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review 2017-03-11 18:48
Dying on the Vine: A Mystery (Kelsey McKenna Destination Wedding Mysteries) - Marla Cooper

This was a great little cozy mystery. I'd never read this author before and I am certainly going to be reading her in the future. The cover definitely caught my eye as well as the description and I'm glad that I requested this book.

Someone has it out for the wedding planners all taking place in the scenic wine country of Napa Valley. Or so it seems. Babs Norton the "official queen" wedding planner of Napa Valley is found dead in her office and Kelsey McKenna who just took over a unsatisfied client of Babs found her. Babs' partner is furious and accuses Kelsey of stealing the client and killing Babs. So starts the war.

There are many plots going on in this book including some nefarious things going on at the vineyard where Babs was the only wedding planner allowed to conduct business. There's also a little romance going on in the romantic setting of the beautiful Napa Valley.

A very entertaining book that I enjoyed reading and was glad that I requested.

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for approving my request and to Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2015-03-18 11:36
I really enjoyed the most recent three Gideon Oliver books by Aaron Elkins. ★ ★ ★ to ★ ★ ★ 1/2. Fun and Forensics.
Uneasy Relations - Aaron Elkins
Skull Duggery - Aaron Elkins
Dying on the Vine - Aaron Elkins
So, in the last couple of months, I've read Gideon Oliver 15-17 and haven't had a chance to write them up.  Might as well tackle them in one post, right? 
Some general thoughts that apply to them all, before moving into specifics.
As always with this series, these books are fun, clever, and not terribly violent.  All of which are a nice balance to some of the darker things I read -- and I know I could find darker yet in this genre.  Say what you will about cozies (and I don't know if these are technically cozies, but they're at least cozie-adjacent), they're a darn sight more entertaining than the noirest of noirs.
Not just by the sly and witty narrative, Gideon Oliver books remind me of the Nero Wolfe mysteries -- he never ages, he can always find a away around the stickiest of situations and outsmart law enforcement without getting into trouble (Gideon's better at this than Wolfe, and much prefers working with than in competition with them), and while Elkins will surprise you frequently by the solutions to the mysteries, he never cheats.  Can't take this list too far, because at the end of the day Gideon isn't Wolfe and neither would find the comparison all that flattering.
Judging by his anthropological research, I'm guessing Elkins has done similar research into the way various law enforcement agencies work around the world.  Particularly with the latter two of these, I really enjoyed getting glimpses into the police methods and structures of these countries -- ditto for Unnatural Selection, but I don't think I mentioned that when I reviewed it (and am too lazy to go look).
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, reading these books are a like visiting with old friends, and I can't wait to do it again.

Uneasy RelationsUneasy Relations

by Aaron J. Elkins 
Hardcover, 288 pg.
Berkley Hardcover, 2008
Read: December 10, 2014

I'm glad he doesn't return to this well too often, but when Elkins decides he's going to invent a fictional (no doubt inspired by a real) major archaeological find, he does it right.  Serving as the backdrop for this puzzle, this find sounds like the kind of thing I read about in various and sundry Anthropology textbooks in college.  Throw in some satirical takes on publishing, literary agents, and academics and this becomes a really fun read.  Oh yeah, and the murder -- there's that.  That was a good puzzle, too.
I can't get into it, but the site of the major find is really the star of this one, and it's pretty cool.  The solution to the murder was a nice twist, and the Skeleton Detective was as clever as ever.
3 Stars

Skull DuggerySkull Duggery

by Aaron J. Elkins
Hardcover, 281 pg.
Berkley Hardcover, 2009
Read: February 21, 2015

This one gets a bonus 1/2 star for the mentions by both Gideon and Julie that if he's around, a skeleton (at least a skull) will appear to keep him busy (and would probably deserve the bonus without those mentions).  I also appreciated the "just another day in the office" aspect of the attempt on Gideon's life.  At this point, he should really take out a bigger life insurance policy any time he leaves the country. 
A week's vacation in a little, out of the way, Mexican village turns deadly for Gideon and Julie.  I really enjoyed the setting and the backstory on this one, even more than the forensics.
This one was almost painfully easy to figure out the killer -- although the actual motive was trickier than I thought, but after The Reveal, it totally made sense. Despite that, I thought this was one of the better ones in this series that almost never has a lesser entry.3.5 Stars

Dying on the VineDying on the Vine

by Aaron J. Elkins

Hardcover, 294 pg.
Berkley Hardcover, 2012
Read: February 28 - March 3, 2015

The whole band's back together for this one -- John & Marti, Julie & Gideon in old-school Italian wine country.  The intrigue and informatin about the wine production (rephrase) reminded me of the behind the scenes look at coffee production from Twenty Blue Devils (although that subject is nearer and dearer to my heart).  While I'm not a big wine person, I know I'd rather drink a bottle (one glass at a time, I'm not a Philistine) from the hands and craft of the traditional elements of the  Cubbiddu, not the mechanical/mass produced stuff they started putting out -- which I'm guessing Elkins agrees.  Although, I can probably only afford the latter. 
John navigating the local cuisine was a highlight for me, and probably speaks to my juvenile humor.
The mystery itself? Typical Elkins, smart enough to keep you guessing, compelling enough to keep you turning the pages, and not as important as the characters -- new and old -- and their interactions.  
Heckuva lotta fun.3 Stars

Source: t.co/WQOBsC3TCB
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review 2014-10-29 00:00
Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living
Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living - Elisabeth Kübler-Ross,David Kessler A book with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross as one of the authors, a psychiatrist who incorporated near-death studies in her practice. The contents are by no means morbid or depressing, just lessons we ought to incorporate into our living, while healthy and well. The writing style is anecdotal and the tone reassuring. It addresses topics that any one of us could have at some stage in our lives. Psyche struggles are put into perspective. Any seemingly 'taboo' subject is made more common when you realize that so many more people think / feel the same way you do, but like you, are hesitant to bring up the matter, and thus feel that no one understands. The book addresses 14 different topics, so it's not too in-depth, but has enough to make you think and (re)evaluate your life.
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review 2014-09-30 00:00
On Death and Dying
On Death and Dying - Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Assigned at university, noncompelling, grim, not sure I finished it, short as it was. It felt very much as if even my death would be administered and staged by a tedious bureaucrat. In bringing up this book, I see that the author was also an early pioneer in the hospice movement. You only have to go over the border to Northern Ireland to see charity cups in restaurants, where 20% of donations go to a children's hospice or two. There's something extremely sickening and Anglo-Saxon efficient about a centrally managed institution where parents pay to explicitly send their children to die, while also watching packs of other strangers die. God, that splits my infinitives. Yeah, I'll be skipping the "Acceptance" stage, if the Kubler-Rosses (but I really shouldn't drop the umlaut here) of the world are defining what "Acceptance" means. Luckily, stages in death, as in life, appear to be transparent bunkum, if George Bonanno is to be believed. Further readings will tell.
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review 2014-05-01 00:00
On Death And Dying
On Death And Dying - Elisabeth Kübler-Ross I took a class called "Death and Dying" from Dr. Joan Ray in...1993 or 1994 and this was our textbook.
The class and the book changed my entire viewpoint on death, grief, letting go...everything. It was, hands-down, the best, most useful, most enlightening class I took in my undergrad career.

I kept all my literature books, my Chaucer compendium, and my Shakespeare plays and I kept this book. Moreover, I kept all the notes from this class because I knew I would need them someday.

I need them all now and I can't find the book or the folder full of notes. They are in my house, somewhere safe, somewhere where I should be able to find them because I would have put them in a findable place...but I don't know where that findable place is and it is driving me crazy.
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