Friday, February 25, 2011

Pleasant Surprises

I want to give you the names of some authors, and their books, that were pleasant surprises for me.  I either had no expectations or had my expectations exceeded.  Whichever way it went, I would recommend these books.  They're all very good or really good (I'm making a distinction between the two, but I'm not sure what that distinction is).  Some of these authors have been in other blogs.

Billie Letts - She has written some very entertaining books:  Where the Heart Is and Made in the USA.  But the best one is The Honk and Holler, Opening Soon.  Bob and I read it probably 5 or 6 years ago, and we both rated it as the biggest surprise of the year.  We loved it.

Deborah Wolf - She's written 2 books - With You and Without You and When I'm Not Myself - These are relationship books that were very well done and appeal to both women and men.  I only read her because her mother was someone that worked for Rich.

Keith Thomson - He wrote Once A Spy.  It's about a 30-year old gambler with no direction who ends up on an escapade with his father, an ex-CIA guy who is in the beginning stages of Alzheimers.  His next book, Twice A Spy, is coming out next month.  He will also be appearing at Keplers on March 18 at 7:00.

Tom Rob Smith - I know he's been on a bunch of lists, but I bought his first book, Child 44, because I liked the cover.  And it took me almost a year to pull the trigger.  This is so good, about an up and coming KGB officer who gets a conscience, that I'm going to try and get it on every list.  P.S.  His second one, The Secret Speech, was just as good.

Lolly Winston - This is another relationship author who has written 2 very good novels:  Good Grief and Happiness Sold Separately.  Joni saw her at the Saratoga Library and bought me a signed book.  Otherwise, I would never have read it.  Then I ate up the second one.

Sam Eastland - The Eye of the Red Tsar.  Yep, you guessed it.  It's another novel that takes place in The Soviet Union.  It was really entertaining.  And he just came out with a sequel that I will be starting tomorrow.  I think I found this one from a USA Today review.

David Benioff - City of Thieves.  This takes place in...THE SOVIET UNION!  I actually don't have a fixation with The Soviet Union.  These are just really good books that happen to take place there.  This one was handed to me by Tim.  I don't always love his suggestions (he's much more intellectual than me - but, then again, so are most people over the age of 3), but he was right on the money with this one.  After I read this one, I went right to his first novel, which was written 5 years earlier, called The 25th Hour.  It was good, not great.  It was made into a movie, starring Edward Norton.

Garth Stein - The Art of Racing in the Rain.  But you already know about this one.

Nicole Mones - The Last Chinese Chef - I didn't expect to care for this one very much, but I did.  It was a very good story about a Chinese Chef (no great surprise there) who goes back to mainland China from the US to cook in a competition.  He lives with, and learns from, his elderly relatives.  Mones does a good job of explaining Chinese culture, especially on the culinary side, and spends a lot of time on cooking procedures.  There's also some romance that is not too overdone or sappy.  She also wrote Lost in Translation that was made into a movie starring Bill Murray and directed by Sophia Coppola (who was oscar-nominated).  I haven't read that one or the other one she wrote - A Cup of Light.

Christopher Reich (of "just then" fame) - Joni went to a writers' conference in Salinas a few years ago.  Reich was one of the speakers.  He talked about how he had something like 60 rejections before a publisher finally picked up one of his novels.  She got me a signed copy of The Patriots' Club.  I read it, just like Winston, because she got it for me.  I really enjoyed his first 5 books, which all had a finance guy as the hero and were all standalones.  His last 3, which have been about the same character, not nearly as much.

Anybody want to share their pleasant surprises?


  1. Appreciate your objective recommendations!

  2. I like the theme of your post. I'm going to go think of some of my Pleasant Surprises.

    The Last Chinese Chef was a very good book. I also likes Nicole Mones's Lost In Translation and, like you, haven't read A Cup of Light, although it is on my TBR shelf. She has a new one coming out about American Jazz musicians in China in the 1920s -- sounds like it will be really good.

    Rose City Reader

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