Friday, July 2, 2021

Allison Larkin Has done It Again!

You all know how much I have enjoyed Allison's 3 previous books - Swimming for Sunlight, Why Can't I Be You, and Stay.  Now comes her latest, and it's right up there with the others.  It's called The People We Keep.  Here's what it's about:

Little River, New York, 1994:  April Sawicki is living in a run-down motorhome, flunking out of school, and picking up shifts at the local diner.  But when April realizes she's finally had enough - enough of her selfish, absent father and barely surviving in an unfeeling town - she makes a break for it.  Determined to live life on her own terms, April steals a car and hits the road, with only her music to keep her company.

She manages to scrape together a meaningful existence as she travels, encountering people and places that grab hold of her heart.  From lifelong friendships to tragic heartbreaks, April chronicles her journey in the beautiful songs she writes as she discovers that home is with the people you choose to keep.

Let me start by saying that you will form an emotional connection to April right away (I sure did).  You will worry when she worries.  You will exult when she exults.  And you will ride alongside her to her various destinations.

You have heard ad nauseam from me that my reading of a book is greatly enhanced when I make an emotional connection to the main protagonist.  Well, this happened for me on page 11!  She was getting ready to perform (small spoiler alert), and I was nervous for her.  It never stopped.  I've got "Uh-oh," "Shoot," and a whole bunch of chills, tears, more tears, and actual crying.  This may surprise you since I have a reputation of being a manly man...oh, wait, that must be somebody else I'm thinking of.  Regardless of my soft-hearted nature(!), it still takes a good author to make me emotional.  And, make no mistake, Allison is a VERY good author.

Lest we forget, Allison creates images that stick with you.  Here are just a few examples:

- She refers to a food prep guy who aggressively chops lettuce as the "Lettuce Murderer."
- In leaving someone behind, she says, "There won't ever be an us, but he'll never forget me."
- Referring to a bar owner where April sometimes plays, she says, "There's nothing there, but there's nothing missing."

Do I think you should read The People We Keep?  That's a big 10-4!  It's available August 3.  Mark your calendars!

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

A Review of Book 1 of a Mystery/Thriller Trilogy

Pigeon-Blood Red, by Ed Duncan, is Book 1 of his Pigeon-Blood Red Thrillogy (his word).  I was sent this book (pub 2015) by the author through his publicist, Kelsey Butts of Book Publicity Services.  Here is the storyline:

For underworld enforcer Richard "Rico" Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job.  Retrieve his gangster boss's priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it.  But the chase quickly goes sideway and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.

As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his order to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves? 

This book reminds me of another trilogy, Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. That one is about a young KGB officer on the rise who suddenly gets a conscience.  It's a very good trilogy.  Pigeon-Blood Red has a ways to go before it reaches that level.  But what started out as a pretty unexciting start definitely picked up as it got rolling.  As the plot became more intricate, I became more interested in where it was going and what was going to happen.  By the end, I have to admit that I would be willing to read Books 2 & 3 (both are already on the market).  That speaks more volumes than anything else I might have said.  Ed and Kelsey, let's see where Rico, Paul, and Evelyn go from here.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Peeps, by Erin Gordon - You're Going to Want to Read This One!

Peeps, by Erin Gordon, is a terrific book.  In fact, I was sorry when I finished it.  I really wanted it to keep going.  Once I got over my disappointment that I was done(!), it was time to cogitate a bit before I wrote my review.  There is a LOT to think about with Peeps.  Let me start by giving you a brief synopsis:

A coming-of-middle-age novel, PEEPS is the story of Meg, a 51-year-old podcaster who’s spent her life afraid of “what ifs.” Single after an unexpected divorce, Meg might finally have the chance for what she calls a Big Life, but isn’t sure she can pull it off. After her mother’s death, Meg gathers the courage to seek answers about her disinterested and cruel mother from her uncle. To get to him, she moves out of her Santa Monica home and drives across the country in a new RV she nicknames Irv.

Along the way, Meg conducts interviews for her podcast Peeps, in which she asks everyday people the same seven questions to “peep” into their lives and uncover shared humanity. Meg’s narrative is peppered with lively “transcripts” of her interviews with the ordinary yet fascinating people she meets. The podcast enables Meg to process the complicated grief and relief related to her mother’s death, her divorce, and her only child leaving home for college.

Isn't this a great storyline?  Let me answer that for you...It sure is!  But let me tell you what I really liked (okay, loved) about this book.  And bear with me because it's going to take a while:

1.  I love that Peeps is a "coming-of-middle-age" novel.
2.  I love Meg's interviews with everyday, regular people.  I got very excited every time I saw a new interview was coming up. 
3.  I love the writing.  It's very visual and very thought-provoking.  Here are just a couple of examples:
"Ah, he said, with the drama of a magician about to reveal your card."  
"I felt a little like an energetic puppy called back indoors just moments after being let out into the yard."
"I've always appreciated the notion that what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while."
4.  I love the 7 questions that she asked every interviewee, especially the one where she asked "Who is someone you never saw again?"
5.  As you all know, I love when I get a takeaway from a book.  I actually got 2 from Peeps.  The 1st one is #4.  Think about all the people in your life who just disappeared. I think we all have those who we wonder about.  And the 2nd one is that there are disappointments in our lives that we just have to let go. Otherwise, they can continue to shape who we are.
6.  I love the whole cross-country road trip in her RV, Irv (my father-in-law's name, by the way).  How brave and eye-opening it was for Meg.
7.  I LOVE the interviews!  Have I already told you that?

As you can see, I loved this book.  It's a combination of a whole bunch of things that resonated with me, and that I think will do the same for you. Do yourself a favor and get a copy of Peeps right away!


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Kate Quinn Has Outdone Herself!

As you all (or most of you) know, I am a big fan of Kate Quinn's The Alice Network and The Huntress.  I rated both of them 3.75/4.  I mean, those are high marks!  But The Rose Code has them both beat.  Did I give it a 4/4?  I did not.  Was it 3.8, 3.85, 3.9, or 3.95?  Nope.  Well what's higher than 4/4?  I'll tell you...  it's a 4/4+.  That's right.  It's better than a 4/4. And it's been 3 years since I gave my last 4/4+ (Kristin Harmel's The Sweetness of Forgetting).  This book is just that good.  Let me read the The Rose Code's introduction:

In the autumn of 1939, Hitler's advance seemed unstoppable.  

          German military communications were relayed using
          hand ciphers, teleprinter codes, and above all Enigma
        machines - portable cipher devices that scrambled orders 
      into nonsense so that they could be relayed via Morse code over
            radio transmitters, then unscrambled in the field.

                Even if the scrambled orders were intercepted 
              by the Allies, no one could break the encryption.
                 Germany thought Enigma was unbreakable.

                                       They were wrong.

This is the story of the men and women who worked at Bletchley Park during WWII going non-stop to intercept the German communications and break the codes.  The story centers on 3 very different women.  And you get caught up with each of them from the get-go.  Here are just a few of the reasons that, all combined, blew me away and made me love this book:

1.  Prince Philip (yes, that Prince Philip) has a significant role throughout the book.
2.  The story alternates in the voices of the 3 women.
3.  One of the women writes something called Bletchley Bletherings, which is a little gossip column.
4.  All of the support characters are interesting in and of themselves.
5.  Because it's historical fiction, we get to see Churchill and even that old codebreaker Alan Turing.
6.  There were so many emotional moments where I got chills, or teared up, or uttered an expletive!
7.  It obviously goes without saying, but Kate can really write.

Make sure you read the Author's Note at the end of the book.  It puts a lot of what she wrote about in historical context.  That was also fascinating.  

I have just two questions for Kate.  What's next?  And when?  Please don't make me wait too long!


Saturday, May 1, 2021

Review of a Really Good Book!

Three Words for Goodbye, by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb, is absolutely terrific.  It's about 2 sisters, their grandmother, and a long-distance trip, all of it taking place in 1937.  I couldn't put it down.  Here's what I liked about it:

1.  The writing is very visual.  Some examples:
"A uniformed guard threw open the compartment doors, sending travel-weary passengers spilling out onto the platform and scattering like marbles from a dropped bag."

"...couples holding hands, families and friends flitting around like butterflies, pollinating each other with love and good humor."

"...the way the watercolors blended and softened, running into each other like old friends."

2.  There is a lot of tension throughout the book regarding a particular mode of transportation that we all know about.  I won't say anything more about that, but you will know what I'm referring to soon enough.

3.  Violet, the grandmother, is a great character.  The chapters in her voice stand out.

4.  The relationship between the sisters is something many people can relate to.  Alas, I cannot.  I have 1brother who is 7 years older than me and who I haven't had any contact with for 40 years.  I certainly was engrossed in watching these 2 sisters work on their relationship.

5.  I am a big fan of books that alternate among 2 or more central characters.  The authors do a great job of making the reader anxious to know what all 3 of their protagonists are saying and doing.

6.  I had plenty of emotional moments, including...I can't tell you!  It's too much information!

7.  I just flat-out liked every page.  That is a rare occurrence.

Is that enough to convince you how I felt about Three Words for Goodbye?  I sure hope so.  You'll have to wait until July 27 for it to hit your bookstores.  But make a note.  You're going to want this in your TBR pile right away!

Heather Webb/Hazel Gaynor (l-r)

Saturday, April 10, 2021

My New Podcast

Yep, that's right.  I am now officially a podcaster.  In conjunction with KCAT TV in Los Gatos, CA, I recorded my 1st author interview yesterday under the moniker of Lloyd on Lit.  It will start out as a monthly 30-minute program.  I don't know exactly when it will air yet, but I will keep you all informed.

My 1st guest was Gary Singh, who is a poet, author, columnist, and, generally speaking, literary man about town.  Gary has been writing weekly columns for a local paper called Metro, Silicon Valley since 2005. He has written approximately 800 so far!  And, in fact, he recently published a book that compiles 250+ of his columns.  It's called Silicon Alleys.  I haven't read it yet but will.  (Plus, he's Zooming in to the RBC in July.)

My 2nd author interview will be with Hannah Jayne, author of the urban fantasy series called the Underworld Detection Agency and a bunch of YAs.  That should air sometime in May.  Meanwhile I am working on getting more authors scheduled.  Details to follow.

Here is a picture of Gary and Me from yesterday.  Just what I needed was a set of headphones to make my head look even bigger!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

6 More Books to Read

I have been reading a plethora (pretty good word, eh?) of good books lately.  I've got 6 to show you.  I rated all 6 of them 3.5/4 or higher!  They are all terrific.  Just look up the blurb to decide in what order you want to read them.  I have listed them in the order they were read:

Have You Seen Luis Velez? - Catherine Ryan Hyde

Winter Garden - Kristin Hannah

We Came Here to Forget - Andrea Dunlop

The Four Winds - Kristin Hannah

 How to Save a Life - Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke 

The Storyteller's Secret - Sejal Badani