Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Oath, by Stephen Robert Stein - I've Got a Lot to Say (Surprised?)

The Oath, by Stephen Robert Stein, is a book that definitely needs to be talked about.  And in order to avoid having you fall asleep on me, I'm going to give you a very short recap.  Then I'm going straight to bullet points - things that I liked and things that I didn't like as much.  The book is a 3/4 for me.  So, obviously, I thought it was good overall.  But I believe it could have been much higher.  Here we go.

The book is mostly about WWII and the concentration camps.  There are quite a few characters that take center stage.  But the biggest amount of time is spent on 2 doctors - 1 French Jewish and 1 German Nazi, and their connection.  Please be advised that if you cannot stomach reading about the goings-on in the concentration camps, then I would strongly advise you to consider skipping this book.  It's not an easy read.

Likes:
1.  Like most historical fictions, I learned a lot of stuff about WWII.  For example, did you know that the Jews were considered dangerous to Germany in part because they were prominent in the Communist Party? In every book I read about WWII, I learn some new things.  This book is no exception.
2.  The book starts with an incident in 1974.  Then it goes back 30+ years and slowly comes forward again.  You have that 1st chapter in your mind all the way through the book.
3.  As hard as it was to read, I did feel like I was learning something about life in the concentration camps.  I always prefer to know more, rather than less.  But it's still tough stuff.  I actually don't know if I had any relatives in the camps.  But most of my ancestors came from Eastern Europe.  So it's certainly possible.
4.  I liked the story being told in different voices.
5.  Hypothermia was a condition that is discussed a lot in this book.  I found that to be interesting.
6.  It was also interesting to me to learn about the privations the German citizens endured due to the Allied bombing.  Especially at the end of the war.  We Americans don't really think much about how they suffered.
7.  Although this has nothing to do with the contents of the book, I think it's very cool that the author's 1st book comes after he retires.
8.  His writing is good.  Here's an example in which he describes a medical conference:  "Immense and imposing, it loomed as a storehouse holding acres of exhibits and displays set to trap the wandering doctor with the newest devices - much like the Sirens of The Odyssey with their beautiful voices snared the unsuspecting sailor."

Less-than-Likes:
1.  There is a quote at the beginning of each chapter which I couldn't figure out the source for.  I have a niggling feeling that it's either obvious or was explained and I missed it.
2.  I had a hard time keeping track of everybody's ages.  And since the dates of each chapter tended to go back and forth a bit, it made it that much harder for me to figure out.
3.  I was oftentimes confused (are you seeing a pattern here?) about who was who.  I would recommend that you start writing down names, ages, and dates from the get-go.  That will help you as the book moves along.

Obviously the Likes outweighed the Less-than-Likes by an almost 3-1 margin.  I might have liked it more if I had taken the advice I'm giving you now.  Make some notes.  You'll be glad you did.







Monday, June 19, 2017

Miscellaneous Redux

I've got 2 books-to-movies/tv notes for you, along with an upcoming book that I know you will be interested in.  And I've added a couple of questions to involve you, my faithful(?) readers.  Finally, have you heard of Little Free Libraries?  If you haven't, you're about to.

1.  Stephen King fans:  His book Dark Tower 1 is hitting the big screen August 9.  It stars Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba.

2.  Queen Sugar fans:  Season 2 of the TV series on Oprah's network, OWN, is starting this coming Tuesday, June 20.  And, wonder of wonders, episode 2 is the next night!  If you watched Season 1, then I know you are as excited as I am.  And if you haven't, I would suggest that you do a quick catch-up (binge watch?) from Season 1 and slide right into Season 2.  It's a very good show.

3.  Local author, Adam Henig, has 2 published books:  Alex Haley's Roots:  An Author's Odyssey and Baseball Under Siege, Under One Roof: The Yankees, the Cardinals, and a Doctor's Battle to Integrate Spring Training.  He's now working on a 3rd that we will, hopefully, see sooner rather than later.  It's called Watergate's Forgotten Hero:  Frank Wills, Night Watchman.  This will be all about the unlikely person who helped expose Watergate.  I will keep you posted on timing.

4.  Have you all heard about the Little Free Libraries?  No?  Well then click on this link and take a look.  It's very cool.  Little Free Library

5.  If any of you would like to do a guest post, let me know.  It would be fun for my readers to get different perspectives than just mine.  You can email me at lloydrrussell@gmail.com and let me know what your subject would be.

6.  Bloggers:  I would love to get short lists of your favorite books.  Again, my readers know what I like.  But you all will have recommendations that will broaden everybody's reading choices.  How can that be a bad thing?

C'est tout, mes amis.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Another Excellent Sally Hepworth Novel

Back on May 17, I reviewed a mother's promise by Sally Hepworth.  And you know how much I enjoyed it.  So I decided to give another one of her books a try (she's got 3, and I've already picked up the 3rd one, the things we keep, from Recycle Books - it's in my TBR pile).  I figured that maybe I read the best one 1st.  And that would be okay.  Uh, Nope.  The Secrets of Midwives is just as good as the mother's promise.  Sally can flat-out write.  What's this one about, you ask?  Let the book's back page tell you:

Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is determined to keep the details surrounding her own pregnancy - including the identity of the baby's father - hidden from her family and coworkers for as long as possible.  Her mother, Grace, finds it impossible to let this secret rest.  The more Grace prods, the tighter Neva holds to her story, and the more the lifelong differences between private, quiet Neva and open, gregarious Grace strain their relationship.  For Floss, Neva's grandmother and a retired midwife, Neva's situation thrusts her back sixty years in time to a secret that eerily mirrors her granddaughter's - one which, if revealed, will have life-changing consequences for them all.  As Neva's pregnancy progresses and speculation makes it harder and harder to conceal the truth, Floss wonders if hiding her own truth is ultimately more harmful than telling it.  Will these women reveal their secrets and deal with the inevitable consequences? Or are some secrets best kept hidden?

There's a bunch of stuff I liked about this book:

1.  The book grabbed me emotionally right away with all 3 main characters (as well as a few of the supporting cast).  I love when that happens.
2.  There was a fair amount of humor (with some good snark), which took me totally by surprise.  I am quite fond of laugh-out-loud moments.
3.  I like how the chapters rotate from Neva to Grace to Floss and back again.  It reminded me of A.R. Silverberry's Wyndano's Cloak (a YA fantasy).  The chapters rotate between 2 teenage girls.  And every time I finished a chapter, I was disappointed that it ended.  And then I would feel the same way at the end of the next chapter.  This book is similar. Each of the 3 have a good story that I wanted to find out more about. And the length of each chapter I thought was perfect.
4.  Now I have to admit that I've never been a teenage girl.  But I do have 2 daughters.  So this description of girlfriend stuff did resonate with me:  "I'd more or less given up on female friends in the seventh grade when I realized that female friendship was practically a religion. Thou shalt not sit next to another friend at lunchtime.  Thou shalt insist you wear my favorite jacket and then get mad when you spill soda on it. Thou shalt not talk to anyone currently being shunned by the group.  In contrast, hanging out with male friends felt like sliding into a pair of old jeans: comfy, predictable, unpretentious."
5.  I certainly learned a few things about midwifery.  Although I don't intend to become one anytime soon, I always appreciate the opportunity to learn something.
6.  All 3 voices are very clear.
7.  Notice that I haven't mentioned chills, tears, et al, yet.  That must mean I didn't experience any of those emotions, right?  WRONG!  There are plenty of them.  With an "Oh, God" thrown in just for the heck of it.
8.  Sally creates real drama with some of the baby deliveries.  You're really worried about the outcome in a couple of cases.  That kind of drama is not easy to convey to the reader.  She makes it look easy.
9.  The writing is crazy good.  As usual, I've got a couple of examples for you:
"But when he took her, he cradled her with the utmost care, barely moving an inch.  He reminded me of a child carrying a mug of hot coffee."
"Lil smiled and a small part of my heart, a broken part, snapped back against the whole - a perfect fit."
"Now we both smiled shyly.  My insides tickled - that feeling when you've won a race and you're just waiting for it to be announced to the crowd."

People, this is just a terrific book.  And I suspect that I will be saying the same thing after I read the things we keep.





Thursday, June 15, 2017

More 3.25s + A Couple of Author Events + The RBC

So I reviewed years 2011-2015 for other 3.25s.  And I discovered that I had NO 3.25s until 2014.  I can't explain why I never rated a book 3.25 the 1st 3 years of blogging.  It's kind of crazy.  Regardless, here are 15 more from the 2014 and 2015 years.

Blossoms and Bayonets - Jana McBurney-Lin (historical fiction/memoir)
The Mathematician's Shiva - Stuart Rojstaczer (religious/literary fiction)
Ten Steps from the Hotel Inglaterra - Linda Gunther (literary fiction)
The Martian - Andy Weir (science fiction)
Forward to Camelot - Susan Sloat/Kevin Finn (historical/literary fiction)
Dismal Mountain - John Billmeier (mystery)
Still Alice - Lisa Genova (literary fiction)
The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion (literary fiction)
The Bone Tree - Greg Iles (historical/literary fiction, mystery - book 2 of trilogy)
Lawyer Up - Kate Allure (graphic romance)
The English Spy - Daniel Silva (mystery/suspense)
The Race for Paris - Meg Waite Clayton (historical fiction)
Kitchens of the Great Midwest - J. Ryan Stradal (historical/culinary fiction)
Top Secret - W.E.B. Griffin (military/historical fiction)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot (biography)

Two author events:

1.   I've already told you about this one.  Daniel Silva will be coming to the JCC in Palo Alto on Tuesday, July 18, from 8-9:30.  He will be promoting his latest book in the Gabriel Allon series, House of Spies.  I just bought my tickets tonight.  I hope to see some of you there.

2.  This is one I just found out about.  It's Louise Penny with her next in the Inspector Gamache series.  Louise will be at Bookshop Santa Cruz on August 31 at 7:00.  I read book 1 a year or 2 ago because several people raved about it.  I finished it but decided I didn't need to read any more. As you already know,  though, it is a hugely popular series.

RBC:

This week we had our June RBC meeting.  The book is The Illuminator's Gift by Alina Sayre.  It's a middle-grade fantasy that all of us adults liked. Here is a picture of Alina:



Monday, June 12, 2017

Interview with Co-Owner of Word after Word Books

Last week I posted a bunch of pictures of Word after Word Books, the new bookstore in Truckee, CA.  Now I've got an interview with 1 of the 2 owners, Nicolle Sloane.  Here it is:

1.   How did you end up owning word after word books? I had always wanted to open a bookstore.  Another long-time local bookshop here in town was closing.  So my business partner, Andie Keith, and I joined up and wanted to make sure that Truckee wasn’t without a bookstore.  We opened Word After Word just a couple of months after the other
bookstore closed.

2.    How long have you owned word after word books? We’ve been open since Mid-February, 2017.

3.    Do you have book clubs, kids’ activities, YA groups, etc.? Yes, we do storytime and plan on putting together some great YA bookclubs. We have many teens here on staff, and they are really excited about YA books and have been a huge help in building up our YA section. And, yes, we currently support local book clubs with discounts on their bookclub books. We’re excited to start up a bookclub through our store as well. 

4.    Are you a Tahoe native? No, I am not a native Tahoe gal. I’ve lived in Ohio, Southern and Northern California, and Colorado. 

5.    Did you grow up a bibliophile? Yes. I learned to read at a very early age and was always found with my nose in a book. My parents had books in every nook and cranny in our house. I remember sitting on the floor reading really big books when I was 8 years old. I loved to read my mom’s plays. She was an actor so there were always scripts laying around the house. My dad was a journalist and a writer so we just had reading material everywhere. I’d rather read any day than watch TV.

6.    Why did you pick Truckee to open a bookstore? Andie and I both live in Truckee, and Truckee was losing a bookstore so we saw that there was a huge need to keep a bookstore in town. 

7.    How are you promoting your bookstore? Andie’s husband, Scott, owns a marketing company here in town. He’s been hugely helpful in promoting our store through different avenues.

8.    Do you have author events?  If so, how do contact the authors? Yes. We love doing events. We hope to do more in the coming months!


Saturday, June 10, 2017

3.25s - Still Darn Good and Still Recommended + The Giveaway Winner

All my lists and all the books on my recommendation table are 3.5s and up.  Does that mean we should ignore 3.25s?  Absolutely not.  These are still really good books that deserve to be read.  Here are 21 books from the start of 2016 through May 28, 13 days ago.  Oh, I've got the genre for you too.

2016:
Last Bus to Wisdom - Ivan Doig (literary fiction)
Under the Influence - Joyce Maynard (literary fiction)
Princess:  A True Story of Life Behind the Veil - Jean Sasson (memoir/biography)
The Illuminator Rising - Alina Sayre (YA fantasy)
A Taste of Sugar - Marina Adair (romance)
Between Shades of Grey - Ruta Sepetys (YA historical fiction)
Love Me Two Times - Philip Michaels (literary fiction)
Mending Heartstrings - Aria Glazki (romance)
A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness (YA)
I'll Take You There - Wally Lamb (literary fiction)
When Breath Becomes Air - Paul Kalanithi (memoir)
2017:
Here There Be Dragons - Jeff Rosenplot (dark fiction)
Everything We Keep - Kerry Lonsdale (contemporary fiction)
Hillbilly Elegy - J.D. Vance (memoir)
Dark Matter - Blake Crouch (thriller)
At the Edge of the Orchard - Tracy Chevalier (literary fiction)
The Weight of Him - Ethel Rohan (literary fiction)
The Cherry Harvest - Lucy Sanna (literary fiction)
Your Perfect Life - Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke (contemporary fiction)
The Atomic Weight of Love - Elizabeth Church (contemporary fiction)
The Last Breath - Kimberly Belle (contemporary fiction)

And the winner of the mother's promise is...RONDA.  Just email me at lloydrrussell@gmail.com and let me know where I can send the book. Congratulations.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader - Volume X

It's been a little over 8 months since I posted 14 books in FFTNFR, Volume IX.  And now I've got another 14 in this edition, (not surprisingly) Volume X.  If you are interested in seeing what books I have in Volumes I-IX (and how can you not!), here are the post dates:  2/19/11, 2/18/12, 4/7/12, 7/16/12, 3/3/13, 2/16/14, 2/28/15, 3/25/16, and 10/3/16.

1.    Blackberry Winter, Sarah Jio - Everybody in the world knows by now how much I loved Jio's Goodnight June (4+/4).  But I had not read any of her other books, until this one.  A modern-day reporter in Seattle ends up investigating an unsolved child abduction from 1933.  For some of you, this is probably a subject that you can't/don't want to deal with.  I get that.

2.    Letters from Paris, Juliet Blackwell - Claire, a woman who lost her mother in an accident quits her job to take care of her grandmother. While there, she comes across a mask.  Her grandmother convinces her to go to Paris and find out more about the artist and what the mask represents.  The reader goes back and forth between Claire in the present and Sabine, the woman who is the subject of the mask, in the past.

3.    Livia Leone, Barry Eisler - You all know about Barry's great John Rain series.  Well, this is book 1 of a new series, starring a female Seattle police detective who is definitely NOT like any detective you're read about before.

4.    Paris for One, JoJo Moyes - I am NOT a fan of short stories.  Never have been.  But I'm such a big fan of Moyes (Me Before You and After You) that I told myself I would read anything new that she puts out (The Horse Dancer is in my TBR pile).  Paris for One has one very long story (novella length) and several shorter ones.  The long one was absolutely terrific and made the other ones not so important to me.

5.    Glitter and Glue, Kelly Corrigan - Simply put, this is a memoir that shows us a different way to define family.  It reminds me of Rachael Herron's The Ones Who Matter Most.  But that one was fiction.

6.    This Was a Man, Jeffrey Archer - It's the end of the road for the must-read Clifton Chronicles.  And book 7 does not disappoint.

7.    A Gentleman in Moscow, Amir Towles - This book is just flat-out one of the best-written books I have ever read.  In fact, I had so much to say about it that I divided it into 2 posts (only the 2nd time I've ever done that.  The 1st?  Being Mortal by Atul Gawande).  The book itself is about a 30-year old Russian prince who, in 1922, is sentenced to house arrest in a Moscow hotel by the Bolsheviks.

8.    It Started with a Kiss, Marina Adair - This is book 1 of a new romance (duh!) series that takes place in fictional Sequoia Lake in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  It not only has romance.  But it also has rugged terrain-ness.

9.    An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir - This is book 1 of a YA fantasy series.  Does that turn off you Baby Boomers?  Don't let it.  You will like it.  And book 2, A Torch against the Night, is sitting prominently in my TBR pile.

10.  The Orphan's Tale, Pam Jenoff - Boy is this good.  It's another slice of WWII history centered on circuses in Germany.  One circus is Jewish-owned and their chief competitor is not.  See what happens when the war begins.

11.  Irresistible in Love, Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre - Book 4 in one of my favorite romance series (or any series) of all time.  And there's still book 5 to come!

12.  The Marriage Lie, Kimberly Belle - What happens when a wife of 7 years finds out that her loving husband has died in a plane crash - and on a plane different from the one he said he was going to be on?  What secrets is he keeping?  Is it possible that he's not even dead?

13.  the mother's promise, Sally Hepworth - The story centers on a mother and her teenage daughter, who has social anxiety disorder. When they find out that the mother has a life-threatening disease, you can imagine what this does to each of them.  There is a very strong supporting cast too.

14.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, Mary Shaffer & Annie Barrows - This book is 10 years old, but I just got around to reading it a few weeks ago.  It's another little episode of WWII.  It centers on the occupation by the Germans of the Channel Islands, between England and France, off the coast of Normandy.  Oh, did I forget to mention that the entire book is a series of letters?  They call this style of writing epistolary.

A couple of details about the list:
1.  7 of the 14 are written by Northern California authors - coincidence? Not really.  I tend to read a lot of local authors.  I can't help it if so many of them are just that darn good.
2.  The breakdown of genres is:
     literary/contemporary/women's/historical fiction - 7
     memoir - 1
     YA fantasy - 1
     romance - 2
     mystery - 2
     short story collection - 1

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Romance Readers Guide to Historic London, by Sonja Rouillard - Way Cool!

I've got a book to recommend that I guarantee you've never seen the likes of before.  It's the Romance Readers Guide to Historic London. Sonja Rouillard has put together one of the coolest books I have ever seen. Let me quote Chapter 3 in the Table of Contents:  "Then and Now - Famous historical sites from romance novels and what they are now." Isn't that just the neatest thing?  Chapter 1 starts with Emma, from Jane Austen, speaking to her husband, Mr. Knightly, in London in 1816. Emma has just come back from the year 2017 and is trying to explain what she saw. Her husband, quite understandably, is skeptical, to say the least. This is so cleverly done that it sets the tone for the rest of the book.  Are you curious?  Of course you are.

So besides these historical romance sites, what else does the book have? I will give you the titles of the other chapters, with their explanations:

Chapter 2 -    How to Time Travel - Instructions for taking a walk in the footsteps of your favorite heroine
Chapter 4 -    Ye Olde Maps
Chapter 5 -    Dining - like an English lady or a bloke in a pub
Chapter 6 -    Sleeping - like a princess or a governess on holiday
Chapter 7 -    Walk, Float, or Dance - into the romantic past
Chapter 8 -    Shopping - in Merry Old England
Chapter 9 -    The Country Life - easy day trips and overnights to charming villages and nearby palaces and castles
Chapter 10 -  Before You Go - What would Emma advise?

Even the Appendices are interesting.  I kid you not:

I      Novels quoted in the Guide
II    Suggested novels to accompany your journey
III   Link to end notes
       Image credits & additional acknowledgements
       Alphabetical index

And on top of all the great information, there are tons of old-timey black and white photos that are really rad.  Most importantly, you don't have to be a romance reader or even a reader at all to enjoy this book.  I will tell you that an enormous amount of time and research went into the making of Romance Readers Guide to Historic London.  (19th century) Hats off to Sonja for coming up with a concept that provides information that is just so darn unique.  Nice job!




Sunday, June 4, 2017

Great News - Another New Independent Bookstore - Word after Word Bookshop in Truckee, CA

We were in Lake Tahoe over the Memorial Day weekend.  On our way home, we stopped in Truckee for lunch and shopping.  And much to my surprise/delight, we parked right in front of Word after Word Bookshop. It's always exciting when a new independent bookstore opens.  And the co-owner, Nicolle, has agreed to answer our bookstore owner questionnaire.  That will be coming soon.  In the meantime, here are some pics:








Nicolle, the co-owner, on the right - Tara on the left







Friday, June 2, 2017

Giveaway, Author Events, AND 19 Books for Summer

1.  I've got a great hardcover book for a giveaway.  It's the mother's promise by Sally Hepworth.  And even though I read the book, it's in great shape and looks like new.  Most importantly, it 's REALLY good (my review went live on May 17).  All you have to do is comment with one word.  It could be "gimme" or "book" or "wantit" or "mine," etc.  I will ask my wife pull a winner next Friday, the 9th.  (Thanks to Melissa of chicklitcentral.com fame for sending it to me.)

2.  From June 4-July 21, Cara Black will be appearing throughout the Bay Area with book 17 in the Aimee Leduc series, Murder in St. Germain. Check her website for all of the bookstore stops:  carablack.com.

3.  On July 18, Daniel Silva will be coming to the JCC in Palo Alto to promote his latest Gabriel Allon novel, House of Spies.  The event starts at 8:00.  You would be wise to go on their website and reserve a spot. paloaltojcc.org

4.  I'm a little late on posting this:
It’s almost Memorial Day, meaning it’s almost summer — a time to catch up on missed readings, turn back to old favorites, and discover new ones. A time to sit with an easy read on the beach, or read something darker on the porch late at night.


It’s almost summer -- a time to catch up on missed readings, turn back to old favorites, and discover new ones. For the best summer reads, we turned two authors who own independent bookstores: Louise Erdrich, who owns Birchbark…
PBS.ORG

Monday, May 29, 2017

Have you ever read a romantic comedy? I just did...and I liked it!

Last year I met Rich Amooi at an RBC meeting.  It was a quick intro, and then, as I am prone to do, I forgot about Rich and our meeting (no offense, Rich).  Well, earlier this month I got an email from Rich to see if he could plan any activities around Recycle Bookstore.  After a few back-and-forths, we got him scheduled to do a book signing during the Campbell Farmers Market on June 4.  As you know, we have a lot of authors come to Recycle during the Farmers Market.  Downtown Campbell gets super busy on those Sunday mornings.  So, case closed, right?  Not so fast.  I got a hold of one of Rich's books (Rich, did I buy it? Or did you give it to me?  I can't remember).  Now you know I have read a whole bunch of very good books recently.  And they've all been contemporary or literary or women's fiction (I'm not crazy about that last classification; but that's what the publishing experts call it).  Rich writes romantic comedies.  The one I decided to try is called Kissing Frogs.  It's definitely not a genre I have read before.  But based on KF, I will be reading more!  I really enjoyed this.  What did I like about Kissing Frogs?

1.  It is laugh-out-loud funny.  I'm not going to quote any of the passages.  Humor is usually something that you find funny in the moment.  The retelling doesn't normally work.  Just take my word for it. You will be laughing.
2.  The humor does not make the romance any less romantic.  I definitely cared about Sara and Ian.  And the book still follows the "rules" of a romance.
3.  Almost all of the story takes place in Campbell.  And a whole bunch of eateries (and drink-eries) that I have frequented are mentioned (including Orchard Valley Coffee, where we had our Vanessa Diffenbaugh RBC meeting).
4.  There is one non-restaurant spot that is mentioned that I kind of enjoyed.  It's called - wait for it...wait for it...) - RECYCLE BOOKSTORE! That was way cool.
5.  Sara has a series of blind dates that are an absolute crack-up.  Since the last time I dated anyone other than my wife was around 1968, I don't have any current experience with blind dates.  So I'm guessing that these are at least slightly exaggerated.  But maybe they're not.
6.  As I tend to do (see my reviews of the Jennifer Skully/Bella Andre series, The Billionaire Mavericks), I love older people.  Ian's grandparents are great.
7.  Even with all of the comedy, Rich was able to force a few tears and chills from me.  I know it's not that hard, but it still happened.  In fact, there was one scene where I started to laugh and then realized it was not a laughing matter.  I immediately came out with a double "Oh, no!"
8.  I loved the cover (see below).
9.  I definitely connected personally to a few of the goings-on.  In one scene, Sara's dog, who goes crazy when she hears the word "cookie," does some damage when Sara accidentally says the word at a very wrong time.  We have friends who used to have a dog that did the same thing.  Somebody (I won't mention his/my name) used to say that word out loud whenever we were at their house.  The dog would then run to the place where his treats were kept.  It's a miracle that we're still friends.  And there's another scene where Ian's father calls from Florence where he is standing in from of The David, going on and on about what a magnificent piece of art it is.  I was nodding my head.  I was blown away when I saw The David.  It brought tears to my eyes.

That's about it.  Kissing Frogs is a very fun, enjoyable, and quick read. All of those things, in fact, have led me to ask Rich to be one of our RBC authors.  In fact, because it's such a quick read, I am bringing him to the RBC in October.  We've already got Sheldon Siegel coming, but that one's on a Sunday.  Rich's book gives our members who can't do a weekend book club meeting the opportunity to still come that month.  Whether you attend or not, though, I'm pretty sure you will enjoy Kissing Frogs.






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.