Monday, February 29, 2016

An Author Event at Los Gatos Library

This past Saturday, I went to the Los Gatos Library to see Emmi Itaranta, who wrote Memory of Water.  This was our February book for the Los Gatos Library Evening Book Club.  And the book and author are part of SV Reads for this year.  I wasn't crazy about the book - 2.75/4 - but she was very interesting.  I'm just going to list 10 different things that I learned about her and her book:

1.  Emmi is Finnish and moved from Finland to England 8 years ago.  She wrote the book in both Finnish and English.  She said that it definitely helped her to write the book in both languages.  She said that she had to pay more attention to her wording.
2.  She was in a writing class and thought her book was just going to be a short story.  It was her teacher and other students who said that it needed to be a novel.  It took her a year to convince herself that it should be a novel and another year before she publicly stated that it was a novel.
3.  It took 3 years for Emmi to completely write the novel in both languages.
4.  Emmi told us that translators picked up errors that all of the editors missed.
5.  The author did not pick the cover.  But, then again, authors rarely do.
6.  She got her book published in a very roundabout way.  In England, an author has to go through an agent.  In Finland, it's not required.  In fact, there are very few agents.  After getting a bunch of rejections, she entered the novel in a contest in Finland.  And won. Shortly after, one of the Finnish agents got in touch with Emmi and ended up representing her.  Ultimately, that led to publication in both countries and in both languages.
7.  Her book has been optioned by a movie production company.  But she said that the great majority of books that are optioned are never made.
8.  Her next book, The Weaver, is a fantasy.  It has already been published in Finland, and will hit the U.S. in May.  It's even been short-listed for top Sci Fi book in Finland.
9.  She was asked whether she ever considered a different ending for the book.  She said this ending was the one she conceived from the get-go.  As she got close to the end, she thought about another ending but dismissed it.
10. For those who have read the book (or intend to read it), Emmi said that she envisioned the story taking place 400-500 years in the future.

We had a great discussion in book club.  And I have to tell you that there were a number of people who liked the book much more than I did.  If you normally agree with my recommendations (you 1-2.5 people know who you are), this is one where you might want to take your own shot at it.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Devil in the Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley has won a bunch of awards, including the PEN American Center's Lifetime Achievement Award.  Devil in the Blue Dress is his 1st book in the Easy Rawlins series. And it was published in 1990.  So why would I start a series that is 26 years old?  A legitimate question, y'all.

Here's the story.  I'm on the email list for Keplers.  So I see all of their upcoming events (and there are a bunch of them year-round).  On June 16, Walter Mosley will be appearing, in conjunction with the NorCal division of the Mystery Writers of America.  I didn't think much about it when I saw it.  I had never read Mosley.  And, of course, there are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of events each year that I don't attend.  So why now?  The short version is that Nicole told me that if I want to go to the event, she would send me an ARC. She recommended that I read #1 and decide if I want to go ahead with the latest edition. Bottom line is that I liked it.  I didn't love it, but I did give it a 2.5/4.  Good enough to see the main character's development over 26 years and 14 books.

So who is Easy Rawlins?  Here's the blurb on the back cover:

Los Angeles, 1948:  Easy Rawlins is a black war veteran just fired from his job at a defense plant.  Easy is drinking in a friend's bar, wondering how he'll meet his mortgage, when a white man in a linen suit walks in, offering good money if Easy will simply locate Miss Daphne Monet, a blond beauty known to frequent black jazz clubs. 

Some observations-
1.  The book comes across a little hard-boiled, like the one Raymond Chandler book I read.
2.  I didn't find out until page 175 that Easy was planning on a new profession:  "It was those two days more than any other time that made me a detective."
3.  Easy learned proper English but had to speak in the dialect in order to mix with both the black and white communities.
4.  Mosley knows how to write:

"The dark cracks twisting through the light marble looked like a web of blood vessels in a newborn baby's head."

"...he had her in tow like a child's toy wagon."

"She sized me up, putting her nose in the air like a leery dog checking out the new mailman..."

"Mouse frowned for just a second.  It was like a small cloud passing quickly on a sunny day."

I have now signed up for Mosley's June 16 appearance.  And I have to say I'm looking forward to it.  Will I see (any of) you there?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Miscellaneous Stuff

I saw a trailer for Me Before You.  It looks really good.  I still want everybody to read the book.  But if you prefer movies to books (or if you've already read the book), it will be hitting the theaters in June.

Queen Sugar, by Natalie Baszile, started filming last Thursday in LA.  They are moving to New Orleans in the next few days.  Filming will take place there through late June/early July.  Natalie doesn't know yet when it will air on the OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network).  In case you didn't know, Natalie was our RBC author in December of 2014.  All of us who had a chance to meet her are thrilled.

We've now got some more details for Litquake at the JCC in Palo Alto.  Their keynote speaker/author is none other than Joyce Carol Oates.  But besides her, there will be a bunch of other big-name authors.  Get there if you can.  It's heaven for us bibliophiles.  (Sorry that there is overlap from my blog home page.  But you can still read it.)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Ellen Kirschman at the RBC

This past Wednesday night we had Ellen Kirschman at the RBC.  Ellen was there to answer questions about her 2nd book in the Dot Meyerhof series, The Right Wrong Thing (book 1 is Burying Ben).  Ellen is a 30-year police psychologist.  I have seen her at the launches for the 1st 2 books in the series.  And I never cease to be fascinated by what she has to say. Here are a few gems that I learned at our meeting:

1.  There are 900,000 law enforcement officers in the U.S. and 30,000 firefighters.
2.  10% of the law enforcement officers are women.
3.  Ellen does 4 6-day retreats a year as a volunteer for the First Responders Support Network (FRSN).  This is an organization designed to work with first responders and their families to help them reduce stress.
4.  Ellen has written several non-fiction books, including I Love a Cop, written in 1994.  Now she is writing a 2nd edition.
5.  Over the years, Ellen has provided counseling in 22 states and 4 countries as an independent contractor.

If you ever have a chance to see Ellen (Kirschman, not DeGeneres) in person, do it.  You will come away with a greater appreciation for her work and for first responders in general. We've all seen what can happen in  Ferguson and with victims like Eric Garner.  But this doesn't change the fact that the vast majority of our 1st responders are doing the job that we all expect them to do.  And, as Ellen has pointed out, it's a very stressful job.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Review of Mulberry, by Paulette Boudreaux (Paulette is the author, not the reviewer!)

One of the things that I love about living here in the Bay Area is getting so many opportunities to meet local authors.  In this case, I went to the opening event of this year's Silicon Valley Reads.  I was meeting my son, Josh, there.  He is on the community board for the SVR organization.  When I got there, he was standing with 2 people.  One of them was Paulette Boudreaux, the author of Mulberry.  Although it doesn't happen in every case, I usually try to read books written by authors that I have met - especially those of the local variety!

That brings you up to date.  And boy am I glad I met Paulette.  Her book, Mulberry, is really good and grabbed me on page 1.  It's that rare combination of literary but very readable (kind of like Pat Conroy).  And her writing is extremely visual.  I'll get to some examples in a minute.  First, here's the synopsis from Goodreads:

Mulberry is a gripping and beautifully written tale of family crisis and personal strength that focuses on Maddy, an eleven-year-old girl struggling to keep herself and her three younger brothers, afloat in small-town segregated Mississippi in the early 1960s.

Okay, here are some examples of how visual her writing is:

1.  "'Oh, yeah,' she said, gazing out through mulberry leaves braised by the late August sun."
2.  "...but I also felt slow-growing anger.  The feeling curled inside, whipping around like a lizard's tail."
3.  While watching her house on fire - "There was something glorious but pitiful about being singled out by a fire."
4.  "The neighbors parted away from my brothers and me like a receding wave, exposing us like minnows washed ashore."
5.  "She stood over me now, her thick, well-fed body like a cotton bale on legs..."
6.  I won't quote a long paragraph here, but just go to page 230 and read about a fight between Miss Glenda and Mrs. Hazel.  You will feel like you are watching them in person.

There are a million examples.  In fact #3 and #4 came from the same page!  Pretty impressive, don't you think?  As we all know, a book is more enjoyable when you can "see" what's happening.  The other impressive element of Mulberry comes from something Barry Eisler said at his launch.  This really stuck with me.  He said that he "gets to know" his characters before he worries about the plot details.  I never could understand why I connected with the protagonists in some books and not in others.  And in many cases, I have connected with protagonists in books with mostly local exposure and didn't connect with those in nationally prominent books (sorry, but The Girl on the Train is definitely one of the latter!).  I get it now.  Paulette obviously worked on getting to know her characters, because I connected with all of them.

In case you haven't figured this out, I highly recommend that you read Mulberry.  And in case you want to meet Paulette, buy a book, and get it signed, she will be out in front of Recycle Books in Campbell on Sunday morning, May 1, from 9:15:-12:15.  (I'm also working on having her be our RBC author for June.  Fingers crossed.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

I Get My Own Shelves!

Okay, you have all seen (ad nauseum) my recommendation table at Recycle Books in Campbell.

But something you have NOT seen yet is my own bookshelves inside the store.  Yep, Stacy decided to give me 8 shelves in the back left hand corner so that (I think) I would leave her alone about where I could store my rec table books for Sundays!  Actually, I think it's really cool that she gave me that space.  Here's how it looks:

So I've got the bottom 3 on the left and all 5 on the right.  And do you notice that the shelves are marked with The Book Sage.  Do you know how I got that name?  Here are the most common answers:

1.  Stacy at Recycle Books
2.  The West Coast sales rep from Random House
3.  The President of the RWA (Romance Writers of America)
4.  Margie, the co-owner of the Books, Inc. chain
5.  President Barak Obama
6.  None of the Above

Which one do you think it is?  The answer is (drum roll, please) - #6, None of the Above. That's right, I named myself The Book Sage.  Regardless of how it came to be, though, I am really happy and proud to have my own place in the book store.  Next time you're in Recycle, take a look at my shelves.  I'll bet you see a bunch of books that you've all read.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Rosemary, The Hidden Kennedy Daughter, by Kate Clifford Larson

1st of all, when was the last time I read a biography?  Not often, right?  So why did I read about Rosemary Kennedy?  I've got an obvious answer:  It was a book club selection.  In this case, it's for  the February meeting of the Books, Inc. 4th Evening Tuesday Book Club. And since this was a month that I would be able to attend, I figured what the heck.

I often get accused - nay, lambasted - for reading so little non-fiction.  To be fair, I read 8 non-fictions last year.  And several of them were not even memoirs.  But, alas, it is true that 8 out of 65 is only 12.3%.  Not a lot.  And Rosemary is my 1st one of 2016 (also 1 of 8).

Let's get to it.  I gave this book a 3/4.  It was dry and somewhat tedious at times.  But it was very informative about the entire Kennedy clan, especially Rosemary and her parents, Rose and Joe, Sr.  I learned about Montessori schools; Catholic vs. Protestant prejudice; Eunice's incredible work with the intellectually and physically disabled and her role in establishing the Special Olympics; and even lobotomies!  That's a lot to learn.  And speaking of the Special Olympics, look at this:  1000 participants in 1968, and 4 million now in 200 countries!

But lest I give you the impression that it was only a dry and unemotional read - not so fast! I had a 16 page stretch where I had the following out-loud reactions:

1.  "Wow!"
2.  "Wow! Wow!"
3.  "Wow!  Wow!" plus tears

I mentioned lobotomies.  It turns out that they were very popular in the 30s and 40s.  In those 2 decades, there were tens of thousands performed!  Isn't that crazy?  The pace of surgery slowed with the advent of antipsychotic and antidepressant drugs in the early 50s. We all remember when Jack Nicholson gets lobotomized in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.  It doesn't look like much, does it?

And no review would be complete without a few personal connections (no, not with the Kennedy's):
1.  Larson tells us about quintuplets born in 1934 in Ontario, Canada.  They were born without fertility drugs, which was unheard of at that time.  They ended up living in a house in which tourists and the media could watch them around the clock.  Remember Jim Carey's movie, The Truman Show?
2.  In 1927, the Kennedy clan rented a home in Riverdale, NY.  My aunt and uncle actually lived in Riverdale.  It's a very upscale community.  But since my aunt and uncle were Jacuzzis (yep, THE Jacuzzis - one of my mother's sisters married into the whirlpool clan), they could pretty easily afford it.
3.  On Rosemary's 53rd birthday, she was given a canary named Lollie.  This has double significance for me.  First, Atul Gawande, in his book, Being Mortal (reviews 12/9/15 & 12/13/15), talks about the benefits of having a bird in the room of someone with an intellectual or physical disability.  He was specifically talking about the elderly.  But it seems that the same concept works for any age.  It sure made Rosemary happier.  Second, Lollie is the nickname of a very close friend of ours.  Coincidence?  Of course!

Finally, I want to quote Anthony Shriver, Eunice's son.  He kind of summed it all up when he said:  "The interest (Rosemary) sparked in my family towards people with special needs will one day go down as the greatest accomplishment that any Kennedy has made on a global basis."  I would say that's pretty powerful stuff.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

3 More Events! (including 1 cinematic adaptation)

1.  PREMIER EVENT: Walter Mosley
Thursday, June 16, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are available at Kepler's and online at Brown Paper Tickets
Kepler’s is honored to host legendary novelist Walter Mosley for his latest Easy Rawlins novel, Charcoal Joe. This is a fantastic time for the author to meet his fans, having just been named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America. When told of the honor, Mosley said, "Receiving the Grand Master Award is the apex of my career as a crime writer; as a writer.  It is, joyfully, one of the seminal events of my life."
His latest novel, Charcoal Joe, picks up where Rose Gold left off in Los Angeles in the late 1960s. Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins is in flux, about to get married and starting a new detective agency. Things go awry why Easy’s friend Mouse introduces him to old Rufus Tyler, known as Charcoal Joe. Joe’s friend’s son, who is top of his class at Stanford, has been charged with the murder of a white man; proving the young man’s innocence could be a tall order even for Easy.
Walter Mosley is one of the most acclaimed and prolific writers of our time. In addition to his hugely popular Easy Rawlins series, he has also written numerous novels about Leonid McGill, Fearless Jones and Socrates Fortlaw, as well as social criticism, science fiction, plays and graphic novels. He is an American classic, revered among his contemporaries in crime writing and imbued with a cutting intellect and an incredible compassion for a community whose history he carries with him. We hope you’ll join us to celebrate an incredible writer whose works are all about finding a deeper truth in a divided country.

2.  We all know that Amazon has opened a brick and mortar bookstore, its first, in Seattle.  Well, now they have just announced that they plan to open another 300-400 throughout the country.  And they're targeting malls for their locations.  I'm obviously a big fan of independent bookstores (Recycle, Kepler's, Books, Inc., Book Passage, etc.).  But I'm still in favor of anybody who brings us more physical bookstores!

3.  Harlan Coben is making only 1 Northern California appearance to promote his new book, Fool Me Once (pub date March 22).  It's at Book Passage in Corte Madera.  The date is March 25, a Friday night.  People, if you haven't seen Harlan in person, try to get there.  He is like a stand-up comic.  He's not only very funny, but he's also interesting.  You will get a lot of insight into his writing process and the book industry as a whole.  Joni and I will definitely be there.   

4.  Here is a clip from the upcoming movie adaptation of JoJo Moyes' Me Before You. The movie comes out on June 3.  Can't wait!

22 hrs
It's like a Game of Thrones/Hunger Games mashup, only without all the violence and despair.


An exclusive early look at the film adaptation of Jojo Moyes' best-selling love story.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Another Local Author Makes Good - at least IMHO

How did I come to read Veronika Layne gets the Scoop by Julia Park Tracey?  Well, it happened through LinkedIn.  Julia made contact with me and asked if I was interested in reading one of her books.  I said "Sure" because I always say "Sure."  I usually even buy the book.  But that doesn't mean I always read said book.  In this case, though, I had just finished Memory of Water (very short review coming soon) for the Los Gatos Library Evening Book Club and needed something light.  This definitely fit the bill.  However, that doesn't mean it didn't have substance.  Because it really did.

It's synopsis time (back of the book):

Veronika Layne.  Sassy, tattooed, twenty-something newspaper reporter.  Never saw herself working for the "man."  When her small weekly is swallowed up by Singh Media Group, that's exactly where she ends up.  Stuck writing fluff pieces that might as well be ads, how can she resist digging into rumors that a real estate developer is destroying native burial grounds?  Warned away at every turn by her editor, she worries whether the story will see the light of day.  And dazzled by her sexy rival-turned-coworker, what is she going to do about her love life?

Besides being a fun read, this is also well-written and very clever.  Here are some examples:

When Veronika finds out that she will be covering senior citizens and animal events, she says - "I felt like a Goth forced to wear cheerleader's clothing."

When Veronika faces her editor, she says - "I felt like something he'd blown into a handkerchief."

"Thoughts chased around my mind like a couple of squirrels on the back fence, up the tree, down the roof, and onto the birdfeeder."

I mentally shook myself like an Etch-a-Sketch, let the thought disappear."

Julia's got this kind of stuff throughout the book.  Doesn't she conjure up great visual images?  Say yes.

But there's something else I really liked about this book.  Julia does a great job of describing different scenes without going overboard.  She tells us about a massage; a seashell hunt with an 80-year old; the historical significance of buried bones, rocks, and arrowheads at a construction site; and an archaeological dig, among a few others.  And in each case, you can see and FEEL what she's describing.  What I've said about this book may make you think you're reading fluff.  But I assure you that there is depth to what she writes.  Give it a try.  You will get some chuckles, have a few laughs,  shed a tear or two, and even shake your head a little.  What you won't get or be is bored.

P.S.  I loved the ending.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Barry Eisler Launches The God's Eye View at Keplers

You already know what I thought of Barry Eisler's The God's Eye View.  I wrote a review of it on Jan. 29 and gave it a resounding 4/4 (can a book rating "resound?").  Well, last Tuesday night, Feb. 2, Barry actually had his launch for TGEV at Kepler's.  And not only did Barry speak, read, and answer questions.  But one of our favorites (and a former RBC author), Keith Raffel, introduced him.  It's always fun to have Keith around.  Between the 2 of them, it was truly a great evening.

Here are a few pictures from the event.  And, in case you haven't heard this ad nauseum from me, please read this book.  It's just so darn good.

Keith Raffel, introducing Barry

Barry giving his spiel (a little Yiddish for you)

Barry reading from The God's Eye View

Keith talking to a beautiful attendee while everybody else was queuing up for the book signing - oh, wait, that's Joni!

Barry signing books

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Meg Waite Clayton at the RBC

This is the email, with pictures, that I sent out to the RBC members this afternoon.  

We had a fantastic evening last night with Meg Waite Clayton.  Her book, The Race for Paris, is one of the most highly rated books by members that we've had in our 27 meetings.  

We learned how she started out as an attorney, before she took up writing full-time.  We found out that it took 10 years to get her 1st book published.  And that she started writing Race (book #5) 15 years ago!  Finally, we learned about the research that went into this book, and what Meg had to do in order to get the history right.  Everybody was very engaged, and we had a lot of questions that Meg answered for us.  On top of that, we had a great turnout - 19 people, including 6 newbies.  Welcome to them and, as always, our regulars.

Our next meeting is 2 weeks from last night, Feb. 17th.  We will be reading The Right Wrong Thing by Ellen Kirschman.  We will return to our normal schedule - 6:30-7:00 for members, and 7:00-8:00 for Ellen.  Hope to see many of you there, despite the quick turnaround!

P.S.  All books through May are in the store (Recycle Books, Campbell).  Cara Black's book, Murder on the Champ du Mars, is in the store in hardcover.  The paperback comes out the beginning of March.  Recycle should have that in the store right around March 1.  That still gives you the bulk of the month, in case you prefer the paperback.