Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Cara Black at the RBC

We had national best-selling author Cara Black at our RBC meeting last night.  She was super interesting.  Here are a few things we learned:

1.  It took Cara about 3.5 years to write book #1 in the Aimee Leduc series.  The book we read, Murder on the Champ de Mars, is #15!  And #16 will be coming out this summer.
2.  She wasn't able to find an agent for her 1st book.  So she sent it to a publisher, Soho Press, that actually asked for unagented authors.  They bought it and are still her publisher today (she does have an agent now).
3.  Cara got the idea for book #1, Murder on the Marais, from the German occupation of Paris during WWII.
4.  Cara makes 1-2 trips to Paris a year for research.  Tough gig, right?
5.  Her books have been translated into 7 or 8 languages.
6.  Cara has a companion to her series that you can download from Amazon for free. Here's the link:

We also had another great turnout last night.  There were 18 of us there, including 5 first-timers.  I think everybody enjoyed Cara and the background she gave us on her Aimee Leduc series.

Our next RBC meeting is Thursday, April 28.  Vanessa Diffenbaugh will be coming to talk about The Language of Flowers and the foster care system.  And, believe me, she knows a lot about that.  Her story is an amazing one.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Harlan Coben At Book Passage - AND A Special Treat

This past Friday night, we went to see Harlan Coben at Book Passage in Corte Madera. This was his only Northern California appearance to promote his latest, Fool Me Once.  He was scheduled to address us all at 7:00, and we could save seats as of 5:30.  Since we were over an hour away for the ride home (it took us 2+ hours to get there!), we went over at 5:30 to get seats that would enable us to get the book signed quickly at the end of his talk and hit the road.  And this is when the coolest thing happened.  Katherine (seen below in the 1st picture), who is the event and conference coordinator for Book Passage, invited us (along with about 15 others) to a private room for a meet and greet with Coben at 6:00. We not only got to meet him (see the 3rd picture below) and avoid a long line after his presentation, but we also got wine and cheese.  Most importantly, though, we felt like big shots (even though we weren't/aren't).  A big thank you to Katherine for including us.  It was a special moment.  

And, as usual, his presentation was great.  He's very funny and extremely forthcoming about his writing and his career.  When asked what he would have done if he did not become an author, he said that he would have been a duvet cover.  I mean, come on, that's funny.  He also said that a writer without a reader is like a one-handed clap.

Here are some facts about Coben that you may not have known:
1.  His new book, Fool Me Once, is his 28th book.
2.  This book also has his very 1st female protagonist.  He said he was tired of the female in every book going to a secluded cabin in the woods by herself.  As you know from my review on the 17th, Maya is a very strong character.
3.  Coben has 60 MILLION BOOKS in print!  That is nuts.
4.  For those of you have always enjoyed his Myron Bolitar/Winn books, he's working on the next one now.  That is really good news for us fans (I'm one!) of this series.
5.  Myron's parents are somewhat patterned after Coben's own parents.
6.  He explained that the scariest noise imaginable when you are alone is a flushed toilet that you didn't flush!  Not surprisingly, he calls this a "flushed toilet moment."

I've told you this many times in the past.  This is someone you really want to see in person, if you get the chance.  And make sure you read his books.  They are, without exception, entertaining.  It seems he gets better with each book.

Katherine Petrocelli, event and conference coordinator

Elaine Petrocelli, owner

Harlan and yours truly

Harlan during his presentation

Yep, wine and beer

Partition in their meet and greet room - isn't it cool?

Friday, March 25, 2016


Well, it's that time again.  It's been over 13 months since I posted Volume VII.  For those of you who started reading my blog after 2/16/15, FFTNFR stands for Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader.  These are books that I think everybody would like, even those who typically only read non-fiction.  And I've got some beauties for you.  One of them is even in my top 25 all-time (4.25/4), and a 2nd one came in right below (4+/4).  I also snuck in one non-fiction, although it's very different from the non-fiction I normally read.

Let us begin.  They are in the order that I read them:

Jeffrey Archer - Be Careful What You Wish For.  This is book 4 in the Clifton Chronicles. Every book is at least as good, if not better, than the one before it.  A friend of mine just read #6 and said that it annoyed him that every book ended with a cliffhanger.  I guess that's one of the appeals for me.  Some series are episodic, where each book wraps up. Those are good too.  But I love the way Archer makes me hunger for the next one.

Dennis Lehane - The Given Day.  I had never read any Lehanes until last Spring.  And the only reason I read it is because I made a deal with somebody who came to my rec table at Recycle Books.  She agreed to read The Source, and I said I would read The Given Day. It's about 2 generations of Boston Police in 1917.  There is one policeman in the book that is so loathsome that I actually felt my blood boil when he committed a super heinous act.

Jeffrey Archer - Mightier than the Sword.  Yep, you guessed it.  It's book 5.  And it is as good as 4, which is definitely saying something.

Bella Andre/Jennifer Skully - Breathless in Love.  This is - get ready - a romance!  It's my 88th book in the FFTNFR lists.  And it's my 1st romance.  It's just that darn good.  The series is called The Billionaires.  There are 5 buddies in their mid-30s who all (except for one) started out with rough childhoods and who have become self-made billionaires.  In this one, the romance is between one of the 5 and a woman who has an 18-year old brother with special needs and who she takes care of.  There's a lot of heart in this story.  In fact, there is even a life lesson I took from this book and am trying to live by.  And I thought I was already perfect!  Go figure!

Sarah Jio - Goodnight June.  This is the 4+/4 that I mentioned earlier.  I loved this book.  It's the story of a 35-year old banker in New York whose sole function is to foreclose on small businesses that fall behind in their payments.  Nice, right?  It turns out that she has to come back to Seattle and sell the children's bookstore of her great-aunt, who has just passed away.  She does not count on what she finds when she gets there.  BTW, it's no coincidence that Goodnight June sounds a lot like Goodnight Moon.  That's all I'm saying about that.

Ken Follett - Edge of Eternity.  This is book 3 in the Century Trilogy.  1 & 2 are both in my top 25, and this one makes it too.  Edge focuses a lot on the '60s.  So we get a bunch of JFK, Bobby Kennedy, and MLK.  Nobody combines historical figures with fictional characters better than Follett. And let's not forget that Pillars of the Earth is in my top 3 all-time (along with The Source and Shogun).

Kristin Hannah - The Nightingale.  This one is all about the German occupation of France during WWII.  The focus is on the French women and families left behind when their men went off to fight.  It's a unique and largely untold part of the war.

JoJo Moyes - After You.  You all know what I thought about Me Before You.  It's in my FFTNFR, Volume 6 (and it's coming to the big screen in June).  Well, this one is the sequel. And it's almost as good.

Atul Gawande - Being Mortal.  I've had non-fiction in my FFTNFR volumes before.  But never have I had one like this.  The premise for Being Mortal, which was written by a neurosurgeon, is that modern medicine has done a great job of extending lives and a lousy job of giving those extended lives meaning.  This is a fascinating look at that phenomenon. It even prompted me to have a conversation with my adult children about my end-of-life wishes (I'm not that old...but I'm not that young either!).

Bella Andre/Jennifer Skully - Reckless in Love.  Being as smart as you all are, you have correctly figured out that this is the romantic story of one of the other billonaires.  And it's just about as good.

Barry Eisler - The God's Eye View.  This is 1 of 2 books on the list that come from 2016. I've always liked Barry's books.  His John Rain series is one of my favorites.  This is a standalone, though, that fictionalizes what it must really be like behind the scenes at the NSA.  Barry was in covert operations with the CIA for 3 years.  And this feels very non-fiction-like - and pretty darn scary.

Harlan Coben - Fool Me Once.  I know, I know.  He's always on my lists.  But here's a news flash - this might be his best standalone yet.  It's hard to believe, but true.  A special ops war veteran marries, has a child,  and then watches as her husband is murdered.  There is absolutely NOTHING about this book that is figure-out-able (at least for me).  I was surprised every step of the way.  And did I cry a lot at the end?  Uh, that would be a big YEP.

There you have it, people.  Volume VIII is now complete.  As many/most of you know, there are reviews on my blog for each of these books.  If you want any of the dates, let me know. I will be happy to provide them.  And try to get your hands on some of these books.  I wouldn't steer you wrong.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Murder on the Champ de Mars - Cara Black's 15th Aimee Leduc Mystery

You read that right.  This is Cara's 15th book in the series.  And #16 will be out in June of this year.  That is a crazy amount of books, period; let alone all in the same series.  And I have to make a confession right now - I read #1, Murder in the Marais, a few years ago. But I haven't read any since.  I admit to being a bit embarrassed by that.  And why did I decide to skip 2-14?  I'll tell you...I don't know.  But, fortunately, Cara is our RBC author for this month.  She's coming to Recycle Books next Tuesday, the 29th.  So I had to read it. And I'm really glad I did.  I can't say that I will read any of the older ones.  But I will definitely be reading #16 in a few months, and all subsequent Cara Black books.

For those of you who don't know, the protagonist in this series is Aimee Leduc.  She is a private investigator in Paris.  The blurb for this specific book is not really that important.  But Aimee is definitely a well-developed character.  With her partner, Rene, who is a little person, they (not surprisingly) solve crimes.

It's interesting that I connected with Aimee right away, even though I missed 13 books.  It doesn't hurt that Aimee has a baby that provides a certain amount of humor ("With her fingernail she scraped off the splattered souvenir her six-month old daughter, Chloe, had left on her clutch.") and poignancy.  And Cara definitely knows how to bring tears and laughter to her reading audience.

She mixes in a lot of French words in her story.  Since I took 4 quarters of French in college, it's kind of fun to see these words and pronounce them in my mind.  Speaking of France (was I?), there is a scene that takes place in the garden of the Rodin Musee.  I was there!  That was very cool to relate to a specific attraction in Paris (not counting the Eiffel Tower or the Seine).  She also gives us a great quote from Oscar Wilde:  "Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

Finally, late in the book, I was completely caught of guard by a scene in which I got chills, cried a bunch, and exhaled mightily at the end.  I love getting caught up in a story like that.

1.  I will be seeing Harlan Coben this Friday night at Book Passage in Corte Madera.  It's the 4th time I've seen him in person and still can't wait!
2.  Got my ARC of Redemption Road from John Hart's publisher yesterday and started it today.  No surprise that it starts out great.  But, more importantly, John is someone that actually responds to his readers.  I told him that I would see him at Book Passage on June 4 and asked him if he could get me an ARC.  He said yes and got it sent right away.  Nice.
3.  I'm sorry to report that BookBuyers on Castro Street in Mt. View has lost its lease. They're looking for a new spot but not having much success so far.  I will keep you up-to-date.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Repost of A Blog about Recycle Books from 11/12/11

I have been writing my blog since early 2011.  And I wrote about Recycle Books (see below) on November 12, 2011.  However, I wanted to repost it for 2 reasons.  First, I have a number of people reading this blog that started following after 11/12/11.  And, second, Recycle Books has taken on new meaning for me since I wrote this.  Let me just quickly tell you why. 

1.  On Sunday mornings, during the Farmers Market, I often man a table (I can say "man" because I am one!) and recommend books to passersby.  I've been doing this for a couple of years.  And Stacy, the store manager, buys any books I want to put on my table.  A big thank you to Stacy and her staff.
2.  Back in September, 2014, we started the RBC, Recycle Book Club.  We've just hit a year and a half at the store.  As you all know, our book club is unique among book clubs because the author comes to the store to answer questions and sign books.  We couldn't have done it without Stacy buying the books and providing the space to hold our meetings.  And whoever is working on a RBC night always makes sure that we get set up properly.  Again, thanks.

Take a look at what got me hooked on Recycle Books over 4 years ago.
My new favorite bookstore is - Recycle Books in Campbell (also in San Jose).  This is, primarily, a used bookstore (hence, "recycle").  They will buy new books if there is a great demand, and they sell those with a little bit of a discount.  But if you want used books at a good price, this is the place to go.  They keep the inventory large (with all genres represented) by buying books from the public.  They will take most paperbacks as long as they don't have too many of that book already in stock and as long as the book is in decent shape.  They will only take hardcovers if the paperback version hasn't hit the stores yet.  There are exceptions to this rule - e.g. George RR Martin's Game of Thrones series and Stieg Larsson's Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. 

When they buy your books, they give you an option of taking cash or store credit.  You will get more money for store credit.  When I decided to get rid of my several hundred books a few months ago (with all of the ereaders, there isn't anybody left to loan books to), I went to them first.  I ended up with about $160 in store credit.  The rest I took to the public library.  Now, when I finish a book, even if I've gotten it from Recycle, I go to them first to see if they'll buy it.  They take most of them. 

As for price, you typically pay half of the published price.  If you can get one of the hardcover best sellers there, you can pay $12-$14.  That sure beats the $24-$28 that most of them cost retail.  Even the more expensive paperbacks are only $6-$8 instead of $12-$16.  It makes quite a difference in the wallet.  The nice thing about buying the latest books at Recycle is that they usually look new.  They might have been read only once before they were unloaded.  If you're buying mass market paperbacks, then you will pay only $3-$4.  That's another heckuva deal.

I have bought a ton of books from Barnes & Noble and Borders through the years.  If I was lucky, I got a 40% discount off the cover price.  Most of the time, it was 20%-30%.  That's still going to cost me a little over or a little under $20 for a hardcover.  At Recycle, I won't have to pay more than $13 or $14.  That's kind of a no-brainer.

If you don't like to buy or read books that someone else has already handled, then ignore Recycle.  It's not for you.  But, on the other hand, if you're looking to save those hard-earned dollars, then give Recycle a try.  I don't think you will be disappointed.


1.  I forgot to tell you that when I saw Alina Sayre at Litquake last Sunday, she gave me some GREAT news.  Book 3 of The Voyages of the Legend will be out this summer!  I can't wait.  Even though Alina's books are geared for middle graders (8-14), I enjoyed the heck out of the first 2.  If you want to see my reviews, I posted them on 6/2/14 (The Illuminator's Gift) and 11/24/14 (The Illuminator's Test).  Do yourself a favor and either read these books or give them to someone in that target audience - or both.

2.  More good news:  Publisher's Weekly has picked Books, Inc. as the #1 independent bookstore in the country for 2016.  Is that great or what?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Harlan Coben Aces His Latest

I have long held that Harlan Coben is at the top of the mystery/suspense/thriller genre.  He has written 24 adult books.  And I have read every one of them.  I've come to expect at least very good and sometimes really really good.  This new one, Fool Me Once (which hits stores next Tuesday, March 22) is right at the top.  It's a 4/4 for me, and I just don't have one negative or slightly negative thing to say about it.  Here is the back cover synopsis:

Former special-ops pilot, Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work:  Her two-year old daughter playing with Maya's husband, Joe - who was brutally murdered two weeks earlier.  The provocative question at the heart of the mystery:  Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to?  To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband - and herself.

What did I love about this book?  Really, everything.  Here are just a few examples:

1.  I enjoyed the pop cultural references.  He compared a fancy library to the one in the Beast's house.

2.  I did not figure out any of the plot endings.  That could, in part, be on me!
3.  I was actually crying real tears over the last 4 pages.  I tear up pretty easily.  But these were drop-down tears.
4.  I connected big-time with the characters.  In fact, do you remember what I said about one of the main characters in Pat Conroy's South of Broad?  Well, I had a similar reaction in this one.
5.  I really like a couple of descriptions in the book related to combat and war veterans.  These are worth quoting in full:

    a.  "But the unspoken truth was, a part of you joneses for the danger.  You didn't want that.  You didn't like what it said about you.  Liking it means you are prenatally violent or lack empathy or some such nonsense.  But there was an addictive element to fear.  At home, you live relatively calm, placid, mundane lives.  You go over there and live in mortal fear and then you're supposed to come back home and be calm, placid, and mundane again.  Human being don't work that way."

     b.  "Newsflash: War messes up your relationships at home.  It was a cheap copout for a soldier to say that nobody at home understands what he goes through, but it was also too damned apt.  After you serve in some hellhole, you just see things differently.  Sometimes it's in obvious ways, but more often, it's just about textures and hues and scents.  Things that used to matter don't and vice versa.  Relationships and marriages are hard enough, but you add war into the mix and small fissures become gaping wounds.  No one sees what you're seeing - again that clear-eyed unbiased things - except your fellow soldiers.  It's like one of those movies where only the hero can see the ghosts and everyone else thinks the hero is crazy."

Plus, some of Coben's comparisons are just right on:

1.  "He grabbed his suit coat and threw it over his shoulder like Sinatra playing the Sands."

2.  "Two women danced on stage with the enthusiasm of middle-schoolers waking up for a math test.  They couldn't have looked more bored without prescribed sedation.  Forget your morals, this was Maya's real problem with clubs like this.  They had all the eroticism of a stool sample."
3.  "Telling someone who was clinically depressed, for example, to shake it off and get out of the house was tantamount to telling a man with two broken legs to sprint across the room.  That was all well and good in theory, but in practice, the stigma continued."

Whether you like Coben or not; whether you like mystery/suspense thriller novels or not; or whether you read fiction or not - read Fool Me Once.


Love at First Sight – Love to Read Again with Dr. Bindi of Laser Eye Center of Silicon Valley  and Village House of Books in Los Gatos

WHO: Dr. Craig S. Bindi of Laser Eye Center of Silicon Valley is joining up with Village House of Books to help you fall in love with reading again.

WHAT: As we get into our 40s, we all start to understand what a hassle wearing reading glasses can be, not to mention trying to find them when you actually want to read something.

Dr. Bindi and the Laser Eye Center of Silicon Valley are inviting folks over 40 who are frustrated with reading glasses to learn about how they can love to read again while also taking a short quiz and being matched with their new favorite book at Village House of Books.

The first 100 guests will receive a $10 gift card at Village House of Books and refreshments will be served. Gifts cards are limited to one per family.

When: Saturday, March 19 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Where: Village House of Books 21 W Main St, Los Gatos, CA 95030

For more information: contact Shelle Murach at (714) 206 4138 or

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Litquake Does It Again

You all know how much I enjoy Litquake.  Well, it took place this past Sunday at the JCC in Palo Alto.  And it had its usual mix of big name authors, interesting salons/panel discussions, and meet and greets. Here are just a few pics of authors of interest.

Keith Raffel 

Joyce Maynard

Alina Sayre 

J. Kenji-Lopez Alt

Keith and Alina are RBC authors.  Kenji-Lopez Alt is a food scientist.  He's got an amazing cookbook.  And Joyce is a nationally prominent author who has written 8 fiction, 4 non-fiction, and has been part of 4 anthologies.  AND, her novel Labor Day is a movie from 2013 starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin.  BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, Joyce lives in the East Bay.  I spoke to her Sunday about the RBC.  She didn't make a commitment, BUT I know she will consider it.  It may come down to how many people I can commit to being there.  We may need to do an RSVP for that one.

In addition to these authors, I also met Linda Gray Sexton.  She has written several books, but the one I picked up is Searching for Mercy Street:  My Journey Back to My Mother. Some of you might remember that we had Katie Hafner for our book club.  Her book, Mother, Daughter, Me, was a memoir too.  But that was over a year and a half ago.  It might be time for another one.  I'll keep you posted. 

NOTE1:  Henry Winkler (The "Fonz") will be at Montclair Presbyterian church in Oakland, sponsored by A Great Good Place for Books.  He'll be there Friday, March 18, at 7:00.  In case you don't know, Winkler is ALSO a children's book author.

NOTE2:  And speaking of children's books, check this out.  Hicklebee's, a renowned children's book bookstore in Willow Glen, San Jose, will have an adult story time!  You may want to pop in.  It's Tuesday, March 29, at 7:00.  

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Copyediting vs. Editing - Taylor Stevens Tells Us the Difference

Have you ever wondered what a copyeditor does?  How about an editor?  And what's the difference? This is something that I think a lot of us don't know.  Taylor Stevens, an author who has graced this blog in the past, clarifies these questions.  I've got the whole article below.

But I've got a couple of other things to tell you first.

1.  My buddy Steve sent me this link to Amazon's 1st brick-and-mortar bookstore.  It's in Seattle (not surprisingly, since that's where Amazon's headquarters are).  They just announced that they've picked San Diego for their 2nd location.  And they intend to open a bunch more across the country.

2.  I announced this on social media.  But let me announce it here.  About 4 years ago, I asked for, got, and posted guest blogs.  I want to do that again.  Whether you are officially connected to book world (blogger, author, editor, publisher, etc.) or not, I would welcome your input.  If you've got something to say about books (print, ebooks, audiobooks), let me have it.  And if you want to connect  with me, go ahead and send me an email at

3.  Here is Taylor Stevens on editing/copyediting:

Friday, March 11, 2016

Rare Mettle -Ann Bridges' sequel to Private Offerings

As is often the case, I want to start this review with a blurb from the back cover of the book:

Rare Mettle is Ann Bridges' sequel to debut Silicon Valley novel Private Offerings (B7, 2015), and presents a no-holds barred depiction of a modern-day reality:  America's reliance on China's processing of a core ingredient for high-tech devices and state-of-the-art military weaponry.  When the supply of rare earth is deliberately halted, economic chaos ensues, igniting a race to take back control, led by a monumental collaboration of unlikely partners-high-tech innovators and covert government agents-the only parties who realize the lethal potential of this new world order.

But here's where I depart from my normal review pattern.  I want to quote Ann's AUTHOR'S NOTE at the end of the book.  Although it has one small spoiler alert, it will not affect your reading/enjoyment of the book.  Ann says:

In 2010, China did indeed threaten Japan with its lock on purified rare metals, in retaliation for a territorial dispute, later resolved.  In the meantime, commodity prices for various rare earth elements shot up in the worldwide marketplace.  While American politicians discussed the implications on our economy long-term and ordered the Pentagon to come up with solutions, they failed to make any policy changes.  And Silicon Valley companies, while concerned, continue their dependence on these purified minerals, with no better alternative.

Once again, Ann has given us a book with her unique knowledge of world affairs as they relate to both Silicon Valley and Washington D.C.  How often do we get to read an insider's viewpoint while still being entertained?  Barry Eisler did it recently with The God's Eye View. But, still, it doesn't happen very often.

Did you guys see the movie The Big Short?  If you did, then you all know that you had to pay close attention to what was happening in order to understand it.  The same is true with Rare Mettle.  It's not confusing or dense.  But you need to stay somewhat focused in order to fully appreciate what is happening in the rare metal world.  And that's a good thing.  It's no fun to feel like a book (movie, TV show, lecture, et al) has been "dumbed down."  Better that we should follow along and learn something.  Well, if you do that here, you will learn a lot.  I guarantee that.

There are some passages in the book that really resonated with me.  Here's one of my favorites:

"...War has always been a violent tilt towards a new economic equilibrium.  What we're experiencing today is a radical evolution instead, and the Pentagon's career bureaucrats are unwilling to accept this new reality.  It's just like boiling frogs-raise the heat slowly, and they never realize the danger they're in until they're too lethargic to jump free."

And how about this one:

"Paul swallowed back the guilty acid that bubbled like a science experiment in his belly."

Did you feel that?

And, of course, I can't get through a review without bringing in some personal elements:

1.  The Peter Principle was mentioned.  Of course that was a popular saying quite a few years ago.  I hadn't heard it in a while.  If you don't know what it is, look it up.  It's a pretty right-on expression.
2.  There is a reference to a taiko drum.  I had never heard of that until about 4 months ago. It turns out that a new friend of mine plays one.  I got to see her and her group play live in a concert.  It's very cool.
3.  One of the ancillary characters in the book is Gideon Weinberg.  One of my mom's sisters married a Weinberg.  I still have a male cousin with that last name.  It's just not a name you see very often.

If you want to learn about this very real worldwide issue from someone who knows what she's talking about, then Rare Mettle is for you.

P.S.  How great is the title?  Very clever, don't you think?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Announcements of Upcoming Events

There will be little discourse, snark, or humor in this email.  It is a cut and dried list of upcoming events that I think you will want know about (or be reminded of).  Here we go:

1.    Harlan Coben will be at Book Passage in Corte Madera on Friday night, March 25, at 7:00.  We will be going even though it's about a 2-hour drive there with Friday night traffic. I've already seen him on 3 other occasions, but I will NOT miss Harlan.  He's like a stand-up comic besides being one heckuva author.  And this is his only NorCal appearance.

2.    John Hart is also coming to Book Passage.  He will be there on Saturday afternoon, June 4, at 1:00.  I have never seen him, and I am a huge fan.  His 3rd and 4th books - The Last Child and Iron House - are both 4/4 for me and sit proudly on my rec table.  I am really excited to see him!  (He will also be at Copperfields in Santa Rosa on Friday night, the 3rd.)

3.   This Sunday, Litquake is happening at the JCC in Palo Alto, from 3:00-8:00.  As usual, there will be a bunch of big-name authors.  Here are just a few - Joyce Carol Oates (the keynoter), Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket), and Joyce Maynard.  At the end of the event, there will be a social hour where we plebes get to meet and mix with the authors.  It's a very cool event.

4.    This is a good time to tell you about our scheduled RBC authors.  We're currently booked through June.  Here's the lineup:

Tuesday, March 29 - Cara Black, Murder on the Champ de Mars
Thursday, April 28 - Vanessa Diffenbaugh, The Language of Flowers (in my top 12 all-time!)
Wednesday, May 25 - Marina Adair, A Taste of Sugar
Wednesday, June 29 - Paulette Boudreaux, Mulberry

5.    We've also got 3 Sunday morning book signings lined up too.  The authors come from about 9:15-12:15 during the Farmer's Market.  Here they are:

May 1 - Paulette Boudreaux
May 22 - Betty Auchard
June 26 - Ruchi Rai

ONE NON-LITERARY NOTE:  Do you guys know about Cinequest?  USA Today readers picked this movie festival as the best in the country.  It goes from March 1-March 13.  There are tons of movies and a lot of post-movie visits from directors, producers, actors, etc.  Joni and I will be seeing at least 2 movies (maybe 3) this coming Saturday.  Can't wait!

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Conscious Peace, My iPhone Journal, by Ruchi Rai - a very unique book

Local author, Ruchi Rai, has written a very interesting memoir.  Here is the back-of-the-book blurb:

Ruchi's life was unfolding exactly as she might have planned it when she was a young girl. A respected teacher at a prestigious school, she had a successful, supportive husband, an outstanding thirteen-year-old son, and a dear little puppy who all loved her more than anything.
And then Fate intervened.  A careless driver cut across her and set off an avalanche of life changes that threatened to disrupt all of life as she knew it.
As she struggled to come back from the chaos Fate had dealt her, she faced the most difficult choice of her life:  give in to the bleak circumstances she found herself in, or stand up to Fate and fight back.

This is a very interesting book on a number of different levels.

First, I don't know if any book has ever come from an iPhone journal.  That is really unique.

Second, A Conscious Peace mostly looks at the ramifications of a very serious car accident.  Something that this book made me realize is that a severe accident can have effects similar to PTSD.  I had always associated that disorder exclusively with soldiers in combat.

Third, let me quote what Ruchi entered on her iPhone Tuesday, October 21, 2014 12:44 PM:  "There's nothing like looking at what life has meted out to another to change our frame of reference, to make us thankful for what we have, to be happy...."  My father-in-law, Irv, used to always say that if everybody sat in a big circle; and we all put our troubles in the middle of that circle; we would pull our own troubles back.  I guess he and Ruchi are in agreement on that one.

It took courage for Ruchi to expose herself to all of us like she does in this book.  She has given us at-that-moment feelings and thoughts.  She is to be commended for this.  She had the option to keep this journal to herself.  I daresay that most of us would have done exactly that.  Ruchi, you have made us feel just a very small part of what you had to go through. Your title page for section II (page 89) is CHOOSING TO BE FREE.  I think that sums up your attitude.  Bravo.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Some Very Short Reviews

I have a number of books lately that just haven't done anything for me.  One is a 2.25, one a 2.5, and one a 2.75.  And even the 2.75 I didn't really enjoy.  So I'm going to give you a sentence or two about each book, along with a picture of the book cover and the artist. That's it.

1.  Back on February 13, 2011 (less than a month after my very 1st blog post), I wrote a blog about B-Listers.  These are authors who always write readable, enjoyable books that rate somewhere between a 2.5-3.0.  Occasionally one will step up to 3.25.  One of those authors on that list is Phillip Margolin.  In this case, his latest, Violent Crimes, is on the weaker end of his voluminous play list of 20 books.  It's his 6th book about Amanda Jaffe, a veteran lawyer in Portland, OR (where most of his books take place, since that's where he lives and where he practices criminal law).  It was just okay.  2.5

2.  The Arrangement, by Ashley Warlick, is our March Books, Inc. (Palo Alto) 4th Tuesday Evening Book Club selection.  I was very excited when Margie assigned this book to us at the end of our last meeting (Feb. 23) because it's about MFK Fisher.  Even though I didn't know who that was, she evidently was a very famous food critic back in the 30s and onward (she passed away in 1992).  Unfortunately, by the time I finished the book I realized that my hopes had been dashed.  The book only talks about her writing in conjunction with the story about her husbands (yes, it's plural, but, no, it's not polygamy).  No offense, but shouldn't a book about a world-famous food critic talk about her food-critiquing?  2.25

3.  Earlier this week I blogged about seeing Emmi Itaranta at the Los Gatos Library last Saturday.  And I told you that I learned a lot about her and found her to be very interesting. But her book, Memory of Water, didn't really do it for me.  I've already told you that I gave it a 2.75/4.  It's a dystopian novel that takes place about 400-500 years (per the author) from now.  It's all about a severe world-wide shortage of water.  I gave it a 2.75 because it's well-written.  Otherwise, it would have been a 2.5.  And let me also remind you that I know quite a few people who really liked it (including Stacy at Recycle Books).  You are forewarned and forearmed.

I am hopeful that my next review(s) will be a bit more positive than these 3!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Looking for a Kiss - by Kate Walter

I'm going to start this review by quoting the back of the book:

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET OVER HEARTACHE?  In her debut memoir, Kate Walter-journalist, teacher, and chronicler of Greenwich Village life-explores her recovery from the sudden breakup of her long lesbian relationship.  With brave and revealing details, Walter confesses her grief and rage and questions her past choices.  Seeking answers and spiritual solace, she joins a gay-positive church, visits psychics, throws herself into yoga and chanting, and starts dating again at 60.  Like the urban landscape that serves as her backdrop, Walter's fast-paced dialogue has a raspy realness and soulful edge.  She describes loneliness and longing with humorous and poetic prose.  Readers are invited to share her journey to a more conscious life-or at least a hot kiss.

Let me 1st say that as a card-carrying heterosexual (never mind that I once cried during a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode - or that I am a huge Broadway musical fan - or that I am the final decision-maker on Joni's outfits - or that The Bachelor/Bachelorette is one of my favorite shows - or...well, you get the idea), I wouldn't automatically pick Looking for a Kiss. But I connected with Kate on Twitter and LinkedIn and told her I would be happy to read her book.  And I'm definitely glad I did.  This is a very good, very well-written book.  And you can talk about gay or straight, but here is a universal truth:  Finding love at 60 is tough.

There were quite a few things about Looking for a Kiss that I liked:

1.  The roughly 5-year period that Kate chronicles is well-spaced.  It's neither rushed not too drawn out.
2.  Kate gives us plain talk - dykes and queers and lipstick lesbians and beards. (I already knew this last term because a friend of Lauren's works for a movie studio.  A beard is a companion/mate of the opposite sex who is designed to make the world think that a person is straight, even though he or she isn't.)
3.  Kate regularly sees both a therapist and a psychic.  It was fun to see what each had to say.  Most of the time, they were in sync.  There's even one situation where Kate goes to a speed shrinking session. This is like speed dating, only with therapists.
4.  I enjoyed reading about how Kate got involved with the spiritual world.  She went to a conference hosted by Sonia Choquette.  And embraced the Law of Attraction.  Since Joni is a Reiki master, I understand the benefits of connecting with your spiritual side.
5.  I liked learning about the Middle Collegiate Church in the East Village.  Their motto is "Welcoming, Artistic, Inclusive, Bold."  The reverend, Dr. Jacqui Lewis, is very cool.
6.  I definitely liked learning how a lesbian goes about meeting other lesbians.  Many of the "mixers" are the same for gays and straights.  But since I've been with Joni for nearly 50 years, any memoir talking about "mixers" and "meet-ups" would hold the same fascination for me.
7.  And, of course, there were a few mentions that I could personally relate to; such as High Line Park in New York City, which we've been on twice while visiting Lauren and Joe; and Jersey Boys, which we saw in San Francisco; and East West Books, which we also have in Mt. View.  

Memoirs are inherently interesting, almost regardless of the subject matter.  And this one is no exception.  Kate does a very good job of telling her story and making us feel the journey she went on.  Since the book ends in 2010, maybe we'll get a sequel that gives us an update.  I'll look forward to that.