Saturday, April 30, 2016

2 Other Book Events This Week

So even though the RBC meeting with Vanessa Diffenbaugh Thursday was way cool, I actually went to 2 other book events this week.  And they were very cool too.

The 1st one was the Books, Inc. 4th Tuesday Evening Book Club meeting at their Palo Alto store.  As you know, Margie Scott Tucker, one of the co-owners of the Books, Inc. chain, runs the meetings - and does a great job.  I try to get there a few times a year, and I'm doing particularly well so far in 2016.  I've been there 3 times already!  This time, we talked about the YA, Salt of the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys.  You already know what I thought about this one.  I reviewed it on April 17 and gave it a 3.5/4.  Not only that, but Kathleen, the owner of A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, told me that I have to read her other book, Between Shades of Gray.  It's in my TBR pile, Kathleen!

The other event I went to was thanks to Ann Bridges.  She told me that Marty Brounstein would be speaking at the JCC in Los Gatos in conjunction with Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is sundown on May 4 until sundown May 5.  He has written a book called Two Among the Righteous Few.  It's the story of a young Catholic couple from a small town in the Netherlands during WWII who ended up protecting about 2 dozen Jews and saving them from the Nazis.  It's an inspirational story, and Marty is an amazing speaker.  He told us a bunch of facts about the war.  Here are a few of them:

1.    50 million people died during WWII, far and away more than any other conflict in history.
2.    Over 50% of all people who died were civilians.
3.    11 million people died in the Holocaust, including 6 million Jews.
4.    On 12/8/41 (the day after Pearl Harbor), the U.S. declared war on Japan.
5.    Germany & Italy, as allies of Japan (the Axis powers) immediately declared war on the U.S.
6.    The Soviet Union would have fallen to the Germans if the U.S. had not stepped in when they did.
7.    At the time of the U.S. intervention, the Germans were only 20 miles outside of Moscow.
8.    In 1953, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum opened in Jerusalem, honoring Jews and the "righteous non-Jews."  The couple that is represented in Marty's book, Frans and Mien Wijnakker, were honored in the museum in 1983.
The personal story of Frans and Mien is unbelievable.  I haven't read the book yet, but I intend to do that soon.  Of the 2 dozen Jews that Frans and Mien took in, all of them survived.  Isn't that incredible?  They either hid them or got them placed safely in other homes.  Even the local parish priest, although not happy with the situation, did not betray Frans and Mien.  Marty highlighted a few of the Jews that the Wijnakkers took in.  Two of them were an architect and his pregnant wife.  In the most moving part of the evening, Marty introduced his wife, who is the baby that the architect's wife was carrying.  I kid you not.

Marty is someone that you should go see in person if you get the opportunity.  Here's a little about his background:

He is an author, speaker, and management consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Marty has also been a human resources executive and started his career as an educator, with an emphasis on teaching history, including the Holocaust.  His previous books include Communicating Effectively for Dummies, Coaching and Mentoring for Dummies, Managing Teams for Dummies, and Handling the Difficult Employee:  Solving Performance Problems.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Vanessa Diffenbaugh at the RBC - Unbelievable!

You all know how much I love The Language of Flowers.  I's in my top 12 all-time! You also may know/remember that I saw Vanessa last summer in Oakland when she was promoting her 2nd book, We Never Asked for Wings.  When I went up to her to have my book signed, I mentioned the RBC and asked her if she would consider being one of our authors.  And she said yes!  Well, 8 months later, here she came (all the way from Monterey, no less).  And, just like before, she was great.  She's not only an outstanding novelist and a great humanitarian.  But she's also super interesting.  She's animated and funny.  And her story is crazy fascinating.

Thanks to Recycle Bookstore, Orchard Valley Coffee, and Vanessa Diffenbaugh, we had almost 50 people come tonight!  It was fantastic!  Here are some pics.

In case you're wondering, this is Kevin from Recycle.  He sold Vanessa's 2 books at the event.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Man Called Ove (Does anyone know how to pronounce that name? It's Swedish) by Fredrik Backman

DARN IT!  SHOOT!  I was convinced that this was going to be a nice read, but I was wrong. Let me give you a little chronology.  The book is 337 pages.  The 1st 60 were good.  I enjoyed the story.  I was thinking 3/4.  Nothing wrong with that.  Then the next 150 pages picked up considerably.  I went right from a 3/4, slid into a 3.25/4, and then landed at a 3.5/4.  Also good.  Good enough to hit my rec table.  The next 50 pages after that were even better.  Now I'm thinking 3.75/4.  Wow!  Uh, not so fast.  The last 87 pages were crazy good.  I really spent all of those pages smiling, laughing, and crying, often all at the same time.  I just can't believe how good it ended up being.  With it's cast of quirky characters, ages 3 to 60, and a very unusual main protagonist, it was simply charming as all get out. And the final rating is (no drum roll necessary) 4/4.

I could spend the entire review talking about how clever the writing is.  And I will give you some examples.  But something happened in this book that has only happened to me one time before.  Wait for it...I actually got enjoyment reading about an animal!  Are you shocked?  Me too.  The only other time that happened to me was Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain.  In that book, the narrator is a dog.  This one is similar because the animal, a cat, is a central character not much different from the humans that populate Ove's neighborhood.  Whoops, sorry.  I forgot to give you a synopsis of the book.  Here it is.

At first sight, Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet, a curmudgeon with staunch principles. strict routines, and a short fuse.  People think him bitter, and he thinks himself surrounded by idiots.  
Ove's well-ordered, solitary world gets a shake-up one November morning with the appearance of new neighbors, a chatty young couple and their two boisterous daughters, who announce their arrival by accidentally flattening Ove's mailbox with their U-Haul.  What follows is a heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unlikely friendships, and a community's unexpected reassessment of the one person they thought they had all figured out.  

I promised you some examples of Backman's writing.  The 1st one includes one of many scenes with the cat.
1.  "Ove stomped forward.  The cat stood up.  Ove stopped.  They stood there measuring up to each other for a few moments, like two potential troublemakers in a small-town bar. Ove considered throwing one of his clogs at it.  The cat looked as if it regretted not bringing its own clogs to lob back."
Here are some other great analogies:
2.  "The sun is just up; it shines obstinately into his eyes like a child who has just been given a flashlight."
3.   "...the train approaching so slowly that it's as if it's being pulled along by two decrepit oxen."
4.  Here's another one about the cat:  "...the cat is sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor.  It sports a disgruntled expression, as if Ove owes it money.  Ove stares back at it with a suspicion normally reserved for a cat that has rung his doorbell with a Bible it its paws, like a Jehovah's Witness."

I can't list all of the characters that come into Ove's life.  But let me say this.  There is a great love story in A Man Called Ove.  And it's not the kind you typically see.  And, as the blurb from the back of the book tries to say, not every seemingly hard-hearted person is actually hard-hearted.  You will need to read this book to know what I'm talking about.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ratings Criteria + More

First of all, a couple of days ago, I posted a blog asking for people's thoughts on what criteria they used for rating a book.  Thanks to those who responded.  I also wanted to give you Jill Broderick's Facebook page because she got some great feedback.  To see that, search for rhapsodybooks.  3 different options will come up.  Take the 3rd option, which says Jill Broderick.  Then scroll down until you see a post about ratings.  Spend some time to scroll through the comments.  It's worth the couple of minutes it will take you.

Second of all, Steve Berry posted an article on Facebook about the difference between books that are mysteries and those that are thrillers.  This is really interesting.  Here it is:
175 years ago today Edgar Allen Poe’s story, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” first appeared in “Graham’s Lady’s and Gentleman’s Magazine”. Many people consider it the first modern mystery story. Homer’s “Odyssey” is one of the oldest stories in the Western world and is regarded as the earliest example of a thriller. 
Have you ever considered the difference between a mystery and a thriller? Both involve criminal activity, catching the bad guy and usually at least one murder. Mysteries are usually a slower paced story and appeal to people who like to solve puzzles. The story almost always has a hero trying to find a killer. 
Thrillers are more fast paced, filled with suspense, and in general appeal to those who like excitement and danger. They keep the reader on the "edge of their seats" as the plot builds towards a climax. The cover-up of important information from the viewer is a common element. The hero is usually trying to stop some person or persons from committing an evil act and frequently there doesn’t appear to be any way for the hero to win. 
Do you enjoy both mysteries and thrillers, or are you more of a thriller only reader?

Third of all, I just found out that The Girl on the Train will be released as a movie, starring Emily Blunt, Allison Janney, Lisa Kudrow, and Justin Theroux (Jennifer Anniston's husband), among quite a few others, on October 7 of this year.  I didn't like this nearly as much as many others did (2.5/4), but the movie could be good.  Here's a trailer provided by Paula Hawkins, the author.

Author wrote 'The Girl on the Train

Paula Hawkins
Author9,850 Likes
Yesterday at 6:39am
Thrilled to share the official trailer for the movie adaptation of my book, ‪#‎TheGirlOnTheTrain‬! I can't wait to see Emily Blunt Official star as Rachel on the big screen - coming this October!


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What Criteria Do You Use to Rate a Book?

Jill, from, and I would like to get a conversation started about what criteria bloggers (critics, casual reviewers, et al) use to rate books.  Although some of us (me) use a 4.0 rating system and others (the rest of the civilized world) use a 5.0 system, the criteria should be the same.  This all started because Jill and I read the same book, enjoyed it a lot, but gave very different ratings based on genre.  We would love to hear what y'all have to say.  Whether you respond to Jill's blog or mine doesn't matter.  We will be sharing the responses on both.  Let's see if we can generate a discussion that might help us all better identify what we are looking for in a book (whether it be print, ebook, or audiobook).  Please weigh in.  We are anxious and excited to share the comments.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys - A VERY Good Historical Fiction re WWII

Salt to the Sea is considered to be a YA because the 4 protagonists are ages 15 to 19.  But it doesn't feel like a YA.  All the Light We Cannot See also had a couple of young protagonists and also didn't feel like a YA.  But what do I know?  I only know that I really liked it - to the tune of 3.5/4.  Check out the blurb on the inside cover:

Winter, 1945.  
Four teenagers.
Four secrets.
Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies...and war.
    As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.
    Yet not all promises can be kept.
    Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II.  An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

Have any of you heard of this ship?  Do you know anything about Germany's evacuation of its citizens as the war was nearing an end and the outcome was inevitable?  The answer to both of those questions for me is a resounding "No!"  And, yet, the author makes us all understand what was happening through the 1st person voices of the 4 teenagers.  And let me tell you that you will definitely care about them, along with others.  I know I sure did. That might explain why I said "Oh, no.  C__p!" on page 131.  And why I felt like I did in Conroy's South of Broad when one of the main characters bit the dust on page 132.  And why I felt like I was reading Sophie's Choice on page 157.  And why I had chills and tears on page 261.  And why I was nodding my head on page 268.  And why I smiled and got teary on page 314.  And why I yelled "Oh My God" on page 319.  And why I winced on page 322.  And why I kept shaking my head over the course of several pages starting with 326.  And why I flat-out cried on page 338.

Have you heard (read) enough about my emotional breakdowns?  Can I move along now? Okay.  I've already compared it to All the Light We Cannot See because of the youth factor. But this book also reminds me of The Nightingale because it taught me some WWII history that I didn't know anything about.  That's obviously a main function of historical fiction.  It definitely works here.

Because the book flips back and forth among the 4 main characters, it took me a while to remember who was who (I don't know how to use "whom" here - or if I'm even supposed to).  And partly for that reason it took me close to 100 pages to really get into it.  But, ultimately, I really liked when they all came together (kind of like Strangers, by Dean Koontz).  And I really liked reading from the 4 different viewpoints.  In fact, there are 4 pages about 35 from the end of the book in which there is 1 line for each of the 4 leads.  I thought that was particularly clever and effective.

And, on top of all these reasons why I liked the book, there's also the writing:
1.  "His silence was elastic, slowly curling a rope around her neck."
2.  "His skin clung to his bones like drenched clothing."
3.  "The train, battered like a bruised fighter, hissed in the sidings."

There were nice moments in the book, like:  "I tried not to, but I couldn't help it.  I laughed. The wandering boy started to giggle.  Eva burst out laughing.  And then the most amazing thing happened.  The German smiled and laughed.  Hard."  And horrifying moments in the book (you many not want to read this one), like "Mothers tried hurling their infants to passengers up on deck, but they couldn't throw them high enough.  Their babies smashed against the side of the ship and plunged into the sea.  Women screamed and dove into the water after their children."  Can you even imagine?

The one thing I know for sure is that at the end of the book, you are going to want to do some research on the Wilhelm Gustloff.  Trust me on this one.  And thanks to Margie Scott Tucker, who runs the Books, Inc. Palo Alto 4th Tuesday Book Club, for picking Salt of the Sea for April.  I can't wait to talk about it.

Friday, April 15, 2016

A Different Perspective on the LGBT Law in North Carolina

We've all seen reports of entertainers pulling out of scheduled appearances in the state of North Carolina because of the laws regarding LGBT.  My 1st reaction was "Good for them."  Well, here's the other side.  Take a look at this NYTimes article about a single bookstore owner in NC and her lament.  It's worth taking a minute to read what she has to say.  It definitely will give you a different perspective on this issue.  (And it's still book-related!)

And here's some exciting Harlan Coben news.  When we went to see him a couple of weeks ago, he told us all that an A-lister movie star contacted him about producing and starring in his movie.  He said that these inquiries happen once in a while, but that nothing typically comes of them.  Well, 5 days after he came to Book Passage, he posted on Facebook that Julia Roberts is that A-lister.  And she is going to produce and star in the movie!  Isn't that the coolest thing?  Here is Harlan's post.

Julia Roberts is attached to the film adaptation of New York Times best-selling author Harlan Coben’s novel.

Julia Roberts is attached to star in and produce the film adaptation of New York Times best-selling author Harlan Coben’s “Fool Me Once,” Variety has learned. Roberts will produce with …

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Browser Books - A San Francisco Gem

Joni and I are spending a couple of days in San Francisco this week for a little R&R.  We decided to take a little walk to Fillmore Street.  And, lo and behold, we came across Browser Books.  This is a very cool bookstore.  Take a look at Browser's blurb, followed by a bunch of pictures:

Browser Books has been a leading literary bookseller in San Francisco since1976, devoted to offering carefully  selected titles in a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.  We carry books in nearly all subject areas but we are most noted for our comprehensive selection of fiction and literature, classic and contemporary.  Now we have made it easier for you  to browse and purchase books and eBooks by using the links on this site.
Happy Browsing.
Another focus of our collection is philsophy and religion, east and west, especially Buddhism.  In addition to our store we have been publishing titles of poetry and prose dedicated to the search for meaning in our lives.  If you wish to learn more about our publishing, please vist

Ken has been working at the store for 20 years

Sunday, April 10, 2016

YOU by Caroline Kepnes

I don't know quite what to say about this book.  It's being highly touted in the blogiverse (I didn't make this word up, I swear!).  Amazon gives it a rating of 4/5 with over a 1000 ratings.  Goodreads is slightly lower at 3.82/5.  Stacy from is the only blogger I follow that didn't like it.  I'm somewhere in between.  Steven King said "Hypnotic and scary...Totally original."  I think that's pretty accurate.  So, what is YOU about?

WHEN a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he googles the name on her credit card.
There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City.  She has a public Facebook account and tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she'll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight-the perfect place for a "chance" meeting.
As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck's life, he begins quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way.  Joe will do anything to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms-even if it means murder.

I'm going to tell you something right up front.  And I'm doing this as a public service:  Joe is a serial killer.  Why would I give out such a spoiler alert, you ask?  Because I know there are those of you readers who do not want to read a book that has a serial killer in it.  How he commits these murders you'll have to wait and see.  Why he commits these murders can be explained in the last paragraph of the synopsis above.

This is definitely unlike any other book I have ever read.  And it's not because it's about serial killers. Alex Kava's protagonist, Maggie O'Dell (an FBI profiler) always deals with serial killers.  And who can forget Hannibal Lechter in Silence of the Lambs?  But this SK is very different.  He works and manages a bookstore and is constantly making references to pop culture (much of which I didn't understand) and literature (ditto).

Kepnes can definitely write.  I think that's what kept me going:

"Full of disclaimers, you're like a warning label on a pack of cigarettes."
"...and now there are elements of our dynamic coming slowly into view, like a photograph in a darkroom..."

In fact, I can say with authority that her writing IS what kept me going.  Keynes' style is just very unusual, even a bit compelling, I have to admit.  I also have to admit that I was curious to see how the book would end.  And here's the crazy part:  The author has just come out with Hidden Bodies, book 2 in the series.  I think I'm okay with just book 1.

P.S.  I was very pleased to see a reference to Billie Letts, who was an author I really liked a lot.  Unfortunately, she passed away almost 2 years ago at the age of 76.  If you haven't read The Honk and Holler Opening Soon, make sure you do.  It sits on my Sunday morning rec table.  And a few years ago, my buddy Bob and I each independently picked it as our surprise book of the year.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Under the Influence - My 1st Joyce Maynard

I had the pleasure of meeting Joyce Maynard at Litquake in Palo Alto last month.  I knew that she was a national best-selling author.  But I didn't know that she lives in the Bay Area. As you all know, I do love meeting new authors, especially if they live in Northern California. And in case you don't know Joyce's name, you certainly know at least one of her books. She wrote Labor Day in 2009.  And it was turned into a movie starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin in 2013.  In fact, I saw the movie but didn't connect it to Joyce - at least not until now.

Under the Influence is novel #9 for Joyce, plus 4 non-fiction books.  I was afraid that this would be another one of those literary fiction novels that is too literary, well-written, confusing for a troglodyte like me.  But I'm happy to say that I WAS WRONG.  I really liked this.  It is, in fact, well-written, but totally readable.  She writes in such a way that you don't feel like you're in a lecture hall. Or being schooled on how to write so that nobody can understand what you're saying.  As we've recently seen in John Hart, and, certainly, Pat Conroy, it's okay to write in a literary way and still make the story easy-flowing and readable.

Here's the Goodreads recap:

Drinking cost Helen her marriage and custody of her seven-year-old son, Ollie. Once an aspiring art photographer, she now makes ends meet taking portraits of school children and working for a caterer. Recovering from her addiction, she spends lonely evenings checking out profiles on an online dating site. Weekend visits with her son are awkward. He’s drifting away from her, fast.
When she meets Ava and Swift Havilland, the vulnerable Helen is instantly enchanted. Wealthy, connected philanthropists, they have their own charity devoted to rescuing dogs. Their home is filled with fabulous friends, edgy art, and dazzling parties.
Then Helen meets Elliott, a kind, quiet accountant who offers loyalty and love with none of her newfound friends’ fireworks. To Swift and Ava, he’s boring. But even worse than that, he’s unimpressed by them.
As Helen increasingly falls under the Havillands’ influence—running errands, doing random chores, questioning her relationship with Elliott—Ava and Swift hold out the most seductive gift: their influence and help to regain custody of her son. But the debt Helen owes them is about to come due.
Ollie witnesses an accident involving Swift, his grown son, and the daughter of the Havillands’ housekeeper. With her young son’s future in the balance, Helen must choose between the truth and the friends who have given her everything.

You know how I like writing that's very visual.  Here are some examples of how well Joyce does this:
1.  "Ollie reached for the box, but with about as much enthusiasm as if it contained medicine or socks."
2.  "She laughed.  A long, soft trill, like water over rocks."
3.  "...his face concealed behind the hood of his jacket like someone in the witness protection program.
4.  "...and a long sigh came out of me, like the feeling when you finally get to take off tight shoes or unzip your dress, the feeling of pulling into your own driveway after a long time on the road."

Nice, huh?  But this book also has some fun personal connections for me.  I know you can't wait to hear those, right?  Right?
1.  " first impulse was to cry out as a person would who'd spotted a long-lost friend. For a second there, this great wave of pure, uncomplicated happiness started to wash over me."  This actually happened to me.  I saw an old buddy who I wasn't friends with at the time but was so excited to see before I remembered.  I really got that.
2.  Helen describes Swift's interests, including entertaining Reiki practitioners.  As I'm sure I've told you before, my wife, Joni, is a Reiki master.  You don't often see references to Reiki in a novel.  Very cool.
3.  Helen also mentions a Jacuzzi in Swift's and Ava's house.  Have I told you in prior posts that my mom's sister married into THE Jacuzzi family?  This will not come as a surprise to you, but that family was really rich.
4.  There is a discussion about a book of Shel Silverstein poems.  I actually read these poems to my kids.  But my 1st purchase of a children's book, about 2 years before my oldest was born (he's 39 now!), was The Giving Tree, by Silverstein.  I will always have a soft spot for his books.
5.  Helen made up a story about her father being sent to a place in South America to work in a "...climate-controlled pod in the desert..."  In fact, when my son went to the University of Arizona in Tucson, we actually stopped in the desert between Phoenix and Tucson at the Biosphere 2.  This was a self-contained experiment.  I think it's still there.
6.  Helen describes her son, Ollie, in the bathtub, with his toys and imaginative play.  Well, guess what?  My son, Josh, has written a children's book, called Little Boy Soup, that exactly addresses little boys in the bathtub with toys and imaginative play.  By the way, Josh's book hits bookstores this coming June.

But enough about me.  Under the Influence is a great combo of good writing, tension, unease, and emotional connections.  Read it.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Redemption Road, Part 2

As promised, here are some more observations from John Hart's Redemption Road.  I also wanted to include some samples of his writing.  And a little chronology of my emotional reactions.

The 1st big observation I made is that this book took me 9 days to read.  I can usually knock out a 417-page book in a week or less.  I tried to figure out why it took me longer than usual.  I think it's that I savored the story and the writing.  Hart reminds me of Pat Conroy.  Now I know I've said this before.  But I can't help repeating it here.  I've often said that nobody can write as well as Conroy and still have a story that is easy to read (you all know what I think about books that are too literary - The Goldfinch? - 19 pages?  Hello?). Well, John Hart is definitely in that ballpark.  He creates emotion, tension, and excitement in a well-written, but easy-to-digest, way.

Here's how well he writes.  And I dare you tell me you can't see and feel how vivid his descriptions are.

"A hug died stillborn and awkward."
The car was a "...brushstroke of color in the road."
The "...building rising on her left, then falling away as if sucked into the earth."
"...The prison like a fist in the distance."
Speaking of photographs, "Another close-up hissed across the table."
"Elizabeth's paralysis snapped like a glass rod."
"He crossed himself again and felt the kind of chill that only comes once or twice in a lifetime."

Was I emotionally connected to Elizabeth and a number of other central characters?  You be the judge:

cried out loud
more crying
chills + grimacing
"Oh no"
raised eyebrows
dropped jaw

Needless to say, I was very caught up with a number of characters - some major and some less major.
Let David Baldacci sum up my  feelings:  "People in publishing have always known that John Hart can flat-out write..." Harlan Coben says:  "Big, bold, and impossible to put down. Redemption Road had me from page one.  JOHN HART IS A MASTER STORYTELLER."

Heard/read enough?  Mark your calendars.  It's coming Tuesday, May 3.

P.S.  Do you remember when I told you that there was a character in Dennis Lehane's Any Given Day that was so heinous that I made a strong (negative) emotional connection?  Well, Hart pulls that off in Redemption Road.  And let me just's not pretty.

Friday, April 1, 2016

John Hart Does It Again (Part 1)

John has written 4 books, not counting the new one, Redemption Road.  I liked the 1st 2 - King of Lies and Down River.  I absolutely loved the next 2 - The Last Child and Iron House. If you want to know how much I loved these books, just look at my Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader, Volume II from 2/18/12.  Both of them are on that list.

As for the new one, it comes out on May 3 - just slightly over a month away (in case you don't have access to a calendar).  And due to some good fortune (and a fair amount of begging), I was able to get my hands on an ARC. In this case, John, who actually responds to his followers on Facebook, made it happen.  I "asked" him if he could get me an ARC, and it was in my hands a week later.  Of course I gave him that "I have a million people reading my blog every day" line.  I think he fell for it! Regardless, I finished it today and couldn't wait to start my review.  I think it's important in this case to have a blurb.  Voila:


A boy with a gun waits for the man who killed his mother.

A troubled detective confronts her past in the aftermath of a brutal shooting.

After thirteen years in prison, a good cop walks free. But for how long?

And deep in the forest, on the altar of an abandoned church, the unthinkable has just happened…

This is a town on the brink. This is a road with no mercy.

I now have a very difficult task.  I have to figure out how to include everything I want to tell you in a single post.  Frankly, I don't think I can do it.  So I won't.  I'm going to break this sucker up into 2 posts.  Because, really, how long can I ramble on before you tune me out (don't answer that!)?  Let's get started.

First of all, I was struck by how many central characters there are.  Even though Liz is the main protagonist, John has a number of others who speak in the 1st person.  Here they are:

1.  Liz - police officer for 13 years, under investigation for murder
2.  Charlie Beckett - Liz's partner for 4 years and still showing his support for her.
3.  Adrian Wall - police officer who just finished a 13-year prison sentence for murder
4.  Channing Shore - 18-year old girl who survived a harrowing experience
5.  Gideon Strange - 14-year old boy who seeks revenge against the killer of his mother
6.  The Serial Killer (who shall be nameless)

On top of that, there are a bunch of significant supporting players:

1.  Liz's father - a well-respected reverend in town
2.  The prison warden who is (a lot) more than he appears to be
3.  Faircloth Jones, an 89-year old superstar attorney who went into seclusion when he couldn't successfully defend Adrian Wall 13 years earlier.
4.  The warden's 4 prison guards/henchmen
5.  Channing's father, a very wealthy townsman who is trying to protect his daughter in his own way.
6.  James Randolph, police officer who has a connection with Liz

In part 2 of this post, I will give you a bunch of my observations about the writing and my emotional connections to the characters.  I will also tell you now that I was completely taken by surprise - TWICE - by what happens toward the end.  Didn't I just say the same thing about Coben's Fool Me Once?  All of these authors seem to be going out of their way to trick me!

See you again in a couple of days.