Friday, July 21, 2017

Daniel Silva - In Person!

My favorite live author event of all time was seeing Ken Follett quite a few years ago.  I mean, this guy is a literary god.  In the next group just below him is Daniel Silva.  I've seen him once before, also a number of years ago.  But when I had a chance to see him at the JCC in Palo Alto this week, I couldn't pass it up.  Silva has written 20 books, and I've read all but the latest.  His very 1st one, The Unlikely Spy, is still my favorite. And that one sits on my rec table on Sunday mornings.  He wrote 2 more after TUS and then started writing about Gabriel Allon.  And his latest in that series is number 17.  I will be getting to it in the very near future.

Let me give you a few highlights from the event:

1.  Gabriel Allon will be coming to TV in the next couple of years.  MGM actually bought a TV network just to be able to air this series.  Pretty cool, don't you think?
2.  Silva calls his books "dark beach reads."
3.  He writes the story and plot first, then the location.
4.  Gabriel Allon is a creation of Silva's imagination and is not based on any real people.
5.  He mentioned 2 TV shows that he watches that Joni and I also watch - Billions and The Affair.
6.  Silva was in conversation with Anne Elise Kornblut, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.
7.  Finally, his wife is Jamie Gangel, who is a CNN Special Correspondent. She insisted that Trump would lose the election.  And Silva was equally insistent that he would win.  We see who was right.

Silva and Kornblut

Signing books

Do you think Silva has a lot of fans much?







Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Variety of Stuff, Including Another Milestone for Page Views

Here is a bunch of stuff:

1.  I've already told you that Kerry Lonsdale is our RBC author for September with her book Everything We Keep.  And I've already told you that her 2nd book in the series, Everything We Left Behind, came out July 4.  And I've also told you that the 3rd book in the series, Everything We Give, will be hitting the bookshelves summer of 2018.  What I have NOT told you is that we will be getting a standalone from Kerry in the summer of 2019.  Keep 'em comin', Kerry.



2.  The Readers Perch (thereadersperch.blogspot.com) is a YA blog written, not surprisingly, by a YA.  If you're looking at books for (pre)teenagers, visit her blog.  But what I wanted to mention here is that in her last post, she talks about 2 websites that you can go on and subscribe for YA book boxes.  They are FairyLoot and OwlCrate.  Take a gander.  They are very cool.

3.  Why am I giving you all of these facts about chocolate?  I have a good reason.  On National Chocolate Day, Meg Waite Clayton, local author extraordinaire, listed these facts on her blog.  That's enough of a literary connection for me.  (Plus, it's really interesting info.)  

1. Cocoa beans are seeds of the Theobroma Cacao tree. As you might imagine, it means “food of the gods.”

2. In WWII, chocolate rations were packaged to be poison-gas proof. Because that's when you REALLY need chocolate. (Alas, a fact I discovered after The Race for Paris was published, so not used.) It was also fortified with flour, to keep it from melting too much, which you probably know if you read my latest. :-)
3. The French celebrate April Fool’s Day with Poisson d’Avril--chocolate-shaped fish. (Or maybe I'm pulling your leg.)
4. The smell of chocolate in a bookstore makes folks 22% more likely to buy books, and 40% more likely to buy romance or cook books.
5. There was a Nazi plot to assassinate Winston Churchill with exploding chocolate. No, really...
6. Hershey's Kisses are named for the sound the machine makes dropping the chocolate onto the conveyor belt.
7. Thank the ancient Maya -- they started the whole eating-chocolate thing.

4.  This week I hit 150,000 total page views on my blog.  Thank you for your continued support.  I really appreciate it.

5.  Recycle Books celebrated it's 50th anniversary 2 Sundays ago.  Sal Pizarro ran a story in his column on July 8.  If you can't click on the link, then go online to the Mercury News and find the article.  It's very cool.

Fifty years of books, memories and cats at Recycle Bookstore

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

2 More Author Events - Back-to-Back! Way Cool!

Tonight Joni and I got to go to Ellen Kirschman's launch of her 3rd Dot Meyerhof novel, at Books, Inc. Palo Alto.  We try never to miss one of Ellen's launches.  She's just so darn engaging.  If she can keep me awake for a solid hour, in the evening, then, believe me, she is exceptionally engaging!

She told us a bunch of interesting things, too:
1.  Dot is named after her mother, and Meyerhof after her grandmother.
2.  She wrote 3 non-fictions before she started the DM series.  She said that fiction is way harder to write than non-.
3.  Police officers are 2x more likely to commit suicide than to be killed in the line of duty.
4.  The cover of her latest book, The Fifth Reflection, shows a camera. This is an homage to her husband, Steve, who is a professional photographer.
5.  There are 75,000 (yes, thousand) people world-wide who are on a child pornography site at any one time.  Is that completely whacko?
6.  The title of the book refers to the 5th of 5 daily Buddhist practices.
7.  My favorite moment of the night was when Ellen said that when she wrote her dissertation, it was a cross between Sigmund Freud and Mickey Spillane.

Great night!

Ellen is in conversation with Ann Gelder, author of Bigfoot and the Baby


And, then, last night, at Recycle Bookstore, Rich Amooi came to the RBC. Rich was our 1st romantic comedy author.  He was a big hit with our members.

The person on the left, closest to the camera, is Silvi Martin, Rich's wife, and a published author in her own right.


Monday, July 10, 2017

TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY by Jay Asher

Many of you have heard of TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY by now because it's a show on Netflix.  I happen not to be a Netflix subscriber.  So I found out about it the old-fashioned way - as a book recommendation from a friend.  And for those of you who have not heard about it; or who live in the same cave as me; here is the back-of-the-book synopsis:

Clay Jensen doesn't want anything to do with the tapes Hannah Baker made.  Hannah is dead.  Her secrets should be buried with her.
Then Hannah's voice tells Clay that his name is on her tapes - and that he is, in some way, responsible for her death.
All through the night, Clay keeps listening.  He follows Hannah's recorded words throughout his small town...
...and what he discovers changes his life forever. 

I have already told you ad nauseum that I am just a few...decades...beyond the YA (young adult) target audience.  And, yet, I have read some wonderful YA books:  The Princess of Las Pulgas (C. Lee McKenzie, Salt to the Sea (Ruta Sepetys), An Ember in the Ashes (Sabaa Tahir), The Voyages of the Legend series (Alina Sayre), Wyndano's Cloak (A. R. Silverberry), and a bunch more.  Well, this might not be one of my very favorite YA's, but it's certainly a very good book (3.25/4).

This book reminds me of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society in its uniqueness.  That one, if you recall, consisted entirely of letters. This one is mostly tapes.  Clay does have some live interaction with people while he's going through the tapes.  But this is basically about the 13 tapes, hence TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY.  It's fun, once in a while, to read stuff that is different from everybody else's stuff.

There were definitely some moments that caught me completely off guard.  There's one incident, about 2/3 of the way through, where I audibly shouted "OMG!" and "WOW!"  There's another spot just a couple of pages before the OMG/WOW place where I teared up and totally didn't expect to do that.  I was also hit in the solar plexus about a 1/3 of the way through when Clay comes across somebody else on the tapes.  I did NOT see that coming.

And, equally important as the surprises, the unique concept, and the emotional pull, the book is also well-written.  You gotta have that.  Take a look:

"Around the opposite sex, especially back then, my tongue twisted into knots even a Boy Scout would walk away from." 
"We took our place in the stream of students heading to the party - like joining a bunch of salmon heading upstream to mate."

Kudos to Jay for writing a very clever book and writing it well.  Is it a little rough?  Of course.  Teen suicide is no joke, especially for this father of 3 adults (and grandfather of 4 pre-teens).  Can high school kids be mean, cruel, and insensitive?  We know that they can.  But despite all of that, this is very readable.  And maybe it will help kids who read it behave a little more compassionately toward their peers.  You never know when you might be the one who makes all the difference.



P.S.  My recommender told me that, initially, the author was just going to go with the tapes.  He was convinced by his editor to add Clay's present-day musings and actions.  I think it was a VERY good decision.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Fifth Reflection, #3 in Ellen Kirschman's Dot Meyerhof Series

You know, oftentimes authors will write novels that reflect their careers. We certainly know MANY lawyers who write books about...wait for it...lawyers and the law.  And a lot of these books make you feel like you are in the courtroom at the prosecutor's/defense lawyer's table with them.  But there is something about Ellen Kirschman's background that makes police psychologist Dot Meyerhof seem even more real than your average fictional character.  Ellen, of course, was a police psychologist for 30 years.  She is, in fact, still very active in that community.  But when I read her novels, I definitely feel like I am learning something. And that I'm actually inside the head of a real police psychologist. It's a pretty cool feeling.

I'll let you go to Amazon or Goodreads to get the plot for #3 in the series.  I want to focus on a few of the facts I learned.  And I'm only going to mention 3 of them because I don't want to take away from your reading of the book.  Here they are:

1.  Regarding online child pornography (sorry that this is such a bummer) - "Every month, 60,000 new images are added to these websites."  That brought out an audible "Wow" from me.
2.  (bummer #2) "Most child abductions are parental abductions. Children have more to fear from warring parents than strangers hiding in the bushes."  Did you know that?
3.  I won't quote the passage because it's too long.  But it is fascinating to learn about the role of make-up in a coroner's exam.

I could go on and on.  Really.  This felt like a tutorial, but in a very good way.  I really loved learning about the behind-the-scenes stuff.  I'm know I also got info in #1 & #2.  But it's greatly magnified in #3.

Okay, I have to move along.  But it's hard to do.  I very badly want to give you more insights into the inner workings of police departments. But I want to make sure you read the book!  So here are a couple of other observations I made from reading The Fifth Reflection:

1.  There is quite a bit of subtle humor.  And everybody knows how subtle I am.  (Yeah, right).  But the book is funny.
2.  The writing is very good.  Take a look at this description of an interview by the police:  "There's no apparent logic to Manny's interviewing technique.  His questions come fast and furious, spinning and swirling  from past to present, from California to Norway.  I feel like I'm watching Jackson Pollack create a painting."  Pretty visual, right?
3.  Child pornography and child kidnapping are not fun to read about. But Ellen makes it palatable.  Between the police procedures and the police officers' personal lives, the reader gets a good feel for how hard the job is.  And, not surprisingly, the toll it takes on the families.

This is a good story and a good series.  If you haven't read any of the Dot Meyerhof books, what are you waiting for?  I can't think of a better way to learn about the police and police procedure, directly from an expert.




Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Mid-Year Report

I know that the title of this post is not very exciting.  But it's at least accurate.  I'm going to give you a little bit of info about the 1st 6 months of 2017.  There's no snark, no (attempted) humor, no bullet points.  Just info.

Books - 36
DNF (did not finish) - 3
Pages - 11,625

4.0 -        1 - A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles
3.875 -    1 - The Orphan's Tale - Pam Jenoff
3.75 -      6
3.5 -        2
3.25 -      11
3.0 -        10
2.75 -      2
2.5 -        1
2.25 -      2

Genres:
Literary Fiction -       8
Women's Fiction -     6
Mystery/Suspense -   6
Dark Fiction -            1
Historical Fiction -    7
Romance -                 3
Memoir -                   1
Science Fiction -       1
Fantasy -                   1
Paranormal -             1
Romantic Comedy - 1

That's it, folks.

COBEN NEWS:  I got an ARC in the mail today for Harlan Coben's next book.  It's called Don't Let Go.  And it's coming out September 26.  BUT I GET TO READ IT NOW!  JEALOUS?

Monday, July 3, 2017

More Miscellaneous

1.  Kepler's has 2 author events coming up in early August that they are very excited about.  Check them out.

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/lloydRussell/2936674

http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/LloydRussell/3016072

2.  Kerry Lonsdale, who will be our RBC author in September, has her sequel, Everything We Left Behind, coming out on July 4 (that's tomorrow, folks).  AND book 3 will be next summer.

3.  Recycle Books is celebrating its 50th anniversary.  How cool is that? Go to recyclebookstore.com and click on About Us.  You will get the whole story.  (They opened the same year I graduated from high school. You know what that means, right?  Yep.  I've got my 50th high school reunion this year. How could that be?)

4.  MGM TV has bought the rights to Daniel Silva's Gabriel Allon series. Silva and his wife Jamie Gangel, a TV news reporter, will executive produce.  No dates have been announced yet.

5.  I saw my 1st trailer for The Glass Castle, one of my top-12 all time. It's starring Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, and Woody Harrelson.  It comes out August 11.

6.  I also saw my 1st trailer for Stephen King's It.  It's hitting the big screen September 8.

7.  And the 3rd trailer from the literary world is American Assassin.  This is a prequel that Vince Flynn wrote for the Mitch Rapp series.  The movie version stars Michael Keaton and reaches theaters September 15.

8.  Chris Colfer is coming to the Hammer Theater, in downtown San Jose, sponsored by Hicklebees, on July 26 at 7:00.  He is promoting the 6th and final book in his Land of Stories series.

9.  Finally, I had a quirky day at Recycle Books Sunday morning.  I sold 2 copies of Lightning, by Dean Koontz.  I think I've sold 1 copy in the 4 or 5 years I've been doing this.  Slightly strange, don't you think?

COMING UP:  I've still got a bunch of reviews coming up, including Ellen Kirschman's latest in the Dot Meyerhof series - The Fifth Reflection.  And I will be giving you all a mid-year report in the next week or so.  I'm sure you can hardly wait!


Saturday, July 1, 2017

2 Big-Time Author Events This Week

I had the privilege of attending 2 events this week for authors that I have an enormous amount of respect for.  And both of them are local!  In fact, one of them is an RBC author (thank you, Cara).  And the other one (you know who you are, Barry) I keep working on/harassing!

Wednesday night Joni and I went to Books, Inc. in Mt. View to see Cara Black.  Cara is on tour for her 17th book in the Aimee Leduc series, called Murder in St. Germain.  That rivals Silva, Penney, Winspear, et al. That is impressive.

And Thursday night, we went to see Barry Eisler, who was introducing his 13th book,  Zero Sum, #9 in the John Rain series.  This launch, like the other 12, took place at Kepler's.  But there was a special treat for many of us - Keith Raffel, he of A Fine and Dangerous Season fame (and another RBC author!), introduced Barry.  Keith is also local and also very accomplished.  You can't do better than 3 for the price of 2!

Barry told us an interesting story.  His books initially were published by Putnam Sons out of New York (now a part of Penguin Books).  They insisted that Barry's books have the name Rain in them.  So there was Rain Fall, Hard Rain, Rain Storm, etc.  Well, Barry got tired of getting emails from people recommending Rain Check, Rain Coat, among others.  So when he switched from Putnam to Thomas & Mercer (the publishing arm of Amazon), he changed all the names of the Rain Series. We non-published people don't know what goes on behind the scenes unless the author tells us.

In any case, here are some pictures from these 2 events:









Keith Raffel introducing Barry



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Mississippi Blood, Book 3 of Greg Iles Natchez Burning Trilogy

Well, I have finally finished Greg Iles' Natchez Burning trilogy.  #3, Mississippi Blood, is a mere 692 pages (vs 791 and 804 for 1 & 2).   But at times it felt a little long.  I reviewed book 1, Natchez Burning, in 2 parts - 9/29/14 and 10/2/14.  And it was my #1 book in 2014 - obviously a 4/4!  I reviewed book 2, The Bone Tree,  on 6/18/15.  And I gave that one a 3.25.  It was slightly boring in parts.  So what did I rate Mississippi Blood?  This one is a 3.5.  It had a different pattern than #2.  In MBlood, I thought the 1st part of the book was a bit slow.  Then the middle few hundred pages were very strong, centered on a trial.  And the last 80 pages of the book, although the climax, didn't really work that well for me.  But as I said at the end of my review of The Bone Tree, this is still a very good book.  That's how top-notch Iles is.  When he's not perfect, he's still a 3.25-3.5.  And as I also said in my review of TBTree, I will always read anything Iles puts out.

If you want to know what the story is about, you can go back to my earlier reviews.  For those of you who have been reading my posts through the years (a big thank you to my immediate family), I don't want to bore you.  And for the rest of you, it might be helpful to either read my reviews of 1 & 2, or even go on Iles' website or Goodreads and get the summaries.

Let me just do a quick list of the pluses (I've already listed the minuses):

1.  On pages 6-9, the story lists 2 newspaper articles which act to remind the reader of what went on in book 2.  That was a great way of giving us a recap.
2.  Iles is one of a fairly small amount of writers (at least in my experience) who write extremely well but are still very readable.
3.  I learned a bunch of fascinating stuff about the Korean War.
4.  There is one long scene during the trial that reminded me of Jodi Picoult's The Storyteller, which is still my favorite Picoult of all time.
5.  There is an editorial from a local paper that not only synopsizes the trial, but also puts it into historical perspective.  I was super impressed with how Iles did this.
6.  With much of the book centered on the trial, I learned a whole bunch about trial tactics.  It's a great way to learn.
7.  Lest you think that I didn't really care about Penn Cage, Tom Cage, et al, I will tell you that I certainly had some emotional moments.  I don't think I will ever read an Iles and not emotionally connect with his characters.  He's just too good.

When you read 2300 pages of a story, you are bound to have a few slow(er) moments (unless you're Follett).  But don't let that stop you from reading the Natchez Burning trilogy.  Besides a number of unforgettable characters, you will learn a lot about a lot of things, including at least a partial feeling of what it was like to be black in 1960's Mississippi (you can't know the true deal unless you were black and lived it).  Not every page is lighthearted (in fact, most definitely are not!).  But you will certainly get a small taste for how it was.




Friday, June 23, 2017

The Weight of Him by Ethel Rohan (our November RBC author)

Ethel Rohan was born and raised in Ireland.  And this book takes place in rural Ireland.  But I'm happy to say that Ethel now lives in the Bay Area and has agreed to be our RBC author in November.  I'm looking forward to having her there just to hear her speak!  Here's the blurb for The Weight of Him:

At four hundred pounds, Billy Brennan could always count on food.  From his earliest memories he loved food's colors, textures, and tastes.  The way flavors went off in his mouth. Food made everything better.  Until the day Billy's beloved son Michael ended his life.  Nothing could comfort him then.
Determined to honor Michael's memory, Billy undertakes a public weight-loss campaign to raise money for charity - his first step in an ambitious plan to bring himself, his family, and everyone in despair through their pain.  However, Billy's dramatic crusade appalls those close to him who simply want to try to go on, quietly, privately.
Despite Billy's detractors and his demons, he is determined to persist and to reignite hearts, his own most of all.  but it's only if he can confront the truth of the brokenness within and around him that he and others will be able to realize the recovery they need.

Sound good?  It is.  I liked it a lot.  Let me point out a couple of things about The Weight of Him that stood out for me:

1.  I'm a very visual reader.  But Ethel's writing is particularly visual. That's very cool.
2.  This reminds me of A Man Called Ove.  I liked Weight from the beginning.  But it gets better and better as it goes along.
3.  I had lots o' tears.  But better (worse?) than that, I had some moments of flooding.  We're talking blubbering here.
4.  Racheal Herron has 3 books in a genre called mis (short for misery) lit.  She explained it as a story in which something really bad happens at the beginning of the book.  That's certainly the case here.  Does that place this book in the mis lit category?  Seems like it...but what do I know?

I mentioned how visual Ethel's writing is.  Here are a few examples:

1.  "A cold feeling came over Billy's lungs, as if someone had cut away the front panel of his chest."
2.  Referring to a drink, she says "Pink bubbles popped like ungranted wishes."
3.  Talking with his younger son about dying, Billy says "We get reminders about dying, so we don't forget to make the most of living."

I'm definitely recommending The Weight of Him.  And if you happen to be anywhere near Campbell, CA on Wednesday night, November 15, around 7:00, come by and say hello to Ethel.






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/