Thursday, August 27, 2015

2 Mini-Reviews (mini because I don't have much to say about either one)

I have recently read 2 books because they were book club books.  One is a 2.5, and one is a 2.75.  Readable but not stellar (IMHO).  Here they are:

The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman.  2.75/4 (4.25/5 Amazon & 3.6/5 Goodreads).  This is my 1st Alice Hoffman, although she's written 30 books of fiction! That's a lot.  How have I avoided her all these years?  Wouldn't you think I would have read at least one?  Even accidentally?  In any case, this is the story of a young girl whose father has a museum in Coney Island which features unusual people and animals.  And a young man who came from an Orthodox Jewish background who left his father and religion behind.  The year is 1908, and the book goes back and forth in an unusual way.  You kind of have to read it to get what I'm saying.  It's similar to All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, in that each of the 2 main characters has his/her own story, but you can tell they are headed toward a meeting.

The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty, by Vendetta Vida.  2.5/4 (3.49/5 Amazon & 3.71/5 Goodreads).  This is Vendela's 4th novel (along with a bunch of non-fiction).  It's my 1st and probably my last (unless I have to read another one for 1 of my 3 book clubs!).  What's this one about?  A woman travels to Casablanca, has her wallet and passport stolen, ends up being a stand-in for a big movie star during filming, and takes a tour bus.  Oh, did I mention that she has a number of aliases?  I obviously liked it some because I did give it a 2.5/4. But I wasn't enamored with it.

People, there is nothing wrong with these 2 books.  They're just not my cup of literary tea.  I seem to be a bit more pedestrian in my book choices - more geared for the common wo-man, if you will.  So, I can read and finish these books, and I know they're well-written.  But they just really don't resonate with me.  What can I say?  I guess I'm just a troglodyte (I love this word).

UPCOMING BOOK: Tomorrow, I'm starting The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah.  I must have had 5 or 6 people rave about this book.  Stay tuned.  I'll let you know what I think.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Another Author Event - Vanessa Diffenbaugh Comes to Oakland

Thursday night, we went to Montclair in Oakland (where I went to jr. high school - now known as middle school) to see Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of The Language of Flowers. In case you have not been reading my blog for the last couple of years (you slackers know who you are!), I reviewed Language back in March of 2013.  And it was so good, I came up with a new rating - 4.5 (out of 4).  That book, along with 11 others, form my top 12 all-time. So, naturally, I was super excited when I found out that she would be making 2 appearances in the Bay Area - Thursday night in Oakland, thanks to A Great Good Place for Books, and Friday night in Corte Madera, at Book Passage.  And I was even more excited to learn that she moved from Cambridge, MA to Monterey!  But more about that in a later post.

Vanessa spent time telling us about the inspiration for Language.  She wanted to show the state of the foster care program and what happens when foster care children "age out" at 18.  In fact, Vanessa and her husband, P.K., took on a foster care child, Trayvon, in a very roundabout way when he was beginning high school.  Trayvon just graduated from NYU and is a very big part of the Diffenbaugh's life.  And then there is Donovan, 25, who they actually just adopted!  Vanessa certainly knows about foster care.

Vanessa also, of course, talked about her new book, We Never Asked For Wings.  This one is about "undocumented immigration," among other things.  I am looking forward to reading it.  The bar is set incredibly high because of how much I liked Language.  But I'm still anticipating a good read.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh is not only an outstanding novelist, she's also a foster care activist. Check out the Camellia Network, which she co-founded.  This is a non-profit designed to help foster care children learn how to navigate adulthood when they turn 18 and are no longer eligible for foster care.  I'm sure you would all agree that this is a very worthwhile, and necessary, cause.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Meg Waite Clayton's The Race for Paris - Historical Fiction at its Finest

The Race for Paris, by Meg Waite Clayton, reminds me of Orphan Train.  That book takes a very interesting, but lesser known, part of American history - the orphan trains that brought homeless and orphaned children from the big Eastern cities to the rural Midwest from 1854-1929 - and places it in front of us for all to see.  Meg's book does the same thing.  How many of you knew that female journalists and photojournalists, oftentimes without permission, attached themselves to Allied armies (mostly American and British) and were present for the liberation of Paris and even beyond into Germany?  Not I, said the old but clueless book blogger.  Well, all you need to know about the book is what the 1st paragraph of the flap tells us:

Opening in Normandy on June 29, 1944, The Race for Paris follows two American female war correspondents on their quest to document (and make) history by covering the Allied liberation of Paris.  Jane is a young, single journalist for the Nashville Banner.  When she's assigned to cover a field hospital, she meets Olivia, "Liv," an Associated Press photographer. 

Much of the book deals with the obstacles Jane and Liv face just because they're women and especially because they're almost continuously in war zones.  We all know what a good writer Meg is.  Those of us who live in the Bay Area have also had lots of opportunities to see her at author events.  I even have the privilege of being in a book club with her and seeing her periodically at our meetings (when both of us happen to get there in the same month).  I've already told you about the launch at Kepler's that I attended last week.  But I hadn't read the book yet, and now I have.  And I'm very glad I did.

The Race for Paris does a lot of good things:

1.  The beginning of each chapter has a real quote from a male or female journalist or photojournalist from that period of history.
2.  The 1st and last chapters of the book take place 50 years after the summer of 1944. When the book ended, I even went back and reread the 1st chapter to get a better sense of what was happening in 1994.
3.  Meg gives us humor, emotion, romance, and lots of adventure.
4.  She also made me say "Oh, man," raise my eyebrows skyward, and utter a long "hmmmm."
5.  But most importantly, she takes a significant time period of history and teaches us all who the modern-day female journalists and photojournalists have to thank for their current place in media circles.

Although Jane and Liv are fictional characters, they are based on real women - women who put their lives in danger in order to write the stories and take the pictures so that their countrymen and women would know the truth about the war.  I, for one (representing many, I'm pretty sure) appreciate that Meg gave us this story.  It's a very important book, and the fact that it's so well-written is just a bonus.  Thank you, Meg, for this gift.


Monday, August 17, 2015

The Orphan Train Comes to San Jose (and other interesting tidbits)

On June 6, I posted that The Tabard Theater in San Pedro Square (TOPS) was going to begin production of Homeward Bound:  An Orphan Train Journey.  The theater company was looking for donations to send 5 people to a conference in the Midwest.  Well, now TOPS is hosting the 1st ever West Coast Orphan Train Conference (sponsored by the National Orphan Train Complex - NOTC).  It runs 2 days, September 18-19, and it will coincide with the beginning of the production run.  Here's a little blurb about the event.

This two-day conference will include presentations on the Orphan Train Project, the Orphan Train Movement, How to Research an Orphan Train Rider plus much, much more.

It also includes a dinner and the opening night of the play.  Go on their website - - for more details.

In other news...

1.  Don't forget that this coming Thursday, the 20th, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, author of The Language of Flowers, will be in Oakland, promoting her new book, We Never Asked for Wings.  A Great Good Place for Books in Montclair is sponsoring her, but she will be appearing at the Montclair Presbyterian Church, located at 5701 Thornhill Drive.  You all know that Flowers is in my top 12 all-time.  So, naturally, I'm very excited to see her and get a (signed) copy of her new book.  And if you can't make it Thursday, you can go to Book Passage in Corte Madera on Friday night and see her there.  She will be at each site from 7-8:30.  CAN'T WAIT!

2.  Just learned that Cometh the Hour, book 6 in Jeffrey Archer's The Clifton Chronicles, will be hitting the stores in February.  If you haven't read this series yet, get on it.  It's fantastic. In fact, I (almost) guarantee that if you read #1, Only Time Will Tell, you will finish all 5 before February.  That's how good this series is!

3.  Last, and certainly not least, our own local author, Ann Bridges, will be releasing her new novel, Private Offerings, on September 15.  Go to, her publisher's website, and click on EVENTS.  You will see all of the places that Ann will be signing her book, including Recycle Books on Sunday morning, September 27, during the Farmers Market.  I read it and enjoyed it.  It's very Silicon Valley - the world of IPO's combined with international intrigue (and some romance thrown in).  Pick a date and a location to see Ann, buy a copy of her book, and get it signed.

NEXT UP:  Reviews of Vendela Vida's The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty and Meg's The Race for Paris. 


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Meg Waite Clayton's launch for The Race for Paris

Tuesday, August 11, was Meg Waite Clayton's launch of her new book, The Race for Paris. The event was held at Kepler's and came with champagne, cookies, and French chocolates (appropriately enough).  The event started at 7:30, and Meg spent about an hour in discussion with Ellen Sussman (the 2nd picture), answering questions, and signing books.

The reviews for The Race for Paris have been outstanding.  In fact, as of 2 days ago, there have been 75 ratings on Goodreads.  And the average is 4.25/5!  That's really high.  Here are just 3 of the many outstanding reviews that Meg has already received:

“AMBITIOUS, RIVETING…Deftly weaving fact and fiction, Clayton captures the texture and cadence of daily life in a world that is anything but ordinary.” —CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE, #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF ORPHAN TRAIN

“[Clayton’s] THRILLING new novel, The Race for Paris, is the story of two ambitious women in World War II. Journalist Jane Tyler and photographer Olivia “Liv” Harper are determined to become the first female American war correspondents to cover the liberation of Paris, and Clayton makes the race to get there a DANGEROUS, FAST-MOVING ADVENTURE.” —GEORGIA ROWE, THE SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

“The Race for Paris is an ACTION-PACKED tale of courage, friendship, and love … Clayton’s TRIUMPHANT new novel brings to life the intrepid female journalists who sought to break the limits of the times…Gather your book club and prepare for an intense conversation as THESE CHARACTERS WILL HAUNT YOU LONG AFTER YOU TURN THE FINAL PAGE!” —PAMELA KLINGER-HORN, EXCELSIOR BAY BOOKS, EXCELSIOR, MN, FROM THE INDIE NEXT GREAT READS LIST

If you didn't get a chance to see Meg at the launch, go on her website,, and check out her event schedule.  She's been very busy this week and is getting ready to hit the road.  However, she still has 4 more Bay Area appearances scheduled between August 28 and September 24.  Tell her the Booksage sent you (I've always wanted to say that!).  

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Adina Senft's Latest Amish Series - Book #1 - Herb of Grace - Absolutely Loved It!

Shelley Bates, using the pen name Adina Senft, has written a number of books about the Amish.  Her 1st series was called the Amish Quilt Trilogy.  I read books 1 & 2 and really enjoyed them.  I still have #3 sitting in a box - somewhere.  So, when we booked Shelley for the RBC, we talked with her and decided to go with the 1st book in her new series.  Shelley calls each one (she now has 3) A Healing Grace Novel.  This one is Herb of Grace.  And unlike the Amish Quilt Trilogy, where each book focused on a different woman from the same quilting group, the Healing Grace novels center on one woman.  Her name is Sarah Yoder.  Here's a quick rundown:

Amish widow Sarah Yoder has been struggling to raise her two teenaged sons and provide a home where family and members of her Old Order Amish church can find fellowship and friendship. Though she is close to her in-laws, lately it feels like her relationship with her boys is splintering. Her stepson Simon wants to move out west with his cousins to find work. And her youngest, Caleb, is spending far too much time over at the tumbledown home of a man who left the church long ago. Henry Byler only returned recently to Willow Creek when he inherited the family farm--under protest--and now seems caught in a struggle between the faith of his childhood and the world he's come to know. Ruth Lehman, the local Dokterfraa, believes Sarah should use her gift for growing plants to become an herbal healer, too. Sarah is reluctant, however, uncertain if caring for others will take her away from her family--the place where she believes God wants her. But when she feels called to help members of her community, she soon discovers that the heart can be scarred as deeply as the body. As she compiles her herbs, she waits for God to do his healing work in a man who rues a harsh decision, in a lonely prodigal who has lost everything, and maybe even in a herbalist-in-training who firmly believes she will never love again.

Why do I like Herb of Grace so much?  Is it because I'm Amish?  Uh, no.  Perhaps I'm a big fan of religious fiction.  Again, not so much.  Is it because I know and like the author?  I wish that were the case.  With the amount of books I read from local authors, that would make my life so much easier.  But, once more, the answer is no.  Let me give you the yeses:

1.  I absolutely connected with every character.
2.  I loved the relationship between Sarah and Henry, even though it is doomed from the start because of their religious differences.
3.  Shelley helps us understand, at least a little bit, the Amish culture.
4.  She makes us feel how hard it must be for a mother to raise 2 teenage boys by herself.
5.  She made me laugh a little - and cry a lot (I actually blubbered late in the book - I know, big surprise).
6.  The writing is just excellent.  Shelley writes with subtlety, something I am not typically known for.  Here are a few examples:

-On page 1, Sarah, the narrator, is describing another woman in her community.  She says: "Ruth was blessed with the happy conviction that when God put a thought into her mind, it was His will that she pass it along."  I think we all know people like that!

-Sarah is talking about how her view changed, "...the way it did in the doctor's office when he put the lenses in the machine."  That's a good visual (pardon the pun).

-Ruth, Sarah's mentor, talks to Sarah about weeds.  She says:  "Weeds are only plants that aren't growing in their proper places..."  I'll bet none of us thought of weeds that way before.

-Sarah is talking to one of her patients, who wants to know if tea, by itself, can take care of his "plumbing problem."  Sarah says:  "Asking the tea to make you well is like asking a chicken to lift a wagon."  I think she made her point.

There are a bunch more.  But here's my favorite example of how Shelley writes with such a subtle hand.  Sarah is talking about Henry's facial expression when he sees her late at night:

    "Polite.  Not welcoming, as a friend's might be, but pleasant and noncommital.  Which was exactly as it should be, after this afternoon.
     But it was a little disappointing."

Shelley doesn't beat us over the head with it.  And, yet, we very clearly feel what Sarah feels at that moment.  I repeat - subtle.  And whether you are an RBC member or not, please read Herb of Grace.  You will NOT be sorry.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Ken Follett's Edge of Eternity (#3 in the Century Trilogy) -Add It to My 4.25 list - 2nd Best All-Timers

Let me start by saying that I made a mistake.  Follett published the 3 books of the Century Trilogy in 2010, 2012, and 2014.  The 1st 2 I read immediately.  The 3rd one I just finished - basically 3 years after the last one.  The extra year, I think (along with my increasingly fading memory!), made it really hard to remember the stories about the earlier generations. This might be the only thing that keeps it from matriculating into the top all-timers - the 4.5s. With that mea culpa, here are a couple of excerpts found on the jacket for Edge of Eternity:

"Ken Follett's Century Trilogy follows the fortunes of five intertwined families - American, German, Russian, English, and Welsh - as they make their way through the twentieth Century."

"Edge of Eternity, the finale, covers one of the most tumultuous eras of all: the 1960s through the 1980s, encompassing civil rights, assassinations, Vietnam, the Berlin Wall, the Cuban Missile Crisis, presidential impeachment, revolution - and rock and roll."

All of that is true.  Even if you did not grow up in the 60s (which I did); or grow up in the Bay Area (which I did), the home of the Black Panthers; or know that your brother was on a plane, a member of the 82nd Airborne, ready to go to Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis (which mine was), you still know that the 3 decades chronicled by Follett were crazy in their national and international scope.  And Follett has recounted them beautifully.

We all know what historical fiction is.  It basically takes fictional characters and places them alongside historical ones.  Nobody does that better than Follett.  But he not only does it well.  He also does it in a way that you actually believe the fictional characters existed with the real ones.  When JFK, RFK, and MLK are all on the verge of being assassinated, you worry what the impact will be on their make-believe followers; and how it will affect their lives.  When one of JFK's staffers has a long-term affair with JFK, you believe it and feel her pain when he is gone.  When one of Bobby's staffers sees Sirhan Sirhan point the gun at JFK's brother, in the kitchen area of the hotel in LA, you feel his horror, followed immediately by his pain.  Very few historical fiction writers can do what Follett does.

And speaking of feeling, I have numerous notes where I wrote such things as "raised eyebrows," "emotional reading MLK's DC speech," "smile," "jaw dropped - then tears," "MLK assassination - rough," "chills/smile," "whoa, ho, ho," and "raised eyebrows/tears."  Need I say more?

Finally, as I so often do (speaking of raised eyebrows - probably yours), I like to point out a few lines in a book that I can relate to.  Here are only 3 (but not all, lucky for you):

1.  There is a line in which one character says to the other: "Are you dating anyone?" When my youngest, Lauren, was in her teens, my father-in-law would inevitably ask:  "Is she datin' anyone?"  A cool memory of Grandpa Irv.
2.  At one point, a character drinks jasmine tea - Joni's favorite.
3.  2 rock stars are talking about the advancement in audio speakers.  One says, "It's kind of a miracle."  Back in 1982, our house was invaded by birds that got in through the chimney.  We received a lot of TV coverage.  When a local newscaster asked our son, Josh (who was 6 at the time), what he thought, he said:  "It's sort of a miracle."

I love that I can enjoy books not only for how well they are written and how emotionally connected I am to the characters; but also how they bring back memories, usually happy ones, both old and new.  Call me sentimental.

There is much more to say about this book.  But you already know that, if you haven't already, you should read this series.  Book 1 is Fall of Giants (also on my 2nd all-timers list).  Book 2 is Winter of the World (on my 1st all-timers list!).  And now Edge of Eternity. All 3 books (along with Pillars of the Earth - top 3 all-time) are in my top 25 books ever read.  If nothing else, that's quite an endorsement.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Upcoming Author Events - And Some BIG NEWS!

There are some very cool author events this month to remind/tell you about.  Plus, I want to give you a heads up for an author visit in October that you're going to want to get on your calendar.

Wednesday, August 12, 6:30-8:00 - the RBC meeting at Recycle Books.  The book is From Sleepy Lagoon to the Corner of the Cats, by Steve Sporleder.  Steve is ill, so his editor/muse, Parthenia Hicks (poet laureate emerita for Los Gatos), will be stepping in for Steve.

Sunday, August 16, 9:15-12:15 - book signing at Recycle Books (books can be purchased for cash or check).  Lost in the Wake is Linda Gunther's 3rd book.  She will also bring her 1st 2 - Ten Steps from the Hotel Inglaterre and Endangered Witness.  Linda will be out in front of the store (at a table next to mine) during the Campbell Farmers Market.

Friday, August 28, 7:00-? - X, by Sue Grafton.  That's right.  Sue will be coming to the Bay Area.  And she will be at Towne Center Books, in Pleasanton.  If you want to see Sue, then you should give the store a call.  If you buy a book, you will get a number that tells you where you are in the line for the book signing.  Their number is (925) 846-8826.

Monday, October 5, 7:00-? - After You, by JoJo Moyes.  Yes, this is the same JoJo Moyes who wrote Me Before You (the prequel to After You).  And Me Before You is the same book that I gave a 4/4 back on December 10, 2013.  This event is also sponsored by Towne Center Books, but will take place in a 220-seat theater called The Firehouse Art Center.  It's located in downtown Pleasanton, near the bookstore.  And if you call the store and buy a book, then you can avoid the purchase line on the night of the event.

Lots of great events, yes?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Stuff (including an interview of yours truly by a local author - who woulda thunk it?)

It's time for one of my favorites - the miscellaneous/hodgepodge/look-what's-happening-in-book-world post:

1.  Peter Adler, who writes as A.R. Silverberry (his YA fantasy, Wyndano's Cloak, is a terrific read - for all ages and genders), decided that he wanted to interview me (you'll have to ask him why he thought this was a good idea!).  Here is the link, in case you are interested:

2.  As you all know, I belong to 3 book clubs.  Here are the locations, dates, and books coming up this month:
Wednesday, August 12 - From Sleepy Lagoon to the Corner of the Cats, Steve Sporleder (Parthenia Hicks will be appearing on behalf of Steve) - 6:30-8:00 - Recycle Books, Campbell
Tuesday, August 18 - The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion - 6:30-7:30 - Los Gatos Library
Tuesday, August 25 - The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty, Vendetta Vida - 7:00-8:00, Books, Inc., Palo Alto

3.  Ellen Sussman, local author/writing teacher extraordinaire, has moved to Sonoma County and is conducting writing classes.  Oh, did I mention that wine-tasting is part of the class itinerary?  You can get more details by going to her website -

4.  This Bingo game was on Kepler's FB page.  How cool is this?  Does anybody want to play with me?  We're going for blackout.

Kepler's Books and Magazines's photo.

5.  If you go to, and enter "books" in the "Search the Site" space, you will see all kinds of very interesting book-related articles.  Examples are:  How Paperbacks Transformed the Way Americans Read; and 10 Great Kids Comics for Early Readers; and 13 Dead Game of Thrones TV Characters Who Are Still Alive in the Books.  P.S.  They've also got a whole bunch of interesting articles about subjects not related to books (I, obviously, don't care about those!).

6.  There is no 6.  I hope you enjoy 1-5.

Monday, August 3, 2015

How About A List of 4.0+ Books (because I haven't posted enough lists!)

This is DEFINITELY the last list I'm going to give with ratings.  Of course, if I've already got 4.5s and 4.25s, and now 4.0+s, there's not much room for anything else (5.0s, maybe? nah).  So, with that upbeat introduction, here are a few other books that match the 4.0+ rating I just gave Goodnight June.  These books are solid 4.0s - and a little bit more.

Let's do 'em in alphabetical order:

1.  Exile, Richard North Patterson - An American Jewish attorney, who had an affair with a Palestinian woman in law school, is asked to defend his ex when she is accused of assassinating the Israeli prime minister in San Francisco.  The story takes place 13 years after they graduated from law school.

2.  Me Before You, JoJo Moyes - A British girl in her mid-20's loses her job at a diner and finds employment taking care of a man who is a quadriplegic after a tragic accident.

3.  Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline -The fictionalized account of a young girl who is an orphan and who is sent from New York to farm country in the Midwest in the 1920s.  The story is told by the young girl, as an older woman, to a 17-year old misfit, who is helping the older woman clean out her attic in order to stay out of a juvenile detention center.  The orphan train actually existed from 1854 to 1929.

4.  Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Beth Hoffman - In the 1960s, a 12-year old girl is sent from Ohio to live with her great-aunt in Savannah, Georgia, after her mother dies and her father is unable to take care of her.  It's an age- and culture-clash.

5.  The Angels' Share, Rayme Waters - A young woman, who is a recovering meth addict, and who has repeatedly been abused by her boyfriend, ends up, in a very strange way, working at a Napa winery.

6.  The Clifton Chronicles, Jeffrey Archer - A 5-book series (so far).  It's one of those series that chronicles the lives of families from different parts of the world through multiple generations and multiple wars.  It's one of my all-time favorite series.  Book 1 is Only Time Will Tell.

7.  The Honk and Holler Opening Soon, Billie Letts - A Vietnam vet, Caney, has a failing diner in Eastern Oklahoma.  Caney has barely left the diner in 12 years.  When a young Crow woman pops in, carrying a 3-legged dog, turmoil ensues - but in a good way.

8.  The Kent Family Chronicles, John Jakes - This may be my favorite series ever.  Book 1, The Bastard, starts just before the American Revolution, and book 8 finishes up the series in the early 1900s.

9.  The Lost Saints of Tennessee, Amy Franklin-Willis - A Southern working class family, led by a 42-year old father of 2 girls, an overbearing mother, and an ex-wife, goes through a lot of ups and downs.

10. The Storyteller, Jodi Picoult - a 25-year old Jewish woman, who holds herself responsible for killing her mother in a car crash, starts attending a grief counseling group. She befriends an elderly man who is highly regarded in the community.  He tells her that he was a Nazi concentration camp commander and asks her to help him die.  It's not uplifting, but it is mesmerizing.

That's it, people.  And let me reiterate - THIS IS MY LAST LIST! (until the next time)


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Daniel Silva's Latest Gabriel Allon Episode - #16

In the interest of reading so many books written by local authors, I have given up a lot of series.  I was not bored or done with them.  I simply couldn't get them in, even with reading 65-70 books a year.  Why do I tell you this?  Because I have not/do not/will not stop reading Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series.  I love these books.  So how was #16, the English Spy?  Well, the answer is a little more complicated than it should be.  In fact, it wasn’t until page 31 that Gabriel made his 1st appearance.  I made another note that on page 78 I was a little bit bored.  And I made a 3rd note on page 92 that there were no new interesting characters.  It wasn’t until probably page 125 that the book took off.  And then it really took off.  Pages 125-475 (the end of the book) flew by.  That part of the book was vintage Silva.  Normally I give Silva a 3.5.  This one only gets a 3.25 because of the slow start.  Still, not a bad rating.

What’s this book about?  It doesn’t matter.  It’s simply another episode in the series.  But I can tell you a few things that I liked:

  1. I liked that I have an emotional connection with Gabriel, Chiara (his wife), Ari Shamron (his long-time mentor), and Eli Lavon (the Nazi hunter, super spy).   There are others, but these are the ones that make me smile.
  2. I liked that Silva will usually take a couple of pages in every book (236-237 in this one) and summarize Gabriel’s exploits.  And there are many.
  3. I liked that all of Silva’s books deal with current topics in the news.  In this one, there’s the whole issue of Iran’s nuclear capacity.  Of course we all know that on July 15 of this year, the U.S. reached an accord with Iran regarding the latter’s nuclear capabilities.  (A couple of books ago, Silva dealt with the assassinations of journalists in Russia.  That was actually happening.)

Silva makes a couple of references that hit home.  One is that Gabriel’s alarm clock is set 10 minutes fast.  Mine too!  And in an exchange between Gabriel and Chiara, Chiara says: “Why must you always be so fatalistic?”  And Gabriel responds: “It prevents me from being disappointed later.”  This is part of my personal mantra - lower your expectations.  If your expectations are realistic, then you’re less likely to suffer disappointment.  I definitely agree with Gabriel on that one.

So maybe The English Spy is not one of his best books in the series.  It’s still a whole bunch better than most everybody else’s books.  If you’re a fan of the series, I know you’ll like it.  If you haven’t started the series, you might want to try book #1 (The Kill Artist).

NOTE:  One of my favorite Silva books is one that was written before he started the Allon series.  It’s called The Unlikely Spy.  The plot?  Nazi Germany integrates spies into England in the early- to mid-30s in anticipation of a war.  The whole book centers on the English uprooting these spies.  I really liked this book.

AUTHOR EVENT NOTICE:  Here’s a reminder that a week from Tuesday, on August 11, Meg Waite Clayton, one of our most well-known local authors, will be launching her latest, The Race for Paris, at Kepler’s at 7:30.  She will be in conversation with another one of our nationally known local authors - Ellen Sussman.  It's a paid event - $15.00 for general admission and $30.00 for premier seating, which also includes a copy of the book.