Thursday, December 31, 2015

Books of 2015

It is now 11:44 on New Year's Eve.  I have been home since 8:45.  Yes, I am an NYE dud. But at least I can say with certainty that this is my last post of 2015!

Below is the complete list of books I read, in order, for 2015.  I will still be posting separate blogs for:

1.  The list of the bigger-than-usual number of non-fiction books I read this year
2.  1st time authors - for me

Here they are:

Spectrum - Alan Jacobson - 3.0 - 415
The Martian - Andy Weir - 3.25 - 369
Ballad of the Whiskey Robber - Julian Rubinstein - 2.5 - 299
We Were Liars - E. Lockhart - 2.0 - 225
A Sudden Light - Garth Stein - 2.75 - 396
Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline - 4.0 - 273
Leaving Time - Jodi Picoult - 2.5 - 398
Forward to Camelot - Susan Sloat & Kevin Finn - 3.25
The Stranger - Harlan Coben - 3.5 - 386
Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials - Tyler Draa - 246
The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins - 2.5 - 323
Love Caters All - Nicci Carrera - 3.0 - 188
Be Careful What You Wish For - Jeffrey Archer - 4.0 - 387
Ordinary Light - Tracy K. Smith - 3.0 - 353
Electric City - Elizabeth Rosner - 2.25 - 320
Ten Days in Paradise - Linda Abbott - 3.0 - 332
Every Day - David Levithan - 3.0 - 324
Dep't. of Speculation - Jenny Offill - 2.0 - 177
The Given Day - Dennis Lehane - 3.5 - 702
The Children's Crusade - Ann Packer - 2.5 - 432
Deadly Secret - Joy Brighton - 2.0 - 327
Boardwalk Beatdown - Steve Sporleder - 252
Dismal Mountain - John Billheimer - 3.25 - 339
Still Alice - Lisa Genova - 3.25 - 293
Pure & Sinful - Killian McRae - 3.0 - 248
Cross Roads - Wm. Paul Young - 3.0 - 286
The Lost Bookaneer - Matthew Pearl - 2.5 - 386
Cash Landing - James Grippando - 2.75 - 364
The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion - 3.25 - 292
The Bone Tree - Greg Iles - 3.25 - 804
Sudden Secrets - C. Lee McKenzie - 2.5 - 265
Mightier than the Sword - Jeffrey Archer - 4.0 - 400
Breathless in Love - Jennifer Skully & Bella Andre - 4.0 - 398
Private Offerings - Ann Bridges - 2.75 - 338
A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki - 3.0 - 403
Lawyer Up - Kate Allure - 3.25 - 276
The English Spy - Daniel Silva - 3.25 - 475
Goodnight June - Sarah Jio - 4.0+ - 282
Edge of Eternity - Ken Follett - 4.25 - 1099
The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty - Vendela Vita - 2.5 - 213
Herb of Grace - Shelley Adina - 3.5 - 288
The Race for Paris - Meg Waite Clayton - 3.25 - 306
The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah - 3.5 - 438
The Museum of Extraordinary Things - Alice Hoffman - 2.75 - 361
Some Other Town - Elizabeth Collison - 2.5 - 293
Daring to Dream Once Again - Dinah Lin - 2.5 - 193
We Never Asked for Wings - Vanessa Diffenbaugh - 3.5 - 294
San Francisco - Marian Lindner - 2.0 - 294
Nicki's Discovery - Dick Yaeger - 2.75 - 416
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee - 3.0 - 376
Lost in the Wake - Linda Gunther - 2.0 - 243
The Monsters of Templeton - Lauren Groff - 2.75 - 361
The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto - Mitch Albom - 3.0 - 459
After You - JoJo Moyes - 3.75 - 352
Kitchens of the Great Midwest - J. Ryan Stradal - 3.25 - 310
Come Away with You - Karma Brown - 3.5 - 350
Top Secret - W.E.B. Griffin - 3.25 - 541
The Right Wrong Thing - Ellen Kirschman - 2.75 - 243
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin - 3.5 - 258
A House in the Sky - Amanda Linkhout & Sara Corbett - 3.0 - 367
The Good Girl - Mary Kubica - 3.0 - 350
Alex Haley's Roots:  An Author's Odyssey - Adam Henig - 2.5 - 107
Being Mortal - Atul Gawande - 3.75 - 263
Reckless in Love - Jennifery Skully & Bella Andre - 3.75 - 439
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Rebecca Skloot - 3.25 - 328

Books - 65
Pages -  22,890

Happy New Year everybody!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Books by Genre

This is exactly what the title says.  I have divided my total books read for the year into different genres - 12 of them, to be exact.  Not surprisingly, the 2 largest groups are Mystery/Thriller/Suspense and Fiction & Literature.  But there are 6 other categories with at least 2 books read.  Take a look.

Spectrum - Alan Jacobson
The Stranger - Harlan Coben
Be Careful What You Wish For - Jeffrey Archer
The Given Day - Dennis Lehane
Boardwalk Beatdown - Steve Sporleder
Dismal Mountain - John Billheimer
Crash Landing -James Grippando
The Bone Tree - Greg Iles
Mightier than the Sword - Jeffrey Archer
The English Spy - Daniel Silva

Science Fiction
The Martian - Andy Weir

Ballad of the Whiskey Robber - Julian Rubinstein

Non-Fiction Memoir
Ordinary Light - Tracy K. Smith
Daring to Dream Once Again - Dinah Lin

Young Adult Fiction
We Were Liars - e. lockhart
Every Day - David Levithan
Sudden Secrets - C. Lee McKenzie

Fiction & Literature
A Sudden Light - Garth Stein
Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline
Leaving Time - Jodi Picoult
Forward to Camelot - Susan Sloat & Kevin Finn
The Girl on the Train -Paula Hawkins
Electric City - Elizabeth Rosner
Dep't. of Speculation - Jenny Offill
The Children's Crusade - Ann Packer
Still Alice - Lisa Genova
The Last Bookaneer -Matthew Pearl
The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion
Private Offerings - Ann Bridges
A Tale for Time Being - Ruth Ozeki
Goodnight June - Sarah Jio
The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty - Vendela Vita
The Museum of Extraordinary Things - Alice Hoffman
Some Other Town -Jan Collison
We Never Asked for Wings - Vanessa Diffenbaugh
San Francisco - Marian Lindner
To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Monsters of Templeton - Lauren Groff

Non-Fiction Trade
Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials - Tyler Draa

Love Caters All - Nicci Carrera
Ten Days in Paradise - Linda Abbott
Deadly Secret - Joy Brighton
Breathless in Love - Jennifer Skully & Bella Andre
Lawyer Up - Kate Allure

Pure & Sinful - Killian McRae
Niki's Discovery - Dick Yeager

Religious Fiction
Cross Roads - Wm. Paul Young
Herb of Grace - Adina Senft

Romantic Thriller
Lost in the Wake - Linda Gunther

Historical Fiction
Edge of Eternity - Ken Follett
The Race for Paris - Meg Waite Clayton
The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Top Books of 2015

As you can see from the ratings at the end of each book title, "the 9" go from 4.25 (which is now in my top 25 all-time) down to 3.75.  These are in order, too.  And before you scroll down (you will scroll down, won't you?), here are the total number of books this year at all the ratings below 3.75:

3.5 -      7
3.25 -  12
3.0   -  12
2.75 -    7
2.5 -    10
2.25 -    1
2.0 -      5
DNF -   2 (I don't want to mention names...but one was The Goldfinch)

1.  Edge of Eternity - Ken Follett - book 3 of the Century Trilogy - 4.25

2.  Goodnight June - Sarah Jio - 35-year old woman in NY comes back to Seattle to sell her great-aunt's children's bookstore - 4.0+

3.  Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline - fictionalized account of the fact that East Coast orphans and abandoned children were shipped to the Midwest between 1854-1929 - 4.0

4.  Be Careful What You Wish For - Jeffrey Archer - book 4 of The Clifton Chronicles - 4.0

4.  Mightier Than The Sword - Jeffrey Archer - book 5 of The Clifton Chronicles - 4.0

6.  Breathless in Love - Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre - book 1 of the Maverick Billionaires romance series - 4.0

7.  Being Mortal - Atul Gawande - non-fiction - neurosurgeon's view of the quality of end-of-life - 3.75

8.  After You - JoJo Moyes - sequel to Me Before You - 3.75

9.  Reckless in Love - Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre - book 2 of Maverick Billionaires series - 3.75

Friday, December 25, 2015

RBC Year in Review

We really had a great year with the RBC (Recycle Book Club).  We had a bunch of outstanding authors, and we experimented with a variety of genres.  Here is who came to Recycle Books to address the RBC in 2015 and the genres they wrote in:

January - The Mathematician's Shiva, Stuart Rojstaczer (literary fiction)
February - Spectrum, Alan Jacobson (mystery/thriller/suspense)
March - The Princess of Las Pulgas, C. Lee McKenzie (YA - young adult)
April - Boundaries:  A Love Story, Christine Z. Mason (literary fiction)
May - Dismal Mountain, John Billheimer (mystery/thriller/suspense)
June - The Home for the Friendless, Betty Auchard (memoir)
July - Wyndano's Cloak, A.R. Silverberry (YA fantasy)
August - From Sleepy Lagoon to the Corner of the Cats, Steve Sporleder (Parthenia Hicks came in place of Steve, who was ill and who, very unfortunately, recently passed away)(literary fiction)
September - Herb of Grace, Shelley Adina (religious fiction)
October - Breathless in Love, Bella Andre (who called in) and Jennifer Skully (who was in-house)(romance)
November - Under Wraps, Hannah Jayne (urban fantasy/paranormal)
December - Private Offerings, Ann Bridges (espionage spy thriller)

And looks what's coming up in the 1st 5 months of 2016:

January 20 - The Angels' Share, Rayme Waters (literary fiction, redemption)
February 3 - The Race for Paris, Meg Waite Clayton (historical fiction)
February 17 - The Right Wrong Thing, Ellen Kirschman (police fiction)
March 29 - Murder on the Champ de Mars, Cara Black (mystery/thriller/suspense)
April 28 - The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh (literary fiction, redemption, top-12 all-time)
May 25 - A Taste of Sugar, Marina Adair (romance)

I think 2016 will be another excellent year of books and personal appearances for the RBC. And a big thank you to Stacy and the rest of the gang at Recycle Books for embracing us and doing everything they can to make our book club evenings special.  We couldn't do it without their support.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Positive Report on Sales of Print Books + Exciting Ken Follett News + An Interview with Randy Morkved of Balcony7

Before I get to the print book report, I just saw some VERY EXCITING NEWS from Ken Follett.  After finishing his fantastic Century Trilogy (book 3, Edge of Eternity, is in my top 25 all-time), Follett is now working on a sequel to...wait for it...Pillars of the Earth and World without End!  Is that great news or what?  Okay, it won't be ready until the 2nd half of 2017. But that's only 1.5 (or so) years from now.  For those of you who are new to my blog, Pillars is in my top 3 books ever (along with Michener's The Source and Clavell's Shogun). And World without End is in my 2nd 12 (now 13).  This is truly outstanding news.

The next item is an interview that Randy Morkved,  who is the founder and CEO of Balcony7, gave to the Library Journal.  Who are Randy and Balcony7?  Well Balcony7 is the company that publishes Ann Bridges (Private Offerings), Tyler Draa (Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials), and Josh Russell (Little Boy Soup), along with a bunch of others.  Read what he has to say about his company and authors, as well as the publishing industry -

Finally, here is the report, with a graph, that shows how the print book is making a comeback.  But don't worry ereader fans.  You're down a bit but still strong.
For the last half decade, ever since digital books and e-readers first came on the scene, news headlines have been at war. “The physical book is dead,” some reports declared, while others vehemently argued for the eternality of the printed word.

Data, actually, supports the latter sentiment. At least in the US, sales of physical books have experienced a renewed surge of interest, according to Nielsen BookScan, a data provider that collects data on roughly 85% of the print market.

As of early December 2015, Nielsen says, around 571 million paper books have been sold in the country—a modest but noticeable increase over the 559 million sold in 2014.

Publishers told the Associated Press this week that the rise of coloring books and books authored by YouTube stars this year seems to have contributed to Americans’ re-investment in physical books. The release of Harper Lee’s much-buzzed-about (albeit bizarre) second novel Go Set A Watchman also may have played a part; Lee’s book sold four times as many copies in hardcover as in e-book format, suggesting that most readers wanted to own a physical copy of the historic book, HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham told the AP.

While it’d be a stretch to say that the physical book is thriving, it’s at least staying strong. The same can’t be said of the e-book, which is seeing a decline in popularity. A Pew Research Center study in October found that fewer Americans are buying and using e-reading devices like Kindles and Nooks than they did in past years.

Assuming these trends continue, 2016 might just be the year that the physical book makes—fingers crossed—a real comeback.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Reckless in Love, by Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre - A Worthy Successor to #1

As you all know, I loved Breathless in Love, book 1 in the Maverick Billionaires series.  I gave it a 4/4.  AND, it took me two posts to say all that I wanted to say (June 26 & 29).  I'm going to try and get my review of book #2, Reckless in Love, all into one post this time.  But it won't be easy.

The synopsis is not that important.  Just like in #1, one of the 5 maverick billionaires meets a potential love interest.  And just like in #1, the love interest has a family member that really needs her ongoing help.  Does this sameness take away from the story?  Absolutely not!  I was caught up in the relationship immediately.  In this one, we have Sebastian, a self-help guru, and Charlie (short for Charlotte), a welder of creatures made out of junk pieces.  And Charlie has a mother, Francine, who is in a very low-end nursing home. Charlie, of course, wants to make enough money to move her mom into a much nicer place.  But she can't make it work.  Will billionaire Sebastian change that scenario for Charlie?  Well, I guess you'll have to read it to find out.

Okay, let's just get this out of the way.  I cried a whole bunch, including a couple of times where I was borderline blubbering (with the use of "borderline," I'm trying to make myself seem a little less out of control - did I succeed?).  But, although a bit embarrassing, I have to tell you what happened to me on Friday.  I had just read a particularly tear-inducing part (pages 388-89 out of 445).  Right after that, I had a one-on-one meeting.  As I was talking to the other person, my mind drifted to the scene I had just read.  You know how sometimes when you're feeling emotional you sort of hitch or inhale a short gasp?  Yep, that's what happened to me.  I think I covered it pretty well but, c'mon?  Are you kidding me?  That'll teach me to read this series prior to any scheduled meetings!

What did I like about this book?  Everything.  Let me give you some highlights.  And as they say on game shows, these are in no particular order:

1.  The visuals are great.  When they describe Charlie working; or when she
comes down the stairs at a gala; or when Sebastian is speaking to 50,000
people; you can actually see the scene in front of you.
2.  I just flat-out care about the mavericks and their adoptive parents (for 4 of
the 5 mavericks) Bob and Susan.  And I care about Will's fiancee, Harper, and
her brother, Jeremy, from book 1.  Basically, I care about all of them.
3.  Sebastian and Charlie don't even kiss until page 100. That seems smart to
me.  The authors let the tension of the physical connection grow.
4.  The description of the art itself - Charlie's sculptures and Sebastian's
drawings - is interesting.
5.  I like how in each of the 1st 2 books there is a 3rd person to really care
about - besides just the lovebirds.
6.  I got a takeaway from this book, just like I did in #1.  It's not quite as
dramatic as the last one I got from Skully and Andre.  But it hit me
nonetheless.  There is a scene where Sebastian is trying to help Charlie's
mother improve her medical condition.  Although his efforts did not prove
to be successful, Charlie tells Sebastian that she loves him for trying.
Sometimes we get too wrapped up in the result and not enough in the effort.
Food for thought.

And no review would be complete without me throwing in a couple of situations
that I can relate to personally:

1.  2 books ago I read Being Mortal.  A lot of it talks about not-so-good
nursing homes.  And in Reckless in Love, where does Charlie's mother
reside?  Yep, in a not-so-good nursing home.  Deja vu.
2.  Charlie is a big fan of the original TV show The Outer Limits.  It wasn't
The Twilight Zone, but it was still a good show that I enjoyed a lot
growing up.
3.  Charlie is talking to Sebastian about how her mother walks a mile
every day when, physically, it should be impossible for her to do that.
The last line of the chapter says:  "And Charlie began to cry."  I have a
note to myself for that page that says:  "Me too."  That kind of says it all.

For those who don't know (or remember), Jennifer (in-store) and Bella (by
phone) were our RBC authors for October.  We all read #1 and talked about it
with the 2 authors.  And everybody liked it.  Well, I'm here to say that every-
body is going to like this one too.  If you're into romances, then pick up
either of these 2 books (or both!).  I guarantee that you won't be sorry.

Jennifer Skully

Bella Andre

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Los Gatos Library Evening Book Club Finishes up the Year in Style

Tuesday night we had our last Los Gatos Library Evening Book Club meeting of the year. We read a good book and had a good discussion - even though our illustrious leader, Melissa Maglio, was under the weather and unable to be there.  But here's the thing:  She does such a great job of preparation that even us underlings can lead a discussion.  This time it was Iris.  A few months ago it was Cherie.  This is just a very fun club.

So I had great attendance this year.  I only missed 2 meetings.  And one of them I actually read the book and couldn't get there at the last minute.  Here is the month-by-month breakdown, with ratings:

January - Ballad of the Whiskey Robber, by Julian Rubinstein - 2.5

February - The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown - 3.5

March - Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline - 4.0

April - Every Day, by David Levithan - 3.0

May - Still Alice, by Lisa Genova - 3.25

June - Marsh, by Geraldine Brooks (DNR)

July - A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki - 3.0

August - The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion - 3.25

September - The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman - 2.75

October - To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee - 3.0

November - The Martian, by Andy Weir - 3.25

December - The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin - 3.5

Did you notice that I gave every one of the 11 books, except for 2, a 3.0 or higher?  9 out of 11!  And there were 2-3.5s and 1-4.0.  Pretty darn good.  But even if there were a bunch of 2.0s, I would still try to get there every month.  It's a great group of regulars and, as I said earlier (but it bears repeating), Melissa is the bomb.

Our leader

Thursday, December 17, 2015


We all know that Alex Haley wrote Roots.  And we all know that the mini-series is still one of the most-watched TV events of all time.  You may even know that Roots is in my top 12 all-time (what? you didn't know that?).  But Adam tells us a bunch of stuff that I bet you didn't know.

1.  Did you know that Haley became one of the most sought-after speakers in
the country?
2.  Did you know that Haley had to have bodyguards because he was so-well recognized
and approached everywhere he went?
3.  Did you know that Roots was published as non-fiction?  That it was supposed
to represent Haley's ancestors?
4.  Did you know that several lawsuits were filed against Haley, claiming that
his book was not historically accurate?
5.  Did you know that Haley had a legal battle with his publisher, Doubleday?
6.  Did you know that Haley died from a heart attack at the young age of 71?
7.  Did you know that Adam Henig is a local author?

Adam's book is very short.  It's only 60 pages (with big print!).  But he packs a lot of very interesting info into a small book.  In fact, my 7 questions only scratch the surface of the factoids that Adam gives us.  It's definitely worth reading.  There's a lot more going on than just a very highly rated TV show and blockbuster book sales.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The 2nd Half of Being Mortal - Almost as Good as the 1st Half

Although the 2nd half of Being Mortal - Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande, was a little more technical and philosophical than the 1st half, it's still excellent. It still had a bunch of poignant stories, including a few that were very personal to Atul.  It still had humor, tears, statistics, and good writing like the 1st half had.  But rather than give you any of that, I want to quote a few short sections of the book that I think are very important for all of us to hear.  And since this is non-fiction and deals with how the disabled elderly live their final days/months/years, there's really no spoiler alert issue.

"...assisted living isn't really built for the sake of older people so much as for the sake of their children." - pages 105-106

"... the Three Plagues, of the fact that people in nursing homes are dying of boredom, loneliness, and helplessness..." - page 119

" help people in a state of dependence sustain the value of existence." - page 128

"The terror of sickness and old age is not merely the terror of the losses one is forced to endure but also the terror of the isolation.  As people become aware of the finitude of their life, they do not ask for much.  They do not seek more riches.  They do not seek more power.  They ask only to be permitted, insofar as possible, to keep shaping the story of their life in the world-to make choices and sustain connections to others according to their own priorities.  In modern society, we have come to assume that debility and dependence rule out such autonomy.  What I learned...was that it is very much possible." - pages 146-147

"We've created a multitrillion-dollar edifice for dispensing the medical equivalent of lottery tickets-and have only the rudiments of a system to prepare patients for the near certainty that those tickets will not win.  Hope is not a plan, but hope is our plan." - pages 171-172

"The less seems almost Zen:  you live longer only when you stop trying to live longer." - page 178

"...about two-thirds of patients are willing to undergo therapies they don't want if that is what their loved ones want."

"Endings matter, not just for the person but, perhaps even more, for the ones left behind." - page 252

And, finally, here is Gawande's take on what palliative care is all about:

"Whenever serious sickness or injury strikes and your body or mind breaks down, the vital questions are the same:  What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcomes?  What are your fears and what are your hopes?  What are the trade-offs you are willing to make and not willing to make?  And what is the course of action that best serves this understanding" - page 259

We all need to be a part of this extremely important discussion.  And one of the best ways that you, the reader, can be a part of it is by reading Being Mortal.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Review of Half a Book (yes, you read that right!)

January will be the 5-year anniversary for The Book Sage blog.  And in all those years, I have never even thought about writing a review of half a book.  Why would I do it now? Because there is so much to say about the book I'm reading that I simply can't wait until I'm done.  Bizarre?  Perhaps.  Out of character?  Probably not.

What book is this, you ask?  It's Being Mortal - Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande.  You may have heard of it.  Gawande addresses issues of end-of-life for the elderly.  But this is not about medicine.  This is about quality of life, living with a purpose, enjoying the last few years.  I am at different times learning history, looking at stats, and reading case studies.  I am alternately laughing, crying (of course), and shaking my head. This guy can really write.  Every page is fascinating.

Gerontology is the medical discipline that deals with the elderly.  But oftentimes the emphasis of its practitioners is strictly on medication, medical procedures, and the safety of their patients.  Makes sense, right?  But what good is health if there is no life?  And non-gerontology medics/nurses/caregivers/social workers know even less what to do with old people.  Gawande is working to change the whole perspective on late-in-life care.  It's more than just retirement communities, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.

Let me give you just a few tidbits.  And believe me when I tell you that I'm only scratching the surface of what Gawande tells us.  And remember that I've only read half the book!

1.  Emily Dickinson and her sister spent the better part of their lives living with,
and caring for, their mother - to the exclusion of their own personal lives.                            
2.  Several years ago, the University of Minnesota cancelled their gerontology
department.  And other universities have cut way back.  And this is at a time
when we have never had so many people living much longer lives.                    
3.  There's the story of the 87-year old geriatrician who gave Gawande details
on how the body changes in old age.  Very clinical and very poignant at the
same time.                                  
4.  In Philip Roth's book Everyman, he says:  "Old age is not a battle.  Old age
is a massacre."                                  
5.  Social security became law in 1935.  And medicare in 1965.
6.  Assisted living came into being in the mid-80s in Oregon.  Didn't you think
it was much earlier than that?                                  
And on and on and on.  There is so much to tell you.  And I will give you a lot more in my next post.  But I have to relate to you a couple of things Gawande has written that have hit home for me.

1.  He tells the story of an elderly man who backed out of a driveway, hit the gas
accidentally, leaped across the street and through his neighbor's fence.  When our
son, Josh, was 17, he did the same thing.  We briefly had a stick shift truck, and my
father-in-law was trying to teach Josh how to drive it.  It didn't take - clearly.
(Fortunately, he doesn't read my blog!)            
2.  I read a story on page 48 where my takeaway was that I can't imagine living
without Joni.                      
3.  When Gawande was relating the story about the advent of assisted living
facilities and how they might, or might not, improve the quality of life for the
elderly.  I thought of the assisted living residence that we put my father in.  Did
we do for him?  Or for our convenience?  Tough to answer.                            

As you can see, there is an enormous amount of substance in this book.  And I feel very confident that this will continue in the 2nd half too.  Needless to say, I STRONGLY recommend that you read Being Mortal.  In fact, I insist (can I do that?).


Saturday, December 5, 2015

An Interview with Marina Adair - Romance Author par Excellence (and the May RBC author)

I have known Marina for a number of years now and have read several of her books.  She is definitely one of my favorite romance authors.  Now, we not only get insights into her writing and background, but we also have her booked for our RBC.  She'll be coming to the store on Wednesday, May 25, 2016, and will be discussing book 3 in her Sugar, Georgia series - A Taste of Sugar.

Q&A with Marina Adair

1.    What are your books about?
I love stories that deal with women reclaiming their identity after a divorce, suffocating parents, or a major life-altering experience. Exploring how women learn to balance life and career excites me. And I also love exploring different kinds of healthy love, and of course finding new and fresh ways to give fictional characters their happily ever after.

2.    What made you decide to write novels?
I began telling stories when I was six or seven. I was sick a lot as a kid, so stories were my escape. I would sit in my room for hours on end making up elaborate scenes with Barbie and Ken. I didn’t start writing professionally until about 10 years ago. Screenwriting was my gateway into the industry, but after years of canceled projects, and living in LA, I decided to try my hand at novels and discovered I loved it. I loved the freedom that comes with writing novels. Instead of just being in creative control of the dialogue, I am the screenwriter, the director, the set dresser, the editor, and the marketer.  

3.    What is your writing routine?
My daily goal is 2000 words, so after the kiddo is off at school, I pull out my laptop and get to work. Hopefully I finish before it is time to pick her up, but if not then I am back writing after everyone goes to bed so that I get in my word count.  

4.    Do you belong to a writing group?
I belong to the Silicon Valley Romance Writer’s of America chapter. I met so many lovely women who have helped me through all of the ups and downs of the industry. My first advice to aspiring writers is always join a structured writing group! 
5.    How did you get your publisher?   
I have a savvy and dedicated agent, Jill Marsal, who carefully selects which editors from the different houses she is going to submit me to. She has a talent for setting up the right authors with the right editor. So all of my books have been sold through my agent. 

6.    Do you have other books written that are waiting for publication?  
I just finished editing the third book in the Heroes of St. Helena series, NEED YOU FOR MINE, which comes out March 2016. It is a friends to lovers romance that follows elite smoke jumper, and all around ladies’ man, Adam Baudouin, who finds himself in a faux-mance with the town’s good girl. Only one kiss and Adam learns that there is more to the milk and cookies art teacher that he’d love to explore. But first he has to convince her to trust the town’s most notorious playboy. 

I also have a new series coming out in August of 2016, the Destiny Bay. It centers around a small costal town in Washington State, where romance blooms as readily as apples. There will be nosy old biddies, small town charm, and lots of emotion and romance. Oh, and did I mention the men? Rugged, sexy, and looking for love.    

7.    Who edits your books?
My publisher.

8.    How much time does it take from signed contract to published book?
It varies by publisher. My first St Helena Vineyards book, KISSING UNDER THE MISTLETOE, was published six months after it was contracted. But then SUGAR’S TWICE AS SWEET, the first book in my Sugar, Georgia series, took three years to publish, and that was after they had contracted a completed book.  

9.    How do you come up with titles and covers?
Titles I usually brainstorm with my agent or editor, and coming up with great titles is hard for me. As for covers, those are up to my publishers.

10.  How long does it take to write each book?
I once wrote a book in 20 days because I was pressed for a deadline, but they usually take me 3-4 months from conception to finished piece.

11.  How many books do you write in a year?
Between 3 and 5. 

12.  Do you have a mentor?
I have had many along the way, starting with the brilliant screenwriter and my grad school mentor, Barnaby Dallas, who told me, “The only thing you have to do to become a writer is sit down and write. Everyday.” As of late, I look to author friends Catherine Bybee and Skye Jordan for advice. They are both savvy, successful, and extremely generous with their time and information. And, of course, my agent, Jill Marsal, is constantly helping me reshape and define how I want to build my career. 

13.  Do your characters speak to you?
No! I wish they would. I have never had characters speak in my head and am always jealous of writers who do. I knew when I went into this that I wanted to build a career that could support my family, so being fickle and waiting for inspiration was never a luxury I had. And I imagine that if I ever did have characters that spoke to me, they would do it on their own timeline.

14.  Do your characters dictate what happens in your books?  Or do you know
       ahead of time where they’re going?
Lordy, no! I am a major plotter—to the point that it drives my author friends and loved ones crazy. I plot out time to plot . . . seriously. I even make a plot chart that shows all of the major turning points in each of my plotlines, color coded of course, so I can make sure that they all work together.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Review of The Good Girl, by Mary Kubica

The Good Girl is the 3rd book I have read that was very highly recommended by my Goodreads friend, Melissa.  Although it was my least favorite, I still gave it a 3/4.  The 1st one was Goodnight June, by Sarah Jio, and I gave that one a 4/4+.  The 2nd one was Come Away with You, by Karma Brown.  I gave that one a 3.5/4.  Does this mean that I'm going to shy away from Melissa's recommendations?  Definitely not.  I mean a 3/4 is still darn good.

Here is the Goodreads synopsis:

One night, Mia Dennett enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. At first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life. 

When Colin decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota instead of delivering her to his employers, Mia's mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them. But no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter. 

It's actually an interesting storyline.  And I like how she kept going back and forth between BEFORE and AFTER.  I also like how each each chapter rotates among 3 voices - Gabe, Eve, and Colin (until the end - that's all I'm saying about that).  She did a clever job in how she formatted the book.

Mary Kubica can definitely write.  Here are 2 examples of very strong imagery:

1.  "It's for Mia's own good," he says, breaking the earsplitting silence.
2.  Her voice is close enough to touch, but I can't see the expression on her face.
There were a couple of things that I was not crazy about:

1.  It wasn't until page 184 that I realized I was mispronouncing Mia's name in my head.  I know that seems like a small thing, but it actually bothered me a bit.
2.  On page 305 (out of 350), I kind of wanted the book to be done.  I can't really explain why.  I obviously liked it.  But, for some reason, I was ready to move on to something else. HOWEVER, on page 306 (literally), it took off and stayed riveting until almost the end. That's what saved the 3/4 rating.

I also have to give Mary credit for creating quite a twist at the end.  I definitely did not see it coming. Having said that, though, it didn't grab me.  I strongly suspect that others will be raving about the ending.

One note I have to point out - There is a moment when one of the characters says several times to another character "Please don't leave me."  I believe that's the exact same thing Belle says to The Beast in Beauty and the Beast.  How random is that?

The Good Girl is not going on my recommending table.  But I'm still thinking that many of you will like this debut novel.  It's certainly good enough for me to check out her next one - whenever that comes out.