Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Healthcare Nightmare - Dr. Russell Andrews Tells All

Too Big to Succeed, Profiteering in American Medicine, by Russell J. Andrews, MD, DEd, is a true eye-opener.  We are all hearing about the healthcare crisis in our country, but usually those "scare tactics" are coming from consumer advocates, of one kind or another.  In this case, it's a well-established doctor, a long-standing neurosurgeon, somebody on the inside, that is pressing the panic button.  And I, for one, am taking notice.

Dr. Andrews paints a very disturbing, but convincing, picture of how healthcare in the U.S. is being driven by profits.  Profits for the hospitals, profits for the medical device companies, profits for the physicians, profits for the medical practices, and profits for the drug companies (perhaps the most notorious of the actors in this play/tragedy).

Here is the blurb on the inside cover of Dr. Andrews' book.  I think this says it all:

"Medicine in the United States is big business.  We spend 50 percent more on health care per capita than other developed countries, but a multitude of measures indicate that we are not getting healthcare value for our money.  Dr. Russell J. Andrews details why health care in America has become more expensive but less effective and outlines a new paradigm for healthcare delivery."

Dr. Andrews talks quite a bit about the Hippocratic Oath and how fewer and fewer individual and corporate members are adhering to it.  In fact, when talking about a company that provides on-line information about drug doses and interactions, in conjunction with infomercials from the drug companies, Dr. Andrews says:  "If Hippocrates's estate had a good lawyer, there might be a lawsuit..."  That certainly makes you think.

Too Big to Succeed is not an easy book to read, especially for someone like me, who is not in the medical profession.  There is a lot of medical information given, with a bunch of acronyms for medical organizations and a lot of statistics.  But it is definitely a worthwhile book to read.  Do you want to go behind the curtain and see what's really going on? Spend some time with this book.  I can't exactly say you will be glad you did.  But when is it ever fun to learn bad stuff about a profession and industry upon which we so greatly rely?  Definitely not here.  Read it anyway.

Friday, November 29, 2013


Have you ever been part of a book club where you actually get to meet the author?  Me neither, but that's what we're doing!

In the book club at Village House of Books (VHOB), all of the authors we read will appear at VHOB for a Q&A session immediately after we discuss the book.  That's right.  The VHOB Book Club will tie its selections to author visits to the bookstore.  Here are the details:

1.  The VHOB Book Club will meet once a month from 6:30 to 7:15 at Village House of Books in Los Gatos.
2.  The author of each book will visit VHOB right after our discussion for a Q&A session starting at 7:15.
3.  For those who want a little meet and greet, we will have a half-hour of wine and cheese beginning at 6:00.

How great does this sound?  What?  You say you want one more benefit to joining the VHOB Book Club?  Well, here it is:

4.  You'll have me there to pick the books and lead the discussions.  Why is that a benefit?  Because you will be able to push me around for my book selection, my questions asked, and just because.   How often does that opportunity arise?

If you are interested in belonging to this trend-setting venture, let me know.  You can email me at to tell me "Yes" (or "Heck Yes") or to get more details.  Our 1st meeting will be Tuesday, January 7, 2014.  Come one time, or come every time.  Just come.

P.S.  The day of the week and the date each month will vary depending on the availability of the author.  But once we get up and running, I will post a schedule for the 1st 6 months.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Behind the Scenes with Ann Patchett

Do you want to know what Ann Patchett thinks about her new book, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, and how she came to write it?  How about the inside scoop on her writing of Bel Canto?  Just click on the links below.  As you can see, there are 4 of them.  Pretty interesting insight into one of our best authors.

·         Video of Ann Patchett discussing This is the Story of a Happy Marriage
To embed: <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

·         Video of Ann Patchett reflecting on Bel Canto, her late editor, and what writers really want
To embed: <iframe width="560" height="315" src="//" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Jenn Castro's Visit to VHOB Last Saturday, November 16

This is a blog from Jenn Castro, who appeared at Village House of Books on November 16.

Reading to A Village

Jenn Castro | November 24, 2013 | COMMENTS:No Comments »
IMG_0327The reading hasn’t started. Curious about the audience, it spans from ages two to 65 or 70, I wonder how to reach them all. “Do you like to write?” I ask a seven-year old girl? “Here’s what it’s like in my two-boy club home,” I confide with another mom, comparing notes about her two energetic girls and my two sons.
Los Gatos, California’s Village House of Books, a cozy house-like bookshop of nook-sized rooms filled from floor to ceiling with books of all shapes and sizes, perfect for browsing and buying, invited me last Saturday, November 16, to read MOM*ME.
“I like telling stories, but I don’t like (and then the seven-year old mimes the motion of holding pencil and writing words on a pretend page).” I know what she means, cause my kids used to feel reticent about the mechanics of putting pen to paper.
“How long did it take to write the book?” another mom asks. “The ideas came in bits over time,” I tell her, wanting to convey an accessible project that can be completed, “…It took four years, but that’s cause I’m a mom.” The audience giggles. “Kids could create a book much faster,” I reassure, “All those moments I used to fritter away, are committed now to writing” Heads nod in understanding. “How long to publish it?” another audience member asks. “About nine months,” I explain. And then the reading, “My mommy is not a tissue…” I begin.
Visit Village House of Books. You won’t be disappointed. See you in April when I return for a second reading just before Mother’s Day. As for the seven year old, I got to sign her book, “Happy reading — and writing,” was my message!


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Editing and Copyediting from an Author's Viewpoint

I have posted blogs from Taylor Stevens before -
She writes insightful articles about the publishing industry.  This one is particularly important to me because it's about the editing vs. copyediting process.  And since I am working to become a legitimate copyeditor (originally, I thought  it was to become an editor), I thought I would share her distinction with you.  When I am ready to hang out my copyediting shingle, I will shout it from every mountaintop (and even from every valley).

Why this ad?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Author Schedule from Tomorrow, November 23, through December 31 (sorry I couldn't figure out how to transfer pictures of the book covers along with the descriptions!)

Store Hours: Tuesdays - Saturdays 10 to 6 & Sundays 9 to 2
(For December we’ll be open until 9pm on Thursdays)

Here is our author schedule at Village House of Books from tomorrow, November 23, through the end of December.  Come on down!

November 2013
Saturday November 23rd at 2pm:
My Mama’s Closet by Alice Rhea Mitchell

Little girls watch their mothers all of the time, and every mother has an intriguing boutique behind her closet door. Discover what a little girl finds behind this door through fun poetry and artful illustrations.
Friday November 29th from 2 to 4pm:
Manresa by David Kinch

The long-awaited cookbook by one of the San Francisco Bay Area's star chefs, David Kinch, who has revolutionized restaurant culture with his take on the farm-to-table ethic and focus on theterroirof the Northern California coast.
Saturday November 30th at 2pm:
Mission: Mars by Pascal Lee

“Pascal Lee is a true pioneer of Mars exploration. This book makes me want to put on a spacesuit and go to Mars!”
 —Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 11 Astronaut and author of Mission To Mars
Coming in December!
Thursday December 4th at 7pm:
Dancing Naked in Fuzzy Red Slippers by Carmen Rutlen

Reviewers found its “refreshing and raw views on the slices of life to be both fun and thought provoking”.
Saturday December 7th at 2pm:
Code Busters 1, 2, and 3 by Penny Warner

Penny Warner is an award-winning author of over sixty books, including the Dead Body Language mystery series (Macavity winner). The Code Busters Club, won the Agatha Award for Best Children's Mystery.
Wednesday December 11th at 7pm:
Share by Lauri Pastrone

Share is a collection of 100 recipes from chefs, actors, political leaders and human rights advocates around the globe. Its flavorful recipes for the family are all easy to prepare and highly nutritious, using fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients. 100% of the profits go to Women for Women International. December 14th from 12 to 2pm:
JZ Bingham, author of the Salty Splashes series

Winner of Mom's Choice Awards Honoring Excellence in Family-Friendly Media (Sept. 2013)

Saturday December 14th at 2pm:
Wyndano’s Cloak by A.R. Silverberry

Jen has settled into a peaceful life when a terrifying event awakens old fears—of being homeless and alone, of a danger horrible enough to destroy her family and shatter her world. Wyndano's Cloak may be Jen's only hope. If she can only trust that she has what it takes to use it . . .
The Tails of Brinkley the Berner: Book One: The Beginning
Sunday December 15th at 2pm:
The Tails of Brinkley the Berner by Laura Johnson

There are good "life lessons" about friendship and kindness. At the end of the story, I wanted to hug Brinkley -- Pamela Quinn, Retired Elementary Teacher

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mitch Albom at Kepler's - What A GREAT Author Event

I have been to hundreds of author events.  I might even be closing in on a thousand. Last night's event at Kepler's with Mitch Albom is among my top 2 all-time (with the other being Ken Follett, a literary god).  In fact, it is the only time I have ever been tempted to give an author a standing ovation.  I'm sorry I didn't do it.  I felt it but chickened out.  Even though I would have been the only one standing, I still regret not doing it.  Having said all of that (in my usual long-winded way), it was truly inspirational.  He was funny and poignant in equal outstanding measures.  Sometimes I laughed until I cried - and other times I just cried.  Let me give you some details.

First of all, his latest book, the first phone call from heaven, came out last Tuesday, November 12.  Several hours before Mitch appeared at Kepler's, he found out that it hit #1 in the NY Times in its 1st week!  How cool is that?

Then he told a story about coming to Facebook in the afternoon.  He said that he was in the bathroom, and there was writing above each urinal.  He thought that was fun.  He figured it would be some kind of cute or meaningful saying.  Uh, no.  It was actually a quiz about code.  Mitch said that it was the 1st time he had ever felt like a failure at a urinal. Now, I know that sometimes you just have to be there.  But, c'mon, that is funny.

Then he told a number of stories about a band he's in with Stephen King, Ridley Pearson, Dave Barry, and Amy Tan, among others.  Each one was funnier than the last, but the best was about playing with Bruce Springsteen for 5 minutes.  He said that the band thought they were being especially appreciated for their playing only to discover that Bruce had snuck up on stage, and the couple of hundred people quietly watching Mitch's band, the Rock Bottom Remainders, quickly became a rabid 1000.  Good stuff.

Then he got down to business.  He told us about his history with Morrie Schwartz, the namesake for Tuesdays with Morrie, and that he only wrote the book to help pay for Morrie's medical expenses (Morrie's son, Jonathan, was in the audience last night).  He said that he sent the manuscript to his good friend, Amy Tan, to see if it was any good, since this was his 1st book (he is a many-times-over award-winning sports journalist). She loved it.  So he pushed it and got rejected a bunch of times before Doubleday agreed to publish it.

He told many stories about Morrie, but the best one was right near the end of Morrie's life.  Morrie said he had one request of Mitch - that Mitch come to the cemetery, bring a blanket and sandwiches, and stay awhile.  And he wanted Mitch to talk to him.  When Mitch questioned that, Morrie said:  "You'll talk. I'll listen," which was a reversal from their normal routine.

His second book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, took 6 years to write and was inspired by his Uncle Eddie, the main character in the book.  This time, he had trouble getting it published because it wasn't non-fiction.  Mitch felt that he couldn't follow up Tuesdays with Morrie with another non-fiction.  Finally, a publisher agreed.  But Mitch had one condition for the publisher.  The one employee in the presentation who had burst out crying had to be his editor.  She ended up editing 4 of his books.

I can go on and on.  But I'll end this with one more anecdote.  In his latest book, he tells quite a bit of the history about Alexander Graham Bell and his rival, Elisha Gray. Somebody in the audience asked him how that all happened.  He said he just wanted to give a little bit of history, and that part of the story grew.  He said:  "It's like getting shot in the ass with an arrow.  You don't care where it came from."

I think that quote says it all.  Bravo, Mitch.  You gave this blogger one memorable night.

Monday, November 18, 2013

4 Great Author Events in the Next 2 Weeks at VHOB

Get ready for 4 outstanding authors who are making their way to Village House of Books this week and next.  We'll do them in order:

#1 - Thursday, November 21, Katie Hafner, Mother Daughter Me.  As many of you know by now, I loved this book.  I just finished it Saturday and had to write a review immediately.  I have seen Katie read from her book and talk about her experiences living with her mother and daughter back in 2009.  It's a fascinating story, and the book makes you want to give Katie a hug.

#2 - Saturday, November 23, Alice Rhea Mitchell, My Mama's Closet.  I haven't read it yet, but 4 reviewers on Amazon each gave it a 5/5.  It talks about a young girl who goes into her mother's closet and finds clothes hiding there for her.  It's a 40-page narrative poem.  Sounds very cool, no?

#3 - Friday, November 29 (Black Friday), David Kinch, An Edible Reflection.  All of us locals (and many of us nationals, too) know that David is the chef-owner of Manresa (conveniently located immediately next door to VHOB).  He will be at VHOB from 2-4 signing his new cookbook.  We have many luminaries that live in our town and the greater Bay Area.  David is certainly one of them.

#4 - Saturday, November 30, Pascal Lee, Mission to Mars.  This is ostensibly a children's author because he has written a children's book about travel to Mars.  But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Pascal will most definitely appeal to adults.  Here is a very brief bio (the actual bio is way longer):

Pascal Lee is co-founder and chairman of the Mars Institute, a planetary scientist at theSETI Institute, and the Principal Investigator of the Haughton-Mars Project (HMP) at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.

Are you totally intrigued by now?

Okay, people, let's get those butts in the seats.  These are authors you will want to experience.  I hope to see you at some/all of these events over next 2 weeks.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Did You Like The Glass Castle? Then You're Going to Love Katie Hafner's Mother Daughter Me

I've read my fair share of very good books lately.  Just since September 1, I've had 3-3.5's and 1-4.0.  But those were all novels.  I think it's much harder to write good non-fiction. With a novel, you can lose yourself in the characters (if it's done well) or, at least, enjoy the story (if it's not done so well).  With non-fiction, you are actually living a real person's life.  If you don't care, the book is going to be a dud.  Well, folks, Katie Hafner's Mother Daughter Me is no dud.  I was mesmerized by Katie's story that goes back and forth between her own childhood/adolescence/young adulthood/motherhood and her current (2009/2010) efforts to have her 77-year old mother live with her and her 16-year old daughter.  We all know that I'm a bit of a crybaby, but this book is poignant in a whole bunch of places.  Even you macho men out there might shed a tear or three.  It's that good.

Katie's childhood was rough.  It's a small spoiler alert to tell you that her mother was an alcoholic and left a very young Katie, along with her older sister Sarah, to fend for themselves frequently while she was holed up in her room after excessive alcohol consumption.  The girls sometimes had to take care of themselves for several days at a time.  It's a smaller spoiler alert to tell you that when Katie's mother came to live with her and her daughter, there were many unresolved issues between Katie and her mother. The less-than-a-year experiment with all 3 in the same house may not have been everything Katie hoped it would be, but it did have some far-reaching benefits. You're just going to have to read it to find out more.  Trust me on this one.  I didn't give it a 4, but I am giving it a solid 3.5.

Besides the amazing story itself, Katie is one fine writer.  I want to give you a few examples of her excellent writing.

I love this one.  Katie is talking about her 16-year old, Zoe, and her cell phone.  She called it "a teenager's Binky."

Katie's mother used to have a lot of men in their house (Katie's mom and dad divorced when the girls were young).  Her mom would casually say that there is a "man in my bedroom."  Katie compared it to Richard Nixon, saying that he lost his presidency because of "some fellows in an office building."

Another time, when her mother was still living with Katie and Zoe, Katie got a bad case of the flu and was really sick all night.  She got an offer of a house visit from a good doctor friend, and she also had a boyfriend at the time.  Katie said:  "Besides, I don't want Carolyn.  And I don't want Bob.  I want my mother."

Very late in the book, Katie is describing emotional pain.  She says:  "I once heard that the way we let in emotional pain is like the eye's response to light.  When the brightness is too intense, the iris - the circular ring of muscle that surrounds the pupil - contracts to protect the eye.  Then the iris muscle starts to relax, and as it does the pupil gradually opens, letting in a little more light at a time, until the iris stops constricting altogether.  This is when we see our world for what it is."

Katie paints very vivid pictures.  She not only tells a true story that will grab you (I was grabbed even during the prologue), she also writes very well.  And, on top of that, I didn't see any spelling or grammatical errors.  I love that!

People, you may think I'm raving about the book because I saw Katie a few months ago at a book signing at the Larkspur library.  Or because she will be appearing at Village House of Books this coming Thursday, November 21, at 7:00.  But, no.  This is a book to add to your TBR pile.  In fact, push it up there to the top of the heap.  You'll thank me that you did.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Amazon's 2013 Books of the Year

The top 3 books of the year for Amazon are:

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt
And the Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini
Thank You for Your Service - David Finkel

And now by categories:

Literature & Fiction - Life After Life - Kate Atkinson (I read this and don't agree)
Non-Fiction - Pilgrim's Wilderness:  A True Story of Faith and Madness in the Alaska
     Frontier - Tom Kizzia
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense - The English Girl - Daniel Silva (I read this and heartily
Romance - Whiskey Beach - Nora Roberts
Children's Book - The Day the Crayons Quit - Drew Daywalt/Oliver Jeffers
Teen & YA - Allegiant - Veronica Roth
Biography & Memoirs - A House in the Sky - Amanda Lindhout/Sara Corbett
Cookbooks & Food Writing - Anything That Moves:  Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters -
     The Making of a New American Food Culture - Dana Goodyear
Sci Fi & Fantasy - The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman
Comics & Graphic Novels - Marble Season - Gilbert Hernandez
Humor & Entertainment - The Wes Anderson Collection
Crafts, Home & Garden - Woodland Knits
Business & Investing - Who Owns the Future? - Jaron Lanier
History - One Summer, America 1927 - Bill Bryson
Poetry - Incarnadine - Mary Szybist
Short Stories - Bobcat and Other Stories - Rebecca Lee
Digital Singles - Guns - Stephen King
Audiobooks - Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls - David Sedaris
Arts & Photography - Humans of New York - Brandon Stanton
Science - Gulp - Mary Roach

There they are.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wally Lamb In Person - A Real Treat

2 nights ago, Joni and I went to Book Passage, in Corte Madera, to see Wally Lamb.   He's on a 40-city book tour for his latest, We Are Water.  And as the subject line indicates, he was a real treat.  He's engaging, humble, and, as he told me later, thrilled to be out among his readers.  He said that writing is such a lonely profession, he relishes the connections he makes with his audience when he's on tour.

We Are Water is his 5th novel.  Everybody knows his 1st novel, She's Come Undone, and his 2nd novel,  I Know This Much Is True.  You may also remember that both of these novels became selections for Oprah's Book Club.  In fact, Oprah called Wally in 1992, when She's Come Undone came out, and told him how much she liked it (when she identified herself, he thought somebody was pulling his leg). And, then, 5 years later, when she started her book club, She's Come Undone was one of her early selections.

Here's an interesting story that Wally (my new best friend) told us.  He said that after his 1st 2 books were so successful, he developed a bad case of writer's block.  He was completely afraid that he wouldn't be able to write a book comparable to his 1st 2.  He couldn't come up with a story line for a 3rd book for a whole year.  Then, one day, while he was visiting in New Orleans, he stopped at Saint Louis Cathedral and literally knelt down and asked for help.  He was writing his next book within a week's time.  Since then, he has had numerous trips to New Orleans to visit his 2 sons, who were there for extended periods of time.  Never once has he failed to go into Saint Louis Cathedral and say a thank you.  It just goes to show you that inspiration can come from a variety of spiritual and feet-on-the-ground sources (I think his story is very cool - and I'm Jewish!).

Wally wrote We Are Water based loosely on a couple of real-life incidents from his home state of Connecticut.  One is a flood that happened in 1963, and the other comes from a real-life black artist, Ellis Ruley, who married a caucasian woman in the days when that just wasn't done (late '40's-early '50's).  He died in 1959 under strange circumstances.  It was ruled an accidental death but could well have been murder.

He gave us a couple of anecdotes about the book.  It seems that Dr. Laura is a central character in one of the scenes.  When he asked the legal department about using her name, he was told that it was "probably" okay, and that there "probably" wouldn't be a lawsuit started.  He also told us that his publisher, HarperCollins, hired 7 different voice actors for the audiobook.  The 8th voice is his.  He seemed pretty excited about being one of those 8.

For the last 14 years, he has been helping incarcerated women publish their stories.  This guy is a real mensch - and a pretty fair author to boot.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Authors at VHOB This Week

Here are the 2 authors we have at VHOB this week.  Ellen is Thursday, November 14, at 7:00, and Jenn is Saturday, November 16, at 2:00.  

Ellen Kirschman is a real life police psychologist and the author of two books: I Love a Cop: What Police Families Need to Know; I Love a Fire Fighter: What the Family Needs to Know, and co-author of  Counseling Cops: What Clinicians Need to Know. She is the recipient of the American Psychological Association's division 18 award for Outstanding Contributions to Police and Public Safety Psychology. Burying Ben: A Dot Meyerhoff Mystery is her debut novel. Before it was published, it was awarded first prize for the best not-yet-in-print novel by the Public Safety Writers Association.