Tag Archives: Thriller

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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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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Conundrum’s complex red is the perfect companion for Sorrow’s Anthem

Sorrow's Anthem 1In Sorrow’s Anthem, Lincoln Perry, a former Cleveland police officer turned PI, is determined to clear his childhood friend’s name after watching him die brutally at the hands of police officers. He soon finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy that reaches far beyond the death of his friend.

As Perry begins to unravel the threads of the events leading to his friend’s murder, he finds that they extend more than a decade into the past and far deeper into the Cleveland law enforcement community than he imagined. It becomes clear that proceeding could lead to his own death, but due to a sense of loyalty mixed with more than a little guilt, Perry can’t rest until his friend’s name is cleared.

These same emotions lead him to pursue this case with less caution than it deserves, causing him to knowingly walk into dangerous situations without proper preparation and backup. He knows this, acknowledges it, and does it anyway. The risks he takes as a result cost him dearly, and the truths he learns are, as is often the case, things he would rather not know.

In Sorrow’s Anthem, Michael Koryta has created a great crime thriller. Lincoln Perry is a likeable character despite his flaws. You can’t help but admire the depth of Perry’s loyalty to his friend and his old neighborhood. It’s a fast paced read that includes at least a couple of twists you won’t see coming, which is always a plus. It was my first ready by Koryta, but it won’t be my last!

This crime thriller pairs perfectly with Conundrum, a rich, complex, and mysterious red blend. Enjoy, and happy reading!

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Meiomi Pinot Noir and an Act of War

Act of WarBrad 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.

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Dry Creek Vineyard’s Red Zin Warms a Cold Cold Heart

Cold cold heart pic Cold Cold Heart grips you from the first sentence of the prologue, pulling you into the mind and unrelenting heart of its heroine, Dana Nolan. Although parts of Tami Hoag’s thriller about the sole surviving victim of a sadistic serial killer are hard to read due to their graphic and violent nature, it is even harder to put down.

The details and insight Ms. Hoag offers into the realities of a brain injury add an interesting element to this crime thriller. Also, as the child of a veteran, I especially appreciated her treatment of PTSD and the adjustments and harsh realities many of our veterans face when they return home.

You can’t help but pull for Dana, wanting her not only to survive, but to reclaim herself and what the killer took from her in the process. Somewhere along the way the plot becomes a bit predictable, and I saw the ending coming long before I reached it. Regardless, Ms. Hoag has created a sympathetic and interesting character in Dana, and her dual story of recovery and survival makes for an exciting read. Like a good roller coaster, even though I saw the end coming, I still enjoyed the ride.

This read requires something that will provide warmth and comfort. With that in mind, I’d recommend Dry Creek Vineyard’s Heritage Vines red zinfandel. Enjoy, and happy reading.

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Brilliantly disturbing book (Gone Girl) + simple fun wine (Ménage à Trois) = a perfect night in

Gone Girl

After reading prolifically for more than 30 years, it’s rare for me to be surprised. In fact, the last time I can remember being surprised by a plot twist is The Sixth Sense, but Ms. Flynn manages to do just that. Her characters and the story come alive from page 1, and despite the fact that the more you learn about these characters the less you like them, she somehow makes you desperate to know what happens to them anyway. Ms. Flynn creates a feeling of anxious hope that despite the depth of their flaws (think Grand Canyon), Amy and Nick Dunne or their circumstances will somehow come out “right” in the end.

Spoiler alert—The prosecutor in me was deeply offended by the lack of justice the ending provided. I would have preferred to see criminal charges and prison time. That said, though I may have disliked the outcome of Amy and Nick’s story, it was an appropriate and entirely plausible conclusion for them that may ironically be what they both deserve.

A story this complex and dark needs something simple and light to balance it out, so I would recommend a lovely red blend by Folie a Deaux, called Ménage à Trois.

Enjoy, and happy reading!

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The Athena Project and Coppola Chardonnay make a fine pairing

The Athena Project is non-stop from beginning to end. Classic Brad Thor, but with 4 brilliant, tough, female characters and guest appearances from Scot Harvath. In a world that is still painfully short on strong women in fiction both in print and onscreen, I thoroughly enjoyed escaping to one where women are given the same respect and yes, dangerous responsibilities as men. Further, qualities that are unique to them as women are considered tools in their arsenal and used without reservation as weapons on their missions. Thank you Brad Thor, for these courageous, brilliant, tough women. I can’t wait to see them on the big screen!

Most people like to pair wine with food. I enjoy pairing it with a good book. This one would go well with a good Chardonnay, and since it will soon (but not soon enough) be in the theaters, I’d recommend the Coppola. Happy reading!

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