Thursday, September 29, 2016

Miscellaneous Book News - All Kinds of Stuff

I've got a bunch of stuff to share with you today.  Here we go:

1.  I've already told you that Marina Adair's Autumn in the Vineyard, from her St. Helena Vineyard series, will be a TV movie on the Hallmark channel on October 8.  Now you can take a look at previews and behind-the-scenes footage.

2. And tied into that is our own Kate Allure, who is one of 18 authors who have all written novellas that are part of this whole process. Here's the link to her piece:

3.  More news about Queen Sugar:  1st of all, we saw episode 5 last night.  Joni nailed it when she said that this is very much like Nashville. In case you don't already know this, we love Nashville.  If you're looking for something to watch, give this show a shot.  It's on the OWN, but you have to start with #1.  And as an added bonus, the Mercury News today, in its Weekend Extra section, has an interview with Rutina Wesley, who plays Nova.  And who was Tara in True Blood.

4.  Last night we had Martha Cooley, author of the June Lyons series, as our RBC author.  Ice Shear is book 1, and we all liked it.  Here are a couple of pics.

5.  Last Sunday morning, Ann Bridges came to Recycle Books (and the Farmers Market) and signed her 2 published books, Private Offerings and Rare Mettle.  Ann has been an RBC author and will be appearing at a new book club I am starting (more on that in a later post). 

6.   And, finally (for now), I just found out that Taylor Stevens,who writes the Vanessa Michael Munroe series (5 so far) has sold her film rights to James Cameron and Jon Landau through their company, Lightstorm Entertainment  Even though oftentimes these things never actually materialize, it's still a pretty exciting and high-end group.  And in case you don't know who Taylor is, I have written 6 posts through the years that have focused on her and some of the great info that she has shared on her blog.  Here are the dates of my 6 posts - 8/8/13, 9/3/13, 10/7/13, 7/14/14, 9/11/15, and 3/13/16. She's got a lot of very interesting things to say about the literary world.

I think that will do it for now.  Some pretty good stuff, wouldn't you agree?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Couple of Short Reviews (yes, I can write short)

I have recently read 2 books that I don't have much to say about.  One is from a local author who I much admire - C. Lee McKenzie.  The reason I don't have much to say is that it is a middle-grade book.  The 3 protagonists are 6th graders.  Now, I'm a big fan of 6th graders.  My oldest grandchild, Haley, is a 6th grader.  And I sure as heck am a big fan of hers!  But that doesn't mean I have a whole bunch to say about 6th graders generally.  I will say that Sign of the Green Dragon is well-written and has a lot of adventure.  A fellow author of C. Lee's said:

"Sign of the Green Dragon is an intriguing high-stakes plot brimming with dark secrets, unsolved murders, and mystical dragons in a race against a ticking clock.  A compelling combination of criminal underworld and ancient lore, readers will enjoy hunting for treasure at their own peril with this resourceful group of young detectives.  Magic, mystery, and mayhem reign in this tale of friendship and adventure that will leave you guessing until the end - and hope for more adventures to come!"

Sounds good, doesn't it?  If you have a middle grader, or if you know a middle grader that likes to read, I definitely recommend this book (and C. Lee's others, as well).  It's well-written and exciting.  And I really liked the ending.  But it's just a standalone...or is it?

And then there is I Will Send Rain, by Rae Meadows.  This is for the September Palo Alto Books, Inc. 4th Tuesday Night Book Club (which I just came back from).  The story takes place in 1934 in a small rural town in Oklahoma.  It's all about a drought and dust and famine.  This is one of the very few books that I can say had the same pace (and effect) from start to finish.  I did end up giving it a 2.5/4, so I didn't not like it. The best word I can use to describe it is vanilla.  That doesn't mean it wasn't well written.  I guess it was.

"The roof of the Woodrow place sagged in the middle like the body of an old mule."
"...but here was a woman who felt right, who, when he thought of her, clicked into place like a suitcase clasp."

I even had one (very) brief moment of eyebrow raising.  But that was really the only reaction I had throughout the whole book.  I definitely cared more for the 6th grade boys than I did for this family.  That's a tribute to C. Lee McKenzie and, maybe, a slight criticism of Rae Meadows.  The other possibility, which I shudder to consider, is that the problem is me!  Nah.

P.S.  It actually could be me.  On Amazon, the rating is 4.7/5 (44 ratings). And on Goodreads, it's 4/5, with 440 ratings.  As Popeye used to say, "Well blow me down."

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Harry Potter 8 - Different, But Still Enjoyable

By now, everybody (and I mean everybody - even the Buddhist monks living in isolation on the top of a mountain) knows about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  It's based on a new story by J.K. Rowling.  But it's actually been written as a play by John Tiffany & Jack Thorne.  And the book is in the format of a script, with stage directions and everything. It's really funny to read a book like this.  Did it affect my enjoyment of it? I'm not sure.  Like most people, I want to visualize what I'm reading. In this case, I didn't really have to, much of the time.  I'm still figuring out what I think about that.

On to the story.  It's 19 years since the end of the Harry Potter series (although there is a short section at the end of book 7 which brings us current).  Harry and Ginny, Ron's sister, are married with 3 children. Ron and Hermione are married with a daughter.  And Draco Malfoy has a son, but his wife has passed away.  The central characters in this book are Harry's middle child, Albus Severus Potter (named, obviously, after Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape), and Draco's son, Scorpius.  They become fast (and only) friends their 1st year at Hogwarts.  And although I didn't like that several years go by very quickly, I started to get into it when they settle into a new school year, and the action starts taking place.

I don't want to tell you what happens.  It's much more fun to learn that on your own.  But it definitely picks up as it goes along.  And the last 100 pages are very suspenseful.  I was really surprised that I actually shed a few (not the rolling-down-the-cheek kind, thank goodness) in several different spots and had a case of the chills in another.  And I do admit to a big smile when I started reading the book/script.  But what surprised me the most was the realization at the end of the book that I had made an emotional connection with Albus and Scorpius (in addition, of course, to Harry, Hermione, and Ron).  I did NOT expect that (it's a YA fantasy, for crying out loud!).  And, finally, I want you to take special note of the last 5 lines of page 135 and the 1st 2 lines of 136.  It's particularly cool.

JODI PICOULT APPEARANCE:  I just signed up to see Jodi at Rakestraw Books, in Danville, on Tuesday, October 18, from 12-1:30.  She's also going to be at the Fox Theater, in Redwood City, sponsored by Kepler's, that same night.  But the daytime appearance looks like something where we can actually see her without binoculars.  The cost for the Rakestraw visit is only $31.45, which includes her new book, Small Great Things.  Maybe I'll see some of you there? 

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Guest Post from Our Very Own Melissa Maglio

You all know what I think of Melissa Maglio.  She is the Los Gatos Library Tuesday Evening Book Club maven (she does an amazing job) and a librarian extraordinaire.  I am very pleased to present Melissa's guest post to all of you: 

I try to keep an open mind as a librarian, and therefore I decided to read Holly Madison’s best-selling biography, Down the Rabbit Hole.  For those that don’t know her, she is a former playboy bunny and former star of a realty show called “The Girl’s Next Door.”  Two things I am not into.   Her book was definitely no Wright Brother’s, which is a great biography written by David McCullough that people should put on their reading lists if they want to be inspired, but it was interesting to learn about a life that I surely would never choose to lead.  Putting all judgment aside, I think there is a lot of positives and negatives to be said about those who pursue a life of fame and fortune, and are not shy in front of a camera.  Not shy in the least!!!  Would I choose to become a playboy bunny?  Probably not, and it’s not because plastic surgery is so expensive.  Do I partake in the voyeurism that is reality TV watching? Not really, except that I must admit I was enjoying Naked and Afraid on the Discovery Channel for a while, but honestly, why are we to care so darn much about another person’s drama?  Don’t we have our own most of the time?  So, if you just want to feel better and more grounded about how good your life actually is, then you’ll want to read Holly’s book.  Anything remotely dramatic in your life will seem like nothing once you hear about the life she has led so far.(Turns out she’s the same age as me) 
Final thoughts for now:  I was surprised how PG-13 the book was and I only found myself rolling my eyes a few times.  If you’re older and have interest in the cultural icon that Hugh Hefner was, and kind of still is, then you may be interested in Holly’s book.  Shucks, I’m actually diving into her second book called,The Vegas Diaries.   I still haven’t made up my mind as to whether I like this woman or not.  I ask myself, If I had any daughters, would I let them know about Holly Madison?  I’m not sure because there is such a thin line between employing our feminine power and just exploiting ourselves for personal gain.  As I finish up her second book, which also has made the New York Times Best-Seller list, I will continue to work on turning off the judgmental part my brain which is constantly screaming, “Holly, your pettiness and shallowness is showing.”

Any comments you make I will pass on to Melissa. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

It's been a while since I have posted an author interview.  So I thought: "Why go with just one author when you can have 2"?  (How do you like the quotation marks around my own internal question?  Pretty slick, eh?) You all know what I think of Alina Sayre's award-winning The Voyages of the Legend.  I love that series!  But I only met Angela Wallace at Alina's book signing at Recycle Books (I've got Angela's book 1 of her award-winning Elemental Magic series sitting in my TBR pile).  It turns out that Alina and Angela are long-time close friends.  It seemed like a natural to have them answer our author interview questions together.  Here they are.  

Questions for Authors

1.  What are your books about?

Wallace: I primarily write urban fantasy paired with romance, mystery, and crime fighting. 

Sayre: I write fantasy novels geared for middle-grade readers (ages 9-14). So Angela and I both like to make up imaginary worlds, but her fight scenes involve a lot more blood.

Wallace: In some cases.

2.  What made you decide to write novels?

Wallace: It wasn’t so much a decision. Stories come, and if I don’t get them out, my brain would probably explode.

Sayre: It’s actually her fault. I’ve loved to write since I was 11, but I never really thought of writing as a career until I saw Angela pursuing it. It was like a light bulb moment where I went “Oh…you can do that?” My first novel was a messy fantasy epic I slaved over for some three years in high school. Tragically, it ended up in a drawer, but it pushed me on to write other, better things. My first published novel was The Illuminator’s Gift, which released in December 2013. 

Wallace: I don’t like to think about the first novel I ever wrote, also way back in high school. 

Sayre: I have a printed copy in a binder

Wallace: Shhh… My first published novel, Phoenix Feather, was the product of an experiment with the romance and crime genres, and was how I shifted from a purely epic-fantasy writer to what I do now. 

3.  What is your writing routine?

Sayre: My day job has somewhat irregular hours (I double as a private writing tutor), so I typically write in long marathons on days when I’m not teaching, cup of strong coffee in hand. 

Wallace: I write whenever I can, often every day. I carry a notebook and pen in my purse when I’m out and about. Sometimes the muse wakes me up at 4 AM. You would think an extra two hours would be plenty of time to get a scene done, but sometimes I still end up almost being late to work. 

4.  Do you belong to a writing group?

Sayre: No. Most of my work is done alone, at least in the early drafts. I do eventually show my work to a team of beta readers, who helpfully cut it to shreds and advise me on how to rebuild it. Lunches with Angela also invariably turn into writing sessions. So maybe we are a writing group, if two people can be a group…?

Wallace: I think we can. ;) I also have a critique partner who lives on the East Coast and we exchange chapters through e-mail. She’s like a personal cheerleader, always motivating me to get her the next chapter as fast as possible.

5.     Do you have other books written that are waiting for publication?  Are there any in a drawer?    

Wallace: There are some very old, very amateur stories in the dark corners of my hard drive that will never see the light of day.

Sayre: Likewise. Some people think authors just scribble off perfect stories every time on the first try. Maybe some do, but not me! In addition to my first fantasy epic, I have at least one more completed novel in a drawer, plus a whole lot of short stories and unfinished projects. Some of them might come back to life with a lot of TLC someday; others are just going to stay there as relics of the past. 

Wallace: I will say that I have one story idea that I have toyed with resurrecting every so often, but as of yet it hasn’t gone anywhere. 

6.    How do you come up with titles and covers?

Wallace: Titles are funny things.

Sayre: Amen to that.

Wallace: Sometimes I will have a title before a plot. Other times, I will not have a title until the last chapter (those books are very annoying). I’ve also fallen into using the same title structure for series, which has also at times caused me some aggravation in making titles “fit”, but it’s all worked out so far. As for covers, I work with a wonderful cover designer, Shelley at Spittyfish Designs, who a few times has seemed to read my mind and delivered the perfect cover on the first try. For the other times, we’ve worked really well together in the collaboration process.

Sayre: My titles are usually the last thing to come—sometimes I change them all the way up to the final draft! However, for my most recent book, The Illuminator Rising, the title came first and helped shape the direction of the book. My cover designer is Jenny at Seedlings Design Studio, and I can’t speak highly enough of her! She really brought to life the whimsical feel of my fantasy world. 

7.    How long does it take to write each book?

Sayre: Phbbbt. *gives Angela a dirty look*

Wallace: *cough* I can write a book in two months.

Sayre: Hence, the dirty look. My record speed is nine months for a book, but a year and a half is a much more sustainable pace for me. 

8.  Do you have a mentor?

Sayre: I can’t say I have a writing mentor currently. However, there have been lots of people who have mentored me along the way—teachers, family members, friends. Everyone who’s ever encouraged me to believe in the dream of writing and not give up has had a hand in bringing me to where I am now. 

Wallace: Ditto. Like Alina, lot of my work now is done in isolation, but when I first started out there was a lot of community and support in online author groups. 

9.  Do your characters speak to you?

Wallace: Yes, and sometimes they won’t be quiet. Or characters from different books will be clamoring for attention at the same time. 

Sayre: Sometimes they have very distinct feelings about what they do and don’t want to do in my stories. Sometimes I’ll start writing a scene with a certain plan in mind, only to have a character make a stubborn left turn. It sure keeps things interesting. 

10.  Do your characters dictate what happens in your books?  Or do you know ahead of time where they’re going?

Sayre: As I mentioned, my characters tend toward having minds of their own. So my writing style is sometimes called “pantsing,” or flying by the seat of my pants, as I work within a loose outline to give the characters room to make decisions that feel authentic to them. It always ends up leaving me a huge amount of editing work at the end, but I think it’s worth it to have characters who feel real. Plus, it keeps the writing process fun and exciting!

W: I’m the complete opposite. I have to plot everything out so I don’t run into brick walls halfway through the writing process. However, even though I know where my characters are going to end up, sometimes they do take me on detours along the way, which adds some excitement to the mix. 

Alina Sayre and Angela Wallace have been friends since they could walk, and writing almost as long. Angela is the award-winning author of 18 fantasy and urban fantasy works that explore the power of love, magic, and redemption. Alina is the award-winning author of the middle-grade fantasy series The Voyages of the Legend. Both wear many hats in their dual careers, with Alina doubling as a writing tutor and Angela as a sign language interpreter. Together you can find them prowling libraries, eating pizza, and plotting the untimely demises of fictional characters. 

Connect with Angela online:

Connect with Alina online:

Goodreads Author page:

Thanks to both Alina and Angela for taking the time to give us all such great insight into their behind-the-scenes writing careers.  I can't wait to add Angela to my list of high quality local authors!

GOOD NEWS:  JoJo Moyes next book, Paris for One, hits the bookstores on October 18.  I will definitely be picking it up right away.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Another Strong Karma Brown Novel - Even Better than the 1st

My good Goodreads friend, Melissa, has struck gold again with The Choices We Make.  She's the one who recommended Goodnight June (you all know what I think of that one!) and Karma Brown's 1st book, Come Away with Me (you can read my review posted on Halloween last year).  But in addition to Melissa, I also got a very strong rec from Kathy at Bermuda Onion.  1 was good, but 2 made it a must.

Here's the scoop.  And remember that the blurb gives a lot of info about the book.  Even though I don't like to read any summary of a book, I know some of you do.  If you do read it, you will still love the book. Trust me on this one.

     Hannah and Kate became friends in the fifth grade, when Hannah hit a boy for looking up Kate's skirt with a mirror.  While they've been as close as sisters ever since, Hannah can't help but feel envious of the little family Kate and her husband, David, have created - complete with two perfect little girls.
     She and Ben have been trying for years to have a baby, so when they receive the news that she will likely never get pregnant, Hannah's heartbreak is overwhelming.   But just as they begin to tentatively explore the other options, it's Kate's turn to do the rescuing.  Not only does she offer to be Hannah's surrogate, but Kate is willing to use her own eggs to do so.
     Full of renewed hope, excitement and gratitude, these two families embark on an incredible journey toward parenthood...until a devastating tragedy puts everything these women have worked toward at risk of falling apart.  Poignant and refreshingly honest, The Choices We Make is a powerful tale of an incredible friendship and the risks we take to make our dreams come true.

Karma does a lot of little things that stand out in this book.  What are they, you ask?  I'm glad you did.

1.  She reminds us about half-way through the book that something bad is going to happen - just in case we didn't remember that from the very beginning of the book.
2.  She alternates chapters between Hannah and Kate through 2/3 of the book.  And then she doesn't.  We can only imagine what that means.
3.  The last 1/3 of the book reads like a thriller.
4.  While the tension is mounting in the last 1/3 of the book, she throws in some historical background about the characters.  It's a nice break from the tension.
5.  Just like Rachael Herron's The Ones Who Matter Most, Karma gives us a definition of family that goes beyond bloodlines.  I know you know how much I like that.
6.  She elicited a whole bunch of different reactions from me - tears (of course), tears 2 pages in a row, "Unh," "Wow," raised eyebrows, "Whoa," furrowed brow.  There was also a time when I closed my eyes.  And there was one time where I was actually scared.
7.  She really writes well:  "David gestures behind him, his arm waving around haphazardly, as if it has been deboned."

And, of course, their are a few personal references that I enjoyed:
1.  One of Kate's daughters is named Josie.  That is the name (with the same spelling) of one of my granddaughters.
2.  One game night, the 2 couples are playing Cards Against Humanity. If you have never played this game, AND if you are not opposed to some really outrageous thoughts and word combinations (it's a little tough to explain), then get 4 or more people together and give this a try.
3.  Here's what Kate thinks of raisins:  "I despised raisins - their wrinkly flesh sticking in your teeth for hours."  How many of us agree with Kate?
4.  In one scene, one of Kate's daughters doesn't like the dinner that Kate made.  So Kate gets up and makes her a sandwich (with the crusts cut off).  Joni and I had just had a conversation about this very same situation with my 32-year old daughter, Lauren.  It was interesting to hear how our daughter remembered it!
5.  I just wrote about how Rachael Herron introduced us to a new genre called mis lit.  The Choices We Make certainly fits her description.

I feel very glad that I read this.  I know that when Karma Brown's next book comes out, I won't need Melissa or Kathy to tell me to read it.  I will be jumping on it.  Get a hold of The Choices We Make and then read Come Away with Me.  I'm confident that you will be happy you did. 3.75/4

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader - Part II

Part I was a list of the books from Volumes I-IV of the Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader.  Now, not surprisingly, I've got Volumes V-VIII. These 4 get you caught up.  The next time I give you a list of books to read, even if you are typically a reader of non-fiction, it will be Volume IX.  We've got 43 in this group.

Here we go:

Pat Conroy - My Losing Season
Jeff Shaara - Rise to Rebellion
William Martin - Back Bay
Alex Hailey - Roots
Ken Follett - Winter of the World (#2 Century Trilogy)
Stephen King - 11/22/63
Rayme Waters - The Angels' Share
Michael Zadoorian - The Leisure Seeker

Vanessa Diffenbaugh - The Language of Flowers
Jodi Picoult - The Storyteller
Beth Hoffman - Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
JoJo Moyes - Me Before You
Amy Franklin-Willis - The Lost Saints of Tennessee
Sue Diaz - Minefields of the Heart
Jamie Ford - Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Harlan Coben - Missing
Mitch Albom - The First Phone Call from Heaven
Jeffrey Archer - Only Time Will Tell (#1 Clifton Chronicles)
Richard North Patterson - Loss of Innocence

Christina Baker Kline - Orphan Train
Daniel James Brown - Boys in the Boat
Natalie Baszile - Queen Sugar
Greg Iles - Natchez Burning (#1 of trilogy)
Jonathan Tropper - This Is Where I Leave You
C. Lee McKenzie - The Princess of Las Pulgas
Harlan Coben - The Stranger
Anthony Doerr - All the Light We Cannot See
Tara Conklin - The House Girl
Jamie Ford - Songs of Willow Frost
Joshua Safran - Free Spirit:  Growing up on the Road and off the Grid
Rachael Herron - Pack up the Moon

Jeffrey Archer - Be Careful What You Wish For (#4)
Jeffrey Archer - Mightier than the Sword (#5)
Dennis Lehane - The Given Day
Jennifer Skully/Bella Andre - Breathless in Love (#1 The Maverick Billionaires)
Jennifer Skully/Bella Andre - Reckless in Love (#2)
Sarah Jio - Goodnight June
Ken Follett - Edge of Eternity (#3)
Kristin Hannah - The Nightingale
JoJo Moyes - After You
Atul Gawande - Being Mortal
Barry Eisler - The God's Eye View
Harlan Coben - Fool Me Once

I know you can do the math.  But that gives us 96 from Volumes I-VIII. Hopefully, you will be able to find a few to your liking.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


1st of all, I don't know why my blog periodically re-publishes old posts. It happens every month or so, and I don't have a clue as to why it is happening.

Now, on to last night's RBC author.  Rachael Herron's The Ones Who Matter Most was very well-received by our members.  But besides that, we also learned a whole bunch of stuff about Rachael's background and about the book industry in general.  I'm just going to give you a list of the highlights:

1.    Rachael has published 14 books since 2010.
2.    She writes 3,000 words a day which is the equivalent of about 12 pages.
3.    She is considered a hybrid author because she has self-published some books and is traditionally published for others.
4.    Authors make about 70% of the cover price on each self-published book and about 8% on the others.
5.    Rachael worked 17 years as a 911 operator (she had some very interesting stories to tell) and finally was able to write full-time as recently as April of this year.
6.    Romances have always had to end happily ever after.  Now, it's okay to end happily for now.
7.    1980 was the 1st year that romantic heroines could have sex without being married.  Doesn't 1980 seem pretty recent?
8.    49% of all books are romances.
9.    The 1st ebooks were romances, and, consequently, the 1st ebook owners were romance readers.
10.  We learned a new term - mis lit.  It refers to books in which some tragedy takes place.  Both of Rachael's that I have read - The Ones Who Matter Most and Pack Up the Moon - are considered mis lit.  Who knew?

RBC AUTHOR NEWS:  I have some very cool news about one of our RBC authors.  Marina Adair, who is a romance writer, was our RBC author in May.  We read book 1 of her Sugar, Georgia series.  But she has also written a series that takes place in Napa.  It's called the St. Helena Vineyard series.  Book 3, Autumn in the Vineyard, has been made into a TV movie that will be telecast on the Hallmark network on October 8 at 9:00.  And this is right on the heels of Queen Sugar.  Great stuff.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader - A Recap - Part I

Many of you know that I have been posting lists of books to read for 4.5 years.  Feb. 9, 2011 was my 1st Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader list. And I have had 7 more since then.  For those who have not been following this blog since its inception in January of 2011 (I apologize to those few who have!), I'm going to reproduce those lists in 2 parts.  This post will include 1-4, a total of 53 books.  Part II will be 5-8 and 42 books.

Here are the lists and the posting dates:

Tom Rob Smith - Child 44 (#1 of trilogy)
Jodi Picoult - My Sister's Keeper
Alex Berenson - The Faithful Spy
Daniel Silva - The Unlikely Spy
Nelson DeMille - The Charm School
Jeanette Walls - The Glass Castle
Pat Conroy - South of Broad
Ken Follett - Pillars of the Earth (#1)
James Clavell - Shogun
James Michener - The Source
David Benioff - City of Thieves
Karen Stockett - The Help

2/18/12 -
John Hart - Iron House
John Hart - The Last Child
Greg Iles - Blood Cross
Joel Rosenberg - The Last Jihad
David Baldacci - The Camel Club
Nelson DeMille - Word of Honor
Larry McMurtry - Lonesome Dove
Richard North Patterson - Exile
Dean Koontz - Lightning
Pat Conroy - Beach Music
JK Rowling - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Store
Leon Uris - Exodus
Irving Wallace - The Plot
Robert Ludlum - The Matarese Circle

4/7/12 -
Tom Rob Smith - Secret Speech (#2 of trilogy)
Harlan Coben - Stay Close
Jodi Picoult - The Pact
Tami Hoag - Night Sins
Billie Letts - The Honk & Holler, Opening Soon
Ken Follett - World without End (#2)
Laura Hillenbrand - Unbroken
Erik Larson - In the Garden of Beasts
Khaled Hosseini - The Kite Runner
Ann Patchett - Bel Canto
George Pelecanos - The Turnaround
Michael Lavigne - Not Me

7/16/12 -
David Baldacci - The Innocent
David Baldacci - Wish You Well
Sam Eastland - The Eye of the Red Tsar (#1)
James Clavell - Tai Pan
Steve Berry - The Romanov Prophecy (NOT a Cotton Malone adventure)
Dean Koontz - Strangers
Christopher Reich - The Patriots Club
Vince Flynn - Transfer of Power (#1)
Daniel Silva - The Kill Artist (#1)
Brian Haig - Secret Sanction (#1)
Michael Palmer - Oath of Office
John Jakes - The Bastard (#1)
W.E.B. Griffin - Semper Fi (#1 - The Corps)
W.E.B. Griffin - The Lieutenants (#1 - Brotherhood of War)
W.E.B. Griffin - By Order of the President (#1 - Presidential Agent)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Daniel Silva's 16th Gabriel Allon - He Continues to Write at a Very High Level

I don't typically write a review for a series that has gone on as long as this one has.  I usually just read 'em and move along.  After all, The Black Widow is the 16th Gabriel Allon novel.  What more is there to say?  The answer is:  LOTS.  Daniel Silva continues to amaze me with how each novel reflects the reality of current events.  Do you remember Silva's/Allon's Moscow Rules?  It was about a whole bunch of assassinations of journalists that were taking place in Russia.  It was actually happening.  This one is about ISIS.  And let me tell you, I learned a whole bunch.  I thought I knew the ISIS story based on news reports. But I flat-out didn't.  And I'm going to do something I have never done before.  I'm going to quote Silva's Foreward.  Yep, you read that right. Here it is:

I commenced work on this novel before the Islamic terrorist group known as ISIS carried out a wave of shootings and bombings in Paris and Brussels that left more than 160 people dead.  After briefly considering setting aside the typescript, I chose to complete it as originally conceived, as though the tragic events had not yet occurred in the imaginary world where my characters live and work.  The similarities between the real and fictitious attacks, including the links to the Brussels district of Molenbeek, are entirely coincidental.  I take no pride in my prescience.  I only wish that the murderous, millenarian terrorism of the Islamic State lived solely on the pages of this story.

How crazy is that?  But not only did I learn a bunch about ISIS, I also realized - again - that Silva really writes well.  I head shook(?), smiled, chuckled, frowned, "uh uh"ed, and teared up (of course).   And, as usual, I asked myself the same question I ask each time:  "Why did I wait so long to read the latest Allon adventure?" I really do love his stuff.  Take a look at this:

Intelligence services from different nations do not cooperate  because they enjoy it.  They do so because, like divorced parents of small children, they sometimes find it necessary to work together for the greater good.  Old rivalries do not vanish overnight.  They slumber just beneath the surface, like the wounds of infidelities, forgotten anniversaries, and unmet emotional needs.

What else did I learn from The Black Widow?
1.  The role of women in ISIS
2.  The requirements to be accepted into ISIS (this will surprise you)
3.  The history of Saladin from the 12th century

I don't know if it makes much sense to start a series on book 16.  But you probably can.  Silva actually spends a couple of pages explaining who Gabriel Allon is along with his background.  It's just such a good series.

So are these 16 books Silva's only novels?  Nope.  He wrote 3 others before he started the Allon series.  In fact, one of them, The Unlikely Spy, is in Volume I of my Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader (you looking for some books to read? - check my post from 2/19/11) and sits on my Sunday morning rec table.  This book is so cool.  And in case you haven't figured it out, I'm a very big Silva fan.  P.S.  This is a 3.75/4.

P.S.  Please do me a favor.  IF you read Josh's book, Little Boy Soup, would you write a review on Amazon?  I know it's a pain, but it would be a big help to have some additional reviews posted.  Thanks.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Your Intrepid(?) Blogger Attends the Premier of Queen Sugar

Last night, Joni and I had the opportunity to attend the premier of Queen Sugar on Oprah's TV network, OWN.  It took place at the Fillmore Heritage Center in San Francisco.  For those that don't remember the story.  Natalie Baszile published Queen Sugar in 2014. Our book club, the RBC, had the privilege of having Natalie as our December, 2014 author.  Everybody loved both the book and Natalie. Then, just a month later, she came back to the South Bay (from SF) to appear at the book club of one of our founding RBC members, Janet.  So Joni and I got to see Natalie again.  Then, in the 1st half of last year, Oprah picked up Queen Sugar to turn it into a series on her network. And the director she picked was Ava Duvernay, who directed the movie Selma.  Well, last night was a combination cocktail party, airing of episode 1, and a Q&A with Natalie.  It was a great evening.  We learned a bunch of stuff from Natalie:

1.  The idea for the book came to Natalie when she was visiting Louisiana back in 2005 and stumbled onto a sugar cane farm.  That is the premise for the book.
2.  A man that Natalie met at that time spent 6 years teaching her about the sugar cane farming business, which she needed in order to make the book realistic.
3.  The 1st season, which started last night, will run 13 episodes.  And it's already been renewed for season 2!
4.  Ava and all of the other directors are women.  Ava is breaking down the barriers for female directors in Hollywood.
5.  Although a number of changes were made from the book to the TV show, the core principles and values that Natalie wrote about were kept by Ava and crew.
6.  The actor who plays Ralph Angel, who is a central figure, asked Natalie on set if there was anything she could tell him about the character to help him with his portrayal.

Natalie told one funny story.  She had an opportunity to spend some time with Oprah at her estate in Montecito.  After they took a walk, they came back and sat in the study.  Oprah's assistant (butler?) asked Natalie what she would like to drink.  Natalie, being like the rest of us, said "What do you have?"  The assistant looked quizzically at Natalie, hesitated for a moment, and said:  "Everything."  Natalie's thought was "Of course you have everything."

Natalie was asked if she had advice for new writers.  She said 2 things - write every day and follow your passion.  That sure sounds like good advice to me.

Okay, here are a few pictures from the event.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Ice Shear, by M.P.Cooley - Our RBC Author (and book) for September

When I was looking for a mystery/suspense/thriller author for the RBC, I went to Sheldon Siegel (author of the Mike and Rosie series) and asked him for a recommendation.  He gave me 3 recs, including M.P. Cooley.  I contacted M.P. (Martha), and she accepted.  Now that I've read Ice Shear, I'm sure that our RBC members (as well as you others) will enjoy it.  Here's the recap:

As a cop on the night shift in Hopewell Falls, New York, June Lyons drives drunks home and picks up the doughnuts.  A former FBI agent, she left the Bureau when her husband died, and now she and her young daughter are back in upstate New York, living with her father, the town's retired chief of police.
When June discovers a young woman's body impaled on an ice shear in the frozen Mohawk River, news of the murder spreads fast; the dead girl was the daughter of a powerful local congresswoman, and her troubled youth kept the gossips busy.
Though June was born and raised in Hopewell Falls, the local police see her as an interloper -resentment that explodes in anger when the FBI arrive and deputize her to work on the murder investigation.  But June may not find allies among the feds.  The agent heading the case is someone from her past - someone she isn't sure she can trust.
As June digs deeper, her already tumultuous murder case turns red-hot when it leads to a notorious biker gang and a meth lab hidden in plain sight - and an unmistakable sign that the river murder won't be the last.

This book really took me by surprise.  I was 10 pages from the end, and was enjoying a good m/s/t, when BOOM!, my emotions took over.  I didn't even realize I was that caught up in June and her compatriots...but I was.  If I had any question about reading book 2 in the June Lyons series, the last 10 pages answered that for me.  In fact, book 2, Flame Out, was published May, 2015, and is available on Amazon in print and ebook formats.

If you want to see M.P. in person, she will be coming to the RBC on Wednesday, September 28, at Recycle Books in Campbell.  I'm looking forward to seeing her.

QUEEN SUGAR REVIEW:  If you have access to The Eye in the Mercury News, take a look at yesterday's review by their TV critic, Chuck Barney. He had a little trouble with the 1st couple of episodes. But then he said it took off.  Just a reminder - episodes 1 & 2 are coming up next Tuesday and Wednesday, September 6 & 7, on the OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network).