Saturday, May 27, 2017

More Miscellaneous (and apologies for sizing and spacing anomalies - my troubleshooting skills are pretty much nil)

I've got some news and a recap of this past Wednesday's RBC meeting:

1.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which, as you know, I really liked a lot, is going to be a movie with Kate Winslet. 
2.  Kerry Lonsdale's 2nd Book, Everything We Left Behind, the sequel to Everything We Keep, is coming out July 4.  As I've already told you, Kerry will be our RBC author in September.  You can find my review of EWK (because I know you want to read it again!) on February 12.
3.  For those of you who are into ebooks, NetGalley is a good place for you to go.  One of the bloggers that I follow, Nicole Hewitt, of Feed Your Fiction Addiction, has posted an article about this website.  It's called  What You Need to Know Before You Open a NetGalley Account.  You can find it on her May 20 post.

4.  I told you that Ellen Kirschman is launching her next book in the Dot Meyerhof series on July 12 at Books, Inc. in Palo Alto.  She will actually be in conversation with Ann Gelder.  What I didn't tell you is that she will also be appearing at Book Passage in Corte Madera on July 15.  This is a significant event because it's a benefit for the First Responder's Support Network.  As you can tell from the name, these people are the ones who 1st get to emergencies.  We all know someone who has greatly benefitted, maybe even been saved, because of the members of this group.  Ellen is very much involved with the organization.  Try to get there, if you can.  I've been once before and found it very inspirational.


5.  The RBC author for May was Margaret Zhao.  She came to Recycle to discuss her memoir Really Enough: A True Story of Tyranny, Courage and Comedy.  Margaret has an amazing story about growing up in the early years of the Communist takeover of China.  Our members all realized that we didn't learn anything about Communist China in our school years.  Well now we can.  RBC member and author, Ann Bridges, who has intimate knowledge of China, has given us a list of several books that we can read to educate ourselves.  Here they are:


BEST: China Road by Rob Gifford. This was recommended to me by a Chinese native as the most accurate depiction by a Westerner. Gifford was stationed in China as NPR's correspondent for a few years, then took a year off and traveled what I call the equivalent of Route 66 westward. While a few years old, it chronicles the changing shape of China, and includes areas rarely understood, like the Muslim population settling along the old Silk Road.
SILICON VALLEY LINK: China Dawn by David Sheff. This chronicles the major business and cultural shift through an entrepreneur's efforts.
HEARTBREAKING REALITIES: The Corpse Walker by Liao Yiwu. A local writer whose husband was assigned to China for 2 years took her time to learn the culture, and gave me this book. It is filled with mini-memoirs like Margaret's that will stun you.

Ann, with input from another RBC member, Pat Patterson, also gave us links to 2 articles about current news stories in China.  Take a look:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39996940


6.  Finally, but not least-ly, here is an article about the two Recycle Bookstore locations.  The article first appeared in the May 17 edition of Content Magazine.    

http://content-magazine.com/home/recycle-bookstore/





Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Literary Gods Continue to Smile Down On Me!

This time, we go all the way back to 2008 for a book that was very popular at the time.  But one that I just never read and, more to the point, didn't care about reading.  Shows you how much I (don't) know. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is an absolute gas. The book was written by Annie Barrows and her aunt, Mary Ann Shaffer (who, unfortunately, passed away the year the book was published). Why was it beneath my literary station in life to read Pie before, but not now?  Well, I have a good answer for that.  Annie is a Northern California resident.  And you all know how I love local authors.  Plus, oh by the by, I'm always looking for new RBC authors!

Here's the thing about Pie:  The authors make every character feel like someone we know.  It's truly amazing.  The backdrop is the Occupation of The Channel Islands during WWII.  (The Channel Islands are an archipelago between England and France, near Normandy.  Guernsey is 1 of 8 islands in this group.)  So, it's not exactly a fun time in Guernsey.  And, yet, the authors choose to focus on the human side of the war - the relationships, the fortitude, the caring, and, yes, even the humor.  You would think that a book with this subject matter should not have humor.  But you would think wrong.  Humor is what helps the reader (and the characters) deal with the bad stuff.  And there is certainly some of that.  But in the midst of all this bad stuff is a whole bunch of good stuff.  

Instead of reciting a blurb, let me quote Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame):  I can't remember the last time I discovered a novel as smart and delightful as this one, a world so vivid that I kept forgetting this was a work of fiction populated with characters so utterly wonderful that I kept forgetting they weren't my actual friends and neighbors. Treat yourself to this book, please - I can't recommend it highly enough.  Well said, Elizabeth.

I often tell you about my tears and chills and more tears.  But this book actually amped up my reactions.  Look at some of these:  Big smile, "Wow," "OMG," "Ah," head shaking/nodding, and a large "Whew!"  Not to mention a literary event late in the book that legitimately had me nervous.

As I look back at my notes, I see the word "love" being used a lot:
I loved Juliet using Bella Taunton, who didn't even like Juliet, as a character reference.
I loved how excited the island was to have Juliet come visit.
I loved when Juliet actually got to the island.
I loved Kit...period.
And there might even be a little romance that maybe I loved!

All in all, this is a heckuva good book.  Goodreads has a score of 4.12/5. And Amazon is 4.6/5.  Tens of thousands of people can't be wrong...can they?  Maybe...but not this time.  If you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I know you will feel the same way about it that I do.








Sunday, May 21, 2017

Does the Atomic Weight of Love finally break the streak? That would be a resounding NO!

And the streak continues.  The Atomic Weight of Love, a debut novel by Elizabeth J. Church, is really good.  This one came to me through the Books, Inc. 4th Tuesday Night Book Club.  In fact, we meet this coming Tuesday night to discuss it.  And I will definitely be on the plus side of the discussion.  I gave it a 3.25/4.  What could the author have done to raise my rating?  Probably nothing.  I liked it from beginning to end.  And I even had some chills, tears, smiles, head shakes, "unhs," and raised eyebrows.  You know, there's not that much difference between a 3 and a 4.  Do I use certain criteria for coming up with the final number? Nothing formal. Basically, I finish a book and the number hits me.  It's no more organized than that.  I have been taken to task for the arbitrariness of my ratings.  But, hey, how many times in your life can you be arbitrary (putting aside parenting, for the moment)?   Blogging is definitely one of those times.

The premise has a backdrop of WWII and Los Alamos.  Here's a quick summary:

Driven, spirited Meridian Wallace is seventeen years old in the fall of 1941 when she begins her ornithology studies at the University of Chicago.  Once there, however, she becomes captivated by a brilliant, complicated physicist and eventually follows him when he is asked to work on a secret wartime project in Los Alamos.  As the years go by, Meridian - adrift in a traditional marriage, her own sense of purpose and passion lost - channels her scientific ambition into the study of a family of crows, birds whose free life and companionship are the very things beyond her reach.  But when she meets a young geologist, a veteran of the Vietnam War, she is awakened to changes and choices that she never thought possible.

This is an extremely well-written book.  It's so well-written that even the Author's Note at the end of the book reads beautifully.  But it's always readable.  I've got just a couple of observations for you:

1.  The author started writing this book at the age of 56 and got it published when she was 60.  You don't have too many debut authors that are Baby Boomers!
2.  When the book starts, the protagonist is 87.  That reminded me of Water for Elephants and The Storyteller.  I like when authors do that.
3.  There's a scene where the Vietnam War veteran that Meridian meets has a reaction that today we would call PTSD.  Although I didn't go to Vietnam, I certainly knew about it.  I actually joined the Army Reserve back in 1969 so that I could avoid Vietnam.  The scene was a little too close to home.
4.  There's a scene where Meridian's husband has his badge right below his pocket protector.  I immediately flashed on a Don Rickles show that I was at.  We were sitting close, and he noticed that I had a piece of paper sticking out of my shirt.  He commented on the guy with the pocket protector.  Fortunately, I escaped any further harassment, unlike others in the crowd.  Boy, I'm really going to miss him.
5.  There is a 1971 reference to Tab, the 1st diet drink by Coke.  I was a huge fan of Tab and am still a Diet Coke drinker, much to the chagrin of my wife, Joni.

I'm pretty sure that this will come as no surprise to you.  But I want to quote several passages to show you what a good writer Church is:

"...burrowing insects have engraved the wood with trails of hieroglyphic language."
"We were like children - wholly cared for, our needs met, but with minimal choices."
"Then I felt him kiss the tip of my nose like the single raindrop the comes sometimes minutes before the rest of the raindrops in a thunderstorm - the first raindrop that is an explorer."
"And then, in the softest whisper possible he wove these words into the strands of my hair, tattooed my scalp with them:  'Bless you baby.'"






Friday, May 19, 2017

A Whole Bunch of Stuff

Here is that mish-mash of announcements that I accumulate over some period of time.  I've got a combo of events and books-to-movies-and-TV and paperbacks and giveaways.  Let's begin, shall we?

1.  This coming Wednesday, May 24, is our next RBC meeting.  Margaret Zhao will be talking about her memoir, Really Enough: A True Story of Tyranny, Courage and Comedy.  It chronicles her life as a child in China during the 1950s, shortly after the Communists took over.  Crazy interesting story.  She will be at Recycle Books at 7:00.

2.  I saw the 1st trailer for The Glass Castle that is being made into a movie, starring Brie Larson.  You certainly all know that TGC is one of my top 12 books all-time.  That makes me nervous about the movie version. I didn't see Me Before You because I liked the book so much.  I don't know if I will adopt the same attitude this time.

3.  I just found out yesterday that Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon is coming to the small screen.  Daniel didn't tell us when that's happening.  And I'm hoping it's not on Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, et al.  I don't have any of those premium stations.

4.  That very good novel, Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi, is now out in paperback.

5.  Ellen Kirschman will be launching, The Fifth Reflection, her 3rd book in the Dot Meyerhof series, on July 11 at Books, Inc. in Palo Alto.  Her background as a police psychologist is fascinating.  And she applies what she's learned to her protagonist.

6.  On June 29, another launch will be taking place.  This one is at Kepler's, and it stars Barry Eisler, who has launched all of his books at this one bookstore.  He is coming out with Zero Sum, another book in the excellent John Rain series.

7.  I mentioned this in my last post.  But I've got a very clean hardcover copy of Sally Hepworth's the mother's promise, thanks to Melissa A.  It's available to anybody who wants it.  You don't even have to give up your first-born.

8.  Here's an interesting article from the Women's National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter, regarding free libraries:  Little Free Libraries of the Bay Area.  If you can't click on the link, then just go to their website and find this article.  It's super cool.

9.  On April 26, I attended a going-away party for Melissa Maglio.  As I'm sure you all know, Melissa ran the Los Gatos Library Tuesday Evening Book Club for about 7 years.  I've only been going for the last 3 or so. But she did an excellent job and had a big following.  Well, she had an opportunity to move over to the San Jose Library and work at a branch that is within bike-riding distance to her home.  She just couldn't pass it up.  I know that I speak for many book club members when I say that we will all miss her terribly.




Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Does the streak continue? You bet it does. A mother's promise by Sally Hepworth is outstanding.

Thanks to my best source for new (to me) authors, Melissa Amster, at chicklitcentral.com, I just read the mother's promise by Sally Hepworth. I've already got one of Hepworth's books sitting in my TBR pile.  But I couldn't resist reading tmp since Melissa sent me a hardcover copy of it. This book reminds me somewhat of A Man Called Ove (and you all know what I thought of that one - 4/4).  I was definitely enjoying it.  But it just got better and better until I was a crying mess.  Man did it get to me. But let's begin at the beginning:

All their lives, Alice Stanhope and her daughter, Zoe, have been a family of two, living quietly in Northern California.  Zoe has always struggled with crippling social anxiety and her mother has been her constant and fierce protector.  with no family to speak of, and the identity of Zoe's father shrouded in mystery, their team of two works - until it doesn't.  Until Alice gets sick and needs to fight for her life.
Desperate to find stability for Zoe, Alice reaches out to two women who are practically strangers but who are her only hope:  Kate, a nurse, and Sonja, a social worker.  As the four of them come together, a chain of events is set into motion and all four of them must confront their darkest fears and secrets - secrets about abandonment, abuse, estrangement, and the deepest longing for family.

Probably the most important message I got from this book is how difficult it must be to live with social anxiety disorder.  Having never really been exposed to anyone who obviously has it, I'm betting that Sally did her research and depicts Zoe accurately.  We can chalk up Zoe's actions to being a fictional character.  Except that Sally makes us feel what Zoe is feeling.  That actually is true of all the characters in the book.  Nice going, Sally.  You made me feel so connected to Zoe that I thought it was raining indoors!

Let me give you a few of my other observations:
1.  The book alternates chapters between the voices of Alice and Zoe.  As you probably know, ad nauseum, I like that approach in a book.  I think it's very effective here.
2.  There are 4 main characters in tmp, with a few supporting cast members thrown in.  The more they interconnected, the more I liked it. And there is plenty of interconnecting.
3.  Besides crying profusely (I should have been embarrassed...but I wasn't), I also had some "Uh oh's," "Oh boy's," and even an "Oh (expletive)."
4.  As predictable as a book like this might seem to be, there is a huge surprise toward the end that left me agape and aghast (bet you don't see those words together very often!).
5.  Did I mention I did a little crying?  Here is what my note said:  "Are you kidding me?  How much crying can 1 person do?"  And that, my friends, is verbatim.
6.  It's funny that the book takes place in Northern California when Sally lives and writes in Australia.
7.  On top of it all, Sally can write.  Here are just a couple of passages that I particularly enjoyed:
- "The silence in the room was loud.  So loud."
- "It was agony, waiting for someone to make the most important decision of your life."
- "All around her people paired up with the ease of magnet and metal."

Nice, yes?

Since Melissa sent me this copy of the mother's promise, I am happy to send it to someone else.  If you would like to have it, go ahead and let me know.  If there are more than one of you, then we'll set up a chain of reads/sends.  But whether or not you are interested in receiving this copy, make sure you find a way to read it.  the mother's promise is just a really good book.






Sunday, May 14, 2017

I'm on a Roll! Lucy Sanna continues the streak with The Cherry Harvest

I am not unhappy (confusing?) to say that I've read a number of very good books lately.  You all saw my review of The Marriage Lie from a few days ago.  Well now comes The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna, a part-time Bay Area resident (trying to get her to come to the RBC early next year).  What's it about, you ask?  I will let the back page of the book tell us:

It's the summer of 1944 in Door County, Wisconsin, where even the lush cherry orchards and green lakeside farms can't escape the ravages of war.  With food rationed and money scarce, the Christiansen family struggles to hold on.  The family's teenage daughter, Kate, raises rabbits to save money for college, while her mother, Charlotte, barters what she can to make ends meet.  Charlotte's husband, Thomas, strives to keep the orchard going while their son - along with most of the other able-bodied men - is fighting overseas.  With the upcoming harvest threatened by the labor shortage, strong-willed Charlotte helps persuade local authorities to allow German prisoners from a nearby POW camp to pick the fruit.
But when Thomas befriends one of the prisoners, a math teacher named Karl, and invites him to tutor Kate, both Charlotte and Kate are swept into a world where love, duty, and honor are not as clear-cut as they might have believed. Charlotte and Thomas fail to see that Kate is becoming a young woman, with dreams and temptations of her own.  And when their beloved son, Ben, returns from the battlefield, wounded and bitter, the secrets they've all been keeping threaten to explode their world.

Did you know that German prisoners were shipped across the Atlantic during WWII to work in canneries and farms?  No?  I didn't think so.  I mean, c'mon, we were never told that in school.  But, in fact, there were 39 camps in Wisconsin that housed the Germans from 1942-1946.  And that leads me to my 1st major observation.  Which is that most of the WWII stories we read take place in Europe.  Some of my favorites include The Nightingale and The Race for Paris, in France, The Orphan's Tale and Salt to the Sea, in Germany,  Between Shades of Gray, in Siberia, and City of Thieves, in Leningrad.  Of course there are tons more.  But those are the ones that come to (an ever-forgetful) mind.  But a slice of WWII history that happens right here in the states?  Under the unsuspecting eyes of the entire country?  Now that is interesting.

Other observations:
1.  This would be a great movie.  Hollywood, are you paying attention?
2.  Lucy does a very good job of showing us the differences between the haves and the have-nots during the war.
3.  There is a detailed description of how Charlotte makes a cherry pie. My question to the author is:  Lucy, have you used this recipe?  Is it as good as it sounds?
4.  Being a city slicker, I didn't realize how big an orchard can be.  5400 trees?  And with all of the usual pickers going to the cities to aid in the war effort, you can easily see why the German prisoners were brought over and in.
5.  The story jumps back and forth between Charlotte and Kate.  It's a literary strategy that I typically like.  And Lucy does it very well here.
6.  There is a scene pretty late in the book that reminded me of a particularly poignant scene in An Officer and a Gentleman.  I won't say any more.  But when you read TCH, let me know if you thought of the same scene I did.
7.  I'm never opposed to historical fiction that ties family dynamics to a little bit of romance.  Good combo.
8.  There were definitely moments of suspense and chills, with a big "Wow" thrown in for fun.
9.  Love the ending.

I enjoyed the heck out of this for all of the above reasons...and probably a couple that I have forgotten (highly likely!).  If you want a really good story, pick up The Cherry Harvest.  I know you will appreciate it like I do.





 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Your Perfect Life, by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke - "Perfect" Can Be Relative

Your Perfect Life is another recommendation from my personal recommender Melissa Amster, at chicklitcentral.com.  Let's not forget that she is responsible for me finding out about Sarah Jio (Goodnight June) and Karma Brown (Come Away with Me) among several others.  In fact, if I don't stop reading all of her recs, I'm going to turn into a women's fiction groupie.  And what would my macho man buddies say about that?  Oh, wait.  I don't really have any of those. Regardless, I'm very happy I read YPL.  Here's the blurb:

Best friends since childhood, Casey and Rachel couldn't lead more different lives.  While workaholic Casey rubs elbows with celebrities daily as the host of Gossip TV and comes home nightly to an empty high-rise apartment, stay-at-home mom Rachel juggles an oops baby, two fiery teenagers, and a husband who only physically resembles the man she fell in love with two decades before.  After an argument at their twentieth high school reunion, they each throw back a shot to try and save the evening.  Instead, they get a life-changing hangover.
Waking up in each other's bodies the next morning, they must figure out how to navigate their altered realities.  Rachel is forced to face the broadcasting dreams she gave up when she got pregnant in college and Casey finally steps out of the spotlight to confront the real reason why she's alone.  Each woman will soon discover she doesn't know herself - or her best friend - nearly as well as she thought she did.

You all know what I think of 11/22/63 by Stephen King.  It's a time travel book that I absolutely loved.  But I had to accept the premise before I could take on the rest of the book.  The same thing is true of YPL.  Since I almost never read a blurb before I start a book, I had no idea their switch was going to happen.  And I have to admit that when I first read about it, on page 30, I was not happy.  I simply wasn't prepared for such a seemingly unrealistic development.  But I will tell you that I got over it VERY quickly.  And once I accepted the premise, just like for 11/22/63, the rest of the book flowed very plausibly.

Some other observations:
1.  I can definitely see how this book was written by 2 long-time friends.
2.  It is never a bad thing to be in someone else's shoes - a good takeaway (and you know how I like a good takeaway).
3.  Here's another valuable lesson - "If only I could've known then that you don't have to agree with your friends' choices to still be there for them."  Another good takeaway.  Kinda similar to #2.
4.  There are several other takeaways, but I just don't want to give them all away.  Trust me when I
tell you that there are plenty more.
5.  Small Spoiler Alert - as a reader, I could sure feel the transformation that took place with both women being in the other's body.
6.  I don't want you to think that I had no emotional connection. BECAUSE I DID!  At one point, I had tears rolling down my cheeks.  
7.  I also had a few personal connections:
a.  Casey and Rachel had their switch at a high school reunion.  I've got a really big one coming up this August.  Really big.
b.  At one point, Rachel's husband comes in for a "side hug."  My granddaughter, Haley, who is 12, only gives side hugs.
c.  Rachel has a 14-year old daughter who does a lot of eye-rolling.  I have another granddaughter who is 4(!) who already does some eye-rolling and will be doing a lot more of it in the years to come.

I haven't mentioned the writing itself.  It's terrific.  I will just give you one passage.  It's something that anybody who has ever taken care of a baby will relate to.  And for those of us with 3 children and 4 grandchildren, we can REALLY relate to it:  "I look over at Charlotte, who has a very serious look on her face.  Like she's trying to come up with the answer to something really complicated, like how to solve global warming or understand why Paris Hilton is still considered a celebrity." See what I mean?

Read Your Perfect Life, people.  You will not only enjoy it.  But you will also be reminded of what matters in our lives.  What else could you ask for?








Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Marriage Lie, by Kimberly Belle - Thank You Marina Adair and Elisabeth Barrett!

A few weeks back I was having lunch with 2 of my favorite local authors, Marina Adair and Elisabeth Barrett, after they so graciously appeared at my corporate book club meeting in Pleasanton.  And we got on the discussion of books that we like (yes, even authors read other authors). They both very enthusiastically recommended The Marriage Lie, by Kimberly Belle.  Now, I know that you have heard me complain about the size of my TBR pile...ad nauseum, even.  But, for some reason, I not only went right out and bought TML.  But I even started reading it only 10 days after my lunch.  Boy am I glad I did.  It is a totally terrific book.

Here is what it's about:

Iris and Will have been married for seven years, and life is as close to perfect as it can be.  But on the morning Will flies out for a business trip to Florida, Iris's happy world comes to an abrupt halt: another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board and, according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers.
Grief stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding.  Why did Will lie about where he was going?  And what else has he lied about?  As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to uncover what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she finds shock her to her very core.

Why did I like this so much?  As Liz Browning said:  "Let me count the ways:"

1.  I don't know if I have ever been so surprised so often.  I loved that about this book.
2.  This is a mystery, plain and simple, couched in a women's contemporary fiction or similarly named genre.
3.  In case you're trying to figure out how to spot a lie, or even trying to lie more effectively, here are the "tells" - "You see it in the fidgets and sudden head movements or sometimes, when a person is overcompensating, through no movements at all.  In how their breathing changes, or how they provide too much information, repeating phrases and offering up irrelevant details.  In the way they shuffle their feet or touch their mouths or put a hand to their throats. It's basic psychology, physical signals that the body doesn't agree with the words coming out of its mouth."  Hopefully, this does NOT sound familiar to you.
4.  On page 247 of 334 I realized that I couldn't figure out anything that was going on...and I loved it!
5.  I had my usual array of tears, chills, raised eyebrows, and OMGs.
6.  The book is very well-written.  Here's what Kimberly says about death in the voice of Iris:  "It forces intimacy at the same time it snatches it away."
7.  I've mentioned this before.  I feel very strongly that you can't judge something that you haven't experienced.  Kimberly says it very eloquently through Evan, a friend who also lost family in the plane crash:  "...nobody understands what you and I are going through. People think that they do, and a lot of them want to understand, but they don't. Not really.  Unless they've lost someone like you and I have, they can't."
8.  How about this for a visual?  "Corban's smile drops like a guillotine."
9.  I've got one more passage for you.  This one does a pretty darn good job, I think, of explaining grief:  "Why do they call it grief, when really it's a whole gamut of awful emotions, confusion and regret and anger and guilt and loneliness, wrapped up into one little word?"
10. Final thought?  THE ENDING IS CRAZY!

The Marriage Lie has been compared to Gone Girl.  And that was I good book (3.5/4).  But this is better - much better.  Please read it.



SIDE NOTE (aren't they all?):  Have I ever told you about Cards Against Humanity?  It's mentioned in the book.  If you haven't played it, get a bunch of people together and do it.  I probably have never laughed as much as I did when I played this for the 1st time.







Monday, May 1, 2017

Kristen Hannah, last Saturday night, at A Great Good Place for Books

I kept looking for the right event to go to Saturday in celebration of Independent Bookstore Day.  Every bookstore had a whole bunch of authors to see.  I was pretty much settled on seeing Meg Waite Clayton in conversation with Margie Scott Tucker (Margie runs the 4th Tuesday Night Book Club, which I try to get to as often as I can), 2 of my favorite bibliophiles, at Books, Inc. in Palo Alto.  But then, lo and behold, I saw that Kristen Hannah, author of The Nightingale, was making her only Northern California appearance at A Great Good Place for Books, in Oakland.  That was the winner.  It was being held in a local church because of the expected audience, and it started at 7:00.  That gave our group (4 of us) a chance to eat 1st at Crogan's in Montclair District.  It was really good.  But I digress.

Kristin has written 20 books.  But this is the one that has had the most impact, both to her and to her fans.  She first seriously thought about becoming a writer in her 3rd year of law school.  Kristin and her mom talked about writing a book together.  The night before her mom died, she told Kristin that she was going to become a writer.  It took a few years, but her mom was prophetic.  It actually happened when Kristin was pregnant with her 1st child.  At 14 weeks, she was told that she had to be in bed for the rest of her pregnancy.  Her husband recommended that she write the historical romance  that she and her mom were going to write.  And so it began.

She sold her 1st book when her son was 2.  And then she began to write in earnest.  After 5 romances, she broadened her scope to include the genre of commercial women's fiction.  And then she finally came to a point where she wanted to write fiction based on strong women from historical settings.  She read a bunch of memoirs from women in the French Resistance.  This led to The Nightingale.  And we all know how that took off.  It's currently in 39 languages!  And guess what?  It's been optioned for a movie, in which all of the behind-the-scenes moviemakers are women.  How exciting is that?  And don't worry.  I will definitely let all of you know when it hits the big screen.

Now that I've had a couple of days to ruminate on whether or not I made the right choice this past Saturday, I'm more sure than ever. Thank you, Kristin, for giving us a book that not only entertained, but that also taught us something we are all happy to learn.






Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Potpourri aka Short Bites aka This 'n That aka...

Well, it's been a week since my last post.  (Did you miss me?  What?  No? Maybe?  I'll settle for maybe.)  And there are a bunch of cool author events coming up.  Here are a couple of them, along with a few other tidbits:

1.  This coming Saturday, April 29, is Independent Bookstore Day.  And no matter where you live, I'm sure that there will be activities and authors galore at your local bookstores.  Here in the Bay Area there are a whole bunch of choices.  We decided to see Kristin Hannah, she of The Nightingale fame, in Oakland.  She will be at the Montclair Presbyterian Church, located at 5701 Thornhill Drive, at 7:00.  She is sponsored by A Great Good Place for Books.  This is Kristin's ONLY Northern California appearance.  P.S.  I liked The Nightingale a lot.

2.  Another big name Bay Area appearance is Paula Hawkins, author of the immensely popular The Girl on the Train (which I thought was just okay).  She will be at The Bentley School, 1000 Upper Happy Valley Road in Lafayette, at 7:00 on Saturday night, May 13.  She will be promoting her new book, Into the Water.  And she is being jointly sponsored by Rakestraw Books and Orinda Books.  I won't be going to that one.

In other news:

3.  Amazon Books has announced that it will be opening 2 brick and mortar bookstores in the Bay Area in 2017 - one in Walnut Creek and one in Santana Row, San Jose.  These will be on top of the 6 they already have in other parts of the country.  There are no specific dates yet.  This will be the 1st bookstore in Santana Row since Borders closed 6 years ago.

4.  In the May/June edition of Content Magazine, there is an interview by RBC author and member, Ann Bridges, of RBC author, Marina Adair.  If you don't have a subscription, there are a variety of locations in the South Bay that carry the magazine.  You can go on their website, content-magazine.com, to get locations and other details.

5.  Just this week I have had 3 people say that Iris and Lilly, by Angela and Julie Scipioni, is their favorite book of all-time!  Has anybody read it? I had never heard of it.  The rating on Amazon is pretty darn good - 4.3/5.  If somebody has read it and wants to weigh in, please feel free to do that.  I think we are all open to hearing about a good book.

6.  And, finally, don't forget that we will be having the First Annual Book Exchange (I just added caps for effect) at Recycle Books on Tuesday night, May 9.  You don't have to be an RBC member to come.  All you have to do is bring one of your favorite books to give away.  You are also guaranteed a book to bring home.  If you do decide to come, please RSVP me at lloydrrussell@gmail.com

7.  We have added one author to the RBC schedule and changed the date for another.  Here is the most up-to-date info:

Wednesday, May 3, RBC - Mother Daughter Me (memoir), Katie Hafner

Wednesday, May 24, RBC - Really Enough: A True Story of Tyranny, Courage and Comedy (memoir), Margaret Zhao

Wednesday, June 14, RBC - The Illuminator’s Gift, book 1 of the Voyages of the Legend (YA fantasy), Alina Sayre

Wednesday, July 19, RBC - here there be dragons (dark fiction), Jeff Rosenplot

Wednesday, August 23, RBC - Pure & Sinful, book 1 of the Pure Souls series (urban fantasy/paranormal), Killian McRae

Wednesday, September 13, RBC - Everything We Keep (contemporary fiction), Kerry Lonsdale

Sunday, October 22, RBC, 4:30 - Incriminating Evidence, book 2 of the Mike & Rosie series (legal mystery), Sheldon Siegel

Wednesday, December 13, RBC, (romance), Elisabeth Barrett


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Couple of Events & a Couple of Pics

You all know that I'm a huge fan of Melissa Maglio, the impresario extraordinaire of the Los Gatos Library Evening Book Club.  Well, tonight was her last book club meeting.  Sadly for us members, but happily for her, she is moving on to the San Jose library system.  It's a good move for her, bad one for us.  We (I) will miss her a bunch.



I've told you about the book club we have at one of our corporate food service accounts.  This week, we were extremely fortunate to have both Marina Adair and Elisabeth Barrett make the trek from the South Bay to Pleasanton.  They are both not just outstanding romance authors.  They are outstanding authors (and people!) period.  Here they are.



2 Other Quick Notes:
1.  Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, is being made into a movie.  I don't know when it's going to hit the big screen.  But I do know that it stars Julianne Moore as the opera singer.  And opera legend Renee Fleming will provide the singing.  And, by the way, I really liked Bel Canto.  It was my 1st Ann Patchett, and I have read everything since (her latest, Commonwealth, is not one of my favorites).
2.  For those of you who follow RBC news, but aren't on the email list, we've got one change.  Katie Hafner, author of Mother Daughter Me, who was supposed to come to Recycle Books next Wednesday, April 26, has now been moved to the following Wednesday, May 3.  I think everybody is going to be very interested to learn why Katie had to switch days. That's all I'm saying for now.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Back-to-Back-to-Back Reviews - this time it's Under A Painted Sky, by Stacey Lee

It's been a while since I have had 3 reviews in a row.  And I would have to say that they couldn't be more different.  Orphan X is a mystery. Irresistible in Love is definitely a romance.  And Under a Painted Sky is a YA with some historical fiction thrown in.  Here's what SPEAK, an imprint of Penguin Random House, has to say:

All Samantha wanted was to move back to New York and pursue her music, which was difficult enough for a Chinese girl in Missouri in 1949.  Then her fate takes a turn for the worse after a tragic accident leaves her with nothing and she breaks the law in self-defense.  With help from Annamae, a runaway slave she meets at the scene of her crime, the two flee town for the unknown frontier.  But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls.
Disguised as Sammy and Andy, two boys heading for the California gold rush, each searches for a link to her past and struggles to avoid any unwanted attention.  Until they merge paths with a band of cowboys-turned-allies, and Samantha can't stop herself from falling for one.  But the law is closing in on them and new setbacks come each day - the girls will quickly learn there are not many places one can hide on the open trails."

There are 5 main characters in this book:  2 girls/boys and 3 cowboys. There were also 5 in The Girl on the Train.  You know what the difference is?  I cared about these 5.  The other 5?  Eh eh/ix-nay/not so much.  In Painted, I definitely had moments of chills, tears, and laughing.  And 23 pages from the end, I let out a big "No!"  There's also a musical instrument competition about 100 pages from the end that I found as enjoyable as any sports-related contest.  But do you know what impressed me the very most about this book?  The writing was outstanding.  It's not highfalutin', but it's spot on.  Take a look at a few examples:

"Above me, yellow and purple clouds puff out above the tree line, like someone punched the sky in the face."
"He walks with the ease of someone with places to go but time to get there."
"The water's surface shifts the rays of the setting sun like hands sifting through cut jade stones."
"The man's orbs are sunk into his skin like two olives dropped in vanilla pudding."

And how about this truism?

"Yet, I can think of no better way to cheer up Andy than with that cure-all that knows no cultural bounds: music."

Under a Painted Sky has a lot of things going for it.  And I enjoyed not only Samantha, Annamae, and the 3 cowboys.  I also got to learn a little about life on the Oregon Trail.  If you teens are absolutely forced to learn some history, then reading Under a Painted Sky will pave the way. Oh, yeah.  Adults, this goes for you too.




A KID'S WRITING CLASS:  C. Lee McKenzie, one of my very favorite MG/YA authors (check out my review of The Princess of Las Pulgas on 3/16/14, and you will see what I mean), is teaching a writing class for kids.  Here is the info:

C. Lee McKenzie will once again open the world of character creation and story development to a new group of young writers at the Young Writers Workshop.
April 29
10:45 to 1:45
Los Gatos Recreation Center, 123 East Main Street, Los Gatos 95030.
McKenzie is a traditionally published author of four young adult novels: Sliding on the Edge (2009), The Princess of Las Pulgas (2010), Double Negative (2014) and Sudden Secrets(2015). She also writes for younger readers (middle grade, 8-14) and has published three novels in that category: Alligators Overhead, The Great Time Lock Disaster, and Sign of the Green Dragon. To find out more about the author, visit her WEBPAGE.
Friends of the Library will supply all writing materials plus water and cookies at noon. Participants are asked to bring a bag lunch. 
Workshop registration forms are available at the library circulation desk and ONLINE.  Completed forms and a check for $15 should be mailed or delivered to Friends of Los Gatos Library, 100 Villa Ave. 95030
Space is limited. Sign up now.






Friday, April 14, 2017

The Maverick Billionaires #4 - Irresistible in Love - As Good As 1-3!

First of all, I have a message for the authors, Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre:  YOU ARE NOT MY FAVORITE PEOPLE RIGHT NOW!  Okay, that's not true.  You really are.  But I am tired of crying when I read this series. I mean, c'mon.  Do you think it's fair that a 60+++ year old man should be crying every other page?  Do you think it's right that tears should be sliding down my face when I'm eating lunch at my favorite dive (that would be The Garrett, in Campbell)?  Do you think I can use my triple bypass surgery from 5 years ago to justify this aberrant behavior?  No, no, and I hope so.

I'm not going to reproduce the flap on this one.  If you have been following my posts*, you know that there are 5 Maverick Billionaires. Susan and Bob took in Matt, Evan, Will, and Sebastian as young boys to live with them and their son, Daniel (his younger sister, Lyssa, came along a few years later).  They raised these 4 boys as their own.  And now, each of one of them is independently a billionaire, and each is ferociously supportive of his "brothers" and "parents."  3 of the 5 (Will, Sebastian, and Matt) have found love (in books 1-3, not coincidentally). And now it's Evan's turn.

When the book begins, Evan has just ended his long and unsatisfying marriage to Whitney after learning about a bunch of very serious lies she told him.  He sent her packing a month before and is already beginning the divorce proceedings.  Fortunately, he has a very close friendship with Whitney's sister, Paige.  Could this lead to romance? Spoiler alert - the genre IS romance, after all.

And on top of all that, Evan's got a childhood from Hell, until Susan and Bob take him in.  His mother abandoned him to an abusive father when he was only 9, and Evan has lived with that resentment all of these years.  Will he ever see his mother again?  And if he does, will he ever be able to forgive her?  Oh, and is it possible that his mother had other children...with the same father?  I'm not telling.

I can really go on and on.  But I know there's a limit to how much of my review you will actually read.  For that reason, I'm going to give you a few bullet points:

1.  As I have said in earlier reviews, I really, really like Susan and Bob. And, fortunately, they have a much bigger role in #4 than they had in the first 3.  This greatly pleases me.
2.  About a 1/3 of the way in, I realized that I was mad at myself for waiting almost a month before starting #4.  I justified it because I had just finished another romance, and I thought I needed a few other genres in between.  Well, I was wrong.  Moving forward, I will always read this series the minute I get my hands on the next book.  Jennifer and Bella, I apologize for my wayward behavior.
3.  On page 194 of 320, I wrote this note:  STOP CRYING!
4.  This is not only my favorite romance series of all time.  It's also flat-out one my favorite series of all time, regardless of genre.
5.  I got a takeaway from this book, although it's something that I already knew.  We'll call it a reinforcement, rather than a takeaway: "Sometimes it was harder to forgive the things done to your friends than it was the things people did to you."  I think this can be true for both friends and family.
6.  Finally, the Bay Area has a ton of really great romance authors.  I have thoroughly enjoyed many of them.  But none have grabbed me as emotionally as this series does.  Kudos to Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre for accomplishing that.

People, just read the series...for me...pretty please?





*Breathless in Love - 6/26/15 & 6/29/15
Reckless in Love - 12/21/15
Fearless in Love - 7/16/16

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Gregg Hurwitz's Orphan X - Pretty Good

A couple of my friends highly recommended Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz.  It's been a while since I have read any of his books (O-X is #15).  I didn't remember being a big fan.  But my memory can be a bit spotty at (lots of) times.  Either way, I thought it was pretty good.  I gave it a 3/4.  That is in direct contrast with the rest of the reading public. Amazon averaged 4.4/5 with 658 ratings.  And Goodreads was a 4.08/5, with 12,152 (yep, you're reading that right) ratings.  Let's start with the blurb:

Evan Smoak is a man with skills, resources, and a personal mission to help those with nowhere else to turn.  He's also a man with a dangerous past.  Chosen as a child, he was raised and trained as an Orphan, an off-the-books black box program designed to create the perfect deniable intelligence asset: an assassin.  Evan was Orphan X - until he broke with the program and used everything he learned to disappear.  But now someone is on his tail.  Someone with similar skills and training who will exploit Evan's secret new identity as the Nowhere Man to eliminate him.

There were some things I liked about Orphan X.  And other things...not so much.  Here's a quick list:

thumbs up
1.  the relationship between Evan and Mia and her son, Peter
2.  the conflict between Evan and Slatcher - reminded me of the Soviet and American snipers in Robert Ludlum's The Matarese Circle
3.  the writing - "...an AK held in a gloved hand made a puppet appearance, firing rounds off the walls and ceiling."

thumbs down
1.  one of the main characters was named Katrin - awkward to pronounce in my head (I know that's petty)
2.  long, technical descriptions of weapons, martial arts moves, and electronics - like The Martian, but without the accompanying humor
3.  went on a bit too long

I gave it a 3/4. So, obviously, I did like it.  Would I recommend it?  Yes to some and no to others.  I guess my biggest problem is that I went into it with very high expectations.  That can be a formula for disappointment. In this case, I have to say it was.



Another Upcoming Author Event:  On May 3, at 7:30, Yaa Gyasi, author of The Homegoing, will be coming to the JCC in Palo Alto.  I've already seen her once (at Rakestraw Books in Danville on 7/16/16), and I really enjoyed her book (I posted a review on 7/23/16).  I think you will enjoy both her and her book.

Author Signing at Recycle Books.  This past Sunday, Nikki Avila came to Recycle to sell and sign her book, Hellhound Angel (per her designation, it's a YA fantasy adventure).  She drew a large crowd over the course of 3 hours.  Thanks to Nikki, I've got a copy of HA and will be reading it sometime in the near future.  And she's not even 21!  Here are a couple of pictures.

that's her mom and sister off to the left









Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The 1st Annual Book Exchange

I know that many of you who read my blog are out of the area.  Feel free to ignore this post (you probably didn't need permission!).  But we're going to have the 1st Annual Book Exchange, put on by the RBC.  It will be on Tuesday, May 9, at 7:00.  Based on several that I attended at Kepler's, and following the format that Angela Mann set up there, here's how it's going to work:

- everybody will bring one of their favorite books to give away - either new or used (Recycle does have both, after all)
- everybody will draw a number when they check in
- everybody will take a couple of minutes to describe their book to the group (if we have a lot of people, we'll split up into different groups and rotate)
- after we have finished with all of the descriptions, and have placed all the books on a table, we will start the exchange
- the person who drew #1 will go to the table and pick a book
- #2 will then either pick another book or steal the book from #1 - a book can be stolen many times
- anytime a book is stolen, the steelee (yes, I know that's not a real word) picks another one - that book cannot be stolen
- after the last person has gotten a book, then everybody can descend on the table and pick up any books that are still there - these could be ARCs, clearance books, and what-have-you's
- everybody WILL leave there with at least one new book of his/her choosing

Kepler's also had an author there each time to read from his/her book, The author's book(s) was available for sale.  I don't know if we will do that.  But it's possible.  If we have half the good time that I had at several sessions of the Kepler's Book Exchange, then it will still be loads of fun.

P.S.  You do NOT have to be an RBC member to attend.  It's open to the entire book-loving community.  That's all of you, right?

Other News:
1.   I know many of you are big fans of Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend, et al.  Well, HBO has announced that it will be making a mini-series (8 episodes) of book 1 sometime in 2018.  I'm pretty sure that I won't be watching it.  But you never know.
2.  Daniel Silva's 17th book in the Gabriel Allon series (and 20th overall), House of Spies, will be coming out July 11 of this year.  I know I will be grabbing that sucker either on or very near the release date.  And, by the way, his 1st book, The Unlikely Spy, is a standalone that is totally terrific. I have it on my rec table.
3.  Kepler's just announced that Bill Nye, The Science Guy, will be coming to the San Mateo Performing Arts Center on Friday night, July 14, at 7:30.  He will be promoting his new book, Everything All At Once.  You can go on the Kepler's website to purchase tickets.
4.  I have been asked to let everybody know about a women's fiction 1-day writing seminar that will take place on May 20 in Redwood City.  http://womensfictionwriters.org/meetinginfo.php?id=26&ts=1491323652

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Quarterly Reading Report

I've just finished the 1st quarter's reading and thought you might (or might not!) be interested in my recap.
Books read:      16
Pages read (includes the 3 DNF's):  5,081
Ratings:
4.0 -      1
3.875 -  1
3.75 -    1
3.5 -      2
3.25 -    4
3.0 -      4
2.75 -    2
2.25 -    1
This is a decent, not spectacular, start, both in terms of books/pages read and ratings.

Some Other Stuff:

1.  I had a record-breaking day this morning at Recycle Books.  I sold 8 books!  And I signed up one new member for the RBC.  Here's what left the rec table (including one that I grabbed off the back shelf in the store):
Exile - Richard North Patterson
Paris for One - JoJo Moyes
The Last Child - John Hart
My Losing Season - Pat Conroy
Fool Me Once - Harlan Coben
If You Are There - Susan Sherman (RBC)
Mother Daughter Me - Katie Hafner (RBC)
Naked - Betsy Franco

2.  Just found out that Kristin Hannah, she of The Nightingale fame, will be coming to the Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland, courtesy of A Great Good Place for Books (this is the same place that I saw Vanessa Diffenbaugh about a year and a half ago, which led to her making an appearance at the RBC).  This is Kristin's ONLY Northern California appearance.  The date is April 29, and the time is 7:00.  It's already on my calendar.  And I reviewed it on 9/4/15.  Gave it a 3.25/4.  There is no RSVP and no entrance fee.  Buying a book is optional.

3.  Also just discovered that Rebecca Skloot, who wrote The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, will be coming to the Nourse Theater, located at 275 Hayes Street in SF, on Wednesday, April 26, at 7:30.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to make that one.  But I reviewed her book on 1/19/16 and also gave it a 3.25/4.  You need to buy tickets for this one - (415) 392-4400.  But I don't think the ticket price includes a book.  P.S.  Did you know that this is an upcoming HBO TV movie?  It's scheduled to air on Saturday, April 22, and stars Oprah and Rose Byrne.

Did you notice how I titled this post Quarterly Reading Report, when, in reality, it was another series of quick-hitters?  That kind of clever subterfuge is the probable cause of a reduced number of blog readers! As Fagin says in the musical Oliver, I'm reviewing the situation.





Friday, March 31, 2017

This and That (AKA Quick Hitters, Part Trois)

1.  There are some very cool author events coming up:
-Anthony Doerr, he of All the Light We Cannot See fame, will be at the Santa Clara Convention Center on Tuesday night, April 4, at 7:00. You can get tickets from Books, Inc.
-Jacqueline Winspear, author of the Maisie Dobbs series, will be at Kepler's on Wednesday, April 5, at 7:30.
-Barry Eisler will be launching his 9th book in the John Rain series on Thursday, June 29, at 7:30.  (I've already got tickets - wouldn't miss it!)

2.  Thanks to my dear friend Ken, I've got some short books for you to read:
Things I Cannot Afford, by Bill Gates
Guide to the Pacific, by Amelia Earhart
How to Live Life to the Fullest, by Dr. Jack Kevorkian
The Amish Phone Directory
How to Drive and Drink Safely, by Ted Kennedy

3.  I picked up Laurie Frankel's This Is How It Always Is, based on 2 strong recommendations from bloggers I trust.  Unfortunately, this time it didn't work.  I got to page 105 and had to stop.  It's actually my 3rd DNF (did not finish) in the 1st 3 months of the year.  The other 2 were This Grave Hour, by Jacqueline Winspear (I know she is hugely popular), and Selection Day, by Arvind Adiga.  I firmly believe it's me and not them.

4. As you know, I subscribe to BookBrowse.  Here's what came up earlier this week: 

BookBrowse - based on a book called All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

Every time we review a book we also explore a related topic. Here is the "beyond the book" article for All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Elan Mastai is the latest in a long line of writers, thinkers, inventors, and visionaries who have speculated about what our future might look like.


Edward BellamyAll the way back in 1888, a writer named Edward Bellamy, in his novel Looking Backward, forecast the emergence of debit cards, describing the citizens of his utopia carrying a card that would pull credit from a central bank, without having to use paper money.

H.G. Wells had a hand in these kinds of predictions too. For example, in his novel Men Like Gods from 1923, he envisioned e-mail: "A message is sent to the station of the district in which the recipient is known to be, and there it waits until he chooses to tap his accumulated messages. And any that one wishes to repeat can be repeated. Then he talks back to the senders and dispatches any other messages he wishes. The transmission is wireless."

Pretty cool, right?

5.  Finally, I've got some pics for you.  If you aren't in my area (Northern California), or haven't otherwise been to any RBC (Recycle Book Club) meetings, then you don't know one of our very early members, Nikki.  But that doesn't mean you can't appreciate how cute her son Dougie is.






Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Orphan's Tale, by Pam Jenoff - A BIG Winner!

I have now basically read 3 novels about circuses in recent years:  Water for Elephants, The Night Circus, and, now, The Orphan's Tale.  This one is clearly the best, IMHO.  My Goodreads friend and fellow blogger, Melissa (merrylandgirl.blogspot.com) recommended it.  And she is responsible for recommending to me Sarah Jio, Karma Brown, among others.  Plus, between the time Melissa strongly suggested TOT and the time I started reading it, I saw it crop up on a bunch of other blogsites, all with very high ratings.

And now, As the French would say, Le blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby.  She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep...  When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her.  And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night.
Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid.  At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond.  But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another - or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.

I really liked this book a whole lot.  Do you remember the beginning of Water for Elephants when Jacob is speaking as an old man?  Well that happens here too.  In the Prologue, the protagonist is 89 years old.  The entire rest of the book takes place in 1944, until the Epilogue.  When I finished the book, I did something that I can't remember doing before - I reread the Prologue.  It obviously made an impression on me.

In TOT, I realized, once again, that I really like stories that take place during WWII; especially when I learn something that I didn't know (as you might imagine, this happens pretty regularly!).  In this case, I learned about circuses in Europe (here, specifically Germany).  And about how some circuses actually hid Jews from the Germans.  As much as I liked The Nightingale, Salt to the Sea, Between Shades of Grey, and even All the Light We Cannot See, The Orphan's Tale gets the edge.  In fact, I'm thinking a 3.75/4.  But I might have to create the 1st 3.875/4.  I know that seems kind of ridiculous, but I do have a 3.625/4.  So, why not?  Let's do it.

I definitely ran the gamut of emotions in this one.  But besides the tears (some of them major), raised eyebrows, intakes of breath, chills, OMGs, and jaw drops, I also felt some major tension in certain spots.  This is not the kind of tension that you feel in a murder/espionage mystery, where the detective/undercover officer/CIA agent is chasing down the bad guy.  It's more tension that is actually worry.  You will know what I mean after you finish the book.

And speaking of finishing the book, make sure you read both the Author's Note and A Conversation with Pam Jenoff.  They will give you some very valuable insights into this period of time along with Pam's influences in writing the book.  How often do I tell you to do that?  Not often.  In this case, it's really important.

Make sure you get this one into your TBR pile.  And put it near the top.  I know you will be happy you did.






Monday, March 27, 2017

The Inside Scoop on Copyediting from an Expert

Have you ever wondered what a copy editor does?  And do you know the difference between copyediting, content editing, and proofreading? If yes, great.  If no, or not sure, then you're in luck.  Leslie Hoffman has taken the time to educate us.  Here is an interview with Leslie:


1. How did you decide to become a copy editor, and are you local to the Bay Area?
The truth is that I never made a conscious decision to work as a copy editor. Copyediting chose me. As a member of Saratoga High School’s first graduating class of 1962, English and Typing were my favorite classes.

2. How long have you been a copy editor?
In 1961, Sherman Miller, Owner-Publisher, hired me to type The Saratoga News. That’s right; I “typed” the weekly newspaper on an IBM Executive, while simultaneously proofreading the copy, prior to the text being typeset for printing.

3. What training did you need to be ready for working as a copy editor?
I worked as an executive assistant for several years prior to earning a degree in civil engineering technology, with a minor in technical writing. Living in Sonoma County at the time inspired me to follow through with my desire to write something more creative than business letters and technical reports, so I joined a local writing group. During the late ’90s, PenHouseInk solicited submissions and published annual anthologies. This was my first experience working closely with authors. I’d finally discovered my niche. Then in 2003, I moved to Las Vegas to live near my grandchildren where I joined the Henderson Writers’ Group. One night after our critique session, a few of the members suggested that I begin working as a proofreader and copy editor. The thought of getting paid for what I loved doing inspired a next-day order of business cards.

4. How do you promote yourself, and do you copyedit for anybody besides authors?
I’m fortunate in that the Henderson Writers were a captive group of authors. At the time, there were few freelance editors in Las Vegas and even fewer who edited fiction. Most of my new clients continue to be Southern Nevada referrals, but I’ve worked for two members of the South Bay Writers. And yes, I continue to edit letters and documents for businesses and non-profit groups.

5. Do you copy edit both fiction and nonfiction?
I work with fiction and nonfiction. The editing of fiction, however, I consider a continuous learning process. Grammatical rules [and my personal opinions] aside, guidelines for the writing of fiction are often subjective, as “style” is unique to the author.

6. Can you give us the names of some of the authors you have copyedited for?
I’d be proud to share all of my authors with your readers, but the following are a few recent publications authored by return clients:

Tamburlaine (2017), a novel by Gregory A. Kompes
The Middle Man (2015), a novel by Gregory A. Kompes, Winner: 2016 San
          Francisco Book Festival - Gay Fiction  
Alabama Blue (2016), a memoir by Toni Pacini
Beware of Memories (2016), a novel by Darlien C. Breeze
Mission in Berlin, JJ Bennett: Junior Spy (2016), YA novel by Alba Arango
Writer’s Bloc V-VII, Las Vegas Valley Author’s Showcase (2014-16)
Caesura 2015, The Journal of Poetry Center San Jose—Co-Editor
Flying Without A Net (2012 & 2016), a memoir by Vital Germaine
7. What's the difference between proofreading, copyediting, and content editing?
Authors who seek traditional publishing need to meet the editing standards of their chosen publisher or literary agent and adhere to their submission guidelines. The editing process is equally important when self-publishing. A published book will only be as clean as the skill level of its editor/proofreader and the author’s ability or willingness to accept and correctly transfer those edits onto the formatted manuscript prior to printing.

Before hiring an editor, decide which type of edit you require—content, copy/line, or proof. These can be separate people or combined, but few can do all three skills well, especially not simultaneously.

Substantive/Content Development: For fiction or nonfiction, but especially for novels, this type of editor is consulted first. A substantive editor critiques your writing with emphasis on content, style, technique, organization, and presentation of the complete text.

Copy/Line: Consult this editor next to do a line-by-line proof. A copy editor looks for typos, misspellings, punctuation and grammatical errors, clarity, flow, and consistency of text. If extensive rewrites are necessary, repeat this process prior to submission.

Proofread: Prior to final printing, a proofreader reviews the galley for typos, misspellings, and punctuation, grammatical, and semantic errors.

Once an editor is selected, a Standard Editorial Agreement (contract) is advisable for both client and editor that specifies editorial tasks, deadline(s), method of payment, and any special requests.

“An editor neither selects nor impels. An editor can only suggest; the story belongs to the writer.”   ~ Author Unknown

Leslie E. Hoffman, Copy Editor

lesliehoffman@hotmail.com