Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review: The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer

books & wine wednesday IMAGE

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, by Amy Schumer

img_1130

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Gallery Books; 1 edition (August 16, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 8/10

Rating for Secret Wisdom

Reading Sara Review: Amy Schumer’s book was the perfect transition from summer into fall. She is hilariously self-deprecating in a non-depressing way but also tackles more serious topics such as gun control and rape. Every time that I read a book that makes me laugh out loud I am reminded how important it is to laugh – laugh at books, laugh with friends and laugh at ourselves. I feel like I say that after every funny book that I review. Perhaps it is just a good reminder that I need to read more funny books!

My favorite parts of the book by far were the excerpts from her teenage journals, which she added her current-day commentary. I love that she exposes herself in this way and is not afraid of where she began. I am horrified by my teenage journals, but it is a good reminder that we all had to start somewhere! And perhaps even if my journals are filled with junk and boy-craziness, it formed my love of writing, which is far more long term than anything I wrote.

What I took away from the book was the Amy Schumer works hard. She did not get to this fame without some falls, and she receives her fair share of criticism. I am sure that as readers we should take what famous people say in their books lightly (because it isn’t like we know them personally), but I thought her section about becoming famous and the money that came with that was fascinating. She sounds generous, appreciative of what she has received and continues to be silly. I love that.

Schumer’s book is not for the faint of heart. Some parts are graphic, and she is not afraid of her sexuality. I probably would not have recommended this book to my grandmother, but if you have seen Schumer’s comedy, you should know what to expect from this book. And I think you’ll love it if you usually laugh at her show.

Wine Recommendation: In Amy’s book, she outlines plans for her funeral (honestly, it sounds like a good party). She makes it quite clear what wine should be served. So when you pick up this book, I recommend picking up a bottle of one of Amy’s favorites!

White Option: Rombauer Chardonnay, which you can purchase for about $36 a bottle, and she describes as “oaky as shit!” So, if you like your Chardonnays to taste like your popcorn, you’ll love this one.You can take a look at the wine here.

Red Option: Opus One Cabernet, which comes with a hefty price tag. So you may want to plan a nice dinner around this bottle and not just sip it while reading. You can view purchasing options here.

 

Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review: The Sound of Glass, by Karen White

books & wine wednesday IMAGE

 

Review: The Sound of Glass, by Karen White

the sound of glass

 

Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: NAL; Reprint edition (April 5, 2016)
Reading Sara Rating: 7.5/10

 

everything everything

Reading Sara Review: Maybe I started my Summer Reading Part 1 in the wrong order, because so far, my second half reads have been much better than the first half. The Sound of Glass was the first book I have read by Karen White, but will not be the last. White has a way of taking the reader, even those of us who have never lived or been to a place like Beaufort, South Carolina, and make us feel the humid air and to feel like we are there.

The Sound of Glass is the perfect combination of summer reading – not only is it available in paperback, but there is also a mystery, romance, healing of the soul, and threads of a family that slowly unwrap to something lovely. And it’s all wrapped up with southern charm.

The story begins with Edith, who is painting when she hears screams, loud noises, and smells smoke.When her and her son, CJ, run outside, they discover their neighbors in the same panic – a plane has crashed above their quiet town, and debris is flying everywhere. The story transitions to Merritt, who has recently discovered she inherited a home in Beaufort that was left to her husband, who died two years previously. Merritt packed up her life in Maine to start a new one in South Carolina, away from the ghosts of her past, but unknowingly approaching new ghosts.

Merritt is looking for some peace and quiet to start her new life – but that is immediately uprooted when her step-mother arrives with her ten-year-old half-brother on the day she is moving in.

The story is mostly focused around Merritt but jumps back to Edith’s time to provide ample backstory to explain the characters and their motives. The southern phrases and little pieces of wisdom were a little cutesie for me, but it didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of this lighter read, which incidentally, had a heavy topic behind it.

The story unravels at a perfect pace for summer – it is a quick read, but didn’t feel like it. Some of it is predictable, but I love that in a summer beach read! If you have any beach adventures coming up for the end of summer, definitely pick this one up for your beach bag.

Wine Recommendation

Ok, I’m cheating a little today. But what I am recommending to you is ah-mazing and perfect to toss in with your paperback of The Sound of Glass in your beach bag (since most beaches don’t allow glass).

Rosé Gummy Bears. Yep, you read that right. This exists and it is everything I hoped it would be. It sold out in the first two hours of being announced to the world – but I was lucky enough to get the second wave shipment.

Here’s why I am cheating: the alcohol apparently burns off during the cooking process, so these don’t actually have any alcohol in them. But, what they do have is delicious flavor.

Check them out at sugarfina!

IMG_0806

Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review: Along the Infinite Sea, by Beatriz Williams

books & wine wednesday IMAGE

Book Review: Along the Infinite Sea, by Beatriz Williams

along the infinite sea.jpg

 

Hardcover: 464 pages

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (November 3, 2015)

Reading Sara Review: 7.5/10

everything everything

Reading Sara Review: Beatriz Williams does not let me down with her summer beach reads. She consistently weaves two stories together and does it with such perfection that I hardly notice when it changes.

Along the Infinite Sea is the third (and final book) in her Schuyler Sisters Series, this one about Pepper. Pepper finds herself in the south, pregnant, alone and being chased by her baby daddy’s employees in the 1960s when she stumbles upon Annabelle Dommerich when selling a car that she recently restored. Annabelle  gives us the second piece of the story: a young woman who falls in love in France on the precipice of World War 2 with a Jewish man and their love saga. Even without the World War 2 historical fiction piece, this is a fun book to read.

Annabelle is a character that I will not soon forget – she is a survivor, a strong female who is capable and inspiring. William’s ability to create love stories is unmatched. This makes her books perfect summer reads. There is a hint of melodrama, a bit of cheese, and a happy ending. Even if you haven’t read the other books in this trio, it’s good as a standalone book. The more you read of her novels, the more fun it is as characters from other books pop in and out of each.

For an interview with the author, head over to Dream by Day blog – one of my favorites! She talks about her latest book, which I cannot wait to read!

paris ritz

Wine Recommendation: One thing that I find consistent in William’s stories is taking me back to Paris – wishing I was sipping champagne at the Ritz with Annabelle. Even if I can’t do that, I can sip champagne! Sit down on a Saturday with this book and pour yourself a glass of champs. I believe it is a myth that champagne has to be expensive to be good (yes, there are some great expensive ones). Pop your favorite summer fruit into Champagne Montaudon for around $35, close your eyes, and pretend you are in France. Or, even better, thanks to G.P. Putnam and Sons Pinterest board, try out the Ritz Champagne Cocktail!

Ritz Champagne Cocktail

 

Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review: The Nest, by by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Books & Wine Wednesdays!

 books & wine wednesday IMAGE

The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

the nest

Hardcover: 368 pages

Publisher: Ecco; First Edition first Printing edition (March 22, 2016)

Reading Sara Rating: 6/10

my name is lucy barton rating

Reading Sara Review: In general, I enjoy books about dysfunctional families because family dynamics make for fascinating stories. In this example, it was intriguing to explore how it is possible that four children from the same parents became divided, out of touch and uncommunicative with each other. If you appreciate this genre of family dynamics, you will hopefully enjoy this book.

In short, the family is divided because of money, but as usual, there is much more to it. The Nest is about the Plumb siblings who are all expecting to inherit their share of “The Nest” which their late father left to them. They were months away from finally receiving it when their oldest brother is in a terrible car accident. We get a glimpse of each of their lives through their perspective and those close to them. The writing and the way that the plot unfolds helped to give context to the people and the character’s lives – where they are coming from, where their values are and how they are perceived.

The characters, for the most part, are not too relatable. I do not anticipate thinking in the months to come about Melody and her twin daughters, or Jack and his antique shop. They each fit well into the story – but they did not captivate me further.

What I loved about this book, and the redeeming part of it for me is watching the characters grow. In the beginning, they were selfish and entitled – but as the story continued and they were forced to work together, be there for each other, they grew immensely while becoming closer. The thing (the “nest”) that they thought was so important and going to save them from all of their problems, turned out to be not necessarily what they needed. I do not want to spoil it, so will stop there – but the character’s growth is what kept me reading until the end. At first, they are quite shallow – and I was worried that is what the book was going to be, but it picked up at the end, and I realized that the shallowness was a part of the story and made better for it.

The Nest is getting a lot of praise right now, so add it to your summer reading list. It’s not a long one and has some good twists and turns!

 

Wine Recommendation:

For those of us without a “Nest” to turn to, we’ll look at some affordable wines this week! I don’t know where you are reading this from, but where I am writing from – it is finally summer (and super hot) and I am ready for some exciting white wines to kick it off. If you haven’t tried Verdejo yet, summer is a perfect time for it. Verdejo is a grape variety grown in Rueda region of Spain. For under $15, you can give it a try from Bodega Matarromera with their 2014 Melior Verdejo.

Location of the Rueda Region – click below to learn more!

rueda-location

 

Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review: The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews

Books & Wine Wednesdays!

books & wine wednesday IMAGE

The Weekenders, by Mary Kay Andrews

weekenders

Hardcover: 464 pages

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (May 17, 2016)

Reading Sara Rating: 7.5/10

everything everything

Reading Sara Review: Two things I like to start my summer out with: a crisp glass of rosé and a fun beach read. Today’s Book & Wine Wednesday will help you get started on your summer with those two things too!

First: the beach read. While The Weekenders was not on my Summer Reading List, I read a couple of reviews and recommendations for it, so it bumped some others for a top spot. It isn’t the best book that I will read this year, but it is my favorite beach read so far. Side note: I hope that beach read is not a derogatory term in any way – yes, it’s light and it is not historical fiction set in World War 2, but it’s still good. The writing is creative; the characters have depth, and I am still thinking about it a couple of days after reading it.

The Weekenders starts with our protagonist, Riley Nolan Griggs, as she is about to board a boat to take her and her daughter to their summer home – Belle Isle, North Carolina, and the drama unfolds pretty quickly from there. Belle Isle is a presumably imaginary idyllic place* that doesn’t have cars and only one ferry to and from the island. It is a close-knit community where everyone knows everyone’s business.

Upon the first appearance, Riley’s life is going pretty well – she has a beautiful daughter, a wealthy husband and gets to spend the summer in Belle Isle with her best friend, her family, and in a beautiful house that her husband designed. Unfortunately, while on the ferry to Belle Isle, she is served with papers – and her husband is not on the boat where he is supposed to be.

Her family and friends all have side stories full of mystery, and Riley has to uncover the secrets of the island, a murder, and her family (all while dealing with a teenage daughter). It ends with a dramatic storm, as most beach reads are wont to do, and in between we watch Riley grow, remember who she is and take control of her life.

This is fun southern fiction – you’ll read it in one sitting at the beach or the pool. Andrews does a great summer beach read; she hit the mark yet again!

 

*If this is a real place, let me know. It sounds like a lovely place to summer. That is, if I ever become wealthy enough to summer as a verb.

 

IMG_0593

Wine Recommendation: Charles & Charles Rosé has been a go-to recommendation for me for the past couple of years. Not only is the bottle super easy to recognize, but you can find it in most wine shops for around $14. It’s a vibrant salmon color, made from blended grapes (with a majority of Syrah). It’s fruity and summery and everything you want your rosé season to be. Now get out there and get your summer started with a fun beach read and some rosé! Wednesday isn’t too early to start your weekend, right?

Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review: Losing the Light, by Andrea Dunlop

books & wine wednesday IMAGE

Welcome to Books & Wine Wednesdays!
A special Wednesday feature with a book review & wine recommendations! 

Losing the Light, by Andrea Dunlop

Losing the Light

 

Paperback: 336 pages

Publisher: Washington Square Press (February 23, 2016)

Reading Sara Rating: 7/10 (even better with a glass of wine!) 

modern romance

Reading Sara Review: This book was created for 20-something and 30-something lady book clubs. Here’s what we know happens at the start of the story: a college student travels to France, she falls in love with a dashing Frenchman, and something terrible goes down between her and her best friend somewhere between then and now, likely a twisted love triangle. It is delicious. And you (and your book club) will devour it quickly.

The book starts with the protagonist, Brooke, a 30-something living in New York City, getting ready to move in with her fiancé. A person from her past pops up unexpectedly, which, lucky for us readers, leads her down memory lane to her time studying abroad in France.

The end of the book is full of emotion, surprises, and a dash of mystery. It is a light read that made me want to go back to France (not for the love triangle drama, but just to drink wine and eat dark chocolate).

What I liked about the book: Brooke and Sophie were classic college friends who have an intense friendship solidified by an intense experience of studying abroad together. While Brooke was running away from something, Sophie was adventurous and daring. Together, they found someone they could confide in, laugh with, all while drinking wine and practicing their French. I liked that Sophie is a bit misunderstood. I would have loved seeing the story from her viewpoint, or even parts of the story. Brooke, however, was a relatable character. She was figuring out who she is and who she wants to be. She was self-conscious and aware.

There was a lack of character development of Alex, who is at the center of the love triangle that unfolds, which left me needing more. It felt clear to me from the beginning that he was sleazy and not trustworthy. And perhaps this is my 30-something viewpoint, which is quite different than my 20-something perspective, but I wanted Brooke and Sophie to choose friendship over a man – I wanted to watch them grow and develop into themselves while on this incredible opportunity. I wanted Brooke to write a novella and Sophie to sell her paintings – none of which happened because there was way too much drama for any of that to unfold.

The drama is fun, and the love triangle reveals itself in an interesting way. This is one of the books that you can tell something terrible is going to happen eventually – and you turn the pages waiting for the other shoe to drop. The best surprise, though? After the shoe drops, there is more to look forward to as a mystery continues to unravel.

The book is sexy, intense, and fun. Not serious literature here, folks, but an excellent choice for your next beach read!

Wine Recommendation: Brooke and Sophie study abroad in Nantes, France – which lucky for us wine lovers is near the Loire Valley.

Within the Loire Valley, the area near Nantes is mostly known for Muscadet wine, a light white wine that is often recommended with fish. Again, perfect for sipping by the beach with this book! They are usually going to be crisp with some slight floral tones. As usual with white wines, do not serve it too cold! The flavor will be enhanced more as it warms. If you do not believe me, I’ll let the New York Times tell you a bit more about Muscadet.

Muscadet has a bit of a bad rep for being a “cheap” wine. Here’s the thing: cheap wine can be good. I find that a $15 bottle of wine that is excellent fills me with more pride than buying a $80 bottle that better be good for that price. Just saying.

You can find a variety of Muscadet wines for under $20. Look for a 2011 or 2012 vintage and you will be all set!

 

Book & Wine Wednesday! Reading Sara Review of The Passenger, by Lisa Lutz

books & wine wednesday IMAGE

The Passenger, by Lisa Lutz

the-passenger-lisa-lutz

Hardcover: 320 pages

Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 1, 2016)

Rating: 8/10 – fun and quick book!

RBG Rating

The Passenger is the perfect book for Book & Wine Wednesday because if you are like me, you will turn these pages as fast as you drink a bottle of wine. But I am getting ahead of myself, the wine recommendation will come later. Let’s first talk about The Passenger.

For readers of Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, etc., this one will enthrall you equally. For those who hated Girl on the Train because the characters were so despicable, you will like this one more. For those of you who have no idea what those books are, read on and decide for yourself if you should add this to your list.

The Passenger starts with the protagonist, Tanya, telling us she did not kill her husband. But he is, in fact, dead at the bottom of their staircase. And she did not seem to like him much when he was alive. On top of that, she packs a bag and leaves town when she discovers his body.

I do not want to give too much away, but the story follows her as she changes identities, locations, and her look. As the story unfolds people come into her life – many to help, some to hurt – and the story slowly unravels revealing her backstory and what she did (or did not do) that has altered her life so drastically.

For me, the Passenger uncovered the path of people who live on the run (something I have never done and certainly do not plan on ever doing). It explores a person living without a social security card, dependent on the cash on her, not able to make casual conversation for fear of identification, and not entirely sure where she is going to sleep each night. I will tell you this: it has made me guard my purse in public places even more than before.

The Passenger is a quick book that is creative and left me guessing until the end. It is a page turner but is not scary or nightmare-inducing. Instead, it is simply interesting. I grew to feel for Tanya, though not always agree with her decisions. She was fighting for her life. Who am I to determine what is right or wrong in that situation?

This was my first time reading Lisa Lutz’s work, but I would come back to her again. She expertly describes situations, people, and feelings in a way that I envy. It is one of the most fun books of 2016, and if you read it, I promise that you will not soon forget it.

 

Wine Recommendation: A hearty Zinfandel will get you through this book. I recommend a big tall glass that you will not have to refill too often while you are turning the pages. I like Zinfandels because of the complexity – and you can find excellent ones for a variety of price points.

For the crowd-pleasing under $20 bottle, I like Ancient Peaks Winery made in Paso Robles.

For those with a little extra cash to spend this month, I’m especially partial to Chase Cellars at Hayne Vineyard. I visited their site in Napa last year and had the opportunity to meet one of their 115-year-old Zin vine, named Bertha. The 2012 CHASE Hayne Vineyard Zin is fantastic, and a $45 bottle tastes like it should be much more. You’ll probably have to buy it online, I have yet to see it in a store – luckily I joined their wine club!

Don’t forget to throw the Zin in the fridge for 15 minutes before serving. It will bring out the flavors and make it all the more drinkable (as if you needed any help drinking it!).