Wednesday, July 20, 2011


First things first.  I need recommendations for audio books for two young (late '20's) people who are driving across the country.  They will be leaving the Bay Area in a little over a week.  Anybody?

Because I know how interested you all are, last Saturday was the 6-month anniversary of my first blog.  Okay, enough on that scintillating topic.

I have a few book reviews, including some more new authors.  As long as I'm going to read them, then you might as well know about them too.

First, I read my first David Ignatius - Body of Lies.  I know they made it into a movie, which I never saw.  it had a Middle Eastern terrorist plot.  Even though I read many books that have this theme, this was very good.  I liked it a lot.  The protagonist is a young (early '30's) CIA diplomatic agent.  There was nothing formulaic about it at all.  I definitely recommend it.

Alice La Plante wrote her first novel.  She's written non-fiction and short stories but had never written a novel before.  Joni and I saw her.  We had a free Wednesday night a couple of weeks ago.  I got a notice from Keplers that she was appearing that evening.  I told Joni that I had never heard of her, and that there would probably be a half dozen people in attendance.  Hopefully, that will be the last time I let my ego (if I don't know who she is then nobody knows) guess how many people are coming to an event.  It turns out that Alice is a professor at Stanford and San Francisco State.  There were approximately 120 people there!  That's a lot, although Keplers has built a new event room in the back of the store (where children's books used to be) that can probably accommodate 200 comfortably.

In any case, the book is about a 64-year old woman who is suffering from the onset of dementia.  It's from her viewpoint and revolves around the murder of her best friend.  Did she do it?  She certainly doesn't remember if she did it or not.  The inspiration for the book was Alice's mother, who has  dementia.  It's a very well-written book.  I don't think it's necessarily for everybody (the mystery takes a back seat to the dementia story), but I would recommend it.  After I was already reading it, I saw that Time Magazine and USA Today both gave it high marks.

I also read my second George Pelecanos - The Way Home.  The Turnaround was better, but this was very good too.  And I would recommend it.

I read two of my old stand-bys:  David Rosenfelt - part of the Andy Carpenter series - and Alex Kava - another in the Maggie O'Dell series.  Rosenfelt's book was actually one of his better ones.  I always enjoy Andy Carpenter books, but this one was really well-written and had a particularly interesting story line.  As with all of them, it was funny as hell.

Kava's book was a disappointment.  I'm a big fan of her O'Dell (FBI profiler) books, but she didn't put enough effort into this one.  It was 288 pages, with big spaces between each line.  The intertwined story lines (2) were interesting, but she simply didn't have enough words to create the necessary depth (sez me).  This caused her to simplify the solutions and led to a very neat (too neat) wrap-up.  This is her second sub-par book in a row.  I can't swear I'm going to read the next one.  If I don't, I'm sure she'll be crushed.

BIG NEWS:  Joni got me Book Sage business cards that advertise this blog.  Now I can give every author I visit one of my cards.  I'm sure they will tingle with anticipation and spasm with excitement.

Upcoming Events:
Daniel Silva - 7/23 - Book Passage, Corte Madera, 7:00
Greg Hurwitz - 7/26 - Barnes & Noble, Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose, 7:00
George RR Martin (Game of Thrones) - 7/27 - Keplers (Fox Theater, Redwood City), 7:00
George Pelecanos - 9/8 - Save the date - more details to follow

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I wanted to do a short blog (yeah, right - no, really) about the independent bookstores that I know and frequent.

There are 3 that have the most author events:

Keplers - Menlo Park
M is for Mystery - San Mateo
Book Passage - Corte Madera (and SF)

So far this year, I have been to 4 author events at Book Passage (their Corte Madera store) and 3 each at Keplers and M.  They all do an excellent job and are loads of fun.  The only one that is very specific about which authors they will sponsor is M.  That's because their name has "mystery" in it.  They will only have mystery writers, and their store specializes in mystery, although you might find "literature" in there on occasion - not often, but once in awhile.  When the store has an author that will bring in a lot of people, then they might use a larger venue.  M has done that on a number of occasions, including Richard North Patterson and Jo Nesbo.  Book Passage used Domincan College in San Rafael for both Jodi Picoult and Abraham Verghese (Cutting for Stone).

Besides these 3, I have come across 2 other independent bookstores in the last couple of months, both in SF:

Browser Books

Booksmith has author events.  Joni and I saw Erik Larson there recently.  He was promoting his new book, In the Garden of Beasts.  Browser Books does not have author events, but it was there I "discovered" George Pelecanos.  That was definitely worth the browsing.

Books Inc. looks like an independent bookstore (see their location in Town and Country in Palo Alto), but, in fact, they have quite a few stores.  I will give them credit for creating the feel of an independent bookstore.  Their Palo Alto store has a bunch of index cards on the shelves touting various authors and giving a synopsis and a review.  That definitely makes it worthwhile to visit and leisurely walk through.
P.S.  Palo Alto does have author events. I haven't been to any yet.

Finally, there's the new/used bookstore in Campbell, Recyle Bookstore.  They have the latest books, which they sell at a discount, along with many used books that, oftentimes, sell for 50% off.  In addition to that, you can sell your books to them and then you get to use the money as credit toward buying more.  It's a pretty cool idea.

I know there are many other independent bookstores that I haven't been to.  Marsha frequents the Bookshop in Santa Cruz, for example.  If I come across any more, I will be sure to pass them along to you.