Saturday, December 24, 2011


You may be wondering what I mean by the title.  Good question.  Since August, I have come across 5 new authors by randomly dropping in on bookstores.  I have read books for all 5 of these authors and have already blogged about 4 of them - A.R. Silverberry, Jasmine Haynes, Adina Senft, and Hannah Jayne.  Tonight I am blogging about the 5th (and final, for now) author - Juliet Blackwell.  This is good timing because starting next Tuesday, and going into January, I have a number of my longstanding favorite authors coming out with their latest books:

12/27 - W.E.B. Griffin - Presidential Agent series
             Dean Koontz
1/3     -  Tom Rob Smith - book 3
             James Grippando

And those are just the ones I know about!  On top of that, I got 3 ARC's (Advanced Reader Copies) from Lindsay Wood, a Penguin Books rep, at the "M" event.  On her name tag, she said "Are you a blogger?"  Of course I said I am.  She gave me books that are going to be published in March (1) and May (2).  I'm already reading the March book - Helsinki White by James Thompson.  The life of an avid reader who also happens to blog is never boring.

Here's something you haven't heard from me before.  Juliet's book is in a genre that I would never have read if I hadn't come across her in a bookstore (oh, wait, you've been hearing that from me since August!).  It's about Melanie (Mel) Turner who runs a construction company in the San Francisco Bay Area (SF is for the benefit of you readers who are not in Northern California - all of us natives just call it the Bay Area - like highway 880 will always be highway 17).  Mel is only managing the company because her father fell apart a year or two earlier when his wife died.  So now it's on Mel to run the show.  Their specialty is old Victorians.  And as you might not be shocked to learn, there are ghosts to be dealt with.

I know this is beginning to sound like a broken record, but I liked this book a lot.  Mel is a great protagonist, and the supplemental characters - her dad, her rockstar client, her ex-boyfriend, and a ghost, among others - had substance.  There was murder, danger, excitement, and, one of my favorites, humor.

But here's the really cool part.  I'm an East Bay guy.  I have lived in the Bay Area (notice I didn't say SF Bay Area) all of my life.  And Juliet refers to a bunch of areas that I know really well.  For example:

1.  Mel lives with her dad on Fruitvale Avernue in Oakland.  I lived not far from the other end of Fruitvale Avenue.  And, in fact, I worked for a burger joint (Doggie Diner) very close to where Mel lives.
2.  She refers to the old Oakland Army Base being closed.  When I was in the Army Reserve in the late '60's/early '70's (I was #152 in the draft and might have gone to Viet Nam if I hadn't joined the Reserves), I was stationed at the Oakland Army Base.  I had to be there one weekend every month for almost 6 years.
3.  Mel drives through the Caldecott Tunnel, which takes you from Oakland to Lafayette/Orinda/Walnut Creek/Concord/Pleasant Hill.  I lived about 2 miles from that tunnel.
4.  Mel has lunch at Absinthe in San Francisco.  Joni and I have eaten at Absinthe.  Also, Juliet refers to the executive chef at Absinthe competing on Top Chef, the Bravo TV reality chef.  We love Top Chef and clearly remember that particular season.

If Walls Could Talk is book 1 of the Haunted Home Renovation Mystery.  Book 2, Dead Bolt, is already available, and I intend to read it.  She also has written another series, The Witchcraft Mystery series, which has 3 books.  Once again, I can say to an author - "Nicely done."

Contest Winner:  Jen wins Hannah Jayne's book, Under Attack, which is book 2 in the Underworld Detection Agency series.  Thank you all for your entries.

Coming Attractions:  Next week I will be listing all the books that I've read this year with a rating (1-4 stars).  It's 70 books so I will probably divide the list into 2 blog posts.  I will be starting at 4 stars and go down from there.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


I've already told all of you that I met Meg Waite Clayton at the Kepler's event when the two Random House reps gave their holiday gift-buying book recommendations.  After talking with Meg, I vowed to myself to buy and read one of her books.  Well, the opportunity arose pretty quickly.  The Saturday after the Wednesday Kepler's event, "M" had an afternoon open-house.  The purpose was several-fold.  First, it was a holiday get-together.  Second, it was a going-away party for the outgoing owner, Ed, who recently sold his store.  Third, it was an opportunity to meet the new owner, Steve.

What I didn't realize was that there would be a whole bunch of local authors who came to pay their respects.  And, what was even cooler for me, I knew some of them.  Hannah Jayne, Cara Black (who Joni and I had seen, and talked to, at the Los Gatos Library last year), Sheldon Siegel (who, as you already know ad nauseum, we had dinner with after an appearance at "M"), and Meg.  As an added bonus, I met Juliet Blackwell, whose book, If Walls Could Talk, I just finished.  I'll blog about that soon.

As another added bonus, Lindsay Wood, who is a rep for Penguin Books, was giving away ARC's (Advanced Reader Copies), which are books that are finished but haven't been published yet.  She was looking for bloggers to read them and create some buzz about them prior to publication.  I was only too happy to cooperate.  So I've got books from 3 authors that I will be reading before they hit the stores (1 in March and 2 in May).  Hopefully, I'll have more new authors to recommend after I do my reading.

As the final bonus, Joni and I had an opportunity to talk Sheldon's wife, Linda, for quite awhile.  I mean, it's always fun to see Sheldon, but, come on, to meet his wife too?  That was a real treat.  Linda, we definitely enjoyed meeting you and talking to you.

But back to Meg.  She had her latest book, The Four Ms. Bradwells, featured for sale at the "M" event.  I bought it, had it autographed by Meg, of course, and just finished reading it this week.  The story revolves around 4 women who meet in law school at the University of Michigan and become lifelong friends beginning with their first hour of class (Constitutional Law) on their first day of law school.  The story begins 30 years later, with one of the friends going through a confirmation hearing to become a Supreme Court justice.  There are a lot of flashbacks that tell the reader what led up to the situation they're in now.

This book has a couple of elements to it that do not fit my normal reading preferences.  One, the story is about women, with men being tangentially important only as they support (or not) the women.  I like women - a lot - but I'm certainly better able to relate to men (don't I, guys? buddies?).  You might think this would make the book "chick lit."  Here's why it's not, and the second reason I normally would not read this type of book - it's really well-written!  When I saw Meg at "M," she mentioned that she likes to read literary fiction.  I can now see why.  That's what she writes.  This is definitely not for the reader who likes to fly through books to add to a list (oh wait, usually that's me!).  It requires the reader to pay attention, to focus on the characters and their histories, and to take it slow.  It's thought-provoking without being pedantic.  It's literary without being stuffy.  The book flows very well and tells a very good story.  There were moments when I went back to make sure that I was clear on the connections.  That's something I do with Pat Conroy.  He's someone else who I would consider to be literary but can still tell a great story.  Meg, you're keeping some pretty good company!

I would definitely recommend The Four Ms. Bradwells for anybody that likes a good quality read that also hooks you on the characters.  I cared about those 4 women and wanted everything to work out for them.  But, most importantly, the book shows how important friends are.  If you can point to 2 or 3 people and say they are as close to you as The Four Ms. Bradwells are to each other, then you are a lucky person indeed.  No one knows that better than me.


Saturday, December 17, 2011


You are naturally wondering what the heck is Two Sisters Bar and Books.  The short answer to that question is it's a restaurant.  Then, again naturally, you would be wondering why am I blogging about a restaurant.  The answer to that question takes a little bit more explanation.  See below.  And, finally, you might want to know what expertise I have that allows me to review a restaurant.  The answer is:  I eat a lot.

Two Sisters opened in the Hayes Valley area of San Francisco a few months ago.  It is owned by Mikha, who is the daughter of our friends Marsha and John.  There are a number of elements that make this restaurant unique.  But the one that relates to a book blog is that they have a book borrowing/lending/exchanging/donating section.  Against one of their walls, they have bookshelves loaded with books.  They started with approximately 400 books of all genres and ages.  Mikha's younger sister, Mary (a friend of my daughter Lauren's from high school) bought the initial inventory.  When we were there a few weeks ago for brunch, we were told that their book ranks have swelled.  How does that work?

The rules are that there really are no hard and fast rules.  People can come in and take a book.  They can read it in the restaurant or take it home - oftentimes both.  Mikha hopes that if a book is taken, it will be returned or replaced by another one.  But she certainly does not have any lending library cards.  It's all on the honor system.  How cool is that?  As it turns out, more books have been brought in than have gone out.  That's how the bookshelves stay full.

On top of this fantastic feature, they also have a book club that meets monthly.  And they intend to have local authors appear.  You all know how much I love author events.  And based on my recent posts, you also know I have had great success this year in coming across Bay Area authors that I have thoroughly enjoyed.  Any bookstore (even if it is primarily a restaurant) that promotes authors has a fan in me, no matter what the food is like.

Speaking of food, let me say that what Joni and I had with Marsha and John a few Sunday brunches ago was excellent.  Plus, the atmosphere is very warm and inviting.  Somebody more sensitive than I might even call it nurturing!  It has a great neighborhood presence and has been well-received by the locals - rightfully so.  I would recommend that you go to Two Sisters Bar and Books for the food and drink (they have an eclectic and constantly-changing bar menu).  And while you're there, pick up a book.  I guarantee that you will find books there that you won't see anywhere else.

Happy eating (and reading).

Saturday, December 10, 2011


There's one more connection with Hannah that I learned about tonight.  Not only is Hannah's brother and sister-in-law close friends with my son, Josh, and my daughter-in-law, Jen, it also turns out that Jen and Hannah went to school together.  Hannah was one year older than Jen, but they both were in cheer at the same time (I think).  It's definitely a small world.

There's also something I forgot to mention when I did the blog about Recycle Bookstore in Campbell (and San Jose).  If you go to one of their stores and they're out of the book you want, they will call their other store.  If that store has it, they will bring it over to the first one.  That way, you still get the benefit of the great deals they offer but don't have to go cross-county to get it.

Speaking of great deals at Recycle, Joni and I went over there today to get some books for our grandkids.  We struck gold.  We got a ton of used books (Recycle, get it?) for an unbelievably low price.  Thank you Recycle.


This is now getting to be a common refrain for me.  Several weeks ago I walked into Barnes & Noble in the Pruneyard, and, lo and behold, there was another new author (for me) sitting at a table near the door.  As has become my practice, I gave her my Booksage card, told her I would read her book, and then blog about it.  The only decision I had to make was do I buy book 2, which Hannah Jayne was promoting, or book 1?  I decided on book 1.  So I got it signed and undertook to read another book in still another genre that I would have never picked up on my own.  I keep expecting that I'm going to get a dud from this random method of book selection - but not this time!  I enjoyed it a lot.  It's called Under Wraps and is the first book in Hannah's The Underworld Detection Agency Chronicles.

The UDA is located 37 floors below the San Francisco police station.  Sophie Lawson works for the UDA and shares her workload with a vampire and a witch, among others.  Her handsome boss, Pete Sampson, is a werewolf.  Every night before she leaves, Sophie chains Pete up so that he can't wreak havoc out in the city.  Sophie's clientele includes "minotaurs, gargoyles, Kholog demons, and trolls."  She also encounters fairies who you definitely don't want to mess with.

Sophie, herself, is a "norm," with her only paranormal gift being that she is immune to magic.  When a very handsome police detective from up above comes knocking down below, they end up working a murder spree together.  He, of course, is also a "norm," although there's more that meets the eye with him too.

Hannah has developed a very interesting set of characters, with Sophie as the main protagonist, along with an engaging murder mystery and a ton of humor.  In fact, I laughed out loud on a number of occasions.  Would I read book 2 and beyond?  I'll get to that in a minute.

I've actually run into Hannah twice now.  In addition to the first time at B&N, I also saw her last Saturday at "M" for an open house that was honoring the owner, Ed Kaufman.  Ed has sold the bookstore, and this was an opportunity for authors and patrons alike to say their good-byes.  But besides my run-ins with Hannah, I found out last night that I have another connection with her.  Joni and I were out with friends.  It turns out that she had also read Under Wraps.  One thing led to another, and I found out that Hanna's brother and his wife are very close friends of my son and his wife!  How cool is that?  I haven't even told Hannah about this yet.  I feel like we're almost related.  Okay, that was dumb.

Now, getting back to whether or not I will read book 2, let me tell you about a disagreement that I had last night with one of our friends.  At the very end of book 1, we learn that there's something about Sophie that we don't know yet.  Our friend was a bit outraged.  She doesn't like it when a book ends in a teaser for the next book.  I explained that most series do that, but she wouldn't give in.  Imagine that - someone who disagrees with me.  In any case, my response was "Bring it on!"  When I saw Hannah last Saturday, I asked her to let me know where she was going to be next so that I could see her, buy book 2, and get it signed.  I'm really looking forward to reading the next in The Underworld Detection Agency Chronicles.  Hannah actually told me that she would sign one and send it to me.  Here's the other offer she made.  She said that she would give one of my readers a signed copy for free.  So, I will take all of you who make a comment either on this blog or to me personally ( and raffle off Hannah's book.  You've got until next Saturday to get your name in.

Random House Note:  Since a week and a half ago when I saw the Random House reps at Keplers, USA Today has reviewed 2 of the books on their recommended gifts list.  One was PD James' Death Comes to Pemberley, and the other was Robert Massie's Catherine the Great.  Both of them got 4 stars out of 4.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


This past Wednesday night, Joni and I went to Kepler's to listen to Random House territory managers, Liz Willner and Jenn Ramage, talk about books to buy for the holiday season.  They are not holiday books, just books that they feel will make good gifts.  I'm going to eliminate my normal palaver and asides and simply list their suggestions by genre:

Cookbooks/Books for Foodies-
Lidia's Italy in America - Lidia Bastianich
Off the Menu - Marissa Guggiana
The Table Comes First - Adam Gopnik
Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food
Cooking My Way Back Home - Rosenthal
Momofuku Milk Bar - Christina Tosi
Martha's Entertaining - Martha Stewart

The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes
The Buddha in the Attic - Julie Otsuka (she also wrote The Emperor Was Divine)
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern (they really loved this one - a first-time novelist)
The Cat's Table - Michael Ondaatje
IQ84 - Haruki Murakami

The Affair - Lee Child
Death Comes to Pemberley - PD James (due out 12/6)
The Leopard - Jo Nesbo (due out 12/13) - I read The Redbreast and really liked it - a Norwegian author

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? - Mindy Kaling - from The Office
Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin - Calvin Trillin

Pet Lovers (it pains me to include these)-
The Eighty-Dollar Champion - Elizabeth Letts
The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Destiny of the Republic - Candace Millard
Hemingway's Boat - Paul Hendrickson
Blue Nights - Joan Didion
Pilgrimage - Annie Leibovitz

A Natural History of the Piano - Stuart Isacoff
Van Gogh - Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
Catherine the Great - Robert Massie
Death in the City of Light - David King

Arts and Entertainment-
Then Again - Diane Keaton - she wrote her own book, without any "ghost" writer

They had a list that included a lot more, but these were the ones that they chose to talk about.  They were extremely informative and enthusiastic about their choices.  They were a pleasure to listen to.

An added extra for me that evening came after the event.  I was doing my usual brown-nosing and was waiting for one of the other audience members to finish talking with Liz.  When they were done, Liz turned to talk to Jenn and another audience member.  That left me alone with the woman who had been talking with Liz.  It turns out that she is a published author by the name of Meg Waite Clayton.  Meg has written 3 books and is working on a 4th.  I've never read any of Meg's books, but I certainly recognize her name.  I can't wait to read, at least, one of her books in the near future and blog about it.  

Monday, November 28, 2011


When I went to Barnes & Noble and met Jasmine Haynes, who wrote Past Midnight, I also met Adina Senft.  I think she was pretty darn brave to share a rostrum (okay, it was a cafeteria-like table).  I mean, after all, one book is about a married couple having a lot of graphic sex, and the other is about a young widowed Amish woman with two pre-teen boys.  Come on - a mismatch, no?  Actually, no.  Adina has written a very good book with characters that I cared for very much.  It's the first in a trilogy, and I fully intend to read the next two.  I believe the second one comes out next Spring and the third sometime in 2013.  If that's wrong, I'll get it corrected and let everybody know (my wife claims that my memory is shot - I like to say that I have selective memory - only, I'm not making the selections!).

The story is about Amelia.  Her husband, whom she loved very much, and who sounds like he was a great guy, has died in a buggy accident less than a year before.  He was hit by a drunken driver (car, not buggy).  She's coping with running his business, which is set up in town among the non-Amish, building pallets.  She also has to take care of her two young sons, who are 8 and 6.  Her only real pleasure is meeting every Tuesday afternoon and knitting a quilt with her two best friends.  Living in an Amish community, she certainly has the support of her large family.  But it's still a real tough go.

On top of all this, she begins to experience symptoms of what could be a very serious, debilitating illness.  This underlies the other story lines.  There's a lot going on in this book:  Business, Parenting, Friendship, Illness, and maybe, just maybe, some romance.  There are also some interesting interactions in the Amish community with the clergy.  I not only enjoyed the book, but I also learned a lot (I believe that I am about as far away from being Amish as a person can be).  How cool is that?

Adina has also done a great job setting up the next two books.  They will feature Amelia's two closest friends.  One of them has no husband and at the ripe old age of 30ish is considered an old maid.  The other is married but can't conceive.  Neither of these situations goes over well in the Amish community.  I am looking forward to reading how these two friends cope with their lots in life and hope that things turn out okay for them both.

Adina, great job.  Keep it up.

Friday, November 25, 2011


First of all, if you don't know what a mensch is, look it up.  It's a very cool word.

Brad Taylor's first novel (the second one, with the same protagonist, is coming out January 17), One Rough Man, is a very good special forces-inspired book.  Pike Logan (how great a name is that?) works for Taskforce, which is a military unit that goes beyond the Seals, Delta Force, etc.  Taskforce is given assignments that usually take as long as a year to complete.  The end result is that a bad guy bites the dust.  This organization is so secret, that there is no government record of its existence.  I know, I know.  So far, it sounds fairly mundane and ho hum.  But there is quite a twist to it.  Pike loses his wife and daughter to an act of violence.  8 months later, he's basically removed himself from society and is still wallowing (understandably!) in self-pity.  He is brought back to the real world by a young woman, Jennifer Cahill, in her '20's (he, himself, is only in his '30's) whose uncle has been looking for a Mayan temple in South America.  There is a terrorist plot that these 2 unlikely partners have to stop.  The combination of Pike's tragedy, Jennifer's uncle's quest, and a globe-trotting chase, with a hugely dangerous terrorist plot on American soil as the backdrop, lends itself to a very exciting book.  Brad is a good storyteller.

Brad's own background includes a couple of decades of being in special forces.  He seems to know what he's talking about, although my own military experience of 6 years in the Army Reserve would not help me understand whether he's legit or not.  I just assume he is.  I assure you that I learned nothing about Special forces, or even the military, from my 6 years.  In fact, all I remember is that I deliberately flunked a dental lab exam so that I wouldn't have to spend extra weeks on active duty (in the late '60's, early '70's).  Every time they asked to have the plaster of paris squared off, I rounded it.  When they asked for 1 1/8" long, I made it 3".  It worked.  I only had one extra week before I went back to my regular training as a medic (my mother-in-law was so proud - her son-in-law, the medic).

Now you may wonder why I called Brad a mensch.  Well I'm going to tell you.  After my buddy Jack gave me the book, I read about 150 pages and was really enjoying it.  So, kiss-up that I am, I emailed Brad, gave him my book blog background, told him how many books a year I read (I know, this is gag-worthy), and asked if he was doing a Northern California tour.  He answered within 2 hours to comment on my comments and to explain that he's not doing a Northern California tour with book #2.  Hopefully, we'll see him for book #3.

Now if that had been the extent of it, I would have been pretty pleased.  As it turns out, it was only the beginning.  When I finished the book, I emailed him again (my new best friend, Brad) and told him how much I enjoyed the book.  I also asked him about 1 plot point that I was confused about.  I said that it was very likely me and not him, but did he mind explaining it to me.  Okay, here's the mensch-y part.  He emailed back (again, within 2 hours) and gave me a detailed explanation that cleared it up for me.  After seeing his answer, more than ever I saw it was my reading and not his writing that was the problem.  In several more email exchanges, he wouldn't let me take the blame - ergo, a mensch.  I write to quite a few authors for one reason or another (remember I said I'm a kiss-up?).  Many will respond, but only 1 other author, John Lescroart, actually took pains to get me the answers that I was looking for.

Brad, you have found a lifelong, loyal, book-recommending fan in me.  Can't wait for book #2.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


So, a couple of weeks ago, I stopped in at Barnes & Noble in the Pruneyard.  Right near the entrance were two female authors promoting their new books.  The last time this happened, I ended up buying a fantasy for young (female) adults called Wyndham's Cloak - and loved it.  I had pretty much made up my mind that any time I come across an author at B&N, I was going to buy, and read, their book.  It's an easy way to try new authors.

I got to talking to them, gave them my Book Sage business card, and bought each of their new books.  One author, Adina Senft, wrote a book about an Amish widow with two children.  I have just started that one.  The other author, Jasmine Haynes, writes in a genre that I had never heard of before, called Erotic Romance.  I assumed that it meant cheesy romances with more explicit sex.  Boy was I wrong.  Yes, there is definitely explicit sex, but it's so much more than that.  This is not a book with Fabio on the cover.

A husband and wife, both around 40, have had an unspeakable tragedy in their lives.  A year later, they are still trying to cope with it.  Erin has completely shut down emotionally.  The way she handles it is to have sex with Dominic late at night (hence the title).  There is no talking, no cuddling, just sex.  It helps her forget for a short while.  Dominic spends much of his time trying to get her to open up to him while still dealing with the tragedy himself.  His way of doing it is by creating sexual situations that are designed to cater to Erin's fantasies.  He doesn't know any other way of getting through to her.  As the story progresses, and Erin and Dominic engage in sexual activities that most of us would never consider, you feel as if the situations make sense for them.

Here's what completely surprised me.  I didn't expect the explicit sex to be between husband and wife, let alone a couple that is grieving and trying to come back from the abyss.  This is a love story.  This is about a husband who wants to get his wife back.  The book is powerful.  You root for them to figure out a way to reconnect.  Along with the main theme of the book is a sub-plot regarding the high tech company they own and a possible leak among their employees.  Even this part of the story resonates.

WARNING/SPOILER ALERT:  If you can't read a book in which a young child dies or in which there is VERY explicit sex, then stay away.  If you can deal with these issues (one is easier to deal with than the other!), then I highly recommend Past Midnight.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  I have been with my wife now for over 45 years.  She is the most beautiful, smartest, talented person that I know.  And, yet, I feel that I have not spent enough time showing her how great I think she is.  Jasmine Haynes' book has made me more aware of letting my wife know what I feel.  For that, I say a personal "Thank you."

Sunday, November 13, 2011


This post has nothing fancy to tell you.  There are no inane ramblings or off-the-wall, extremely tangential, subjects to discuss.  This is just about 3 reviews.

First, Barry Eisler's new John Rain saga, The Detachment.  This is his first Rain book in awhile.  He actually started his novelist career with a series of Rain books and then went to standalones.  He's a local Peninsula boy who once worked for the CIA.  I like him a lot.  John Rain is a half-Japanese, half-American assassin.  The twist is that his killings are done to make it look like the victim died of natural causes.  He looks Japanese and has done most of his work in Japan, but, this time, he's in the US.  He's very much a loner and hates to depend on/work with anyone else.  He does have one buddy, a Marine sniper named Dox.  In this book, he is contacted by an old Army colonel he knows who wants 3, very high-profile, politicos assassinated because they are planning an overthrow of the US government.  Of course, nothing is ever as it seems, but it's fun getting to where it goes.  Rain even has to bring 2 other "experts" into the mix, something he is particularly loath to do.  This was definitely one of his better Rain books in particular and one of his better books period.

The second review is Tatiana de Rosnay's Sarah's Key.  This is a book that every book club already knows about.  It's a WWII book about the Vel d'Hiv round-up of Jews in France.  It focuses on one pre-teen Jewish girl from that time period and one modern day American journalist who lives in Paris.  I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that the journalist becomes obsessed with finding out everything she can about this girl and her family - both then and now.  It's very good.  I would recommend it.

The third, and final, review is David Baldacci's new book, Zero Day.  I got to tell you, this was really good.  He's typically a little bit hit and miss (his King and Maxwell series is pretty weak), but hits it right this time.  For those of you who read Lee Child (and there are many of you), Baldacci's John Puller reminds me of Jack Reacher.  He's tall, extremely lethal, and a man of few words.  In this particular story, Puller, who is an army man in the Criminal Investigation Division (CID), goes to a small coal-mining town in West Virginia to investigate the murder of an army colonel and his family.  What he finds there is a whole bunch more than just murder.  This is Camel Club good, maybe even a little bit better (sacre bleu!)

That's it.  Next time, I will be reviewing a book from a whole new genre for me.  I know you can hardly wait.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, October 29, 2011


So I'm finally ready to weigh in on the Kindle.  I've now taken it on 2 trips.  One was 2 weeks in Europe (kind of a no-brainer), and the other was a recent trip to New York (not as much of a no-brainer).  My experience thus far has been - drum roll, please - positive!  I like it.  Am I ready to forsake books?  No.  But I can see using it other than just on trips.  Let me give you a list of situations where I would use the Kindle while still in the Bay Area:

1.  When I'm walking on the treadmill - it's a lot easier to set the Kindle on the double bar of the treadmill than using my towel to keep the book open (especially a mass market paperback) and then shifting the towel up and down.
2.  When I'm having dental work done - holding a book, even a paperback, up in the air is tough, especially when I have to use one hand to hold the book and also keep it open - then, when I'm ready to turn the page, I have to bring the book (slowly) down to my lap - now, I can turn the page with my thumb.
3.  ?????

Okay, so that's not many local uses for the Kindle (although I'm on the treadmill a fair amount).  Nonetheless, I will be using it.  Thanks again to my family for buying it for me.

I have 3 reviews of books I've read since I last blogged.  All of them are authors I've read before (many times for 2 and the 2nd time for one).  Here they are:

Nicholas Sparks - Best of Me - this is his 17th book (and 16th novel) - once again, it centers on star-crossed lovers, with the usual great joy and even greater sadness - it's a familiar theme but one that works well for him - it was enjoyable, as all of his are - a word to the macho men out there:  Don't bother (or, if you do, lie about it).

Jeffrey Archer (author of Kane and Abel, a classic) - Only Time Will Tell - this is the first of a trilogy - it takes place in England (not surprising, since Archer is British) and follows a boy from early childhood through his teenage years and WWII - I liked it a lot - I thought it faded a bit in the last quarter of the book but was still a good read - he's no Follett (who started a trilogy last year, with Fall of Giants), but, then again, who is? - I will definitely read #2.

Brad Thor - The Athena Project - this is my 2nd novel of his - he's solid - definitely a B+-lister - the story centers around a "brick" of 4 women, who are the equivalent of special ops - they are all good-looking, athletic, and highly trained - they use their feminine wiles to take advantage of the bad guys - because I read a lot of books about special ops/anti-terrorism/CIA etc., it needs to be well-written, engaging, and have some kind of unique angle for me to recommend it - this does and I do.

Stay tuned next weekend for... (I'm not trying to lead you on - I actually don't know).

Sunday, October 16, 2011


I felt like I had read quite a few new authors this year, so I decided to count them.  There have been 20 so far.  This might be the most new authors I have read in any one year.  I don't think I'll get to many more because a number of my long-standing authors are putting out books before the end of the year:  Nicholas Sparks (don't act surprised - you know that I read Sparks), Barry Eisler, and W.E.B. Griffin.  Plus, Jeffrey Archer and Brad Meltzer have already come out with their new books, which I haven't gotten to yet.  Since this might be it, I'm going to list all of them and give them movie ratings.  The maximum score is 4 stars.  Here we go (in order):

Stein, Garth - The Art of Racing in the Rain - 3.0 - A very entertaining and poignant story of a family told through the eyes of a dog - and I don't even like animals!
Robinson, John Elder - Look Me in the Eye - 3.0 - non-fiction account of an autistic man's childhood and his efforts as an adult to recognize and deal with his disorder.
Bourne, Sam - The Righteous Men - 2.5 - a modern-day story that centers on old Jewish scripture - slow first half (2.0) but very good second half (3.0).
Stevens, Taylor -Informationist - 2.0 - debut novel about a Lisbeth Sander-type of take-no-prisoners woman - you know the type - kick-butt now and ask questions later - might read her next one - not sure yet.
Verghese, Abraham - Cutting for Stone - 3.0 - Everybody knows about this one - I liked it a lot but didn't love it like so many people did - saw him in San Rafael with about 800 other people.
See, Lisa - Peony in Love - 1.5 - would have preferred a root canal (then I can at least read in the dentist's chair) - read it in bits and pieces in and around a number of other books - I know she's really popular with many people, but I didn't get it - my best moment was when I finished it.
Nesbo, Jo - The Redbreast - 3.0 - this was a very pleasant surprise for me - Nesbo is a Norwegian author whose protagonist is a detective named Harry Hole - the author is a  very big deal in Norway - enjoyed the quirky nature of Hole.
Gran, Sara - Clair Dewitt and the City of the Dead - 2.0 - protagonist is a hard-boiled private eye that brings you back to the detective novels from the '30's and '40's - starts slow and picks up slightly - was sure that I wouldn't read another one and ended up not so sure.
McEuen, Paul - Spiral - 3.0 - debut novel about a nasty contagion - very well done - would jump at his next book.
Pelecanos, George - The Turnaround - 3.5 - a tragedy as a teenager still has consequences 30 years later - this book only slightly missed The Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader list - turned me into an instant fan - have since read 2 others - not as good as The Turnaround but still liked them a lot.
Ignatius, David -  Body of Lies - 3.0 - another CIA/special forces novel but with a twist - I read a lot of these types of books but found this to be different enough to want to read more - I liked it.
La Plante, Alice - Turn of Mind - 2.5 - a 64-year old woman in the beginning stages of dementia is possibly a murderer - but she can't remember if she did it or not - the author's mother had dementia and was the inspiration for the novel - the book was a little bit too well-written for me (you all know I'm no intellectual) - but I liked it.
O'Shaughnessy, Peri - Dreams of the Dead - 2.0 - this author is actually 2 sisters - back in the early '90's, their publisher wouldn't publish their first book with 2 names - this book is actually their 13th in a series about a small-time female attorney in South Lake Tahoe - they say (I saw them at an author's event) that it's their last, and they will write separately - it is unlikely that I will read anything else by them.
O'Keefe, Bobbie - Family Skeletons - 2.5 - this is a very different novel from anything else I've read before - it's a legitimate murder mystery and a legitimate romance - she does a heck of a job melding the 2 - I would definitely read her again.
Hart, John - The Last Child - 4.0 - I guess you've all heard (read) enough by me about John Hart - suffice it to say that this book (along with his The Iron House) is the first new addition to The Fiction... list since its inception back in January.
Silverberry, A.R. - Wyndano's Cloak - 3.0 - the only reason I would read a young adult fantasy novel is if I personally met the author (and his wife, the illustrator) at Barnes & Noble in Campbell on a Saturday afternoon - I read it only because I told him I would someday read it - guess what? - I really liked it - a lot - there were 2 parallel stories running with each of the protagonists being a teenage girl - I couldn't wait for each story to unfold - go figure.
Tinti, Hanna - The Good Thief - 2.0 - this was recommended to me so I read it - it was okay - it was certainly different but not particularly captivating.
LaVigne, Michael - Not Me - 3.0 - a darn good story about a philanthropic older Jewish man with a very interesting past - a one-of-a-kind plot.
Britton, Andrew - The American - 3.0 - still another novel CIA novel - an ex-special ops guy teamed with a female analyst trying to track down a terrorist with a most interesting background - I will definitely be reading him again.
Steinhauer, Olen - The Tourist - 2.5 - you're not going to believe this - but this book is about a special branch of the CIA called Tourism (ergo, the title!) - despite the fact that I seem to gravitate toward CIA novels, I have read some good ones - including this one.

C'est tout.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Okay, admit it.  You didn't even realize I was gone.  Well I was.  And I've got a number of books to review.  But first, in case you didn't already know this, you can sign up on Facebook to receive notice of a new blog post.  Some of you have done that, and others of you have no desire to do that.  But if by some quirk of nature/personality you do want to receive notice of my latest blogs, feel free to sign up.  Another couple thousand people, and I'll be in the top 75% for book bloggers.

Onward to reviews.  I have read (almost) 7 books since my last post, including 3 new authors for me.  The first book I read after John Hart's Iron House was Down River, by, you guessed it, John Hart.  And 4 books later, I read Hart's 4th, and final book, King of Lies.  His 4 books reminded me a lot of Dan Brown.  I read Brown's first 4 books in the exact same order as Hart's - books 3, 4, 1, 2.  And just like Brown, books 3 and 4 were better than books 1 and 2.  So I can say that Hart's books 3 and 4 were outstanding while his books 1 and 2 were really good.  Really good is not so bad.  I would recommend them.  They just weren't as good as his 3 and 4.  But then again, very few authors write books even remotely as good as Hart's 3 and 4.  P.S.  Brown is not as good as Hart.

After Hart's Down River, I read 3 straight authors who I had never read:  Michael Lavigne, Hannah Tinti, and Andrew Britton.  Here's a rundown:

Lavigne's Not Me, recommended by Steve (all the way from New York!) was very good.  It's about a Jewish man who does all kinds of good for the Jewish community.  The interesting part is his background in Germany during WWII.  I don't want to say any more than that.  This is definitely one you will want to read.

Tinti's The Good Thief, was recommended by John, who was my inspiration for the Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader Post.  This book was definitely different.  It takes place in the Eastern part of the country, sometime after the Revolutionary War but before the Civil War (I think).  It's about a con man who goes to an orphanage and poses as the brother of a boy who has only one hand.  He gets custody of the boy, and enlists him as an accomplice.  The book is well-written and has an interesting story line, but I can't say that I loved it.  I think it might be a little bit too intellectual for my pedestrian mind.  I don't think you would dislike it, but I can't swear that you would like it very much, either.

Britton's The American was very good.  It's another CIA/terrorism story, but it has a twist.  The protagonists are a college professor who has special forces training and a female CIA agent who was an analyst and gets pressed into field duty.  The terrorist has a crazy background that is not the usual terrorist profile.  I really liked it.  If you are a fan of these kinds of novels, I highly recommend this one.  You will definitely enjoy it a lot.

The last 2 are George Pelecanos' latest, The Cut, and an old Harlan Coben that is just now being published - or, maybe, re-published.  The Cut is book 1 of a new series for Pelecanos.  Our hero is a 29-year old Marine veteran who has his own business.  He basically finds things for clients.  It's not as good as The Way Out or The Turnaround, but it's entertaining and pretty light.  I think you would enjoy it.

Miracle Cure is the 2nd book Coben ever wrote.  It was back in the early '90's, and he was in his early '20's.  I've got just a few pages left.  It's good like all of his books are good.  When he came out earlier this year with his very first novel, Live Wire, I figured that it couldn't be too good, and that he was just trying to cash in on his popularity.  In fact, Phil told me to read it, and I said no.  Then I gave in and was very pleasantly surprised.  It was darn good.  And this one is even better.  The fact is that Coben only writes good books.  Unlike Alex Kava, he never rests on his popularity.  Every book, whether it's about Myron Bolitar or not, is very good.  I don't think I've read one book of his that I didn't think was, at least, very good.  This one is no exception.

That's it for now.  In my next blog, I will talk a bit about my first experience with an ereader.  I know that you are all manic with anticipation.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

I LOVE JOHN HART - platonically, of course

C'mon, this guy can really write.  I already told you that the first of his books that I read (The Last Child) is actually his third book.  I also told you that I immediately put it into my "Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader" category.  I was mesmerized by it.  Well, I just finished his newest book, Iron House, and absolutely loved it.  It was as good as The Last Child and also gets the exalted position (it's exalted if I say it's exalted!) in the famous "Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader" group.  For those of you who have not seen that post, I wrote it way back in February.  The purpose of the post was to list books that I thought everybody would like, even those who typically read only non-fiction.  The inspiration came from John who always read only non-fiction - until he read the Larsson trilogy.

Here's a little reminder of which books were on that list:

Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith (there's only one person I know that didn't like it - your bad, bud)
Exile - Richard North Patterson
My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Piccoult
The Faithful Spy - Alex Berenson
The Unlikely Spy - Daniel Silva (are you sensing a pattern here?)
Charm School - Nelson DeMille
The Glass Castle - Jeanette Walls (the only non-fiction on the list - doesn't really belong but reads like fiction)
South of Broad - Pat Conroy (you can actually put just about any of his books on the list - especially his non-fiction entry, My Losing Season)
Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett (still, today, Joni's favorite book of all time)
Shogun - James Clavell
The Source - James Michener
City of Thieves - David Benioff
The Help - Kathryn Stockett
Dragon Tattoo trilogy - Stieg Larsson

If you have read some or many or all of these books, then you realize that earning a spot on this list is no small feat.  Now two of Hart's books have made it.

So let me tell you about Iron House.  Two brothers spend about ten years in a very bad orphanage in North Carolina.  They get there when one is a baby and the other is one-year old.  The younger brother is weak and gets abused by the other boys, and the older one is strong and defends his younger brother as best he can.  When they are ten and eleven, they get separated.  The younger one is adopted by a wealthy family, and the older one hits the streets.  Their paths cross over twenty years later.  The book is fantastic.  In fact, I immediately started on one of his two earlier ones.  I rarely do that.  It help that all of his books are standalones.

Just a reminder - George Pelecanos (The Turnaround, The Way Home) is coming to The Book Passage, Corte Madera, this Thursday night at 7.

Also, I will be out of the country from September 9-September 25.  I don't know if I will be able to do any posts before I leave or while I'm gone.  It may be that I won't have another new post until late September.  We'll see how it goes.  If it doesn't happen for 3-4 weeks, then I should have a bunch of new reads to review (the two plane rides are 14 hours each!).

In case you missed my sublte message - Read John Hart!

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Because I am a mental giant, I forgot to mention the name of A.R. Silverberry's book.  It's called Wyndano's Cloak.  Whoops, my bad.


Okay, who cares what authors I've seen anyway?  I'm only fooling myself if I think any of you want to know who was where and what he/she had to say.  Because of that:

So, last Saturday I stopped in at Barnes and Noble in the Pruneyard.  As I walk in, there is a table right near the entrance and a man standing and waiting for the next vicitim, I mean customer, to walk through the door.  I was that customer.  He asks me if I have young daughters or nieces (he was a little too nice to ask if I have young granddaughters - I do).  I told him that I might be the wrong demographic for him, but, undaunted, he proceeded to tell me about his book and who his target audience was.  It turns out that his name is Peter Adler, writing as A.R. Silverberry, and he has written a award-winning fantasy geared for female YA (young adults).  Although I am a 62-year old man with very adult daughters and very underage granddaughters, I listened politely, waiting for my chance to escape and get to the mystery section of the bookstore.  We got to talking, and I realized that this was an opportunity to engage in one of my very favorite activities - self-promotion.  I told him about my blog and even went out to the car to get him one of my Booksage cards (they are way cool).  I gave him that and told him I would stop by on my way out and pick up a book.  I figured, what the heck.  I always love having books signed by the author.  Even if it only gets added to my stash of signed books, I thought it was worth it.  I told him that I would get to it some day and let him know what I thought.  The next day, I finished what I was reading (Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken, an amazing non-fiction) and decided to read Peter's book.

(Drum roll.........) I loved it!   Yes, it's geared for young girls, but it works for adults too.  I am not a particularly big fan of fantasy (although I did like Terry Brooks' Landover series - thanks for that, Rich and Leslie), but I thought this was really well done.  I liked everything about it.  The plot (actually more of a dual plot) was solid, the characters were compelling, the writing was A-one, and the ending wrapped up nicely without being too neat.  In fact, there were moments that I got a bit teary-eyed (don't get too excited, Peter - I've been caught crying during a Buffy, The Vampire Slayer episode).  No, really.  There were some very moving scenes.  And I loved that he didn't "dumb down" the book.  It was written by an adult for young adults.  I never felt like I was reading a book that was written for children.

The two main characters are both teenage girls.  During the latter stages of the book, each one encounters some difficulty (how shocking is that!).  When Peter switches from one girl to the other, I was disappointed because I wanted to know what happened next to the one he was leaving.  This happened alternately with each girl, all the way to the end.  My favorite mysteries don't do it any better.  I would highly recommend this book, especially to teenage girls.  But if you like a tight, well-written, exciting, moving, and, ultimately, satisfying book, then this is for you, regardless of your age and gender.

Finally, a shout out to Peter's wife, Sherry, who I also met at B&N last Saturday.  Sherry drew the illustration and did, I thought, an excellent job.

Upcoming authors' events:  George Pelecanos, at The Book Passage in Corte Madera, Thursday, September 8.  I intend to be there.  This guy is really good.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Do you remember that two blogs ago I told you that the next blog was going to about some author events? And then, instead, I wrote about a great book by John Hart, called The Last Child?  Well, I've decided again to hold off on the author event blog.  I just finished W.E.B. Griffin's latest - Victory and Honor, from the Honor Bound series.  It occurred to me that I haven't spent much, if any, time talking about Griffin.  He deserves his own blog.

I have read 38 Griffins.  In recent years, his son, William E. Butterworth Griffin IV (yes, W.E.B. is III), has joined him.  I don't know how much of the books the son has contributed to (for those of you who are offended that I am finishing a clause with a preposition, tough luck), but the quality has remained high.

Here are the series names, synopses of the series, and the number of books written for each series:

Brotherhood of War - Army personnel from WWII through the Vietnam War - 9
The Corps - Marines (duh) from WWII through Korea - 10 - with one of the greatest characters in fiction (for at least Bob and me - Killer McCoy
Honor Bound - Army/OSS (precursor to CIA) in WWII in Argentina - 6
Men at War - Military in WWII - 6 - much lighter fare than his other series
Presidential Agent - Army personnel, taking place in the present - 6
Badge of Honor - Police series - 10

I have read all of each of the military series and only one from Badge of Honor.  I read the first one and decided to stick with the military.  Do I like them all?  Absolutely.  I love Brotherhood of War, Presidential Agent, and The Corps.  I really like Honor Bound, and Men at War was almost a confection for Griffin.  It was less complicated, shorter, and not as riveting or compelling as the others.

Having said that, I just finished #6 in the Honor Bound series.  When I bought it, my first thought was that at 310 pages, it was much shorter than any of his other books that I had read.  Since Honor Bound already wasn't my favorite, and since the book was so short, I didn't have high expectations.  Boy, was I wrong.  First of all, the story was so tight that 310 pages were enough.  Secondly, I didn't realize how much I have come to care about the characters.  I can honestly say that this series now rivals my three other favorite series from this author(s).  He (they) has become quite a craftsman.  His books are at least as good as they were when he first began writing and in at least one case (Honor Bound), they are better.

Griffin really knows his stuff when it comes to the military.  All of his books are dedicated to military personnel, both alive and deceased.  He was active military in WWII and was an advisor during the Korean War.  He knows a lot of military personnel from different branches of the service, which helps him with the details for his stories.  He will be 82 in November.

If you like military fiction, especially WWII, and good writing, then Griffin is your man.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Do you remember that in my last blog I said I would review a few author events next time?  Well, I lied.  I just finished a book that was so good that I have to write about it out of turn.  In fact, I'm going to add it to the list of books that I included in my Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader post way back in January.  Since then, I have read a lot of very good books.  I have blogged about the ones that I liked - such as The Turnaround by George Pelecanos and Family Skeleton by Bobbie O'Keefe.  But this one is special.  It's called The Last Child and was written by John Hart.  It was an absolute page-turner.  I was enthralled by every character, even the bad guys.  The two protagonists are a 13-year old boy and a 30's something police detective in a small North Carolina town.  I couldn't wait to find out what happened next,regardless of which of these characters had center stage.  Wow was it good.

Now I have to give you a quick synopsis because the subject matter is not for everybody.  The story centers around a 13-year old boy whose twin sister was abducted a year earlier.  This is obviously a disturbing plot and will upset some of you.  There are also some bad things that happen that are not that pleasant to read.  If a good murder mystery doesn't freak you out, and if you can get past the premise for the story, then get your hands, digital or otherwise, on this book.  This guy can really write.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Murder Mystery AND a Romance - Who Knew?

I just finished a hybrid novel that, I have to say, was a unique read for me.  Bobbie O'Keefe is the author, and the book is called Family Skeletons.  It was a lark that I even became aware of her.  There was a double author event at "M" with her and Alex Kava.  Since I am (or was) a big Kava fan, Joni and went to see her.  O'Keefe was an add-on.  I had never heard of her, and this was her 3rd or 4th book.  Even listening to her talk about Family Skeletons, I wasn't very impressed.  However, since I was already there, I went ahead and bought her book and had it signed (wasn't that nice of me?!).

So, I read it.  It was 279 pages.  I figured that anything that short (Kava's was 288 pages and definitely too short) couldn't have much depth.  I was actually wrong (I bet you haven't heard that before!).  It was really good.  The story centers around a mid-20's woman, who is damaged from two bad marriages, and a late 20's man, who is a successful ophthalmologist.  There is also a murder (or two) to be solved.  The romance is very well done.  I really cared about the characters (all of them), and I cared about the budding relationship.  O'Keefe spent a good deal of time on the romance part and did it in such a way that it was not corny or tawdry (I like that word).  She created a relationship between the two that didn't make me think Fabio was on the cover.  It was very Nicholas Sparks.

Except that it also had a murder in it.  That part of the story, separate from the romance, was done very well.  It really wrapped up smoothly - without being predictable or shoehorned.  I can honestly say that both the mystery and the romance each stood on its own.  Both were well-developed and overlapped nicely one into the other.  I can't really say that this is "Chick Lit for the Macho Man," because not every guy wants to read a romance.  But I can say that if you don't mind some romance, then you will certainly be taken in by the mystery.  Us metrosexuals liked both aspects.

I also read the latest Daniel Silva/Gabriel Allon adventure.  I think that Silva is actually becoming a better writer as he gets further along in the series.  This is his 11th Allon, and I think it's as good as any of the others.  He is someone who has definitely not mailed it in.  He is on top of his craft.

I've got one more author(s) to tell you about.  I went to see Peri O'Shaughnessy at "M" a few weeks back.  It turns out that Peri is actually two sisters.  When they tried to get their first book published, back in the early '90's, the publisher said that he didn't want to have two authors' names on the book cover.  So Pamela and Mary became Peri in order to get their book in print.  It took them about 8 years to write book 1, but it was book 2 that got published first.  They ended up using book 1 as a prequel at a later date.  This one, Dreams of the Dead, was their 13th (and probably last) in the Nina O'Reilly series.  I thought it was okay.  I wouldn't say don't read it, but I don't think I would read another (even if they did write #14) nor would I go back and read an earlier one.  When there are so many books to read, one that's only okay doesn't get a 2nd chance.  You think that's unfair?  Too bad, I say.

Finally, this week Steve asked me if I had ever read William Martin.  It occurred to me that I hadn't mentioned Back Bay in any of my posts.  I read this a long time ago, and it's the only Martin I have read, but Back Bay was really good.  Joni felt the same way.  I don't know if it goes into "Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader," but it's still a darn good read.  It takes place in Boston and goes back and forth between Paul Revere, the silversmith, and the present (probably 20 years ago).   Try it.

I have no new upcoming author events to report.  Next time, though, I will relate a few of the many author events I have been to in the last few months.  Don't worry, I will try to only talk about the ones that might be a little bit interesting.  The rest I will keep to myself.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


First things first.  I need recommendations for audio books for two young (late '20's) people who are driving across the country.  They will be leaving the Bay Area in a little over a week.  Anybody?

Because I know how interested you all are, last Saturday was the 6-month anniversary of my first blog.  Okay, enough on that scintillating topic.

I have a few book reviews, including some more new authors.  As long as I'm going to read them, then you might as well know about them too.

First, I read my first David Ignatius - Body of Lies.  I know they made it into a movie, which I never saw.  it had a Middle Eastern terrorist plot.  Even though I read many books that have this theme, this was very good.  I liked it a lot.  The protagonist is a young (early '30's) CIA diplomatic agent.  There was nothing formulaic about it at all.  I definitely recommend it.

Alice La Plante wrote her first novel.  She's written non-fiction and short stories but had never written a novel before.  Joni and I saw her.  We had a free Wednesday night a couple of weeks ago.  I got a notice from Keplers that she was appearing that evening.  I told Joni that I had never heard of her, and that there would probably be a half dozen people in attendance.  Hopefully, that will be the last time I let my ego (if I don't know who she is then nobody knows) guess how many people are coming to an event.  It turns out that Alice is a professor at Stanford and San Francisco State.  There were approximately 120 people there!  That's a lot, although Keplers has built a new event room in the back of the store (where children's books used to be) that can probably accommodate 200 comfortably.

In any case, the book is about a 64-year old woman who is suffering from the onset of dementia.  It's from her viewpoint and revolves around the murder of her best friend.  Did she do it?  She certainly doesn't remember if she did it or not.  The inspiration for the book was Alice's mother, who has  dementia.  It's a very well-written book.  I don't think it's necessarily for everybody (the mystery takes a back seat to the dementia story), but I would recommend it.  After I was already reading it, I saw that Time Magazine and USA Today both gave it high marks.

I also read my second George Pelecanos - The Way Home.  The Turnaround was better, but this was very good too.  And I would recommend it.

I read two of my old stand-bys:  David Rosenfelt - part of the Andy Carpenter series - and Alex Kava - another in the Maggie O'Dell series.  Rosenfelt's book was actually one of his better ones.  I always enjoy Andy Carpenter books, but this one was really well-written and had a particularly interesting story line.  As with all of them, it was funny as hell.

Kava's book was a disappointment.  I'm a big fan of her O'Dell (FBI profiler) books, but she didn't put enough effort into this one.  It was 288 pages, with big spaces between each line.  The intertwined story lines (2) were interesting, but she simply didn't have enough words to create the necessary depth (sez me).  This caused her to simplify the solutions and led to a very neat (too neat) wrap-up.  This is her second sub-par book in a row.  I can't swear I'm going to read the next one.  If I don't, I'm sure she'll be crushed.

BIG NEWS:  Joni got me Book Sage business cards that advertise this blog.  Now I can give every author I visit one of my cards.  I'm sure they will tingle with anticipation and spasm with excitement.

Upcoming Events:
Daniel Silva - 7/23 - Book Passage, Corte Madera, 7:00
Greg Hurwitz - 7/26 - Barnes & Noble, Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose, 7:00
George RR Martin (Game of Thrones) - 7/27 - Keplers (Fox Theater, Redwood City), 7:00
George Pelecanos - 9/8 - Save the date - more details to follow

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I wanted to do a short blog (yeah, right - no, really) about the independent bookstores that I know and frequent.

There are 3 that have the most author events:

Keplers - Menlo Park
M is for Mystery - San Mateo
Book Passage - Corte Madera (and SF)

So far this year, I have been to 4 author events at Book Passage (their Corte Madera store) and 3 each at Keplers and M.  They all do an excellent job and are loads of fun.  The only one that is very specific about which authors they will sponsor is M.  That's because their name has "mystery" in it.  They will only have mystery writers, and their store specializes in mystery, although you might find "literature" in there on occasion - not often, but once in awhile.  When the store has an author that will bring in a lot of people, then they might use a larger venue.  M has done that on a number of occasions, including Richard North Patterson and Jo Nesbo.  Book Passage used Domincan College in San Rafael for both Jodi Picoult and Abraham Verghese (Cutting for Stone).

Besides these 3, I have come across 2 other independent bookstores in the last couple of months, both in SF:

Browser Books

Booksmith has author events.  Joni and I saw Erik Larson there recently.  He was promoting his new book, In the Garden of Beasts.  Browser Books does not have author events, but it was there I "discovered" George Pelecanos.  That was definitely worth the browsing.

Books Inc. looks like an independent bookstore (see their location in Town and Country in Palo Alto), but, in fact, they have quite a few stores.  I will give them credit for creating the feel of an independent bookstore.  Their Palo Alto store has a bunch of index cards on the shelves touting various authors and giving a synopsis and a review.  That definitely makes it worthwhile to visit and leisurely walk through.
P.S.  Palo Alto does have author events. I haven't been to any yet.

Finally, there's the new/used bookstore in Campbell, Recyle Bookstore.  They have the latest books, which they sell at a discount, along with many used books that, oftentimes, sell for 50% off.  In addition to that, you can sell your books to them and then you get to use the money as credit toward buying more.  It's a pretty cool idea.

I know there are many other independent bookstores that I haven't been to.  Marsha frequents the Bookshop in Santa Cruz, for example.  If I come across any more, I will be sure to pass them along to you.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


I've read a few books since my last book reviews.  Let me give you a few reports.

First, David Baldacci departed from his usual murder mystery and wrote One Summer.  It's very much like Nicholas Sparks' books.  It's corny, cliched, predictable, mushy, et al - and I really liked it (oh yeah, I really like Sparks too)!  It's probably the quintessential "beach read."  Baldacci also wrote an against-type book quite a few years ago called Wish You Well.  It's about two young children who go to live with their backwoods grandmother in West Virginia.  That book is actually one of my top 100.  I know people who loved it and others who didn't.  Go figure.  But as far as One Summer is concerned, it definitely will not go in my Chick Lit for the Macho Man column.  Then again, I've never been accused of being a macho man.

I mentioned Paul McEuen in my author email post.  I want to make another special mention of his new (and first) book, Spiral.  It's a very good read.  He's created an excellent story, and it kept me intrigued throughout.  I will definitely be reading his next one.

I read Ann Patchett's latest, State of Wonder.  I thought it was slow and slightly boring.  USA Today reviewed it and gave it a 2.5 (out of 4).  They said that the first half was slow, and the second half picked up.  I actually thought both halves were slow.  I didn't think the second half picked up at all.  It's the first of her books (I've read the other 5 novels) that I was disappointed in (yes, Roseann, Jen, and Gail, I know that you can't end a sentence with a preposition!).  If you want to read Patchett, then pick any of her other ones - Bel Canto, The Magician's Assistant, Run, The Patron Saint of Liars, or Taft.

I also read a hard-boiled detective novel (with a female protagonist) by Sara Gran.  This is her fourth book but the first one with this detective.  I was undecided about it for the first half but became a fan in the second half.  She's got a 2-book deal (I saw her at "M" a few Sundays ago) with her current publisher, so I'll look forward to reading about this detective again.  For those of you who like Raymond Chandler (that's you, Joe), who(m?) I haven't read yet, she considers him her primary influence.

And, finally, the gem of the group - The Turnaround, by George Pelecanos.  I was walking through Browser Books one day a couple of months ago.  I came to the mystery section, and there was an index card taped to a bookcase.  One of the employees had written a fairly detailed description of, and recommendation for, Pelecanos's books.  I read a couple of book jackets and decided on The Turnaround.  I absolutely loved it.  I would put it in the same category as Billie Letts' Coming Soon, Honk And Holler, Tom Rob Smith's Child 44, and David Benioff's City Of Thieves as far as first novels (for me) are concerned.  If you need/want a book, get this one.  I will be buying another of his books very soon.

That's all folks.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


I have exchanged emails with a number of authors over the years.  For the most part, it's been fun and, in a couple of cases, actually rewarding.  For those of you who have heard these stories, bummer.  These first two are the most interesting (for me).

Christopher Reich - He publishes one book each year.  Back in 2008, I was reading his latest one (#7, I believe) and noticed that he used "just then" quite a bit.  I didn't pay much attention to it and forgot about it the minute I finished the book.  One year later, his next one came out.  When I saw "just then" in the first couple of pages, I decided to start counting them.  He averaged about one for every ten pages.  For me, it really affected my enjoyment of the book.  I know that seems a bit petty, but I couldn't shake it.  I finally decided to send him an email.  I told him how much I enjoy his books, but that he seemed to be using "just then" an awful lot.  Because I'm such an "expert" in the English language (my regards to Roseann and Gail), I had the misguided notion that I was entitled to tell him about his writing flaw.  I tried to couch it in conciliatory language but probably failed there.  In any case, he (or someone) wrote back and said he didn't realize he was using it that much and would be more careful in the next one.  So, when his next book came out, last summer, I was, of course, quite interested to see what he would do.  It turns out that he only used it a couple of times the whole book.  I felt vindicated.  Whether this happened  because of the email or due to other factors I didn't really care.

P.S.  I wrote him another email after reading this last one (2010) and told him how much more I enjoyed the book without all of the "just then's" in it.  He did not write back!

Sheldon Siegel - I first sent him an email in September of 2008.  He lives in Marin County and has always answered my emails almost immediately.  Over the course of the next two years, I probably exchanged a half dozen emails with him.  Finally, last year, he came to "M" for a book signing.  It was like seeing an old friend.  There weren't many people who attended, so we got a lot of up-close face time with him.  At  the end of his presentation and signing, I told him that Rich, Joni, and I were going around the corner to eat dinner at Kingfish if he would like to join us.  He said he wouldn't mind an iced tea.  I'm sure he was hedging his bets in case he found us boring (I know, impossible).  It turned out that he had dinner with us.  We were together for over an hour.  It was very cool.  We learned a lot about him and about the book publishing industry.  Rich (who introduced Siegel's books to me) told him that Leslie was out of town and was sorry she couldn't be there.  Sheldon called her on the phone from the dinner table and spoke to her for a couple of minutes.  It was really neat.

P.S.  I last emailed him in April to check on the progress of his latest book.  He said that he was almost done with it but that it wouldn't hit bookstores until 2012.  Again, he wrote back within the same day.

Those are the two most dramatic exchanges, but there are a couple of others to tell you about too.  A few years ago, I emailed John Lescroart and asked him in what order I should read his books.  He sent me a big 3-paragraph answer, with great detail.  I really appreciated that (I've only read a couple of his books, which is not due to his writing, but I'll know which one to read next when I get back to him).

Just this week I exchanged emails with an author who has just published his first book.  The book is called Spiral and is written by Paul McEuen.  I went to a book signing at "M" and the bookseller there, Lisa, said she likes to try new authors.  She highly recommended Paul's book.  It was really good.  So about half-way through, I emailed him one night and told him how much I was enjoying the book and how I came to be reading it.  I asked him if he was planning to come to the Bay Area for any author events.  He emailed back the next morning and said he lived in SF/Berkeley for 10 years and always comes back once a year to visit.  He expected to be here in August and would see about setting up an author event.  I told him that when he comes back, and even if he doesn't have an event, that I would be happy to come where he is and meet him for lunch, coffee, or a handshake.  I tried (I don't know how successfully) to assure him that I was not a stalker (not too tough) or a reprobate (much tougher).  He emailed back right away and correctly, I thought, gave a vague, don't-commit-me-to-this, gesture.  When I eventually do meet him, it will feel more like a reunion than a first-time meeting - if you're into that kind of thing.

Other authors that I've exchanged emails with -
David Rosenfelt
Alex Berenson
Michael Palmer
Keith Thomson

I've also sent emails to authors who have not responded.  I can't tell you who those are because I only save the ones who answered me (I don't need to save my own emails, as well-written as they might be!)  For me, emailing authors definitely elevates the whole reading experience.

Upcoming Author Events:
Daniel Silva - coming to Book Passage, Corte Madera, Saturday night, July 23, at 6:30.  If you haven't seen him, and like his books, he's a very interesting guy.  His stories about research are riveting.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


I'm going to list all of the authors that I have read for the first time starting with 1/1/10.  They will be lumped into 3 categories:  Will Read Again (and, in some cases, already have), Might Read Again, and, you guessed it, Won't Read Again.  Here we go:

Will Read Again -
Garth Stein - The Art of Racing in the Rain - loved it
John Elder Robison - Look Me in the Eye (NF) - good look at growing up with Asperger's
Sam Eastland - The Eye of the Red Tsar - already read #2 in the series - published this year
Abraham Verghese - Cutting for Stone - everybody knows about this sensation
Jo Nesbo - Norwegian - liked it a lot
Paul Sussman - The Last Secret of the Temple - already own 2 more - haven't read either one yet - will
Kathryn Stockett - The Help - who knows if she can do it again - this one was excellent
Keith Thomson - Once a Spy - have already read #2 in the series - not nearly as good as #1
David Benioff - City of Thieves - loved it - read another of his, The 25th Hour - liked it too - not as well
Peter Gruber - The Good Son - liked it but not tons - will try a second one - might stop after that
Brad Thor - The Apostle - he's already written a number of books in this series - liked it

Might Read Again -
Taylor Stevens - The Imperfectionist - first in a series - Lizbeth Salanger-like protagonist - tough call
Ruth Reichl - Garlic and Sapphires (NF) - liked it but one may have been enough
Greg Mortensen - Three Cups of Tea - I'm not a huge fan of NF - not sure if I'll do another one
Tom Rachman - The Imperfectionists - critically acclaimed - thought it was only okay
Sam Bourne - The Righteous Men - very good last 300 pages - first 250 pages so-so
John Verdon - Think of a Number - his first effort - leaning toward reading the next one
Thomas Steinbeck (John's son) - In the Shadow of the Cypress - probably a little too literary for me
Efrem Sigel - The Disappearance - another first effort - again, leaning toward reading the next one
Nick Hayhurst - The Bullpen Diaries (NF) - somewhat entertaining - one is probably enough
Sebastain Junger - War (NF) - again, written well and interesting but not a big fan of most NF

Won't Read Again -
Lisa See - Peony in Love - highly thought of by book clubs but way too slow for me
Alan Bradley - Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie - cute - once
Cara Black - Murder in the Marais - it was okay but not entertaining enough to read others

I would love to hear other opinions about my choices.  I'm sure there will be a bunch of disagreement.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Don't worry.  This is going to be short.  I came across two author events that will be of interest to at least some of you.

First of all, I have been going on and on about the luncheon with Ann Patchett for Wednesday, June 15, at Book Passage.  Well, it turns out that she will be at Keplers that same evening at 7:00.  I have no idea if she's interesting, but she sure can write.  I'm still glad I'm going to the luncheon so I can kiss ass, but it's a great alternative for the rest of youse guys.

The second event is also sponsored by Keplers but will take place at the Fox Theater in Redwood City (where Meredith had her bat mitvah almost 20 years ago!).  It's scheduled for Wednesday, July 27, at 7:00.  It's George R.R. Martin, who has written a fantasy series called A Song Of Ice And Fire.  His first book in the series, Game of Thrones, is the subject of an HBO miniseries that's airing now (every Sunday at 9:00).  I read book 1.  I made a deal with Jeffrey that I would read it.  So I did (I forgot what he agreed to read in exchange).  Would I read beyond book 1?  Possibly.  I'm not a huge fantasy fan, although I really enjoyed the Landover series, by Terry Brooks.  Having said that, I still want to see Martin.  He definitely has a cult following.  In fact, they're selling tickets to the event - $42 per person, including his latest book in the series, #5, or $48 for 2 people, including one book.  Hope to see you all there (I just threw that in there for effect).

Two other quick notes.  I finished the Erik Larson book, In The Garden Of Beasts.  It was really good.  When I told you that he was appearing at Booksmith in SF, I forgot to mention that Joni and I saw him (with John and Sue) quite a few years ago when he was promoting Thunderstruck.  He was a bit pompous.  I'm hoping that it was due to the venue - Montalvo.  Maybe he'll be more modest in a modest bookstore like Booksmith.  Oh wait, I've never been to this bookstore.  We'll have to wait and see.

Got an email today from the owner of of "M."  He's 81, and he announced he's going into semi-retirement.  He was an attorney for 41 years with the same law firm!  So he retired at 70 and bought a book store.  Pretty cool.

I lied about this post being short.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Non-Fiction Reads (this is not an misprint)

As many of you know, I'm not a big reader of non-fiction.  I think it's because I don't want to think any more than I have to.  I do typically 2-4 non-fictions per year.  Usually, they're recommended to me or someone hands me the book.  If the latter happens, then I'm too guilt-ridden to ignore it.  So, with that preamble, here are some that I would recommend and some not so much.

There are 2 (and only 2) that are in my top 25 all-time.  They are:

The Glass Castle, Jeanette Walls
My Losing Season, Pat Conroy

They are both amazing books.  The first is written by a woman in her 30's who chronicles her childhood.  It's unbelievable.  After you read it, you will swear that it's fiction.  The second is about Conroy's senior year in college at The Citadel as the captain of the basketball team.  As much as I love all of Conroy's work, this one is right near the top.  I think everybody would like both of these.  Don't worry about the basketball theme, non-sports fans.  It's only a small part of the story.

Here are some others of varying value (says me):

Ghost Soldiers, Hampton Sides - about a Japanese prisoner of war camp in the Philippines during WWII - tough to read due to graphic descriptions but an excellent book
Three Weeks With My Brother - Nicholas Sparks - this was surprisingly good - Sparks and his brother travel around the world for 3 weeks - these chapters are interspersed with stories about their childhood - I really enjoyed it
Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert - everybody knows about this one - I liked it okay - I couldn't quite put it in my Chick Lit for the Macho Man post, but it was decent
Garlic and Sapphire - Ruth Reichl - she was the food critic for the NY Times - she described going to restaurants in disguise and always had a recipe at the end of each chapter - I enjoyed it - I'm not falling all over myself, but I would recommend it
Tuesdays with Morrie & Have a Little Faith - Mitch Albom - everybody knows the first one and fewer people the second - they're both good - they're short and fast reads, but still interesting - the second one is about Albom's relationship to a minister in a poor part of Detroit and an old and failing rabbi on the East Coast
Lute!  The Season of My Life - Lute Olson - I typically don't do biographies - I did this one because Josh went to school there and gave it to me - I liked it a lot - if you like sports, then I would definitely say yes to reading about a coach who is considered one of the best of all time
War - Sebastian Junger - the guy who wrote The Perfect Storm this time writes about being attached to an army unit in the middle of Afghanistan - very interesting - it's not fun, but it's informative
End of America - Naomi Wolf - this is almost a Thomas Paine-like treatise (see, I'm not a cultural troglodyte) in which she compares the Bush administration to Nazi Germany - Joni and I saw her at a book-signing event - whatever your politics, she and her book are pretty interesting
Devil in the White City & In the Garden of Beasts - Erik Larson - The first one is about the World's Fair in Chicago in 1896 - it's pretty well known - the second one, which I'm reading now (I'm about 60% through it) is about the ambassador to Germany in 1933, his family, and the start of Hitler's regime - it's really good and gives great insight, through diaries, dispatches, and opinion papers, of what actually happened and how it happened - even though I'm not done, I would recommend this to anybody who likes history

As for upcoming events, besides Ann Patchett (which I'm sure you're tired of hearing about), Larson will be in the Bay Area on Tuesday, June 7.  He will be at Book Passage in Corte Madera at 1:30 and at Booksmith in SF at 7:30.  Joni and I are going to the evening event.  By the way, this is the first time I've ever heard about Booksmith.  In going on their website, it turns out that they host a lot of author events.  I am now on their mailing list.  Cool!

Finally, I read my final (her second) Ann Patchett novel - Taft.  I'm now ready for her new one, which we'll get when we see her on June 15 (I mentioned it again even when I said I had already mentioned it too much).  For those of you who have read Coming Soon, the Honk and Holler, by Billie Letts, Taft is very similar.  The year that Honk and Holler came out, Bob and I basically considered it either our top novel of the year or close to the top.  It's a good one, and Taft has the same feel to it.  All of Patchett's novels are very good.

I have one other author event to report.  Alex Kava, with Maggie O'Dell, FBI profiler, as her protagonist is coming back to "M."  We saw her last year too.  It was a really small crowd, so this time they're pairing her with a second author - Bobbie O'Keefe (never heard of her).  The event is July 13 at 7:00.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nesbo (author event), Patterson (not James), Berry

For just the third time, I went to see an author that I haven't read.  His name is Jo Nesbo, and he is Norwegian.  He was great - affable, informative, and, most importantly, he didn't read from his book!  He said a number of very interesting things:

1.  He was a stockbroker and a rock singer before he became an author.
2.  He writes a series about a detective named Harry Hole (pronounced "hula" in Norwegian).
3.  He wrote a standalone, called The Headhunters, that was made into a movie and that just showed at Cannes.  It was picked up by a US distributor and will be shown in the USA.
4.  Norway has the highest percentage of readers than any other country in the world (according to him).
5.  He is so big in Norway that his publisher provides him with a team of 7 people to work on editing the book with him.  This contradicts what other authors have said; namely that they have had to personally hire their own editors because their publisher can't afford to do it any more.  John Lescroart said he has hired his own team of 3 editors!
6.  He's even written a series of children's books.  I bought one for Haley that's called Dr. Proctor's Fart Machine.  Joni said I should have bought it for Josh.

Nesbo told a story about how he came up with the title for his latest book, The Snowman.  Friends of his asked him to help them pick a title for their horror movie.  Nesbo came up with The Snowman.  They said it was a good title, but there was no snowman in the movie.  So thanks but no thanks.  Nesbo liked the title so much that he used it for new book, and wrote the first scene, before he even had a plot for the book itself.  He said he always writes the book and then gives it a title.  He did a 360 this time.

He also said that Stieg Larsson was a door-opener for many of the Scandinavian mystery writers of today but that Larsson had his own door-openers from the '70's and '80's, including Henning Mankel, who you can find in any American bookstore.

I'm looking forward to reading one of Nesbo's books. I'll report back.

I just finished the latest Richard North Patterson, The Devil's Light.  It's another book about a government-sponsored special agent who has to stop an Arab terrorist.  It didn't grab me that much.  It might be the glut of Arab terrorist books that it seems I have read recently.  What's most interesting about the book, though, is the level of research that Patterson puts in.  A few days after I finished the book, I was reading the paper and saw an article about Hezbollah, the Palestinians, and the Iranians, and it was exactly what Patterson wrote.  He really knows his stuff.

Now, having said that it didn't grab me, I found myself, surprisingly, tearing up in several spots.  So, maybe it grabbed me more than I thought it did.  I would definitely recommend it - if for no other reason than what he writes seems to be an accurate depiction of what's happening no matter where his story takes place.  P.S.  My kids like to point out, repeatedly, that I once cried during a Buffy, The Vampire Slayer episode.  So, perhaps the tearing up doesn't mean that much.

I also just finished the latest Steve Berry/Cotton Malone episode.  Once again, Berry has come up with a very fast, entertaining, and well-written book - for a B-Lister.  I would definitely recommend him.  You just need to know that his stuff is not memorable.  They're good airport/swimming pool/barcalounger reads.

Finally, I just started my last Ann Patchett novel.  This is #5.  Now I'll be ready to start #6 when Joni and I see her on June 15.  I can't wait!  She's definitely one of my favorites as you all know by now.  Sorry, I get to write what I want, even if it bores the crap out of my reading audience.

There are no new events to tell you about.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


I just finished another Ann Patchett.  This was the very first novel she wrote.  It's called The Patron Saint of Liars.  It was really good.  She's in my Chick Lit for the Macho Man post.  After reading this one (my 4th), it reaffirms her quality writing.  Again, it's a story about relationships with very little (or no) action.  I can say, though, that even those who prefer mysteries will like her stuff.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Joni and I (and probably 100-200 others) are going to have lunch with her on June 15.  I can't wait.  I hope to read another 1-2 of her books between now and then - just so I can kiss up more effectively.

I had another surprise recently:  Baldacci's latest - The Sixth Man.  This is another one in the  Sean King/Michelle Maxwell series.  This is a series that I almost dumped a couple of books ago.  One that I read was so poorly written that I vowed to try one more and see if it was worth saving.  The next one was better but not real good.  This one, I'm happy to report, was very good.  It even came close to the quality of The Camel Club series, which all of us mystery readers like a lot.  I can actually recommend this one highly!

I also recently completed a book by Lisa See, called Peony in Love.  I started it late last year and finally got around to finishing it.  I would read a few pages and then move on to something else.  This book is about China in the 1600's (or was it the 1700's? - I've already forgotten).  I recognize the research that went into it.  I also recognize the quality of the writing.  Despite those upsides, I thought I was being punished by the publishing gods and made to read a book I was guaranteed not to enjoy.  This obviously points out my culturelessness(?).  I have to say I embrace my neanderthal approach to reading.  Sorry Laur, I know you liked it.

Finally, I want to, once again, point out how good Anna Quindlen is.  I know I've got her in the same post as Patchett, but I didn't spend much time touting her.  With one exception (Rise and Shine, about a Katie Couric-like character - it was okay), her books are excellent.  Give one of them a try.  I think you will be happy you did.  If you try one and don't like it, keep it to yourself.  Her other novels are:  Blessings, Black and Blue (which was a movie with William Hurt, Meryl Streep, and a young Rene Zellweger), Object Lessons, and One True Thing.

One final note:  Jen was recently reading a David Sedaris book and thought it was really funny.  I have not read any of his stuff, so I'll base my recommendation on Jen.

I don't have any new events to report.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Phil and Donna and Joni and I went to see Abraham Verghese (Cutting for Stone) at Dominican College in San Rafael this past Wednesday night (for the second time, we ate at Il Davide, in downtown San Rafael - a very good restaurant).  Unlike Jodi Picoult, who got stuck in the 200-seat auditorium, this one was in a 800-seat auditorium.  It was absolutely packed.  In fact, we got there about 20 minutes early and ended up in the last row - in the balcony!  The space between each row was geared for kindergartners.  My knees were directly under my chin.

The format for this appearance was as an interview conducted by Michael Krastny, a local celebrity, who has a radio and TV presence connected to the arts.  It was interesting to see Verghese but the format is a little boring.  After the formal interview, he answered questions that were submitted by audience members on cards.  I much prefer author events where the author talks directly to the audience and takes questions directly from the audience.  Those events are more informal and quite a bit livelier.  Even Ken Follett, a true literary rock star, appeared by himself and took questions directly from audience members.

Verghese did have a few interesting things to say.  It took him 8 years to write the book and he admitted that 7 years ago (the book came out in 2009) he did a storyboard in which he envisioned amazing success with this book.  He was either very prophetic or very powerful in the universe.

Here are some random notes.  He is Ethopian of Indian descent (like his protagonist).  He is a doctor and teaches at Stanford.  The university gives him time to write.  And the movie rights to his book have been sold to a company called Anonymous Content.  When he was asked what actors he envisioned to play his characters, he could only come up with Kevin Costner.

Perhaps the most enlightening tidbit he gave was that there were times in the writing of the book where he cried over his characters.  He seems like a genuinely nice man.  He had written 2 non-fiction books before this one but had achieved limited success and notoriety.  Cutting for Stone elevates him to (super)star status.  Despite all of that, he maintains a humility and a "Gosh, I'm a lucky guy" attitude.  I liked him.

Upcoming events -
Richard North Patterson is coming to Book Passage on Monday, May 9, to promote his new book.  This guy is absolutely fascinating.  I've already shared the story of seeing him a couple of years ago and hearing amazing stories of how he did his research abroad under very harrowing circumstances.  He writes well and researches well.  Unfortunately, I can't make that one.  However...
Ann Patchett will be at an author luncheon on Wednesday, June 15, also through Book Passage.  I love her stuff.  So far, I've read 3 of her books - Bel Canto (great, until the ending), The Magician's Assistant, and Run.  She is excellent.  I'm hoping to read one more of her books before June 15.  As far as the luncheon itself is concerned, it's $55.00 per person, which includes a signed book (her new one), a catered lunch, and her.  Joni and I are already signed up.