Monday, September 28, 2015

Some Randoms

I've just got 3 quick ones for you this time.  The 1st is an article in the New York Times from last week.  It's very good news about independent bookstores.  The 2nd is an article from national best-selling author Laurie R. King about a book's dust jacket and artwork.  And the 3rd is about 2 appearances that Kate Allure will be making in the Bay Area - including this coming Friday night, from 7:30-9:30, at Barnes & Noble on Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose.

There are some blurbs, but mostly links.


2.  "Writing the cover copy for books–those snippets on the dust jackets–is a delicate art. A bit of plot is great, but not just plot, and NEVER spoilers.  (Yes, I've had those.)  A hint about the characters: who they are, where they're going, and perhaps a reminder of where they've been if the book is from a series.  The" […]
3.  Kate Allure — author of sizzling romance for smart and sexy women — will be at Barnes & Noble on Stevens Creek Blvd in San Jose this Friday, Oct. 2nd, from 7:30-9:30pm. Kate will be signing her recently released, Lawyer Up. “The sensuality and sexuality are palpable... 4 Stars!” says Romantic Times Book Review, and Publishers Weekly notes, “Intense chemistry, great characterization, and a kinky page-singeing ending will have readers clamoring for more…”
Local authors in LitQuake
The Silicon Valley Romance Writers of America are thrilled to announce that, for the first time ever, they'll be participating in the world famous Lit Crawl in San Francisco on Saturday, October 17th. They hope to fill the house for their hour of this three-hour festival of readings attended by over 10,000 people. Participating will be romance writers from all genres, from nice to naughty. So come cheer on your neighborhood authors— It's Fun, Fabulous, and Free! 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Top 12 and 2nd 12

Kathy, from (an excellent book blog if you're looking for a 2nd blogger - or maybe even a 1st!), looked at the list of recommendations and my personal preferences and wondered what my top books were.  She said we appeared to like the same books.  It occurred to me that it's been 2.5 years since I posted my top 12 and almost a year and a half for my 2nd 12.  This seemed like a good time to re-post.  The 1st group, not surprisingly, consists of the bigs.  And the 2nd list is a little bit less big.  Feel free to let me know which ones you agree with.  If you disagree, keep it to yourself.  No, actually, you can tell me know about those, too (at which point, you will be excommunicated from The Book Sage!).

Baldacci, David - Wish You Well
Clavell, James - Shogun
Conroy, Pat - My Losing Season (non-fiction)
Conroy, Pat - South of Broad
Diffenbaugh, Vanessa - The Language of Flowers
Follett, Ken - Pillars of the Earth
Follett, Ken - Winter of the World
Haley, Alex - Roots
King, Steven - 11/22/63
McMurtry, Larry - Lonesome Dove
Michener, James - The Source
Walls, Jeanette - The Glass Castle (non-fiction)

1.    Conroy, Pat - Beach Music (he's already got 2 books in the top 12 - this one takes
       place over 3 generations
2.    Follett, Ken - Fall of Giants (#1 The Century Trilogy - book #2 is in the top 12)
3.    Follett, Ken - World without End (sequel to Pillars of the Earth - Pillars is in top 3 ever)
4.    Franklin-Willis, Amy - The Lost Saints of Tennessee (February, 2014 VHOB Book Club
5.    Hart, John - Iron House (this guy is an ace)
6.    Hart, John - The Last Child (2 aces)
7.    Hoffman, Beth - Saving CeeCee Honeycutt (April 1, 2014 phone-in VHOB Book Club
8.    Ludlum, Robert - The Matarese Circle (the best cold war book I've read - top U.S.
       spy and top Soviet spy, mortal enemies, have to collaborate)
9.    Patterson, Richard North - Exile (a Jewish lawyer, 20 years out of law school,
       defends a former Palestinian law school classmate/girlfriend who is accused of
       assassinating the Israeli prime minister
10.  Picoult, Jodi - The Storyteller (I've read them all - this is the best)
11.  Uris, Leon - Exodus (1958 - the story of Israel's war of independence)
12.  Wallace, Irving - The Plot (1967 - a story about a number of individuals with individual
       stories who come together for the climax)
13.  Follett, Ken - Edge of Eternity (#3 in the Century Trilogy)

Notice this 2nd list has 13 books, instead of the 12 that I posted April of last year.  That is because I recently added #13.  And don't forget that Goodnight June, by Sarah Jio, is a 4.0+.  It's not top 25, but it's higher than a 4.0.  The ratings pressure is enormous!...but I'll be okay.

EGO-DRIVEN CONTEST:  Okay, let me know how many of the 25 you have read, whether you liked them or not.  Whoever has the most common reads gets his/her choice of any book on the list, in any format he/she wants - hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook. Fun, eh?  And if you don't want to put your answer on the blog, you can email me at  Now I'm done.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Recommendations from/for the Masses

Well, book fans, we've got our recommendations.  This is a list compiled from 21 people. You can see that Pillars of the Earth easily tops the list, followed by Les Miserables and Beach Music.  Those are the only repeaters.  Of the ones on the list that I have read (not counting my top 3 of Pillars of the Earth, Shogun, The Source), 3 are in my top-12 all-time (The Glass Castle, The Language of Flowers, 11/22/63), and 2 are in my 2nd 12 all-time (Beach Music, Iron House).  Of the others, I gave high ratings to The Kite Runner, Not Me, The Boys in the Boat, and Me Before You.

Take a look, people.  There's something for everybody.

Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett - 6
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo - 2
Beach Music, Pat Conroy - 2
Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
1984, George Orwell
Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
Shogun, James Clavell
The Source, James Michener
Will Grayson, Will Grayson, David Levithan & John Green
Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh (graphic book)
Arcadia, Lauren Groff
The Wonder Boys, Michael Chabon
Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
Drop City, T.C. Boyle
San Miguel, T.C. Boyle
The Road to Wellness, T.C. Boyle
Crimson Petal and the White, Michael Faber
The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls
A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt
Tortilla Curtain, T.C. Boyle
East of Eden, John Steinbeck
The Bone Setter's Daughter, Amy Tan
The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory
Power of One, Bryce Courtenay
Winds of War, Herman Wouk
Clan of the Cave Bear, Jean Auel
Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden
Gates of Fire, Steven Pressfield
First Blood, David Morrell
The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown
The Tin Drum, Gunther Glass
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
Cider House Rules, John Irving
A Child's Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier
Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
Fellowship of the Ring trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkien
Shadows of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Awakening, Kate Chopin
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Collapse, Jared Diamond
All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Not Me, Michael Lavigne
11/22/63, Stephen King
The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
Inferno, Dan Brown
Fifty Shades of Greg, E.L. James
A Thousand Names for Joy, Byron Katie
Nothing Real Can Be Threatened, Tara Singh
The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri
Auto Biography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda
Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver
The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Iron House, John Hart
Cancer Ward, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck
TOTAL:  61

Monday, September 21, 2015

Review of Local Author - Novel

In my last post, I mentioned that I had recently read books from 2 local authors - a memoir and a novel.  The 1st one was the memoir.  This one is the novel.  It's called San Francisco, and it's the debut offering from Marian Lindner.  I enjoyed this one too.  It's a pretty simple storyline.  Anna O'Malley is a 19-year old socialite who is constantly being pushed toward suitors by her mother, and who is discouraged from thinking for herself.  She has a secret, though.  She and a girlfriend like to perform burlesque at a late-night club in the heart of the city. This brings her in contact with a bunch of different elements of society that she definitely does NOT come across in her social circles.

What makes this story so unusual, you ask?  Let's see.  Oh, yeah.  She's on the roof of a building in downtown SF following a performance when the 1906 earthquake hits.  I don't think it's a spoiler alert to tell you that she survives the initial devastation.  What follows is Anna's story in the aftermath of the shaker.

Marian has done some very good things in this book:

1.  She introduces quite a few characters in such a way that you are not confused when they come up later in the book.  I don't think that's a small observation.  How many times have you read a book when a character appears, and you say:  "Who's this person again?" That does not happen in San Francisco.
2.  Marian makes us feel what it must have been like to live through this natural disaster. And we get to feel it from a lot of different economic perspectives.  We see it through the eyes of the elite, as well as the servants of the elite.  We even see the devastating effects the earthquake has on the poor.
3.  We read about all of the emergency medical services that sprout up immediately following the earthquake.  We get a good sense for the heroism of the medical community.
4.  We even get romance, but I won't tell you who's involved (duh!).
5.  I'm a very good visualizer when I read a book.  But these visuals were more vivid somehow.  I appreciate that.
6.  I connected with the characters and had a couple of "teared up" moments.
7.  Although this comment doesn't go to the story itself, it's important to me - the book is very well edited.

If you want to learn about the effects of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake on the city's population, and how the citizens responded to it (with some romance and intrigue thrown in), this is a good way to do it.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Review of Memoir for Local Author

As you know, I'm a big fan of supporting our local (Bay Area) authors.  I have recently read 1st-time books from a couple of locals.  One is a memoir, and the other is a novel.  In this post, I will concentrate on the memoir.

Dinah Lin's book is Daring to Dream Once Again, It's Never Too Late!  Here is part of what the back cover tells us:

"Dinah Lin is living proof it's never too late...for anyone.  Now in her 70s, she has become a published author and begun a new career.  Daring to Dream Once Again shares her amazing journey-spanning seven decades while living in six countries.

"Dinah narrowly escaped Communist China with her mom and siblings in the last boat leaving Shanghai in 1949.  What was it like growing up in a small town in Ohio as the only Asian family?  How did she make the transition from housewife and social hostess to the senior executive levels in both corporate America and in Washington, D.C.?"

Dinah's story is a pretty remarkable one.  To go from a refugee to a powerful corporate executive and government influencer is truly amazing.  In fact, Dinah has a number of Reflections throughout the book that I enjoyed.  Here's one in particular that is a takeaway for me:  "In a way, I've never given myself credit for whatever I've achieved.  I just take it all in stride, expecting nothing less from myself.  While this can be admirable in a way, it also takes away from allowing myself to feel pride and a sense of accomplishment for what I've done.  I've since come to believe it's important to acknowledge and celebrate myself, and my wins, though sometimes I still forget."  I think Dinah is right.  It's important that we stop and take the time to say to ourselves "Nice job."

In fact, several of the Reflections resonated with me.  There was one that said "...I definitely had an inclination to downplay and devalue what came easily and naturally to me, and instead, to value what was hard and took a lot of work."  Our daughter, Lauren, could have gone to UC Santa Barbara for college, which was about 4 hours south of where we live; but, instead, she chose Boston University.  She felt that she needed to challenge herself and not take the easy road.  It turned out well - especially since she met her husband, Joe, there!

I think you will find Dinah's book an interesting one.  Very few of us have had to overcome obstacles as big as hers.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Vanessa Diffenbaugh Scores High on Her 2nd Book - We Never Asked for Wings

How do you follow up a book like The Language of Flowers (let's not forget that Flowers is in my top-12 all-time!)?  Is We Never Asked for Wings as good as Language?  No.  Is it a very good book that I really enjoyed a lot?  Absolutely.  Do you remember how good The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini was?  And then he came out with A Thousand Splendid Suns.  It wasn't TKR, but it was still darn good.  I'm really pleased that Vanessa wrote a top-notch follow-up.  Flowers is about the foster-care system.  This one addresses immigration. Here's the short of it:

For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.

Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.

This book reminded me of Gone Girl in one regard.  In GG, I liked the 1st half and really liked the 2nd half.  That happened to me here too.  Maybe I tend to sleep in the 1st half of books.  I don't think so, but you never know.  Regardless, I was sailing along and enjoying Wings, and then, BOOM, it took off.  It never slowed down again.  Kudos to Vanessa for building the book up to a take-off point and then carrying us along until the end.

Of course in Language we learned a lot about the meaning of flowers.  In Wings, we learn how to mix a drink and about the part the different ingredients play.  We also learn about a variety of birds.  Vanessa is always teaching us things.  I like that about her books.

There are a couple of other references that I internalized (because you all know that it's about me!).  At one point, a customer says to Letty:  "You've got yourself quite a teacher there."  Letty says:  "Self-appointed."  Why is that about me, you ask?  Because when I am recommending books on Sunday morning out in front of Recycle Books, people will look at my book business card and comment on my name - The Book Sage.  I always say:  "Self-determined."  Close enough.

There's also a paragraph in the book that describes 2 of the main characters walking through Stanford University.  My 1st reaction was to tell everybody to go take a walk around the campus.  It's spectacular.  It also reminded me of a book written by a local author, Betsy Franco (James' mother), called Naked.  It's all about the Rodin Museum that's located right on the university grounds.  (I recommend that book, too.)

That's all I've got.  We Never Asked for Wings is a very good book.  I think you'll like it.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ann Bridges' Launch + 2 Announcements

Well, today was the launch for Ann Bridges' Private Offerings.  She did a meet and greet/signing at Barnes & Noble on Stevens Creek in San Jose.  She's got a lot more appearances scheduled.  I've already listed those in an earlier post (9/6).  Here are a few pictures from earlier today, including one of Ann with another Balcony7 author, who is looking at a Spring 2016 pub date for his children's book, Little Boy Soup.  His name is Josh Russell, and he happens to be my son.  Nepotism, you cry?  Absolutely...not! He got his contract with Balcony7 without any (lack of) influence from his father.

Onward with the pictures.

I also mentioned in the title that I've got a couple of announcements:

1.  I'm going to extend the top-3 all-time timeline.  The lists are still coming in.  So let's give it another week.  The new (and final) deadline is next Wednesday, September 23.

2.  I have already told you that JoJo Moyes is going to be in Pleasanton on Monday night, October 5, promoting her new book, After You, the sequel to Me Before You.  Towne Center Books is sponsoring the event.  Initially, JoJo was going to be at the Firehouse Arts Center. But because of the response, they have to move it to a bigger site.  It will now be at the Amador Theater, located at 1155 Santa Rita Road, also in Pleasanton.  You can still contact Towne Center Books and reserve your space (it's only $10/person!).

COMING UP:  My next post will be a review of Vanessa Diffenbaugh's new book, We Never Asked for Wings.  Spoiler alert - I really liked it a lot.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Another Local Author Hits the Bookshelves - Private Offerings by Ann Bridges

Do you want to know the inside story of IPOs and how they might connect to the Shanghai Stock Market?  Yes, you say?  Did you know that Ann Bridges' book, Private Offerings, is so topical that the Mercury News followed a story about the Chinese stock market recently - and it was AFTER Ann's book was already written and being printed.  How cool is that?

The back of the book gives a very quick synopsis:  "Top-secret technology, up for sale, coveted by competing interests across the globe.  Wall Street financiers clash with government interests - both domestic and Chinese - throwing a monkey wrench onto the path of a Silicon Valley entrepreneur about to cash in on his dream of a lifetime."

If this seems like a complex storyline...well, it is.  But is it tough to understand?  No it's not. Ann writes a story that is at the same time intricate and easy to follow.  It's fun to feel like an insider in this financial/high tech world.  But, wait...there's more.  We also get romance and some bad guys.

So, if we're dealing in high tech and IPOs and other financial stuff, then it must be dry, right?  WRONG!  I definitely got caught up in the relationships.  Don't quote me, but it's possible that I shed a tear or two.  Gasp!  A real shocker (yeah, right).  I'm really looking forward to sitting down with Ann and getting the details of her background.  I want to know how she knows all of this stuff.  And when I do get her history, I will pass it on to all of you.

Friday, September 11, 2015

2 Referrals

I'll make this short (are you hyperventilating with delight?).  There is (at least) one blogger (Jessica Howard) and one author (Taylor Stevens) whose posts are worth following.  The blogger is the Quirky Bookworm.  Her blogpost is  In her latest post, she lists 5 tips for getting out of a reading slump.  Although I have to say that I have never had this problem, I can still recognize that it might happen to some of you.  Her 1st 2 tips are:

  1. Finish a book. Normally I'm a big proponent of reading multiple books at once, but when you're feeling slumpy, it's easy to read a few pages here and a few pages there, and then fizzle out. If you focus in and finish one book, it can give you just the little boost of triumph that you need to tackle a new book.
  2. Reread a favorite. I reread a couple of Georgette Heyer books I love, and re-listened to Fangirl on audio. I find that my brain gets into tv/game mode, where all I want to do is binge on Netflix or play Two Dots on my phone. Rereading something I love just helps my brain switch back into words-mode, which is just the boost I needed to start reading some light fiction. 
If you want to see the other 3 (I got permission to post some of the 5), then you will need to go on her blogsite.  It will be well worth it.

Taylor Stevens is a NYTimes best-selling author.  She has written 5 books, starting with The Informationist, that features Vanessa Michael Munro.  Besides being a good author (I've read 2 of the 5), she writes a very informative blog that really tells us non-authors the ins and outs of the business. Her latest post is to help writers write (see the synopsis below). But most of her blogs tell us the inside part of the business that we would never know.  For example, one of her recent posts explained what kind of sales are needed to become a national bestseller.  Wouldn't that be fun to know?  If you want to regularly receive her posts, go on her website - - click on Contact, and sign up.  I'm pretty sure that if you're like me (is anybody ready to admit that publicly?), then you will be happy to become an insider.

Hack the Craft is an online learning program designed for novelists and storytellers who are looking to shortcut their way to cleaner, stronger, better writing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Top-3 ALL-TIME and a Couple of Book Launches

You know, we all like to get book recommendations.  I know I do.  Many of my favorites have come via recs from friends and social media connections.  So what I would like to do is come up with a list of great recommendations for everybody.  If you feel up to it (aka if you care), can you give us your top 3 books all-time?  Let's see what we can put out there. Take a week and either list them on this blog post or email me directly at  And although I'm sure you've seen my top 3 before, here they are again:

Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett
The Source - James Michener
Shogun - James Clavell

And P.S.  If you want to give us 1, 2, 4, or 5, feel free.

Book Launches:

1.  Kate Allure - Lawyer Up.  I reviewed Kate's book on July 26 of this year.  I liked it a lot. Kate's launch will be Friday, October 2, from 7:30-9:30, at Barnes & Noble on Stevens Creek Blvd. in San Jose.
2.  Ellen Kirschman - The Right Wrong Thing.  This is Ellen's 2nd book with her police psychologist protagonist, Dot Meyerhof.  Ellen is the perfect author to write about a police psychologist since she, herself, was a police psychologist for 30 years!  I first saw Ellen at Book Passage in Corte Madera back in September of 2013.  I blogged about that appearance on October 1, 2013.  Ellen is exceedingly interesting.  And what she has to talk about is certainly pertinent to present day news.  But I digress.  Ellen's launch will be Wednesday, October 7, at Books, Inc. in Palo Alto (the site of Margie's 4th Tuesday Night Book Club).

Both authors have multiple appearances scheduled.  Feel free to go on their websites if you want to see them live, but can't make the launches:

MUSINGS AND CONFUSINGS:  I'm currently reading Vanessa Diffenbaugh's 2nd (and latest) book, We Never Asked for Wings.  I really like it a lot.  But I've made very few notes. Sometimes I have a lot to say about a book, and sometimes not so much.  This one, the latter.  I'm trying to figure out why.  And here's the only answer I can come up with - I just don't know (it's the same answer Tevya gives in Fiddler on the Roof when he's asked why a certain tradition exists).  It's not a function of how much I like a book.  It's more a function of sections and passages creating questions and thoughts in my mind vs. just accepting what's written at face value.  Someday maybe we can have an online discussion about it.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

It's Potpourri/Hodgepodge/GrabBag Time

I've got a bunch of my (in)famous stuff.  Here it goes.  It's in some particular order.

1.  Ann Bridges, local author and RBC member, hits the stores with her 1st published novel, Private Offerings, next Tuesday, September 15.  Here is her book tour schedule:

9/17 -   Barnes & Noble, Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose,  4-7 (book launch)
9/19 -   Barnes & Noble, Hillsdale, 11-3
9/23 -   Books, Inc., Mt. View, 7-8
9/26 -   Barnes & Noble, Almaden Plaza, San Jose, 12-3
9/27 -   Recycle Books, Campbell, 9-12
10/8 -   Barnes & Noble, Eastridge, San Jose, 7-9
10/14 - Books, Inc., Palo Alto, 7-8
10/18 - Livermore Public Library Civic Center, 2-4

Ann will also be our RBC author on Wednesday, December 16.

2.  On August 22, I posted pics and a blurb from Vanessa Diffenbaugh's appearance in Oakland, where she was promoting her 2nd book, We Never Asked for Wings (I'm on page 73, and enjoying it).  Well, now I've got more news about Vanessa.  SHE WILL BE OUR RBC AUTHOR NEXT APRIL!  Vanessa will be coming to Recycle Books (or maybe a larger venue nearby, if necessary) on April 28, and will be answering questions and signing copies of The Language of Flowers.  Since it's in my top-12 all-time, I was more interested in using that one than her new one.  She is fine with that.

3.  Since we've got some great authors lined up for the RBC over the next 8 months (including September but excluding February), I thought I would post the schedule.  And heeeeeeeeere it is:

Thursday, September 24 - Herb of Grace by Adina Senft (Shelley Bates)
Tuesday, October 27 - Breathless in Love by Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre (Jennifer will be in-store along with Shelley Bates, their editor - Bella will be calling in)
Thursday, November 19 - Under Wraps by Hannah Jayne
Wednesday, December 16 - Private Offerings by (the aforementioned) Ann Bridges
Tuesday, January 19 - The Angels' Share by Rayme Waters
February - TBD (our Feb. author just had to cancel - we will replace her)
Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, March 29, 30, or 31 - Murder on the Champs de Mars by Cara Black (she has to see what her schedule looks like as we get closer)
Thursday, April 28 - The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Pretty cool, eh?

4.  I was back at Recycle Books this morning after missing the previous 2 Sundays.  It was a great day.  Not only did I sell 6 books, but I got to talk to a bunch of people - both regulars and as well as newbies.  I even saw a young woman from North Carolina who had stopped by the table with her sister several months ago.
She came back, with her sister and mom, to see what was new on the table.  Here's what I sold:

The Language of Flowers (2), Vanessa Diffenbaugh.  I told everybody that Vanessa is our RBC author for April.
Me Before You, JoJo Moyes.  I will be seeing her on October 5 in Pleasanton, promoting her new book, the sequel to MBY, called After You.
The Pact, Jodi Picoult.  This is one of my 3 favorite Picoults, along with My Sister's Keeper and The Storyteller.
Wish You Well, David Baldacci.  This is in my top 12 all-time (along with Language and Winter of the World).
Winter of the World, Ken Follett.  This is book 2 in Follett's Century Trilogy.

5.  I'm sure you've all seen previews of Matt Damon's new movie, The Martian.  The author, Andy Weir, is a Bay Area guy.  And he will be appearing live by video on November 10 for the Los Gatos Library's Evening Book Club.  Can't wait.  And in case you haven't read The Martian, it's a really good book (take a look at my review from January 19 of this year).

6.  Finally (you probably thought this post would never end!), I recently read a quote from Lee Child that I thought was pretty interesting.  He said:  "Writing is show business for shy people."

That's it for now, people.  Whether you buy print books, ebooks, audiobooks, or get any and all of these from your local library, it's really important to KEEP READING!


Friday, September 4, 2015

The Nightingale ALMOST Lives Up To Its Advance Billing

When I decided to read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, it was after 5 or 6 people told me how good it was.  In fact, my recommenders all gave it a 5/5 (I'm one of the few old-timers who still go on the 4.0 system).  Furthermore in fact, Amazon has a rating of 4.8/5 for 11, 687 reviews.  And Goodreads is 4.53 out of 57, 475 (yes, you read that number correctly) reviews.  Where do I stand?  I'm a bit lower at 3.25/4.  That puts me a shade above 4/5.  That still makes this a solid read for me.  So far this year I have read 45 books. Of those, 9 were 3.5 or above (including Goodnight June at 4.0+ and Edge of Eternity at 4.25).  And of the remaining 36 books, 10 are at 3.25.  So, did I like The Nightingale?  You bet.  Was it in rarefied air?  Not exactly.

Everybody by now knows what this book is about.  But I'll give you a summary from the book flap:  "The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion, and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied war-torn France - a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women."

The summary also points out that "...Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of World War II and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen:  the women's war."

I'll drink Diet Coke to this last part.  It is refreshing to read a story about those left behind during war - especially the women and children.  Turns out that their stories are no less brutal than the soldiers' stories themselves.  But you'll have to read it for yourself to get the details.

What did I like about The Nightingale?  Well, I'll tell you:

1.  It grabbed me from the 1st page.
2.  I liked that it started in 1995, went back to 1939-1945, and did some flip-flopping (with most of the story taking place during the war).  This was similar to Orphan Train.  And you all know what I thought of Orphan Train!
3.  There was a lot of emotion initially and certainly in the end.  In fact, I did some major boohooing in the last chapter.
4.  It told the story of the women and children left behind in France during the war,
instead of just the men's story.
5.  It gave us a look at the dissident, non-soldier women and men who opposed/fought the Germans.

What didn't I like so much?

1.  Throughout the book there were times when certain words and phrases were used over
and over (ironic, don't you think, that I used the word "were" twice in this sentence?).
2.  The book dragged a little for me.
3.  I thought the author beat us over the head with the German atrocities and cruelty - not just with the Jewish families, but with all of the women and children left behind in France. The last 1/3 of the book spent more time with that than the celebration of the heroism of the main characters.  That should have been the main emphasis throughout the entire book.

There's obviously not much that I didn't like.  The slight late dragginess of the book and the emphasis on the camps made it a 3.5 for me.  And the repetition knocked it down another .25.  Ergo, 3.25.  Would I recommend it?  Absolutely.  Are you likely to like it more than me? Probably.  When almost 70,000 people average 4.665, and I'm at a shade above 4.0, then it is extremely likely that most (if not all) of you will disagree with me.  So be it.  You can let me have it.  I can take the blows.