Monday, June 30, 2014

The 2 Ann(e)'s - Events at VHOB

We had 1 Ann and 1 Anne grace our bookstore at Village House of Books this past week. On Thursday night, Ann Gelder launched her 1st novel, Bigfoot and the Baby.  The partying began a little before 6 with food and wine on the patio.  Around 7, we all went in and listened to Ann tell us about her book and how she came to write it.  She even read a couple of passages.  After, we had Q&A, and Ann signed books.  Everybody had a good time.  Here are 3 pictures from the event.

And then Sunday afternoon, Anne Hillerman came by.  Anne's book, Spider Woman's Daughter, is her 1st novel (she's written 8 non-fiction books).  What makes this news a little more interesting is that it is a continuation of her father's series.  Tony Hillerman wrote 18 books in a series about the Southwest, and Anne's book is #19 in that series.

Anne not only told us how she came to write her book, but she also gave us the back story about her dad and his writing.  We've all heard of Tony Hillerman, and you will all be hearing about Anne too (if you haven't already).  Anne was in Sacramento Saturday collecting the Spur Award, which is given for Best First Mystery.  How cool is that?  Here are 3 pictures from Anne's event.

(Obviously Anne is telling us how big the fish was.)

SIDE NOTE:  Anne's sister-in-law and brother-in-law live in Los Gatos (for 45 years!).  It turns out that their younger son was in my son's class at Los Gatos High.  In fact, 2 weekends ago was their 20th high school reunion, and my son and their son actually spent a couple of minutes talking to each other, even though they didn't hang out together in high school.  AND, another couple that are friends with Anne's relatives, who also came to the event, have a daughter that went to Los Gatos High School in that same class and that was friends with my son!  Okay, it's not spookily coincidental...but it is a little bit.

SIDE SIDE NOTE(?):  The woman to the left of Ann Gelder in the 1st picture is Shelly King.  Her debut novel, The Moment of Everything, comes out in September.  Shelly will be the October VHOB Book Club author, and she is a writing partner of Ann's.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Mystery vs. Thriller - A Literary Event (what other kind would there be?) at Kepler's

Last Saturday, from 1-5:30, Kepler's hosted an event addressing the question of mystery vs. thriller.    They had quite a lineup of authors, including a number of authors that we've had at Village House of Books:  Keith Raffel, Sheldon Siegel, Cara Black, and Ellen Kirshman.  They also had Barry Eisler, whose John Rain series is one of my favorites, that I'm trying to convince to come to VHOB.  And they had Laurie R. King, who will be one of our keynote speakers at the Literary Fair, August 23.  Yes, I know that I haven't told you about this event yet.  More details will follow in the next couple of days.  It's going to be some kind of party!

Below are a few pictures from the Kepler's event, courtesy of Angela Mann.  And let me add this:  I love Kepler's!  They have such great events.  (Remember the book swap that Joni and I went to a couple of months ago?  That was way cool.)

Barry Eisler, Keith Raffel

Laurie R. King (in the blue blouse), Alan Jacobson (an author I met at the event), and Sheldon Siegel

All of the participating authors (including Ellen Kirschman, middle row, left)

Cara Black (standing), unknown, Ellen

Cara (far left), Laurie (standing), Alan, Sheldon

Cara, unknown, Laurie, Alan

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

This Week at VHOB

We've got a couple of very fun events coming up at the bookstore this week.  In particular:

1.  Tomorrow night, Thursday, June 26, we've got Ann Gelder launching her book, Bigfoot and the Baby.  We'll have food and wine from 6-7, followed by Ann reading/discussing, answering questions, and signing books.  We're very excited that Ann picked VHOB to launch her novel.

2.  Sunday, from 4-6, Anne Hillerman will be coming to us from Santa Fe.  Here is what her website says:  Anne Hillerman's first novel Spider Woman's Daughter (HarperCollins) debuted Oct. 1, 2013, and became a New York Times Bestseller in its first week on shelves! The book follows the trail of the Navajo detectives her father Tony Hillerman created. 

Anne received the Spur Award for Best First Mystery and has also written 8 non-fiction books.  She has received a number of awards for these books as well.  It's not everybody (probably almost nobody) who can pick up where Tony Hillerman left off.

We hope to see you for Ann and Anne.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Love Story to Beat All (or at least most) Love Stories

Rachael Herron's Pack Up the Moon is a love story on several different levels.  It's the love of parents (Kate and Nolan) for a son (Robin).  It's the unrequited (or is it?) love of biological parents (Kate and Nolan) for a daughter (Pree).  It's the love of 2 moms (Isi and Marta) for their adopted daughter (Pree).  And it's the love of a girl/boy/woman/man (Kate and Nolan) for each other, with a couple of separations thrown in (and a happily every after? - I'm not tellin').

But, most importantly, this is one terrific read.  Let me chronicle some of my reactions:

P. 36 - My 1st (of many) tears
P. 37 - "Whoa!  Holy s__t!
PP. 118-125 - I love the description of how Isi and Marta are chosen by Kate to become Pree's adopted parents.  (I cried twice in those 8 pages.)
P. 275 - I love/hate how tough it was to read about how Robin passed away (don't worry - this is right in the synopsis of the book).
P. 289 - "Oh my God, Oh my God."
P. 300 - "Oh my God, Oh my God."  And this was my reaction to something I already knew was going to happen!

Here are some other elements (what is this, a chemistry chart?) of the book that I really like:

I love that Kate, and then Pree, use colors to describe voices (it reminded me of The Language of Flowers).
I love how the book takes place in 2014 but skips back in time to what always seems like the appropriate place.
I love the fact that there are moments of awkwardness among family members that make perfect sense.  Rachael never takes the easy/cheesy way out.

And I love the writing:
Here's a description of the 2 adoptive mothers being at Kate's bedside during delivery - even before Kate chooses them for Pree:  "Marta, on the other side of her, brushed the hair from Kate's sweaty forehead.  'Butch in the streets,' she said, and Isi said 'Oh, stop,' and the affection in their voices flowed over Kate like sunshine.  It didn't feel like they were auditioning - it felt like they wanted to be there, like somehow they cared, and it had been so long since she felt it that she leaned toward it like a sun-starved daisy."

Here's where Pree describes her boss, Jimmy:  "He was the kind of handsome that belonged on a TV show about motorcycles."

And here is Nolan describing Kate, during one of their separations:  "It didn't matter what she was actually laughing about as her voice trilled up and then went so satisfyingly back down again.  It was solid.  You could rest a cup of coffee on that laugh."

In case you haven't figured it out, I strongly recommend this book.  AND Rachael will be at VHOB on July 15, with Sophie Littlefield (I really liked her book, House of Glass) and Gigi Pandian (I haven't read her yet - but I will).  I am truly excited to have these 3 authors at our store.  Come on by.  We're going to have a great time.

ADMISSION OF PERSONAL CONNECTION:  Although I don't believe that it affected my enjoyment of the book, I have to say that I am personally connected to several of the plotlines:

1.  Kate's house in Oakland is about 2 miles from where I lived from the time I was 14 until I got married at 21.  My parents lived there for 30 years.
2.  On the bottom of P. 43, Kate is concerned about having sex with Nolan for the 1st time:  "...she would laugh at him on accident..."  My own kids always said on accident instead of by accident.
3.  On Page 129, Kate gets stopped by a police officer for running a red light and almost causing an accident.  Kate says:  "She was so getting a ticket."  About a year ago, when we told our then 8-year old granddaughter, Haley, the story about how we left her Aunt Lauren back at our house when she was 4, Haley said to us:  "That is so bad parenting." I think it's the 1st time since Haley's comment that I heard "so" used that way.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A FANTASTIC Book Launch at VHOB This Past Wednesday Night

Boy, did we have a great event at VHOB on Wednesday night.  Bryan Kramer, the social media guru, launched his book, Human to Human:  H2H.  We had a gigantic crowd (50-60, perhaps?) and an enthusiastic one, too.  From 6 (actually 5:30) to 7, we had food and wine/water outside on the patio.  Everybody partook.

At 7, we went inside.  Brian gave a 20-30 minute presentation, followed by Q&A and a whole bunch of signing.  Rumor has it that we sold 37 of Bryan's books (plus a bunch more besides).  Joni and I went out to dinner while the event was still going on.  When we passed by the store after dinner, Steve was still working on getting the garbage cans loaded.  And it was 9:40!

I want to thank Bryan and his amazing team at Pure Matter - Courtney (who's also his wife), Tracy, Joey, and Ryan.  They brought the wine (VHOB took care of the food) and communicated with me regularly from inception to the night of.  And I have to say that we all did a darn good job!

I've got some pictures I will post here.  But I'm going to put a bunch more on Facebook. Lots of fun.

Bryan's mom, wife, high school English teacher

Bryan with book and buyer

1 of 2 areas where people congregated inside

2nd area

Bryan signing after presentation/Q&A

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Review of The Farm - Tom Rob Smith's 4th Novel - And 1st Since His Child 44 Trilogy

Before I actually review this book, I have to preface it by saying I LOVED the Child 44 trilogy.  That's why book 1, Child 44, is in Volume I of Fiction For The Non-Fiction Reader (FFTNFR), and The Secret Speech (#2) is in Volume III of FFTNFR.  That makes it very tough to review The Farm fairly.  This feels like Jeannette Walls and The Glass Castle. That was so good (it's on my top 12 all-time) that when I read her next 2, Half-Broke Horses (a semi-biographical book about her mother and grandmother) and The Silver Star (her 1st novel), I found myself comparing those to TGC.  It was totally unfair - but I couldn't help it.

So, while I was reading The Farm, I was unconsciously (or consciously) comparing it to Child 44, The Secret Speech, and Agent 6.  The comparison was not kind to The Farm.  It was nowhere near as good.     In fact, I gave it a 2.5/4.  Would it have been a 3/4 if I didn't have the trilogy to compare it to?  Maybe.  And maybe not.

It was interesting to hear Tom talk about The Farm when we saw him last week at Book Passage.  The story is about a 29-year old Englishman with an English father and a Swedish mother.  This is actually true for Tom himself.  So there was a basic premise that came from his own lineage.  I don't know how much of the rest of it was autobiographical, if any.  And I don't know if that had anything to do with me not liking the book all that much.  This kind of thought process is too deep for me.  (Remember - I run away from any book that has Pulitzer Prize Winner on the cover!)  So what is the book about?

Until the moment he received a frantic call from his father, Daniel believed his parents were headed into a peaceful, well-deserved retirement. They had sold their home and business in London, and said "farewell to England" with a cheerful party where all their friends had gathered to wish them well on their great adventure: setting off to begin life anew on a remote, bucolic farm in rural Sweden.

But with that phone call, everything changes. Your mother's not well, his father tells him. She's been imagining things--terrible, terrible things. She's had a psychotic breakdown, and has been committed to a mental hospital.

Daniel prepares to rush to Sweden, on the first available flight the next day. Before he can board the plane, his father contacts him again with even more frightening news: his mother has been released from the hospital, and he doesn't know where she is.

Then, he hears from his mother:

I'm sure your father has spoken to you. Everything that man has told you is a lie. I'm not mad. I don't need a doctor. I need the police. I'm about to board a flight to London. Meet me at Heathrow.

Caught between his parents, and unsure of who to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother's unwilling judge and jury as she tells him an urgent tale of secrets, of lies, of a horrible crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father. 

The storyline is okay.  It just didn't grab me.  I didn't care enough about what happened to Daniel or his mother and father or any of the other characters.  Despite all of that, Tom is a good writer.  Witness:

"...but today the lies were painful, like running on a twisted ankle."

"...yet when it came to conclusions...I had the impression she'd much prefer to present them unshaped, like the model kits that required assembly."

And the rest of the book is well-written too.  But it wasn't enough for me.  In fact, it may be that I'm in the minority on this.  On the back of the book jacket, there are glowing quotes (what other kind would there be on a book jacket?) from JoJo Moyes and Jeffrey Deaver, along with the Times (U.K.), Guardian (U.K.), and Independent (U.K.).  I will also point out, though, that Goodreads has a 3.67/5 out of 1063 ratings, and Amazon is 3.6 from 74 ratings.  Decent but not stellar.

So you decide.  You won't dislike the book, I'm pretty sure.  And some of you might like it a lot.  If you haven't read the Child 44 trilogy, I think there's a better chance that you will have more positive thoughts about The Farm than I do.  Still, a 2.5/4 is very readable.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Preview of July's Coming Attractions (and we've got some humdingers)

I know it's only June 16, but we've got some great author events coming up in July, including back-to-back-to-back appearances the week of July 7, with 2 of those being launches and the 3rd being a book signing.  And I want to give you this heads-up so that you can start making some plans to come to VHOB next month - A LOT.  Here's what we've got:

Thursday, July 3, 4-6, Laurie Barna - Laurie has put out a book that chronicles her 4th of July paintings.  And she will have some of her paintings there.

Thursday, July 10, 6-8, Alina Sayre - she will be launching The Illuminator's Gift.  If you want to know what I thought of Alina's book, take a look at my review from June 2.  P.S. Amalia Hillmann, Alina's cover illustrator, will be there as well.

Friday, July 11, 6:30-8, Linda Gunther - this launch is for her 2nd novel, Endangered Witness.  She will also be selling her 1st book, 10 Steps from the Hotel Inglaterra.

Saturday, July 12, 2-4, A.R. Silverberry - A.R. is one of our favorite authors.  He has been to VHOB on several occasions to sign Wyndano's Cloak.  He will now be signing his 2nd book, The Stream.

Tuesday, July 15, 3 national bestselling authors - Sophie Littlefield (House of Glass), Rachael Herron (Pack up the Moon), and Gigi Pandian (Pirate Vishnu).  This is going to be a way cool event.

Wednesday, July 30, Keith Raffel - A Fine and Dangerous Season, a novel based on a real-life visit by JFK to Stanford Business School for the Fall semester in 1940.  Keith is our VHOB Book Club author for July.  There are plenty of copies in the store.

Was I right, or what?  Isn't this a great lineup?  You don't need to answer.  Just be there.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Legendary Locals of Los Gatos at VHOB - A Great Night!

We really had a lot of fun Friday night.  One of the 2 main authors of the book, Peggy Conaway Bergtold, who is a retired librarian from the Los Gatos Library as well as an historian, and 2 of the researchers, Betty Chase and Kathy Cusick, were presenters of Legendary Locals of Los Gatos for the evening.  They all gave a lot of the history of Los Gatos and the colorful people at the forefront.  That was very cool.

But what was also very cool was that we had 3 of the 180 people featured in the book at the bookstore. Let me give you a brief rundown on each of them.

Patti Hughes came to Los Gatos High school in 1969 as an English teacher.  She converted to a vice-principal in 1970 and stayed in that position until 1999.  2 of my 3 kids went to Los Gatos High with Patti as vice-principal.  They graduated in 1994 and 1997.

Ron Fink became a part-time employee at Macabee Gopher Trap Company right after he graduated from Los Gatos High in 1958.  He became general manager in 1963 and has held that position ever since, a span of over 50 years.  Even though the manufacturing of the traps moved to China in 2008, Ron still provides quality control here in Los Gatos.  In fact, his Los Gatos roots go back to 1890!

Lucy Wedermeyer is, of course, the other half of the team that included her late husband, Charlie.  As many of you know, Charlie was the very successful football coach at Los Gatos High for many years.  After he contracted Lou Gehrig Disease, he still coached, with Lucy relaying Charlie's instructions to the appropriate coach or player.

Do you all remember the TV movie that was made of their lives back in 1988?  It starred Michael Nouri as Charlie and Pam Dawber (of Mork and Mindy fame) as Lucy.  I remember seeing it back then and really enjoying it.  Lucy told Joni and me some interesting facts about that movie.  First of all, Pam, who is a brunette, asked Lucy if she had to become blonde.  Lucy said of course not.  Secondly, the whole movie was made in 4 weeks, and Charlie and Lucy were on location - in South Carolina, of all places.  Thirdly, they had input into the movie but not creative control.  It was fascinating listening to Lucy's recounting of that experience.  And besides all that, Michael Nouri still keeps in touch with the Wedermeyer family.

All in all, it was just a cool evening.  Here are a couple of pictures from the event.

Peggy Conaway Bergtold

Kathy Cusick

Peggy and Kathy, with Betty Chase
Patti Hughes is next to Betty
Ron is right behind Betty, to her right
Lucy is leaning to her left, in a lime green jacket

Friday, June 13, 2014

ANOTHER Book Review - and ANOTHER New Author (for me) -I am en fuego

I decided that I was going to try and read 1 book each from the 3 authors who will be coming to Village House of Books on July 15.  Well, I decided to start with Sophie Littlefield and her House of Glass.  And guess what?  I made a good call.  This certainly doesn't mean I won't enjoy Rachael Herron's Pack up the Moon or Gigi Pandian's Pirate Vishnu.  However, I really liked House of Glass.

I'm not great at determining what genre a book belongs in.  But I think this time it's probably an amalgam of thriller and literary fiction.  In fact, it reminds me a little bit of Greg Iles' 24 Hours.  And I think I've been pretty clear on how much I like him.  In this case, the thriller part is about 2 men who break into a house and hold the 4 family members captive.  The literary fiction part is all of the history (past and present) between the husband-wife/mother-father.  And some background on the 15-year old daughter and 4-year old son.  It's a pretty powerful combination.

Of course, I can't synopsize as prosaically as Goodreads does.  So here's what they say:

Bestselling author Sophie Littlefield delivers a riveting, ripped-from-the-headlines story about a family put to the ultimate test when two men take them hostage inside their home. Jen Glass has worked hard to achieve the ideal life: a successful career, a beautiful home in an affluent suburb of Minneapolis, a seemingly perfect family. But inside the Glass house, everything is spinning out of Jen's control. Her marriage to her husband, Ted, is on the brink of collapse; her fifteen-year-old daughter grows more distant each day; and her five-year-old son barely speaks a word. Jen is on the verge of breaking, but nothing could have prepared her for what is to come. On an evening that was supposed to be like any other, two men force their way into the Glasses' home, but what begins as a common robbery takes an even more terrifying turn. Held hostage in the basement for more than forty-eight hours, Jen and Ted must put aside their differences if they have any hope of survival. They will stop at nothing to keep their family safe;even if it means risking their own lives. A taut and emotional tale of a family brought together by extraordinary forces, House of Glass is a harrowing exploration of the lengths a mother will go to protect her children, and the power of tragedy to teach us what truly matters. Sophie Littlefield shows considerable skills for delving into the depths of her characters and complex plotting. South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Sophie does a great job of developing characters.  And I was impressed how she integrated family history into the present-day story.  I don't think it's easy to know when to throw history into current circumstances.  I thought Sophie did this seamlessly.  Add in the captivity and that drama, and I can say that this is a very well-crafted story.  I say go for it. And come see Sophie (and Rachael and Gigi) at VHOB on July 15.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Saw Tom Rob Smith (he of Child 44 fame) at Book Passage - Really Interesting Guy (and a heck of an author)

Have I ever told you how long it takes to get to Book Passage in Corte Madera from Los Gatos?  On a week night?  During the traffic hour?  It took us 1:50 last night.  Am I complaining?  A little.  But it was way worth it.  This is Britain's Tom Rob Smith's only appearance in Northern California for his new book, The Farm (except as part of the faculty for Book Passage's Mystery Writers Conference, from July 24-27).  So I had to go. I am a HUGE TRS fan.

I learned some very interesting things.  1st of all, and most importantly, Child 44 is coming out in movie theaters in November!  The stars are Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, and Noomi Rapace (the actress who played Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish version of the Dragon Tattoo trilogy).  Tom hasn't even seen it yet.  But he's pretty darn excited.  And, on top of that, The Farm, which is a standalone, has been optioned by a British company.  Tom doesn't know if they will make movies of The Secret Speech (#2) or Agent 6 (#3).  He said it depends on how Child 44 does at the box office.  And, finally, he has just penned a spy drama series for the BBC.  Is he talented or what?

Lest you have forgotten, I loved Tom Rob Smith's trilogy, with Child 44, The Secret Speech, and Agent 6.  In fact, Child 44 is in Volume I of my Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader (FFTNFR) - 2/19/11. And The Secret Speech is in Volume III - April 7, 2012.  Is that enough proof for you?  If you still haven't read these books, get on it.  And I will be starting The Farm tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

ANOTHER New Author in the Last Month

This is getting ridiculous - in a good way.  The Book of Unknown Americans, Cristina Henriquez, is an ARC that I actually asked for.  I thought it sounded good, and it was. Alfred A. (not Newman) Knopf, a division of Random House, is the publisher.  And, in fact, the book hit the shelves this past Tuesday.

The story is about how a whole variety of Spanish-speaking people, from countries in South and Central America and Mexico, came to live in an apartment building in Newark, Delaware.  It's interesting that Cristina initially wanted to tell the story of her father, who came to Delaware from Panama.  That morphed into a story about the "unknown Americans," people like her father who came to live in small cities all around the country. Here is how Knopf describes the book:

A boy and girl who fall in love.
Two families whose hopes collide with destiny.
An extraordinary novel that offers a resonant
new definition of what it means to be Americans.

I normally don't get into these kinds of details, but Knopf is definitely expecting big things from this book.  To begin with, the first printing is 75,000 copies.  That's really a lot for a young author (this is her 2nd novel).  And here's what they have on the back cover of the book:

NATIONAL MEDIA APPEARANCES, including NPR and print features
AUTHOR TOUR, including Chicago, Iowa City, and New York
NATIONAL PRINT ADVERTISING in The New York Times Book Review, Bookpage, the Chicago Tribune, and the Women's Review of Books
HISPANIC OUTREACH, including advertising in El Diario and Latina magazine
REGIONAL OUTREACH, including local Facebook users
INTERACTIVE SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGN on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, including sharing real immigrant stories with hashtag #UnknownAmericans
READING GROUP PROMOTION, including and BookBrowse

Wow.  I don't know how it's going to do, but the publisher is sure promoting the heck out of it.  I will report back to you in 3 months and let you know if Knopf/Random House hit the mark on this one.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Welcome to Another Post of: "What the Heck Is He Talking About This Time?"

That's right.  I've got another potpourri of info for you.  I'll avoid the snark and go right to it (this time):

1.  Ann Gelder will be launching her book, Bigfoot and the Baby, at Village House of Books on Thursday night, June 26.  Here are a couple of snippets from a review written by Allyce Amidon of Foreword Review-"great books independent voices:"  If you want to read the whole review, here's the link -

Ann Gelder’s debut, Bigfoot and the Baby, is a delightful black satire. Playing with themes of belonging and belief, Gelder examines the interplay of capitalism and religion in 1980s America.

Gelder has a flair for language, and her writing is equally peppered with humor.

2.  This coming Friday night, June 13 (yes, I realize it's Friday the 13th), the 3 authors of Legendary Locals of Los Gatos will be coming to VHOB.  On top of that, we have contacted 6 or 7 of the locals that are in the book and who still live in Los Gatos (I didn't try to get a hold of those from the 1800's and early 1900's).  Hopefully, a couple of them will be available to attend and sign books along with the authors.

3.  From July 24-July 27, there will be a mystery writers conference at Book Passage in Corte Madera.  The faculty is pretty impressive.  It includes (you're not going to believe this lineup!) Isabel Allende, Ace Atkins, Cara Black, Tom Rob Smith, Rhys Bowen, John Lescroart, Anne Perry, and Laurie King, among others, and our old friend, Sheldon Siegel, who is the conference chair.  It's an annual event, and if you are interested in checking it out, here's the link:  Mystery Writers Conference or google Book Passage, Corte Madera, events and conferences. 

4.  I know this is very short notice (I only found out yesterday), but Tom Rob Smith will actually be at Book Passage in Corte Madera Tuesday night at 7:00.  Smith is the author of the trilogy starting with Child 44.  In fact, Child 44 is in Volume I of my Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader (2/19/11).  And book 2, The Secret Speech, made my FFTNFR, Volume III (4/7/12).  Smith has got a new book/series, and this is book 1, The Farm.  I will somehow get there, despite how enormously inconvenient it is to drive from Los Gatos to Corte Madera on a week night.  Oh, the plight of the OCD book blogger.

5.  Yesterday, I said that you had only last night and today to vote for Balcony 7 as the publishing company picked by Crowdfunding for a $200,000 capital infusion.  I found out today that the voting goes on until the 12th.  Again I will say that this publisher is up and coming, and I strongly recommend voting for Balcony 7. 


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Another Review from Another 1st Time Author - For Me. Am I on a Roll or What?

Suspicion is Joseph Finder's 12th book, and 11th novel.  He's written 8 standalones and 2 in the Nick Heller series.  But, for me, it's #1.  Why am I reading him now for the 1st time? Good question.  It's only because it was sent to me by the publisher Dutton, a division of the Penguin Group.  And you know what's so cool?  It's not even an ARC.  It's a full-fledged hardcover that I can sell used to Recycle Books.  I am one lucky guy.  I'l probably get $5 credit for this one!

Okay, perhaps you'd like to know what the book is about - and maybe even whether or not I liked it.  Well, I did.  It's a solid 3 out of 4.  He's not Harlan Coben or Greg Iles.  And I liked Kate White's eyes on you better.  But, what the heck.  There's nothing wrong with a 3/4.  I recommend it highly.  And, in fact, I will definitely look to read more.

Having said all of that, let me (i.e. Goodreads) tell you what the book is about:

When single father Danny Goodman suddenly finds himself unable to afford the private school his teenage daughter adores, he has no one to turn to for financial support.

In what seems like a stroke of brilliant luck, Danny meets Thomas Galvin, the father of his daughter’s new best friend, who also happens to be one of the wealthiest men in Boston. Galvin is aware of Danny’s situation and out of the blue offers a $50,000 loan to help Danny cover his daughter’s tuition. Uncomfortable but desperate, Danny takes the money, promising to pay Galvin back.

What transpires is something Danny never imagined. The moment the money is wired into his account, the DEA comes knocking on his door. Danny’s impossible choice: an indictment for accepting drug money that he can’t afford to fight in court, or an unthinkably treacherous undercover assignment helping the government get close to his new family friend.

As Danny begins to lie to everyone in his life, including those he loves most in the world, he must decide once and for all who the real enemy is or risk losing everything—and everyone—that matters to him.


Does it sound interesting?  It is.  It's also well-written.  Do I have any complaints about it? Not really.  Some books are just better than others.  And this one is better than a lot of others...and not as good as some.  You want a good mystery?  Read Suspicion.  You won't be sorry.

PERSONAL NOTE:  Much of the story takes place in Boston.  Even though I have lived my entire life in Northern California, I have a special affection for Boston.  And there are 2 reasons for it.  The 1st is that my younger daughter, Lauren (child #3) went to school 4 years at Boston University and met her husband, Joe (who's from Rhode Island). They've been married now for a little over 2 months.

And the 2nd reason is that my older daughter, Meredith (#2) lived in Boston for almost 2 years right out of college (UC Davis).  And that's where she met her husband, Nate.  The funny part about this connection is that Nate is from Winters, which is about 1.5 hours from where Meredith grew up.  She had to go live in Boston in order to meet her husband.

Boston has been good to Joni and me.  We couldn't be happier with our sons-in-law.  P.S. Even though my son, Josh (child #1) met his wife, Jen, here in the Bay Area, she fits right in with great children-in-law.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Are you impressed because I used all caps?  Did it make you take more notice?  Good to hear because we really do have a fantastic lineup of nationally known authors coming to VHOB on the same night - Tuesday, July 15.  Here they are:

Sophie Littlefield, House of Glass.  Sophie won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel. She has also been nominated for an Edgar Award, the most prestigious award for mystery writers.  But Sophie doesn't limit herself to mysteries.  She's also written historical fiction and YA's, for a total of 16 books (including 4 series).

Rachael Herron, pack up the Moon.  Rachael is an international best-selling author.  She has written 7 books, 6 novels and 1 memoir.  And she seems to know a little about knitting.  She writes the Cypress Hollow series.  And she is a Kiwi (New Zealander) as well as an American. 

Gigi Pandian, Pirate Vishnu.  Gigi is a USA Today bestselling author.  Pirate Vishnu is her 2nd book in the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery series.  She also has a short story that was nominated for the Agatha Award.  Gigi's parents are cultural anthropologists, one from New Mexico and the other from India.

SPECIAL REQUEST:  Balcony 7, which publishes the Salty Splashes collection, among others, is in the running for funding from Crowdfunding.  But they need votes before the end of the day tomorrow (I know, it's not much notice).  I am enclosing a link that you can click on for voting.  Randy Lee Morkved, the president, and JZ Bingham, the vice-president and author of the Salty Splashes Collections, have asked for our support.

3 (very) Mini-Reviews

I've read a number of books by local authors, and I just haven't gotten around to reviewing them.  Well, now I'm doing it.  But they are just quick ones.  Better short than not-at-all, yes?

1.  Dancing in my Nightgown, The Rhythms of Widowhood, by Betty Auchard.  Everybody knows how much I loved Betty's The Home for the Friendless.  Dancing was published in 2007 and chronicles Betty's life after her husband of nearly 50 years passed away.  At the time of the passing, Betty was only 69.  So, this book is much different from Home.  It's a series of reflections/essays on the life of widowhood.  And, I have to say, I liked it very much.  Betty can just flat-out write.  I've been married for nearly 43 years and am very fortunate (some might say REALLY lucky!) to still be married.  You don't have to be widowed in order to appreciate this book.  Here's what Jayne Meadows had to say about it:

"Dancing in my Nightgown is a truly enchanting, heartbreaking love story told with such honesty and humor that I ached for my beloved Steve Allen."

2.  Nick Taylor wrote several books as Nick Taylor.  He has also recently published his 1st book, The Set Up Man, under the pseudonym T.T. Monday.  As you might have guessed, it's about baseball - sort of. Johnny Adcock is a getting-up-there-in-years reliever who has seen better days.  But he's hanging on.  It's his non-baseball job that is thriving.  He moonlights as a private detective.  He mostly takes on cheating spouses and the like.  In this case, though, he gets tangled up in porn, murder, and Mexican drug cartels.  This is book 1 of the series.  I think we can expect to see more T.T. Monday/Johnny Adcock stories down the road.  Did I like this book?  I did.  Did I love it?  I didn't.  Will I read the next one?  Too early to tell.

3.  Ditch Kids, by Mike Degregorio.  We've already had Mike at VHOB a couple of times, including a launch party just a few weeks ago.  I feel like I've known Mike for years.  And I read Ditch Kids over 2 months ago.  But, just like with the 1st 2, I had not done my review yet.  Sorry, Mike.  Well, here it is.  Mike describes this book as semi-autobiographical.  It's about growing up off of Los Gatos-Almaden Road as a kid.  And, even though he gives a little background about his parents and how they came to be together and living in Los Gatos, the book mostly chronicles Mike's childhood in the '50's.  He gives us a lot of play-by-play of his experiences growing up.  I certainly don't know which parts are the semi- part of biographical, but it doesn't really matter.  It was entertaining to read about his exploits.  When he came to VHOB for his launch party, it was very cool to see a number of people who were the models for the kids he talked about in the book.  I enjoyed Ditch Kids and recommend it - especially to those who grew up, or currently live, in the Los Gatos area.

That's it, people.  I know these reviews are not in-depth, but I'm sure none of you will complain.  There are rumors circulating out there (wherever the heck "out there" is) that I tend to be a bit verbose.  Not this time (except for this paragraph)!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Another Fantasy Hits my Recommend List

Another one of our local authors, Alina Sayre, has written a fantasy that surprised me (remember A.R. Silverberry's Wyndano's Cloak?).  The Illuminator's Gift (book 1 of The Voyages of The Legend) was rolling along nicely.  I was enjoying it.  And then - BOOM - the story exploded.  Do you all remember Gone Girl?  I know you do.  In that one, the 1st half of the book was good, and the 2nd half was great.  This hit me in a similar way.  The 1st 2/3 of the book were (was?) entertaining and enjoyable.  I cared about the characters and liked the way they blended.  There was some action and a lot of relationship building. The protagonist, 12-year old Ellie, lost her parents at a very young age and had to be sent to an orphanage.  In her succeeding years, she was adopted 3 times and sent back to orphanages each time.  I really felt for her.

So there I am, pleasantly reading about Ellie, Jariel, Miss Sylvia, and Chenelle.  And then Jude, Owen, Connor, the captain, and Vivian (a little bit later), and waiting to see what would happen next.  And, as I said before, I got blindsided.  The last 1/3 grabbed me and shook me.  I was cheering, crying, gasping, crying, shaking, and, you guessed it, crying. It's rare that a book does that to me (not the crying part).  Obviously Gone Girl did.  But, most of the time, I like a book pretty much the same all the way through.  Not so much this time.  Alina gets high marks for the 1st 2/3 and off-the-chart marks for the last 1/3. Nicely done, Alina.

What is this book about?  Once again, I turn to Goodreads to give you the outline.

Ellie is a twelve-year-old orphan who desperately wants a family. She just doesn't expect to find one when she joins the crew of the Legend, a flying ship in a secret rescue fleet. On board, she meets a boy with a pet tarantula, a bully with eyes like mirrors, and a librarian who can read eighteen languages. Unexpectedly, Ellie also discovers a powerful gift that only she can wield. But when the Legend is called to a dangerous rescue mission, Ellie risks losing everyone she loves. Will her mysterious gift be enough to save her and her friends from a deadly enemy bent on destroying their world?

You might ask:  Who would like this book?  Well, obviously, some (at least one) 64-year olds.  Let's ask the question a different way:  Who is the target audience?  Alina has said 9-14 year olds.  I've already purchased a copy for my 9-year old granddaughter.  She is an avid reader but, currently, only avids Harry Potter.  She's on book 6, so it could be a while before she gets to Alina's book.  I will be harassing her (mildly, of course) until she picks it up.

If you know any kids in the 9-14 age group, you cannot go wrong if you buy this book for them.  But again I say that I think it has appeal beyond that limited age group.  I know I'll be in the front of the line for book 2!

BOOK LAUNCH:  Although Alina self-published The Illuminator's Gift in 2013, she will have a formal book launch at - you guessed it - Village House of Books on Thursday night, July 10.  I strongly urge you to come see Alina.  She is so darn cute - and talented. You will also get to meet Amalia Hillmann, her illustrator, who has done a beautiful job with the cover art (and who is also darn cute - and talented).  It will be early enough in the evening (6:00-8:00) that all of your kids/grandkids can make it.  And let's not forget that it's summertime.  Come on down.  It's going to be a lot of fun.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Back to A Miscellaneous/Hodge Podge/Stuff Post

There is no theme to this post.  I simply have things to share.  Notice I didn't ask if you actually want me to share.  This is one of those dictatorial decisions.  Onward...

1.  Tomorrow starts the last week of TTBC (The Twitter Book Club).  We finish reading Tara Conklin's The House Girl, and you all can comment on any part of the book over the next week.   If you read The House Girl, feel free to comment on Twitter - @LloydRussell5, with hashtag #booksage1. Tomorrow, I will announce our next book on TTBC.

2.  This past Saturday, the 3 authors of Legendary Locals of Los Gatos had a launch at the Los Gatos Library.  I decided to attend so that I could get an idea of what to expect when we have them at VHOB on Friday night, June 13.  It was interesting.  I haven't seen all 180 names, but I know that Peggy Fleming Jenkins and Steve Wozniak are on that list. And here's something interesting - John Steinbeck lived in Monte Sereno when he wrote The Grape of Wrath.  He lived in the area for 2 years.  Isn't that cool?

3.  Amalia (Molly) Hillmann, who is the illustrator for Alina Sayre's book, The Illuminator's Gift, and an artist in her own right, is working on a fundraiser for Ryan Saldana's family. Ryan is the 3-year old that died in a car accident in early May.  Here are the links.  And thanks to Molly for doing this.

My fundraiser:

My blog post explaining why I'm holding the fundraiser:

4.  I had a great Sunday at Recycle Bookstore today.  I missed the last 3 Sundays, so I was very happy to be back out there recommending books.  Today I sold 5.  PLUS, I saw all of my grandchildren.  Life is good.

5.  In case you haven't heard, Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch picked up a Pulitzer Price this past week.  I have to admit I haven't read it yet.  But now that I know it's won the Pulitzer, I'm pretty sure I never will.  I'm not crazy about literary prize winners.

6.  Last week, we had Bill Goodson over at VHOB.  Bill, who is a doctor and who has spent his whole career helping women with breast cancer, decided to write a novel.  And this novel deals with an issue that he cares very deeply about.  And that would be rape by a foreign diplomat who is immune to prosecution here in the United States.  The story takes place back in the '60's.  I haven't read it but intend to.