Saturday, July 6, 2019

A Couple of Interesting Articles (plus a warehouse sale)

Hi all,

I've got a couple of very interesting articles about independent bookstores and book sales:

Book Sales News in U.S. for 2018 Announced

One more announcement:

Books, Inc. is having its semi-annual warehouse sale on Saturday, July 20, at 150 Vermont Street, San Francisco.  It starts at 9:00 and goes all day.  And they not only have thousands of books on sale at a 30%-80% discount.  They also sell toys, greeting cards, gifts, and even furniture! Don't miss it.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Cara Black on tour

It's always fun to see Cara Black on book tour.  I try to make it every year, when I can.  So Joni and I saw her this past Tuesday night at Books, Inc. in Palo Alto.  But wait!  This wasn't just any book tour.  Why not, you ask?  I'll tell you why not:

1.  Her latest Aimée Leduc celebrates 20 years!  And with the same publisher!  How cool is that?
2.  Although she had her launch the night before, we saw her on the day Murder in Bel-Air hit the bookstores.
3.  Books, Inc. provided a cake for Cara and guests (see below).
4.  Cara has agreed to come back to the RBC!  We will be welcoming her with arms wide open on January 22, 2020.

Here are some pictures from the event.  And take a look at #3.  Do you think there might have been a whole bunch of people there, with most of them buying a book?  I would say yes to that.

Sunday, June 2, 2019


Hello all.  Here are some random literary-related tidbits for your edification, notification, and gentrification (huh?) :

1.  All the Light We Cannot See is coming to Netflix as a limited series.  As of now, there is no date or casting.

2.  Have you read Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts?  It's really good.  Here is a short blurb I wrote about it a few years ago.:

The story takes place starting in 1933 when a college history professor is appointed by FDR to become ambassador to Germany in Berlin.  It not only addresses the rise to power of Hitler, but it also talks about what being an ambassador meant in those days.  This is the same guy who wrote Devil in the White City, about the 1896 World's Fair in Chicago.  I liked this one much better.

Tom Hanks will be co-producing a big screen version of it.  There are no details as of yet.

 3.  Take a look at this article by author Steve Berry, he of the Cotton Malone series.  It's about the benefits of adult literacy from reading books as an adolescent.  Pretty heady stuff.…/artic…/pii/S0049089X18300607

4.  The owners of the Books, Inc. chain, Michael and Margie Still Tucker, will be retiring in October! I have been a member of the Books, Inc. Tuesday Night Book Club in Palo Alto for a few years now. Margie actually runs the book club.  She is very knowledgeable and does a great job.  I, among many, many others, will miss her. 

5.  Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain will be coming to the multiplexes on August 19.  This is a book I stayed away from only because there is a picture of a dog on the front.  And as some of you may know, I'm really not interested in stories revolving around animals.  HOWEVER, I really liked this book.  The movie starts Milo Ventimiglia (TV's This Is Us) and Amanda Seyfried.  The voice of Enzo, the canine narrator, is Kevin Costner.

6.  And speaking of books that are being made into movies, how about the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch?  It comes out on September 19 and stars Nicole Kidman.  Need I remind you that I read 19 pages and said:  "Uh, no.  I can't do 700 pages if they are like the first 19."...or words that that effect?  You don't remember I said that?  Maybe it was just in my head as I wrote the letters DNF (did not finish) in my list of books read.

That's it, y'all.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Another Excellent Kristin Harmel Novel Right Around the Corner

You all know what I think of Kristin Harmel's books.  I gave The Life Intended and The Room on Rue Amelie 4/4.  The Sweetness of Forgetting didn't earn a 4/4.  That's because I rated it a 4+/4!  It was just too good to give it "only" a 4.  (Do you remember how you used to occasionally get an A+ on a school assignment?  Yeah, me neither.)  So certainly her latest, The Winemaker's Wife (which hits bookstores in August), could not match those earlier three novels...WRONG!  It is also outstanding (did you see the title of this post?).  Here's the storyline:

Champagne, 1940:  Ines has just married Michel, the owner of storied champagne house Maison Chauveau, when the Germans invade.  As the danger mounts, Michel turns his back on his marriage to begin hiding munitions for the Resistance.  Ines fears they'll be exposed, but for Celine, half-Jewish wife of Chauveau's chef de cave, the risk is even greater - rumors abound of Jews being shipped east to an unspeakable fate.  When Celine  recklessly follows her heart in one desperate bid for happiness, and Ines makes a dangerous mistake with a Nazi collaborator, they risk the lives of those they love - and the champagne house that ties them together. 

New York, 2019:  Liv Kent has just lost everything when her eccentric French grandmother shows up unannounced, insisting on a trip to France.  But the older woman has an ulterior motive - and a tragic, decades-old story to share.  When past and present finally collide, Liv finds herself on a road to salvation that leads right to the caves of the Maison Chauveau.

I admit that I love a good story that goes back and forth between a different time and the present.  That captured my attention immediately.  But there's got to be a whole bunch more to keep my interest.  And there was that in TWW.  Kristin not only gives us a different historical perspective for Germany-occupied France during WWII (as it related to wineries); but she also presents us with the present-day mystery of family connections for both Liv and her grandmother, Edith.  Intrigued?  How could you not be.

It's unfortunate that you will have to wait until August before you can get a copy of The Winemaker's Wife.  But do you know what I will be doing while you are reading Kristin's book?  Two things, actually.  First, I am hoping that I will be able to see her in person on book tour, IF she comes to Northern California (are you reading this, Ms./Mr. Publisher?). And, second, I will be impatiently waiting for Kristin's next book!  Keep writing, Kristin, keep writing.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A Very Unique Author Event

Last Thursday night, Joni and I went to see Rick Snyder, an old friend of our son, Josh.  They went all the way through elementary and middle school together.  But unlike all of the times we saw Rick at our house, this time we went to Books, Inc. in Berkeley to see him and hear about his book, DECISIVE INTUITION:  USE YOUR GUT INSTINCTS TO MAKE SMART BUSINESS DECISIONS.  And, boy, are we glad we did.  We haven't read the book yet. But Rick captivated us, and the entire audience, for nearly an hour.  He definitely knows his stuff and how to present it.  Here is Rick's dedication:

     This book is dedicated to the individual divine spark inside us that we carry, often forget, and sometimes have to be reminded about daily. May we each continue to bring our deep listening and curiosity to this subtle whisper, our quiet confidant and reliable copilot that simply wants to guide us toward our greatest triumphs, fulfillment, and joy, no matter how much we kick and scream along the 

Have I piqued your curiosity?  I thought so.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Martina McBride and Her New Cookbook

Last Saturday, Joni and I went to a little bit of a different author event. First of all, it took place at a very cool winery in Napa.  Secondly, the author is one of the most successful country singers of our generation. And, thirdly, a cookbook still counts as a book, right?  Yep, we were at Calmere Estate Winery. And the world-famous country singer/cookbook author is...Martina McBride!  How cool is that?  We ended up with appetizers, salad (see below), entree (see below), and dessert, all from Martina's cookbook, Martina's Kitchen Mix.  And between courses we got to give Martina a bunch of questions that she graciously answered.  Plus, we had a good table, as you can see from the 1st picture.  Kudos to Karen West, of Book Passage, for being a great emcee.  And, as usual, Book Passage put on a terrific event.

Friday, March 22, 2019

C. Lee McKenzie Q&A

C. Lee McKenzie has written 4 middle-grade and 4 YA novels.  In fact, her YA, The Princess of Las Pulgas, is not only one of my favorite YA's ever, but it is also one of my top books of 2014!  And here is a Q&A with C. Lee:

1.    What are your books about?

All of my YA characters confront issues that youth deal with. My first book was about self-abuse and healing. My second about loss and rebuilding a life. My third about illiteracy, neglect and the importance of cross-generational connections. My fourth dealt with bigotry. 

When I write for middle grade, I like to focus on adventure and fun, but I never leave out what I hope kids can get from their early reading experience--the importance of friendship, loyalty, and respect. I love to tuck history inside when I can. In The Great Time Lock Disaster the kids do some time travel and see Queen Victoria’s Coronation. In Some Very Messy Medieval Magic they meet Richard II. Since I’m fascinated by the California Gold Rush era, I had a lot of fun tying in my characters’ adventures in Sign of the Green Dragon to early Chinese mining history and mythology. 

2.    What made you decide to write novels?

I don’t think I made a conscious decision to write novels, but when I read about a study of Ivy League students that said 1 out of 5 of those interviewed admitted to some form of self-abuse, I decided to write an article about it. Then I discovered others much more qualified than I am had done that, somehow my article morphed into a story (Sliding on the Edge) about a girl and a grandmother and a horse named Magic. That was the beginning, and I kept going.

3.    What is your writing routine?

Honestly, I don't have one. I write long and hard. I take breaks. I take a lot of walks thinking about nothing but walking, then I go back to writing. Sometimes I write the end before the beginning (a lot of writers have told me they do, too) I write disconnected scenes and put them together. I write straight from beginning to end. The story comes down the way it will, and I’ve learned to step aside and never worry about routines.

4.    Do you belong to a writing group?

I’ve been in my writing group since 2007. I’ve meet them at various times, but we all live in different places so our critiques are done online. One is in France (you’ll be reading her work one day because she’s a really fine writer), one lives in Arizona and writes to contract. She’s also really a strong and interesting writer. One lives in New Jersey and is an award winning author. I’m so grateful to have these writers in my corner to keep me honest and give me good feedback.

5.    How did you get your publisher?  Do you have other books written that are
       waiting for publication?  Are there any in a drawer? 

My first two books I subbed directly to the publisher, and—hallelujah—they bought them. Unfortunately, the publisher folded their YA imprint, so I was sans publisher. I subbed my third and fourth novels to Evernight Teen and they took both books. I now have an agent, and I’m hoping a publisher will give the one she’s sending out a chance because I feel very strongly about it. I have three other books that I’m “cultivating” and hope to see in full bloom at some point. I won’t even go into the ones I’ve stashed in a folder called “Fits and Starts.” 

6.    Who edits your books?

My publishers do that for my young adult books and one of my middle grades. I did self-publish three middle grade novels, and for those I hired a professional editor. I learned that I must never do the final edits of my own books. DISASTER.

7.    How much time does it take from signed contract to published book?

It depends. With the big publishers it can take 2+ years after acquisition. With small presses about half that time. When you self-publish that’s up to you, but usually I take a year which includes a lot of editing, finding the right cover artist, laying out publicity and all kinds of chores that take a lot of planning.

8.    How do you come up with titles and covers?

Usually I don’t have trouble with finding a title. For my debut novel, the publisher chose Sliding on the Edge. I wanted the book to be titled Bad Ass Attitude. I still wish it had been, but authors don’t always have a say about things like that. All of the other titles I chose. In fact, I wrote Alligators Overhead because I already had that title in my head, and I wanted a story to go with it.

9.    How long does it take to write each book?

I often work on several projects at a time, but my guess is about a year. However, now that I’ve published several books, I seem to be slower. I’m guessing that’s because I know how much work comes after I publish, and I know how much of an uphill battle I’m facing to make my work stand out from the millions of other books flooding the market. I almost dread sending a book into the market because then my life is non-stop promotion.

10.  How many books do you write in a year? 

As I said, several, but none are really competed. Right now I have one book with my agent, one new book finished and marinating, and I have two others in various stages of completion. Come to think of it, I write like I read. I have the same number of books I’m reading in the same stages of completion. 

11.  Do you have a mentor? 

Nope. Just me. But I have a muse. I’ll send you a picture of him. My mother-in-law gave him to me years ago, and he sits on a book shelf and looks over my shoulder while I write. He’s quite demanding.

12.  Do your characters speak to you?

They keep me awake at night, but that’s good because I realize that when the characters aren’t talking to me, the book’s not working. That’s when I tuck it away and forget it. When I pull it up again later and the characters start jabbering at three a.m., then I know it’s time to write their story.

13.  Do your characters dictate what happens in your books?  Or do you know
       ahead of time where they’re going?

Both. I set the course and know where I want the story to go, but sometimes I let the characters take the lead. They often veer off course, but as long as they reveal the underlying core theme, they’re welcome to be in control. It’s kind of fun, actually, and usually when those characters charge ahead, the story really takes off.

Thanks for the great questions! It’s always fun to write about writing.

The Princess of Las Pulgas, by C. Lee McKenzie - a YA that I LOVED