo + Jezebel = a perfect weekend

I loved this book! I had a hard time putting it down and wish I could have dinner with Evelyn Hugo. If you’re looking for some weekend entertainment, I highly recommend finding a comfortable spot to sit with Evelyn and a glass of Jezebel white wine.

In The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid brilliantly created interesting and real humans, people you like and respect not in spite of their flaws, but because of them. Chapter by chapter, husband by husband, the real Evelyn Hugo–the person behind the legend–becomes clearer, like the slow reveal of a retracting theater curtain that you can’t wait to see behind. Add in the glamour of the Hollywood film industry from the 50’s through the 80’s, and Evelyn’s story becomes as irresistible as she is.

I suggest pairing Evelyn’s remarkable story with Jezebel Blanc wine. From the Willful Wine Company, Jezebel Blanc is a crisp aromatic blend out of Oregon. Golden in color, this light and slightly sweet wine is a summer go-to. It’s also reasonably priced at about $15/bottle and is rated 89-90 pts according to Wine Enthusiast.

Enjoy and happy reading!

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Where the Crawdads Sing and Whispering Angel Rosé

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, is a beautiful, lyrical read. Her descriptions of the North Carolina marsh and its inhabitants bring them to life, which makes sense considering she’s a wildlife scientist with a B.S. in Zoology.

Though the story is heart wrenching at times, the quiet independent strength of its young heroine, Kya, draws the reader in. The need to know how she survives sweeps you along with her like the tides she rides in her Pa’s old and battered boat.

A survivor of abuse and abandonment, Kya becomes a creature of the land that feeds, protects, and sustains her even as most of humanity turns its back, or worse, judges and shames her. Despite her independence and love for the marsh and its creatures, Kya longs for human interaction, touch, and acceptance. Kya’s story takes you to a beautiful and dangerous world where she must learn who she can trust as she fights for her life and her freedom.

I recommend Whispering Angel Rosé to join you as you immerse yourself in Kya’s world. This beautiful pink wine is light and crisp, with the sweet taste of strawberries and a bit of citrus. It’s a perfect accompaniment to this coming-of-age story.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

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Brad Thor’s Black Ice and Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel

The latest in the Scot Harvath series (until Rising Tiger becomes available on July 5), Black Ice takes us along with Harvath to new and exciting places. I loved the setting for this one! Black Ice is set during the summer in Oslo Norway, with excursions further north into Kirkenes, Tromso, and Svalbard, which is as close as most of us will ever get to the Arctic Circle. It’s as close as I would ever want to be, but it was fun to visit it through Harvath’s perspective from the warmth of my patio.

While enjoying his best life in Oslo, with his girlfriend—the lovely and lethal Solvi—Harvath spots a man who shouldn’t be alive. Why? Because Harvath assassinated him years ago in Hong Kong. Harvath knows what he saw, and that it can’t mean anything good. In true Harvath style, he can’t let it go, but interrupts his perfect summer vacation to find out how and why this man is still alive and in Oslo. His investigation leads him further and further north as he and his team try to uncover what Chinese operatives are doing in the Arctic Circle, what it means for the U.S., and how they can stop it. As always, Thor cleverly entwines fiction with the real-life geopolitical landscape. Once you start this one, you’ll find it hard to put down.

Klinker Brick’s Old Vine Zinfandel pairs well with this installment of the Scot Harvath series. Dark crimson in color, it’s a bit jammy without being sweet, and earthy with just a touch of smoke. Enjoy and happy reading!

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Michelle Obama’s Becoming and Valor Cava

On the eve of the release of Barack Obama’s memoir (part 1), I want to take a few moments to reflect on Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming. If you have not had the opportunity to read it yet, I highly recommend doing so. It would also be a wonderful Christmas gift for any woman in your life.

Ms. Obama’s story is captivating in its relatable nature for all women who struggle with work life balance and in her telling of the life of an extremely exclusive group—First Ladies of the United States of America. I found it to be a story of resilience, hope, and courage. I keep it on my bookshelf for inspiration, and believe it belongs on every woman’s bookshelf for the same reason.  

She describes growing up in a working-class family in Chicago and how she managed to climb the socioeconomic ladder through the determined efforts of loving, hard-working parents combined with her own intelligence, work ethic, and drive to succeed. Ms. Obama talks about achieving her definition of success, only to have to redefine it according to evolving values that included a family of her own. Seeing Barack Obama through her eyes prior to his political rise and in his roles as husband and father was both insightful and intriguing as was her perspective on their road to the White House and her experience as First Lady. Her story concludes with her description of their transition from the People’s house that had been their home for eight years.

So many women can relate to Ms. Obama’s struggle to retain her own identity separate from her husband and family and to maintain some semblance of work-life balance. In a nod to her courage and sparkle, I recommend Valor Cava—a Spanish sparkling wine—to join you and Ms. Obama as you share her journey. It can be a bit bumpy at times, but overall, it’s a true joy ride.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

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Peace Talks, Battleground, and The Arsonist Red Blend

As a huge Harry Dresden fan, I’ve looked forward to the next books in the Dresden Files series for years, and author Jim Butcher did not disappoint, giving fans not just one, but two new books within three months.

The duology of Peace Talks and Battleground not only continue the Dresden series, but take the conflict to a new level, as the supernatural and human worlds collide in wizard Harry Dresden’s Chicago. I recommend reading them together because Peace Talks lays the groundwork that leads you straight into Battleground.

Peace Talks sets the stage with a convergence of the supernatural world’s most powerful in Chicago to negotiate peace between factions. The wizards of the White Council are tasked with security, but it becomes clear that unknown forces are working not only against the negotiations, but to set the powers that be on a collision course. Unfortunately for Harry, they use his brother as a pawn to set their plans in motion, complicating his already precarious position as a member of the White Council and requiring Harry to somehow protect his brother and the negotiations simultaneously. When an ancient power rises to crash the party and threatens to destroy Chicago with an indestructible magical artifact, the situation becomes dire, leading us to Battleground.

In Battleground, we watch Chicago burn when a Titan advances on the city, bringing her hatred to bear against humanity and causing Chicago’s human inhabitants to struggle for survival against supernatural forces that come out openly into the night to claim Chicago as their war zone. To protect the city and people he loves, Harry calls upon all of his powers as wizard, Winter Knight, and as the keeper of Merlin’s supernatural island prison. Unable to end the existence of a deity with such power, Harry and his allies seek to imprison her instead, but to accomplish that feat, they must first wage a strategic and costly battle against the Titan and her armies.

The Arsonist Red Blend is the perfect wine to drink while you enjoy Harry’s latest adventures. A dry and full-bodied wine that blends Petit Verdot with Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s well-balanced with a deep red color and just a hint of fruit. It also has a price point (find it here) that supports buying two bottles–one to go with each installment of Butcher’s Dresden duology.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

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The Invited and La Crema Pinot Noir are a perfect Halloween pairing

The Invited, by Jennifer McMahon puts a historical spin on the modern ghost story. It’s the perfect Halloween read with a smart, twisting plot and just the right amount of creepy.

Helen, a history teacher, receives an inheritance that enables her to pursue her dream of building a home far from urban life. She and her husband, Nate, find the perfect home site in Vermont and are even more excited when they learn that their land is not only rumored to be haunted, but is notorious for a deadly history that includes stories of buried treasure.

Helen is so intrigued by the legend of the original owner–a young mother hanged for witchcraft–that she buys wood rumored to be from the branch used in the hanging and incorporates it into their new home. In doing so, she unintentionally opens the door to an otherworldly visitor. Unable to discern whether the visitor means harm or needs help, and unwilling to leave their home, Helen draws on her training and experience as a historian to unravel the mysteries surrounding their land.

With its dark red color, smooth texture, and berry undertones, I recommend La Crema Pinot Noir as an excellent accompaniment to The Invited.

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Where the Crawdads Sing and Whispering Angel Rosé

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens, is a beautiful, lyrical read. Her descriptions of the North Carolina marsh and its inhabitants bring them to life, which makes sense considering she’s a wildlife scientist with a B.S. in Zoology.

Though the story is heart wrenching at times, the quiet independent strength of its young heroine, Kya, draws the reader in. The need to know how she survives sweeps you along with her like the tides she rides in her Pa’s old and battered boat.

A survivor of abuse and abandonment, Kya becomes a creature of the land that feeds, protects, and sustains her even as most of humanity turns its back, or worse, judges and shames her. Despite her independence and love for the marsh and its creatures, Kya longs for human interaction, touch, and acceptance. Kya’s story takes you to a beautiful and dangerous world where she must learn who she can trust as she fights for her life and her freedom.

I recommend Whispering Angel Rosé to join you as you immerse yourself in Kya’s world. This beautiful pink wine is light and crisp, with the sweet taste of strawberries and a bit of citrus. It’s a perfect accompaniment to this coming-of-age story.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

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Artemis and 19 Crimes

Artemis, the second book by Andy Weir, is every bit as entertaining as his first effort, The Martian, especially if you’re into any form of science, math, space, or feats of engineering.

A crime novel set on the Artemis moon settlement, Weir’s writing treats us to vivid depictions of what it could be like to live there. Weir’s main character, Jazz, is easy to like and fun to follow. Jazz is extremely intelligent and has a dry sense of humor, much like Mark Watney in The Martian. Unlike Watney, however, she is prone to lapses in judgment that could subject her to her biggest fear–deportation to Earth–and endanger not only her own life, but ultimately put the entire population of the settlement at risk.

19 Crimes wines are named after infamous criminals whose offenses earned them the ultimate sentence–transportation to the Australian colonies. With its fruity and vanilla flavors, appropriate labeling, and price point, I recommend 19 Crimes Pinot Noir to accompany you as you explore Artemis with Jazz and her unlikely allies.

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Little Fires Everywhere and Matchbook Chardonnay

Little fires 1
A perfect match

My book club recently read Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng. The friend who suggested it loved it so much that she also watched the series starring Reese Witherspoon and listened to it on Audible.

I enjoyed the book and found its story to be compelling and timely. Ms. Ng does an incredible job of illustrating the subtle inherent attitudes and perspectives that are so often embedded in lives and people of privilege–even those who believe themselves to be self-aware, or in modern terminology, “woke”.

In this well-crafted and character-driven work, Ms. Ng tells the story of a family of privilege with mostly good intent, and the impact that a single mother and her daughter, who have grown up far from the family’s privileged and ordered lives, has on the way each family member views the world and the people who live in it. For certain family members, that impact is profound and life changing, while for others, the doors to their minds are opened a just bit wider, allowing them to consider realities other than what they have experienced in their lives thus far.

Ms. Ng makes these characters real through their complexity and the cross-patterns of their daily lives, which will be familiar to most who have lived in American suburban communities. The actions of privilege and the reasoning behind them is expertly demonstrated in the ways that the Richardsons, especially Elena (Reese Witherspoon) interact with the artistic and empathetic Mia Warren (Kerry Washington) and her intelligent and introspective daughter, Pearl (Lexi Underwood). To the Richardson children, the Warrens’ lifestyle is appealing in its differentiation from their own. To Ms. Richardson, that differentiation–the freedom and unstructured nature of it–is not only disquieting but poses a threat to all that she believes in, to the very fabric of her life and the choices she’s made in weaving it.

Matchbook Chardonnay is the perfect pairing for Little Fires Everywhere. Golden and buttery, it has a smooth finish that makes it difficult to follow Ms. Richardson’s example and have just one glass. Happy reading!

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The Martian by Andy Weir and Ruffino’s Il Ducale Toscana

The Martian pic1If you watch TV at all, then you can’t miss the previews for The Martian, starring Matt Damon, which opens this weekend. I firmly believe that any book is typically better than its movie version, so I read the book by Andy Weir, on which the movie is based, in time to see it opening weekend. I loved the book and urge you to read it as well. As expected, it offers details that will be difficult to portray or are likely to be missed on the big screen.

Mark Watney is an astronaut who finds himself stranded on Mars alone after the rest of his team narrowly escapes the planet and an unexpectedly strong storm, abandoning Watney when they mistakenly believe him dead. To survive, he must draw on his unique combination of botany and engineering skills. Watney’s attitude and determination make him likable. His sense of humor makes him downright lovable and sometimes hilarious. I can totally see Matt Damon in this role and can’t wait to view it on the big screen.

Weir is a self-described nerd and he certainly fits the profile. A computer programmer and Doctor Who fan, his idea of a hobby is to study orbital dynamics. His nerdiness and true love of science come through as he drops plenty of his knowledge and years of research into the story of how Watney brilliantly and scientifically works his way through each life-threatening challenge Mars throws his way. Weir’s descriptions of the planet, its atmosphere, and the challenges it creates for a human trying to survive them are interesting and educational at the same time.

The math got to be a bit much for me—I’m more of a literature geek than a science/math type geek—but if you’re into math or science you’ll find plenty to love.  Weir provides a level of carefully researched detail in his descriptions of the chemical and biological processes required for Watney to survive (such as creating water and colonizing soil with bacteria to grow food) that is unusual if not unique. I also enjoyed Weir’s descriptions of NASA, its internal workings, thought processes and politics, and especially the interactions between NASA, Watney, and the other astronauts.

When you read the book, it’s quickly obvious that NASA would never waste space or energy transporting alcoholic beverages on such a journey, but I think Watney’s story deserves a toast and recommend Ruffino’s Il Ducale Toscana. Unlike the rust color of Mars, which Watney explains, this Tuscan wine is a deep, ruby red. Where The Martian is a sci-fi/thriller blend, Il Ducale Toscana is “an innovative blend of Sangiovese, Syrah, and Merlot.” It’s a wonderful, tasty combination and the perfect companion to Mark Watney in his Martian survival efforts.

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