If you enjoy legal thrillers, especially ones with some sex and humor, then you must read The Jezebel Remedy by Martin Clark. Lisa and Joe Stone are law partners in a small Virginia town. They have been successful and happy for twenty years. Most of their cases deal with minor issues and they have learned very well how to navigate small town politics. Joe works with one client who particularly annoys Lisa. Lettie VanSandt files frivolous lawsuits and changes her will almost weekly. Although she is the town’s eccentric, Joe and Lisa are shocked when she dies while she is apparently cooking meth. Another shocker is that at the time of her death, a will is in place which leaves everything to Joe. When a nephew shows up (who was occasionally an inheritor), Joe turns everything over to him. A drug company shows interest in one of Lettie’s “poultices”. Then all the legal maneuvering begins and Joe is facing disbarment. What if Lettie is still alive? A twisty plot and colorful character make this a great read.
Madeleine’s War by Peter Watson tells the story of a war hero of a type that literature usually doesn’t feature. In fact the actions of the women similar to the fictional Madeleine were not disclosed until many years after WWII ended. Madeleine is part of a small group undergoing secret training at a remote location in Scotland. They have been recruited to join Churchill’s Special Operations Executive to work with the French Resistance and to send reports back to England. They have become spies with only a fifty/fifty chance of surviving the war. Matt Hammond had been a spy in France until he was injured and lost a lung so he became a trainer. He works with very small groups, but the training is intense. He is brutal to his students because he hopes that thorough training will mean they will live to come home. Madeleine becomes a very special recruit for him. She is sent to France just before D-Day even though it is understood many of the Resistance rings have been infiltrated. The spy techniques, the interpersonal relationships, real war events, and Winston Churchill give so much reality to this novel.
Sweet Caress: the Many Lives of Amory Clay by William Boyd is such a comprehensive book that I thought it was a novelization of a real photographer’s life. Instead Boyd used “found” photographs and was able to weave a story around them. He had Amory photographing many of the pivotal events of Great Britian’s modern history. She was prosecuted for indecency for her photographic exhibition of pictures she had taken of prostitutes in Berlin. She was beaten up while photographing a demonstration of Brownshirts, an English fascist group prior to WWII. She was able to be a war photographer from WWII to Vietnam. Amory’s emotional life was as dramatic as the situations that she was a part of. She comes across as a vibrant, gutsy woman. The story is similar to that of several women who were early pioneers in the photographic field, but it is Amory’s imagined personal life that makes the novel one that is hard to put down.
All Together Now is the phrase generally used by a conductor when he/she wants a choir to begin a song. Gill Hornby’s novel with that title is about a community choir in Bridgeford, England. The local choir is getting ready for the yearly competition when the longtime director is involved in a serious car accident. The choir membership has been stagnant for a number of years and the average age is increasing. Without a leader, the group realizes that they need new members. One new recruit is Tracey, a single mother in her forties. She is not a typical choir member because she only listens to rock. Her voice is a real surprise to the group though. Other new members are a recently divorced and unemployed man, a young waitress who hopes to become a reality star, and a group of young petty thieves. The way this group comes together creates an intriguing novel that has almost all types of family struggles. It has some sad and some sweet surprises.
Supposedly it takes Eight Hundred Grapes to make a glass of wine. That is why Laura Dave chose that phrase for the title of her novel about Georgia Ford’s family and their vineyard. When Georgia looks out the window during the final fitting for her wedding dress, she sees her fiancée walking with a beautiful actress and a small child. It so obvious that they have a connection. Georgia returns to the family vineyard, hoping she will get some comfort and inspiration from her parents and their long, happy marriage. It seems that Georgia is continually faced with new revelations. Almost nothing she thought she knew about her love life or family life is true. This is a novel about chaos and how things do often work out for the best. The wine and scenery descriptions get you ready for a wine tour here in Michigan.
I’m reading Kitchens of the Great Midwest which is a debut novel by J. Ryan Standal. The novel celebrates some of the unique Midwest foods and also the strong bonds of family. Eva Thorvald isn’t aware that the people she knows as her parents are really her aunt and uncle. How they came to care for her came about through tragedy, but it worked. Eva has an intense ability to recognize flavors and a very experimental palate. The book has heartbreak, humor, and good food. Do you know you can make money on side bets if you have the ability to eat platters of food heavily laced with hot peppers? Have you ever wondered what the baking competition can be like at a county fair? This is a book filled with venison, walleye, Caesar salad, bar cookies, and the most important ingredient—love.
In my opinion, journalists often write the best books. Kati Marton has written an enjoyable memoir, Paris a Love Story, which focuses mainly on the periods of her life which were spent in Paris. During the sixties she was an American student at the Sorbonne. Paris was a time of wonder and enjoyment, and then the student riots began. After she went home she drifted into reporting, eventually becoming a TV news reporter. When she was transferred to Bonn, Germany she met and married ABC news anchor Peter Jennings. Time in Paris was always a part of the background. A second marriage was to renowned diplomat Richard Holbrooke and they were frequently in Paris together. The book is a window on an exciting, absorbing life and a beautiful and charming city.