🍷”𝙳𝚛𝚒𝚗𝚔 𝚠𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚠𝚒𝚝𝚑 𝚓𝚘𝚢.”🍷

My husband works as a winemaker, and I’ve learned so much from him about viniculture and winemaking. I’m still such a novice when it comes to everything else wine-related, and at times, I find it intimidating.

Perfect for me, The New Wine Rules by Jon Bonné begins with the premise that drinking wine is a joyful activity and over time, a cadre of experts has diminished that joyfulness by creating an unnecessary mystique around wine tasting. Bonné argues that following a few principles—the new wine rules—will give everyone the knowledge he or she needs to select and enjoy wine.

Each rule is accompanied with a brief one to two page easy-to-understand explanation, and the book is gorgeously illustrated. Bonné explains the (un)importance of price, why red and white wine glasses differ, how to make good food-wine pairings, and more.

I recommend The New Wine Rules both for wine novices as well as experienced wine drinkers who want exposure to a new paradigm of thinking about wine.

If you are a wine drinker, what’s your favorite wine?

Book Review: NINE ELMS, promising series debut

ultralight_adjustmentsIn 1995, Kate Marshall, just promoted to Detective Constable, was assigned to the Nine Elms Cannibal case. A deraigned murderer abducted young women, strangled them with a cord tied with a distinct monkey’s fist knot, and took bites from their thighs, buttocks, and backs. On the night the fourth victim was discovered, Kate connected the clues and unmasked the killer, but in the process was brutally attacked. In the aftermath, Kate was embroiled in a scandal, was forced to leave the Met Police.

Fifteen years later, Kate, a recovering alcoholic, was finding some peace as a lecturer at a small seaside university where her class was always in demand. Her ordered existence, however, was upended when the local forensic pathologist asked her to consult on a case. The young girl’s body had a cord tied with a monkey’s knot and bites were taken from her backside. A copycat was at work.

With her research assistant Tristan Harper, an insightful ally with a sullied past, Kate becomes caught up in the investigation—but she doesn’t realize that the copycat is determined to succeed where the Nine Elms Cannibal failed and make sure Kate doesn’t survive this time.

An entertaining introduction to a new series, Nine Elms has great and disturbing characters, interesting settings rendered in detail (for example, a psychiatric hospital), and poignant moments. However, some aspects of the plot didn’t quite ring true, and some situations seemed resolved too easily (such as a political conflict at the university), and I though the writing was a bit choppy at times. Still, I was very captivated by Kate and Tristan. Their partnership shows lots of promise for future stories, and I and look forward to the second Kate Marshall book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer/Amazon Publishing for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: INSIDE THE HOT ZONE – you’ll wish it was fiction, but it’s a true account


Happy Publication Day to
Inside the Hot Zone: A Soldier on the Front Lines of Biological Warfare
by Mark G. Kortepeter

Inside the Hot ZoneMost people who know about the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland have seen it in movies or (like me) read about it in books. USAMRIID’s is charged with researching countermeasures against biological warfare and investigating disease outbreaks or threats to pubic health. Scientists there work with the most dangerous substances on the planet—such as anthrax, smallpox, Ebola, and the plague—to keep others safe from them.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Mark G. Kortepeter was literally inside the “hot zone,” first, as Medical Director of USAMRIDD, responsible for the health of the employees working in the facility, then in the Virology department doing direct research, and finally as the deputy commander making daily operational decisions. His seven-and-a-half year tenure began in 1998, so he was on the front lines as USAMRIDD was alerted in the aftermath of 9/11, called to assist in the FBI investigation of anthrax letters, and deployed to protect soldiers serving in the 2003 Gulf War from potential bioweapon attacks.

Inside the Hot Zone operates as a memoir of Kortepeter’s time in the trenches and as revealing account of the inner workings of USAMRIID. Deftly weaving science and politics, Kortepeter’s book is astonishing and frightening both for how much we know about potential bioweapons and, even more, how much we don’t know. Washington squabbles, bureaucratic hurdles, and internecine conflicts often impeded effective operation of the organization.

Though Kortepeter highly identifies as a solider, his account doesn’t shrink from criticizing the armed forces apparatus, especially in the case of Bruce Ivins, a USAMRIID scientist accused by the FBI of sending the anthrax-laced letters in 2001 and believed by many of his colleagues to be innocent. He also reveals the frustrations of taking orders from commanders who don’t understand the science or medicine behind what they are demanding. Additionally, his account touches on the affect his all-consuming career had on his family.

Reading Inside the Hot Zone, you forget it’s nonfiction—and then you hope that it is the stuff of imagination. Instead, Kortepeter’s account is an all to true engaging if disturbing narrative and recommended for anyone interested in germ warfare or USAMRIID.

Thank you to NetGalley and University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books for an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: ETERNAL SHADOW, a good story with problematic execution

Williams, Trevor - Eternal Shadow (2)Samantha Monroe, a scientist at SETI, identifies a signal that can only be first contact. She immediately contacts her boss, the unflappable Jennifer Epstein, and colleagues at other facilities, who confirm her readings. But, as they are hopefully watching, what they assume is an alien entity consumes Pluto, and it doesn’t stop at the former planet. Earth is in the crosshairs, and the scientists estimate they have only ten years before the alien ship reaches—and destroys—the planet.

Epstein marshals a hand-picked team to save the world, but changing political priorities and a fringe cult, the Seven Trumpets, encumber her progress. Only South African Muzikayise Khulu, CEO of Khulu Global, has the resources necessary to research and implement a solution, but his motives are less than altruistic. And as Epstein and Monroe work more closely together, their personal feelings intrude on their professional relationship.

Eternal Shadow is Trevor Williams’s debut novel, and the story is interesting, plus I appreciate that the main characters are women and people of color. However, the execution of the narrative has several problems that prevented me from fully enjoying the book. The pacing and proportion of scientific exposition to narrative felt off to me, and the dialogue was awkward, partly because it didn’t ring true and partly because it lacked contractions. Additionally, a number of stylistic and grammatical errors were in the copy of the book I read, which, granted, was an advanced readers edition and may have been corrected before publication. Finally, I wish my two favorite characters (whose names I don’t want to mention due to spoilers) didn’t have nearly as much time in the book as I would have liked, but the ending hints at a sequel.

The author has great stories to tell, and with experience, I hope his style becomes more polished!

Thanks to NetGalley and Trevor Writes for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: DEAD ASTRONAUTS, a climate fiction masterwork

VanderMeer, Jeff - Dead Astronauts (1)Set in the universe introduced in Borne, Dead Astronauts begins with an army of three who are determined to save the world from the Company. Begins, however, may not be the right word because time, in this book, has little meaning. Not only do the “astronauts” exist outside of—or possibly within any—time or place, the book itself is told out of sequence.

Jeff VanderMeer shifts perspective often, from a homeless woman who finds the journal of a mad scientist who works for the Company to the mad scientist himself. The creatures of the Company’s seemingly purposeless experiments, too, get voices, from the Behemoth living in one of the Company’s holding ponds to the murderous duck with a broken wing and the wise Blue Fox.

While I’m not quite sure I understand Dead Astronauts (in fact, I’m sure I don’t completely), I know that liked reading this postmodern novel. Some passages are so beautiful, I had tears in my eyes and some had me nodding my head in agreement—particularly when the Blue Fox discusses human’s hypocrisy when it comes to our attitudes versus actions in terms of the environment. I was (and am) ready to give up the earth to the Blue Fox, who I’m sure would be a better steward even though he might eat me for dinner.

Obviously, though, this book is not going to be for everyone, but readers who enjoy challenging, experimental novels or climate fiction should without a doubt add this to their reading list.

A side note: while this is set in the Borne universe, it is not a sequel, nor is it necessary to have read Borne to understand Dead Astronauts.

A minimum of 20% of royalties from Dead Astronauts will be donated to The Center for Biological Diversity, The Friends of the St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, and other environmental organizations because Jeff VanderMeer is the bomb.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review.