September 21, 2020 · 12:13 pm
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.
August 22, 2015 · 8:29 am
In The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters takes us across the pond and back in time to a society where women’s roles were set and their choices limited. In post-war England, where so many men—brothers, fathers, husbands, friends—were lost, the women and society as a whole are struggling to adjust to a hard-won peace they somehow find disappointing. While they are grateful for peace, the men who have returned are damaged, former soldiers can’t find work, and women can’t find husbands.
Ms. Waters succeeds in transporting her reader to the world in which her main character, Frances, struggles to keep the family home after the deaths of her brothers and father. She does this by making the difficult decision to take in boarders. In deference to their situation and consideration of her mother’s feelings, their neighbors refer to the boarders, Mr. and Mrs. Barber, as the “paying guests.” They also pretend not to notice Frances’s damaged hands from the daily housework and labor she’s taken on since they could no longer afford to keep servants.
Though Frances was determined at first to maintain professional boundaries with the Barbers, loneliness and time wore those boundaries down until they crumbled under the weight of attraction and possibly love. Trapped and desperate, the lovers’ plans go horribly wrong, with devastating and irreversible consequences. Frances can’t escape her fear for their freedom or her guilt over what they’ve done. Emotions and turmoil not only tear at their relationship, but their physical health and even their sanity. Warning—some of the sex scenes are quite graphic, as is a rather detailed account of a miscarriage. This book is definitely intended for adults.
Though the descriptions can run long, the plot is well-developed and the characters multi-dimensional. You feel compassion for them and somehow understand their actions even if you don’t agree with or like them much. It’s a long read, and therefore calls for a lighter and reasonably priced wine. I’d recommend the Montoya Pinot Noir. You might want shoot for the multi-bottle discount, so that you have enough to accompany all 500+pages.
Enjoy, and happy reading!
May 17, 2015 · 12:59 pm
The story of Revival is dark and tragic. It is not one I would choose on my own; however, my book club selected it and I read it all the way through. Whether or not you enjoy the more macabre side of his tales, Stephen King is unarguably one of the best writers of our generation. His characters and storytelling draw you in quickly and keep you reading, whether you want to or not. I kept reading Revival for two main reasons: 1) the love of the main character, Jamie, who is introduced as a young child and 2) because I had to see what happened to him and his “fifth business,” the Reverend Charles Jacobs, even though I knew it would likely be disturbing. It was.
King’s description of the small town Jamie where Jamie grew up and the church where he met Jacobs were spot on in my experience, even though my small town and church were deep in the heart of Texas, not in Maine. The similarities were a bit chilling, minus the tragic plot twists and the “terrible sermon” that changed Jamie’s life. All of that was easy to picture, unlike anything that came after it. If you appreciate great characters and storytelling, you should enjoy the read. If you also appreciate Stephen King’s particular type of storytelling (you know, creepy, scary, sometimes terrifying), you will love this book.
I didn’t love Revival, but not because it wasn’t beautifully crafted. It was. I still enjoyed reading it, in spite of its dark nature. It was even better when I could accompany it with a glass of red wine, such as Coppola’s Director’s Cut Pinot Noir. Since summer is almost here and temps are climbing, I would suggest drinking it slightly chilled.
April 4, 2015 · 8:58 am
My introduction to Billy Crystal was as Harry Burns, in When Harry Met Sally, my all-time favorite rom-com. So when I read his book, Still Foolin’ Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell are My Keys? I was surprised to learn that he had also played for the NY Yankees, was an adopted little brother to Mohammed Ali and friend to Mickey Mantle. I had no idea that Crystal was also a director and had hosted the Oscars 9 times, or that he hosted one of them while also hosting the flu virus. Crystal’s account of turning 65 doesn’t make me look forward to it, but I certainly admire and somewhat envy his journey to get there.
Another thing I didn’t know about Billy Crystal—that he is such a devoted husband, father, and grandfather. I loved the entertainment history Crystal describes, especially regarding his movies (When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, Analyze This, and Monsters, Inc. to name a few) and his experiences with Saturday Night Live, but it’s the special family moments and events he shares with thoughtful clarity, such as his daughter’s wedding, that brought tears to my eyes. Crystal’s perspective and memories on the 9/11 attack were also insightful and touching.
Like most of Crystal’s work, his book will make you laugh, cry, and groan. What a truly amazing life. My thanks to Billy Crystal for sharing it with us. Santa Barbara Winery’s Pinot Noir is an excellent accompaniment for this journey.
March 21, 2015 · 10:14 am
Brad Thor has an uncanny knack for anticipating our next national security threat before it happens, which make his most recent thriller, Act of War, especially frightening. In the latest of his series with former Navy Seal Scot Harvath, Thor brings a long-standing enemy onto new territory—American soil—and Harvath must save the country he loves from a threat that skirts the boundaries of science fiction, and which, if deployed, would not only destroy the American way of life, but kill millions in the process.
Thor’s latest installment is nonstop action and you can’t help but wonder exactly where the line of his fictional world crosses into our modern reality. I’m not going to become a doomsday prepper yet, but Act of War certainly made me consider it.
Harvath typically prefers beer, but not being a beer drinker, I recommend Meiomi Pinot Noir. It’s light and slightly sweet—the perfect contrast to Harvath and his ongoing adventures.
February 21, 2015 · 9:00 am
Diana Gabaldon’s first book, a historical romance titled Outlander (you may have heard of it—Starz recently created a series based on it) was intended as practice, just to see what it would be like to write a novel. Though it tends to wander and one scene near the end is distorted and just plain confusing, overall it’s an interesting, if long, read. By “long” I mean 850 dense pages. By “interesting” I mean entertaining and compelling.
Her main character, Claire, is a capable, intelligent, stubborn woman who finds herself in circumstances out of her own time and any logical understanding. Her obstinacy, love, and compassion drive her to fight on and persist in mostly shrewd ways. Despite her experience as a wartime nurse, she repeatedly underestimates the dangerous nature of her new environment, mainly because it’s simply outside the realm of possibility in her personal experience, having been suddenly thrown from 1945 British Isles into 1743 Scotland, which was at war not only with the British, but internally between clans. In this largely uneducated society where burning witches at the stake was an acceptable and common practice, Claire’s modern knowledge and behaviors are inherently dangerous.
The historical aspects of Outlander were compelling for me and drew me along where the story, romance, or characters started to lag. The setting and Claire’s experiences in it made me wish I knew more about Scottish history, both so that I could better understand the nature and depth of the perils she might be facing and how her presence and actions might, or potentially may already have, impacted her modern day.
What to drink with an epic historical romance like Outlander? Well, Claire is treated to a wine she describes as a very strong and delicious rosé by one of the Scottish chieftains, but I’ve yet to be introduced to a British or Scottish wine. If you know of one that you would recommend, please comment so that I can try it. For now, I’d recommend a light French pinot noir called D’Autrefois. It’s flavorful and has a reasonable price point so you don’t have to make one bottle stretch 850 pages.
Enjoy, and happy reading!