Saturday, February 18, 2017

1 Review and 1 Non-Review (huh?)

This month's 4th Tuesday Evening Book Club for Books, Inc. Palo Alto is called The Slow Waltz of Turtles by a french author, Katherine Pancol.  As Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah's Key, says:  "Lucky you!  You're about to succumb to France's most irresistible writer!  At the end of this delicious, tender, fun, heartwarming novel, you'll feel as if Iris and Josephine are part of your family."

Let me hit you with the blurb on the inside cover:

FORTY SOMETHING MOTHER OF TWO Josephine Cortes is at a crossroads.  She has just moved to a posh new apartment in Paris after the success of the historical novel she ghostwrote for her sister, Iris.  Still struggling with her divorce - the result of her husband running off with his mistress - she is entangled in Iris's messy lie.  And as if that's not enough, people have started turning up dead in her neighborhood.
As Josephine struggles to find her voice and her confidence amidst a tangled web of relationships and a string of murders, she and those around her must learn to push on with determination, like headstrong little turtles learning to dance swollen in a world too violent and moving too fast.

I know this is a popular author and book.  And Goodreads averages 3.51/5, while Amazon is a bit higher at 4/5.  I gave it a 3/4, so I'm pretty much in line with everybody else.  But even though I liked it, it kind of felt like a Seinfeld episode.  There is so much going on that, sometimes, it felt very random to me.  Seinfeld, right?

And, like Seinfeld, I liked all of the various characters.  One of my favorites was Henriette, Jo and Iris's mother, who tried to sabotage (in a very unique way) the marriage of her ex-husband to a much younger woman.  Henriette reminded me a lot of Lady Virginia, another ex-wife, this one in the much-loved-by-me 7-book Clifton Chronicles, from Jeffrey Archer.

There's no question that Pancol can write:
1.  "I'm going to talk to him today, she decided with the boldness of the very shy."
2.  "When it comes to loving, they really love each other.  They're like two candies in a box, stuck together."
3.  "The corners of her mouth curved down, like that of an aging gambler who has lost it all."

I didn't have a lot of emotional connections, although, like I said earlier, I did like the characters.  And late in the book I had a pretty dramatic jaw-drop.  But I do have one complaint.  Whoever translated it into English made way too many errors, many of them of the egregious variety.  I admit that this is a relatively small concern.  I think it's more a problem of my anal-compulsive-ness than anything else.  So be it.

My book cover was blue with yellow stars - odd

My Non-Review:  What's a non-review, you ask?  Well, it's an opportunity to tell you about a book that I stopped reading.  Now I know that many of you (along with millions of others) love Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series.  Her 13th book, In This Grave Hour, was sent to me by the publisher in ARC form.  This was a couple of months ago.  I finally got to it.  Mind you, I've never read any books in this series.  But I figured, like most series, each book stands on its own.  And I was right.  The problem is that I just couldn't get into it.  I like the fact that it is an historical mystery (it takes place in 1939, right after England enters WWII - and Maisie is British, by-the-by).  Otherwise, not so much.  I did get through 72 pages.  Since I stopped The Goldfinch on page 19, 72 is pretty darn good.  Right?  What?  No?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Novella #2 for Elisabeth Barrett's West Coast Holiday Series

Last December 16, I reviewed Christmas in Tahoe, 1 of 3 novellas in Elisabeth Barrett's West Coast Holiday Series.  I told you that I liked it well enough to write a review of just one novella.  I also said that I didn't know if I would like the other 2 enough to write separate reviews.  Well, that question has been half-answered.  Rendezvous in Point Reyes is definitely worth its own review.  And why did I read it now?  Because it's about Valentine's Day.  And lest we forget, Valentine's Day was Tuesday.  So I started it on VDay and finished it 1 day later.  That's how much I enjoyed it (plus I had some extra reading time!).

P.S.  I already missed out on the timing for the 3rd novella, New Year's in Napa.  I very much doubt that I will wait until next New Year's to read it. But back to RiPR.  Here's the blurb:

Shy, quiet Stella Flynn escapes to Point Reyes to wallow after a rough divorce, but little does she know that sexy, free-spirited Jason Roberts has other plans.  Jason has secretly been in love with Stella for years.  Unfortunately, she's his best friend's younger sister, and Stella's brother would kill him if he ever broke her heart.  Over a long, romantic Valentine's Day weekend, Stella and Jace discover that seduction is a game that's easy to lose...and that the path from friends to lovesr is never as smooth as it seems.

I will try not to repeat all of the things I said about the 1st novella.  But I can't avoid some comparisons:

1.  An immediate connection with the 2 protagonists.  Why yes in some books and not in others?  I don't know.  I only know what I know and feel.  And Elisabeth is 2 for 2.
2.  Lots of tears, chills, tears, smiles, tears, raised eyebrows, and more tears.
3.  And I did have an"episode" near the end of the book in which I had blurred eyes, falling tears, and a certain amount of light blubbering (can blubbering be light?)

But this novella had a few attributes of its own:

1.  The 1st half of page 1 is extremely clever.  In fact, it's one of my very favorite book openings.
2.  I had a moment, besides all of those listed above, where I really almost cheered.  I didn't because I always have complete control of my emotions (yeah, right).  But I wanted to.
3.  I appreciated learning a lot about the cheese industry.  I'll have to ask Elisabeth how she learned so much about the inner workings of making, distributing, and selling cheese.

And no review would be complete without my personal connections. Don't worry, I've only got 2:

1.  They talk about the Oxbow shopping center in Napa.  Joni and I visited that location about 7 months ago and thought it was very cool.
2   The Flynn's not only took very good care of Stella and her brother, but also basically raised Jason. This reminded me of the Maverick Billionaires series, by Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre.  Those parents also took care of kids that weren't biologically their own.  In both cases, I liked those parents - a lot.

It's really a pleasure being able to read Elisabeth's stories.  But, as I mentioned in my 1st review, this is her only book in print.  It almost makes me want to read her other books in e form - but not quite. ELISABETH, HOW 'BOUT MORE PRINT BOOKS?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

More Stuff

I've got a couple of random announcements and thoughts for you:

1.  Daniel Silva's 17th Gabriel Allon novel, House of Spies, will be hitting bookstores July 4.  And this is one of the few series that I still make sure not to miss.  But I have to say that one of Silva's pre-Allon books, The Unlikely Spy, sits on my rec table on Sundays.  You might want to take a look.

2.  I want to start a conversation, but I don't really know how to do it. Do you have to be in a specific age range to enjoy certain genres?  I think I've addressed this before with you guys.  But it just came up again.  One of my favorite bloggers commented that she would have liked a book more if she had been part of the target audience.  My feeling is that your age is irrelevant if you emotionally connect to the characters.  I have read books of all genres in which the protagonists are way younger than me (who isn't?).  But I still loved the book.  The 2 genres that spring to mind are YA (young adults) and romance (because, after all, how many romances feature 60-somethings...or 50-somethings...or 40 somethings).  If anybody is interested, I will be happy to list a few books that were definitely geared for (much) younger audiences; but that I still loved.  Or, this could simply be one of those issues that nobody but me cares about.  I will concede that possibility.

3.  I know that many of you do not have access to our RBC (Recycle Book Club) because you don't live near Campbell, CA.  But I thought I would give you our schedule anyway.  We are currently booked through October!  So here they are, with genre included:

Wednesday, February 22, RBC - The Scribe, book 1 of the Irin Chronicles (paranormal romance), Elizabeth Hunter
Wednesday, March 22, RBC - A Killing at Cotton Hill, Terry Shames (small-town murder mystery)
Thursday, April 20, RBC - If You Are There (historical fiction), Susan Sherman
Wednesday, May 24, RBC - Really Enough: A True Story of Tyranny, Courage and Comedy (memoir), Margaret Zhao
Wednesday, June 14, RBC - The Illuminator’s Gift, book 1 of the Voyages of the Legend (YA fantasy), Alina Sayre
Wednesday, July 12, RBC - here there be dragons (dark fiction), Jeff Rosenplot
Wednesday, August 23, RBC - Pure & Sinful, book 1 of the Pure Souls series (urban fantasy/paranormal), Killian McRae
Wednesday, September 13, RBC, Everything We Keep (contemporary fiction), Kerry Lonsdale
Sunday, October 22, RBC, 4:30 - Incriminating Evidence, book 2 of the Mike & Rosie series (legal mystery), Sheldon Siegel

4.  By tomorrow morning, my page views on the blog will be at 125,000! It's picking up some steam.  If you are reading this, then you are helping me reach some new numbers every day.  THANK YOU!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

At the Risk of Sounding Like a Broken Record, I've Got Another Very Good Book by Another Local Author

I found out about Everything We Keep, by Kerry Lonsdale, from Susan Kankel, who is an RBC member.  And I have to say to Susan:  THANK YOU!  This is a very good book.  I'm going to start right off with the back page blurb:

Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents' restaurant.  But when her fiancee, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea.  Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James's funeral - a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.
As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James's disappearance.  What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together.  And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free...or shatter her forever.

I have a lot to say about Everything We Keep.  But let me start by quoting the 1st line in the book:  "On our wedding day, my fiance, James, arrived at the church in a casket."  How's that for a grabber?  And it never lets up.  This is an intricately plotted book that holds together. Things happen that you don't usually see in a novel.  But they all make sense in this context.  That's all I'm going to say about that.

Let me list some elements of the book that stood out for me:
1.  I connected emotionally with Aimee as early as page 5, and really got hooked by page 8.
2.  I very much enjoyed Aimee's two best friends, Kristen and Nadia. And I really liked the 3 of them together.
3.  I had a large amount of tears (some heavy) and chills which always makes me like a book more.  In fact, there's one scene early on where I got double chills.  Maybe I was outside in the cold when I read that part? Nah.
4.  Kerry creates a lot of tension that is based on relationships, not on lurking/hiding/shadow-y people.
5   There is a moment of self-discovery/realization that is so cool.
6.  Kerry can write.  On back-to-back pages she refers to vomit as "acidic stew" and compares it to a "toppled can of paint."  Pretty expressive, I would say.
7.  I can favorably compare Kerry's writing to Sarah Jio and Karma Brown, 2 of my favorites (as all/some/none of you know).
8.  I can also compare it to another smash hit - Gone Girl.  In that one, I enjoyed the 1st half and absolutely loved the 2nd half.  In Everything We Keep, I liked the 1st 1/3 and couldn't put the last 2/3 down.

And I just found out today that there is a sequel (but I'm not going to tell you which character is the star of the next one) coming out this July 4.  I will be at the front of the line for that one.  It's called Everything We Left Behind.

P.S.  Kerry has agreed to come to the RBC on September 13.  I know that's down the road some.  But I'm really looking forward to having her there.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The RBC and BookBrowse owner Davina Morgan-Witts

Tuesday night we had a special RBC meeting.  Davina Morgan-Witts, founder and owner of the very popular book recommending website, BookBrowse, came to Recycle Books to talk about her online magazine. Here are a bunch of facts about BookBrowse:

1.    They only recommend books that "engage, entertain, and enlighten."  If you can't learn something from reading a book, then BookBrowse won't recommend it.
2.    They are 20 years old and for the 1st 9 years, they treated it like a hobby.  In 2006, the owners decided to make it into a real business.
3.    They make their money from ads (typically from publishers) and from subscriptions.
4.    They have 125,000 Facebook followers!
5.    They have 500,000 unique views each month!
6.    They feature 20 books and review another 60-80 books each month. 
7.    They have 25,000 signed up for their newsletter!
8.    They have several weekly posts and do their recommending twice each month.
9.    Even though most of their recommendations come from the big 5 of publishing, they still have a form on their website that allows independent authors to apply.
10.  They only feature new books, of which most are hardcover.  They will sometimes feature the same books when they come out in paperback (usually about a year later).

I would strongly recommend that you visit Davina's website.  You will be glad you did.

Davina treated our members to free ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) plus a few published books

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

It's Hodge-Podge Time AKA Random Stuff

1.  The RWA (Romance Writers of America), Silicon Valley Chapter,  has an all-day event coming up in San Jose on Feb. 25.  Here is the info:

Silicon Valley RWA Chapter Presents:
Write, Publish, Market an Amazon Bestseller
February 25, 2017, 9-5, San Jose

Led by Andrea Hurst, President, Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Management!
Gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to be successful at indie and hybrid publishing—how to obtain higher visibility, greater sales, and a better overall product. Insights that can be applied wherever you are on the publishing journey.
Topics Addressed:
  • The current state of publishing and what this means for you
  • Tips for writing books that sell: genre, audience, craft
  • Navigating your way through the editorial process
  • Writing and leveraging a series
  • Platform building and enhancing your author brand
  • Effective marketing strategies
  • Production advice on pricing, placement and keywords
  • The process of a successful book launch
  • Sales tools to apply anywhere on your publishing journey
  • Basic steps to setting up promotions, ads & social media marketing
  • Attracting publishers and agents from your self-published book
  • How are the Amazon imprints different from traditional publishing
    Want to increase your self-published book sales? Interested in becoming an indie or hybrid author? Just want to build your audience? This workshop is for you.
    Fee: $150 includes full-day workshop and continental breakfast and lunch.
    ANDREA HURST represents high profile adult nonfiction and well-crafted fiction
    to major publishers, and her self-published book,
    The Guestbook, is an Amazon bestseller with over 1,300 reviews. and
    REBECCA BERUS, Founder of 2Market Books, offers strategic consulting and promotional services on finding, engaging and building audiences and effective book marketing.
    SEAN FLETCHER, Author, Director of Author Services, Developmental Editor, and Agent Scout for Andrea Hurst & Associates, manages editorial and consulting services for clients.
2.  Well-known blogger, JJ Spina, of Jemsbooks, posted this article from 2 notable doctors: 

Does Reading Make You Healthier and Happier?

by jjspina
I recently read the column of Drs. Oz & Roizen, titled Reading makes you healthier and happier. Here is partially what Drs. Oz & Roizen had to say.
…But neuromarketing researchers from the University of Sussex’s Mindlab found that reading an old-fashion, open-a-book-and-learn-something text (start with “You: The Owner’s Manual,” revised) or an escape-to-the-beach-novel (try James Michener’s “Hawaii”) for even six minutes a day is more relaxing than listening to music, taking a walk or even (these were English researchers) having a cup of tea. The study says getting into a good read eases muscle tension and slows down your heart rate. That dispels stress and makes your RealAge significantly younger!
In addition, reading keeps your brain sharp, improves sleep and makes you a more interesting social animal. Also, if you know someone, especially a child, who has difficulty with reading, spend some time with them and read aloud together. Lots of kids have a hard time learning to read, so if you’re a parent, grandparent or just a good neighbor, be aware and help them out. You’re giving a gift of learning. Traveling the world through the written word opens doors in the mind and in life?

3.  Author Appearance Alert:  Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See, is coming to the Bay Area.  He is being sponsored by Books, Inc. and will be at the Santa Clara Convention Center Theater at 7:00 on April 4.  His touring is celebrating the release of his book in paperback.  If you want to buy tickets, go to Books, Inc. website.

4.  Question for authors:  Why do all chapters start on the right-hand side of the book?  I've read a bunch of books recently where a new chapter only starts on the right.  If the previous chapter ends on the right side, then the next page on the left is blank.  I don't get it. Somebody?  Anybody?

NEXT UP:  My next blog will be about Davina Morgan-Witts' appearance at the RBC last night.  Her book-recommending website, BookBrowse, is a great way to find out which books to keep an eye out for.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Murder in the Abstract - A Murder Mystery by Susan C. Shea

As you know, I saw Terry Shames at her book launch at Books, Inc. in Berkeley back on January 13. And as you also know, Terry was in conversation with Susan C. Shea, another local author.  Well, I decided to get book 1 of Susan's Dani O'Rourke mystery series.  And I really enjoyed it.  Here's what Murder in the Abstract is about:

Danielle O'Rourke's gala evening at the Devor Museum ends in catastrophe when the body of a young artist plummets from her office window.  The police label it murder and suspect Dani, the Museum's chief fund raiser.  Self-preservation and an insider's understanding of how money moves the art world drive her to investigate who might have a motive for murder. Dani's playboy ex-husband and a green-eyed cop complicate matters as her search moves through the fashionable worlds of San Francisco and Santa Fe.

This book was very educational for me:

1.  I learned a lot about the business side of the art world.
2.  I learned about the various roles/jobs that an art museum (and probably all museums) has.
3.  I learned about art galleries and what goes into putting on a show.

On top of all that, I also got to sink my teeth into a murder mystery.  And I have to tell you that I did NOT know whodunit until the very end.  And with a wide variety of eccentric and unique characters, I'm definitely looking forward to #2 - The King's Jar - and #3 - Mixed Up with Murder.

Does the pool of local, talented authors ever dry up?  Or even stay at the same level?  To borrow from the current weather in the Bay Area, I can honestly say that the banks are overflowing (have you been on highway 17 in the Santa Cruz mountains lately?).  But most importantly, add Susan C. Shea to that every-burgeoning pool.