Sunday, November 30, 2014

Series - Redux

It has been over 3.5 years since my last post about series.  Here's what I wrote back in 2011:

3/11 - series that I liked that have ended
4/5 - series that I like that have not ended

Are there still any series that I'm reading?  Actually, quite a few.  Some are from the 4/5/11 list, and some started after that post.  Here they are:

Ken Follett - The Century Trilogy - great series, with #3 (which I haven't read) out since September

Jeffrey Archer - The Clifton Chronicles - book 4, Be Careful what You Wish for - came out earlier this year - 1st 3 books were terrific

Terry Brooks - Landover - a fantasy series that I really like - 6 so far, with a 7th (I just found out) coming in 2015

Daniel Silva - Gabriel Allon - Silva puts one out every year, and I make sure to read it - he's at least as good, if not better, with each new one

Greg Iles - published book 1 of a new trilogy a few months ago - with his Natchez, Mississippi protagonist, Penn Cage - Natchez Burning is excellent

Sheldon Siegel - Mike Daley/Rosie Fernandez legal thrillers - he's written 7 and will have #8 in 2015

Sheldon Siegel - book #1 of the Detective David Gold (based in Chicago, Sheldon's birth city - he lives in the Bay Area now) series - 1st book is The Terrorist Next Door - really enjoyed it

Dan Brown - I haven't read #4, Inferno, yet, but it's in my TBR pile - I liked the 1st 3 a lot

James Grippando - Jack Swytek - there have been 11 so far, and they're all entertaining

David Rosenfelt - Andy Carpenter - 13 to date - always enjoy them - see Grippando above

W.E.B. Griffin - Presidential Agent, Charley Castillo - he's done 8, and I'm waiting for #9 - except that he has started a new series, Clandestine Operations, with The Assassination Option #1 - I haven't read that one yet but expect I will

Sam Eastland - Inspector Pekkala - I've only read 3 of the 5 - I have to get on that one

David Baldacci - really liked The Camel Club series - but one of his latest series, with government assassin Will Robie, is close - 3 so far

Alina Sayre - The Voyages of the Legend - fantasy series for middle graders (8-12) - book 2 is coming out in 2 days (December 1) - I've read them both - The Illuminator's Gift and The Illuminator's Test - and have loved them both

It's very possible that I've missed one or more series that I'm still reading.  We'll concede that possibility!  If you want any specific information on any of these, let me know (not that you can't find out on your own, of course).

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Latest list of authors I'm in contact with - 15 months later

The last time I posted this list was August of last year.  Of course, every list (this is #3, I believe) has additions and subtractions.  For this one, I have lost 14 and have added...(drum roll, please) 41!  This is NOT a misprint.  However, I did have a built-in meeter/greeter - my job at VHOB.  I was in charge of author events for about 10 or 11 months.  So, obviously, I had an opportunity to meet a lot of authors.  AND, since January, we have had our book club.  1st, it was the VHOB Book Club.  Then, in September, we moved it Recycle Books.  And, let's remember, the author comes to our book club meetings.  Well, regardless of the reasons, I've got a bunch of new authors for the list.  Here's the latest group:

Adair, Marina
Auchard, Betty
Barrett, Elisabeth
Baszile, Natalie
Billheimer, John
Black, Cara
Browne, S.G.
Bumpus, Carole
Castro, Jenn
Clayton, Meg Waite
Dart, Julie
DeGregorio, Mike
DePaul, Virna
Ford, Jamie
Franco, Betsy
Franklin-Willis, Amy
Gelder, Ann
Goodson, William
Goss, Erica
Gunther, Linda
Guzeman, Tracy
Hafner, Katie
Haynes, Jasmine
Herron, Rachael
Hillerman, Anne
Hoffman, Beth
Horn, J.D.
Jackson, Nate
Jacobson, Alan
Jayne, Hannah
Johnson, Victoria
King, Laurie R.
King, Shelly
Kirschman, Ellen
Kramer, Bryan
Kretschmer, G. Elizabeth
Lavigne, Michael
Lescroart, John
Littlefield, Sophie
Lukas, Michael David
Mason, Christine Z.
McBurney-Lin, Jana
McKenzie, C. Lee
Myers, Tim
Packer, Ann
Pandian, Gigi
Pastrone, Lauri
Piccinini, Toni
Raffel, Keith
Rojstaczer, Stuart
Safran, Joshua
Sayre, Alina (Amalia Hillmann, illustrator)
Szczepanski, Marian
Senft, Adina
Siegel, Sheldon
Silverberry, A.R.
Sloan, Robin
Smith, JoAn
Sporleder, Steve
Sussman, Ellen
Swan, Joan
Taylor, Nick
Vitello, Suzi
Waters, Rayme
Wecker, Helene

65!!! (If I forgot anybody, I apologize.  Please let me know, and I'll revise the list.)  I can't begin to tell you how exciting it is to know these authors/people.  Now, I just hope that I can keep in touch with all of them - and more.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The FOURTH TUESDAY BOOK CLUB at Books, Inc. in Palo Alto - Glad to Be Back!

Well, last night was the 1st time I've been to Books, Inc., Palo Alto, for the FOURTH TUESDAY BOOK CLUB in quite a while.  I went regularly for close to a year, but have been MIA for probably 8 or 9 months, maybe even more.  It was great to be back.  Margie Scott Tucker, a co-owner of the Books, Inc. chain (there are 11 locations) leads the discussion.  She does a great job.  Everybody goes around the room and gives their synopsis/opinion of the book, and then Margie asks questions.  But, unlike some book clubs (sorry RBC people), the questions are very well thought out and produce a lot of discussion.   And I really like how everybody participates and nobody dominates (I don't do that, Margie, do I?).  Tuesday night was no exception.  Our book was All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr.  As you know from my review of November 15, I liked it a lot. Most of us there tonight did.

When you have someone like Margie directing you - and when one of your book club members is Meg Waite Clayton, the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, who has written 4 books, with a 5th coming out next August - then you're bound to have some interesting facts presented to you.  Here are a few:

1.  It took Anthony Doerr 10 years to write this book.
2.  This is his 5th book, but only his 2nd novel.  2 of the others are short story collections, and the 5th is a memoir.
3.  Both Margie and Meg said it was unusual for a book of this length (530 pages) to have such short chapters.
4.  Our resident experts are seeing an editorial trend for novels to go back and forth in time.  The way Doerr did it bothered some of our book club members a bit.
5.  The Art of Fielding (which I liked and reviewed on August 10, 2012), by Chad Harbach, took 15 years to write.

Are some of these factoids random?  Sure.  But that's what makes them so interesting. Us book groupies love these insider details.

So, I was really glad to be there, and have already ordered the book for the January meeting - Painted Horses, by Malcolm Brooks.  See you all then.

Everybody in this group is important.  But Margie is standing on the far right, and Meg is next to her.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Alina Sayre's The Illuminator's Test, #2 in the Series

As I got ready to start The Illuminator's Test, book 2 in Alina Sayre's fantasy series, The Voyages of the Legend, I had a pretty unusual feeling come over me - I realized that I was really excited to read it!  It felt like I was picking up the next Gabriel Allon (Silva) or Will Robie (Baldacci) or Harry Clifton (Archer).  And then I started reading.  And you know what?  I felt like I was settling in with people that I knew.  How great is that?

Of course the next question is:  Did I like it?  And the answer is:  A lot!  #2 had a similar arc to #1.  That is, I really liked the 1st part and loved the 2nd part.  In this case, the transition happened at about the half-way point.  In #1, it was a 2/3-1/3 split.  But I am not complaining.  I think Alina needed the 1st half to get to the 2nd half (this is not as ridiculous as it sounds).  The 1st book got them to Rhynlyr, and the 2nd book needed a half to set up their new situation and surroundings.  Once that was done, then BOOM!  It takes off.

As I mentioned in the review of #1 (posted on June 2 of this year), The Illuminator's Gift, I'm not much into fantasy (with Terry Brooks' 6-book Landover series being an exception) - and I'm old!  So, nobody (including me) would expect that I would like a fantasy series where the main protagonist is 12 (now 13) - and a girl!  Go figure.  The fact is that I like this series a lot and am eagerly looking forward to #3 (Alina, when is that one coming out?).

Let me tell you what I like about The Illuminator's Test.  It will take me a while.

1.  It's very well-written.  You gotta have that.
2.  Because all of the main characters are together, you get to see right away what happens just by starting the next chapter.
3.  Alina has a glossary of names, with pronunciations (which you have to have in a fantasy), in the back of the book.
4.  There are a bunch of illustrations in this one.  In #1, the only illustration was on the cover.  This time, Amalia Hillmann has got illustrations sprinkled throughout the book.  I like it.
5.  #2 really moves the story forward.  Instead of being just another episode, it actually has our heroes/heroines transitioning from one geographical location to another.
6.  It's fun to get a history of the One Kingdom, with it's supreme leader and his right-hand-ers.
7.  Oh, and let's not forget that I shed a few on pages...oh, never mind.  There are too many to list.  I will say, though, that very near the end I cried and laughed at the same time, which had waterworks rolling down my cheeks.  No big deal, right?  Uh, did I forget to mention that I was walking on the treadmill in the gym at the time?  I believe there might have been a curious look or 2 thrown my way!

So, that's a lot of stuff to like about The Illuminator's Gift, right?  I know that Alina's 2 books are set up for middle graders (8-12).  But take it from a "mature" reader - it's well-worth it for all ages (and genders).

P.S.  Right after I finished The Illuminator's Test, I started reading the latest from the nationally prominent author, Phillip Margolin (it's called Woman with a Gun and is not out yet).  I was struck by how different the quality of the writing was from Alina's book.  Phillip, I'm sorry to say, but your writing doesn't even begin to measure up to Alina's.

P.P.S.  The official pub date is 12/1.  At that time, you will be able to buy the ebook and print versions of both books on Amazon.  Shortly after that, the paper books will be in a couple of the local bookstores.  I'll let you know about specific locations and dates.

UPCOMING EVENTS FOR ALINA AT RECYCLE:  On December 7, Alina will be joining me out in front of Recycle Books during the Farmer's Market.  She will be there from 10:15-12:15, selling and signing both of her books - the new one, The Illuminator's Test, and the 1st one, The Illuminator's Gift.  Come say hello and pick up her books as gifts for your kids/nieces/nephews/grandkids, etc.

And on January 21, The RBC will have a middle-grade night with Alina.  We will structure our book club meeting like we do with all of our meetings - i.e. the kids will come to Recycle at 6:30 to talk about the book.  And, then, at 7:00, Alina will come to answer questions and sign books.  I've already got my 9-year old granddaughter, Haley, committed to the event.  And I have asked her to let her friends know.  Doesn't this sound like a bunch of fun?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Couple of Recent Author Events

I've had a chance to go to a couple of author events this month (not counting having the very engaging and inspirational Joshua Safran at our Recycle Book Club meeting this past Tuesday night).  The 1st was the launch of Keith Raffel's 5th book, Temple Mount.  It was held at Keith's home base bookstore, Kepler's.  And, not surprisingly, there was a large crowd.  On top of that, Ellen Sussman interviewed Keith.  For me, it was a real treat to have 2 of my favorite authors together in one place.

The 2nd event was last week at Village House of Books.  John Lescroart has written around 25 books, 15 of them with Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky.  I booked John about 6 months ago!  And, even though I don't work at VHOB any more, I was excited to meet him.  And John didn't disappoint.  He's got a long history of writing and gave us a lot of it. Interestingly enough, his career took off with book #4, The 13th Juror, which was about a battered woman.  The timing happened to coincide with the OJ trial.  Nothing like a little serendipity to help launch a career!  

EDITORIAL COMMENT:  People, if you are not in the habit of going to author events, you may want to re-think that.  They are so much fun.  And I really believe that the authors appreciate the crowds they draw.  Think about it.  Just about every good-sized city has at least one bookstore that has author events.  Now, I'm done.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Phillip Margolin's Latest - Woman with a Gun - Release Date - December 2, 2014

I just finished an ARC of Phillip Margolin's latest book, Woman with a Gun.  As it says in the title of this post, it will be released on December 2, a mere 11 days from today.  I have read all of Margolin's books (I think Woman is #20), and I always enjoy them.  They are like comfort food to me.  You're not going to find any of them on The Finest Books of the Year list.  Not even from a lowly blogger like me.  Then again, if you want a burger, you're not going to a 3-star Michelin restaurant for it.  But that doesn't mean you don't enjoy a burger now and again.  That's how I feel about Margolin's books.

Back on February 13, 2011, in only my 2nd month of blogging, I posted a blog about "B-Listers."  These are authors that I like reading, but that would never get a 4/4 from me. And usually not even a 3.5/4 (with a couple of exceptions).  These are 2.5/4 or 3/4. Phillip Margolin was 1 of 20 on that list.  Well, I got in trouble with 1 publisher for putting their author on.  And I guess I can understand why they subsequently dropped me from their list of the bloggers who get ARC's for review.  But that doesn't change the fact that this is how I feel, and that I owe it to you readers to give you my honest evaluation of any book that I read.

Another long-winded diatribe from yours truly.  Let me now get to the new one.

Master of mystery Phillip Margolin transcends his traditional territory in this new and different book, a haunting thriller inspired by an unforgettable photograph

Visiting an art museum displaying a retrospective of acclaimed photographer Kathy Moran’s work, aspiring novelist Stacey Kim is stunned by the photo at the center of the show—the famous “Woman with a Gun,” which won a Pulitzer Prize and launched the photographer’s career. Shot from behind, the enigmatic black and white image is a picture of a woman in a wedding dress, standing on the shore at night, facing the sea. Behind her back, she holds a six-shooter.

The image captures Stacey’s imagination, raising a host of compelling questions. Has the woman killed her husband on their wedding night? Is she going to commit suicide? Is she waiting for someone she plans to kill? Obsessed with finding answers, Stacey discovers that the woman in the photograph is Megan Cahill, suspected of killing her husband, millionaire Raymond Cahill, with the six-shooter on their wedding night. But the murder was never solved.

Drawn deeper into the case, Stacey finds that everyone involved has a different opinion of Megan’s culpability. But the one person who may know the whole story—Kathy Moran—isn’t talking. Stacey must find a way to get to the reclusive photographer or the truth may never see the light of day.

There's really not much to add.  He does a good job of keeping you guessing.  I liked that. He also has a couple of major coincidences on back-to-back pages that I didn't like.  As I said, he's a good solid B-Lister.  You won't be sorry that you read it.  You also won't be calling the Pulitzer Prize people (although I'm sure you already know that I run in the other direction when I see a book that has the PP sticker on it).  Just enjoy the darn thing. Read it before FREE SPIRIT: growing up on the road and off the grid and after All the Light We Cannot See - or vice versa.  It's a nice tweener.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What Led to Anthony Doerr Writing: All the Light We Cannot See

I came across this on a website called On The Shelf.  In light of posting this review only 5 days ago, I thought it would be kind of cool to hear how Anthony came to write this book - in his own words, yet.  I know how disappointed you all must be that my words will be limited in this post!  But I'm pretty sure you'll get over it - very quickly.  

Mr. Doerr:
I first saw Saint-Malo while I was on book tour in France. It’s a ghostly, imperious walled city in Brittany, surrounded by emerald green sea on all four sides. It was night, and after dinner I went for a stroll on top of the ramparts, peering into the third-floor windows of houses, the low-tide beaches glimmering in moonlight, the town glowing. I felt as if I was walking through a city plucked from the imagination of Italo Calvino, a place that was part fairy-tale castle, part M. C. Escher drawing, part mist and ocean wind and lamplight. You walk its cobbled lanes, you smell the tides, you hear the echoes of your footsteps, and you think: this city has survived for well over a thousand years. But Saint-Malo was almost entirely destroyed by American artillery in 1944, in the final months of World War II, and was painstakingly put back together, block by granite block, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. That a place could so thoroughly hide its own incineration, and that my own country was responsible for that incineration, fascinated me.

That visit was an early step in a decade-long journey toward assembling the novel that is All the Light We Cannot See. Along the way it became a book about radio: How did the Reich use radio to hammer a warped nationalism into the minds of Germany’s poor? And how did brave souls use radio to resist German occupation, not just in Vichy France but throughout Europe? I also wanted to conjure a time when it was a miracle to hear the voice of a distant stranger in our homes, in our ears.

Ultimately, the novel became a project of humanism. I longed to tell a war story that felt new, and to do that I needed the reader to invest as completely in Werner (the German orphan boy) as she does in Marie-Laure (the blind French heroine). In the war stories I read growing up, French resistance heroes were dashing, sinewy types who constructed machine guns from paper clips. And German soldiers were evil blond torturers, marching in coal scuttle helmets alongside barbed wire. I wondered if things might have been more nuanced than that. Could I tell a story about how a promising boy got sucked into the Hitler Youth and made bad decisions that led to terrible, unforgivable consequences, yet still render him an empathetic character? And could I braid his story with the narrative of a disabled girl who in so many ways was more capable than the adults around her? My attempt in this novel is to suggest the humanity of both Werner and Marie-Laure, to propose more complicated portraits of heroes and villains; to hint at, as World War II fades from the memories of its last survivors and becomes history, all the light we cannot see.

RECYCLE BOOKS EVENT:  Don't forget that Sunday, November 30, from 9:30-12:30 (during Campbell's Farmer's Market), Lauri Pastrone will be at Recycle Books selling and signing (and wrapping?) her cookbook, Share.  It's in the store, if you want to take a look at it beforehand.  It's a beautiful cookbook with all of the proceeds going to Women for Women International (wfwi).  And it really will make a perfect holiday gift.  If you buy it before the 30th, or if you have already bought it, you can still come by on that Sunday, and Lauri will personalize it for you.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Anthony Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See - Pretty Darn Good

There are many reasons why I pick certain books to read.  It could be because I know the author; or it's come highly recommended; or I'm going to see an author at a local bookstore; or it's an author that I always read.  Another main reason is that it's for a book club.  That's the case here.  Books, Inc. Palo Alto, has a 4th Tuesday Book Club (this month it's November 25) that I used to go to a lot but haven't been able to attend for many months.  Well, I'm happy to say that I can actually get to the November meeting, and All the Light We Cannot See is this month's selection.  I don't think I would have picked it otherwise.  Did I like it?  I really did.  But it didn't start out that way.

For quite a while, I was the victim of what I like to call Literary Staccato.  This is a syndrome in which the writing kind of smacks you in the face.  Here's an example from early in the book:

"When she opens the bedroom window, the noise of the airplanes becomes louder. Otherwise, the night is dreadfully silent:   no engines, no voices, no clatter.  No sirens. No footfalls on the cobbles.  Not even gulls.  Just a high tide, one block away and six stories below, lapping at the base of the city walls."

See what I mean?  It's like boom, boom, boom.  The sentences, or fragments thereof, aggressively come at you.  It's a little hard to explain, but that's what I felt.  Finally, though, I got in the rhythm of it.  Once I did, I was able to focus on the story.  And here's what it's about:

Marie Laure lives with her father in Paris within walking distance of the Museum of Natural History where he works as the master of the locks (there are thousands of locks in the museum). When she is six, she goes blind, and her father builds her a model of their neighborhood, every house, every manhole, so she can memorize it with her fingers and navigate the real streets with her feet and cane. When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure's agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

In another world in Germany, an orphan boy, Werner, grows up with his younger sister, Jutta, both enchanted by a crude radio Werner finds. He becomes a master at building and fixing radios, a talent that wins him a place at an elite and brutal military academy and, ultimately, makes him a highly specialized tracker of the Resistance. Werner travels through the heart of Hitler Youth to the far-flung outskirts of Russia, and finally into Saint-Malo, where his path converges with Marie-Laure.

There are a lot of things I just can't tell you because it will give too much of it away. Here's what I can tell you:  The 2 protagonists, who are young children when the book starts - one in France and one in Germany - are both very likable characters.  You really do care about them and hope that everything goes well for each one.  

I can tell you that I really liked how Doerr sets up his timetable.  He starts in 1944 and then goes back to 1940.  Each time he goes to 1944, he picks up where he left off.  And every time he goes back to 1940, it gets closer to 1944, until...

I can tell you that the book reminded me of Irving Wallace's The Plot - how the book tells a story of several characters who move toward each other.  There are also shades of Romeo and Juliet and Sleepless in Seattle (how often do you see those 2 in the same sentence?).  I can also tell you that something happens late in the book that made me feel the way I did at the end of Pat Conroy's South of Broad.  That's all I'm going to say about that!  (If you want to know what I'm talking about, you can go to my post from October 13 of this year and scroll down a bit.)  And, finally, I can tell you that there is a scene in the book that reminded me of Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark.  Intrigued?  I hope so.

Because there is so much I can't tell you, I look forward to hearing back from some of you if/when you read it.  I would enjoy a dialogue about the book.  And I am definitely excited about the book club meeting later this month at Books, Inc.  See you...somewhere?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

FREE SPIRIT: growing up on the road and off the grid - Long Title, Excellent Book

I'm going to start this review by talking about the very beginning of the book and the very end of the book.  To begin with - on page one I issued a very loud "Holy Mackerel!" When you think of The Glass Castle (one of my top 12 all-time), you certainly think about a dysfunctional family.  Well, when you read FREE SPIRIT, you might think that Jeanette Walls had a normal childhood.  Really.

As for the end of the book, literally the last 10 pages, Joshua Safran has given us an epilogue that truly means something.  Many books, both fiction and non-, have epilogues. And, oftentimes, they neatly wrap up the book.  In this case, I was absolutely fascinated by what Josh says in these 10 pages.  It not only talks about Josh today, but it also tells us how he transitioned from then to now.  I'm having a little bit of trouble saying what I mean, but, trust me, you will be blown away by the book and maybe even more blown away by the epilogue.

Between the beginning and end, there is, of course, a whole bunch of stuff about Josh's childhood.  And I have to admit being a little bit smug that my own son, Josh, did not go through what Josh Safran went through (I think that's true - you'll have to ask my Josh for verification).  It's amazing that Josh Safran got through it and became the family man and crusader for women's rights that he is today.

You want a Goodreads plot?  Fugetaboutit.  This is a book you just have to read.  There are no spoiler alerts here.  But I want to point out, and then emphasize, that this is a very well-written book.  Because of the nature of the story, maybe Josh could have gotten away with less skilled prose.  But, instead, his writing is excellent.  A couple of examples:

In his 1st experience with a popsicle, or any food that is not all-natural, he says:  "No, the genuine artificial article, glowing in unnatural colors and brimming with ingredients like FD&C Yellow No. 5 and enough preservatives to embalm a mammoth."

When Josh's mom, Claudia, gets a phone call that Leopoldo (her husband) is in jail, Josh says:  "The phone went limp in my mother's hand.  She rolled her head back and exhaled like she was giving birth to a nightmare."

The book is not all shock & awe and gloom & doom.  There is a segment where a Canadian border agent tries to get Josh's last name.  This is a scene right out of the famous Abbott and Costello routine, Who's on First."  Very well done.

Besides a few humorous moments, there are also (not surprisingly) some very poignant ones.  Josh realizes that with so much dysfunction, there has to be a few spots where his readers can take a breath.  I give him strong kudos for that.

And, finally, because some of this book takes place in the Bay Area, I get to relate to people and places that Josh talks about.  One is the Hare Krishnas (look them up).  They were big at Cal Berkeley when I was there in the late '60's-early '70's.  Josh encountered them in the late '70's, when they were still prominent in the Bay Area.  And Josh mentions Gilman Avenue, in Berkeley.  I grew up in Albany, a couple of blocks from Gilman.  I was on that street all the time.  Very cool.

That's it.  Read this book.  You will thank me - and curse me - for it.

PERSONAL APPEARANCE:  Josh will be coming to Recycle Books in Campbell next Tuesday night, November 18, for the RBC (Recycle Book Club) meeting.  Our book club will be getting together at 6:30 to talk about the book and get some questions ready for Josh.  Then Josh will arrive at 7:15 and stay for about an hour, answering those (and many more) questions and signing books.  Whether you have read the book or not, you are welcome to come to our meeting or just stop by when Josh is there.  I guarantee you a fascinating experience.

Monday, November 10, 2014

5 Upcoming Events at 2 Independent Bookstores

I know, not a very exciting title.  But the 5 events are definitely going to be exciting.  Here they are in the order that they take place:

1.  Wednesday, November 12, at Village House of Books, 21 W. Main Street, LG - national best-selling author, John Lescroart, who has written over 20 books, will be coming at 7:00 to talk about his latest Dismas Hardy/Abe Glitsky novel, The Seeker.  I liked it a lot (I reviewed it on September 6, 2014).  Then he will sign books, of course.

2.* Tuesday, November 18, at Recycle Books, 275 E. Campbell Avenue, Campbell - the RBC has its November meeting.  Our discussion takes place from 6:30-7:15, and then the author, Joshua Safran, will be there from 7:15-8:15 to answer questions and sign books. He has written a memoir called Free Spirit:  growing up on the road and off the grid.  And let me tell you, this is a crazy childhood that Josh lived through.  The book, which I will review in a day or 2, is really really good.  Not only that, Josh is an attorney who supports battered and abused women.  He will have some interesting stories to tell about some of his experiences as an adult too.  Remember:  You don't have to be an RBC member in order to come to our meetings.  And you can come just to see Josh if you want.

3.  Sunday, November 30, at Recycle Books, 9:30-12:30 - Lauri Pastrone, the editor and driving force behind the cookbook, Share, will be out in front of the store signing her book. It's a great idea for the holidays, and she has even offered to wrap any book that is being given as a gift.  You can go into Recycle any time and take a look at this cookbook.  All the money from sales goes to Women for Women International, an organization designed to give women from war-torn countries a skill that will allow them to be self-sufficient.  You will be fascinated talking to Lauri.

4.  Saturday, December 13, at Village House of Books, 6:30-8:00 - Alina Sayre, who wrote The Illuminator's Gift, a middle grade fantasy, will be launching her sequel, The Illuminator's Test.  Alina will not only be reading from her new book, but there will also be fun activities for kids of all ages, just like she had the 1st time.  And if you want to read a review of Alina's 1st book, I've got one from June 2 of this year.  I liked her 1st book a lot.

5.  Sunday, January 25, at Recycle Books, 9:30-12:30 - Julie Dart has written a children's book called Ellie Stands up to the Bully.  It's been out for a while, but this will be the official launch.  And get this - for every book Julie sells, she will donate 1 copy to the Campbell schools.  How neat is that?

*(I always liked that asterisk thing) - there's a link on the homepage of this blog that allows you to see all of the upcoming authors for the Recycle Book Club.  BUT, because I don't want you to have to take the extra step of clicking on a link, here are the December-April book club authors:

Tuesday, December 2 - Queen Sugar - Natalie Baszile
Tuesday, January 13 - The Mathematician's Shiva - Stuart Rojstaczer
Wednesday, February 18 - Spectrum - Alan Jacobson
Tuesday, March 24 - The Princess of Las Pulgas - C. Lee McKenzie
Wednesday, April 22 - Boundaries:  A Love Story - Christine Z. Mason

There are copies of all 6 books at Recycle Books right now.  And, in fact, Christine has added some signed hardcover copies of Boundaries:  A Love Story that are the same price as the (unsigned) paperbacks.  You don't get that kind of deal very often.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Launch Party AND a Review - Carole Bumpus, A Cup of Redemption

Carole Bumpus unveiled her debut novel, A Cup of Redemption, last Saturday night at Kepler's.  I was pleased to be there.  And you can see some pictures at the end of the review.  But, first, let me tell you what A Cup of Redemption is about and what I thought of it.

Here is the Goodreads blurb:

Like the braiding of three strands of brioche, the lives of three women Sophie Zabel Sullivan, Marcelle Pourrette Zabel, and Kate Barrington become inextricably intertwined as each struggles to resolve issues from past wars that have profoundly impacted their lives. Sophie believed her childhood nightmares were safely behind her once she married and moved to the U.S. from France until she is called to her mother, Marcelle s, deathbed to honor one final request: Search for my father! Search for Pourrette! Born on the last day of World War I, Marcelle, whose life epitomizes the human cost of war, never knew her father, yet carried the Pourrette name, along with the shame of illegitimacy, as did her two oldest sons born during World War II. Enlisting the expertise of a friend and family therapist, Sophie encourages Kate to join her in France to help find her grandfather scour the stain of illegitimacy from her family s name. Unbeknownst to Sophie, Kate s 34-year-old illegitimate daughter, given up for adoption during the Vietnam War, has recently reappeared. Kate, struggling with her own shame and guilt, pushes aside her feelings to join Sophie in France. Rising out of the collateral damage wrought by war, A Cup of Redemption is a touching story about love, loss, and the search for identity."

I liked Cup.  It's different from just about anything else I have read.  I have to admit that I made an immediate connection to Marcelle, who the reader finds out is dead in the 1st 4 lines of the book.  After I read the stories about her with Sophie and Kate, I felt a little bit of loss.  Crazy.  

The story is mostly about Sophie looking for answers to a lot of questions about her parents and her siblings.  But Kate's self-exploration plays a big part too.  There are a ton of characters, and it would have been confusing - except that Carole has a List of Characters at the front of the book with 26 names on it.  It's important to refer to that list on a regular basis so as not to say "Now, who's that again?"  Or even "Who's that?"  Most books don't need that list, but this one does.

Carole's writing is very good.  In describing Kate's 1st meeting with her husband, he says to her:  "Even from far away, I can hear your smile."  That's pretty darn romantic.  And when Kate talks about her children, she says:  "Two of her own children hadn't launched well and kept returning as if on bungee cords."  That's quite a visual.  

Again, keep your eye on the List of Characters, and you will enjoy this book.  Another strong debut novel from another local author.  As I've said many times before, the Bay Area is loaded with good solid authors.  

And some pictures from the launch:

A very nice spread of French food (with wine) before the formal part of the event began

Just a part of the large crowd

Carole being introduced by Nicole, from Kepler's

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A New Review for Your Reading Pleasure

G. (Gail) Elizabeth Kretchmer's book, The Damnable Legacy of a Minister's Wife, has a very interesting premise.  The narrator is Beth Mahoney, who just passed away 6 months ago.  Beth, and her husband, Ryan, were mountain climbers.  Beth's dying wish is for Ryan to climb Denali, in Alaska, which is the highest peak in North America.  The real reason is that she wants Ryan to tell another climber, Lynn Van Swol, that 13-year old Frankie is really Lynn's granddaughter.  And Frankie's mother, Raina, is the baby that Lynn gave away for adoption at birth.  Confusing?  Not really.

This is a book with a lot of pieces.  But, despite that, I didn't have any trouble staying with the stories (which must mean that Gail did a masterful job!).  And although I'm not a big fan of the otherworldly in fiction, unless it's scifi or fantasy, I had no trouble believing that Beth was actually hovering above Ryan, Lynn, Frankie, Raina, et al, commenting on all that was happening.  I'll believe anything, if it's done well.  And this, just like The Lovely Bones, was done well.

There were a couple of other features in this book that I enjoyed.  One was learning some things about mountain climbing.  If you know me at all, then you know that there couldn't be anything I know less about than mountain climbing!  And there's lots I don't know anything about.

I also got a kick out of a scene fairly late in the book which related to Joni's (my wife, in case you didn't know) maternal grandfather.  He was sponsored by a cousin to come over to America, through Ellis Island, from Europe.  His cousin met him, took him to a park bench, told him he was going to get him some food, turned and left, and didn't come back.  A kindly stranger ended up taking him in.  This was similar to one of the characters in Gail's book.  That was cool to read.

The last thing to mention is that I now understand why Gail and Chris Mason (author of Boundaries:  A Love Story, which I reviewed earlier this month) toured together.  Although each of their books couldn't be more different in terms of the theme, they end up having a very similar feel to them.  I consider them to be companion novels.  And I recommend both.