Given a choice between weeding and reading...

Given a choice between weeding and reading, reading will almost always win. Unless I'm too far behind with the yard-work I guess.

The sun is shining. The grass is growing. The weeds are growing faster. And the dahlias have yet to let their noses show. Meanwhile the laundry basket doesn't grow. The laundry room's a disaster. And I really need to download a few more hours to extend my days. Coffee helps, I'm told, but I can still fall asleep as easily after a caffeinated cup as before. Still, pick your brew and your book---here's another week's worth of book reviews while I try to ignore the siren call of yellow-headed dandelions.

Dear Life, by Alice Munro, was the book chosen by our book group last month. We ran into problems with the date though and didn't meet, so we'll discuss it later this month instead. It's a book of short stories, with that feel of old friends--even book group friends--conversing and hiding their truths in significant silence. Suddenly the picture changes, with a gesture, a slip of the tongue... Enjoy these absorbing snippets of other people's lives with an elegant, complex 4-star cup of coffee.

New Beginnings (The secrets of Clayton County), by Don Wooldridge tells the small lives of small-town people too, this time in America, as Sarah flees the big city and starts a family in America's quiet backwaters. A detailed novel that feels more like several stories placed one after another, it tells of love, disaster, big city FBI, small town drama, school room shenanigans, and a newborn baby growing slowly to womanhood. Enjoy this flight of time and people with a dark, intense 5-star coffee for its occasional dark scenes, but keep a mild crisp 1-star cup to hand too.

Another contemporary drama, with romance and touches of history and mystery, is Ashes and Bone, by Stacy Green. Set in a small southern town, with beautiful old-world mansions hiding old, and less old secrets, it completes a set of three stories but stands alone perfectly, as a young woman searches for the reporter love of her life, who has vanished in a storm. Add wild fires, threats, politics and more... it's a fast fun story to enjoy with a bright easy-drinking 2-star coffee.

The same sense of history fuels  Emma Craig's Sierra Ransom, a romantic historical drama set in the small-town (no-town) gold-fields of California. Sam and Zee are both hiding mysteries in their past. But their present is bound in the rough and tumble of gold and cruel poverty. Enjoy this redemptive romance with some well-balanced, full-flavored 3-star coffee.

And finally, Scoundrel, by Bud Fussell, continues the historical and slave-keeping theme of these last three books. Here the Biblical tale of Jacob is reimagined on the American frontier. The result is intriguing and clever, offering some interesting insights into possibilities and motivations. It's a long book, with a long tale to tell, culturally evocative though occasionally unconvincing in its history. Enjoy with a rich elegant complex 4-star coffee.

And that's my books for the week. I'm still reading the unpublished Riding the Sea Change, still looking forward to more Dream tales, enjoying a delightfully Southern River Oaks Plantation, and... well, you'll have to wait for more reviews to find out. But first, that grass needs cutting and the flower-beds need weeding.


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