Saturday, October 31, 2015

Another Good Recommendation from My Goodreads Friend, Melissa

Come Away with Me is a debut novel for Karma Brown.  It was recommended by Melissa, who is also the person that told me I needed to read Sarah Jio.  And you all know what I thought about Goodnight June (4+/4).  Is this a book to match that one?  No.  Is it even a 4/4?  No.  But it's still darn good.  Much of it was a 3.25.  But other parts were 3.5-4.0.  The final rating is a 3.5/4.  That makes it a strong recommendation.  In fact, I think I'll ask Stacy at Recycle Books to get me a couple of copies for my Sunday morning rec table.

Author Lori Nelson Spielman writes on the cover of Come Away with Me:  "Fans of Elizabeth Gilbert's EAT PRAY LOVE will flock to this novel."  Fortunately, that's not the case.  I wasn't a big fan of EPL.  It was okay, but this one is better.

I'll give you the synopsis this time.  Tegan, a 26-year old woman, who is pregnant, is driving to her in-laws house during the holidays in Chicago.  Her husband, Gabe, is at the wheel. They hit black ice and end up in an accident.  She not only loses the baby, but she also loses the ability to ever have children again (this is not a spoiler alert; it happens at the beginning of the book).  A number of months later, Gabe convinces Tegan that they should have an adventure.  They pull out a bottle filled with vacation destinations and pick 3 (ergo the comparison to EPL).  The idea, of course, is to get Tegan out of the place that has such bad memories.  Does this whet your appetite?

Brown is a very good writer.  And there are some really great moments.  There is a 10-page section a little over half-way through the book that I absolutely loved (i.e. that means I cried a lot).  And on page 316 out of 350 there is a GIANT SHOCK.  My mouth was hanging open I was so stunned.  In fact, it reminded me of a very popular movie from a few years back (16 years, to be exact).  If you read the book, email me ( so that we can "talk" about which movie I was thinking of.

Brown does something that I really liked.  She went back and forth between the present and the past.  The difference from other books is that she doesn't go back in any particular chronological order.  It might be 2.5 years, or 2 days, or 8 years, or 3 weeks.  That keeps the reader engaged.

I also liked that there were references I could really relate to:

1.  The doctor smiles, "displaying two rows of quite straight but yellowing teeth."  My grandson, Ryan, had just told me the night before that I had yellow teeth.  Ouch.
2.  Gabe and Tegan go to Maui and take a ride to Hana, which is 4 hours away, on a very winding road.  Joni and I took that road to Hana.  And Joni got very carsick.
3.  At one point, when Tegan and Gabe are in Italy, Gabe says:  "You should never skip gelato while in Italy."  Back in September of 2011, Joni and I were in Italy.  And we had gelato every day, sometimes twice a day.
4.  A couple that Tegan and Gabe meet in Italy talk about celebrating the anniversary of their 1st date.  October 8 of this year was the 49th anniversary of my 1st date with Joni.  So we definitely celebrate.

In case I haven't been clear, you will enjoy this book.  In fact, it's worth it just for the GIANT SHOCK, if for no other reason - and there are many other reasons.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Another Review of a Local Author - and a Guest Review of Harper Lee's New/Old Book

Niki's Discovery, by Dick Yaeger, is the sequel to Niki's Touch, which I didn't read.  After meeting Dick, I asked him which book I should start with, and he suggested Niki's Discovery.  I can honestly say that it didn't feel like I missed anything by going straight to #2.  Let me give you an excerpt from the back of the book (John is Niki's husband):

"...Niki and John began a journey across two continents to find a master sorcerer who would teach the magic to destroy an alliance between a U.S. Congresswoman and Russian crime czar sworn to disgrace, maim, and kill them."

I like a book that combines some fantasy with the real world (like Hannah Jayne's Under Wraps, book 1 in the Underworld Detection Agency Chronicles).  There is definitely magic in this book - some good and, of course, some bad.  But you still have suspense and an intriguing storyline.  There were some chuckles, some tears, and even an "Oh, ho, yes!"

There may be a lot of magic in the book, but that doesn't mean it's not also well-written, cuz it is.  So:
"There was a sensation she was in her thirties and forties, but her make-up free face was unblemished without a wrinkle, freckle or mole-it was as if it had been airbrushed."

There was even one passage that described me (not that it's just about me - or is it?):  "Sam pushed his chair away from the table slightly, tipped it back on the rear two legs, and put his hands behind his head."  I do that everywhere we go, and it drives Joni crazy.

But enough about me (or is it?).  Niki's Discovery is a fun read.

GUEST REVIEW:  My buddy, Ken, read Harper Lee's latest/1st book, Go Set A Watchman.  Here's his review:

I don't think I'm telling any tales out of school that "Go Set a Watchmen" by Harper Lee was her first effort and a weak one at that.  She was asked by her publisher to change this, rewrite that, alter the plot etc.  The revision was "To Kill a Mockingbird."  I would give this graciously 1/4 (using your scale Lloyd).  I found this book to be long and dreary.  The plot drags on, the characters are forgettable, and the ending is an insult to anyone with an IQ higher then their shoe size.  If you choose to read this, you will see why it was abandoned. And that the publication is merely a marketing effort to extract money from the reading public.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Another Good Book - But It Could Have Been Better

J. Ryan Stradal's Kitchens of the Great Midwest is getting a lot of pub.  And I understand why.  It's a very good book.  But what started out as a 3.5/4 through the first 5 chapters (of 8) ended up slowing down a bit, especially in chapters 6 and 7.  Chapter 8 picks up again. What happened?  I'll try to explain.

Instead of giving you the Goodreads synopsis, let me quote one small section of the book flap's description:  "This is a novel about one girl's extraordinary farm-to-table success story, about mothers and daughters, how food becomes the common language of our lives, and the bittersweet nature of life itself-its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises."

Being in the food service business myself, and living in the Bay Area, which is the area that started many major food trends - from California Cuisine (with Alice Waters) to sustainable fish to vegetarian to vegan to gluten-free, and on and on - and just flat-out loving all-types of food, it was certainly fun to read a book about one girl's transformation from a shaky childhood to world-class chef.  Along the way we get to see recipes from many of the foods that appear in the book.  I've seen that in a couple of books that I've read (their names escape me at the moment, like so many other pieces of trivia!).  It's a fun add-on.

But I digress.  What changed in chapters 6 and 7?  Well, it really comes down to the connection with the main character, Eva.  The 1st 5 chapters all either focused directly on Eva or on characters who interacted with Eva.  6 and 7 got away from that.  Do those newbies ultimately end up interacting with Eva?  Perhaps.  But, for me, it was too little, too late.

This is still a good, well-written book.  And I gave it a 3.25/4.  That's a very good rating. And I definitely recommend the book.  But my problem is that it started out so strong that I hate to see it lose steam.  At least the last chapter got back to what made the 1st 5 chapters so appealing.  This is in direct contrast to The Monsters of Templeton (review 10/9/15), which started out very strong (3.5), sagged in the middle (down to a 3.25), and then plummeted at the end (final 2.75).  I will be doing a post in the near future about the 5 different ways a book can progress from beginning to end, with examples.  Here are the categories:

Starts fast, stays fast
Starts fast, slows down
Starts slow, stays slow
Starts slow, speeds up
Hybrid (what's that?)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Do You Want to Read More? Gretchen Rubin Tells Us How

Gretchen Rubin is a #1 bestselling author.  She writes about "experiments in the pursuit of happiness and good habits."  In this post, she gives us tips on how to get more reading in.  Here they are:

1. Quit reading. I used to pride myself on finishing every book I started. No more. Life is short. There are too many wonderful books to read.
2. Read books you enjoy. When I’m reading a book I love—for example, I’m now reading Charles Portis’s True Grit — I’m astonished by how much time I find to read. Which is another reason to stop reading a book I don’t enjoy.
3. Watch recorded TV. It’s much more efficient to watch recorded shows, because you skip the commercials and control when you watch. Then you have more time to read.
4. Skim. Especially when reading newspapers and magazines, often I get as much from skimming as I do by a leisurely reading. I have to remind myself to skim, but when I do, I get through material much faster.
5. Get calm. I have a sticky note posted in our bedroom that says, “Quiet mind.” It’s sometimes hard for me to settle down with a book; I keep wanting to jump up and take care of some nagging task. But that’s no way to read. Incidentally, one of the main reasons I exercise is to help me sit still for reading and writing — if I don’t exercise, I’m too jumpy.
6. Don’t fight my inclinations. Sometimes I feel like I should be reading one book when I actually feel like reading something entirely different. Now I let myself read what I want, because otherwise I end up reading much less.
7. Always have something to read. Never go anywhere empty-handed. I almost always read actual ye olde print books, but I travel with e-books, too, so I know I’ll never be caught without something to read. It’s a great comfort.
8. Maintain a big stack. I find that I read much more when I have a pile waiting for me. Right now, I have to admit, my stack is so big that it’s a bit alarming, but I’ll get it down to a more reasonable size before too long.
9. Choose my own books. Books make wonderful gifts – both to receive and to give – but I try not to let myself feel pressured to read a book just because someone has given it to me. I always give a gift book a try, but I no longer keep reading if I don’t want to.
10. Set aside time to read taxing books. For Better Than Beforemy book about habit-formation, I tried a new reading habit, “Study.” Every weekend, I spend time in “study” reading — which covers books that I find fascinating, but that are demanding, and that I might put down and neglect to pick up again. The kind of book that I really do want to read, but somehow keep putting off for months, even years. Right now, my Study book is E. H. Gombrich’s Art and Illusion: a Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation.
And finally, some tips from great writers and readers:
11. Randall Jarrell: “Read at whim! Read at whim!
12. Henry David Thoreau: “Read the best books first, otherwise you’ll find you do not have time.
13. Samuel Johnson: “What we read with inclination makes a much stronger impression. If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention; so there is but one half to be employed on what we read.”

For more insights from Gretchen, go to her website:

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sequels Can Be Risky - But Not in This Case

We've all read books that we really enjoyed.  And then the author/publisher (not necessarily in that order) tries to capitalize on the success of #1.  There have been some pretty epic failures, I would say.  But there have also been some big successes.  Think of World without End, the sequel to Pillars of the Earth.  Pillars was great, and World was almost as great (Pillars top 3, World top 25).  And how about some fantastic trilogies, like Follett's The Century Trilogy, or Tom Rob Smith's Child 44, or John Jakes' North and South.  What  I am leading up to is another sequel, this one from JoJo Moyes.  You all know how much I loved Me Before You.  It was a solid 4/4 (review on 12/10/13).  And now we get a sequel, After You.  Was it category #1 (epic failures)?  Or category #2 (big successes)?  The answer is: BIG SUCCESS.  I liked it a ton.  In fact, for the 1st 275 pages (out of 350), I was enjoying it a lot and was pretty much settling in on a 3.5.  Not too shabby.  But then, like Gone Girl and Alina Sayre's YA fantasy, The Illuminator's Gift, it took off.  The last 75 pages were incredibly riveting and jumped it up to a 3.75/4.  Let me explain.

I emotionally connect with characters in a lot of books (as you well know).  But in After You, I made the connection with a bunch of the characters, not just the main 2 or 3.  Take a look -

Louisa - the protagonist of Me Before You
Lily - Will's heretofore unknown daughter
Bernard - Louisa's father
Mum - Louisa's mother
Treena - Louisa's sister
Camilla Traynor - Will's mother
Steve Traynor - Will's father
Richard - Louisa's boss
Sam - Louisa's possible(?) love interest
Moving On Circle members - Daphne, William, Sunil, Natasha, Fred, and Jake (Sam's nephew)
Donna - Sam's ambulance partner

There are a number of spots where 2 characters, other than Louisa, make a connection. And I teared up as if it were Louisa.  I can't give any details, for obvious reasons, but trust me on this one.  In the last 75 pages, the print on the pages got blurry.  I can't understand it. Must have been a printshop error!

But besides tears, this is a very well-written book.  Sam is talking about losing a loved one. He says: "Like adapting around a hole.  I don't know.  It's like you become...a doughnut instead of a bun."

Early in the book, Louisa is looking down on London traffic.  She sees "the traffic snaking up toward the city, the endless red stream of taillights, an automotive blood supply."

Late in the book, when Louisa and Richard are talking about Louisa's crazy life, Richard says:  "Louisa, is your life always like this?"  And Louisa says:  "Possibly.  Although I'd like to think it's just a phase."  This is simply how Moyes writes.  Every paragraph, sentence, and word fit perfectly.  It's such a treat to read her writing.

And there were the usual passages that triggered cultural references for me:

"I break two fingers on my left hand, and a metatarsal, which pokes through the skin of my foot and causes one of the medical students to faint."  Remember the beginning of the old Jack Klugman show, Quincy, M.E.?  In the opening credits, Quincy is performing an autopsy, and the medical students are barfing, fainting, and every other type of reaction.

"He just said there was no point in us getting emotional as we were never going to last beyond college anyway."  Surely you remember Warner saying that to Elle when he breaks up with her in the movie/musical Legally Blonde (very cool music, BTW).  Okay, I know that this is not exactly literary, but I was reminded of it nonetheless.

Oh, did I tell you that the book is very funny?  I laughed out loud on a whole bunch of occasions.  I won't give you any examples because you would have had to be there.  But I'm telling you that Moyes does a great job of interjecting appropriate humor in the middle of a very serious storyline.

I could keep going...but I won't (is that a standing ovation I just got?).  I think JoJo Moyes is flat out a heck of an author.  And I'm not saying that just because I got to meet her and shake her hand (although that was very cool).  If you liked Me Before You, I predict that you will like After You.  And if you haven't read MBY, then what are you waiting for?

Monday, October 19, 2015

New Authors for Me

Usually once a year I will list the authors that I've read that are new to me.  Here they are so far in 2015, with my ratings (local authors are designated by L):

Alan Jacobson (L) - Spectrum - 3.0

Andy Weir (L) - The Martian - 3.25
Julian Rubinstein - Ballad of the Whiskey Robber - 2.5
e. lockhart - We Were Liars - 2.0
Christina Baker Kline - Orphan Train - 4.0
Susan Sloat - Forward to Camelot - 3.25
Paula Hawkins - The Girl on the Train - 2.5
Nicci Carerra (L) - Love Caters All - 3.0
Tracy K. Smith - Ordinary Light - 3.0
Elizabeth Rosner (L) - Electric City - 2.25
Linda Abbott - Ten Days in Paradise - 3.0
David Levithan - Every Day - 3.0
Jenny Offill - Dep't. of Speculation - 2.0
Dennis Lehane - The Given Day - 3.5
Ann Packer (L) - The Children's Crusade - 2.5
Joy Brighton (L) - Deadly Secret - 2.0
John Billheimer (L) - Dismal Mountain - 3.25
Lisa Genova - Still Alice - 3.25
Killian McRae (L) - Pure & Sinful - 3.0
Wm. Paul Young - Cross Roads - 3.0
Matthew Pearl - The Lost Bookaneer - 2.5
Graeme Simsion - The Rosie Project - 3.25
Ann Bridges (L) - Private Offerings - 2.75
Ruth Ozeki - A Tale for the Time Being - 3.0
Sarah Jio - Goodnight June - 4.0+
Vendela Vita - The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty - 2.5
Kristin Hannah - The Nightingale - 3.5
Alice Hoffman - The Museum of Extraordinary Things - 2.75
Elizabeth Collison (L) - Some Other Town - 2.5
Dinah Lin (L) - Daring to Dream Once Again - 2.5
Marian Lindner (L) - San Francisco - 2.0
Dick Yaeger (L) - Niki's Discovery - 2.5
Harper Lee - To Kill A Mockingbird - 3.0
Lauren Groff - The Monsters of Templeton - 2.75

Out of 34, I've got 18 that are 3.0 or higher, including 2-3.5s, 1-4.0, and 1-4.0+ (yep, a 4.0+).  Considering I had no track record with any of these authors, I think that's a pretty good percentage for high level reading.  And of the 34, 13 were written by local authors.  If you add another 953 to that list (okay, that's probably a slight exaggeration), then I have read/currently read a lot of locals.  I like that. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

An Interview with Kathleen, the Owner of A Great Good Place for Books

Earlier this year, I summarized an interview I had with Margie Scott Tucker, co-owner of the Books, Inc. chain.  Now we have our 2nd interview with a bookstore owner. Kathleen, the owner of A Great Good Place for Books, took my questions and responded the next day! Here are her answers, verbatim, below:

1.  How did you end up owning GGP?  My good friend, Debi Echlin, passed away unexpectedly and left me the store.
2.  How long have you owned GGP?  My 10 year anniversary of owning the store is 11/25/2015
3.  How many events do you host in a year? 2-4 events a week except in August and December
3.  Do you have a social media and/or event coordinator? Carolyn Hutton is both our social media and events coordinator.  I used to be both; way to much work for one person! Carolyn is a godsend!
4.  How do you pick your authors for the store? The publishers send out grids each season and we write proposals for events. Also I have been in the industry 25 years (14 years as an events coordinator) and I have a lot of friends.
5.  Do you work through publishers, publicists/ editors, et al? Yes to all of the above!
6.  Do you have book clubs, kids' activities, YA groups? etc.We have one instore bookclub for adults and another for adults reading YA; we also work with the local middle schools and have student interns through out the year. We also have a summer reading program.
7.  Are you a Bay Area native? I was not born in the bay area (I was born in Greenwich, CT) BUT have lived here since I was two--so consider myself a native! I grew up in the East Bay and have lived in Oakland for 13 years this round!  
8.  Did you grow up a bibliophile? I was born a book nerd! There are pictures of me at two holding books upside down pretending to read. Books and the worlds that exist in them have always been a major part of life! 

GGP is located at 6120 La Salle Avenue in the Montclair District of Oakland.  This is the same store where I met one of my favorite authors - Beth Hoffman - and where I just met Lauren Groff.  It's also the same store that sponsored Vanessa Diffenbaugh's appearance at a local church back in August (as you may or may not know, The Language of Flowers is in my top 12 all-time!).  Get on their email list and pay close attention to the schedule of author appearances.  They're getting top-notch authors. And the store is just so darn cool.  (For pictures of the store, go to my post from October 1.)

1.  Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith, book 1 of a trilogy, will be hitting the big screen next April.  Gary Oldham is one of the stars.  I really liked this book.  In fact, Child 44 is in Volume I of Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader (FFTNFR).  If you haven't read Child 44, you've got plenty of time before the movie comes out.  You will be happy you read it.
2.  Although there's no date yet, Orphan Train is also being made into a movie. Christina Baker Kline's novel, based on true events, is an absolutely terrific book.  A solid 4/4 for me.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I Finally Read To Kill A Mockingbird - Good Book

The title of this post says it all.  I'm probably close to 50 years behind schedule (most everybody, I think, read it in high school), but I finally did it.  I read To Kill A Mockingbird. Drum roll, please.  So why did I wait until medicare/social security age to read it?  That's an easy one - it's the Los Gatos Library Evening Book Club selection for October.  In fact, we meet next Tuesday, the 20th, at 7:00, to discuss it.  I will be there.  Will I have a lot to say (a foolish question, for those who know me)?  I'm not sure.  I liked this book.  I gave it a 3/4. Was I blown away?  No.  Was I emotionally connected to the characters?  Maybe a little. Was it well-written?  I think it was.

I'm not trying to minimize the impact of this book on many people.  I know that it is considered a classic.  But it just didn't hit me that way.  I thought it was a good story told and written well.  I don't really have much more to say about it than that.  I guess I could give you the storyline.  But doesn't everybody already know what it's about?  I mean, haven't we been hearing about both the book (1960) and the movie (1962) for over 50 years.  The short answer is yes.  And now that we've got Go Set A Watchman, published just this past July, but written in the mid-50s, interest in TKAM has, once again, skyrocketed.

I'm not going to stand on a soapbox and tell you to read it.  If you are in the vast majority that have already read it, then just ignore this whole discussion.  But if you haven't read it, and feel guilty about it, I can honestly say that you should at least give it some thought.  It's not only a good book, but it will also pull you from the ignorant masses (from where I just escaped) to the land of the enlightened.  That's nothing to sneeze at.


Now (at 89)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mitch Albom's latest - the magic strings of Frankie Presto

Before I talk about Mitch's book, let me just say that I started JoJo Moyes' sequel to Me Before You.  It's called After You and continues the story of Louisa.  I have read 6 pages. And I already know that I'm going to love it. Not only does it continue the story of a very appealing character.  But this author can just flat-out write.

Okay, moving on.  I got the ARC for Mitch Albom's latest book, the magic strings of Frankie Presto (it's due in stores on November 10).  I have read all of Albom's books, starting with Tuesdays with Morrie.  The others, in order, are:

The Five People You Meet in Heaven
For One More Day
Have a Little Faith
The Time Keeper
The First Phone Call from Heaven

I have liked them all.  My favorite is Heaven and my least favorite is The Time Keeper.  The other 4 I liked about the same.  He is a solid writer.  So what did I think of his latest?  Well, that's an interesting question.  It's 459 pages (the pages are small, and there is a ton of 1-line dialogue).  I would say for the 1st 330 pages, I liked it well enough.  Not as much as Heaven but more than Time.  But the last 100+ pages were outstanding.  I didn't realize how much I cared about the characters (especially the central character) until I got to those last 100.  I was mesmerized, with a fair amount of tears (I know, I know), and even a few surprising twists.

The story centers on the funeral of Frankie Presto at the age of 70.  The narrator is Music. Yep, you read that right.  He (maybe she? it?) tells the story of how he gifted Frankie with music at birth in Villareal, Spain in 1935.  And how Frankie took that gift and became a world-famous guitarist/singer.  And he intersperses Frankie's life story with reminiscences by real-life musicians (e.g. Roger McGuinn of The Byrds, Tony Bennett, and Burt Bacharach, to name just a few) of their "encounters" with Frankie (Albom got permission from each musician to be included in the book).  That was very cool.  This is in direct contrast to the book I just read, The Monsters of Templeton.  In that one, the places where the ancestors tell their story were a drag for me.  Not in this one.  All of the celebrity musings were really fun.

Do I recommend the magic strings of Frankie Presto?  Yes.  Do I have a rating?  Yes.  3/4. Nothing wrong with that!

A COUPLE OF NOTES (are you impressed with my new introduction?):
1.  A.R. Silverberry, author of Wyndano's Cloak (a great YA fantasy), has written a blog post that is super interesting.  The 1st line says:  "One of my favorite parts of writing is not writing."  He talks about how he gets many of his ideas when he's out in the world and not writing.  Take a look.
2.  If you haven't yet told me how many of my top 25 you've read - with a chance to win one of them - you've still got time.  Either respond on one of my blog posts or email me at  IT'S NOT TOO LATE! 

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Monsters of Templeton, by Lauren Groff - Great Start, Okay Middle, Not-So-Great Ending

I've already shared with you my visit to A Great Good Place for Books last Tuesday to see Lauren Groff.  I told you how Kathleen, the owner, convinced me to go.  And, as you also know, I enjoyed Lauren a lot.  So I immediately shot her book, The Monsters of Templeton, to the top of the TBR pile.  And now I'm done.  What did I think?  Let's start with a Goodreads summary:

On the very morning Willie Upton slinks home to Templeton, New York (after a calamitous affair with her archeology professor), the 50-foot-long body of a monster floats from the depths of the town's lake.

With a clue to the mysterious identity of her father in hand, Willie turns her research skills to unearthing the secrets of the town in letters and pictures (which, "reproduced" in the book along with increasingly complete family trees, lend an air of historical authenticity).

As the title of the post states, this book was pretty much evenly divided into 3 parts.  The 1st 130 pages were great.  In fact, just past the 1/3 mark, I made a note that said "literary, but readable - like Conroy."  I mean, c'mon, comparing anybody to Conroy?  The author who has 3 books in my top 25 all-time?

What happened next, you ask?  The 2nd 3rd of the book spent a fair amount of time going back to various ancestors and letting them speak in their own voices.  I didn't like the throw/flashbacks as well as the stories that centered on Willie, family, and friends.

The 3rd 3rd was the killer for me.  There was a lot more storytelling by ancestors.  And I didn't much care for those particular ancestors or their stories.  Since I gave the book a 2.75/4, I think I basically matched the ratings on Amazon and Goodreads.  They're both around 3.5/5.  Close.  I'm too lazy to read other reviews.  But I imagine some of those reviewers agree with me.

Oftentimes I will list those things that I liked about a book.  I want to do that here, too.

1.  Lauren Groff is a very good writer (but I already told you that).
2.  There are 6 friends in their mid-50s who jog every day and have been doing it for almost 30 years.  I really enjoyed it every time Lauren focused on them.  In fact, there was one morning while I was reading Monsters that I happened to be strolling downtown where I live and saw a group of 6 middle-aged men walking together.  I kid you not.  I had to smile.
3.  Even though this is a work of fiction, I very much enjoyed the old-timey pictures that Lauren used to illustrate Willie's ancestors.  They look very real.  It reminds me of Steve Sporleder's From Sleepy Lagoon to the Corner of the Cats.  The picture on the cover of Steve's book (also black and white, like those in Monsters) looks so real.
4.  I liked how Willie kept updating her Genealogy of the Temple Family as she learned more about her family's history.  The revisions were fun to read.
5.  I liked a quote from Lauren's Author's Note before the book even begins.  She says that "In the end, fiction is the craft of telling the truth through lies."  Pretty cool, don't you think?
6.  I liked Stephen King's endorsement:  "Lauren Groff's debut novel, The Monsters of Templeton, is everything a reader might have expected from this gifted writer, and more...There are monsters, murders, bastards, and ne'er-do-wells almost without number.  I was sorry to see this rich and wonderful novel come to an end."  I obviously don't agree with him, but I still liked what he had to say.

I feel strongly that there are many books that most people would agree on.  I also feel equally strongly that The Monsters of Templeton is not one of those books.  Kathleen, the owner of A Great Good Place for Books, loved The Monsters of Templeton a lot.  Obviously Stephen King really did too.  I didn't.  But you may want to decide for yourself.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How Popular Is JoJo Moyes? - Check Out the Crowd from Last Night in Pleasanton

Boy did I have fun last night.  I went to see JoJo Moyes at the Amador Theater in Pleasanton.  The event was co-sponsored by Towne Center Books.  And they had to move the event from the bookstore in downtown Pleasanton to The Firehouse in downtown Pleasanton to the Amador Theater, on the outskirts of downtown Pleasanton.  Do you think they made the right call?

Uh, that would be a resounding YES!  There were hundreds of people there.  One estimate was 350.  A crazy number.  And she was worth it.  Once I got used to her English accent(!), I was fascinated with what she had to say.  She told us that she got the idea for Me Before You when she read about a rugby player who became a quadriplegic.  His parents actually took him to Switzerland, which has legalized assisted suicide.  The book came out in the UK 3.5 years ago (2.5 in the U.S.), and she has now sold SIX MILLION BOOKS (6,000,000, in real numbers)!!!!

During the Q&A, 1 of the 7(!) men in the theater raised his hand and commented that despite the demographic of this particular audience, men really like this book too (do you want to guess who that man was?).  JoJo told a great story.  She said a big burly welder saw his girlfriend reading Me Before You and crying.  He asked about the book and decided to read it when she was done.  So, he's at work on lunch break.  And he's sitting there reading and crying.  His big burly welder buddy comes over to see what's going on.  Next thing you know, both of them are reading at lunch and crying.  Isn't that a great visual?

One more Me Before You note - JoJo had 8 published books when she came up with the idea for MBY.  But her publisher didn't think it was a good plotline.  So JoJo took it to PenguinUK.  They liked it - obviously.  I am reminded of what Julia Roberts told the salesclerks in Pretty Woman after they refused to wait on her.  Remember?  She said "Big mistake.  Huge."  I'm sure that's what JoJo at least wanted to say to her old publisher. Because it was indeed a humongous mistake!

Oh, yeah.  she's on tour to promote her latest book, After You.  It's the sequel to Me Before You.  I got my personalized signed copy and I'm moving it up the TBR pile.  And thanks to JoJo, the Amador Theater, and Towne Center Books for setting up the signing before the formal presentation as well as afterwards.  That was a great bonus for those of us who were able to get our books signed beforehand.  Needless to say, this is one of the better author events I've been to in recent times.

P.S.  (Isn't there always a P.S.?):  After the event was over, the 4 of us (Joni, Phil, and Donna) went back downtown and ate at a Mediterranean restaurant that was recommended by a Pleasanton native that we were talking to in the lobby before the event began.  It's called Lokanta, and it was absolutely delicious.  Ok, now I'm done.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Kate Allure Launches Lawyer Up at B&N

For the 2nd time in 2 weeks, I had the occasion to visit an author at Barnes & Noble on Stevens Creek Blvd. in San Jose.  This time it was Kate Allure, who is launching her 2nd book, Lawyer Up.  This is a follow-up to her 1st book, Playing Doctor.  Well, just like the 1st one, I liked Lawyer Up.  Each book has 3 sexy romantic stories.  If you want more details, my reviews are posted on December 15, 2014 and July 26 of this year (or you can just take my word for it).

Here are 3 pictures from Kate's launch (I apologize for picture #3):

1.  Dennis Lehane, author of many novels, including Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and Shutter Island (all made into movies), will be at the JCC in San Francisco, Monday, October 12, at 7:00.  The only Lehane I've read is The Given Day, which I rated a 3.5 back on April 11 of this year.  I don't think I can make it, but wish I could.
2.  JoJo Moyes, as a reminder, will be at the Amador Theater in Pleasanton (on the campus of Amador High School) this coming Monday, the 5th, at 7:00.  It's a paid event ($10) sponsored by Towne Center Books.  I will definitely be there for that one.  She is promoting her latest book, After You, which is a sequel to Me Before You.  Which I rated a 4/4 and that sits on my table every Sunday morning.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Another Author Event - Lauren Groff at A Great Good Place for Books

I know that the title is not too imaginative.  But this was a particularly interesting event for me.  I don't usually go to see an author unless I either know her personally or have read one of her books.  I went against type here.  Why?  Well, it's all the bookstore owner's fault! A Great Good Place for Books sends out the usual emails announcing their events.  But, in this case, the owner, Kathleen, sent a separate email extolling the virtues of Lauren Groff.  I even emailed the store and asked if it was worth my long drive.  The answer was a resounding yes.  So, although I knew it was going to take me a while to get there (South Bay to East Bay during afternoon rush hour traffic!), I decided... what the heck.  And, fortunately, Joni agreed to go with me.

Was it, in fact, worth it?  Absolutely.  She was not only interesting (she was very animated and very appreciative of her audience).  But I think she is somebody that I want to read. And let's not forget that I did the same thing a couple of years ago.  I came up to AGGPFB to see Beth Hoffman, even though I knew nothing about her.  In that case, I went because one of my fellow bloggers raved about her books (and said she was a delightful person - and she was/is). And you all know what I think of Beth's 2 books.  The 1st one, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, is in my 2nd 12 all-time.  And the 2nd one, Looking for Me, is a 4/4. With that kind of background, I'm excited to read Lauren's books, starting with The Monsters of Templeton (I'm 25 pages in).

The crowd last night was big.  Probably 40-50 people.  And one person gave the best quote during the Q&A.  He said "I just finished the book last night and can't wait to start it again." He was referring to Lauren's latest book, Fates and Furies.  But when I went to the cash register before the start of the show, I asked Carolyn which one I should read.  She thought I might want to start with The Monsters of Templeton.  So that's the one I picked.

If Monsters is as good as Kathleen and Carolyn say, then I will be following it very quickly with Fates and Furies. Especially since F&F is already #7 on the NYT best-seller list.  AND, it's nominated for a National Book award.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  I just have to make sure that I keep my expectations reasonable!