Wednesday, January 18, 2012


On February 13 of last year, I did a blog of B-Listers.  These were (and are) authors that I enjoy reading.  I read all of their books, but I'm not counting the days until they come out with their next one.  I like 'em.  They're solid reads.  I had Michael Palmer on that list.  After reading his latest, Oath of Office, nothing has changed my mind.  It's a good read, a solid read.  I enjoyed it and was interested in it throughout.  There are a couple of things about this book that are different than most of his others.

1.  It isn't published yet.  It's coming out in February.  On his website, he asked if bloggers wanted to read the new one beforehand.  He's even got a contest going, which is pretty cool considering this is his 17th book.  The winning blogger will be able to have a signed copy sent to anyone he or she wants.  Since I don't intend to gush, my chances of winning are slim. That's okay because I want to make sure that every one of my readers knows what's coming.
2.  Until has last book, A Heartbeat Away, every one of his novels took place in the Boston area.  The last two are now coming from Washington D.C.  A Heartbeat Away is his best one to date.  If that had been the only one that I had read, I would probably have put him higher on my list (maybe not an A-Lister, but probably not a B-Lister either).
3.  This is also his second consecutive book that strays from the first 15, which were all about the medical profession.  This one deals with the effects of insect mutation and bio-engineered crops.  This is definitely a current issue and only touches on the medical profession tangentially.

On to the plot:  The protagonist, Dr. Lou Welcome, has overcome substance abuse and has become a mentor for other doctors who have gone through what he went through.  One of his jobs (his other is ER doctor) is to help these doctors get healthy and, oftentimes, reinstated in the medical profession.  He's a conscientious guy with a proven track record.

Problems begin (of course there have to be problems) when a doctor from a small town outside of D.C. goes crazy.  He screams at a patient who leaves in a huff and threatens to turn him in to the medical authorities.  Fearing for his license, again, he kills all of the people in his office - medical and office staff as well as patients - and then shoots himself.  It turns out that this doc (Meacham) is the first of a number of people from this town who exhibit behavior that is extremely erratic.  That's all I will tell you now.  Just remember that bio-engineering is the theme here.

This book is a solid 2.5 (out of 4).  Would I recommend it?  Yes.  Is it going to be in my top 5 or 6 at the end of the year?  No.  You won't be disappointed if you read any of Michael Palmer's books, including this one.  They're all 2.5's (except for his last one, which was a 3.0).  If you read a lot, then I would say read this one (or any of his others).  If you only read a little, then there are others that are better.  If you want to give him a try, start with A Heartbeat Away.

Saturday, January 7, 2012


A little over a month ago, Joni and I went with Bette and Steve to The Book Passage in Corte Madera to see Regis Philbin.  I wasn't that anxious to go.  I didn't watch any of his talk shows, although I did see him on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.  And I'm certainly old enough to remember when he was the right-hand man for Joey Bishop's late-night talk show, from 1969-1971.  But other than that, I had no real connection to Regis.  Bette and Steve suggested we go so we said sure.  This turned out to present a couple of big surprises for me.

The format of this author event was a little different than most.  Normally, the author takes anywhere from 30-60 minutes to give a little background information, read from his/her book, and answer questions.  After they are done with all of that, then they sign their books.   I saw quite a few big-name authors this past year:  John Lescroart, Robert Crais, Jodi Picoult, Harlan Coben, Abraham Verghese (Cutting for Stone), Erik Larson (Devil in the White City and In the Garden of Beasts), Ann Patchett (Bel Canto), Alex Kava, and George Martin (Game of Thrones).  They all have mostly the same routine.  Regis's was different.  15 minutes before he was scheduled to sign books, he came out to warm up the audience."  He took a few questions and told a few stories.  He's a very funny guy, but at 80 years of age, and on a national book tour, I would guess that his PR people didn't want him doing a 60-minute routine followed by another 60 minutes of book signing.  I get that (by the way, he looks fantastic).

The fact that he's very charming and funny in person was surprise #1.  Surprise #2 came when I read the book.  Many of you may know by now (assuming you even care) that I'm not a big biography/ autobiography/memoir guy.  But because I went to see Regis, I decided to read his book.  I was hoping for a few good anecdotes among, what I assumed would be, a lot of boring stories.  Boy was I wrong.  It was really entertaining and well-written.  It definitely has his "voice," and seems to have been written by him.  What he wrote was 30 chapters on different people who influenced his career.  Most of them I had heard of - Bing Crosby, Steve Allen, Dean Martin, Don Rickles, Cary Grant, Steven Spielberg, Jack Nicholson, among many others.  Some were behind-the-scenes people that I didn't know.  For those of us who are baby boomers (you all know who you are), it was truly fun to read about celebrities that we grew up seeing and hearing about.

There's one story that's worth repeating now.  When Regis was Joey Bishop's second fiddle, over 40 years ago, one of his things was to go into the audience before a show and engage one or two of them in conversation.  On one occasion, he approached a young man in his late teens and basically asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up.  The young man was tongue-tied.  He simply couldn't speak.  Finally, Regis told him to think about it, and he moved on to somebody else.  40 years later, he was at a function, and the publicist for the event told Regis that she wanted him to meet someone.  He went over to a very well-known man and got introduced.  The man said to Regis that he was the kid from 40 years ago that couldn't think of anything to say to Regis, and that he always regretted that incident.  The man's name?  Steven Spielberg.  Cool, huh?

Obviously, I can't personally relate to any of the people in Regis's book - except for one.  Many years ago, Joni and I went to Tahoe (that's Lake Tahoe, for you out-of-towners) with Diane and Steve.  We thought it would be a kick to go see Don Rickles.  Then we had the bright idea of palming a $20 bill to the maitre d' to get up-front seats (this was a common practice back in the day - now, they'd probably arrest you for bribery).  He put us right at the edge of the stage, about 3 rows from the center.  Needless to say, we were all a little bit scared.  We ended up getting through the night okay, except for 2 comments he made to me.  The first comment was:  "While you're laughing, your business partner is stealing you blind back home."  The second comment, which I can't quote in a family blog, questioned my masculinity because I had a couple of pens sticking out of my shirt pocket.  I mean, come on, it was football season!

The postscript to this story is that the 4 of us decided to go see him again a couple of years later.  We sat in the very last row in the theater.  Joni and Diane would have throttled us if we tried to sit up front.  As it was, they were nervous just being in the same theater as Don Rickles.

For anybody in their fabulous middle years, I highly recommend Regis's book, How I Got This Way.  It's an entertaining read.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Okay, y'all.  Here they are - my books of 2011 with ratings (max 4 stars).  I'm going to list them in the order that I read them - with author, title, pages, and rating.  I'm not going to add a synopsis because I've done that throughout the year.  At the end of the list, I will give you my 5 top books of the year.  I mentioned last time that I would break the list up into 2 blogs.  I changed my mind.  Since I'm not doing any kind of recap of the book, it's only going to be one line per book.  Here goes:

Griffin, W.E.B. - The Outlaws - 422 - 3.0
Crais, Robert - Free Fall - 288 - 2.0
Hoag, Tami - Secrets to the Grave - 449 - 3.0
Meltzer, Brad - The Inner Circle - 449 - 2.5
Koontz, Dean - What the Night Knows - 442 - 2.5
Stein, Garth - The Art of Racing in the Rain - 321 - 3.0
Robison, John Elder - Look Me in the Eye - 288 - 3.0
Berenson, Alex - The Secret Soldier - 401 - 2.5
Palmer, Michael - A Heartbeat Away - 404 - 3.0
Rosenfelt, David - On Borrowed Time - 291 - 2.5
Eastland, Sam - Shadow Pass - 289 - 2.5
Bourne, Sam - The Righteous Men - 562 - 2.5
Stevens, Taylor - The Informationist - 307 - 2.0
Picoult, Jodi - Sing You Home - 466 - 366
Thomson, Keith - Twice A Spy - 324 - 2.0
Verghese, Abraham - Cutting for Stone - 658 - 3.0
Coben, Harlan - Live Wire - 371 - 3.0
Grippando, James - Afraid of the Dark - 406 - 2.5
Baldacci, David - The Sixth Man - 416 - 2.5
See, Lisa - Peony in Love - 273 - 1.5
Patchett, Ann - The Patron Saint of Liars - 392 - 3.0
Patterson, Richard North - The Devil's Light - 337 - 2.5
Berry, Steve - The Jefferson Key - 451 - 2.5
Patchett, Ann - Taft - 246 - 2.5
Larson, Erik - In the Garden of Beasts - 365 - 3.5
Nesbo, Jo - The Redbreast - 521 - 3.0
Gran, Sara - Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead - 273 - 2.0
McEuen, Paul - Spiral - 310 - 3.0
Baldacci, David - One Summer - 353 - 2.5
Patchett, Ann - State of Wonder - 353 - 2.5
Pelecanos, George - The Turnaround - 294 - 3.5
Ignatius, David - Body of Lies - 337 - 3.0
Rosenfelt, David - One Dog Night - 387 - 2.5
La Plante, Alice - Turn of Mind - 305 - 2.5
Pelecanos, George - The Way Home - 323 - 3.0
Kava, Alex - Hot Wire - 288 - 2.0
O'Shaughnessy, Peri - Dreams of the Dead - 340 - 2.0
Silva, Daniel - Portrait of a Spy - 448 - 3.0
O'Keefe, Bobbie - Family Skeletons - 279 - 2.5
Hart, John - The Last Child - 419 - 4.0
Griffin, W.E.B. - Victory and Honor - 310 - 3.0
Hillenbrand, Laura - Unbroken - 398 - 3.5
Silverberry, A.R. - Wyndano's Cloak - 406 - 3.0
Hart, John - Iron House - 421 - 4.0
Hart, John - Down River - 342 - 3.0
Tinti, Hannah - The Good Thief - 327 - 2.0
LaVigne, Michael - Not Me - 320 - 3.0
Britton, Andrew - The American - 409 - 3.0
Hart, John - King of Lies - 371 - 3.0
Pelecanos, George - The Cut - 292 - 2.5
Coben, Harlan - Miracle Cure - 511 - 3.0
Steinhauer, Olin - The Tourist - 408 - 2.5
Sparks, Nicholas - The Best of Me - 292 - 3.0
Archer, Jeffrey - Only Time Will Tell - 386 - 3.0
Thor, Brad - The Athena Project - 393 - 2.5
Eisler, Barry - The Detachment - 296 - 3.0
de Rosnay, Tatiana - Sarah's Key - 293 - 3.0
Baldacci, David - Zero Day - 434 - 3.0
Haynes, Jasmine - Past Midnight - 320 - 3.0
Taylor, Brad - One Rough Man - 415 - 3.0
Senft, Adina - The Wounded Heart - 285 - 2.5
Jayne, Hannah - Under Wraps - 330 - 2.5
Philbin, Regis - How I Got This Way - 309 - 3.0
Rosenberg, Joel - The Tehran Initiative - 459 - 3.0
Clayton, Meg Waite - The Four Ms. Bradwells - 317 - 2.5
Blackwell, Juliet - If Walls Could Talk - 316 - 2.5
Siegel, Sheldon - The Terrorist Next Door - 392 - 2.5
Thompson, James - Helsinki White - 321 -2.5

68 books
24,901 pages

Top 5 - in order:
The Last Child - John Hart
The Iron House - John Hart
The Turnaround - George Pelecanos
In the Garden of Beasts - Erik Larson
Jodi Picoult - Sing Me Home
Laura Hillenbrand - Unbroken

Yes, I know that was 6.  So, sue me.

Happy New Year!  Here's to a lot of reading in 2012!