Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Not Your Typical Novella!

You know that I'm a fan of Kate Allure.  I reviewed Playing Doctor on 12/15/14 and Lawyer Up on 7/26/15.  And they were positive reviews. Now we have Kate's latest.  It's a novella called Bed & Breakfast & Bondage (yep, you read that right).  BBB is tied into Marina Adair's St. Helena Vineyard  Series Kindle World, which was made into a movie - Autumn in the Vineyard - on the Hallmark channel (it aired a couple of weeks ago).  And Kate is one of several authors who were asked to write novellas tied to the movie.

So what is Bed & Breakfast & Bondage about?  Do you really need to ask?  Well, despite the somewhat obvious subject matter, it's actually very good and not so predictable.  It's about a woman who comes to the wine country to open a combination bed and breakfast AND a BDSM dungeon (just think 50 Shades of Gray).  Catriona (Cat) Fern Morrison migrates from Los Angeles, where she was very involved in acting (and enjoying) the role of a submissive to a man named Master Lynch.  He loaned her money to build the facility in St. Helena and definitely has a hold on her.  In fact, if she doesn't make timely payments on the loan, he has the right to take over management of the B&B.

Mason Steele is a plumber who is working for Cat.  He becomes very involved in helping her get the place ready for inspection so that she can get open and start making payments to Lynch.  I don't think I'm giving anything away when I tell you that Cat and Mason are attracted to each other.  After all, this is a (erotic) romance.

I am not opposed to romances, erotic or otherwise.  I mean it is my job as a blogger to read all different genres (was that convincing?).  And, of course, I have read many romances over the last 5 1/2 years.  Some of the authors even cross over from straight romance to erotic romance and back again (hello, Jasmine Haynes).  But as I have said many times (ad nauseum, perhaps?), a good book is a good book, regardless of the genre.  And Kate Allure is a very good author.  So what did I like about BBB:

1.  Well-written.
2.  Very sexy but with strong characters.
3.  Suspenseful where I was even worried about the bad guy.
4.  Very sexy...did I say that already?

If you're in the mood for a novella, and you like (very) sexy romances, give Bed & Breakfast & Bondage a read.  It's fun and entertaining.

1.  I saw Barry Eisler last night at Kepler's.  He launched his 11th book, Livia Lone.  But equally as important, his next (and 9th) John Rain comes out in May.  I will be one of the first in line for that one.
2.  Stephen King has his 1st children's book coming out in November. It's called Charlie the Choo Choo and is based on his Dark Towers series. You might want to screen it before you give it to your young'uns.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Local Author, A Memoir, and Burning Man - All in One

Composing Temple Sunrise is the memoir of local author, Hassan El-Tayyab.  And it's funny how I even found out about it.  I learned of Hassan through one of my favorite bloggers, Kathy, of BermudaOnion. She had an interview with Hassan on her blog (since then, I have run across another blogger who also interviewed him).  So Kathy must live in the Bay Area, right?  Nope.  She's in the Midwest.  Regardless of the source, I now have connected with Hassan and have read his memoir. Let me give you the subtitle of the book:  "Overcoming Writer's Block at Burning Man."  This is obviously not your typical memoir.

Here is what author Steven T. Jones had to say:

Going to Burning Man for the first time can be a powerful, life-changing experience.  That's particularly true when someone is involved with building a major art installation, and even more so when that person is wrestling with personal demons and searching for a new life path.  And so it was in 2009 when struggling teacher-turned-musician Hassan El-Tayyab found himself in a strange warehouse in a new city, buzzing with preparations to bring Fishbug to the playa in a few weeks...

One of the things I really liked about this book (which I've mentioned about a few other books) is that each chapter starts with a quote.  And just to give you an idea about who the quoters are, here are the 1st 5: Martin Luther King, Alexander Graham Bell, Bob Dylan, JFK, and Miles Davis.  Eclectic much? Oh, and we've got Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, and Herbie Hancock too!

I also liked that I learned what Burning Man is all about.  I have heard of BM (don't snicker) for years but really knew nothing about it.  Now I do.

His writing is another plus for me.  It's not meant to be overly literary. It's written well but in a way that we can all understand and relate to it. A couple of examples:

When Hassan was asked to play some music, he said "It felt like being called on in math class without having done any homework."  I think we've all been there and know what that feels like.

"A cloud of dust rolled in behind him like we were in an old western movie."  Pretty visual, don't you think?

I liked how he overcame a cleft palate and a rough childhood.

And, finally, I'm happy to report some chills, tears, smiles, and even an "Unh."

This is definitely a book that will keep you engaged.


Jeff has written a book that all of us can benefit from reading.  Here's the back cover:

As parents, we often forget what it is like to be our kids age.  We struggle between their need for the here and now versus our desire to teach self-control and the realization of better things in the future.  We see their increasing cravings of independence flipped against our nurturing instinct and guidance to view and care about the world around them.
This funny, yet discussion provoking book shows kids the balance between urges and broader issues compelling awareness to help them (and us as parents) achieve balance so we're not classified in the extreme.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Juliet Blackwell and Letters from Paris

Almost 5 years ago I met Juliet Blackwell at an "M" Is For Mystery event. Of course, M went out of business a short while later.  But I ended up reading book 1 in Juliet's series Haunted House Renovation.  Juliet now has about 20 books to her credit.  And I had still only read the 1 book...until a few days ago.  I'm not 100% sure why I decided to read Letters from Paris at this particular moment.  In fact, the book spent almost no time in my TBR pile.  I think it was a combination of good reviews from fellow bloggers and the fact that Juliet is another Bay Area author.  But boy am I glad I grabbed it.  I was thinking about giving you a synopsis in my own words.  But I just can't do it justice.  So here is what the back cover has to say:

After surviving the accident that took her mother's life, Claire Broussard has worked hard to escape her small Louisiana hometown.  But these days she feels something is lacking.  Abruptly leaving her lucrative job in Chicago, Claire returns home to care for her ailing grandmother.  There, she unearths a beautiful piece of artwork that her great-grandfather sent home from Paris after World War II.
At her grandmother's urging, Claire travels to Paris to track down the century-old mask-making atelier where the object, known only as "L'Inconnue" - or The Unknown Woman - was created.  Under the watchful eye of a surly mask-maker, Claire discovers a cache of letters that offers insight into the life of the Belle Epoque woman immortalized in the work of art.  As Claire explores the unknown woman's tragic fate, she begins to unravel deeply buried secrets in her own life.

Besides being a very well-written book (I'm happy to say that I seem to be making a habit of reading these kinds of books lately), it's also a very interesting story.  It goes back and forth between the present (Claire) and the late 1890's (Sabine, AKA L'Inconnue).  But what makes it unique is that Claire and the present-day people don't know Sabine's story. They don't know who she is and what is happening with her.  Only the reader gets that information.  How really cool is that?  All the current people know is that the woman known as "L'Inconnue drowned.  And they learn this through notes that were packed in the box that her great-grandfather sent as well as the letters that she finds in the atelier.  I loved this about the book.

What else did I love about this book, you ask?  Well, let me list a few things:

1.  The author's ability to give me chills and to make me cry and speak out loud.  On one occasion I even did a bit of gulping.  Yep.  and another time I said "Is it possible?" - twice! And let's not forget my "whoa" on page 319.
2.  A lot of references to Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel, his muse. And why did that resonate?  Because Claudel was a central character in Betsy Franco's novel, Naked (I'm still trying to get her to be an RBC author), a book that sits on my rec table.
3.  Learning stuff.  In this case, I found out what Kintsugi is.  Look it up. It's worth your time.
4.  THE ENDING!  THE ENDING!  THE ENDING!  Have I made myself clear what I thought about the ending?

This is a very very good read, with some real twists.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

TCC Book Club

For those that don't know (which is just about all of you), I actually have a non-book-related day job. My company, The Corporate Chef, operates corporate cafes and catering using independent contractors.  We have been in business since 1961, and I started in 1975 (41 years - ouch).  As all of you DO know, I have a thing for books.  So I do I merge my 2 passions?  And then it came to me - I will start a book club with some of my clients.  And today was my very 1st book club meeting at my very 1st account (at Thermo Fisher Scientific - TFS - in Pleasanton). Here is a picture of one of my very favorite authors talking about one of my very favorite books.  This is Rayme Waters, and our book choice was The Angels' Share.

Rayme is at the end of the table in the white top (our TFS contact, Joyce, is to Rayme's left)

We've also got authors scheduled for both November and December at TFS:
Nov. - Rachael Herron, The Ones Who Matter Most
Dec. - Ann Bridges, Rare Mettle

And we start up at Central California Alliance for Health - CCAH - in Scotts Valley in December.  Our 1st author is Shelly King, The Moment of Everything.  All 4 of these authors have come to the RBC (I don't know if the TFS employees enjoyed today...but I know that I had a blast!).

BOOK SIGNING:  A couple of Sundays ago, Josh Russell came back to Recycle Books to sell and sign his book, Little Boy Soup.  You can pick it up at a whole bunch of bookstores, including Hicklebee's, several Barnes & Noble, several Books, Inc., and, of course, Recycle Books.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I Got to See Jodi Picoult Live - for the First Time in 5.5 Years!

Jodi Picoult is one very interesting person.  I thought so 5.5 years ago, when I saw her at the Fox Theater in Redwood City, promoting her new book, Sing You Home.  And I felt the same way today. Her latest book, which came out last Tuesday, is Small Great Things.  The story is told in 3 voices:  An African-American female nurse, a Caucasian male public defender, and a VERY Caucasian father of a Skinhead.  You can probably pretty much guess what this one is about!  But she told some anecdotes from her research that were pretty jaw-dropping.

The lunchtime event at Rakestraw Books in Danville was the 1st of 2 on the day for Jodi.  Tonight she is, once again, at the Fox Theater, and once again sponsored by Kepler's.  Last time there were too many people to get my book signed.  So I figured I would go with the Rakestraw event.  It was a good call.  There were a lot of people there, but I at least got to see her and get SGT signed.

Did she have anything interesting to say?  Uh...yeah.  She told the story again of what happened when Nick Cassavetes changed the ending to My Sister's Keeper for his movie, when he swore to Jodi that he wouldn't.  If you want to get more details, you can go to my post from March 19, 2011 (just search for "Jodi Picoult").

Here are a few of the things that Jodi told us:

1.  This book, #25, is the one that actually changed her life more than any of her others!
2.  Fiction allows you to deal with issues that you don't want to deal with in real life.
3.  Jodi taught 8th grade English.
4.  She said that "The only difference between schizophrenia and writing is a paycheck."
5.  When asked (by yours truly) if she is character-driven or plot-driven, she said unhesitatingly that she is character-driven.  That's probably why I connect with most of her books (the ones, anyway, that don't center on animals).  

Michael Barnard, the owner of Rakestraw Books, introduced Jodi

Jodi is not in pain.  She just thinks the bear is so cute.

Kelly Corrigan, author of the memoir Glitter and Glue, and the person who Jodi was "in conversation" with

AUTHOR APPEARANCE:  Marty Brounstein, who I blogged about on April 30, 2016, is coming back to the area.  And if you haven't seen Marty, you should make an effort to see him.  He tells an amazing story.

Holocaust Heroes:An evening with Speaker Author Marty Brounstein
At Los Altos United Methodist Church,
Creekside Building
Wednesday, November 2, 2016 - 7:00 p.m

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Blackberry Winter - Sarah Jio

On July 24 of last year, I wrote a review of Sarah Jio's Goodnight June. You all know what I thought of that because I've been raving about it for over a year now.  And, if you recall (how can you not?), I rated the book a 4.0+.  But here's the funny part of this story - I haven't read any of her other books.  I can't really explain why.  Fortunately, that has just changed.  Last week I read my 2nd Jio.  And, once again, I turned to my Goodreads friend, Melissa, to give me some suggestions.  Since she is the one who recommended, nay insisted, that I read GJ in the 1st place, I asked her what to read next.  She gave me 2 - Blackberry Winter and Violets of March.  I picked BW because it was a little newer (by 1 year) than VoM.  Did I like it as well as GJ?  No.  Did I really like it a lot?  Yes. 3.5/4.  Here's the back cover blurb:

SEATTLE, 1933.  Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, good night and reluctantly leaves for work.  She hates the night shift, but it's the only way she can earn enough to keep destitution at bay.  In the morning - even though it's the second of May - a heavy snow is falling. Vera rushes to wake Daniel, but his bed is empty.  His teddy bear lies outside in the snow.
SEATTLE, Present Day.  On the second of May, Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge awakens to another late-season snowstorm.  Assigned to cover this "blackberry winter" and its predecessor decades earlier, Claire learns of Daniel's unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth - only to discover that she and Vera are linked in unexpected ways.

Is Blackberry Winter similar in structure to Goodnight June?  Not really. And that's a good thing because it won't prevent me from reading another one (I already have Violets of March in my TBR pile).  Plus, I just found out today that Sarah's next book, ALWAYS, is being released February 7 of next year.  That's only 119 days from now!  I am now committed to reading any new Jio's, while catching up on the old ones.

Melissa told me to get the tissues ready.  And, to be sure, there were a few tears here and there.  But not nearly as many as I expected.  I did, however, have my usual assortment of chills (some pretty major ones, too), OMGs, and raised eyebrows.  There was even a part early on where I knew what was coming and said to myself:  "I do NOT want to read about this."  What I did have an abundance of was surprises.  There were developments late in the book that I did NOT anticipate, expect, or guess.  That was really fun.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Another New Local Author for Me - and a Fantasy/Paranormal to Boot

As so often happens these days, I met Angela Wallace, a local author, through another local author.  Alina Sayre was signing books out in front of Recycle a couple of Sunday mornings ago.  And Angela came to visit Alina.  As you all (may or may not) know, I don't tell an author that I've read his/her book until after I've finished it...and liked it!  I'm just not into dissing local authors, especially since I will probably run into them someday/somewhere!    Well, I am happy to say that I read Angela's book, Elemental Magic (book 1 in the Elemental Magic series), and enjoyed it a lot.  Let's start in the usual way:

Aileen Donovan is an oceanographer with magical control over the element of water.  While her normal focus in on research and fighting poachers, she's about to go up against the stuff of legends - and that's saying something for a supernatural.
A transport ship is missing and everyone's eager to get their hands on the cargo.  No one knows what it is, but when fragments resembling coral begin to drive local residents insane, Aileen suspects a preternatural source.  Whatever is at the bottom of the ocean, a power-hungry alchemist wants it, and releases a sea dragon to eat the competition - literally.
Aileen sees this as an opportunity to win the professional recognition she desires, but keeping secrets is complicated when she's working with local Coast Guard officer Colin Benson.  Her sense of love and duty will be put to the test, and when the tide washes out, it might have been better if that lost ship had stayed lost.

I don't read a lot of fantasy or paranormal, but that doesn't mean I don't like them, cuz' I do.  I love Alina's The Voyages of the Legend fantasy series (looking forward to book 4!) and A.R. Silverberry's YA fantasy, Wyndano's Cloak.  I also enjoyed Hannah Jayne's urban fantasy, The Underworld Detection Agency.  I'm going to put Angela's Elemental Magic series in with these others.

Did I emotionally connect with the characters?  Uh, yeah; especially Aileen.  I knew immediately that I cared about her.  But none of that matters if the book is not well-written.  And this one is (thank goodness). I don't always make that emotional connection with the characters in a book (The Girl on the Train, anyone? - P.S.  I gave the movie the same 2.5/4 that I gave the book). But I CAN'T make those kinds of connections if the book is not written well.  Kudos to Angela for that.  And thanks, Angela, for the tears and worry (and raised eyebrows) that you put me through.  I won't forget you for this!

A couple of interesting notes:  1) This book is similar to book 1 of Alina's series in that the 1st half is good, and the 2nd half takes off; 2) interracial in this book means human & elemental - you don't see that definition every day!; 3) Aileen says:  "I had always thought it would hurt more if I let people get close, but it seemed I didn't actually have any control over how emotionally connected I became with people."  I think this is probably true for all of us, whether we want to admit it or not.

If you want to read something a little bit different from your normal genre (whatever that might be), then give Elemental Magic a try.  And if you like it, there are 6 more books in the series!  Now that's fun.