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House of the Rising Sun by James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke is one of the greatest American novelists of the last thirty years. His recent House of the Rising Sun enhances his hard-earned reputation, rekindling my hope Burke lives forever and continues to write an amazing novel each year. 

Hackberry Holland, Texas Ranger, is at the center of events in House of the Rising Sun. Burke has worked with him before. He is of disciplined spirit and resilience, with and an attitude of strength and a moral compass uncommonly strong. Set in Texas, beginning in 1918, Burke weaves an adventurous tale incorporating treachery, lost and found faith, and man’s struggles.  

Holland carries within himself a constant threat of danger, a knowledge that he has the capacity to do whatever must be done. Sometimes others realize this; to their unhappiness, often people don’t. The reader will find themselves captivated and riding an emotional roller coaster along with those whose lives intertwine with Holland.

On the surface House of the Rising Sun is an adventure story set in a time and place in American history little-known to most.  Holland’s interaction with others, notably his son, provides opportunity to witness and reflect upon good and evil. Tension slowly, effectively builds throughout the story. I find myself glued to the pages, not wanting the story to complete.

James Lee Burke writes in such a way that my reading is slowed, my comprehension is lifted, and my enjoyment is amplified. Few bring people, their thoughts and struggles, the path of life itself, to the printed page as Burke can. Don’t let me raves for the people in House of the Rising Sun, and how they are brought to life, take anything away from what is a hell of a good adventure tale, either. James Lee Burke is, first and foremost, a tremendous spinner of yarns. Thought provoking and full of conflict, but always at heart, superb stories.

#houseoftherisingsun, @JamesLeeBurke, @simonschuster


Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith is the third of the Cormoran Strike novels. If I tell you each improves on the preceding, and that the initial book was terrific, will that sound like too much praise?

Strike is a private eye, not doing all that well in the world of investigation, troubled by physical limitations (a prosthetic leg), and huge samplings of pride. His assistant, Robin Ellacott, has steadily become a bigger part of his life and his business, seemingly knowsing him better than most others. She assumes a vital role in Career of Evil, beginning when a woman’s severed leg is messengered to her at work. Cormoran Strike is a fascinating character, and author Galbraith has made him so. She (J.K. Rowling) uses her superior storytelling and characterization skills to bring us the world Strike and Ellacott live and work in, and carry us through a compelling mystery.

I’m hoping Rowling continues to follow Cormoran and Robin through the ups and downs of their struggling detective agency, and their relationship. The profound tension between the two of them, and the resulting misunderstandings, then the resolution, are masterfully handled. These interludes help these two come alive on the page, and provide some of my favorite reading in the novel. I’m anxious for the next installment.

#careerofevil, @RGalbraith, @mulhollandbooks


My Healthy Dish by My Nguyen

Autor My Nguyen follows the now-common path of finding satisfaction preparing interesting, healthy meals at home and sharing via social media (Instagram, in her case), creating an accompanying website, and doing such a good job she ends up with more than a million followers! Damn, I’d give her a book contract too.

My Healthy Dish concentrates on the realities of preparing quality meals for a family, within the time constraints of children and a busy life. To this end, Nguyen offers useful, effective tips for food prep, some of which I found terribly helpful.

My favorite chapter covers Slow Cooking. In this book, it's the most pertinent to my life. Slow Cooker Chicken Sausage Jambalaya is remarkable, and simple to assemble and walk away from. 

As My says in her introduction to the chapter, “I’m surprised more are not doing it already." I've been on the slow cooker path for a long time and consider my crock pot an essential kitchen tool. 

Dig into My Healthy Dish and help yourself make meal preparation and planning a bit simpler and easier for yourself.

@MyHealthyDish,, @skyhorsepub


Back Blast by Mark Greaney

Back Blast is a damn enjoyable thriller. I was unfamiliar with Mark Greaney’s work, but reading Lee Child’s endorsement smack on the front cover, I knew I was going to dig into Back Blast and see just who this Gray Man was and what was going on here.

Far more than a tech-politics-oriented thriller, and turning out to be so much more than I expected from a writer subbing for the great Tom Clancy, Court Gentry as an ex-CIA operative in Back Blast is well developed and fascinating. I cared about him, his story and his mission. Gentry is complex, his past constantly catching up, but when he desperately needs to know why the Agency is trying to kill him, rather than run away he moves directly towards trouble. I found myself liking the guy, and feeling like I understood his thought processes, sharing his emotions. Gentry's relentless attitude, and the "who is this guy?" remarks from those he's pointing towards are rewarding.

Back Blast is so good, I’ve made it my mission to find Greaney’s earlier Gray Man novels and read 'em. That’s success in my world.

@MarkGreaneyBook, #backblast, @BerkleyNAL


American Wino by Dan Dunn


Dan Dunn’s premise for American Wino intrigued me. He’d recently seen a long relationship come to an end and was casting about for purpose in his life. Dunn enjoys drinking and writing about wine. As a journalist in the field, with the contacts to set himself up properly, it made as much sense as anything for him to drive coast to coast, twice, stopping at as many independent wineries as possible, in hopes of discovering the good wines produced in out-of-the-way, non-traditional (not California, Oregon, Washington) regions. He apparently was searching for fun, new experiences, good wine, and the time and space to figure his life out to some extent.

So far so good. Aptly subtitled “A Tale of Reds, Whites, and One Man’s Blues,” once Dan got past wine country in California and headed east, things got interesting. He has the capacity to search out interesting characters, those working damn hard to produce wine on their own terms, in some of the strangest places. Dun searches then out, immerses himself in their operations for a few hours or a day, and seems to drink as much wine as possible. No spitting going on with this guy. Oh, how I enjoy that attitude.

I was happy to ride along for a while, even though he was finding reminders of his just-ended relationship everywhere, and was saddened by it. Some of Dunn’s biting commentary is fresh; I wish there was more of it in American Wino. As the book flows, it seems his time with wine producers is shortened, but his reflections on life and his ex-girlfriend takes up more and more of the book.

In many respects I wish I’d ridden along with Dan on his trip. I found myself wishing for more about some of the wine people he spent time with. Perhaps doing this alone was what he needed; certainly it provided a wonderful premise for the book. If American Wino was a more expansive book I feel he’d have balanced the wine world with his own, and I’d have loved the book much more.

@harpercollins, @TheImbiber, #americanwino