Monday, July 28, 2014

August Author Events (plus 1 in late July) - A Great Month Coming Up

Wednesday, July 30, 6:30-8:15 - Keith Raffel will be coming to VHOB for our July VHOB Book Club meeting.  We will talk about his book from 6:30-7:15, and then Keith will be there from 7:15-8:15 to answer questions and sign books.  He is most entertaining.

Friday, August 1, 7:00-8:00 - SG (Scott) Browne will be talking about his 2 latest books (out of 6), Lucky Bastard and Big Egos. 

Wednesday, August 13, 7:00-8:00 - Josh Safran will be talking about his debut book, Free Spirit, which is a memoir.  If you go to his website - - you will read some amazing testimonials from Elle Magazine to Publisher's Weekly to the San Jose Mercury News.  

Wednesday, August 20, 5:30-6:15 - Gregg Hurwitz, author of 10 best-selling novels (not to mention 6 anthologies), will be at our NEW store signing books.  With his schedule, we couldn't get him for an evening event.  But we are lucky enough to have him in the store signing his latest book, Don't Look Back.

Wednesday, August 20, 6:30-8:15 - VHOB Book Club is very pleased to have Ellen Sussman, author of 6 books, including 4 novels, for our August book club meeting.  Ellen has a very strong national presence, and we are thrilled to have her.

Friday, August 22, 7:00-8:00 - Laurie McAndish King, who is an award-winning travel writer and photographer, will be here to discuss her book, Lost Kidnapped Eaten Alive! The book takes us to places around the world and introduces us to countries that most of us have never seen.  It should be extremely interesting.

Saturday, August 23, 12:00 noon-3:00 - the 1st annual Literary Fair is taking place in Los Gatos on the lawn in front of the Civic Center (on Main Street).  The Library will provide up to 35 local authors, of which 15 will speak for 5 minutes each, and all will sign books for 3 hours.  Village House of Books will be providing the 2 keynote speakers, Laurie R. King and Jay Elliot.  They will each speak for 15 minutes (Laurie to open and Jay to close) and will be there signing books during the event.  VHOB will also have a table where we will be selling a whole variety of books from our 2 stores (that's right, VHOB is opening a 2nd store right on Main Street by the middle of August).  It promises to be an amazing day.

Was I lying when I said August is going to be a terrific month for events at VHOB?  I think not.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Review of Suzy Vitello's One Moment Before

Suzy Vitello’s The Moment Before is another YA for me.  In recent times, I have read YA’s from C. Lee McKenzie (3) and Hannah Jayne.  I have also read a middle grade fantasy from Alina Sayre.  I have liked them all.  Am I trying to regain my youth? – too late.  Am I trying to run away from the realities of the adult world? – Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that, but, no (at least I don’t think so).  I think it’s no more complicated than opportunity.  I ran into Lee at a Los Gatos Library function and met Alina at Village House of Books.  Hannah I knew from her appearances for the Underworld Detection Agency.

How did the current opportunity arise?  Well, Suzy lives in Portland, OR.  She was visiting a friend in Los Gatos, who recommended that she do a book signing at Village House of Books.  I came in to meet her, bought a book and had it signed, and then decided to read it.  There you have it.  I have become a YA (and MG) magnet.  It’s the equivalent of the Fountain of Youth for an old guy.

Did Suzy’s book measure up to the others?  You bet.  You want a synopsis?  Of course you do.  And nobody does it better than Goodreads:

"Don't get me wrong. I loved my sister. I never, not once, wished her dead."
Brady and Sabine Wilson are sisters born eleven months apart, but they couldn't be more different. Popular Sabine, the head cheerleader dating the high school hunk, seems to have all the luck, while her younger, artsy sister "Brady Brooder" is a loner who prefers the sidelines to the limelight.
After Sabine dies in a horrific cheerleading accident, grief unravels Brady and her family. Once recognized for her artistic talent, 17-year-old Brady finds herself questioning the value of everything she once held dear. Her best friend betrays her. Her parents' marriage is crumbling. And the boy everyone blames for the accident seems to be her only ally in the search for answers in the wake of her sister's death. As an unlikely friendship emerges, Brady learns more about Sabine - and love - than she bargained for.

Do all YA’s have a family member die?  It kind of seems like it.  And this is not your garden variety of death either.  A cheerleading accident?  Ouch. 

What did I like about this one?  Just about everything.  For example:

  1. Suzy writes beautifully.    She has many fairly long descriptions, which I typically find boring.  But not in this case.  Even though I like action and dialogue, I enjoyed her descriptions.
  2. Her ability to paint a picture with a short phrase also worked well for me.  She describes the result of one physical altercation as a “child services-sized bruise.” She also says:  “My sister could persuade a supermodel to gain seventy-five pounds and learn to throw shot put.”  Nice.
  3. She uses one strategy a lot that is designed to show the thin line that often exists between 2 extremes:  virgin:whore, rager:regretter.  I’ve never seen that before, but it very graphically illustrates how close 2 ends of a spectrum can actually be.
  4. She created the most unlikeliest possible relationship and made me love it (can’t tell you any more than that).

You all know (blah, blah, blah) how important it is for me to connect with at least one of the main characters.  That almost always leads to a bunch of tears.  This is a rare case where I was completely connected with many of the characters and did very little crying.  (And when I did shed a few, they were connected to Brady and her art – go figure!).  Maybe I’m maturing and gaining more control of my emotions…nah!  Whatever the reason, I just didn’t shed many tears and still loved the book.

Just like with other YA’s I’ve read, I strongly recommend this one – and not just to YA-aged readers.  Everybody will like The Moment Before.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

3 National Best-Selling Authors Pay VHOB A Visit

On Tuesday night, July 15, VHOB had 3 best-selling authors come for a panel discussion.   Sophie Littlefield, Rachael Herron, and Gigi Pandian were terrific.  Combined, they have written about 25 novels.  It was enormously interesting.  Besides learning about how each of them decided to be authors, and how each of them came to be published, we also spent a considerable amount of time talking about genres.

What about genres, you ask?  Well, their novels are called women’s fiction or up market fiction.  We talked about what that designation does for sales.  Obviously, when a man hears that a book is women’s fiction, then there’s a good chance he won’t read it.  In fact, all 3 of these authors write books with strong female protagonists.  But I can tell you that they’re good reads for anybody.  I used to read a bunch of mysteries and thrillers.  Since I started my blog 3.5 years ago, and especially since I started booking authors for VHOB, I have read a ton of other genres:  Romance, romantic suspense, erotic romance, religious, steampunk, paranormal, science fiction, allegories, fantasy, and YA,  And here’s the truth – if the book is well-written and connects you to the characters, it doesn’t make any difference what genre you pigeonhole it in.  (54% of all published books are romances.  Our authors said that it was pretty obvious that publishers are just fine with marketing those books primarily to women.)

Back to the panel discussion.  We are very informal in these types of events.  I've got a list of questions but typically only get a couple of them asked.  The audience can (and does) break in whenever someone's got a question.  And we encourage the authors to talk amongst themselves.  So they will engage in dia(tri?)logue whenever the mood moves them.  In this case, all 3 authors are good friends.  This lead to some very interesting tidbits about each of them.  We went close to an hour before shutting it down and heading into the signing .  We were all done by 8:30.  Lots of fun.

Thank you Sophie, Rachael, and Gigi for making the trek all the way down to Los Gatos.  I'm looking forward to reading more of your books.  And I'm definitely looking forward to further discussions about genres.  This seems to be a real hot button issue.

Rachael Herron

Gigi Pandian

Sophie Littlefield

Saturday, July 19, 2014

And Then There Was Friday Night. And Another Launch. This Time, It Was Linda Gunther’s Turn.

Linda's event was the launching of her 2nd book, Endangered Witness.  The event was structured similarly to most of our other launches.  There was food and beverages and schmoozing from 6:30-7:00.  At 7:00, we took it inside.  The event itself was far from typical.  There were over 30 people there!  That’s pretty darn good.  

The presentation started as it usually does, with me introducing the author.  In this case, though, it took me forever.  She has done a million things.  Here are just a few of them:

-teacher of ESL (English as a 2nd language)
-executive in corporate human resources

She has also:

-studied French in Paris
-studied Italian and culture in Florence
-studied writing for screen and TV at UCLA
-been a photographer in Havana

See what I mean?

Then, finally, it was time for Linda to take center state.  And she performed admirably.  She talked about how she came to write both this book and her 1st one, Ten Steps from the Hotel Inglaterra.  The 1st one, in fact, was semi-autobiographical.  The new one, less so.

Linda combined some background in writing the book with reading a few passages.  Everybody was charmed by her presentation.  She did a great job, and VHOB will be very happy to host Linda when her next book comes out!  Take a look at a few pictures.

The schmooze half-hour

Linda is in front

Is Linda ready to grab that guy in front?

More of the same

This one is pretty obvious, I believe

A cool view from the back of the room

Friday, July 18, 2014

Last Thursday Night, July 10, We Had a Fantastic Launch Party at Village House of Books

THURSDAY, July 10, Alina Sayre, author of The Illuminator’s Gift, and her cover artist, Amalia Hillmann, came to VHOB.  We all had so much fun.  From 6:00-700, there was face and arm painting, (courtesy of Alina’s mom), a coloring contest, and a drawing for a free copy of Alina’s book.  We had a bunch of kids (including my 4 grandchildren) take part in the activities.  Plus, there was food and beverages for adults and kids alike, provided by VHOB and Alina.

Then, at 7:00, Alina talked about her book, read a few passages, took questions (one young lady, in particular, has a future career in journalism), and signed.  The event ended a little after 8:00, and, as they say, a good time was had by all.

Here are a few pictures from the event:

Alina and fans enjoying the sun, food, and beverages

Alina's mom doing the face- and arm-painting

Granddaughter Drew (on the left) and her friend Scarlet

Granddaughter Haley getting her face painted

Coloring contest (the little one is granddaughter Josie)

Right before Alina began her presentation

Alina, getting ready to read

Kids reading along with Alina

Alina reading and kids following along

Alina and Amalia posing for pictures with their fans

Monday, July 14, 2014

An Interview with Taylor Stevens, Author of The Catch, Due in Stores, Tomorrow, July 15

I had the opportunity to interview (through the author's publicity team) Taylor Stevens, author of the Vanessa Michael Munroe series.  Her 4th book in the series, The Catch, is on sale tomorrow, Tuesday, July 15.  I think you will find her answers pretty enlightening.
  1. 1. How did you come up with the character of Vanessa Michael Munroe?
The whole thing was really quite by accident. But first, you have to understand that when I started writing, I had no idea what I was doing. I had never taken a writing course, had hardly read but maybe 30 novels by that point and, as I’d been deprived of an education beyond 6th grade, I was limited to what I’d taught myself since. When I began to write what would eventually become THE INFORMATIONIST, the first in what has become a 5 ¼ book series, what I wanted was to write about Equatorial Guinea, a little speck on the map off the west coast of Africa where I’d lived for a little over two years. The character of Vanessa Michael Munroe was born from the circumstances I threw her into. She was, and is, a woman who made sense within the environment and made sense to me as a person.

  1. 2. How did your background as a child within the Children of God, without an education past 6th grade, influence your decision to become an author and what you write about?
The concept of “what we wanted to be when we got older” just didn’t exist when I was growing up. We lived and worked as unpaid child labor inside the communes (dishes, laundry, childcare, and cleaning) and expected to continue doing so until we died—which would be young—because the world was ending any day. The cult beliefs didn’t allow for paid employment outside the communes so for money we begged and sold cult-produced literature which we turned over to the commune leaders. The decision to write came much, much later, after I was free of the cult, newly in my thirties, still relatively new to the real world, and at home with two babies because putting them in daycare would have cost more than I could have earned. My education and life experience were still limited to what I’d taught myself since grade school and I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. Deciding to write was a sudden “aha” spur-of-the-moment thing: I’m going to write a book. At the time I didn’t have a concept of genre, I just knew that I enjoyed “exciting” books and I wanted to write about Equatorial Guinea. It was from that that THE INFORMATIONIST was born, and the rest of the series followed that same international, off-the-beaten path vibe.

  1. 3.   How does being compared to Lee Child and Dan Brown (Dallas Morning News), and having Lee Child, himself, and the late Vince Flynn rave about your writing and characterizations, affect the pressure you must feel when you are writing your next book?
You know, until you asked the question, I’d never even thought about the comparisons in terms of feeling pressured. Flattered? Oh absolutely. Honored? Yes! In awe? That too. I do a lot of pinch me, I’m dreaming. But I’ve never felt pressured by the comparisons and I think that’s because I’m not writing those authors’ books or having to fill their shoes or please their fans. If I had to write a Jack Reacher novel I’d probably pass out from the stress of just the thought of it. But, where I do feel pressure—a lot of pressure—is in striving to meet the expectations of those who’ve already read and loved my own books. Intellectually, I know that not everything I write will resonate with every reader. In my head, I know that a title that is “the best yet” for one reader will be “boring, what a snoozer,” to another, but I still struggle with that on an emotional level, because I work so hard to please, and if someone has invested time and money in my work, the last thing I want is to disappoint them. I’m terrified of it, actually.

  1. 4. How many Vanessa Michael Munroe books will you write?  And if you intend to continue writing about her, do you plan to throw in a standalone every once in a while?
This series has kind of gone book-by-book as I’ve never been able to see further ahead than what comes right after whatever I’m working on. At the moment I have two more stories pinging around in my head—both of which I’m quite excited about—so we could continue up to seven, if my publisher wants to keep the series going. The issue with standalones is that I can only write so fast, and as long as Munroe is what the readers want, then that’s where my focus has to be. I do have other ideas that I’ve toyed with, squeezing in work on them here and there between deadlines, so who knows, we may get one before too long.

  1. 5. What is your writing schedule?  Do you work a certain amount of hours each day?  A certain number of days each week?  A certain time of the day?
I try hard to treat writing as I would if I had a day job—well, maybe a very non-corporate, flexible-schedule sort of day job. I do hold “office hours” on weekdays and set daily goals that vary, depending on what part of the process a book happens to be in. Some days are 18-hour days, some are only six. I used to write pretty much every day, including weekends, until I realized this wasn’t doing anyone any favors, not even the work. Being able to chart my own schedule is probably the absolute biggest benefit I get out of what I do as it allows me to juggle work with being mom and all that goes into running a household.

  1. 6. How much input/say do you have in the title of the book and the cover art?
Fortunately, and gratefully, the publishing team has been very collaborative in seeking and valuing my opinions and input, but I don’t have the final say-so on anything other than the words inside the book.

  1. 7. Are you obligated/contracted/expected to write a book each year?  And if so, is it a tough schedule to adhere to?
The industry standard for this genre is to put out a book each year, but in reality, the schedule is set out through contract negotiations and I’ve never had more than two books under contract at a time. I’ve been keeping to the once a year schedule, not so much because of publisher expectations, but because of my readers who’d want a book a month if I could deliver that—which I can’t (sorry guys). A book a year keeps me on my toes. What’s most time intensive is making sure I’ve got the details correct, and then finding a way to weave that texture and atmosphere into what’s otherwise an over-the-top story without bogging it down. If these stories were less exacting in that way, less grounded in reality, less exotic in location, then I’d be able to write a lot faster. In my next life, I’m choosing a genre where I can just make everything up.

P.S.  I don't know why there's a 1. in front of every number.  I can't figure it out, but it doesn't really affect the Q&A, does it?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Review of Gigi Pandians' 1st Book, The Artifact - AND A HUMONGOUS ANNOUNCEMENT

But you have to read to the end of this post to get the major announcement.

Gigi is 1 of 3 authors coming to VHOB this coming Tuesday night, July 15, at 7:00, for a panel discussion moderated by yours truly (don't let that discourage you from coming).  I had already read Pack Up the Moon by Rachael Herron and House of Glass by Sophie Littlefield.  I didn't want Gigi to feel left out!

So Artifact is book 1 in the Jaya Jones series.  Gigi's 2nd book in the series, Pirate Vishnu, is the one that she will mostly be talking about on Tuesday.  But I have to say that I liked #1 a lot.  I will definitely read #2 (I will have an excellent opportunity to buy it - and get it signed - on Tuesday!).  What's it about, you ask?  Take a look:

When historian Jaya Jones receives a mysterious package containing a jewel-encrusted artifact from India, sent by her ex-lover the same day he died in a supposed accident in the Highlands of Scotland, she discovers the secrets of a lost Indian treasure may be hidden in a Scottish legend from the days of the British Raj. But she's not the only one on the trail.

From San Francisco to London to the Highlands of Scotland, Jaya must evade a shadowy stalker as she follows hints from the hastily scrawled note of her dead lover to a remote archaeological dig. Helping her decipher the cryptic clues are her magician best friend, a devastatingly handsome art historian with something to hide, and a charming archaeologist running for his life.

Let me tell you some of the things that I like about Artifact:

1.  I like that I couldn't figure out whodunnit.  It is a mystery, after all.
2.  I like that on page 92 (out of 264), something happened where I said "Ho, ho, ho, ho." (This was surprise, not Christmas.)
3.  I like that Jaya, who lives in San Francisco, comes to the UC Berkeley campus and talks about Sproul Plaza and how that was a political hotbed in the '60's.  No kidding.  I went to Cal from Fall, 1967 to Spring, 1972 (with 1 year off for Army Reserve duty - I did NOT want to go to Vietnam).  I saw many a political speech given during that time.  In fact, I was in Sproul Plaza when the student body president, Dan Segal, encouraged everybody to go to People's Park.  That actually led to 1 death.  AND, I was in Sproul Plaza another time when I was tear gassed(!), even though I was just walking through campus (I was a bit of a wuss back then - and now).
4.  I like that Jaya, who is very short, wears high heels in almost every situation.  This leads to several funny moments.
5.  I like that Gigi does her homework and actually ties the story into history surrounding Britain, India, and the East India Company.  (Gigi is half Indian and half New Mexican(?))

The book is entertaining with a nice mix of adventure, mystery, and romance.  Here are a couple of quotes praising Artifact:

"If Indiana Jones had a sister, it would definitely be historian Jaya Jones" - Suspense Magazine

"Masterfully plotted" - Midwest Book Review

"Artifact is a jewel of an adventure, and Jaya Jones is a plucky heroine to treasure" - Avery Aames, national bestselling author

I recommend Artifact.

Are you ready for the big announcement?  Did you read the review 1st, like I asked?

THE BIG/HUGE (like Julia Roberts says to the clothing store owner in Pretty Woman) ANNOUNCEMENT:  Village House of Books is opening up a 2nd location in Los Gatos. Yep, #2 will be in the previous Automobuild spot at 21 W. Main Street.  It's the last store right before you cross the bridge over Highway 17 on the Los Gatos Coffee Roasting/Athletic Performance side of Main Street.  It's almost twice as big as the current store and should open right around the middle of August.  Now you will have 2 VHOBs to visit, depending on which end of town you're in.  AND, #2 will be open 7 days.

A Slightly Less Humongous Announcement (ergo, no all-caps):  I will start working in the stores on Fridays and Mondays when #2 opens.  I will definitely be at #2 on Mondays and don't know yet about where I'll be on Fridays.  Please don't hesitate to come in and harass me (I'm sure I didn't need to tell you to do that).

Friday, July 11, 2014


That's right.  There's going to be a Literary Fair on the Civic Center lawn (on Main Street in Los Gatos), Saturday, August 23, from 12-3.  The Los Gatos Library is sponsoring the event in collaboration with Friends of Los Gatos Library and Village House of Books. There will probably be as many as 35 local authors on hand to sign books.  15 authors, presented by Los Gatos Library, will speak for 5 minutes each.  And 2 other authors, Laurie R. King and Jay Elliot, brought in by VHOB, will speak for 15 minutes each as the keynote speakers.  They will also sign books.  And, on top of that, there will be a number of local publishers, including Purple Passion press and Push Pen Press.  Are you kidding me?

Laurie R. King will open the festivities.  Here is a short biography of Laurie (prepare to be impressed!):

Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of 22 novels and other works, including the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes stories (from The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, named one of the 20th century’s best crime novels by the IMBA, to 2014′s Dreaming Spies).  She has won or been nominated for an alphabet of prizes from Agatha to Wolfe, been chosen as guest of honor at several crime conventions, and is probably the only writer to have both an Edgar and an honorary doctorate in theology.  She was inducted into the Baker Street Irregulars in 2010, as “The Red Circle”.

Jay Elliot, who has written 2 books about Steve Jobs, will be our closing speaker.  Here is a biography of Jay (a confidante of Steve Jobs?  How cool is that?):

JAY ELLIOT was a senior member of the original Macintosh development team and helped Steve Jobs develop the original user interface inspired by Xerox PARC. Becoming Senior Vice President of Apple reporting directly to Steve, Jay ran all corporate operations including business planning, IT operations, Facilities, and HR for Apple worldwide. As a mentor, Jay was able to guide Steve in learning and utilizing the management principles Jay had learned at IBM and Intel, which helped make possible building Apple into a multibillion company and in turning Steve into the kind of leader who was able to inspire and create the society-changing Apple products.

The Library is still working on it's final lineup.  Go to their official website - - for all of the details.  And keep checking for updates as they finalize their lineup of authors.

Book fans, this is going to be one fantastic event.  You will rarely (if ever!) get a chance to see so many authors in the same place at the same time.  Come and hear 17 authors speak.  And be prepared to buy a bunch of books and get them signed.  You're going to leave this event believing that you just witnessed a little slice of heaven.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


VHOB had a visiting author today signing her debut novel, The Moment Before.  Suzy Vitello, who lives in Portland, OR, was visiting a Los Gatos friend who made arrangements with Cheryl and Steve for Suzy to grace the store for a couple of hours.  I think it's worth quoting NYT best-selling thriller author Chelsea Cain:

“Suzy Vitello is one of the smartest writers I know. She's taught me probably 40 percent of everything I know about writing fiction. I still write mainly to please her."  

Pretty impressive, no?


Thursday, July 10 - 6-8 - Alina Sayre/Amalia Hillmann - The Illuminator's Gift - lots of kids' activities, including face painting.

Friday, July 11 - 6:30-8 - Linda Gunther - Endangered Witness - her 1st novel, Ten Steps from the Hotel Inglaterra, will also be available for buying/signing.


Simon & Schuster has come out with a bunch of book recommendations in various categories.  Take a look, if you're interested.

The Funniest Books By Women In Comedy

Our Favorite 2014 Summer Reads

Book Characters That Benedict Cumberbatch 
Made Better

The Top 7 Grilling Cookbooks

5 Likable Books with Unlikable Protagonists

10 Brilliant Business Books You Can Download For Free

Saturday, July 5, 2014

My 1st Megan Abbott (her 8th) - The Fever

So, I just finished Megan Abbott's YA, The Fever.  I've seen a lot of blogger activity, and it seemed to be all very positive.  And when I went on Amazon and Goodreads, the results were pretty good.  48 ratings on Amazon gave it an average of 3.7/5, and 420 ratings on Goodreads gave it an average of 3.42/5.  Those aren't great numbers but pretty solid.

For me, it's a 2.5/4 (in my rating system) or a 3/5 (in the Goodreads and Amazon system).  I know that Megan has excellent credentials.  The Mystery Writers of America awarded her the Edgar (named after Edgar Allen Poe) for a prior book, which is a really big deal.  I liked The Fever but didn't love it.  First, let me give you the Goodreads synopsis.

The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security.

A chilling story about guilt, family secrets and the lethal power of desire,The Fever affirms Megan Abbot's reputation as "one of the most exciting and original voices of her generation" (Laura Lippman).

Some of you out there might think I'm too old (almost 65) to enjoy a YA.  Uh, uh.  I loved C. Lee McKenzie's 2 YA's, The Princess of Las Pulgas and Sliding on the Edge.  I also loved A.R. Silverberry's YA fantasy, Wyndano's Cloak, and really enjoyed Alina Sayre's YA fantasy (her launch is happening this coming Thursday at VHOB, from 6-8!), The Illuminator's Gift.  So this is not about being an old guy (although I am old).  It's about the story itself.

I thought it was a bit confusing.  I liked the characters but couldn't always keep track of which girlfriend was who.  And who did what.  And what caused the illnesses.  The central protagonists are a father with 2 high school kids, an older son and a younger daughter. This is very similar to Lee's Princess.  In that one, there was a mother, an older daughter, and a younger son.  But in Princess, I was emotionally involved with all 3, but mostly with the daughter, who is the primary narrator.  Here, all 3 family members got a lot of attention, and I didn't really connect with any of them.  I liked them but did not feel an emotional pull.

I have always made a big deal about a visceral connect with a book's main characters. But there's more going on in The Fever than just that.  There were too many characters beyond The Big 3 - a bunch of students and a bunch of parents.  It was just too much for me.

But I still liked it well enough.  And let me point out that there are many people who don't agree with me.  On Amazon, 30 out of 48 people gave it a 4 or 5.  And on Goodreads, 219 out of 420 gave it a 4 or 5.  Don't take my word for it.  Try it yourself.

CONTEST:  People, tell me you want this book, and we will have a drawing.  The publicist, Tandem Literary, who sent me my book, is giving away 1 copy to a lucky reader (isn't everybody who follows my blog a lucky reader?).  Interested?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

1st Notice for Litquake 2014, JCC Palo Alto - August 17, 2:00-8:00

Well, Litquake is almost upon us again.  Last year was the 1st time that I really took advantage of the entire day.  And look what came out of it:

Tracy Guzeman, The Gravity of Birds.  Tracy has been to VHOB twice, including in April as our VHOB Book Club author for the month.

Amy Franklin-Willis, The Lost Saints of Tennessee.  Amy was our February VHOB Book Club author.  And in an informal survey before our discussion, 8 out of 9 people gave the book a 4 out of 4.

Ellen Kirschman (introduced to me by Sheldon Siegel), Burying Ben.  Ellen was at our store back in November.

Besides meeting Tracy, Amy, and Ellen for the 1st time, I also saw Sheldon, Keith Raffel, Michael Lavigne, and Ellen Sussman (who is our August VHOB Book Club author).

I think you would agree that that was quite a lineup.  So who is scheduled to come this year?  Well, there are a ton, including several VHOB author event alumni:

Ann Gelder, Bigfoot and the Baby (she was just at our store)
Nick Taylor, writing as T.T. Money, The Set Up Man (we saw Nick back in February)
Jan Harwood, The Raging Granny Mysteries
Joshua Safran, Free Spirit:  Growing Up on the Road and off the Grid (he'll be at VHOB in August)
Ellen Kirschman
Ellen Sussman
Keith Raffel

On top of our locals, there are also nationally prominent authors Marcia Clark (yes, she of O.J. fame) and Kelly Corrigan.  And there are more to come.  Stay tuned.

In 1 week, we've got our launch for Alina Sayre with her illustrator, Amalia Hillmann.  I reviewed Alina's YA fantasy, The Illuminator's Gift, in my blog - - June 2.  And I gave it very high praise.  So, come see Alina and Amalia.  The event is 6-8. And from 6-7, Alina will have a bunch of kids' activities, including face painting.  I think your kids/grandkids will enjoy themselves.  And so will you.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Barry Eisler Has Done It Again

Barry Eisler's Graveyard of Memories is a prequel in the John Rain series.  This is book #8, and it's been quite a while in coming.  The last Rain book was almost 3 years ago. And for those of us who are used to getting a book-a-year from the likes of Silva, Coben, Berenson, Child, and many more, this was an excruciatingly long wait.  But I'm happy to say that it was well worth it.  Barry has created a character that, although he's not lovable, we truly care about.  And, furthermore (doesn't that sound literary?), he writes as well as any other author out there today.  His books may not be winning Pulitzer Prizes, but they are all very well-written in addition to being exciting, suspenseful, dramatic, and even poignant.  In fact, this is the 1st John Rain book that I actually cried.  What, you say?  A book about an assassin doesn't seem like something that would produce tears.  And, yet, there is a scene well over half-way through the book that I laughed and cried at the same time.  Who knew?

I haven't told you the premise for this book.  It's not your typical next-book-in-the-series. It tells us how Rain came to be an assassin.  Now, I have to tell you that I'm not a huge fan of prequels.  I just accept the fact that a series starts from a well-developed place and continues on from there.  In this case, though, Barry has employed a literary strategy that absolutely worked for me.  He has a later-in-life Rain narrating.  So, 1st of all, we know that Rain is still alive.  And, secondly, since we've read all of the other books in the series, we know that he's no spring chicken.  Having a "mature" Rain tell the story made all the difference in the world to me.

There is really no storyline to dwell on.  John Rain is 20 years old and living in Tokyo. And we find out how it all began.  Having said that, it's still fascinating to learn what happened to create the Rain that we all have come to know (and love?).  Barry does give us a little romance, but it's not your typical romantic setting and not your typical sweetheart (have I said too much?).  We still care - a lot.  And when modern-day Rain tells us, decades later, what happened to his early girlfriend, we are happy for her.

Okay, I'm just about done.  Except for a couple of things.  1st, we not only learn about a young Rain, we also learn about a young Tatsu.  Do you remember him?  He's the police detective/friend that Rain collaborates with quite a bit through the years.  It's great to meet him in the prequel.  He is a great character.  2nd, and this might seem a little unusual (you all should be used to this by now!), there is an incident in the book that has a very strong resemblance to a scene from Billy Madison.  Yes, that Billy Madison, with Adam Sandler going back to elementary school as an adult.  I simply can't/won't say any more than that.  You're just going to have to read it (but you'll know it when you see it).

If you are a John Rain fan, then this is a no-brainer.  You will love it.  If you aren't, then this is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in a real fine series.  You have a choice of starting with this one, where you learn about his beginnings, or make it #8, like all the rest of us had to do.  Either way, you're going to be a happy camper.

P.S.  Go to Barry's website - - and take a look at his background.  It's pretty darn interesting.

VHOB NOTE:  We have added an event for July.  On Tuesday, the 8th, Suzy Vitello, author of The Moment Before, will be at the store for a Meet and Greet.  Pop in and say hello (and pick up her book).  Her writing partners include Chuck Palahniuk, Chelsea Cain, and Cheryl Strayed - big names in the publishing industry.  That, alone, would make me read her book.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July Is Here, And You Know What That Means - MORE EVENTS

We have 5 events in July.  But before I give you the details, Village House of Books is hosting Where's Waldo throughout the month of July.  Go to the website for details -  Joni took our 2 older grandchildren to Willow Glen to participate a couple of years ago.  They loved it.  It is enormous fun.

Here are the bookstore events for July (start marking your calendar - don't make me come get you).

1.  Thursday, July 3, 4-6 - Laurie Barna, The Liberty Series:  For the Love of Liberty. Laurie has produced a book that has pictures of her paintings.  And what better way to usher in the 4th of July than with a book that honors our national holiday of independence?

2.  Thursday, July 10, 6-8 - Alina Sayre, The Illuminator's Gift (with Amalia Hillmann, the illustrator).  This is a launch.  But it's not a normal launch.  Alina has written a very good middle grade fantasy and she wants the kids who come on the 10th to have some kid fun. So she's going to have face painting, an art contest, and a chance to win a free book. C'mon, are you serious?  This beats the heck out of what we adults do during a launch. We eat (which the kids will do), and we drink wine (which the kids will definitely NOT do). It's going to be great fun.  I'm trying to talk my son into bringing his 9-year old daughter and 6-year old son to the event.

3.  Friday, July 11, 6:30-8 - Linda Gunther, Endangered Witness (also, Ten Steps from the Hotel Inglaterra).  This is also a launch, but of the adult variety.  That means food and wine from 6-7, followed by the reading/discussion/presentation, Q&A, and signing.  Okay, it's not face painting, but it's still going to be darn fun.  And, after all, we are adults (at least chronologically).

4.  Tuesday, July 15, 7-8:30 - 3 NATIONAL BEST-SELLING AUTHORS - Sophie Littlefield- House of Glass, Rachael Herron-Pack Up the Moon, Gigi Pandian-Pirate Vishnu.  We're going to do something that we haven't done in quite a while.  We're going to have a panel discussion, moderated by yours truly (that means me).  I think you all should be there if, for no other reason, than to laugh at me. But, besides that, don't you want to see and hear what 3 national best-selling authors have to say?  About writing best sellers? about their thought processes? about their current books? about their next books? et al?  This is a no brainer, people.  (P.S. I have read House of Glass and Pack Up the Moon and really liked them both - I'm trying to get to Gigi's 1st book, Artifact, before the event.)

Sophie Littlefield

Rachael Herron

Gigi Pandian

5.  Wednesday, July 30, 6:30-8:15 - Keith Raffel, A Fine and Dangerous Season - VHOB Book Club. This is a really cool book.  And it's based on the fact that JFK audited business school classes at Stanford in the fall of 1940.  JFK befriends a local Stanford business school student.  They have a falling out (think of JFK's womanizing reputation) and their relationship ends.  However, 22 years later,  JFK needs his ex-friend's help during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Not only is the book very creative, but Keith also has newspaper clippings and menus from 1940.  I was at his launch at Kepler's a few months ago and was really impressed with his research.  Plus I liked the book a lot.  Come see Keith do his thing.  He's a lot of fun to talk about books to.

Are you incredibly excited?  You should be.  This is going to be a GREAT month.