Saturday, July 30, 2016

Not Just Another Memoir

You all know what I think about The Glass Castle.  It's a memoir, and it's in my top 12 books all-time.  It is a classic example of non-fiction reading like fiction.  Well, Alabama Blue, by Toni K. Pacini, feels a lot like TGC.  Here's what the back cover has to say:

From white trash mill village girl to Senior-Cinderella.
In Alabama Blue, Toni K. Pacini shares her tumultuous journey.  A girl raised-up like an invasive weed in an Alabama cotton mill village where illiteracy, bigotry, religious fanaticism, and abuse were as commonplace as fried chicken on Sunday.
From pillar to post, and coast to coast, she sought a dauntingly illusive refuge.  Toni fled a life predestined for sorrow from cold cradle to cold crypt, and she made it!  Her life needed a major re-write , and, in Alabama Blue, she rewrote the hopelessness into hope, the sorrow into joy, and left the past to rest, as she moved forward into a new tomorrow.

There really aren't many "spoilers" in a memoir.  We know going in that she had a rough time of it and came out okay.  Otherwise, how would she be able to write a memoir?  But getting from there to here must be incredibly difficult, as, fortunately, so few of us can possibly know.  I will, instead, focus on the writing and a few observations.  Here we go:

1.  We get a feel for how rough it was for Toni right at the beginning of the book.  It sets the tone for what follows.
2.  I liked the pictures that Toni sprinkles throughout the book.
3.  Norma Rae, with Sally Field, was filmed in the town that Toni's mother and grandparents lived (I know...random).
4.  Toni made 50 moves in 16 years.  2.5 years was the longest time in one place until her mid-40s!
5.  We find out early that Toni's mom told her that she tried to end her pregnancy with Toni by jabbing metal clothes hangars into herself.  She blamed Toni for her father leaving her. Can you even imagine?
6.  I definitely had moments of smiling and chills.  It wasn't only glum.
7.  There was a time in Toni's life that she lived in the Bay Area.  That's always fun for me.

Let me give you a few examples of Toni's writing:

1.  "Screams welled up in my throat like lava from a once dormant volcano, now desperate for release."
2.  "Darkness to me is not about Satan or demons.  It is about hopelessness.  Where there is no hope, there is no light.  Without hope there is no reason for tomorrow.  I had no reason."  Ouch.
3.  "You want to chase your child into the arms of an adult predator?  Ignore them.  Make them feel invisible.  Then all a predator has to do is pay a little attention.  No candy or puppies required."  Kind of makes you want to cry, doesn't it?

Clearly, Toni can write.  There are many instances where she makes the reader feel deeply for her situation.  In fact, if I didn't already know that she is now okay (she is our November RBC author), I'm not sure I could have read this memoir.  It's definitely a rough one.  But she's doing well now.  Thank goodness for that!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Another RBC Author - Another Successful Evening

Last night was our July RBC meeting.  We had Toni Piccinini, author of The Goodbye Year, as our RBC guest of the month.  She came all the way from Marin County with her daughter-in-law, who is adorable.

Toni has quite a background.  She is a microbiologist and worked at UCSF.  AND she is a chef and owned a restaurant with her husband.  AND she teaches cooking classes.  AND she has written a book!  AND she is an absolute delight.  We all enjoyed the heck out of her.  Here are a few pictures from the evening.

Our next author is Rachael Herron, who will be coming to Recycle on Tuesday, August 30. We are now scheduled with authors through February, since we just added Elizabeth Hunter.  If you want to see all of our upcoming RBC authors, click on The Recycle Book Club Schedule.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Latest Megan Abbott - You Will Know Me

This is Megan Abbott's 9th book.  And my 2nd.  2 years ago, I read The Fever.  It was pretty highly rated on Amazon and Goodreads...but not so much by The Book Sage (was I less than sage, you might ask? - check my review on 7/5/14).  I gave it a 2.5/4.  So when Meg, from Tandem Literary, sent me the ARC for You Will Know Me, I figured I would give it another go.  Different book, same result - 2.5/4.  I now know not to read #3.  It's not bad; it's just not good enough to read a 3rd.  Let's back flap it right now:

How far will you go to achieve a dream?  That's the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie and Eric Knox after he sees their daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful, compete.  For the Knoxes, there are no limits - until a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community and everything they have worked so hard for is suddenly at risk.
As rumors swirl among the other parents, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself.  What she uncovers - about her daughter's fears, her own marriage, and herself - forces Katie to consider whether there's any price she isn't willing to pay to achieve Devon's dream. 

Even though my older daughter, Meredith, was in gymnastics for several years, I still learned a whole bunch about the sport from this book and, more importantly, what goes on behind the scenes - with the parents, the coaches, and the incredible pressure that accompanies a high-level gymnast.  The gym that Meredith belonged to, West Valley Gymnastics in Campbell, CA, actually produced an olympian in 1996.  Amy Chow was part of the Magnificent 7, the gold-medal winning U.S. team in Atlanta (she also competed in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney).  So I remember the buzz.  Meredith wasn't part of the "in" group.  So it was fun to really learn what goes on when there is an Olympic-quality gymnast in your gym.

But this was the best part of the book for me (along with quotes from Nadia Comaneci at the beginnings of 3 sections).  Other than that, it didn't much grab me.  I think the only physical reaction I had in the entire book was one knitted brow.  C'mon, that's just never going to get more than a 2.5/4 rating from me.

The writing was okay, but nothing great.  And a little over half-way through, things started happening which just didn't seem plausible to me.  After that, I read it just to finish it.  I kind of gave up.  But having said all of that, there are lots of people who like Megan Abbott's novels way more than I do.  You may want to test it out yourself.  But don't say that I didn't warn you!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Still Another Local Author - with Another Debut Novel - and Another Excellent Book

Wow.  There must be something in the air.  I keep reading local authors, oftentimes with debut novels, and finding them to be totally terrific.  Am I lucky or what?  (This is where you're supposed to say:  "It's not luck.  It's your literary intuition and skill!")  In fact, books for my last 5 local authors have gotten ratings of 3.25, 3.5, 3.25, 3.5, and 3.75.  Not too shabby (as Adam Sandler says in The Hanukkah Song).

Yaa Gyasi's novel, Homegoing, can best be summed up as sweeping.  It starts in Ghana in the mid-1700s and ends up in America in the present day.  Let the flap set the stage:

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle.  Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle's dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast's booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery.  One thread of Homegoing follows Effia's descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fanta and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization.  The other thread follows Esi and her children into America.  From the plantations of the South to the Civil war and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Doesn't this sound good?  Well, it is.  In fact, it's immediately going on my rec table (tomorrow? maybe.  Next Sunday? for sure).  Do you know what hit me when I was reading Homegoing?  It's that the writing is just consistently good.  As you know, oftentimes I will share a few lines or passages that stand out for me.  But that didn't happen with this one. And I think it's because it was well-written throughout.  That's impressive!

Here's another interesting commentary on the book.  I didn't have a bunch of emotional reactions to characters.  There were definitely some.  I have notes that say "Unh," "Whoa," "Huh," and even a "No, no, no, no."  I also had a combo of smile, tears, and chills all at once.  But it wasn't every character and every generation.  This did NOT detract from my enjoyment of the book.  When you're telling the story of 8 different generations x 2 different families, it's a little more difficult to form those emotional attachments.  However, I was still totally caught up in each story.  And I give Yaa credit for making basically 16 different sections of the book in only 300 pages just the right length.  I was never anxious to leave a particular character.  But I also was okay going on to the next one.

In case you haven't already figured it out, I really liked this book...a lot.  I highly recommend it.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

You Want to Know What Family Is? Read: The Ones Who Matter Most, by Rachael Herron - NOW!

2 years ago, I read Rachael Herron's book, Pack Up the Moon.  I really liked it a lot.  But I hadn't made any effort to read either of her other books - until now.  Why now?  Well, I've got a very selfish reason.  I was hoping that Rachael would agree to be our RBC author for August or September so that I could have our members read Pack Up the Moon.  Only Rachael said that she wasn't promoting that book anymore.  She said that The Ones Who Matter Most" (TOWMM), which came out in April of this year, was the one she was presenting.  What could I do?  I got a hold of TOWMM and read about 100 pages before I emailed her and said:  "YES!"  I was really enjoying it.  We agreed on a date (Tuesday, August 30).  And then, of course, I kept reading.  Were the last 300 pages of the book at the same level as the 1st 100?  Nope.  THEY WERE BETTER!  What a terrific book.  Here is the back-flap summary:

After her husband dies unexpectedly, Abby Roberts comes across something startling: wedding photographs of him with another woman, along with pictures of a baby boy. Shocked, Abby does something utterly impulsive: She embarks on a journey to discover the family her husband apparently left behind.
Money has always been tight for single mom Fern Reyes, and never tighter than now.  But this month, in place of a child-support check, her ex's pretty, privileged wife appears on her doorstep with far too many questions.  Unfortunately, her young son is so taken with Abby that Fern doesn't have the heart to send her away.
What begins as one woman's search for truth becomes a deep bond forged between the unlikeliest of people, and the discovery that there are many ways to make a family-as long as you take care... 

That is no lie about what goes into making a family.  And on top of that, the writing is excellent.  A very few standout examples:

1.  A potential past wife trumped a possible fling like the sun trumped a flashlight.
2.  "But if you show up with a washer, I'll kick you so hard in the balls you"ll wish you were born with ovaries."  It was the same thing as I love you.  Diego smiled and kept his eyes on the ceiling of the sky.  That was his way of saying it back.
3.  She laughed, the feel of it rusty in her throat.
4.  The abrupt change in topic felt like a change in elevation.  Abby could almost hear her ears pop.

There are a million more.  But there were definitely other reasons why I liked this book so much.  Wanna hear (read) 'em?  Of course you do:

1.  I was very emotionally connected to the characters/story.  In fact, I made a note at one point that said "major crying."
2.  The 1st 48 pages of the book are in the voice of Abby.  Page 49 is the 1st time we hear Fern's voice.  I liked the timing of making the switch from Abby to Fern.  AND I liked that the rest of the book goes back and forth.  I equally responded to both protagonists.
3.  You want to know how much I liked this book?  I actually smiled a bunch in a section about a dog!  Yep.  For those of you who know me, you also know that this is unheard of.  I am absolutely not an animal person (although I really do like Bob, the cat at Recycle Books).
4.  Rachael does a great job with the ending.  That's all I can tell you now.  We'll discuss it after you've read the book.
5.  I don't want to make too big a deal about the fact that the book takes place in the East Bay, where I grew up.  I will just say that she mentions Albany, Berkeley, and Oakland - the 3 cities that I grew up in!
6.  Rachael gives descriptions of having a miscarriage and how a cremulator (for cremation) works that felt very real.

Something else I rarely (if ever) do is quote the author in a Conversation Guide or Acknowledgement Page.  But I'm going to do that here.  The reason is that I think it really captures the essence of a work of fiction that sprinkles in  segments of nonfiction (see #6 above):

Dropping pieces of nonfiction into fiction creates a small, tangible connection: real life intersecting with the imaginary.  Characters meeting "characters."  The whole book, of course, is mine.  It came out of my head, so it belongs to me (and really, I belong to it).  But those tiny real-life cameos can help bring books to life.

Final thought?  I couldn't be happier that Rachael "made" me read one of her other books. I would have been content to revisit Pack Up the Moon.  But then I might never have read The Ones Who Matter Most.  That would have been a real shame.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Local Author, Yaa Gyasi, at Rakestraw Books in Danville

I know that the title of this post is not too exciting.  But I did get the chance to see Yaa Gyasi this past Tuesday night.  The timing was fortuitous because Nicole Hughes, formerly of Kepler's, strongly suggested I read Gyasi's book, Homegoing.  And since Gyasi lives in the Bay Area; and because I'm always looking for local authors for the RBC; I purchased her book and got ready to start reading it.  And then I saw on a Rakestraw email that Gyasi was going to be at their store just a few days later.  Divine timing, right?  Ok, divine might be a bit strong.  But the net effect is the same.  So, Joni and I ran up there, fighting the horrendous commute traffic, and still got there in time for a quick bite (at Sideboard) before the 7:00 event.

So, what about the event, you ask?  Well, we learned some very interesting things about Gyasi's process in writing the book along with her background:

1.  It took her 7 years to write.
2.  She connected with agents through the Iowa Writers Workshop that she attended for several years and where she finished her book.
3.  Much of the book takes place in Ghana.  That is where she was born and where a lot of her family members still live.  She and her family moved to the U.S. so that her father could get a PhD in French!
4.  She entered a children's literary competition at the age of 7 which is when she knew she wanted to be a writer.  Levar Burton even signed her certificate of participation!
5.  She knew the 1st 2 and last 2 characters of the book, but not the many in-between (the book goes from the mid-1700s to the present).
6.  She has already been on a local book tour and will be going on a 10-city, 13-day national tour in October.  Plus, the book will be coming out internationally the beginning of 2017, and she will be touring across the pond!  How cool is that?  (P.S.  I guess it's going to be a bit difficult getting her to come down to Recycle Books for the RBC.  Agreed?)

Here are some pictures.  And I will be reviewing the book in a couple of days.

Yaa being introduced by Michael, the owner of Rakestraw Books

WHOOPS:  Aria Glazki will be coming to Recycle Books tomorrow morning to sell/sign her 3 books from 11-2, not from 9:30-12:30.  My bad.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Another Local Author - and Another Good Book

Love Me Two Times, by Philip Michaels, is a very good combo historical fiction/literary fiction/love story.  The back of the book says "FICTION/Historical."  But I think it's much more than that.  Let's go right to the summary:

Patrick settled into his leather first-class seat, sipped coffee, and tried futilely to concentrate on the Chronicle's sports section rather than on Morgan.  What is it we must discuss?  Will I finally learn why she did it?  Outside the window, far below, Lake Tahoe was inching toward him, and it made him think back to the first time he'd seen the lake from the air.  How many flights ago was that?  Maybe a thousand flights?  Indeed, over the course of his lifetime, he had flown well over a million miles, but this flight was different.  This flight, with each elapsing second and each passing mile, was conveying him to a place and time he could neither forget nor escape.

Much of this book takes place at and around Cal Berkeley in the late 60s - exactly when I was there!  So when they go to Top Dog on Durant Avenue, so did I - a lot (I even went once with my in-laws).  And when they go to Moe's Books, I did too.  And when they talk about tear gas in Sproul Plaza right before everybody stormed People's Park, I was there - and felt the effects of that tear gas.  These are just a few of the "coincidences" that Patrick (and Philip Michaels) and I share.

Plus, there's a bunch of Boston stuff when Patrick goes to Harvard.  Since my older daughter lived there for 2 years; and my younger daughter went to BU (Boston University) for 4 years; I know lots of those references too.  How crazy is that?  But, fortunately for you, I will spare you all the landmarks from that area that I have in common with Patrick.

But enough about me (yeah, right).  This is a story about Patrick and Morgan in the late 60s and their love affair.  It's about how they ended up apart.  And it's about why Morgan wants to see Patrick when he comes to Boston for a funeral - 43 years after their break-up!  P.S. All of this is right up front.  So these are not spoiler alerts.  Onward.

Love Me Two Times grabbed me in the very 1st paragraph.  That happens occasionally, but not very often.  It's well-written, and I really liked how the author lays the story out.  There is a little bit up front about Patrick going back to Boston for a buddy's funeral.  And the end of the book talks about when he gets there.  But all the rest of the book takes place late 60s/early 70s.  You know on the 1st page that he ended up not being with Morgan.  But most of the book serves to build up their relationship from their days in Boston and Berkeley.

Do you have to know Cal Berkeley or Harvard or even Boston to enjoy Love Me Two Times?  Absolutely not.  It's a good old-fashioned love story with a bunch of history thrown in and written as literary fiction.  Read it.  You can't go wrong.

Book Signing:  This Sunday, from 9:30-12:30, Aria Glazki will be selling and signing her book, Mending Heartstrings (and maybe her other 2 books?), in front of Recycle Books in Campbell.  And as an added bonus (or a dark negative), I will be right next to her at my rec table.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Some Author Events and Miscellaneous News

We had 2 events on Sunday and 1 on Monday.  In order:

1.  Adam Henig, on the right, (his dad, Gerry, is on the left) was at Recycle Books selling his 2 books - Under One Roof: The Yankees, Cardinals, and a Black Doctor's Battle to Integrate Spring Training and Alex Haley's Roots:  An Author's Odyssey

The 2nd author event was Josh doing a reading at Colleen Wilcox's house.  Colleen had about 45-50 people there, including a number of families with young kids.  Lots of fun.  I do apologize, though, about just showing Josh's back.  But you've already seen his face on numerous posts!  (side note - Josh is featured in Sal Pizarro's column from last Sunday's Mercury News)

3.  These were taken at the Saratoga Library Monday night by RBC member, Danie.  I was asked to come to their summer Monday night literary soiree and discuss our book club.  I also got to talk about my blog, my Sunday morning rec table, and even some of my favorite books.  And besides Danie and Joni, Susan also represented the RBC.     

You all, of course, know Joni

There were about 20 people there

This is Betsy White, the Saratoga librarian who runs these literary soirees


Jeffrey Archer's last book in the Clifton Chronicles, This Was A Man (#7),  will be out on November 8, 2016.

Robin Sloan, who wrote Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore, will be publishing his 2nd book in Fall, 2017.

Jennifer Skully's and Bella Andre's 4th book in The Maverick Billionaires, Irresistible in Love, will be published on 3/8/17.

Daniel Silva's The Black Widow, the next in the Gabriel Allon series, came out today. July 12.  I've already got my copy!

Jodi Picoult will be appearing at the Fox Theater in Redwood City on October 18, 2016. She will be promoting her latest book, Small Great Things.  Kepler's is sponsoring the event.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante - Not That Brilliant!

I know that My Brilliant Friend is a highly thought of book/series.  This one is book 1 of 4.  I can categorically say that book 1 is "one and done," as they say in the sports world.  It wasn't bad.  I was able to get through it pretty easily, with only a couple of "Do I finish it or do I Goldfinch it?" moments.  But am I going to read any more?  As a tennis buddy of mine used to say when the opponent's shot was just out, "Eh, eh."  Here's the inside flap summary:

The story of Elena and Lila begins in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples (Italy, not Florida).  Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else, as their friendship, beautifully and meticulously rendered, becomes a not always perfect shelter from hardship.  Ferrante has created a memorable portrait of two women, but My Brilliant Friend is also the story of a nation.  Through the lives of Elena and Lila, Ferrante gives her readers the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country undergoing momentous change.

I gave this book a 2.5/4.  So there were obviously some things that I liked about it.  I'll give you my pluses and minuses:

1.  Educational competition among young elementary school kids was interesting.
2.  Her writing is good - "...while she was skinny, like an anchovy, she gave off an odor of wildness..."
3.  I actually referred to the family trees on a regular basis.
4.  More good writing - "And my skin, too, was spoiled: on my forehead, my chin, and around my jaws, archipelagos of reddish swellings multiplied, then turned purple, finally developed yellowish tips."  We've all been there.
5.  I do think she did a good job of making us understand what went on in a neighborhood like theirs.

1.  See #3 above.  There were so many characters that I had to repeatedly refer to the family trees.  I finally gave up.  I had learned many/most of them.  But I just couldn't get them all.  Could it be me?  Possibly.
2.  My entire emotional connection to any of the characters was one raised eyebrow.  I kid you not.
3.  I was constantly confused by the ages of the girls.  I guess there was a somewhat natural progression, but I couldn't always follow it.  They seemed to go back and forth on a fairly willy-nilly basis.  Again, it could be me.
4.  The quote on the cover of the book should have been my warning sign:  My Brilliant Friend is a large, captivating, amiably peopled bildungsroman." - James Wood, The New Yorker.  Do you know what a bildungsroman is without looking it up?  Is this supposed to make us want to snatch up this book?  My vocabulary is okay, but I sure as heck don't know this word.
5.  Next!

P.S.  Amazon's rating is 3.9/5.  And Goodreads is 3.88/5.  It doesn't get much more consistent than that.  My 2.5/4 is the equivalent of 3.125/5.  I'm obviously well below the average.  As you may have predicted, I'm okay with that.

I couldn't actually find a picture of the author.  Go figure.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Another Romance? What's Happening to Me?

Since May 3, I have read 3 romances (and a partial 4th, although it was more literary fiction than straight romance).  I have a good excuse, though.  The 1st 2, A Taste of Sugar (Marina Adair) and Reckless in Love (Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre), are both tied to the RBC. This 3rd one, though, has a slightly different connection.  Aria Glazki, the author of Mending Heartstrings, is coming to Recycle Books next Sunday, the 17th, to sign books.  I thought it would be a good idea if I read it before her appearance.  And because I'm a manly man, I read this one unemotionally and without any connection to the characters whatsoever...yeah, right.

Okay, I really liked these characters and connected to them immediately.  In fact, I got a few chills and smiled a bunch right away.  And there are tons of tears and lots of smiles all though the book  Lest you think I am part woman, let me remind you that I had triple bypass surgery about 4.5 years ago.  Everybody knows that a surgery like that can put you more in touch with your emotions (there must be medical proof for this theory - mustn't there?). Now that I've gotten that off my chest, so to speak, I can proceed with the review.  Here is the back flap:

Kane's a country singer who's tangled with too many deceitful women.  He's learned his lesson: girls are for flirting and fun; emotions are for his music.  But after spending a night with an earnest woman unlike any he's known, he can't force her out of his mind.  So he goes in search of the woman he knows only as "Elle."

On her last night in Nashville, the staunchly pragmatic Sabella found herself in a situation more suited to a romance novel than reality.  Swept away, she ignored her rigidly self-imposed rules, succumbing to the fantasy just this once.  But she knows real-world relationships have nothing in common with their fictionalized portrayals.  When Kane unexpectedly shows up at her Portland apartment, she must choose between the practical truths she has learned and the desire for a passionate love she has struggled to suppress.

Despite the distance, Kane's tour schedule, and their meddling friends, both are drawn to the chance for a romance neither quite believes is possible.

Aria proves that no matter how many romances you read (in barely a 2-month period), and how much you already suspect that the boy & girl will end up together, it can still be written in such a way as to suck you in.  And I was properly sucked in.  I'm going to use one of my favorite devices for telling you what I liked about Mending Heartstrings.  It's my usual - The List:

1.  With the proper build-up, kissing can be very sexy and romantic.  They do not always have to go "all the way."  (But even the "all the way" scenes are very tastefully done.)
2.  There are several very strong supporting players in this book.  In fact, one of them has her own storyline.
3.  There is enough light humor to provide some breaks from the romance and drama.
4.  The interplay between the 2 main characters is very natural.
5.  the male star of the book works in Nashville.  He plays regularly at a bar called the Fiddle & Steel.  This is just like The Bluebird from TV's Nashville.
6.  The writing is very easy but also very effective.  Some examples:
     "Kane impressively managed to be simultaneously unobtrusive and indispensable."
     "Sabella snatched some scissors to open it.  Vivid fabrics reached out of the box as
     though seeking air they had long been denied."
     "You say you can't even always control the characters in stories that you make up;
     you have no hope of trying to control or predict real life."

I'm suggesting (again!) that if you are in the mood for a romance, this one fits the bill.  It's really good.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

I Want to Meet (and be like) Bob and Susan!

I know the title seems a bit cryptic.  But if you read my posts religiously (you know who you are...even if you won't admit it publicly!), you will know that Bob and Susan are the adoptive parents of 4 of the 5 Maverick Billionaires.  I have referenced them in my reviews of books 1 (Breathless in Love - 6/26/15 & 6/29/15) and 2 (Reckless in Love - 12/21/15).  Now we've got #3 - Fearless in Love.  They basically took in their son Daniel's 4 friends - Will, Sebastian, Matt, and Evan - as wayward teenagers.  They gave them a home, structure, and, most importantly, affection.  Now they're all billionaires and 100% supportive of, and dedicated to, each other and to Bob and Susan.  So when I say I want to meet these people and even be like them (tongue NOT firmly planted in cheek), I'm not kidding.

Okay, enough about Bob and Susan.  This story is about Matt.

After growing up dirt poor in a seedy Chicago neighborhood, Matt Tremont seemingly has it all now-brains, brawn, and billions.  And most important, Noah, his five-year old son, the one good outcome of a disastrous relationship that destroyed his last ounce of trust.  The only thing he's lacking is the perfect nanny for his son.  And Ariana Jones is absolute perfection.  Utterly enchanting.  Completely fascinating.  And totally off-limits.
Like a match made in heaven, this is Ari's dream job.  Swallowed up in the foster care system after losing her brother and mother, Ari has always dreamed of family.  She showers five-year-old Noah with all the love she's kept bottled up inside.  Love she could also offer to her gorgeous billionaire boss-if only he weren't the very last man she could ever hope to have.
But when sizzling sparks of attraction turn into a forbidden, sinfully hot night of pleasure, will Ari's love be enough to make Matt forget the past and love fearlessly?

We've talked about romances.  Yes we know that the guy and girl will most likely end up together.  And again I say:  "So what?"  The means justify the ends(?).  This is not about what ultimately happens between them.  This is about how they get there.  And just like #1 & #2, I loved how they get there.  At the risk of being repetitive from the earlier reviews (Shocked?  Didn't think so), let me point out some plot points/takeaways/reactions for you:

1.  In each book, there is a 3rd person who takes center stage in the romantic relationship. In this case, it's Matt's 5-year old son.  I really like that the protagonists' relationship has to survive the care of a family member.
2.  I am so emotionally connected to these characters.  It happens right away every book.  I basically cry or smile every other page.  Do I go into each book expecting those reactions? Doesn't matter and don't care.
3. The way I felt about the protagonists in books 1 & 2 carried over to #3.  I'm always happy to see these same characters reemerge in later books.
4.  I like that each epilogue tells us which Maverick is next and who his love interest will be.  
5.  There are several references that I can relate to:
     The Oakland Zoo - this is about 3-4 miles from where I grew up
     San Jose State - the school that Joni went to in college years 3-5
     Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach is mentioned.  I read all of the Dahl books to
     my 3 kids (the BFG is my favorite).

Bring on #4.  As I understand it, Irresistible in Love will be hitting my TBR pile in early 2017. I'm ready now!


Monday, July 4, 2016

A Decent, But Unexciting, SciFi

When I went to see Walter Mosley at Kepler's Books last month, Angela, who had recommended The Martian to me last year, suggested I try Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel.  I had never heard of the book or the author.  And you know that I'm not a huge fan of SciFi.  I did like The Martian, but mostly because the protagonist was really funny. As far as the science part of it was concerned, it went over my head.  Here, too, I was not a big fan of the scientific explanations of things.  But unlike The Martian, this one didn't have any humor to balance the science.  It was still okay.

What is this book about, you ask?  Here's what the book flap says:

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth.  She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings.  But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.
Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved - its origins, architects, and purpose unknown.  Its carbon dating defies belief, military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.
But some can never stop searching for answers.
Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand's code.  And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What's clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history's most perplexing discovery - and figuring out what it portends for humanity.  But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

I'm giving Sleeping Giants a 2.75/4.  So, obviously, I liked it somewhat.  There are definitely a few features that stand out.  To wit (really?):
1.  He combines interviews, journals, and news reports, rather than just the typical inter-character dialogue.
2.  He uses a nameless, faceless interrogator to question all of the main characters.  We never find out who this person is (this is the best part of the book).
3.  The book is very well-written.

Goodreads has a cumulative rating of 3.85/5, and Amazon is 3.9/5.  Remarkably consistent.  I'm a little bit lower than that, but still in the same ballpark.  I'm not telling you to read it or not read it.  You all decide for yourselves.

P.S.  I gave The Martian a 3/25/4 back in early 2015.

P.P.S.  Take a look at and  The 1st has a lot of dialogue, news, and info.  And the 2nd gives you free and heavily discounted ebooks.  

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Betty Auchard at Recycle + Big Day at Rec Table + Queen Sugar News

1st of all, it's always a pleasure to have Betty Auchard around.  Today she signed books at Recycle during the Farmers Market.  She had all 3 of her books there - The Home for the Friendless, Dancing in My Nightgown, and, the latest, Living with Twelve Men.  She had a good crowd, and I was happy to meet her daughter, Renee.  Here are a few pics.

Betty is with Alfred Jan, who will be at this same table on Sunday, August 7

The woman in the pink shirt is Betty's daughter, Renee

We also had a big day at the rec table.  The book count is now 80!  And I sold 9 books off the table today.  Okay, 5 were bought by Betty and Renee.  But, still - 9!  Here's what they were:

A Man Called Ove (2)
Child 44
Queen Sugar
Pillars of the Earth (top 3 all-time)
The Language of Flowers (top 12 all time)
All the Light We Cannot See
Goodnight June (4/4+)

And here's what those 80 books look like:

You do see Josh's book front and center, don't you?

We've got dates now for the world premier of Queen Sugar on the OWN.  The 1st 2 episodes are on September 6 and 7 at 10:00PST (I don't know if that makes EST 7:00 or 10:00 - sorry).  To see some previews, go on Search Facebook and enter Queen Sugar. When you see a white box with the words Queen Sugar on it, click on that.  That will give you all of the information you will want to prepare you for watching the show.  There are previews as well as interviews.  It's really very cool.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

An RBC Author, A New Independent Bookstore, 4 Reasons Why Independent Bookstores Are Thriving, and My 1st Interview!

1st of all, we had our June RBC meeting this past Wednesday night.  Our author was Paulette Boudreaux, who wrote Mulberry.  Our members (we had 22 people there at Recycle!) gave it one of the highest ratings since we started the book club way back in January of 2014.  12 members rated it a 3.67/4.  That is super high.  But, more importantly, Paulette was extremely interesting.  We found out, among other things, that she finished writing the book in 1996 and had it published in 2015!  How's that for perseverance?  We also learned that the book started out as a short story - about a character who did not even turn out to be the main protagonist!  And, like so many of our RBC authors, Paulette has a 1st novel that is sitting in the bottom of a drawer.  Hopefully we'll get to read it some day.

I wrote a review of Mulberry on February 18.  If you haven't read it, take a look.  This is a terrific book that deserves to be read.  I mean, after all, it's on my rec table!

BIG NEWS:  Books, Inc. will be opening a new bookstore in Santa Clara this month.  It will be located in Santa Clara Square, not far from Levis Stadium.  They will have a grand opening later in the month, and I will keep you posted on the exact date.

Jessica Sullinger, of the magazine The Week, tells us why independent bookstores are not only holding their own.  They're actually thriving.  Take a look:…/4-reasons-why-independent-bookstores-a…

And last, and certainly least, the Saratoga Library is running a series of "literary soirees" on Monday nights during the summer.  They have book-related trivia and feature local book clubs.  Well, they must have been desperate because they asked me to be the interviewee on July 11.  This will be my 1st (and most likely last) interview.  I'm very excited about it because I get to tell the world (ok, maybe a handful of people) about the RBC.