Review of Arkham Manor Vol.1 by Gerry Duggan

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Review written by: Jessica C.

Arkham Manor Vol 1 collects issue 1-6 of DC Comics new 52 series from the same name. In Arkham Manor the Wayne Mansion has become the new residence for all of the lunatics and mentally unstable patrons of Gotham. The story starts off well with Bruce Wayne living just below Arkham Manor, and of course with Batman not far away it’s a given that something bad is going to happen.

The bad turns up being multiple murders within Arkham Manor. Leave it to Batman to go undercover to try and solve the case. The storyline was very much on the 60s Batman vibe, with the dark grit of artwork some of the old Batman comics were focused on. Some of the more notorious villians of the Batverse made their appearance so that was appreciated.

To me the story seemed too planned with a few loose ends. I was hoping to know more about some of the patients that were introduced and placed in Arkham Manor. Unfortunately the story was more focused on Batman finding out who was committing the murders and his new helper, Mr. Freeze.

I have to say though, Freeze’s return to the story was an amusing addition. Watching him outside in the snow cooking on the grill was just a nice bit of comedy thrown into an otherwise depressing, dark story. Then again we kind of expect that from the Batverse don’t we?

All in all, the series wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t the best I’ve read but it kept me interested. I have to admit I did find myself skimming through some of it because it just seemed way too much filler. Here’s hoping DC gets back on track with Batman and brings him back to the dark vigilante we are used to seeing. Until next time folks, happy reading!

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Review of Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland


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“No more stalking ­people on Google.
No more Facebooking exes.
No more reading twits on Twitter.
No more posting pictures and waiting for “likes.”
No more refreshing Gmail every thirty seconds.
No more hashtagging meaningless combinations of words.
No more Instagramming every instant.
No more Foursquaring her whereabouts.
No more bidding on eBay for the thrill of competition.
No more pretend job hunting on Monster.
No more blogs. (She was slandered on one, for God’s sake!)
No more watching two-­year-­olds boogie to Beyoncé on YouTube.
No more playing Scrabble against house-­bound Aspergians.
No more Candy Crush, that time-­sucking psychedelic mess of sugar balls. And, best of all, no more OkCupid, JDate, eHarmony, and Match.”

Review written by: Jessica C.

Yes boys and girls it’s the digital age. It’s hard not to look around and see some sort of reference to it, or finding that you are about to run into someone because you are too busy staring down at your phone. Text messages, blogging, social media insanity. It’s all around us. With such a world we live in now it seems crazy for the main character, Evie, of Love and Miss Communication to end her relationship not just with social media… but online completely. Granted, the notion of avoiding social media for a time is quite appealing, but to all together cut yourself from everything online including email seems the impossible.

For Evie, at the start of taking her online hiatus it is near impossible, Evie goes through detachment like any addict going through withdrawals. To me I wasn’t sure I really could connect to the concept or find myself enjoying the book. However, Love and Miss Communication became a delightfully enchanting surprise. A Bridget Jones Diary for the digital age.

Like Bridget Jones, Evie goes through her own dating disasters and struggles with family and friends. While some of her friends and family find her crazy for shutting herself off from online, Evie starts to realize the more she is away from online the more she is likely to be herself.

During the process of her hiatus, Evie finds a great job, a new passion in a work field she didn’t expect herself to ever pursue, and of all things… love. I won’t spoil the story for you because it is something to experience for yourself. If anything I found it amusing and so realistic that Evie automatically let her guard down and let people know her as she truly was, without consequence, when she was living with assumptions.

Even when Evie struggles with losing her job and almost losing her grandmother, she does in the end find herself a good man that loves her for who she is. Without the focus of the digital world, Evie starts to act natural and lets her guard down to truly see the world around her.

The one thing I can say about the book is that some of the things that happen in the book seem far too impossible. It’s hard to relate completely with Evie when she has an amazing job, that even when she loses, she ends up finding an equally amazing job that pays her extremely well. Go figure that. Add in her posh, up scale friends and it seems too far fetched for some of us that can’t imagine such elite lifestyles.

Still it’s a decent book that I found myself steadily going through. I wasn’t consumed or absorbed by the book, but it was a cute summer read all the same. Until next time, happy reading!

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Tea Time at Reverie: Yezi Tea’s Tie Guan Yin High Grade Oolong Tea

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Today’s tea is one of many names: Iron Goddess Oolong, Iron Bodhisattva, Monkey-Picked Oolong, Tie Kwan Yin (Taiwanese)… They’re all part of the pool known as Tie Guan Yin, which is Chinese for “Iron Goddess of Mercy.” This renowned oolong tea is available at most tea shops and online retailers, including our friends at Yezi Tea, who were kind enough to send us samples. (Justin also wrote about Yezi’s Tie Guan Yin High Grade Oolong Tea here.)

Yezi’s brand of Tie Guan Yin High Grade Oolong hails from the mountains of Anxi County in the southern Fujian province of China. Since the early days of the Qing Dynasty, this tea has been famous for its heavy body and surprisingly sweet flavor. So, how does Tie Guan Yin measure up to other oolongs we’ve tasted for Tea Time? Read on to find out!

The Basics

Photo courtesy of Yezi Tea

Photo courtesy of Yezi Tea

Yezi Tea’s Description: “[Tie Guan Yin High Grade Oolong] has a heavy body with notes of camphor balanced by a strong orchid scent. The tea is famed for its dark notes of caramel and refreshing aftertaste of honey. With its robust amber body and surprising palette of flavors, the Iron Bodhisattva loose-leaf tea is the perfect beverage to rejuvenate both your body and spirit in the sometimes sapping hours of the afternoon.”

Ingredients: Tie Guan Yin oolong leaves

Steeping Instructions: Use 1 to 2 teaspoons per 8 oz of water. Heat water to just below boiling (194 to 203 degrees Fahrenheit / 90 to 95 degrees Celsius) and steep for 45 seconds. Add 15 seconds for each subsequent brew.

Multiple Brews?: Yes, about 6 or 7 times

Bagged or Loose Leaf?: Loose leaf

Caffeine Level: Medium

The Experience

Photo courtesy of Yezi Tea

Photo courtesy of Yezi Tea

The moment I open my sample packet of High Grade Tie Guan Yin, I feel like I’ve got a winner on my hands. Floral notes of orchid intertwine with the heady, pungent scent of camphor, marrying for a distinct and intoxicating fragrance. This bouquet is what I’ve come to expect from a Tie Guan Yin – and one of my favorite tea aromas period – so I’m already pleased with what’s here.

As for appearance, the dry leaves of High Grade Tie Guan Yin are gorgeous. Crinkled, dark green nuggets with vibrant lighter green streaks give it a healthy, lively color. These nuggets are also slightly larger and less compact than most oolongs. Which could mean that the leaves might be huge after they unfurl!

Following Yezi’s directions, I steep 2 teaspoons of High Grade Tie Guan Yin for 45 seconds. Out comes a pale green liquid that carries the rich aroma of camphor and orchids. And what I taste matches what I smell. Each sip waltzes with contradictions: light yet strong, floral yet mineral. The characteristic buttery texture is also starting to seep through. This is a wonderfully refreshing first cup, and it’s not long before I’m off to make a second.

Steep #2 sits for 1 minute and evolves a little bit, as a good oolong should. The liquid takes on a shade of yellow-green and gives off a more hypnotic aroma, with hints of butter mingling with the orchid and camphor. The flavors are still indicative of the fragrance: robust, floral, and slightly sweet, with an increasingly creamy mouthfeel. Ohhh, I enjoyed this cup even more than the first one!

I’m able to get six steeps out of High Grade Tie Guan Yin, increasing each brew time by about 15 seconds. The tea’s personality doesn’t change much between Steeps #2 through #5, which surprises me. Not in a bad way, since the tea is still delectable, but I’m used to detecting tiny differences between each brew of an oolong. Finally, at Steep #6 (2 minutes), I notice a slightly drier finish than the previous steeps. There are still traces of camphor and orchid, and a pleasant roasted overtone begins to creep through. A decent last cup, I’d say, and I probably could have squeezed out another steep or two if I had more time.

Oh, and remember my comment about leaf size? WOW! Once these babies fully opened, most were about the size of my thumb! They nearly filled my infuser and remained a vivid dark green for the first couple brews. These minor details made the experience with Yezi’s High Grade Tie Guan Yin all the more delightful.

The Aftertaste

It’s pretty darn difficult to not love Yezi’s High Grade Tie Guan Yin Oolong. This classic beauty features everything I’ve come to expect from its kind: contrasting orchid and camphor aromas and flavors, a luxurious buttery texture, and a fresh, mesmerizing ambiance. I didn’t find the amber color or caramel and honey nuances that were mentioned in Yezi’s description… But every tea drinker experiences the same tea differently, so I’m not going to hold it against this Chinese tea legend. Highly recommended!

Grade: 9.5 / 10

Recommended For:

  • Tea Drinkers Who: Like oolong teas
  • Time of Day and Year: Late mornings and early afternoons year-round
  • Possible Book Pairings: Yezi’s High Grade Tie Guan Yin pairs well with dark, elegant speculative fiction such as Tina Connolly’s Ironskin. This steampunk fantasy spin on Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre combines the classic love story of a governess and her employer with mystery, fey magic, and a woman struggling with the effects of a 5-year-old curse.

You can purchase Tie Guan Yin High Grade Oolong directly from Yezi Tea here.

It’s worth noting that Yezi also sells a Master Grade version of Tie Guan Yin. Based on the description, it has a different flavor profile than the High Grade Tie Guan Yin, so make sure you purchase the correct grade if you’re interested in this tea.

*       *      *

In addition to being a tea enthusiast, Sara Letourneau is an avid reader and a writer who… well, enjoys writing! Currently she’s working on a novel, and she writes book reviews and articles on the craft of writing. She’s also a published poet with works available in various print and online publications. Visit Sara at her personal blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

If you’re a tea seller and would like to have one of your products reviewed here, please visit the Contributors page for contact information.

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Review of “The Rosie Project” & “The Rosie Effect” by: Graeme Simsion & Giveaway of “The Rosie Effect”


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READ BELOW, TO ENTER TO WIN A COPY OF GRAEME SIMSION’S THE ROSIE EFFECT.

    **Giveaway details: Leave a comment below, regarding anything published within this blog post, to enter for the chance to win a copy of The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion. The contest is only open to those living in the US. The winner will be selected at random July 30,2015 at 11:59 pm. At about 12am July 31,2015, the winner will be informed via email that they have been selected as the winner, and their prize book will be shipped to them within a week, or two week’s time, by the publisher. Best of luck to everyone entering!

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Review: This is a review of both books jointly!

   The Rosie Project: From the outset of the book, The Rosie Project is a very sensitive, witty, delightfully cerebral romantic comedy, featuring the first-person perspective of a genetics professor with Asperger’s, endeavoring to find love. His character is endearing and very well-shaped; I really felt like the main character of Don Tillman was a fantastic rendering of a character, faced with the unique difficulties in his professional life, of having a mental disorder that makes them have difficulties with socializing with others, try to succeed in doing so anyways.

His faux-pas, and social ineptitude are sensitively portrayed as humorous blunders, where he tries to understand an entirely different scheme of life that isn’t as rote, or tactile and logically linear as the world of genetics. In genetics, there isn’t so many different emotional variances, or slight, subtle cues. And Graeme Simsion does an expert job, handling the hard task of translating the thought patterns of someone with Asperger’s, in a way that makes the character of Don Tillman’s complexities of character, along with the nuances of his psychological condition, come through in a lucid, fascinating way.

More important, the humor of his mishaps, and moments of inadvertent impropriety are balanced well alongside the well-handled, serious drama aspect, which involves Don trying to search out the biological father of Rosie, who he begins to developing a romantic relationship with; their budding romance could have come off as a contrived gimmick that  otherwise could have detracted from enjoyment of this intelligently-written story. Yet their interactions are very fun to read, especially since Rosie is in many ways the complete opposite of him, as she is free-spirited, thus independently-minded in an entirely different sense than Don who is rigid, methodical, and set-in-his-ways, with respects to his form of independence.

The story gives us a very thorough, and above all, sensitive/accurate portrayal of a character with Asperger’s, and it is both equally funny and serious. It is an unconventional, well-written romantic comedy that will greatly appeal to readers, in search of books that admirably present characters with very different psyches, or dispositions, that are rarely presented so well, and so prominently in many other books in this genre. Besides being absolutely hilarious at points, The Rosie Project really gave me a very trenchant look at the unique daily challenges someone with Asperger’s  faces, in a world that often makes great demands on people with a wide array of unique psychological conditions, to be not just socially adept, but to be almost immaculate in terms of how perfect your social conduct can be.

The Rosie EffectIn many ways, The Rosie Effect, the sequel to the brilliantly bright, impulsively readable The Rose Project, pales a bit in comparison. The basic story involves the unique challenges of commitment, in a committed relationship with another human being. In of itself, marriage is already a terribly difficult thing for many people, having fidelity throughout the many conflicts and and challenges that any married couple face is something very trying. When someone has a unique psychological condition, a marriage that is already inherently something that carries specific challenges can be especially hard for someone with Asperger’s, who has difficulty with sometimes fully comprehending the wide range of social cues, and subtlety, or nuances, expressed in someone’s tone. This creates a myriad number of terrible difficulties for Don, who sometimes does not seem to have the full support at all times of Rosie. These are all expressed many times, throughout the novel, in a comedic light, but this book allows these things to carry sometimes a more serious tone as well.

In many ways, this book is more riveting and deeper, as it really authentically portrays the unique challenges that someone with Asperger’s faces, when entering into a marriage, or having children.  Yet in some ways, the charm and fond cleverness of the first book doesn’t come across as strongly in this book.  And some of the situations are not just absurd in principle, they become sometimes patently absurd, to the point of rupturing a reader’s suspension of disbelief. To be fair, these seemingly ridiculous things are part and parcel of the unique charm and humor of the story, yet there should still be a degree of realism to at least keep things from becoming too immoderately ridiculous. My biggest concern was the way that Don’s clear unique psychological difficulties were clearly more than just charming, eccentric foibles, and sometimes I feel the self-awareness that he had Aspergers was not something deal with enough, or quite as extensibely, and realistically, as I would have hoped as a reader. Perhaps, there is intention behind that as well, in that there may be another installment forthcoming that deals in greater detail about coming full-circle with facing the many unqiue challenges of having something like Asperger’s syndrome. The one clear realistic element of all of this is the gradual quality of the novel’s development of his character; the fact that Don still faces many numerous, new challenges shows that having a certain type of psychological condition really is very much something that is a daily challenge when this person must learn to adapt to a rapidly-changing modern environment.

Nonetheless, the book still runs the gamut of realistically portraying all the nuances of someone with Asperger’s, to the extent where I actually felt even more deeply connected with Don as a character, as he faces so many different trials and challenges in this story. You really cannot help but laugh when something inadvertently funny occurs for him due to a social faux-pas, and you cannot help but hope in earnest for his triumph in his life.

Even though, it is both different and slightly inferior to the first novel (in terms of realism), I really enjoyed it nonetheless, and it was as richly enjoyable and tons of fun, as with the first novel. The humor is spot on, of course, which makes this book yet another rip-roaring fest of intelligently written hilarity, and heartening social/romantic drama that really shapes Don and the other characters within his life into full-fledged, deep personalities, that you cannot help but feel are somehow real-people, perhaps existing on a separate plane of reality, apart from our own.

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Review of “Hostile Takeover” by Shane Kuhn

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Synopsis, Taken from Simon Schuster Product Detail Page:

Professional assassin John Lago faces off against his deadliest adversary yet—his wife—in Hostile Takeover, the exciting sequel to Shane Kuhn’s bestselling debut The Intern’s Handbook, which the New York Post called “a sexy, darkly comic thriller.”

At the end of The Intern’s Handbook, John tracks down his nemesis Alice but instead of putting a bullet in her head, he puts a ring on her finger and marries her. Together, they execute a hostile takeover of Human Resources, Inc., the “placement agency” that trains young assassins to infiltrate corporations disguised as interns and knock off high profile targets. As HR’s former top operatives, they are successful until conflicting management styles cause an ugly breakup that locks John out of the bedroom and the boardroom.

But when Alice takes on a new HR target, John is forced to return to the office battlefield in a role he swore he would never play again: the intern. What starts out as a deadly showdown turns into the two of them fighting side by side to save HR, Inc.—and their marriage.

Review:

Fun, quick-witted, and exceedingly easy to get into- Shane Kuhn’s fast-paced, slightly farcical-toned thriller Hostile Takeover, reminiscent of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, is a sequel to last year’s The Intern’s Handbook, which was the first installment of this ongoing series. This sequel is mainly about the resourceful, smart, capricious  John, who finds himself entangled in a marriage with his former arch-nemesis Alice. From the beginning of the story, you are almost immediately aware that this story has a sly, elusive wit, which if you do not get immediately, you will feel completely lost, when in the midst of reading this book. Having never read the first novel myself, it took me a fair bit longer to adapt to the tone of Shane Kuhn’s prose, which has devilishly clever pop-cultural references scattered throughout the beginning of the story, intermingled with the captivating, electrifying action sequences, along with a developing plot about the latest far-flung, slightly preposterous criminal plans, hatched by both Alice and John.

The first hundred or so pages involves their murderous post-nuptials, and honeymoon, where the pace of the action is incessant, and the humor remains impressively front-stage and center, throughout this part of the novel. We get a glimpse into just how the main character of John works, his machinations, and how he deals with the ensuing tension of being wedded to someone, who has entirely different motives for different plans than him. The ongoing strain in their relationship is cleverly developed through how they respond to missions together, and the clashes of their overweening egos, along with their latent feelings of rivalry that they are working out together, provide the beginning of the story with a mostly necessary, somewhat effective introduction to this dynamic of the novel.

Yet while I most definitely enjoyed the razor-sharp wit, the rich dynamics between these two leads, something about the text eluded me somewhat. There wasn’t much depth, or substantial plot threads to really keep me riveted throughout the novel. I was expecting a bit more political intrigue, but these elements were a bit underdeveloped, and even felt secondary to the wit, and nonsensical nature of the novel’s various scenes that detail their various missions. Early on, we mostly get these scenes of their different escapades, which are deceptively stylized, yet somewhat lacking in much more deeper meaning or significance, something with a bit more depth that would really deepen the whole experience of what is otherwise a fairly well-written, intelligently told tale. Something about it never really quite resonated with me, but perhaps this is my own preconceived notions getting in the way.

To be fair, things do get much better, as you get further in the novel. Some of the above elements that could have quickly became formulaic and stale real fast are quickly remedied by a renewed sense of purpose and energy midway through the novel. In some ways, the later part of the novel gets far more interesting, as unexpected things happen, and there is a little more intrigue, in terms of politics and the somewhat enigmatic motives of the different capering criminals that are featured throughout this rapidly-moving thriller, filled with many sequences with excitement,style, and most of all, fun.

I did love the interrogation scenes that occur during intervals between the recounted action of the story. The novel has a media res. structure to it, which provides readers a nice glimpse of where the main character John happens to be somewhat after the retold events of the novel. These retold events are what chronicles what happens to John, and lands him where he is early on in these chapters. I don’t want to divulge just where he happens to be because that might ruin the surprising element of the very beginning of the novel, and how the whole novel swaps between this future interrogation scene, and the earlier events leading up to it (that make up a bulk of the novel). In many ways, this structure does provide the needed sense of diversion from the earlier parts that again I feared may have become too hackney too quickly.  And it is the story that grow out of this beginning interrogation scene that did improve the novel as a whole for me, enriching the main plot with a bit more intrigue, though I still felt a little detached from the novel. I guess, it’s best to see this novel as almost like a campy comic book thriller type of story, versus something more somber and serious in tone like an episode of True Detectives.

For the most part, if you don’t have high expectations for a deeper, more serious thriller plot, and you really want something fun and quick-witted, then you’ll absolutely love Hostile Takeover. For myself, I cannot help, but feel slightly disappointed, but the novel does succeed, for the most part, with the tone it was trying to capture with this story. Whether or not I loved it ultimately, that’s something that may continuing feeling quite impossible to articulate, but I cannot deny that this novel was great fun, and had moments of devastatingly funny scenes. There’s no doubt that you’ll glean much amusement and humor from this novel because Hostile Takeover is a thriller that is more in the “derisive/nonsensical” zone, more-so than the prosaic/serious zone.  If you crave a book that is blunt and stars two egocentric, conniving, deplorably mad characters, you’ll again find a lot to love here!

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Review of New Suicide Squad Vol 1.: Pure Insanity by Sean Ryan & Jeremy Roberts


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Review Written by: Jessica C.

The New Suicide Squad Vol 1: Pure Insanity tells the story of the revamped Suicide Squad of the New 52 featuring the original team members: Black Manta, Harley Quinn, and Deadshot along with two new members Joker’s Daughter and Deathstroke. The graphic novel covers the explanation of the task force and it’s purpose while presenting internal conflicts between  not only the team but also those that manage the puppet strings of Suicide Squad. Both Vic Sage and Amanda Waller struggle for dominance and power while Deadshot and Deathstroke fail to caress the ego of the other as both of course feel they are the better assassin. Add to this mix the enraged fury of Harley Quinn for Joker’s Daughter having her ex-lover’s face and you have a tempestuous team.

As always Harley is my favorite of the team. I appreciate how the New 52 story threads have introduced her as both insane and logical in only the way Harley Quinn can be. I enjoyed the fact that the writers gave a little nod to her past as a psychologist, as humorous as it was given the circumstances. While there are new members they don’t seem to last very long and go quite quickly and quietly. Joker’s Daughter is there one moment, injured the next, and then off to an undisclosed mental ward. Go figure that one. Needless to say the determined less important characters are just discarded without any explanation of what happens next.

Add to this whole insane mix the introduction of Man Bat Ninjas. Yes… ninjas… Reverse Flash, and Captain Boomerang and you got a great explanation of why this collection is called Pure Insanity. Crazy action, insane groupings of folks that are more like foes than team players, and a lot of explosions and you got what you came here for. One story goes and another one comes through when the Suicide Squad is sent off on another mission where Harley Quinn gets red button push happy and unleashes an unknown individual that saves her life. Fancy that. Needless to say the story closes with the team questioning their purpose in life and in general as part of the Suicide Squad.

For me being familiar with quite a few of the DC anti-heroes I was not really that well versed in Suicide Squad. Pure Insanity was a great jumping off point into their world. So if you are like me and know the names of the characters, or have a vague familiarity with them and want to know more… this is a fantastic jumping off point. We all know (or should know) that the movie is coming out soon. Does Pure Insanity make me one to eagerly anticipate the movie now? You bet your britches it does! Until next time my bibliophile friends and comic book geeks, happy reading!

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Review & Giveaway for “Eight Hundred Grapes” by Laura Dava

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Synopsis (Taken from the Publisher’s Website)

There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide….

Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands.

But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.

Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets….

Bestselling author Laura Dave has been dubbed “a wry observer of modern love” (USA TODAY), a “decadent storyteller” (Marie Claire), and “compulsively readable” (Woman’s Day). Set in the lush backdrop of Sonoma’s wine country, Eight Hundred Grapes is a heartbreaking, funny, and deeply evocative novel about love, marriage, family, wine, and the treacherous terrain in which they all intersect.

In this breakout novel from an author who “positively shines with wisdom and intelligence” (Jonathan Tropper, This Is Where I leave You), Laura Dave “writes with humor and insight about relationships in all their complexity, whether she’s describing siblings or fiancés or a couple long-married. Eight Hundred Grapes is a captivating story about the power of family, the limitations of love, and what becomes of a life’s work” (J. Courtney Sullivan, Maine). –

 Giveaway Alert: More details can be found directly below this review about how you can win both a hardcover copy of Laura Dave’s most recent novel,along with a special, Eight Hundred Grapes mug, perfect for drinking your evening wine from.

 Review:

Written with measured, thoughtfully-restrained prose, Eight Hundred Grapes is a vivid,heady combination of relationship drama, and also a rich inside-look at the inner-workings of a small Californian winery. As you guessed, the book is primarily set on a small Californian winery, and the disparate dramatic elements, all the many complex relationship dramas that make up this book are the various types of relationships that comprise the core heart of this book, which has an elaborate structure or plot layout that models the many dimensions to the different elements of a certain blend of wine.  Yes, that might sound like a ridiculously cheesy analogy for a book (ostensibly about a wine vineyard), but it really is a book that dissects the many fierce emotional flare-ups that occur in any kind of relationship, whether it be one between brothers and sisters, or between lovers.

This is a perfect beach read, but don’t mistaken its vibrant cover, or its seemingly light, inoffensive romantic drama synopsis for a book that lacks either vigor or depth. Yes, it does have a few cheesy elements, but those are really just part of the fun, escapist element of the story, even while the novel itself does a fantastic job developing the characters and many relationships. While this type of novel is sometimes referred to as women’s fiction (for marketing purposes), I personally think that kind of label doesn’t always completely define the nature or texture of the story itself (and that is applicable to all genres, just as YA books aren’t only for young-adult readers). Yes, it is a light-natured story that consists of relationship dramas, but I actually found all the characters, both male and female ones, with just enough personality, to really appeal to any reader, of any gender, that might want something a bit more focused on the distillation process of human drama, how our many tangled relationships are things that under stress get squeezed like grapes (keeping the grape-pressing, wine making analogies throughout this review), and that’s where we further learn upon reflection in the aftermath of the tension just what truly matters. And a few interludes within the novel fondly reminded me of those brief moments in a Shakespearean comedy, where we reflect on the worth and value, or the future course of our lives, as is something that is done in any genre of fiction. Why should a light read, that is solidly written, be exempt from that rule of thumb for good fiction?

In many ways, Eight Hundred Grapes with its light, romantic element feels very much like a Shakespearean comedy, and that is where we can trace the genre origins of these types of light human drama stories. We don’t always want non-stop action, extreme malevolence, or psychological intensity in every story we read. I love reading books of this genre, if only to relax and remember the complexity found even in our everyday interactions with others.

Now, there were times that I felt certain scenes were overwrought, a bit underdeveloped, and even a little too predictable at times. To be honest, it’s not a rapturous, astounding work of literature, by any means, but I think it succeeds with being a truly entertaining, fun escapist read, for any readers that might want a Shakespearean comedy (comedy not in the sense of “funny,” but being more light-natured). Sometimes, we all need these types of books, and I think it pretty much succeeds at being what it is. Who doesn’t love a Twelfth Night style story, after reading Macbeth type stories? Laura Daves has just enough humor, great restrained writing, and some dashes of light drama to keep readers, needing a break from a more intense story, entertained enough.

For the most part, I would be open to reading more books from this writer, and I am glad that I remain adventurous enough to read books outside my small, insulated genre nook. I have had the time of my life, in the last year, being able to read so many books I’ve never had the chance of reading before.  Laura Dave’s Eight Hundred Grapes certainly entertains, and it succeeds at being a nice light refreshment of a read, perfect for the summer.

GIVEAWAY DETAILS: Leave a comment below about your favorite brand or type of wine, to enter for a chance to win a hardcover copy of this very entertaining, escapist fiction novel, Eight Hundred Grapes, written by Laura Dave. You’ll also get a special Eight Hundred Grapes themed mug, so you can have a mugful of the best wine you can find, while reading this book! The contest is open only to those in either US or Canada, and the winner will be chosen at random, when the contest officially ends on July 21st, 2015 at 11:59 PM.

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