Helen Simonson, author of the delightful Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, entertains and moves readers with her latest novel, The Summer Before the War. Orphan Beatrice Nash arrives in Rye, England in midsummer 1914, to teach Latin. The indomitable Agatha Kent sponsors Beatrice, but there are many who don’t believe a woman can teach the classics, including the mayor’s wife. Beatrice negotiates refugee committees and the prying eyes and wagging tongues of the village. As the war grows from parades and fêtes to the death of boys and men, everyone changes, including the resolute spinster Beatrice. Available at Magers & Quinn Booksellers
-Maureen Millea Smith is a librarian at the Edina Library and a Minnesota Book Award-winning novelist.
Sunny afternoons and warmer temps bring us tasty grill eats, afternoon picnics and outdoor entertaining. What I really love is the simplicity of it all. Fresh, easy and certainly not complicated. So why not pick a wine that will accomplish the same? Winemaker Charles Smith (world traveler, former rock band manger and popular concert promoter – now, owner of Charles Smith Wines) is no stranger to entertainment and good wine. The C. Smith lineup includes whites and reds, accessible at any price point and suitable for any occasion or palate. His ‘Eve’ Chardonnay is alluring and a match to almost any summertime dish. Fresh pear, guava and tangerine round out the mouth-feel, while notes of vibrant acidity dance on the palate, making this the perfect centerpiece for your next outdoor entertainment scene. Look for similar selections at Edina Liquor.
-Leslee Miller is a certified sommelier and owner of local wine consulting firm, Amusee.
Songs of Americana are perfect for Independence Day. I like to find various arrangements of “America the Beautiful” to play when the mood strikes. Bassist Charlie Haden and saxophonist Michael Brecker, two of the jazz world’s greatest musicians, joined forces to create a CD called American Dreams in 2002. It includes one of the more beautiful renditions of “America The Beautiful” I’ve ever heard. Haden wanted to feature music that reminded him of the ideal America. The CD also includes “It Might Be You” from the movie Tootsie and “Young And Foolish” which must have been personal favorites. The quartet also features Brad Meldau on piano and Brian Blade on drums, plus a 34-piece orchestra. Happy 4th of July! CD available on iTunes, Amazon and charliehadenmusic.com
-Patty Peterson, award winning vocalist and Jazz 88, KBEM radio host.