Review: Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

  

Thinking about this novel makes the late afternoon sun wash over me like it does over Georgia’s family vineyard. Georgia goes home to the vineyard for comfort, but what she finds are more problems. It doesn’t matter though… she still relishes the love her family gives her in whatever way they can. 

Laura Dave sets a great scene and lays out emotion very well. I still can feel the brother and sister holding hands in forgiveness, the father picking grapes in the cool, dark, wee hours, and the fullness of music in Georgia’s mom. 

Georgia’s struggle with her fiancé’s past seemed very real to me. Here she is at her family’s vineyard, watching her family relationships change in big ways, and then she has to decide what kind of family she wants with her fiancé. Matters of the heart are not easily – or rationally – settled, but Georgia finds an inspired solution. 

My favorite character scene (because, truly, the descriptions of the land are so awesome that nothing compares) is at the end when Georgia makes a wise decision, filled with love for herself and her family. Eight Hundred Grapes wonderfully illustrates a happily ever after that isn’t too perfect or too sweet, but beautifully earned. 

 -calliope

Buy EIGHT HUNDRED GRAPES

Review: In Your Dreams (Blue Heron) by Kristan Higgins

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Aaahhh, the Blue Heron series. Wine, good-looking vintners, smart and sassy women, and swoon-worthy heroes.

So Emmaline has a crush on Jack, but so does half the town. He married and quickly divorced a hot ticket from Savannah, saved four stupid teenagers from drowning, and offers his friendship to any of his sisters’ friends who need a convenient date to a wedding.

What I absolutely adore about Jack is that he’s pretty realistic. Higgins precisely got into the mind of a man … focused on his own stuff, not purposely being a jerk but obliviously doing so, aware of his charm and hotness — and willing to use it for his own benefit.

Emmaline proves to be one of the most awesome female protagonists in a romance. She’s great at her job, insecure with men, not a skinny-minny, loving to her sister, annoyed with her mother, and just trying to get through life unscathed any more than she already is. Very realistic. And she has a smart-mouth on her, that Emmaline.

Higgins writes Emmaline in that little place of insecurity – in love with a man but not willing to tell him because she knows it’s going to blow up in her face. And you know what, it does blow up in her face.

And then Jack saves the day. And they live happily ever after. Because that’s how the Blue Heron men roll.

–Calliope

$5 for kindle!
buy IN YOUR DREAMS

Review: The Truth is in the Wine by Curtis Bunn

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This novel has a good premise but many flaws. The story is about a husband and wife with a rocky marriage. Since they both enjoy fine wine, Ginger and Paul decide to take the vacation they’ve always wanted – to Napa Valley.

The book could be great, but the writing is amateurish and long-winded.

  1. Instead of dialogue, Bunn uses stream of consciousness much of the time. While this is okay in theory, it’s difficult to read a whole novel written in this way. In addition, the thoughts are repetitive and circular. While this may mimic a person’s thoughts in real life, it doesn’t work In a novel.
  2. The writing is uneven. A well written page might be abruptly punctuated with an amateur “it didn’t feel good.” If the description is precise, the reader doesn’t need to be told that something didn’t feel good.
  3. The sex scenes are abrupt and vulgar. Perhaps college boys would appreciate them, but a (mumblemumble)-ty year old muse…. Not so much. Perhaps I am not the intended audience. But then, who IS the audience for a book about marriage with unappealing and unromantic sex scenes?
  4. The author uses so much real estate to describe and explain things instead of showing the reader something succinctly. Describing four people’s meals in detail — when the menu isn’t relevant — doesn’t move the plot forward.
  5. Implausible subplots: The 40-yr old wife who couldn’t get pregnant for 20 years gets pregnant, has an abortion without telling anyone, then 2 months later gets pregnant again. The two pregnancies are a result of having sex three times over the course of four months. Really?
    Another far fetched subplot was a double date 3000 miles away where one woman and the other woman’s date are long lost lovers from 40 years ago.

There’s more if you can stand it.

Curtis Bunn uses incorrect vocabulary and confusing descriptions. Examples:
-One passage states “to determine if they had stuffed contraband up the cracks of their anuses”. Anuses don’t have cracks.
– Putting lips to a wineglass is described as akin to putting lips on the wife’s breast. How exactly is a wineglass like a breast?
-God and His blessings are mentioned frequently… And even more frequently, the use of “Goddamn.”
-The author includes in the double date conversation a joke-y allusion to jerry Sandusky “who molested all those boys” – and “the ladies laughed.” Not funny.

The book was all over the place. Curtis Bunn employs frat boy humor, pretentious mentions of numerous specific wines, wannabe-marriage-counseling through a thin veil of fiction, and totally unbelievable subplots to create a confusing, uneven novel that I struggled to finish.

One star for unique ideas. The book needs heavy editing.

-Calliope

I don’t recommend The Truth is in the Wine. But I DO recommend this wonderful, witty, clever, well-written book about a marriage on the rocks:

The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank