Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A New John Hart! - And A Contest

Great news!  I have told you all how much I like John Hart's books.  The 1st 2 I read - The King of Lies and Down River - were solid.  I liked them a lot and rated them 3/4.  Then I read his next 2 - The Last Child and Iron House - and thought they were completely terrific - 4/4.  In fact, I always have the 2-4.0s on my recommendation table on Sunday mornings - usually in the front row.

They are the 5th and 6th ones from left to right

Well, this past Sunday, one of my regular "customers" came by and wondered out loud when John would come out with his next book (his last one was published in 2011).  So, I went on John's website and emailed him that question.  Here's the answer I got back:

Hi Lloyd. Many thanks! My new book is called REDEMPTION ROAD and will be out next May. Cheers. John

How great is that?  I will, of course, remind you as the date gets closer.  And I will also let you know about any Bay Area appearances.  I've never seen him and hope that he gets out here next Spring.  IN THE MEANTIME, if you haven't at least read The Last Child and Iron House, you need to do that before next May.  If you do, you will be among the 1st to buy Redemption Road.  Trust me on this.

Now for the contest:  Esquire has come out with The 80 Best Books Every Man Should Read.  If you want to participate, email me at lloydrrussell@gmail.com with the names and number of books you've read from the list.  The winner will get to pick the book he/she wants (yes, women are eligible!).


Good luck.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lawyer Up - Kate Allure's #2

Back on December 15, I posted a review of a book called Playing Doctor, by Kate Allure.  I liked it.  It was 3 light erotic romances, each featuring a doctor.  Now Kate has another one. It's called Lawyer Up, and it's 3 stories again, this time, not surprisingly, with lawyers. Much of what I said the 1st time applies to this one too:

1.  I like the length of the stories - they range from 55 to 110 pages.
2.  I like the fact that each book relates to a specific profession.
3.  I like that the women and men in these stories are equals.

But there's one big difference in this book.  And that is story #3.  I enjoyed the 3 stories of Playing Doctor and the 1st 2 stories of Lawyer Up equally well.  But the 3rd story of Lawyer Up is the 1st one that features people a little bit older.  Patricia is 44 and a lawyer.  And Emmit is 54 and a judge.  I guess the fact that they are closer in age to me (although still considerably younger!) allowed me to connect a little bit easier.  But besides the age connection, or perhaps because of the age connection, I found myself laughing and smiling a bunch.  Coincidence?  Beats me.

But, most importantly, I like the stories, and I like the writing.  And even though I'm certainly not philosophically and intellectually opposed to a little physical romance(!), the stories do stand on their own merits.  Bottom line?  I recommend both books.  Playing Doctor is already available, and Lawyer Up will be purchase-able August 4.  Have fun, people.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A New Author for Me - And A New Rating - 4.0+

Wow!  I haven’t read a book this good in a long time.  In fact, this is so good that I can’t give it a 4.0.  Does this sound familiar?  Do you remember that I said the same thing when I finished The Language of Flowers?  Well, Goodnight June, by Sarah Jio, isn’t a 4.5 or a 4.25.  But it’s not a 4.0 either.  I won't insult you with a 4.125.  So let’s just call it a 4.0+.  And be watching for a new list of 4.0+s coming soon to your local blog.

I really liked everything about this book, from the 1st sentence of page 1 - and every sentence and page thereafter.  I won't even go to Goodreads for a recap.  I’ll do it myself:  June Anderson grew up in Seattle and had a pretty rough childhood.  She got through it because of her younger sister (by 4 years), Amy, and her great-aunt, Ruby.  Her mom was a disaster, and her father was never in the picture.  And, most importantly, she spent a lot of her time in Ruby’s children’s bookstore, Bluebird Books.  But despite her connection to Ruby and the bookstore, June bailed 1st chance she got.  And she ended up in downtown New York, working for a bank as a 35-year old VP, a rising star.  Her specialty?  Foreclosing on small businesses, like Bluebird Books, and putting independent business owners out of business.  Then one day she gets back to her apartment (which she owns), goes through her mail, and discovers that Ruby has passed away and left her bookstore and assets to June.  It had been so long since she had been in touch with her great-aunt that she didn’t even know she was sick.  June has no choice but to tell her very demanding boss that she needs to go to Seattle and settle her great-aunt’s affairs.  Her intention is to sell the bookstore and the assets and get back to NY as soon as she can. Needless to say, it doesn't quite work out that way.

You know how sometimes I’ll list the things that I like about a book?  Well, this time I’m going to list what I REALLY like about this book.  Because I truly did REALLY like everything about it.  Here I go (please bear with me because there is a bunch of stuff):

  1. I REALLY like a story about books and bookstores - automatically.
  2. I REALLY like the multiple romances - they all ring true.
  3. I REALLY like the fictionalization of the story of how Goodnight Moon (get it? -  Goodnight June?) got written.   
  4. I REALLY like the made-up letters between Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown (author of Goodnight Moon).
  5. I REALLY like having a bunch of well-known authors inserted into the story.
  6. I REALLY like the emotional connection I had with just about all of the characters and most of the one-on-ones (e.g. June with her friend Peter; June with Ruby; June with potential love interest Gavin; June with her sister Amy; June with Gavin's ex Adrianna; even June with her bank boss Arthur; and, of course, Ruby with  Anthony).
  7. I REALLY like all of the tears I shed, the chills I got, the big smiles I smiled.
  8. I REALLY like the reference to The Princess Bride and James and the Giant Peach, among others of my favorites in pop and literary culture.
  9. I REALLY like that the Author's Note that tells us about Margaret Wise Brown and Goodnight Moon comes right at the beginning of the book.
  10. I REALLY like that the author makes me want to learn more about Margaret Wise Brown.
I’m stopping at 10.  But let me mention a few more things:

  1. This book reminds me of Beth Hoffman’s books - Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and Looking for Me.  And you know how much I like those two.
  2. I want to thank my Goodreads friend, Melissa, for making me read this.  She practically insisted.
  3. I had another takeaway, similar to the one I just got from Breathless in Love.  This one is:  Keep in touch with your loved ones - both family and friends.  If you don’t, events can occur which will make you sorry you didn’t.
I’m going to stop now.  Have I exhausted everything I have to say?  Nope. But I don’t want you to see the length of this sucker and decide it's too long to read.  Whether you read this blog or not, though, please read the book.  You might not pay public homage to me.  But privately you will be singing my praises.  I think it’s that good.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Mini-Review

I told you that I would (eventually) have some reviews.  Here's the 1st one of several.  It's A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki.  Why would I read this, you wonder?  Well, to tell you the truth, it's because it's the Los Gatos Library Evening Book Club selection for July. Did I like it?  Kinda.  I think maybe a 2.75/4.  I didn't make any real emotional connection with any of the characters (except for great-grandma Jiko), but I still liked it.

You want to know what it's about?  Our good friends at Goodreads will tell you:

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future. 

I don't have much to add.  I thought it was extremely well-written.  But, despite that, it still took me about 140 pages before I was engaged in the story.  And 263 pages later, I obviously cared enough to read the whole thing (true even if I didn't have a book club meeting coming up), but not enough to register much in the way of comments.  And, yet, Goodreads has a collective rating of 3.95/5 and Amazon 4/5.  Alas, I guess it's just me again (but enough of the self-pity - it's fake anyway).


RECYCLE BOOK CLUB:  This past Tuesday night, we had A.R. Silverberry (Peter Adler) at Recycle Books.  He was our July author for the RBC.  His book, Wyndano's Cloak, a YA fantasy, was very well-received.  Almost every member who had read it liked it.  (Our August author/book is Steve Sporleder/From Sleepy Lagoon to the Corner of the Cats.)

NEW BOOK:  Also this past Tuesday, local author, Bryan Kramer, had his 2nd book hit the market.  It's called Shareology: How Sharing Is Powering the Human Economy.  Bryan is nationally known as a social media guru, and he lives right here in San Jose!  Be looking for upcoming events surrounding his latest.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Sunday morning, the RBC, and a Book Giveaway

So, first of all, I was back at my post in front of Recycle Books yesterday during the Farmers Market. It's the 1st Sunday I've been there in 5 weeks!  Are you kidding me?  I don't think I've ever gone that long without manning the book recommending table.  Well, let me tell you this - it was like coming home.  When I went to my shelves to get my books, I got a big smile on my face.  These books are my buddies.  Strange, you say?  I can't argue with you.

Next, just a reminder that Tuesday night, July 14, is our next RBC meeting.  A.R. Silverberry, author of Wyndano's Cloak, will be coming to run the gauntlet...I mean, answer our club members' questions.  Remember, we meet from 6:30-7:00 to discuss/rate the book.  Then the author comes at 7:00 and stays till about 8:00 or 8:15.  Remember that you don't have to read the book in order to come meet the author.

Finally, we've got a book giveaway.  It's interesting how this developed.  Ann Bridges suggested that another author, Dick Yaeger, contact me.  Through a series of events, Dick ended up with a bunch of free books from the noted author, Steven Pressfield.  So I took 10 books.  Here they are with the number of each that I got:

Solitary by Giora Romm (2) - non-fiction story of "The Crash, Captivity and Comeback of an Ace Fighter Pilot"
Left of Bang by Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley (2) - "A Comprehensive and no-nonsense approach to heightening each and every one of our gifts of fear"
Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield (2) - "Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work"
The Authentic Swing by Steven Pressfield (2) - "Notes from the Writing of a First Novel"
The Warrior Ethos by Steven Pressfield (2) - "Writing about War"

If you want one or more, let me know.  If you are local, I will make arrangements to get it/them to you.  If you are out of the area, I will even mail it/them to you.  Let me know.

MEA CULPA:  Remember how I PROMISED a review in my next blog?  I lied.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Amazon Has Opened Mouth & Inserted Foot

Recently, Amazon has come out with a policy that is creating tons of outcry.  They are refusing to post reviews of books written by people who happen to know the author!  Are you kidding me?  How do they even know that the reviewer knows the author?  And are they close friends?  Or have they just met the author?  Here is Jas Ward's story:

Jas Ward, an author who has self-published five books in the Kindle store, is challenging Amazon with a Change.org petition after one of her readers was unable to post a review of her book on the site. The petition, which has already garnered more than 11,000 signatures is calling on Amazon to change its policy.
The issue began when reader Imy Santiago, who is also a self-published author, tried to post a positive review of Ward’s book on Amazon but was rejected. After multiple attempts of trying to figure out the problem, Amazon told Santiago that they couldn’t post the review, “because your account activity indicates that you know the author.”
“I have interacted with a couple hundred authors over the past year; from events to signings, authors and writers rub elbows during networking sessions. This does NOT mean I know you personally,” she complained on her blog.
“Your current process of removing reviews that a reader has created to show their honest & sincere opinion on a book is not fair and cripples the review process more than assists,” reads the petition.

Activists are asking people to sign a petition, protesting Amazon's actions.  They are looking for 15,000 signatures and currently have a little under 12,000.  Here is the link:


On a happier note, Taylor Stevens is the author of 5 books in the Michael Munro series.  The latest, The Mask, has just come out.  In fact, I have written about Taylor many times through the years - from an interview to her blog subjects to reviews of her books.  These are the dates that I either devoted a full blog, or at least a partial one, to Taylor - 3/25/11, 7/14/13, 8/8/13, 9/3/13, 10/7/13, and 1/13/14.  Why am I telling you this?  Because I strongly urge you to go on her website - taylorstevensbooks.com - click on "contact," and sign up for her blog. You will easily and painlessly learn all kinds of stuff about the publishing industry.  Really fascinating for us bibliophiles.

My next post will definitely be a review or two - I promise.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The 2nd Annual Los Gatos Library Literary Fair

Do you remember last August, when the Los Gatos Library had its 1st Annual Literary Fair? The keynote speakers were Jay Elliot (Steve Jobs' right-hand man) and Laurie R. King (creator of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes stories).  There were other speakers as well, along with a bunch of authors who sat at tables and signed books.  Well, here comes Literary Fair #2.  It will be Saturday, August 22, from 12-3.  If you are a local author, and are interested in attending, please take a look at the following details.  And if you are not a local author, then just mark the date on your calendars.  It's a very fun event.

Dear Local Author,

Los Gatos Library will be hosting its second annual Los Gatos Library Literary Fair on Saturday, August 22nd from 12pm-3pm.  The event is held on the Civic Lawn outside the library.

We would love to have you join us this year  as one of over 30 local authors and publishers to be in attendance.

If you participated in the Literary Fair last year, we want to welcome you back and let you know we hope this year’s Fair will be bigger and better.
If this is your first year at the Literary Fair, know that it offers great exposure to the public and lets the public know who you are.

Please reply back to us by July 15th if you would like to take part.   We look forward to seeing you there!
e-mail mmaglio@losgatosca.gov   if you’d like to take part.

Other details:
•         We have 3 keynote authors, provided by Village House of books, presenting first Cara Black and ending the event Christopher Gortner and Jan Ellison
•         We will be setting tables up (3 authors per table) on the Civic Center Lawn and will be using the stage that is currently being used for Music in the Park on Sundays. 
•         If you want to sell your books, you will need to bring no more than 20 copies.  Los Gatos Friends of the Library must sell them, otherwise you will be required to purchase a town business license. 
•         I will be e-mailing out a promotional flyer to each attendee.  Please advertise widely to your friends and family as a good turnout is what we are after.
•         I will also be setting up an event website which will list each participating author and link to that author’s website, if one exists.  I will share the link along with the flyer, and I ask that you promote it on your sites and blogs and other media sites.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A Personal Post About My Trip To New York - If You're Looking for Book News & Reviews, Don't Read This

I think the last time I posted a blog that had nothing to do with books was my daughter, Lauren's,  wedding, 15 months ago.  Well, I'm doing it again.  We are visiting that same daughter (and her husband) in New York for 3 days.  And we are doing such fun stuff that I want to share it with all of you - EVEN THOUGH IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH BOOKS! So here are a few of the sights and sounds (actually, no sounds) of our trip.  And, of course, I've got some pictures to share.  Although I don't include every single stop, they are in order.


We got a personal tour of the Food Network offices/kitchens from a friend of Lauren and Joe.  And we got to meet Anne Burrell, who is one of FN's top chefs

We saw a matinee performance of Kinky Boots.  Very entertaining and lots of fun.

This is the building that Lauren works in in Times Square

This is a pub on Staten Island (where Joe works - the island, not the pub).  That's Lauren and Joe with Joe's mom in front.

This is the restaurant that we ate at in Staten Island.  Besides having very good food, it's significant because every week they bring a different nonna over from a region in Italy to cook her own food.  How cool is that?


Clinton Street Bakery for breakfast.  1.15 hour wait.  Unbelievable food.  Best breakfast anywhere (even better than Log Cabin in North Lake Tahoe!)

Although we didn't eat there, we did go inside.  130 years old and featured in the documentary, The Deli Man (a movie definitely worth seeing).

This is the High Line in Manhattan.  It's an old elevated railroad that they converted into a 4.1 mile walking trail.  With eateries, trinket sellers, and a million places to sit and rest, it sits above Manhattan.

A view of the Empire State Building from the High Line.


We took the Liberty Island/Ellis Island tour.  Really worthwhile.  Here is Lady Liberty, up close and personal.  It's pretty awe-inspiring.

This is the main building on Ellis Island.  We took the audio tour and learned all about the history.   Pretty amazing.

Joni found the manifest for her maternal grandfather, who came over from Eastern Europe in 1901!

Lunch at Mile End Deli in Lauren and Joe's neighborhood.  We don't have this kind of deli in the Bay Area.  The food is so good.

A late afternoon stop-off in another neighborhood eatery/drinkery.  So many cool places like this in Brooklyn.  And we needed a rest stop before we engaged in one of our favorite activities...

Yep, the movies.  We saw Jurassic World.  And it was better than I expected.

We will be leaving Lauren and Joe this morning (Saturday) and spending 2 days with Diane and Steve in White Plains.  They are long-time friends (nearly 40 years).  Diane's father was best man at my parents' wedding.  Neat, huh.

That's it.  Back to books in my next post.