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Tipping Point: Our picks and pans

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We Begin at the End

Chris Whitaker

Wally Lamb, Louise Penny, John Hart, Jane Harper and A.J. Finn are just a few of the esteemed writers in agreement that this novel is a wonderful and heartbreaking achievement. For what it's worth, I'm right there with them. Thirteen-year-old Duchess is a self-proclaimed outlaw — the attitude and swagger of which she'll need as she assumes protection of her little brother Robin after Star, their mother, is murdered. Star grew up best friends in their No-Cal beachtown with Walk, who's now the sherriff, and Vincent, just paroled after a long stint in prison following a vehicular homicide conviction while he was still a teenager. As Duchess and Robin are bounced from foster home to foster home — ultimately landing on a Montana ranch with Star's estranged father — Walk struggles to find out who killed Star because he doesn't believe his old friend Vincent did it despite evidence to the contrary. Nothing, though, is as it seems, and Whitaker has a magic trunk full of surpises. And Duchess, precocious and smart and resilient, is a stunning creation. Her efforts on behalf of Robin to overcome crushing adversity are as indelible as a tattoo, and "We Begin at the End" emerges as an early but strong candidate as one of 2021's finest books.

— Rick Koster 


Short rib grilled cheese

Gelston House, East Haddam

I was expecting to most enjoy the grilled cheese portion of this concoction, but the braised short ribs ended up being what really wowed me. They were tender and flavorful and have made me think about returning to the Gelston House ever since. The sandwich ($15) also boasted some caramelized onions along with its aged cheddar and asiago cheeses on grilled sourdough bread. The cheese didn't overwhelm the entire endeavor, which was wise. And you get some delish fries on the side.

— Kristina Dorsey 


In Another World

Cheap Trick

As the number of rock bands continue to disappear like crustacean carapaces being hosed off a patio after a crawfish boil, it's always cautiously intriguing when an album (remember those?) of new material comes out from an established and beloved act that plays instruments (remember those?). There's a big question, though: Despite the intent, do the Old Timers still have any creative juices left? I really do believe riffs and hooks are in finite supply for most folks. Fortunately, this doesn't seem to apply to Cheap Trick. Rick, Robin and Tom blast out of the speakers with "In Another World" as though it's 1980 and it's time for the follow up to "In Color." Give a listen and you'd swear we were all still young and feisty. This collection of tunes is triumphant and joyous, crammed full of attitude and swagger and loud guitars and duct tape-sticky melody lines. Oddly, the only weak song is the only cover, of John Lennon's not-that-great-to-begin-with "Gimme Some Truth."

— Rick Koster


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