Monday, November 28, 2011


When I went to Barnes & Noble and met Jasmine Haynes, who wrote Past Midnight, I also met Adina Senft.  I think she was pretty darn brave to share a rostrum (okay, it was a cafeteria-like table).  I mean, after all, one book is about a married couple having a lot of graphic sex, and the other is about a young widowed Amish woman with two pre-teen boys.  Come on - a mismatch, no?  Actually, no.  Adina has written a very good book with characters that I cared for very much.  It's the first in a trilogy, and I fully intend to read the next two.  I believe the second one comes out next Spring and the third sometime in 2013.  If that's wrong, I'll get it corrected and let everybody know (my wife claims that my memory is shot - I like to say that I have selective memory - only, I'm not making the selections!).

The story is about Amelia.  Her husband, whom she loved very much, and who sounds like he was a great guy, has died in a buggy accident less than a year before.  He was hit by a drunken driver (car, not buggy).  She's coping with running his business, which is set up in town among the non-Amish, building pallets.  She also has to take care of her two young sons, who are 8 and 6.  Her only real pleasure is meeting every Tuesday afternoon and knitting a quilt with her two best friends.  Living in an Amish community, she certainly has the support of her large family.  But it's still a real tough go.

On top of all this, she begins to experience symptoms of what could be a very serious, debilitating illness.  This underlies the other story lines.  There's a lot going on in this book:  Business, Parenting, Friendship, Illness, and maybe, just maybe, some romance.  There are also some interesting interactions in the Amish community with the clergy.  I not only enjoyed the book, but I also learned a lot (I believe that I am about as far away from being Amish as a person can be).  How cool is that?

Adina has also done a great job setting up the next two books.  They will feature Amelia's two closest friends.  One of them has no husband and at the ripe old age of 30ish is considered an old maid.  The other is married but can't conceive.  Neither of these situations goes over well in the Amish community.  I am looking forward to reading how these two friends cope with their lots in life and hope that things turn out okay for them both.

Adina, great job.  Keep it up.

Friday, November 25, 2011


First of all, if you don't know what a mensch is, look it up.  It's a very cool word.

Brad Taylor's first novel (the second one, with the same protagonist, is coming out January 17), One Rough Man, is a very good special forces-inspired book.  Pike Logan (how great a name is that?) works for Taskforce, which is a military unit that goes beyond the Seals, Delta Force, etc.  Taskforce is given assignments that usually take as long as a year to complete.  The end result is that a bad guy bites the dust.  This organization is so secret, that there is no government record of its existence.  I know, I know.  So far, it sounds fairly mundane and ho hum.  But there is quite a twist to it.  Pike loses his wife and daughter to an act of violence.  8 months later, he's basically removed himself from society and is still wallowing (understandably!) in self-pity.  He is brought back to the real world by a young woman, Jennifer Cahill, in her '20's (he, himself, is only in his '30's) whose uncle has been looking for a Mayan temple in South America.  There is a terrorist plot that these 2 unlikely partners have to stop.  The combination of Pike's tragedy, Jennifer's uncle's quest, and a globe-trotting chase, with a hugely dangerous terrorist plot on American soil as the backdrop, lends itself to a very exciting book.  Brad is a good storyteller.

Brad's own background includes a couple of decades of being in special forces.  He seems to know what he's talking about, although my own military experience of 6 years in the Army Reserve would not help me understand whether he's legit or not.  I just assume he is.  I assure you that I learned nothing about Special forces, or even the military, from my 6 years.  In fact, all I remember is that I deliberately flunked a dental lab exam so that I wouldn't have to spend extra weeks on active duty (in the late '60's, early '70's).  Every time they asked to have the plaster of paris squared off, I rounded it.  When they asked for 1 1/8" long, I made it 3".  It worked.  I only had one extra week before I went back to my regular training as a medic (my mother-in-law was so proud - her son-in-law, the medic).

Now you may wonder why I called Brad a mensch.  Well I'm going to tell you.  After my buddy Jack gave me the book, I read about 150 pages and was really enjoying it.  So, kiss-up that I am, I emailed Brad, gave him my book blog background, told him how many books a year I read (I know, this is gag-worthy), and asked if he was doing a Northern California tour.  He answered within 2 hours to comment on my comments and to explain that he's not doing a Northern California tour with book #2.  Hopefully, we'll see him for book #3.

Now if that had been the extent of it, I would have been pretty pleased.  As it turns out, it was only the beginning.  When I finished the book, I emailed him again (my new best friend, Brad) and told him how much I enjoyed the book.  I also asked him about 1 plot point that I was confused about.  I said that it was very likely me and not him, but did he mind explaining it to me.  Okay, here's the mensch-y part.  He emailed back (again, within 2 hours) and gave me a detailed explanation that cleared it up for me.  After seeing his answer, more than ever I saw it was my reading and not his writing that was the problem.  In several more email exchanges, he wouldn't let me take the blame - ergo, a mensch.  I write to quite a few authors for one reason or another (remember I said I'm a kiss-up?).  Many will respond, but only 1 other author, John Lescroart, actually took pains to get me the answers that I was looking for.

Brad, you have found a lifelong, loyal, book-recommending fan in me.  Can't wait for book #2.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


So, a couple of weeks ago, I stopped in at Barnes & Noble in the Pruneyard.  Right near the entrance were two female authors promoting their new books.  The last time this happened, I ended up buying a fantasy for young (female) adults called Wyndham's Cloak - and loved it.  I had pretty much made up my mind that any time I come across an author at B&N, I was going to buy, and read, their book.  It's an easy way to try new authors.

I got to talking to them, gave them my Book Sage business card, and bought each of their new books.  One author, Adina Senft, wrote a book about an Amish widow with two children.  I have just started that one.  The other author, Jasmine Haynes, writes in a genre that I had never heard of before, called Erotic Romance.  I assumed that it meant cheesy romances with more explicit sex.  Boy was I wrong.  Yes, there is definitely explicit sex, but it's so much more than that.  This is not a book with Fabio on the cover.

A husband and wife, both around 40, have had an unspeakable tragedy in their lives.  A year later, they are still trying to cope with it.  Erin has completely shut down emotionally.  The way she handles it is to have sex with Dominic late at night (hence the title).  There is no talking, no cuddling, just sex.  It helps her forget for a short while.  Dominic spends much of his time trying to get her to open up to him while still dealing with the tragedy himself.  His way of doing it is by creating sexual situations that are designed to cater to Erin's fantasies.  He doesn't know any other way of getting through to her.  As the story progresses, and Erin and Dominic engage in sexual activities that most of us would never consider, you feel as if the situations make sense for them.

Here's what completely surprised me.  I didn't expect the explicit sex to be between husband and wife, let alone a couple that is grieving and trying to come back from the abyss.  This is a love story.  This is about a husband who wants to get his wife back.  The book is powerful.  You root for them to figure out a way to reconnect.  Along with the main theme of the book is a sub-plot regarding the high tech company they own and a possible leak among their employees.  Even this part of the story resonates.

WARNING/SPOILER ALERT:  If you can't read a book in which a young child dies or in which there is VERY explicit sex, then stay away.  If you can deal with these issues (one is easier to deal with than the other!), then I highly recommend Past Midnight.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  I have been with my wife now for over 45 years.  She is the most beautiful, smartest, talented person that I know.  And, yet, I feel that I have not spent enough time showing her how great I think she is.  Jasmine Haynes' book has made me more aware of letting my wife know what I feel.  For that, I say a personal "Thank you."

Sunday, November 13, 2011


This post has nothing fancy to tell you.  There are no inane ramblings or off-the-wall, extremely tangential, subjects to discuss.  This is just about 3 reviews.

First, Barry Eisler's new John Rain saga, The Detachment.  This is his first Rain book in awhile.  He actually started his novelist career with a series of Rain books and then went to standalones.  He's a local Peninsula boy who once worked for the CIA.  I like him a lot.  John Rain is a half-Japanese, half-American assassin.  The twist is that his killings are done to make it look like the victim died of natural causes.  He looks Japanese and has done most of his work in Japan, but, this time, he's in the US.  He's very much a loner and hates to depend on/work with anyone else.  He does have one buddy, a Marine sniper named Dox.  In this book, he is contacted by an old Army colonel he knows who wants 3, very high-profile, politicos assassinated because they are planning an overthrow of the US government.  Of course, nothing is ever as it seems, but it's fun getting to where it goes.  Rain even has to bring 2 other "experts" into the mix, something he is particularly loath to do.  This was definitely one of his better Rain books in particular and one of his better books period.

The second review is Tatiana de Rosnay's Sarah's Key.  This is a book that every book club already knows about.  It's a WWII book about the Vel d'Hiv round-up of Jews in France.  It focuses on one pre-teen Jewish girl from that time period and one modern day American journalist who lives in Paris.  I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that the journalist becomes obsessed with finding out everything she can about this girl and her family - both then and now.  It's very good.  I would recommend it.

The third, and final, review is David Baldacci's new book, Zero Day.  I got to tell you, this was really good.  He's typically a little bit hit and miss (his King and Maxwell series is pretty weak), but hits it right this time.  For those of you who read Lee Child (and there are many of you), Baldacci's John Puller reminds me of Jack Reacher.  He's tall, extremely lethal, and a man of few words.  In this particular story, Puller, who is an army man in the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), goes to a small coal-mining town in West Virginia to investigate the murder of an army colonel and his family.  What he finds there is a whole bunch more than just murder.  This is Camel Club good, maybe even a little bit better (sacre bleu!)

That's it.  Next time, I will be reviewing a book from a whole new genre for me.  I know you can hardly wait.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


My new favorite bookstore is - Recycle Books in Campbell (also in San Jose).  This is, primarily, a used bookstore (hence, "recycle").  They will buy new books if there is a great demand, and they sell those with a little bit of a discount.  But if you want used books at a good price, this is the place to go.  They keep the inventory large (with all genres represented) by buying books from the public.  They will take most paperbacks as long as they don't have too many of that book already in stock and as long as the book is in decent shape.  They will only take hardcovers if the paperback version hasn't hit the stores yet.  There are exceptions to this rule - e.g. George RR Martin's Game of Thrones series and Stieg Larsson's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.

When they buy your books, they give you an option of taking cash or store credit.  You will get more money for store credit.  When I decided to get rid of my several hundred books a few months ago (with all of the ereaders, there isn't anybody left to loan books to), I went to them first.  I ended up with about $160 in store credit.  The rest I took to the public library.  Now, when I finish a book, even if I've gotten it from Recycle, I go to them first to see if they'll buy it.  They take most of them.

As for price, you typically pay half of the published price.  If you can get one of the hardcover best sellers there, you can pay $12-$14.  That sure beats the $24-$28 that most of them cost retail.  Even the more expensive paperbacks are only $6-$8 instead of $12-$16.  It makes quite a difference in the wallet.  The nice thing about buying the latest books at Recycle is that they usually look new.  They might have been read only once before they were unloaded.  If you're buying mass market paperbacks, then you will pay only $3-$4.  That's another heckuva deal.

I have bought a ton of books from Barnes & Noble and Borders through the years.  If I was lucky, I got a 40% discount off the cover price.  Most of the time, it was 20%-30%.  That's still going to cost me a little over or a little under $20 for a hardcover.  At Recycle, I won't have to pay more than $13 or $14.  That's kind of a no-brainer.

If you don't like to buy or read books that someone else has already handled, then ignore Recycle.  It's not for you.  But, on the other hand, if you're looking to save those hard-earned dollars, then give Recycle a try.  I don't think you will be disappointed.