Sunday, January 31, 2016

Below you will find announcements for 2 upcoming events from the RWA (Romance Writers of America, Silicon Valley chapter), 1 very exciting nomination for Books, Inc., AND the 1st announcement for Litquake Palo Alto.  Litquake skipped Palo Alto last year, but it's back this year.  It's Sunday, March 13, from 2:00-8:00.  There will be a bunch of  panel discussions to choose from and tons of authors (plus food and beverages).  I have gone a number of times, and it is a lot of fun.

This year’s bookstore finalists represent a broad range of general independent bookstores, both big and small. The winner will be named in March.

Save the date! Litquake returns to Palo Alto March 13.

San Francisco’s legendary literary festival returns to the Oshman Family JCC on Sunday, March 13. Expect all the rollicking literary fun of great authors, ideas and conversation. There will be a variety of salons on intriguing topics from thrillers to memoirs to cross-cultural writing. Plus, special…

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Latest from Barry Eisler - and, boy, is it good

I just finished the ARC for Barry Eisler's latest novel, The God's Eye View.  It hits the bookstores this coming Tuesday, Feb. 2.  In fact, I will be going to the launch at Kepler's (got my tickets a month ago!).

I'm a big fan of Eisler's books (especially the John Rain series), so it was a no-brainer to order this one from Kepler's, where I will pick up my copy and get it signed Tuesday night. In the meantime, I was fortunate enough to have Nicole send me the ARC.  That way, I could read and review it before the event.  I could also then post it on my blog, on Goodreads, and on Amazon.  Of course, it would help if I liked it.  Did I?  That's a resounding YES!  I think it's terrific.

Normally, I quote either the back of the book or the Goodreads synopsis.  I'm not going to do that here.  All I'm going to tell you is that the book centers on Ted Anders, the director of the NSA (National Security Agency); Mike Remar, Anders' right-hand man; Evelyn Gallagher, a computer scientist in the NSA who also has a 4-year old deaf son; and Manus and Delgado, who do jobs for Anders and Remar that don't strictly come under any of our country's laws.

What I'm going to do instead is show you a couple of quotes about the book:

"Eisler has managed to evoke a half-hidden global conflict that is still largely misunderstood even by many of its own participants.  In documenting the parts and making accessible the whole, he has done the public a profound service that goes well beyond entertainment." - Barrett Brown, activist and journalist

"Read this book because it's wildly entertaining.  Respect it because it paints a portrait of America that is more timely, terrifying, and relevant than anything gracing the bestseller lists.  The God's Eye View is one of the most important books that will be published this year." - Blake Crouch, author of Wayward Pines

Intrigued?  Yes?  Good answer.  This is one heckuva interesting premise.  And besides all of that, it's really well-written and very exciting.  I loved it.  I would even say that it's as good as Harlan Coben's best stuff.  Yep.  And I mean that, too.

So, from the quotes I've posted and the comments I've made you can probably guess that The God's Eye View paints a pretty grim picture of the NSA.  It fictionalizes what many people feel is not fiction at all.  And Eisler definitely makes it feel real.  But there's more to the book than that.  For example:

1.  Eisler's book reminds me of the recent movie, The Big Short.  Both of them take great pains NOT to dumb down the material.  We get explanations for events that force us to think.  Sometimes that's tough for me(!), but not this time.
2.  He creates a brutal hit man (Manus) and yet makes us sympathetic toward him.  That's no easy feat.
3.  He brings Evelyn and her son together with Manus and makes us absolutely care about all 3 of them and their relationships with one another.  (You're going to love the baseball scene.)
4.  Eisler made me cry (a fair amount for this type of book), smile, grimace (quite a bit), feel joy, and whoop.  (There's one scene where I actually cried and whooped at the same time!)
5.  Although I've already said this, it bears repeating.  This is an extremely well-written book.  There is tons of drama, and many of the storylines are very clever.  I always appreciate a well-written book that also grabs me emotionally.  Bingo!
6.  If you are under 18, DO NOT READ THIS BULLET POINT.  There is a sex scene in the book that reminded me of Lie Down with Lions by Ken Follett.  And maybe a little bit of the limousine scene in the movie No Way Out.  If you've read the one or seen the other, then you know what I mean!

To recap, get a hold of this book Tuesday (or shortly thereafter).  At least put it near the top of your TBR pile.  I'm telling you that this is an outstanding book.  In fact, I'm going to give it the highest compliment of all - I will be putting The God's Eye View on my Sunday morning, Farmer's Market, recommendation table.  Only the very best enjoy this privilege.  Way to go, Barry.

NOTE OF CAUTION:  There is some pretty graphic violence.  If you are squeamish, you may want to skim through those parts.  Just don't give up on the book because of it.

Barry Eisler spent three years in a covert position with the CIA's Directorate of Operations, then worked as a technology lawyer and startup executive in Silicon Valley and Japan, earning his black belt at the Kodokan International Judo Center along the way. Eisler's bestselling thrillers have won the Barry Award and the Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller of the Year, have been included in numerous "Best Of" lists, and have been translated into nearly twenty languages. Eisler lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and, when he's not writing novels, blogs about torture, civil liberties, and the rule of law.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review of Station Eleven, a Novel by Emily St. John Mandel

I thought that if I keep reading literary novels, I would become literary.  As my 3-year old granddaughter says whenever Joni sings, "eh eh."  When will I learn that I'm just a low-tech reader?  Probably never.  Station Eleven is such a novel.  I liked it, but I didn't really get it. Once again I say that this is NOT the book's or author's fault.  Lauren recommended it initially.  And I saw several highly rated reviews from fellow bloggers.  I take full responsibility for picking it.  Would I recommend it?  It's a 2.75/4.  So I would say not so much.  A little, maybe, but not a lot.

As I often do, I'm going to quote the back cover of the book:

Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack onstage  during a production of King Lear.  That was also the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.

Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves the Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive.  But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band's existence.  And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.

I have to say that I was immediately caught up in the story.  It starts with Arthur's death during a performance and goes right into the flu that kills off much of the people in the world.  I'm not opposed to a good dystopian novel.  And I even liked how it went from 20 years in the future back and forth to the years, days, and months prior to the calamity.  But I just really wasn't able to make sense of how it ends.  And, unfortunately (here it comes...ready?), I never made any emotional connection with any of the characters.  Is that common in a dystopian story?  I can't say.  I can only address this one.  I knew I was in trouble when there was a "big reveal" on page 280 (of 333), and I said out loud:  "So what."

To be sure, there is some good writing here.  Such as:

"He felt extravagantly, guiltily alive.  The unfairness of it, his heart pumping faultlessly while somewhere Arthur lay cold and still."  (That's pretty evocative)

"There was something obnoxious, he thought, in people who introduced themselves by their surnames while calling one by one's first." (Haven't we all felt this way, at one time or another?)

And then there are 3 passages that reminded me, 1st, of a movie, 2nd, of my dad, and 3rd, of a play.  In the 1st, shoe polish is used to cover up scuffs.  Remember the opening scene of Pretty Woman?  In the 2nd, people live in an IHOP.  In my father's later years, I used to take him to an IHOP near his residence once a week so that he could order the Rooty Tooty, Fresh and Fruity.  And, coincidentally, this weekend I had lunch at an IHOP off of highway 5 on my way to Los Angeles.  Too weird!  And in the 3rd, some friends of mine and I put on 2 performances of Guys and Dolls on 12/31/99 in honor of the Millennium.  During one of our early rehearsals, when we were reading our lines, Nathan Detroit said "clopping" instead of "eloping."  So when I saw "clopping" on page 301, I had to chuckle.

That' it, folks.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

3 Links: 1. RBC w/Rayme Waters; 2. Paper brain vs. ereader brain; 3. Oprah's top cliffhanger endings

1.  This past Wednesday night, the 20th, Rayme Waters, came to Recycle Books as our RBC author for January.  Rayme wrote The Angels' Share, which I rated a 4/4.  You can see my review of it back on Dec. 11, 2012.

Rayme was a great combination of enthusiasm and forthrightness and information.  One of the things we enjoy so much about having authors come to our book club is the back story. And Rayme provided plenty of that.  We all really enjoyed having her there.

2.  This is an article from the field of neuroscience about the difference between reading a book in paper verses one on an ereader.

If you've given up on reading paper books for the ease of your e-reader's screen, you may want to step back a bit. Neuroscience confirms that our brains use…

3.  Do you want to know what Oprah's top cliffhangers are over the last 15 years?  No?  Well here they are anyway.  There are 17 of them.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Los Gatos Library Tuesday Evening Book Club Recap

This past Tuesday night we had our January meeting for the Los Gatos Library Book Club. Our book was Me Before You, by JoJo Moyes, which I'm sure many of you have read (and if you haven't, make sure you do!).  We had an extremely lively discussion.  As usual, Melissa Maglio, our fearless leader, did a recap.  And they're always interesting.  But based on our heated debate, this is a recap I want you to read.

Recap of Me Before You
It was a small group last night but boy did we have a lot of fun talking about this book.  There was a small amount of disagreement between members which made things interesting.  I have to admit that I was one of the various members who were vocal in disagreeing.  In the novel, one of the two main characters, Will, has chosen, after being in an accident and becoming a quadriplegic, that he is going to end his life.  His failed attempts cause his parents to bring in a caregiver to keep eye over him.  The longest discussion last night was whether it was okay for Will to choose euthanasia.  I was on the side that felt that euthanasia shouldn't have been legal and that it gave Will an easier out than he should have had.  The other side of the argument was that no one should have to live their life in poor quality.  Will had even more of a reason to favor euthanasia because, along with his physical pains, he had the mental knowledge of knowing just how good life had been for him before his accident.  Pain was coming at him from all areas of his life. 

Although the author did not throw anything spiritual into the mix, except for maybe constant reference to the way Will’s mom would play with the cross on her necklace, I would argue that not only does euthanasia make it easy to give up but it doesn’t allow us to consider that maybe, our paths in this life are exactly what they are supposed to be.  Perhaps we are meant to deal with terrible things, some of us more than others.  From a logical, humanistic stand point, no one should have to live their life in pain and despair.  Euthanasia is humane and a persons’ right to choose should be honored.  I don’t think any characters in the book felt Will’s choice was the correct one.  His dad might have been the closest to this reality but his view was tainted by his own desire to leave his wife for his mistress once Will was not a matter of contention and scandal.

I argued that choosing to die, especially in relation to this story, is a selfish act.  Will knew that Louisa loved him, and he loved her.  However, even that fact did nothing to change his mind.  He chose to give up, even knowing it would hurt her deeply to lose him. Here again was another point of disagreement as someone pointed out that it actually wasn’t selfish to end his life.  He wouldn’t be putting Louisa in a lifetime of servitude to help him, care for him, and wait on him.  But, I would argue back that Louisa came to love him at a time when this was exactly what she was doing for him.  If you can fall in love with someone that you constantly have to take care of, why would you think this would impact your love or make you miserable long term?  Besides, breaks in routine can be made and vacations every now and then can help tremendously.  Will and his family certainly have the money to make things happen.  Perhaps Will should have waited a little longer once his relationship with Louisa was established.

Overall, my opinion is such that, happiness is about your state of mind and we all have a choice on how we view our life.  We can and should address the negativity around us but we should strive to train ourselves to continue to focus on the positives.  Bad things happen.  Pain and sickness come around.  Some are asked to deal with way more than others in this life.  Death is a given for all of us, but why not continue to honor the life that we have been given instead of giving up?  Some argue that you just don’t know until you are in the situation.  Very good point!  I truly loved discussing this book last night as the arguments for and against the main topic were fantastic.  We have a great discussion group with members that have fantastic and respectful views and opinions.  I hope that if you missed last night’s meeting you will find your way back to us in February.  If you are thinking of joining us for the first time, just know that all are welcome.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Finally Got Around to Reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (a true story)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, sat on my bookshelf for several years until I finally...sold it.  Yep.  I didn't think I was ever going to read it.  So when we moved out of our house on Terreno de Flores, I lumped it in with a bunch of others and went right down to Recycle Books.  And that was the end of that - so I thought.  Several years later, I'm sitting with cousin Besi talking about books.  And she tells me (I don't know how it came up) that I need to read H. Lacks.  Well, I bought it again and put it with the other 2 dozen or so books that are sitting in my TBR pile.

Then a couple of weeks later, I'm with cousin Besi and cousin Patti.  We're talking about Lacks, and Patti says what a good book it is.  That did it.  I was already convinced.  But the 2nd high rec made it my next book.  Was it as good as they said it was?  Pretty much.  A 3.25/4 is a darn good grade in my book.

Do you all know what this book is about?  Let me quote the back cover:

Her name is Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa.  She was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cells - taken without her knowledge in 1951 - became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, and more.  Henrietta's cells have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown, and her family can't afford health insurance.  This phenomenal New York Times bestseller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race, and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.

The most intriguing part of the book for me was how the author, a girl in her late 20s, convinced Henrietta's family to trust her.  They had every reason to basically distrust anybody from the "establishment" after how they were treated by the medical community. And, yet, Rebecca was able to convince Deborah, Henrietta's daughter, to do just that.

The whole concept of the book is fascinating.  But if I have any criticism, it's the same one I had with The Martian.  The medical (vs. scientific) explanations are a little bit too detailed for me.  It also took me a while to get into it.  I made a note that said:  "67 finally started to pick up."  Once it did pick up, though, I was definitely engrossed in it.  And the criticisms are pretty minor.

Just a little bit past the 1/2 mark, we learn about the rise of the white sheets used by the Ku Klux Klan.  That was creepy.  We also learned about Johns Hopkins, the founder of the namesake hospital.  And how he came to start that hospital.  There was a lot of interesting history spread throughout the book.  Check out page 194, line 23.  You will be stunned by the number of patents that were registered based on the HeLa cells.  I was re-stunned when I saw the number again!

You know, it's interesting that I read this book dispassionately throughout - until the end.  In the last 10 pages I cried twice, when I wasn't even close to waterworks prior to that. Obviously, I was emotionally connected even though I didn't realize it.

I would say that this is a story well worth reading.

P.S.  There's one scene when the author is talking with Michael Rogers, who was a young journalist with Rolling Stone back in the mid-70s.  At one point, we see that Rogers house was burned up in the Oakland, CA fire of 1991.  Actually, my parents were only about 2 miles from that fire.  In fact, there was a period of time when we didn't know if they would have to vacate.  It turned out that they didn't, but it was a very scary fire.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Today Is My 5-Year Blog Anniversary!

Back on this day, 5 years ago, I posted my 1st blog.  Here it is:

Greetings to all you book lovers.  This the first blog for The Book Sage.  My goal is to create a dialogue with those of you who want to talk books.  I hope that we will all learn about new authors and new books and that more reading is the end result for everybody.  I know that our mutual love of books (whether they be in hardcover, paperback, or on an ereader) and this give-and-take will lead to more people reading more of the time.  If you're looking for any intellectual discourse or deep philosophical discussions, you've come to the wrong blog.  This blog is for the readers who want to enjoy their books.  I don't want it to feel like a school assignment.  All of us have to make time to fit our reading in, and it should be enjoyable.

In the coming posts, I will discuss different genres and some of my favorite books from those genres.  I will want to know what your favorites are too.  Everybody benefits from these lists.  Let's start by hearing any comments that any of you may have about the direction you would like to see this blog go.  Although I have no problem with (trying to) impose my will on everybody (and it is, in fact, my blog!), I would actually prefer to make it more interactive.  Your comments will always be welcome.

Let the games (and books) begin.

The only change I would make to this introduction is that I would now include audiobooks.  I know quite a few people that do all of their reading through audiobooks.  And that counts the same as print (paper or digital), as far as I am concerned.

I also wanted to give you my annual reading totals for the 1st 5 years.

2011 - 68 - 24,901
2012 - 71 - 26,034
2013 - 77 - 24,973
2014 - 72 - 23,232
2015 - 65 - 22,890

This past year I had my lowest total of books and pages since I started my blog.  Don't know why and don't really care.  I'll just keep plugging away.

I hope to being celebrating with all of you when my 10-year anniversary comes along. Remember, whether you read print books, ebooks, or audiobooks...KEEP READING!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

BIG NEWS About 3 Local Authors

I've got great news about 3 of our local authors!  The 1st is an email from Meg Waite Clayton about a an honor she received  .  The 2nd is a Facebook post from Balcony7 about a very unique recognition for Ann Bridges.  And the 3rd is an announcement regarding the OWN's plans to create a TV show out of Natalie Baszile's Queen Sugar.

1.  I just learned from HarperCollins that The Race for Paris  has received the David J. Langum, Sr. Prize for American Historical Fiction Honorary Mention--the only book to receive this honor for 2015. Prior-year honoraries include Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks. Pretty humbling...

I also want you to be the first to see the The Race for Paris  paperback cover! It looks a lot like the hardcover, and it's not final till it's final, but I love what they've done. (It has that lovely "National Bestseller" on it.)

The paperback doesn't come out until August, but I'll be getting around the country for more events starting next month. There's a regularly updated schedule on my website, and we're still adding events. 
 I hope you'll join me if I get to your neck of the woods; I love being virtually connected, but there is nothing like being able to say hello in person.

Happy 2016!


2.  Congrats to B7 author Ann Bridges. Silicon Valley novel Private Offerings makes WealthManagement Magazine's Top 10 List of Business Books in 2015: "This novel captures the intensity of the Silicon Valley business world and its arcane financial practices with appealing characters, unrelenting action and depictions of high finance and corporate boardroom dynamics that ring true." ~ John Kador
Use this link to read the entire article, published 12/21/15 on>>…/10-best-business-books-2015…
Get Your Copy Today in either jacketed hardcover, softcover, or eBook formats with one click to Amazon right here >>…/B00V7D9…/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Available wherever books and eBooks are sold. 

3.  The OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) has just announced their 1st casting choice for the TV production of Natalie Baszile's Queen Sugar.  We don't know the timing yet, but they can't film without a cast!  And, by the way, the word "Perfect" was written by Natalie on the OWN's Facebook page.


Rutina Wesley will play a journalist/activist in the scripted series based on based on Natalie Baszile's novel.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig - It's a Real Conundrum for Me

Why is this book a conundrum for me?  Well, here's why.  I liked the book quite a bit.  I gave it a 3.25/4.  Solid, right?  And, yet, it took me 15 days to read.  There were definitely moments when I wondered if I would ever finish it.  I mean it took me only 14 days to read Edge of Eternity, book 3 in Follett's Century Trilogy.  And that was almost 1100 pages!  Did I become a slow reader overnight?  Or did it not grab me, despite the fact that I liked it?  I'll throw in one more possible explanation.  I spent much less time on the treadmill and on my own for lunch during the holidays.  That means basically between December 21 and January 3.  That's a lot of days to lose a bunch of my free reading time.  Okay, let's chalk it up to the latter excuse...I mean reason.

On November 25, I posted a blog about the Books, Inc. 4th Tuesday Evening Book Club. And I mentioned that Margie Scott Tucker, the doyenne and illustrious leader of the club, as well as a co-owner of the Books, Inc. chain (I posted an interview with Margie way back on March 2 of last year), said that Last Bus to Wisdom was their unanimous choice as best book of the year.  And here I am.  1st, a synopsis by Goodreads:

Donal Cameron is being raised by his grandmother, the cook at the legendary Double W ranch in Ivan Doig’s beloved Two Medicine Country of the Montana Rockies, a landscape that gives full rein to an eleven-year-old’s imagination. But when Gram has to have surgery for “female trouble” in the summer of 1951, all she can think to do is to ship Donal off to her sister in faraway Manitowoc, Wisconsin. There Donal is in for a rude surprise: Aunt Kate–bossy, opinionated, argumentative, and tyrannical—is nothing like her sister. She henpecks her good-natured husband, Herman the German, and Donal can’t seem to get on her good side either. After one contretemps too many, Kate  packs him back to the authorities in Montana on the next Greyhound. But as it turns out, Donal isn’t traveling solo: Herman the German has decided to fly the coop with him. In the immortal American tradition, the pair light out for the territory together, meeting a classic Doigian ensemble of characters and having rollicking misadventures along the way.

There's no question that Doig can write.  Here are a couple of his homey (the old definition, not the new one!) sayings:

1.  "We were sitting pretty in the shade in the best seats in the rodeo grounds, comfy as mattress testers..."
2.  "Life can tickle you in the ribs surprisingly when it's not digging its thumb in."

He also lets Jack Kerouac make a guest appearance and introduces us to someone who can eat toast in the shape of states.  He even takes Donal to Manitowoc, Wisconsin.  Why is that significant?  In my line of work (corporate food service), we used to buy Manitowoc ice makers.  I kid you not.  It has to be the same place.

Do you remember the scene in When Harry Met Sally where you see a split screen?  And Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan are reading?  And what's Billy Crystal doing?  Yep.  He's reading the last page even though he's only at the beginning.   Why am I telling you this? Because the last line in this book is fantastic!  I absolutely loved it.  If you decide to read Last Bus to Wisdom, do NOT read the last line until you're at the last line.  That's all.

OBITUARY:  I'm sad to report (and I just discovered!) that Ivan Doig passed away only 9 months ago.  He was a very young 76.

JOHN HART NEWS:  John Hart, author of 4 books, including The Last Child and Iron House (both 4/4 for me) is coming out with his next book on May 3.  It's called Redemption Road, and I CAN'T WAIT!  He's also touring in Spring, but he's not giving out any specifics yet.

HARLAN COBEN NEWS:  Harlan Coben's newest book, Tell Me Once, will be hitting the stores on March 22.  I just received an ARC today and will be reading/reviewing it soon.  I don't let dust collect on a Coben.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Barry Eisler

As you all know by now, Kepler's has tons of author appearances.  And some of them are Premier Events.  These are paid events that feature nationally best-selling authors.  Well check out this one coming up.  I've already got my tickets.  And if you haven't read Barry's John Rain series, I highly recommend it.  It's terrific.  And Barry is a really interesting guy. You will be happy you saw him.

PREMIER EVENT: Join us for a very special book launch with Barry Eisler
Tuesday, February 2, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are available at Kepler's and online at Brown Paper Tickets

The God’s Eye View is a delicious, thrilling read about a deep state surveillance program that even Edward Snowden did not unearth…This page-turner is replete with references to real-life voices of truth and transparency, and shows how easily and quickly democracy can be subverted by government secrecy and unchecked power.” —Jesselyn Radack, lawyer for Edward Snowden
NSA director Theodore Anders has a simple goal: collect every phone call, email, and keystroke tapped on the Internet. He knows unlimited surveillance is the only way to keep America safe.
Evelyn Gallagher, manager of the NSA’s camera network and facial recognition program, discovers the existence of an NSA program code-named God’s Eye, and connects it with the mysterious deaths of a string of journalists and whistle-blowers. 
Her discovery unleashes an elaborate game of political blackmail, terrorist provocations, and White House scheming.  A global war is being fought—a war between those desperate to keep the state’s darkest secrets and those intent on revealing them. 
Barry Eisler spent three years in a covert position with the CIA’s Directorate of Operations. Translated into nearly twenty languages, his bestselling thrillers—including the #1 bestseller The Detachment—have won the Barry Award and the Gumshoe Award for Best Thriller of the Year and have been included in numerous Best Of lists. When he’s not writing novels, he blogs about torture, civil liberties, and the rule of law. Learn more about him online at

Are you looking for book recommendations?  I mean besides those you get from me? Check out

MILESTONE:  Just shy of my 5-year blogging anniversary (January 16), I have hit 75,000 page views.  I have no idea if this is a lot comparatively speaking in the blogiverse (that's actually a word in Urban Dictionary).  But I'm pretty happy with it.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Independent Bookstores - Encouraging News (with one local glitch)

Ann Patchett bought an independent bookstore in Nashville, TN with a partner back in 2011.  She reports on its progress 4 years later.  She not only is planning a major expansion, but she also gives us a very positive outlook on independent bookstores in general.  Here's what she has to say:  

Ann Patchett on the Return of Bookstores

Despite Amazon and e-readers, customers are embracing their community stores
When Karen Hayes and I opened Parnassus Books in Nashville a little over four years ago, I repeatedly said that we were part of a trend. The small independent bookstore, long ago beaten down by Borders and Barnes & Noble, then repeatedly kicked by Amazon, was rising up from the ashes. People were tired of pointing and clicking. People were tired of screens in general. They no longer wanted one store that promised them everything but instead were longing for a store that sold good books, had a staff of smart readers, a thriving children’s section and maybe a couple of shop dogs. That is what we were offering.

I don’t know if I’m prophetic or just lucky, but what was at the time not much more than wishful thinking has turned out to be true. New stores are opening; old stores are branching out into new locations. In Nashville, we’re not only doubling our size in 2016, we’ve bought a mobile book van. Booksellers are, generally speaking, a cautious group when it comes to voicing optimism, but I sense a cultural shift coming on: Books and bookstores and reading are the wave of the future.

I don’t credit the booksellers for this change. In my extensive experience with booksellers, they’ve always been a hardworking, innovative bunch of passionate readers w ho were in this business for love. I credit the customers, who seem to be collectively waking up to the fact that they are in charge of what businesses fail and succeed based on where they spend their money. If you like your bookstore and want it to stay in your community, then you have to buy your books there, in the same way you must buy your hammer from the guy at the hardware store who always gives you good advice.

I also credit the authors who keep people passionate about reading. This is going to be a fabulous year for books. In 2016, Elizabeth Strout has her best novel yet coming out, “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” and I can’t wait to sell the late Paul Kalanithi’s gorgeous “When Breath Becomes Air,” and just when you think Louise Erdrich can’t get any better, she goes and writes “LaRose.” Go to your local independent bookstore this year and buy a copy. You’ll be part of the trend.

On the flip side is some disappointing news.  Black Oak Books in Berkeley, after 33 years, is closing down.  If you click on the link, you can get the details.
Black Oak Books, which has had a presence in Berkeley for 33 years, is...

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

1st Time Authors - For Me

Out of 65 books I read this year, 43 were 1st time authors for me (including 6 that were non-fiction).  That's 66%.  Part of it is belonging to 3 book clubs (although I only get to Books, Inc. in Palo Alto 2-3 times a year).  And part of it is learning about and meeting new local authors (15, or 35%).  The rest of it is just getting recommendations from people I know (and trust) and from Goodreads friends.  I also established contact with out-of-the-area authors through social media.  There is even one (The Given Day by Dennis Lehane) I read because I made a deal with somebody who came to my recommendation table at Recycle on a Sunday morning (she had to read The Source).  So there you have it.  And here's the clincher:  THIS IS THE LAST YEAR-END-BASED BLOG!  I accept your collective thanks.

Alan Jacobson (Local) - Spectrum
Andy Weir (Local) - The Martian
Julian Rubinstein - Ballad of the Whiskey Robber (NF)
e. lockhart - We Were Liars
Christina Baker Kline - Orphan Train
Susan Sloat/Kevin Finn - Forward to Camelot
Tyler Draa (Local) - Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials (NF)
Paula Hawkins - The Girl on the Train
Nia Carrera (Local) - Love Caters All
Tracy K. Smith - Ordinary Light
Elizabeth Rosner (Local) - Electric City
Linda Abbott - Ten Days in Paradise
David Levithan - Every Day
Dennis Lehane - The Given Day
Ann Packer (Local) - The Children's Crusade
Joy Brighton (Local) - Deadly Secret
John Billheimer (Local) - Dismal Mountain
Lisa Genova - Still Alice
Killian McRae (Local) - Pure & Sinful
Wm. Paul Young - Cross Roads
Matthew Pearl - The Last Bookaneer
Graeme Simsion - The Rosie Project
Bella Andre (with Jennifer Skully)(Local) - Breathless in Love & Reckless in Love
Ann Bridges (Local)(SBC member) - Private Offerings
Ruth Ozeki - A Tale for the Time Being
Sarah Jio - Goodnight June
Vendela Vita - The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty
Kristin Hannah - The Nightingale
Alice Hoffman - The Museum of Extraordinary Things
Jan Collison (Local) - Some Other Town
Dinah Lin (Local) - Daring to Dream Once Again (NF)
Marian Lindner (Local) - San Francisco
Dick Yaeger (Local) - Niki's Discovery
Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird
Lauren Groff - The Monsters of Templeton
J. Ryan Stradel - Kitchens of the Great Midwest
Karma Brown - Come Away with You
Gabrielle Zevin - The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Amanda Lindhout/Sara Corbett - A House in the Sky (NF)
Mary Kubica - The Good Girl
Adam Hennig (Local) - Alex Haley's Roots:  An Author's Odyssey (NF)
Atul Gawande - Being Mortal (NF)
Rebecca Skloot - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (NF)

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Non-Fiction & Historical Fiction Books for 2015

I usually read a couple of historical fictions every year.  And this year is no exception to that rule.  But I also read a bunch of non-fictions, which I rarely do.  Here are chronological lists of both from 2015, along with ratings and what made me read them.


Ballad of the Whiskey Robber - Julian Rubinstein - 2.5.  This was our January book for the Los Gatos Library Tuesday Evening Book Club.

Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials - Tyler Draa.  There's no rating on this one because I was an early reader for my friend Tyler.  Now, the book is in the marketplace, thanks to Tyler's publisher, Balcony7.

Daring to Dream Once Again - Dinah Lin - 2.5.  Our RBC member and author, Ann Bridges, introduced me to Dinah.  So I wanted to read her memoir.

A House in the Sky - Amanda Linkhout, Sara Corbett - 3.0.  Heidi and her mom, Barb, strongly suggested I read this memoir.

Alex Haley's Roots:  An Author's Odyssey - 2.5.  Fellow RBC member and author, Betty Auchard, suggested I read this.  She put Adam and me together.

Being Mortal - Atul Gawande - 3.75.  Phil suggested I read this quite a while ago, and I didn't do anything about it.  I got one more push some time later (I can't remember who did the pushing).  The combo of pushes pushed me over the edge.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot - 3.25.  Joni's cousin, Besi, strongly recommended this one.  So I said "Sure."

Ordinary Light - Tracy K. Smith - 3.0.  This is a memoir that I got as an ARC from a publisher (I get a few of these each year).

Historical Fiction:

Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline - 4.0.  This was another Los Gatos Library Tuesday Evening Book Club selection.

Edge of Eternity - Ken Follett - 4.25.  This is book 3 of Follett's Century Trilogy and my top book of the year.

The Race for Paris - Meg Waite Clayton - 3.25.  I read this one because I know Meg personally and will read anything she writes.

The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah - 3.5.  My friend Linda gave this to me and told me to read it.  So I did.

San Francisco - Marian Lindner - 2.0.  This is another local author that I know.  And it's her debut novel about the 1906 earthquake.