Friday, September 22, 2017

Own It, by Elisabeth Barrett - A Romance for the RBC

I don't think it will come as a great surprise to you that I'm a romance fan.  But I have to admit that I limit myself to local romance authors.  I mean, I've got Marina Adair, Jasmine Haynes/Jennifer Skully, Bella Andre, and Elisabeth Barrett in my own backyard, so to speak.  That's not to mention all of the authors I read who don't strictly write in the romance genre, but who still have romance in their books.  This could be contemporary fiction or fantasy, and everything around and in-between.

In this case, it's another Barrett book that I want to talk to you about. Elisabeth comes to the RBC on December 13.  Her book is #1 in the It Factor series.  I can tell you one thing for sure:  I WILL be reading the next book in the series.  Here's what Own It is about:

Aidan Phelan has finally gained control over Wolfshead, his family's craft brewery and distillery, but there's one catch - his curvy firecracker of an ex-wife has also inherited a share.  It was Aidan's stubborn pride that destroyed their marriage to begin with, and now he has a daily reminder of that failure strutting around in sexy heels and pencil skirts.  But he has bigger problems - namely establishing himself as CEO by successfully launching Wolfshead's new whiskey without his family driving him insane.
Emma Crandall is shocked when she finds out she's part-owner of Aidan's family business, the company that drove a wedge between the two of them.  Aidan offers to buy her out, but she's not biting.  She's just started up a freelance marketing consulting business, and working with Wolfshead could open the door to bigger and better clients.  Besides, it's high time she proved to herself that she can handle her arrogant ex, even if he is big, bearded, and hot as hell.
Forced to work together, Aidan and Emma must confront their darkest fears and deepest desires.  But owning Wolfshead comes with a price neither of them anticipated...their hearts.

There were definitely a number of things about Own It that I liked:

1.  The whole idea of exes (if you watch Nashville on CMT, there is a musical duo called The Exes - good show) maybe getting back together is cool.  You don't see that too often.
2.  I like the literary device of having the characters talking to themselves in their heads.  Those lead to a lot of laughs for me.
3.  Now, this might come as a surprise to you.  But romances sometimes, maybe, could have sex in them.  I'm just saying that it's a possibility in this one.  But there is a scene in the book in which the the exes are cooking together that I found very sensual...without any sex at all!  Go figure.
4.  Elisabeth uses baristas to make a comparison that I not only thought was terrific, but I have even mentioned it to real-life baristas.  I will let you read it for yourself.
5.  I haven't mentioned any emotional connection with the characters yet.  I guess I didn't have any of that in this book...yeah, right.  The last 15 pages were a combination of chills, tears, and BLUBBERING!  Yep, I actually blubbered.  Fortunately, I was in the privacy of my own restaurant booth (sorry, Garrett patrons).

Do you still need proof that I'm a big Elisabeth Barrett fan?  Then check out a few of my earlier reviews:

Elisabeth Barrett Finally Has a Book in Print - And It's a Real Doozy

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


Well, this one fits right in.  And when all is said and done, I do love me a good romance!










Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A Whole Lotta Stuff

Here is a bunch of news bites:

1.  Books, Inc. Mt. View moved a couple of doors down to 317 Castro St. as of Sept. 1.

2.  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is being made into a movie with George Takei as executive director.  In the meantime, Jamie Ford's 3rd novel has just hit the stores.  It's called Love and Other Consolation Prizes.  I'm 60 pages into it.  I'm a big fan of his books.

3.  Walter Isaacson of Steve Jobs fame is coming to Kepler's on 10/25 at 7:30 to talk about his new book on Da Vinci.

4.  Andy Weir, author of The Martian, has a new book called Artemis.  He will be coming to Kepler's on 11/20, also at 7:30.

5.  Season 3 of Queen Sugar on the OWN begins this month.

6.  C. Lee McKenzie's 'Double Negative' is listed in the Readers Choice Awards for YA and Middle Grade Books! Show her some book luv by casting YOUR vote (scroll to page 12/16)!

7.  Harlan Coben's 10-episode British TV show The Five is now on Netflix.

8.  On the front page of the Mercury News today, September 19, is a great article about independent book stores and the brick-and-mortar Amazon threat.

9.  A whole bunch of authors have recently lined up for the RBC, including 3 who are coming late afternoon on weekends.  And who will also join any RBC members who are interested in having dinner with them.  If you want to see the whole list, email me at lloydrrussell@gmail.com.

10.  Interfaith Event About A Story of Courage
and Compassion
With Speaker and Author Marty Brounstein
____________________________
Saturday evening, October 7, 2017 - 7:00
______________________________________________
Sr. Pastors Rajiv Pathik and Jennifer Murdock and their respective congregations of Good Samaritan United Methodist Church in Cupertino and Los Gatos United Methodist Church are pleased to co-host this special event with Marty Brounstein, author of Two Among the Righteous Few: A Story of Courage in the Holocaust. He brings a true interfaith story of courage, compassion, and rescue about a Christian couple in the Netherlands named Frans and Mien Wijnakker who, despite much risk and danger, saved the lives of over two dozen Jews during the Holocaust and World War II. Marty also has a meaningful personal connection to this story and its heroes, which he reveals in his engaging storytelling presentation.
Now into its 7th year, Marty has been on an unexpected journey of sharing this special story in a variety of venues in his home base of the Bay Area plus in over a dozen other cities around the country.
Book signing follows the presentation. The event is open to the community.
Come hear this inspirational story!
LOCATION:
Los Gatos United Methodist Church 111 Church Street
Los Gatos, CA 95030
(408) 354-4730

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Here's a Novel about Surfing from a Real Surfer

Mike Degregorio is a long-time surfer.  Here's what the back of his book says about the writing of Thunder Bay:

Degregorio wrote "Thunder Bay" in the early 1990's and it went out of print around Y2k.  It's a big wave story based on real life characters, Native American omens and oversized egos.  It is now edited and revised and after twenty years, re-released in print and Ebook form.

Those of you who know me understand VERY CLEARLY that I have never tried (and will never try) surfing.  So it was very interesting to me to read Mike's novel and learn some stuff about surfing (please don't test me on what I learned...I beg you!).

Let me mention some of the highlights of the book for me:

1.  As a surfing troglodyte, I really appreciated the glossary.
2.  His descriptions of what it must be like to ride a big wave were very visual - e.g. "A swell, like a bull sensing the weight of a cowboy on its back, began to heave upward."
3.  His non-suring descriptions are also pretty darn good - "The cool salt breeze flowed into the freshly cleaned room like soda and ice blending with fine scotch."  And I don't even drink!
4.  How about this description? - "Every wave is different, like people with individual personalities."
5.  And this one - "The topping of raw butterfish resembled a large blob of recently chewed Bazooka Joe bubble gum." (I definitely remember that gum when I was kid, back in the Dark Ages.)

This may indeed by the first, last, and only book I ever read about surfing.  But if so, I'm glad it was Mike's book I read.





Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Review (sort of) and Other Information

1.  At my 50th high school reunion earlier this month, I got to reconnect with Harvey, a very good buddy of mine back in the day.  He told me something that I just didn't remember.  He said that I used to read Go, Dog. Go!, by P.D. Eastman, to his younger sisters.  Even though my memory is pretty weak, I believe Harvey.  So what did I do?  I bought the book, of course.  (Don't worry.  I won't include this in my year-end list!)  I was very happy to see that it was an easy read.  Here's the cover:



2.  Word after Word Bookstore in Truckee, CA now has a website - wordafterwordbooks.com

3.  Green Apple Books in San Francisco is celebrating it's 50th anniversary September 9 and 10.  Go on their website to get the details.

4.  Amazon Books opened last week in Santana Row (San Jose, CA).  They have 3500 unique titles, and all the books must have a rating of 4.8/5 or higher.  They have 9 bookstores total.  The1st one opened in Seattle in November of 2015.  And the 2nd Bay Area store will be coming to Walnut Creek's Broadway Plaza.  I also learned these stats:

In 2009, there were 1651 independent bookstores.
At the end of 2016, there were 2321 independent bookstores.
In 1995, the number was approx. 7000.
In 2000, there were about 4000.

Twenty years after the online retail giant helped lay waste to the brick and mortar book industry, Amazon.com is opening a ... brick and mortar bookstore. Q: Do you prefer book shopping online or in real life?


Amazon is opening brick and mortar bookstores across the US, with San Jose the latest location.
WW2.KQED.ORG

5.  Shelly King, author of The Moment of Everything (and one of our very 1st RBC authors) will be conducting writing classes at her home in Felton.  Here are the dates:

9/30 - 9-5
10/14 - 9-1
10/28 - 9-1
11/11 - 9-1

You can go to her website - www.shellyking.com/wp4 - for more information.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Few Notes and One Big Question

I've got a few items of interest for you, along with one big question. First, a few notes:

From Dean Koontz:  "I’ve always believed that the characters in a novel are more important than any other element. If they don’t earn our empathy and compel our attention, the most urgent subject matter and the most whiz-bang story will fall flat."
We've talked a few times about character vs. plot.  One of the must successful authors of our time tells us what he thinks.

Author Martha Conway gave us this little  gem:  "Buy a book on IndieBound.  And they will buy it from the closest bookstore to you and send it to you from there"

Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes debuted on August 9 on DirectTV and DirectTV Now.

You all (some) know that The Glass Castle is in my top 12 all-time.  It was on the bestseller list for 7 years!  Well, now it's a movie, starring Woody Harrelson, Naomi Watts, and Brie Larson.  It opened on August 11.  I thought it was very well done (3.75/4)

Marina Adair's Summer in the Vineyard, starring Rachel Leigh Cook, aired on The Hallmark channel August 12.  I'm sure you can On Demand it.  This is her 2nd book that's been made into a TV movie.  Pretty darn impressive.

BIG QUESTION:  My buddy Phil brought this up yesterday.  And it's something that I never really gave any thought to.  What do we think of the endings of the books we read?  I have to say that the endings that made the biggest impression on me are the ones that I did NOT like.  There are 2 that come to mind.  

1.  The Firm, John Grisham.  I thought the ending was so messed up that I never read another one of his novels!  (except for 1 novella)
2.  Bel Canto, Ann Patchett.  I still loved this book (it sits on my rec table at Recycle Books on Sunday mornings).  But I definitely felt like she took the easy way out.

I know there are many others where I either loved or didn't love the ending.  But these are the 2 that come to mind.  So, which book endings stand out for you? 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Harlan Coben's 30th Novel Is Coming Out September 26 - Don't Miss Don't Let Go

I think that Gillian Flynn said it best:  "Harlan Coben is simply one of the all-time greats."  This is a true statement.  Even though he writes a book a year, every book is just so darn good.  Don't Let Go continues the streak.  As I may have told you once (or multiple times) before, I always get an ARC of Coben's books.  I do have to say that I'm a little disappointed in myself for not reading it THE MINUTE I GOT IT IN THE MAIL!  But at least I finally kicked myself in the tush and then devoured it.  How about a blurb?

Suburban New Jersey detective Napoleon "Nap" Dumas hasn't been the same since senior year of high school, when his twin brother, Leo, and Leo's girlfriend, Diana, were found dead on the railroad tracks - and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life broke up with him and disappeared without explanation.  For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, both for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother's death. And now, it looks as though he may finally find what he's been looking for.
   When Maura's fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions - about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana - whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared imagine.

There's always so much to say about Coben's books.  I'll try not to overwhelm you.  But here are just a few (yeah, right) "observations."

1.    He grabs you immediately.  In this one, he actually grabbed me in the Author's Note!  I kid you not.
2.    I had a number of out-loud reactions, including "Holy Mackerel" on just page 10!  And I even had a few non-verbal, eyebrow-raising moments.
3.    I always love his pop culture references.   (There's one about Charlie Brown and Lucy that you're going to enjoy.)
4.    Let's not forget that no matter how suspenseful the book gets, he's still going to mix in some humor.  (I know I've told you that in person he's like a stand-up comedian.)
5.    He's got a Groucho Marx quote (look him up you young whippersnappers) that is just right on.  I realized that the best quotes come from either Groucho or Mark Twain.  Think about it.
6.    Coben's storylines are always so unique and creative.  I know this will shock you, but I did NOT figure out the ending!
7.    His descriptions are so right on.  Pay attention to the one he gives of pick-up basketball.  If you've played this informal version (I have, many times), you will be nodding your head as you read how Coben describes it.
8.    We all know that Coben writes a series about Myron Bolitar (and Winn), but his other books are standalones.  Nap could definitely support a series.
9.    His descriptions are very visual without being overwrought (pretty good word, yes?).
10.  Have I told you yet that he can really write?  No?  Look at these:
"'I'd like that,' I say.  I'd also like to have my kidney removed with a grapefruit spoon."
"...I find a 'no-tell motel' that promises all the glamour and amenities of a herpes sore, which in this case is a logical metaphor on several levels."

Is he Pulitzer-Prize winning literary?  Probably not.  Is he literary?  Heck, yes.  But more importantly, his books are simply un-put-down-able. I know I don't have to tell you this.  But I will anyway.  READ THIS BOOK!







Monday, August 14, 2017

A Small Indiscretion, by Jan Ellison - A Bit of a Mixed Bag for Me

Let me make something very clear.  Jan Ellison is a very good writer. There is no question about that.  And I am not sorry I read A Small Indiscretion.  If you recall, I just saw her last week at Kepler's in conversation with Janelle Brown, who wrote Watch Me Disappear (which I really liked a lot).  This one didn't grab me.  I think I'm pretty much in sync with the Goodreads rating of 3.57/5 (Amazon was 4/5).  Here is the synopsis:

At nineteen, Annie Black trades a bleak future in a washed-out California town for a London winter of drinking and abandon. Twenty years later, she is a San Francisco lighting designer and happily married mother of three who has put her reckless youth behind her.  Then a photo from that distant winter in Europe arrives inexplicably in her mailbox, and an old obsession is awakened.  Past and present collide, Annie's marriage falters, and her son takes a car ride that ends with his life hanging in the balance.  Now Annie must fight for her family by untangling the mysteries of the turbulent winter that drew an invisible map of her future.

As I mentioned right away, the writing is very good:
"Denial, as any addict will tell you, is not defined as knowing something and pretending you don't; it is failing to see it at all."
"...your father and I live in separate houses, and your sisters are passed between us like a restaurant dessert."
"A column of gnats hovered above the grass.  From where I reclined, it looked like rain afraid to land."

But I also had several issues with the book:
1.  I was confused about the timeframe.  I couldn't tell if her son had one accident or two.  I got very confused between the summer before and the recent early Spring.  I'm still not sure about that.
2. And because of my confusion, there seems to be a period of time where she does not visit her son in the hospital.  Both of these concerns could easily be on me.  I concede that possibility!
3.  The book is written by Annie to her son.  Maybe it's when he's in a coma.  And maybe she never intended him to see or hear it.  But she is relating sexual situations and drinking escapades that I'm pretty sure most parents wouldn't share with their 20-year old child.
4.  Although I thought the last 50 pages wrapped up the story pretty well, I never did make an  emotional connection with any of the characters.  This could be because Annie "wrote" the whole story in memoir form.  I'm not sure if that played a part of what was missing for me.

You/we all know how un-literary I am.  My issues with A Small Indiscretion may have a lot to do with my own confusion and simple lack of understanding with the events and their chronology.  Regardless, I still feel the way I feel.  Would I read Jan's next book?  Yes I would.