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Book Remarks

The Barkeep

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com By William Lashner 468 pages Thomas & Mercer, February 2014 Genre: Mystery (Zenspense) “Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.” - Author Unknown If you are familiar with the name William Lashner, you likely have read some of his Victor Carl mysteries. This is not part of that series. Frankly, I started reading the book because after several nonfiction reads I was ready for something lighter and I found the title intriguing. It is not often I encounter the term “barkeep,” but it certainly ... Read More »

This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” ~ Joseph Brodsky By Ann Patchett 306 pages, Harper-Collins 2013 The title is deceptive. This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage is a collection of essays about Ann Patchett’s life — not “simply” about her happy marriage. The road to that happy marriage had some significant detours. This is probably the most fun I have ever had reading a biography. From the first page, I felt that I was catching up with an old girlfriend over a very long lunch. ... Read More »

Levels of Life

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com By Julian Barnes 128 pages, Alfred A. Knopf, 2013 In this slender book, Julian Barnes writes three sections/essays: “The Sin of Height,” “On the Level” and “The Loss of Depth.” He begins, “You put together two things that have not been put together before. And the world is changed.” Those two things are invariably eventually torn apart, and hence, the ups and downs, or levels, of life. “The Sin of Height” tells the story of Felix Tournachon, a mid-19th-century French photographer who was celebrated for his portrait photographs which were unique due to his use of ... Read More »

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Final Reunion

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com By Fannie Flagg Random House, 369 pages When we meet Sarah Jane “Sookie” Poole, she is a 59-year-old Alabama housewife who has just married off the last of her daughters and is exhausted from her mother-of-the-bride duties. She and her husband, Earle Poole, Jr., a dentist, have had the financial and emotional exhaustion of four weddings, plus the financial stress of Sookie’s mother’s extravagance. Octogenarian Lenore Simmons Krackenberry has a penchant for watching late night TV and ordering unneeded items and/or phoning people who need her help, such as the Pope, Barbara Bush and Queen ... Read More »

Top 10 For 2013

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com It is the end of another year already, and the inevitable “lists” are popping up everywhere. Here is my own Top 10 list for this final 2013 edition of “Book Remarks.” The parentheses after the author’s name include the date of the edition of Coastal Breeze News referencing that article. (http://www.coastalbreezenews.com/category/entertainment/book-remarks/) 10. Six Years by Harlan Coben (6/18/13) Six Years is truly worthy of the term “thriller.” It was not only fun to read, but the intelligent dialogue and winding plot kept my mind engaged throughout. The ending was not at all what I expected, but ... Read More »

The Death of Santini

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com By Pat Conroy 352 pages, Nan A. Talese publisher Sold by Random House “Time passing has a soothing, ameliorative effect, and memory softens as its tides flow out to sea. And to the amazement of all his children, Dad was turning into a man of decency and self-control.” I wanted to read The Death of Santini because it was touted as a journey to forgiveness between a father and son. Every major world religion values forgiveness, and it seemed an appropriate read for the Christmas edition, covering father-son relationships, family, love and forgiveness. Also, Conroy ... Read More »

The Rosie Project

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By Graeme Simsion Simon & Schuster 305 pages Don Tillman is a 30-something professor of genetics at a Melbourne university who has decided it is time to get married. He has never had a second date in his life, and most of his first dates have ended prematurely.   Professor Tillman has Aspergers syndrome and lives his life with strict adherence to routine; rationality and time management. TV fans should think of Sheldon Lee Cooper (Big Bang Theory) or Martin Ellingham (Doc Martin on PBS) to grasp the depth of Don’s social ineptness. Owing to his cerebral approach to all life’s ... Read More »

Naples: Paradise Can Be Deadly

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com   By Diane Ketcham Tidelow Press 2013, 302 pages In Naples: Paradise Can Be Deadly we find that it can also be romantic, wicked, petty, fashionable and wryly humorous. This book is an absolute delight to read. Those of us who live locally will find a certain heightened satisfaction in the familiar locales, but knowing the Naples area is not at all necessary. Ms. Ketcham rivets the reader with multiple story threads interspersed with twists, as well as a loop or two, infusing humor in all the right places. The resolution is credible, leaving no loose ... Read More »

Someone

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com By Alice McDermott Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 2013 288 pages If you have time to read only one novel during the upcoming end-of-the-year hectic holiday season, I urge you to consider Someone by Alice McDermott. She is back after a 7-year absence. For those of you who unfamiliar with Alice McDermott, she won the National Book Award for Charming Billy in 1998 and has been thrice nominated as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Five of her six previous novels have been nominated for national awards. I do not write this because I am bedazzled by ... Read More »

Promise Me: How a Sister’s Love Launched the Global Movement to End Breast Cancer

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com By Nancy G. Brinker with Joni Rodgers Crown Archetype, 343 pages The first National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was observed in October 1986, and now it is a global event. Promise Me is the story of Susan Goodman, her younger sister Nancy, and how their sisterly devotion brought that about. Three-year-old Susan welcomed home baby sister Nancy Goodman in 1946 with an intense looking-over and accepted her with, “Well, she’s quite a character,” announcement to their parents. The sisters lived in Peoria, Illinois, an area I know very well as I was born (a little after ... Read More »

Run, Brother, Run: A Memoir of a Murder in My Family

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com   By David Berg Scribner 2013, 254 pages I am very fond of the genre Real Crime, but I believe “Run, Brother, Run” is the first of such that I have addressed in Book Remarks. For the past month or so I have been working on reading the nominees for the Man Booker Prize, due to be announced on October 15. (I predict “Harvest” by Jim Crace takes the prize.) However, after I read that “Guardian US” readers had picked “Run, Brother, Run” as their favorite Summer 2013 read, my interest was piqued and I had ... Read More »

Sisterland

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com   By Curtis Sittenfeld Random House, 397 pages   Violet and Daisy Shramm are psychic identical twins who live in Saint Louis, Missouri, but dwell in Sisterland, the name the older-by-eight-minutes twin, Violet, gave to the bedroom they shared as children. Her sign “Sisterland – Population 2 – Do NOT Enter Without Permission” that hung on their bedroom door was a declaration of both physical and psychic boundaries. As children, both girls accepted their innate ability to “know” future events and other people’s secrets. They also knew others did not understand this trait, including their own ... Read More »

I Hate To Leave This Beautiful Place

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com by Howard Norman 208 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt   Lest you think this is a book about gorgeous vacation spots, let me explain the book title. “I hate to leave this beautiful place” is the call of a man turned into a goose in an Inuit tale. He repeatedly cries out this phrase as migration time, winter, approaches. That this is an exceedingly apt title becomes evident as you read the five sections of the book. The publisher calls this a memoir, but that term does not do this exquisite book justice. This is one of ... Read More »

Deadly News

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com By Don Farmer with Chris Curle 309 pages, Publisher Page, 2013 Atlanta is hosting the Olympics for the second time. One week before opening day, the planning committee is meeting at the Global News Service boardroom. Each of the 18 people present is assessing his or her readiness for the event. The mayor proudly shares his solution to a prickly problem: “We’ll urge our homeless friends who wander around downtown talking to themselves to walk in pairs. Visitors who come here during the Olympics will think they’re talking to each other.” The characters in the book ... Read More »

The Racketeer

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com   By John Grisham Doubleday 2012 340 pages As a long-time Grisham fan, I didn’t hesitate to read this book when it was recommended by a friend. It is never difficult to get engrossed in a Grisham novel, at least not his legal thrillers. I did not want to put this book down. I have not been this mesmerized by Grisham since The Client, my first Grisham novel. The protagonist is Malcolm Bannister, a small-town Virginia lawyer imprisoned (wrongly) to a 10-year federal prison sentence for money laundering. We find him halfway through that term, ... Read More »

The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, A Small Town and the Secret of a Good Life

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com By Rod Dreher Grand Central Publishing, April 2013 271 pages I wanted to read this book because it addresses sibling relationships, in particular the loss by premature death of an adult sibling, a topic rarely written about or discussed. Society does not seem to acknowledge sibling grief but focuses on surviving parents and the grief of losing a child, and/or spouses and their grief. Not to be crass or denigrate anyone’s grief, but spouses can and usually are replaced while siblings cannot be. No one else knows your personal history, shares your DNA or your ... Read More »

The Fourteenth Day: JFK and the Aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com Author: David G. Coleman WW Norton & Company, 2012 Oh, to be a fly on the wall! Almost everyone has uttered that phrase at least once in their lifetime, yearning to be an inconspicuous observer taking in details of conversations to which they are not privy. In other words, the good, juicy, unadulterated, unadorned nitty gritty. The Fourteenth Day is a chance to be the fly and witness real-time history during a very crucial event. Filtered through the author, of course.  Because last October was the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, there was ... Read More »

Six Years

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BOOK REMARKS Maggie Gust winetaster13@gmail.com by Harlan Coben Dutton 2013 Harlan Coben’s most recent novel soared to the number one spot on the NYT Bestseller List immediately after it was published several weeks ago in March. I have to admit I was attracted to it because I read that Hugh Jackman had signed on to play the lead in the movie adaptation of Six Years, assuming that if this intelligent actor was eager to be involved in the project (as the Hollywood types call movies in the works), it must be an engrossing story. I was not disappointed. I am ... Read More »

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal

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BOOK REMARKS Diane Bostick dianebostick@comcast.net Mary Roach W. W. Norton & Company As I have mentioned many times in the past finding the right book to review is no easy task. In the past month I have read a number of mysteries, including David Baldacci’s latest, “The Hit.” But when I got through, though I enjoyed it, it just seemed too convoluted to try to write about. Another one that I really loved was “The Garden of Evening Mists” by Tan Twan Eng. It is a novel about a Chinese woman who was a prisoner of war in a Japanese ... Read More »

The Dinner

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by Herman Koch Hogarth Books 2012 The Dinner is a feast for anyone with a taste for dark humor and satire. I found it to be a positively enthralling story. It is the type of book hard to describe without giving away too much. When I read it, I had no prior knowledge about it except the blurb I read in the public library’s newsletter. Two couples, each with a 15-year-old son, meet at a fancy restaurant in Amsterdam to discuss said sons who may be facing grave legal consequences for some recent impulsive behavior that resulted in the death ... Read More »