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Death in Brittany: A Mystery
Death in Brittany: A Mystery
by Jean-Luc Bannalec
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.62

5.0 out of 5 stars First-Rate Mystery, April 30, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Reminiscent of crime fiction without all the gimmicks, this solid translation is for those readers seeking authentic mysteries. Set in the Pont-Aven, a quaint village, it is a far cry from Paris; Commissaire Dupin polices this small community. He captured my interest from the beginning; he is the typical irritable authority, but his caffeine addiction and method of solving crime is far from clichéd.

The 91-year-old owner of a local hotel is found murdered on the restaurant floor. Dupin is called in and always seems exasperated as if disturbing his morning coffee and croissant is a nuisance. However, his distinctive nature and temperament is at odds with the common techniques of his Breton colleagues. It’s this sharp cynicism of Dupin that drives the plot. As a clever team, they produce multiple murder suspects.

The contrast and suffocating sense of Pont-Aven and the sophistication of Paris play a solid role. The French are know for their skillful ferreting out of the facts and meticulous approach to catastrophes. And this story is no different. I was fooled by the denouement as Bennalac inserted red herrings along the way.

There is usually greed and secrecy involving murders and this one is no different. However, the difference is that this book is entertaining and does not insult an experienced crime/mystery reader.


Metrokane 6167 Rabbit Velvet Champagne Opener Set, Metal
Metrokane 6167 Rabbit Velvet Champagne Opener Set, Metal
Price: $22.49
3 used & new from $21.80

5.0 out of 5 stars Niche Product That Really Works, April 25, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I thought this would be another product that "talked a good game" and really didn't work as advertised. This set really works. Do we need it? Maybe not, but it makes your champagne and sparkling wine usage much easier. The pliers, very rich looking, gets the cork out of the bottle. The sealer keeps the bubbly for another day. Great gift and looks expensive


Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel
Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel
by J. Ryan Stradal
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.48

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ingenious, April 20, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Plunged into a setting of cooking and eating, I devoured this debut novel. What a quirky, brilliant work of sorrow, humor, and foresight mixed with real recipes.

The novel opens in the cold, stark areas of Minnesota with an incredible episode of stinky, Scandinavian lutefisk prepared by Lars Thorvald. Lars, with an incredible palate and a purist, escapes this business and marries a tall, exciting sommelier with the name of Cynthia. They have a baby, Eva, but Cynthia, is adverse to motherhood and leaves Lars with the infant to raise on his own. Lars obsessively loves his daughter. Cynthia does not physically re-appear until the end of the book.

Enter feisty, quirky characters who are part of Eva’s life and Stradal manages to connect them in a sharp, introspective narrative. The author’s use of imagery and imagination explodes on the pages. Eva’s economically poor upbringing is almost palatable in the grubby apartments she lives. The secondary characters provide the foundation for Eva’s adventures. Their names are wonderful: cousin Braque and her son, Hatch, Octavia Kincade, Celeste Mantilla, all serve a purpose defining the mixture of foods and international appeal. Stradal’s characters take advantage of Eva’s talent but soon learn they cannot compete with her. She is irrepressible. This tall, interesting-looking woman is kind and sensitive. Pat Prager, the most conventional of his characters, has more sides to her personality than the reader first imagines.

Eva’s adventures and genius ability places her with a diverse group of chefs and men who are besotted with her. Her originality and super palate leads her to stardom among those who love and can afford the best food. She developed a pop-up supper club where an invitation is costly and coveted.

Stradal’s writing frequently reminded me of John Irving, brilliant, quirky characters with immense talent who experience heartache and some joy. The symbolism of food in this novel mirrors Eva’s robust spirit.


Leaving Before the Rains Come
Leaving Before the Rains Come
by Alexandra Fuller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.36
103 used & new from $10.50

4.0 out of 5 stars “Save Your Tears for the Big Stuff…..”, April 9, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If you are interested in reading an introspective memoir that makes you as uneasy as the writer, this could be a unique exercise. Alexandra Fuller, growing up in Rhodesia to exotic, unconventional parents, leaves Africa and marries an American, Charlie Ross, and later moves to Wyoming.

Her wedding is miraculous as she provides us with snippets of events. Despite the fact that she develops malaria, her parents alleviate some of the symptoms and she is now a bride with a high fever. One of the most poignant interchanges takes places at the wedding when a Polish father from the Catholic mission advises her that the first year of marriage is hard and then it gets worse. She is astounded by his remark and laughs at him since he is a celibate man who probably has lived in the bush too long. And then his response, “I should know. I've been married to God for fifty years.”

We never really know Charlie, he is the father of her three children and I can never really determine the divide between the two of them. There are some complaints and narratives but maybe he is a symbol of her double allegiances. She is from Africa but she is not really African, and maybe not an American, either. The book becomes centered on her divorce; there are immoderations in Wyoming and extreme tragedies in Africa. Alexandra’s mother loses three children, one of which, Alexandra may be partly responsible for her death. She looks up to her father; she seems to live on every word and can regurgitate his homilies often.

I was caught up in the chaos and beauty of Africa. Living in this environment is living with extremes. America does not deliver the peace she believes she is promised. She tries to make sense of all that has happened to her. It is difficult for all of us, who suffer from overpowering emotions.


Guerlain Meteorites Perles Light-Diffusing Perfecting Primer 30ml/1.0oz
Guerlain Meteorites Perles Light-Diffusing Perfecting Primer 30ml/1.0oz
Offered by AZPerfume
Price: $52.67
13 used & new from $45.74

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Unusual Skin Enhancer, April 9, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This product is applied after moisturizer. You only need to squirt an amount that equals the size of a dime. The meteorites provide an excellent primer and enhance skin to a luminous glow. Guerlain has had this product in their line for a long time, it is not inexpensive and luckily, a small amount is all that is needed. I highly recommend it.


Gaiam Sol Sticky-Grip Yoga Mat (5mm)
Gaiam Sol Sticky-Grip Yoga Mat (5mm)
Price: $48.53
3 used & new from $34.11

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Mat for Dynamic Movements, March 29, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This company is not well known for a thicker mat which made me quite curious in regard to the quality and durability. Thin mats are adequate for sedentary movements. This mat did not have any offensive odor when unfolding it for the first time. The thickness of this "Sticky-Grip" mat is more than appropriate for dynamic movement in a yoga class or in one's own home.

After performing movements that would could have moved the mat, I was very pleased that there is a sense of traction for balancing and yoga toes would most likely not be needed for more gripping. The mat did not slip, even during a hot yoga class. I was so pleased that I would compare it to the quality of Manduka. This is a fair-priced mat with the proper thickness and weight.


Hausfrau: A Novel
Hausfrau: A Novel
by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.60
97 used & new from $9.05

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Only Time the Swiss Trains Run Late, March 24, 2015
This review is from: Hausfrau: A Novel (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Oh, Anna Benz, your creator, Ms. Essbaum shaped you into a modern narcissistic, sexual addict fashioned after Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary. Although you are an American, she cajoled you into marrying a Swiss banker, Bruno, nine years ago and dropping you in Zurich. In those nine years, you had three children, Victor, Charles (your favorite) and Polly Jean. You never really made any friends, not that you wanted them, and instead became an aimless, manic woman who suffered for all your sins.

And Anna’s suffering is profound. The author initially made me hopeful when she teamed her up with Doktor Messerli, a psychoanalyst, who interprets her dreams and coaxes her to write a journal. Their sessions are monumental, as we can observe the escalation of Anna’s problems and her reticence to consider her maladies. But Anna, posing as a housefrau, is too busy with her sexual relationships, which are presented in ultra graphic scenes bordering on extremes. Overindulgences are Anna’s way of coping, like an alcoholic that cannot stop drinking. She knows she should stop but takes many chances. Even though she may envision the consequences of her actions, she inflicts more damage despite the grave reprisals.

In this particular part of her life, Anna is attending a German class and she apparently sends signals to men who want to have tryst (I’m being kind with that word). Archie is the chosen one and their meetings are frequent and rather surreal. Violence is not excluded from this novel and her sexual encounters, often ferocious. leave Anna nonplused. She seems a like a dead woman walking and as promised, the consequences befall her. Every mother’s nightmare becomes her own. Castigation and acts of horrific abuse are also in the cards.

The novel is well written but I became somewhat exasperated without a strong plot and wanted less despair for this complicated housefrau. Anna’s freedom to “wile”“away her day while her mother-in-law cared for her children seemed incongruous. Ms. Essbaum’s literary allusions were first-rate but the scenes seemed to click-clack like the Zurich trains.


Did You Ever Have A Family
Did You Ever Have A Family
by Bill Clegg
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.26

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling Depiction of Family Tragedies, March 18, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The title of this book is as powerful as the foreboding and imagery of the novel. There are murky, despondent secrets chiseled into a plot that starts off with a bright fire.

June Reid, a complicated woman in her 50’s, is hosting her daughter’s wedding at her old, family house in Wells, Connecticut. The night before the wedding, after the rehearsal festivities, there is a fiery explosion in her home, killing her daughter, Lolly, her future husband, Will, ex-husband, Adam and June’s boyfriend, Luke. Clegg spared the reader from the actual blaze and instead collected the voices of others to tell us how they were connected to those in June’s household. June was the only survivor of the fire.

Some narrators include Lydia, mother of Luke, Rick the caterer, Dale, the father of Will, and Silas, a pothead working for Luke. There are more secondary characters who link us to the their natural families or ones they created. The deadly fire is never really investigated, which I found improbable. June initially stayed at a friend’s house in the area until one day she grabs the keys to her car and drives across country to the Pacific Northwest. Her trip out West emphasizes June’s grief and isolation. She checks into the Moonstone motel that has its own elaborate history. June is in a fog but somehow had the good sense to contact her attorney to ensure payment of bills and sale of her land.

We learn the histories of these players who have wrought tragedy and happiness on the victims of the fire. Nothing is simple; everyone’s past and motives are complex leading to devastation and unbearable grief. Clegg clearly portrays the vulnerability and bad choices of his characters. Although it could be easy to point to one or two who were most responsible for this tragedy, it is about forgiveness and our need for family. The contrasts between the families are startling. For instance, Dale and Mimi are loving, smart parents who make good decisions while Lydia doesn’t seem to get it and is easily drawn to evil and imprudent decisions. At times, the connections among the many characters were far-fetched. Despite the implausibility, the book grabbed me from the first page. Retracing their lives was revelatory. The writing is vibrant and lyrical. Against a backdrop of quiet areas in the East and Northwest, Clegg has created a smashing debut.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 20, 2015 10:43 AM PDT


A Splendid Gift
A Splendid Gift
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $1.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Antoine de Saint-Exupery and His Lover, March 4, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: A Splendid Gift (Kindle Edition)
Alyson Richman, who is a tactile writer, writes this "splendid" novel capturing the passion of two smart, loving characters. Ms. Richman places Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a famous French pilot and author of The Little Prince, in a romantic encounter with a divorced, beautiful woman, Silvia Hamilton. Silvia is the “other woman,” usually quite patient, while Saint-Exupery continues his marriage with a shrew. She also helps her lover through the creative process of writing The Little Prince.

The fictional story, crafted with some plausible historical reference, becomes an old-fashioned love story, like a fairy tale. The beautiful Silvia is divorced with one child, who waits in her apartment on the odd chance her lover will choose that day to visit her. The trysts are passionate and resemble classic love stories. Silvia was an all-giving woman; she would do anything for her lover, even carting off her son to stay with her parents, to guarantee more privacy.

Silvia was an exquisite, smart woman who became the tolerant, other woman sacrificing her pride and possible future for this man. Feminists would not necessarily respect this character, and I didn’t either. Richman’s prose is beautiful and has clarity.


Our Souls at Night: A novel
Our Souls at Night: A novel
by Kent Haruf
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Addie and Louis Getting Through the Night, March 4, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Kent Haruf, one of our greatest American writers, wrote this last, short novel, before his death in 2014. All of his books captured the essence of relationships; however, this novel touched my heart.

Addie Moore is 70, a widow for some years, and Louis Waters, also a widower, live in Holt, Colorado, a frequent setting for Haruf. With hope for an imminent future, Addie approaches Louis, an acquaintance and former high school teacher, to come spend the night with her. Addie is a no-nonsense woman, who doesn’t care what others in the town think of her. Her need to talk at night and have someone to share her bed is essential to her well being. She understands the pain of relationships, loss and the need to fulfill her nights with a good person, not sexually necessarily, but a man who can share this time of their lives.

Louis is taken aback but he visits Addie and they begin a sensible relationship and fill the nights with conversation; Addie is able to sleep. Louis becomes attracted to her and is careful about his desires. They tell each other their marital histories and disclose problems with their remaining children, Gene and Holly.

Addie is an independent woman but she will never refuse to help her son, Gene. When Gene calls her and asks that she take his son, Jamie, for “awhile” as his wife has left and his business is falling apart, Addie gives him money and takes in Jamie. Jamie’s emotions are overt; he misses his parents, he cries and is scared. Louis becomes an important role model for her grandson, playing catch and showing him how to take care of animals and a garden. Addie consoles this little boy with kisses and hugs and holds him to ward off his fears. She is calm and provides a temporary loving home for her grandson. The three of them become a family until Gene returns.

Addie is complex despite Haruf’s simple dialogue structure. Addie discovers her relationship with Louis has its downside when her son demands that it end. The author’s characterization of Gene is intriguing and powerful. Despite Addie’s strength and independence, she reaches a crossroads and once again, Addie must decide whether to sacrifice a plausible relationship with Louis in the face of her son’s ignorant demands. Haruf plays out the decision and Louis’ consistent respect for Addie with aplomb and compassion. Louis’ reaction to his own daughter represents a stalwart approach and his desire for Addie trumps Holly’s demands.

This is a perfect book. Haruf’s plot is more intricate than it appears, the dialogue paints a picture of each character with a few words, the setting enhances the plot and we are lucky to read clear prose. Having read his other novels, I am aware that he would pull a knitted cap over his eyes and write his novels on a manual typewriter. Editing came later. In Chapter 34, he alluded to Plainsong, a book that probably marked his literary brilliance. I feel that he identified with Addie and Louis, he was ill at the time of his writing. I highly recommend “Our Souls at Night,” an impeccable title.


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