Saturday, May 31, 2014

My 4th New (non-local) Author in the Month of May

Several weeks ago, I mentioned that I had read Kate White's latest, Eyes on You.  This book is her 9th novel (3 standalones, including this 1, and 6 in the Bailey Weggins series) and 14th book overall.  But it's only my 1st.  I also mentioned that she does a pretty good imitation of Harlen Coben, as far as murder mysteries are concerned.  Well, now that I've had 3 weeks to think about it...I haven't changed my opinion.  I still think it's Coben-like. Let's let Goodreads tell you what it's about.

After losing her on-air job two years ago, television host Robin Trainer has fought her way back and now she’s hotter than ever. With her new show climbing in the ratings and her first book a bestseller, she’s being dubbed a media double threat.

But suddenly, things begin to go wrong. Small incidents at first: a nasty note left in her purse; her photo shredded. But the obnoxious quickly becomes threatening when the foundation the makeup artist uses burns Robin’s face. It wasn’t an accident—someone had deliberately doctored with the product.

An adversary with a dark agenda wants to hurt Robin, and the clues point to someone she works with every day. While she frantically tries to put the pieces together and unmask this hidden foe, it becomes terrifyingly clear that the person responsible isn’t going to stop until Robin loses everything that matters to her . . . including her life.

Why did I like this so much?  I'll tell you.

1.  I did NOT figure out who the murderer was until just about when it was revealed.  (We'll avoid the question of whether that means Kate did a great job - or I'm just slow.)
2.  Not only did I not know who the murderer was, the ones I suspected did NOT include the actual murderer!
3.  She writes really well - again, like Coben.
4.  There's nothing quite like a murder mystery when it's done well.  And this is done very well.
5.  I read so many books that are good that when I read something really good, I appreciate it even more.

Eyes on You hits the stores June 24.  Whatever format you use, I would recommend that you grab this one right away.  It's going to be a big hit - and rightfully so.  A solid 3.5/4.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Fantastic VHOB Author Events for June!

We've got some great events coming up this month.  Here they are:

Friday, June 13 - Peggy Conaway Bergtold, Kathy Cusick, Betty Chase - Legendary Locals of Los Gatos.  7:00-8:00.  There have been (and are) some pretty illustrious people that have lived in, worked in, or were otherwise connected to Los Gatos, including Steve Wozniak AND John Steinbeck(!)

Wednesday, June 18 - Bryan Kramer - Human to Human:  H2H.  6:00-8:00.  Bryan, who is nationally known in social media circles, will be launching his book.  He wants people to connect with people, like we used to do.  Come join in the festivities.

Thursday, June 19 - Katie Hafner - Mother Daughter Me.  6:30-7:15 (discussion).  7:15-8:15 (author).  Katie is a journalist in San Francisco who talks about her childhood and her attempt, years later, to reconcile with her mother by having her live with her and her daughter.  Katie is the VHOB Book Club author for the month.

Thursday, June 26 - Ann Gelder - Bigfoot and the Baby.  This is Ann's debut novel.  "A frustrated homemaker searches for God and finds Bigfoot instead."  This event, like Bryan's, is a launch.  And, of course, every launch comes with food and wine.  Isn't that reason enough to pop in? 

Sunday, June 29 - Anne Hillerman (Tony's daughter) - Spider Woman's Daughter.  4:00-6:00.  Anne won the 2014 Spur Award for Best First Mystery.  She is Santa Fe-based and will be presenting a slide show on the landscape and gardens from her area.  Sounds interesting.

Is June action-packed or what?  We've got 2 launches (1 fiction and 1 non-fiction), a VHOB Book Club author, a debut novelist whose father was one of the most well-known fiction authors in the country, and another debut novelist right from our own area.  We aim to please.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Is James Franco Talented? Yeah, But So Is His Mom, Betsy

I just finished Betsy Franco's 1st adult novel, Naked.  I have one thing to say to Betsy right up front - please tell me that you will be writing more adult novels.  I loved this book. It's well-written, emotionally charged, and extremely clever.  I love a unique premise.  In fact, it reminds me of Stephen King's 11/22/63.  In that book, you have to accept the concept of time travel.  And then everything flows very plausibly from that point forward.

Naked is the same kind of thing.  Camille Claudel was a muse for Auguste Rodin from 1884 to 1900.  She was also his lover for a large portion of that time.  She actually lived to be 79 and died in 1943 embittered and lonely.  But what would happen if she came back today as an 18-year old in the Rodin Sculpture Garden on the Stanford campus?  And what would happen if she met a 19-year old boy who was taking a performance art class in summer school before starting college at Chapman in Southern California?  And what if he was studying Rodin and Claudel for his term paper?  The answers are...I'm not tellin'. But based on an unusual premise, the story unfolds in a very believable way.

There are some things I will tell you, without giving anything away:
1.  Sensous doesn't have to mean sexual.  (Do you remember when Tom Hanks takes Meg Ryan's hand at the end of Sleepless in Seattle?  Pretty sensual, don't you think?)
2.  I worried for much of the book that Camille (who gives herself the name Cat) would disappear the same way she appeared.  That's how caught up in the characters I was.
3.  At one point late in the book, I audibly said:  "Oh, no, no, no, no, no."  (Don't jump to any conclusions.  Do you think I would give up a big plot point?)
4.  I was in Paris a couple of years ago and visited the Rodin Museum.  It was cool to read a story about Rodin, but it does NOT make the book any more interesting to me than it will be to you.
5.  Just like King in 11/22/63, Betsy gets the ending right.

People, I really urge you all to read Naked.  I guarantee that you will like it.  Have I ever steered you wrong?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

My 1st Mary Kay Andrews Book (out of 12), Save the Date - And a Giveaway (see the bottom of the review)

You all know that I read, and enjoy, romances - erotic, suspense, and plain-old.  We have a number of romance authors in our area that I read and like a lot - Jasmine Haynes/Jennifer Skully (erotic/non-erotic), Joan Swan, Virna DePaul, Elisabeth Barrett, Marina Adair, Jennifer Ryan.  But, I have to admit, that I typically don't go looking for romances outside my scope of local authors.  In this case, Save the Date, Mary Kay Andrews' 12th novel, and my 1st, was sent to me unsolicited.  I figured, what the heck. Did I like it?  I did.  Did I like it as well as the other 6 authors I mentioned, I didn't.  But, so what?  That doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend it.  Because I would.  In fact, I gave it a 2.5/4.  Not too shabby.  Here's a rundown on what it's about.

A wedding florist finds love and trouble in this delightful new novel by the New York Times bestselling author of Ladies' Night

A savannah florist is about to score the wedding of a lifetime—one that will solidify her career as the go-to-girl for society nuptials. Ironically, Cara Kryzik doesn't believe in love, even though she creates beautiful flower arrangements to celebrate them. But when the bride goes missing and the wedding is in jeopardy, Cara must find the bride and figure out what she believes in. Maybe love really does exist outside of fairy tales after all. 

This is a particularly light read.  It almost makes me reconsider my staunch and intransigent (some might even call it stubborn) opinion about there being no such thing as a beach read.  This one is darn close.  (In fact, Writer's Digest says - "Mary Kay Andrews is the belle of the beach reads.")  Be that as it may, she was still able to make me care about the characters.  And you all know, blah, blah, blah, that this little issue is the deal breaker for me.  I'm sure Ms. Andrews is breathing much easier now knowing that I cared about her characters.  Wouldn't you agree?

There are a couple of similarities with other books that I want to mention:
1.  The story takes place in Savannah, like Beth Hoffman's Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and JD Horn's The Line (from his Witching Savannah series).
2.  Even though there's no talk about what the flowers mean, it's hard not to think of The Language of Flowers when reading Save the Date.  After all, Cara is a florist.  And much of the book centers around which flowers she picks for an occasion.

Do I need to tell you if Cara finds romance?  I think not.  It doesn't matter.  I liked Cara, and I liked her love interest.  Isn't that all a romance needs to accomplish?

This book takes place in Savannah.  I am a lifetime West Coaster (Coastener?)  On this coast, we have purses.  On that other coast, they have pocketbooks.  Andrews, being an East Coast person, calls them pocketbooks.  I smiled every time I read that.  In fact, Diane and Steve, close friends of ours who were born on the East Coast, say "pockabook." Andrews didn't go quite that far.

Originally, I had the "pocketbook" story in my review of This Is Where I Leave You.  I messed up.  It belongs in this book, not that one.

All you have to do is state on this post that you like romances, and you will be in the drawing for a free copy of Save the Date, provided by Mary Kay Andrews' public relations company, Tandem Literary.  You've got 1 week from today to make your comment.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A New (NOT local) Author for Me - And a Darn Good One.

My friend, Bob, and I have been exchanging books for many years.  And in all that time, there have only been 2 authors that we don't agree on - one each.  In fact, the year that we read The Honk and Holler, by Billy Letts, we both, independently, called it the surprise book of the year.  Where am I going with this?  Here it is.  So, when he suggested an author and book to me, which he hasn't done in quite a while, I ordered it (from Village House of Books, natch) and put it near the top of my TBR pile.  Well, I got to it.  And let me tell you, it was really good.  You say you want a title/author?  It's This Is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper.  I found out, while I was reading it, that it's going to be a movie that hits the theaters in September.  Jason Bateman will be the main star, but there are many opportunities for actors to have great roles because there are just so many interesting characters.

Here's the basic premise.  A Jewish family, with a 63-year old mother and 4 siblings, 3 boys and a girl (from early 20's to late 30's), lose the father.  His last request (or was it?) was for the family to gather together at the family home and sit shiva for 7 days.  For those of you who don't know what sitting shiva is, it means mourning the death of a loved one in a formal, tradition-bound way.  You are supposed to take the time to remember him.  You receive friends, family, and neighbors who come to pay their respects.  AND, you eat likes kings and queens because EVERYBODY brings food.  (The main character says:  "You could fill an airlift to Africa with all the food generated by one dead Jew." - a bit extreme, perhaps, but accurate)

Of course, you can only imagine the interactions when 5 adults (the youngest son being quite a bit less adult than his siblings) come together in close quarters for 7 days.  Their relationships are exposed, of course, and each brings a significant other that has great significance to the story and the sibling interactions.

But besides all of the inter- and intra-relationships, I loved the writing.  You know I only do this once in a while, but here are a few examples of what I consider to be very clever writing:

"Dad didn't believe in God, but he was a life-long member of the Church of Shit or Get Off the Can."

He's talking about an old girlfriend - "Penny's honesty has always been like nudity in an action movie:  gratuitous, but no less welcome for it."

"The sex is as good and bad as first times tend to be, like a play rehearsal full of missed marks, botched lines, bad lighting, and no calls for an encore."

This book even has some long paragraphs that I liked.  Normally, I'm not a big fan of those because they often seem like the author's attempt to show how well he/she writes. Not so in this case.  They are well-written but not stuffy or high-falutin'.

This is just a darn good book, and I'm looking forward to the movie.  HOWEVER, I strongly recommend that you read the book first.  There's no way the movie is going to be as good as the book.  3.5/4.

There is a scene that describes the family going to religious services.  The boys would play soccer using the prayer book (siddur) and a crumpled candy wrapper.  My own son (much to my eternal shame - nah, actually I was fine with it) used to play siddur baseball. He concocted some game using the pages of the prayer book.  I can't even describe how he did it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Check Us Out in Sal Pizarro's Column

Yep, Sal put VHOB in his article yesterday, Sunday.  He gave us press on Betsy and Tom Franco's visit last Wednesday night.  And he gave us a plug for Bryan Kramer's launch of Human to Human:  #H2H on Wednesday, June 18.  How much better can we do than Sal Pizarro's column?  Not much, I say.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

SUPER Night Last Night at VHOB with Betsy and Tom Franco

What a fun event we had with Betsy and Tom.  It started around 6:45 with 2 young boys showing their violin-playing skills.  While that was going on, everybody else was eating and drinking.  At about 7:20, we started the program.  Tom basically interviewed his mom about her latest book, called Naked.  This is a story about Camille Claudel, who was an artist at the same time as Auguste Rodin and who was Rodin's muse.  But Betsy has brought her into the present.  The couple of passages she read made all of us want to read the book.  And since most of us there bought the book and had it signed by both Betsy and Tom (the illustrator), I think we'll all be reading it soon.  (It's gone right to the middle of my TBR pile even as we speak!)

We had an enthusiastic crowd with a total of about 20 people.  I was particularly happy to learn that Betsy is not only an author, she's also an artist, an actress, and a director. Tom, himself, is not too shabby.  He is the director of an art collective in the East Bay, with about 6 different locations, and an artist to boot.  In fact, he brought with him a couple of very cool pieces that he made.  Add sons/brothers James and Dave (both actors, although James is an author too), and we're looking at a family that is art and entertainment royalty.

Take a look at some of the pictures from last night.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Little More Hodgepodge (sorry, Michelle - no "oodles of caboodles")

I've got just a few more things to tell you.  I know you have been waiting with the proverbial baited breath for my ramblings.

1.  So, tomorrow night, Wednesday, May 21, at VHOB, we will not only have Betsy Franco talking about her book, Naked (we've got a bunch of her books for sale in the store), with her illustrator son, Tom; and we will not only have a duo of musicians playing music from 6:30-7:00; but we will also have wine, cheese, and crackers.  What good is shooting the breeze if you don't have food and beverage to go with it.  (Notice that I didn't put a question mark there.)

2.  I want to remind you that we've not only got the fantastic VHOB Book Club, but we also have The Twitter Book Club (TTBC).  Right now, we're reading an excellent book by Tara Conklin called The House Girl.  We're half-way through Tara's book.  If you go to, you will be able to click on The Twitter Book Club to get all of the details about how we're running our book club.  It's pretty cool.  You can also go to @LloydRussell5 and hashtag #booksage 1.  I think you will enjoy it.  Everybody can participate.  Check it out.

3.  I was scrolling through my posts, and came across my day at Litquake last August 18. Why am I mentioning this now?  A legitimate question.  And I have a legitimate answer (don't I always - at least have some kind of answer?).  It's because it was at this event that I met Amy Franklin-Willis and Ellen Kirshman, saw Tracy Guzeman for only the 2nd time, got re-acquainted with Ellen Sussman, and got to spend some time with long-time stand-bys Sheldon Siegel and Keith Raffel.  So, let's recap what has happened since then:

October 25 - Tracy came to VHOB with Meg Waite Clayton as part of our Grand
   Opening week
November 14 - Ellen Kirschman came to VHOB to talk about her book, Burying Ben
December 18 - Sheldon Siegel and Keith Raffel (with Cara Black) were part of a panel
   discussion on Mystery Authors Night to celebrate - what else - mysteries
February 18 - Amy Franklin-Willis was our VHOB Book Club author - her book, The Lost
   Saints of Tennessee, got a collective rating of 3.89 (out of 4) from our members
April 16 - Tracy Guzeman, The Gravity of Birds, was our author for this month
And, coming up:
July 30 - Keith Raffel, A Fine and Dangerous Season - VHOB Book Club author
August 20 - Ellen Sussman, A Wedding in Provence - and, yes, VHOB Book Club author

I would say that this is quite a contribution from a 1-day event!

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Hodgepodge of Information (I didn't want to use "Stuff" again)

Here are some things to tell you:

1)  Wednesday night we've got Betsy and Tom Franco coming to VHOB.  Besides being the mother and brother of James Franco (will he be there? I don't think so - he's on Broadway in Of Mice and Men - but you never know, do you?), they are an author (Betsy) and illustrator (Tom).  But you already knew all of this.  What's just come up is that they're bringing an acoustic guitar player at 6:30.  So, come early and shoot the breeze and listen to live guitar music.

2)  On Saturday, June 21, from 1-5:30, Kepler's is having a special event - Mystery-Thriller Saturday:  An Afternoon of Chaos, Killing, Crime, and Kidnapping@Kepler's. There will be a number of mystery and thriller writers there, including the 3 authors we had together for Mystery Authors' Night, back on December 18 - Sheldon Siegel, Keith Raffel, and Cara Black.

But that's not why I'm bringing this up.  ATTENTION INDEPENDENT AUTHORS:

Special bonus: If you are an independently published author, contact us - and (until space runs out) we will arrange for you to have a table where you can sell your books.

3)  Our last author event of the month at VHOB is Thursday, May 29.  Bill Goodson, author of The Blue-Eyed Girl, will be presenting his 1st novel.  Here's his bio:

William Goodson has dedicated his career to treating women with breast cancer. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, he has been professor of surgery and chairman of the medical school curriculum committee at University of California San Francisco, as well as recipient of the Compassionate Caring Award from the Institute for Health and Healing in San Francisco. In addition to his practice, he does research on the role of environmental chemicals as a cause of cancer. This is his first novel. 
4)  Here's a sneak preview of June.  It's going to be a heck of a month.
June 13, Friday - Peggy Conaway Bergtold, Legendary Locals of Los Gatos
June 18, Wednesday - Bryan Kramer - social media guru - launch of his book, H2H, Human 2 Human
June 19, Thursday - Katie Hafner, Mother Daughter Me - VHOB Book Club
June 26, Thursday - Ann Gelder, Bigfoot and the Baby - debut novel and launch event
June 29, Sunday - Anne Hillerman, Spider Woman's Daughter (and real daughter of Tony Hillerman)

5)  TOTALLY RANDOM PIECE OF NEWS:  On Thursday night, May 24, 2012, I had one of the greatest book events of my life.  That was the night I went to Authors Night, put on by my granddaughter Haley's 1st grade class.  She's now in 3rd grade and ready to matriculate to 4th.  But...her brother Ryan is going into 1st grade next year.  A year from now, I will again be posting about one of my favorite book events ever.  I told you it was random!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

FIRST NOTICE: June 18, Bryan Kramer, Author of H2H - Human to Human - at VHOB - Mark Your Calendars

This is going to be a fun one at VHOB.  Bryan is not only a local guy, and not only nationally known for his social media expertise, but he's also the son of 2 of VHOB's biggest supporters - Rich and Leslie.

About the Author:
Bryan is a Social Business Strategist and CEO of where he’s led his agency to consistent growth over the last 13 years earning a spot as one of Silicon Valley’s fastest growing private PureMatter companies by the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Bryan has been listed as the 43rd most talked about marketer by global senior marketers in a report study via LeadTail, #26 by Kred as a Global Top CEO Influencer on Social and as one of The Top 50 Social CEOs on Twitter in the world by the Huffington Post, and was identified as a Top 25 Influencer to follow by Forbes.

About the book, There is No More B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human #H2H:

In Human to Human #H2H, Bryan explores the many facets of why and how communication today needs to be adjusted to keep up with our ever-evolving and fast moving social and digital world. Through anecdotes from his own experiences as president of a Silicon Valley marketing firm, he both inspires new ways of finding commonality in our humanity, but also practical tools to think like a human marketer again.

5 days ago, I posted a couple of mini-reviews.  One of them was Astonish Me, by Maggie Shipstead.  Well, it turned out that Maggie was at Books, Inc. in Palo Alto last night.  Joni and I got the chance to see her last night.  Here are a couple of pictures of Maggie. She's really young!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

National Book Club Favorites for April

I just got the list of top book club books nationally for April from Based on feedback from 100,000 book club members, part of 39,000 book clubs, here they are - in order:

1.    The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty
2.    Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline
3.    The Goldfinch:  A Novel - Donna Tartt
4.    The Invention of Wings - Sue Monk Kidd
5.    And the Mountains Echoed:  A Novel - Khaled Hosseini
6.    The Light Between Oceans:  A Novel - M.L. Stedman
7.    The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
8.    Where'd You Go, Bernadette? - Maria Semple
9.    Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
10.  Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn

With 2 on the rise:
We Are Water - Wally Lamb
Orange Is the New Black - Piper Kerman

Guess what?  The VHOB Book Club is not reading any of these.  Here are the authors/books that are lined up from June through October:

June 19 - Katie Hafner, Mother Daughter Me (memoir)
July 30 - Keith Raffel, A Fine and Dangerous Season (fiction, based on fact that JFK
   audited classes at Stanford Business School in Fall 1940)
August 20 - Ellen Sussman, A Wedding in Provence (well-known local author/teacher)
September 19 - Jana McBurney-Lin, Blossoms and Bayonets (semi-biographical story
   of a young Korean boy during the Japanese occupation of Korea during WWII)
October 28 - Shelly King, The Moment of Everything (debut novel)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Latest Local-Authors-That-I-Know List

This is my every-six-month (except this time it's been 8 months) list of local authors that I know, most of whom I have met through Village House of Books.  This list does NOT include:

-authors that I have known but feel I'm distanced from now
-authors who are scheduled to come to VHOB and who I have been in email contact with
 - but haven't met yet
-authors that I have met but didn't connect with (hard to believe, eh?)

The list has become humongous - just the way I like it.  And heeeeere they are (yes, I know I've used this gag before):

Adair, Marina
Andrews, Dr. Russell
Auchard, Betty
Barrett, Elisabeth
Bingham, JZ
Black, Cara
Butler, Katy
Castro, Jenn
Clayton, Meg Waite
Dart, Julie
Degregorio, Mike
DePaul, Virna
Ford, Jamie
Fowler, Karen Joy
Franklin-Willis, Amy
Goss, Erica
Guzeman, Tracy
Hafner, Katie
Haynes, Jasmine
Jackson, Nate (he counts too because even though he lives in LA, he comes to visit his
   parents/friends on a regular basis!)
Jayne, Hannah
Johnson, Victoria
King, Shelly
Kirschman, Ellen
Kramer, Bryan
Lavigne, Michael
Lee, Pascal
Lukas, Michael David
McBurney-Lin, Jana
McKenzie, C. Lee
Mitchell, Kate
Myers, Tim
Nguyen, Kim Yen
Pastrone, Lauri
Piccinini, Toni
Quinn, Mary Ann
Raffel, Keith
Rosenfeld, Seth
Rutlen, Carmen
Ryan, Jennifer
Sayre, Alina
Senft, Adina
Siegel, Sheldon
Silverberry, A.R.
Sloan, Robin
Smith, JoAn
Sporleder, Steve
Sussman, Ellen
Swan, Joan
Taylor, Nick (T.T. Money)
Warner, Penny
Waters, Rayme
Wecker, Helene

The new total is - 53!!!!!  And, wait, that's not the whole story.  I dropped 14, which means I added 29.  Are you kidding me?  I have connected with 29 new authors!! Really?  And in 6 months I will be adding another 12-15 (but might possibly be eliminating a few more). For us author junkies, NORTHERN CALIFORNIA IS PARADISE!

MEA CULPA:  As usual, if I forgot anybody, I apologize.  Please feel free to let me know about any omissions/oversights.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hello all.  Here are our 4 remaining authors and events for May.  These come courtesy of the Village House of Books Newsletter, which you can access on the website -  Feel free to find them there.  But, of course, since you're already here...And notice on the bottom that VHOB will be involved in the wildly popular Where's Waldo extravaganza in July.  Stay tuned for more details.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Goings-On (awkward) at VHOB/Book Sage

Here I go again with a bunch of stuff to tell you.  Let's get to it.

1.  This Thursday, at VHOB, 7:00, we've got JD Horn coming.  His debut novel is The Line.  This is book #1 in the Witching Savannah series, a contemporary fantasy.  I'm also happy to mention that his 2nd book, The Source, will be released June 3!  Maybe he'll tell us about it.  Maybe he'll even bring a copy of it for us to see.  In the meantime, here is a very short blurb about the book and series:

Move over, Sookie Stackhouse—the witches of Savannah are the new talk of the South. Bold, flirty, and with a touch of darkness, debut author J.D. Horn spins a mesmerizing tale of a family of witches . . . and the problem that can arise from being so powerful. As Charlaine Harris’ series winds down—and as Deborah Harkness’ series heats up—Witching Savannah is new contemporary fantasy that will be sure to enchant new readers.

2.  I just finished (today, in fact) Kate White's latest, eyes on you.  It's her 9th novel and 13th book.  It's also my 1st.  I got it as an ARC from HarperCollins, and it's due to be released June 24. I have to tell you that this was really good.  In fact, I put it up there with Harlen Coben for murder mysteries.  I couldn't figure out whodunnit.  I will do a full review in the next couple of weeks.  In the meantime, it's a 3.5.  Get ready to pounce on this when it comes out.  If you are a Coben fan (and who isn't?), you will be happy to read this.

3.  We are in our 2nd book for The Twitter Book Club (TTBC).  It's The House Girl, by Tara Conklin.  Today completes our 1st week of the 4 that we take to read a book. Tomorrow, you can go to my Twitter page - @LloydRussell5, #booksage1 - and comment about what you've read so far.  You are allowed to say anything you want about the 1st 1/4 of the book.  Next Monday, you will be able to talk about the 1st 1/2 of the book, and so on.

4.  Friday night was a launch party for Mike Degregorio and his semi-autobiographical book, Ditch Kids.  It was a huge success.  There were about 40 people there.  You can go to my Facebook page for pictures.  But here are 2.

5.  And, finally, yesterday C. Lee McKenzie was at VHOB signing books.  Her 2 YA's, as I just told you in my blog, are totally terrific - The Princess of Las Pulgas and Sliding on the Edge.  Here are a couple of pictures from Lee's visit. 

C. Lee on the left

That's it for now.  At least that's all I can think of.  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Finally! A Couple of (mini-) Reviews

As I have mentioned before, I am struggling with my reviews.  For those that care (there must be 1 or 2 of you out there), I apologize.  However, after issuing my mea culpa, I am happy to present to you - ta da - 2 mini-reviews.

The 1st is Unleashed, by David Rosenfelt.  This is the 11th book (out of 14 novels) in the Andy Carpenter series.  I've read and enjoyed them all.  Is he the best legal/mystery writer out there?  Most definitely not.  Are his books entertaining?  Most definitely yes.  He reminds me of local author Sheldon Siegel's Mike and Rosie series, about San Francisco attorneys (partners and ex-spouses) who also have courtrooms and murders in every book.  Sheldon is better, but Rosenfelt is good enough.  Here's Goodreads' synopsis:

Andy Carpenter's accountant, Sam Willis, is stunned to receive a phone call out of the blue from Barry Price, a high school friend he hasn't spoken to in years, pleading for help with something too frightening to discuss on the phone.  Barry needs Sam's financial acumen and lawyer Andy Carpenter's legal expertise and he needs them immediately. But when Sam almost runs over an injured dog lying in the road on the way to Barry's house, he can't drive off without waiting for help to arrive. By the time Sam makes it, Barry's already taken off on a private airplane headed who-knows-where. Assuming their help is no longer needed, Sam and Andy turn their full attention to helping the dog Sam found recover from his injuries.  Then they learn that Barry's plane has crashed, and they come to the terrifying realization that Sam was also supposed to have been killed on that plane.  Barry was in far more serious trouble than either of them knew, and for Sam and Andy, the trouble is only beginning.

Like any series, you come to know a variety of characters and hope/expect that they will be in each book.  That is certainly the case here.  In fact, Marcus, who is a strong-arm/bodyguard type, and who never speaks, only grunts, has a short chapter all to himself.  It's the 1st time Rosenfelt has done that.  And I have to say that that was a fun twist.  Besides that, there were a number of other surprises in this book.  Considering it's #11, I was surprised that he surprised me several times.  Solid effort - 3/4. Like any series, you come to know a variety of characters and hope/expect that they will be in each book.  That is certainly the case here.  In fact, Marcus, who is a strong-arm/bodyguard type, and who never speaks, only grunts, has a short chapter all to himself.  It's the 1st time Rosenfelt has done that.  And I have to say that that was a fun twist.  Besides that, there were a number of other surprises in this book.  Considering it's #11, I was surprised that he surprised me several times.  Solid effort - 3/4.

The 2nd book is Astonish Me, by Maggie Shipstead.  This one was sent to me by a publisher upon my request.  Her 1st book, Seating Arrangements, was widely acclaimed, winning the Dylan Thomas Prize (whatever the heck that is) and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction (this one I can figure out).  I didn't read Seating Arrangements but was happy to try Maggie's 2nd endeavor.  And I definitely liked it.  Here, once again, is Goodreads' synopsis. 

Astonish Me is the irresistible story of Joan, a ballerina whose life has been shaped by her relationship with the world-famous dancer Arslan Ruskov, whom she helps defect from the Soviet Union to the United States. While Arslan's career takes off in New York, Joan's slowly declines, ending when she becomes pregnant and decides to marry her longtime admirer, a PhD student named Jacob. As the years pass, Joan settles into her new life in California, teaching dance and watching her son, Harry, become a ballet prodigy himself. But when Harry's success brings him into close contact with Arslan, explosive secrets are revealed that shatter the delicate balance Joan has struck between her past and present. In graceful, inimitable prose, Shipstead draws us into an extraordinary world, and the lives of her vivid and tempestuous characters. Filled with intrigue, brilliant satire, and emotional nuance, Astonish Me is a superlative follow-up to Shipstead's superb debut.

This book is very similar to Liane Moriarty's The Husband's Secret.  Both books are very well written.  I liked each of them about the same.  It's a 3 out of 4 for me.  And, again, like Secret, I didn't connect all that much with the characters, even though I liked them. It's so interesting how that happens.  Here are 2 books that are getting national attention and acclaim.  Yet, I'm reading local author C. Lee McKenzie's 2 YA books and care so much for the 16-year old protagonists (along with other characters in each book - especially Shawna's grandmother in Sliding on the Edge).  I guess that's the great thing about books.  There's something for everybody.  And even when 2 people like the same book, they may differ widely in how much they like it and how much they relate to, and connect with, the characters.  Having said all of that - I know that my opinion is the correct one.  Because, after all, I am THE BOOK SAGE!

Friday, May 9, 2014

C. Lee McKenzie has done it again - AND She's Coming to VHOB This Saturday - 2-4

On March 16, I wrote a review of C. Lee McKenzie's The Princess of Las Pulgas.  And I loved it.  Well, since Lee is coming tomorrow (Saturday, May 10) to Village House of Books to sign books, I decided to read another one of her YA's (that's young adults, for those of you who are reading my blog for the 1st time - you know who you are!).  This one, Sliding on the Edge, was published in 2009, a year before Princess.  I expected to like it, after enjoying Princess so much.  In fact, I loved this one too.    It's just so refreshing to read a book where you are so emotionally connected to the characters, even when there are some rough moments.  In this case, I had 2 protagonists to care for: Shawna Stone, 16, and her grandmother, Kay Stone, 64 (who else do I know that's 64? Oh, yeah, me).

Shawna lives with her mother, Jackie, in Las Vegas.  Most of the time, she is left to take care of herself by a mother that often leaves for days at a time and who goes through boyfriends often and, usually, with disastrous results.  Shawna doesn't go to school and has no friends.  Her entertainment consists of hanging out at casinos.

One morning (this happens within the first 3 pages of the book - just like in Princess), Shawna wakes to find a note from Jackie that says she and her boyfriend, Dylan, were on their way to New Jersey to try the gambling there.  They left Shawna a $100, a bus ticket to Sweet Water, CA (about an hour from Sacramento), where Shawna's grandmother, Kay, lives, along with Kay's phone number.  Initially, Shawna intends to get a job in Las Vegas and stay put.  But circumstances dictate that she ends up in Sweet Water, at her grandmother's ranch.  And thus begins the journey (I know, it's an overused word - but apt here) for both Shawna and Kay.

There's no reason to tell you more.  You can guess that this is a difficult transition for both grandmother and granddaughter (and wait until you see what Kay has had to deal with in her life!).  Does it work?  You'll have to read it to find out.  Is it gut-wrenching?  Uh, yeah, a lot.  Does Shawna have a regular date with a razor blade?  I'm not telling.  Just read the darn book.  You will, once again, thank me.  Or, if you cry as much as I did, you might even curse me.  I can take it.

2 of my favorite books all-time - Wish You Well, David Baldacci (4.5) and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, Beth Hoffman (4.25) - revolve around young girls that end up living with women that are 2 generations older.  This story belongs in a discussion of top-notch books with this general theme.  Let me quote what Lee writes as a lead-in to the book: This story is for all the Shawnas and all the Kays who cope with deep emotional wounds." Enough said.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Friday Night - Mike Degregorio. Last Night (Tuesday) - Nate Jackson

This Friday night, May 9, come see Mike Degregorio at VHOB.  This is a launch for Mike's Ditch Kids.  Besides that, we've got the Jerry Best Band, introducing their new song, This Bay.  And let's not forget food and wine/water.  Ditch Kids is about Mike's childhood over on Los Gatos-Almaden Road.  There will be a few people there Friday night who are part of Mike's childhood.  How cool is that?  Come see Mike Degregorio.  The festivities begin at 6:00, followed at 7:00 by Mike's presentation, Q&A, and signing.  It's going to be a blast (for you youngun's, that means a fun time).

And last night, the VHOB Book Club had its May author event with Slow Getting Up, by Nate Jackson.  Even though it's a football memoir, everybody that came last night enjoyed the book.  The hour that we had talking to Nate after our book club discussion was fantastic.  He was very open about his experiences.  With about 25 people there, it was an electrifying evening.  Here are some pictures of Nate. 

Sorry.  I had to include this picture because my son, Josh, who is almost 38, has been jumping into other people's pictures since he could walk.  And here he is again.