Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy - Not Your Typical Memoir

I first came across Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance, at a restaurant in Palo Alto.  Molly, who hostesses Calafia, in the Town & Country Shopping Center, said that it's a must read.  Since then, I have seen it come up all over the blogiverse.  So, what could I do?  I got it, put it in my TBR pile, and then started reading it almost immediately.  Was it worth it?  I would say yes.  I'm giving it a 3.25/4, which, I think, is pretty solid.  The synopsis/blurb on the inside of the cover is pretty long.  But I think you almost need it to understand what this book is about.  Please indulge me.

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis - that of poor, white Americans.  The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for over forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside.  In Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck.
The Vance family story began with hope in post-war America. J.D.'s grandparents were "dirt poor and in love" and moved north from Kentucky's Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them.  They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility.  But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.'s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never full escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.
A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels.  And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this county.

I will start the review by saying that the 9-page intro is pretty cool...and also necessary.  This seems like a difficult subject to talk about and, especially, quantify.  There are some statistics late in the book, which I found a little dull.  But, mostly, it's what J.D. has learned, first, growing up in this culture and, second, "escaping" from this culture.

The next thing I will tell you is that the 1st 100 pages of the book just kind of meander along at the same pace.  It was interesting but not really grabbing me.  And then, on page 102 - Boom.  There's an important death in J.D.'s family, and I was hooked.  It wasn't quite as impactful as Gone Girl and Everything We Keep, but it still followed the pattern of the first 1/3-1/2 setting the stage for the rest of the book.

Based on J.D.'s upbringing, there were things he encountered as a young adult that he didn't understand but that most of us know automatically. For example:
1.  He didn't understand the difference between tap water and sparkling water.  When he tasted the sparkling water, he immediately spit it out.
2.  He ordered white wine and was asked whether he wanted sauvignon blanc or chardonnay.  He had no idea that there were different types of white wine.

I have to warn you that there is a lot of language - especially from J.D.'s grandmother, Mamaw! But, believe me, one of the best recurring themes of this book is "listening" to what comes out of Mamaw's mouth. Assuming you are not offended by strong language, you will definitely enjoy what she has to say.

Do yourself a favor and learn about a prominent culture in our country that you most probably don't know a thing about.  Read Hillbilly Elegy.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Bunch of Acronyms

This is very cool.  Nicole, in her blog, Feed Your Fiction Addiction, listed all of these acronyms associated with book world.  

Last week I posted about OTPs and several people said that they didn’t know the acronym. It occurred to me that there are LOTS of book blogging terms that aren’t particularly obvious. When I first started out as a blogger, I often stared in puzzlement at words or acronyms that meant nothing to me. Heck, even nowadays I still run across terms I’m not sure about. I thought it might be fun to try to gather together as many of these as I could and explain them … for those of us just starting out or anyone who’s not sure what some of these mean!

Bookish Relationship Terms:

OTP: One True Pairing (that couple that you will root for till the end of time)
NOTP: (Pronounced No-TP) Basically the opposite of an OTP. You do not want this couple together!
BROTP/Bromance: A friendship (between guys) that you adore!
Ship: If you ship a couple, it means that you want them to get together (comes from the word “relationship”).
HEA: Happily Ever After
Book Boyfriend/Girlfriend: The fictional boy (or girl) you only wish could be your real-life love.
Insta-love/Insta-lust: The phenomenon that happens all too often in books when the couple meets and instantly falls in love (or, sometimes, lust).
Love triangle: When the main character can’t decide between two romantic partners—most frustrating when this is drawn out for multiple books in a series.

Other Reading Emotion Terms:

The Feels: This means that you were overwhelmed with emotion when reading the book often meaning that lots of different emotions were involved. It’s high praise to say that a book gave you all the feels!
Book Hangover: When a book leaves you emotionally drained. Often this leads to the reader not being able to jump right into another book and sometimes leads to a …
Reading Slump/Blogging Slump: Feeling uninspired to read and/or blog. Or sometimes just a slump where you read a string of underwhelming books or post a bunch of unimaginative posts.

Character/Plot Terms:

MC: Main character (book is told from their POV)
POV: Point of view (the perspective that the book is told from)
POC: Person of color
Twist: An unexpected event in a book—typically one that changes the direction of the plot or characters dramatically
Info-Dump: When the author gives you lots of background information all at once via narration or dialogue.

Genres/Age Ranges:

PB: Picture book
MG: Middle Grade (typically geared toward ages 8-13 or so)
YA: Young Adult (typically geared toward high school aged readers—or features main characters in that age range)
NA: New Adult (typically geared toward college age or just out of college—or features main characters in that age range)
SF/F: Sci-Fi or Fantasy
PNR: Paranormal Romance (usually adult)
UF: Urban Fantasy
Contemp: Contemporary fiction, meaning that it takes place in modern day and generally doesn’t have any magical, sci-fi or fantasy elements

Format/Publishing Terms:

ARC/Galley/Uncorrected Proof/eARC/DRC: These are all terms that refer to an Advanced Reader’s Copy—a (typically unfinalized) copy of the book that publishers provide to reviewers before the publication date. eARC and DRC (Digital Review Copy) both refer to electronic copies of a book.
Physical Copy: (Often in reference to an ARC) Means that you have a hardcover or paperback version of the book, not an ebook.
Finished Copy/FC: The book in its final, published form
PB: Paperback
HC: Hardcover
Self-Published: Published by the author (often via Amazon)
Traditionally Published: Published by one of the major publishing houses
Indie/Small-Press: Published by a small independent publisher
ISBN: International Standard Book Number. A unique number that identifies a published book.
MS: Manuscript (the copy of the book that’s actually written or typed by the author)
WIP: Work in progress (a book that the author is currently working on)
Blurb: The synopsis that you find on the back of the book and sites like Amazon and Goodreads
Street Teams: A team of bloggers and/or readers who enthusiastically promote an author or a series. Sometimes street team members get special perks from the author like first dibs on ARCs.


Meme: According to Merriam-Webster a meme is defined as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” In the book blogging world, it’s typically a link-up centered on a theme where lots of bloggers participate and link up to a master post. There are lots of these. Here are just a few that I could think of:
  • TTT: Top Ten Tuesday. (A different bookish top ten list every week)
  • WoW: Waiting on Wednesday (Lists an upcoming book the blogger is looking forward to)
  • Sunday Post: A weekly wrap-up.
  • StS: Stacking the Shelves (Books that have been newly acquired)
  • It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?: Tell what you’re reading that week.
  • Teaser TuesdayList a teaser sentence from the book you’re currently reading.
  • That’s What He Said ThursdayShare a line from your current book boyfriend.
  • Cover Characteristic: Features a different type of cover element each week.
  • Feature & Follow FridayA meme that encourages following back.
Tag: Usually a post with a list of quick categories or questions around a theme. The blogger puts up their post and then “tags” other bloggers, encouraging them to complete the list as well.
Blog Hop/Giveaway Hop: A linky that is designed so that participants “hop” from blog to blog visiting many of the linked posts. (Often this is done with a giveaway, so that there is a link-up of lots of blogs participating in a giveaway and people can hop to all of them to enter many different giveaways)
Buddy Read: When a group of two or more people read a book at the same time so they can discuss it as they go.
OTSP Secret Sister: A monthly bookish secret sister project put together by a few bloggers as part of their “On the Same Page” feature.


Blog Tour: An organized publicity tour for a book where multiple bloggers post about the book on their blogs. Usually tours take place over a short period of time (typically two weeks or less), often near the release date. Blog tours often include a giveaway (but not always). Tour stops might include:
  • Spotlight: A tour stop that just gives basic information about the book such as cover, description, release date, author info, buy links, etc.
  • Guest Post: Where the author writes a short guest post about a topic relevant to the book that’s included in the tour stop.
  • Interview: An interview with the author (usually questions are written by the blogger)
  • Excerpt: A tour stop that includes an excerpt of the book
  • Review: A tour stop that includes a review of the book
Cover Reveal: An organized reveal of the cover for an upcoming book where the cover is featured on blogs and 

Bookish and Social Media Abbreviations/Terms:

NG: NetGalley (a site that provides digital review copies)
EW: Edelweiss (another site that provides digital review copies)
GR: Goodreads (a site where you can post reviews and more!)
FB: Facebook
BookTube: Bookish vlogs (video blogs) posted to YouTube
Bookstagram: Instagram feeds that are dedicated to pictures of books
TBD: The Book Depository (you’ll see this abbreviation on international giveaways a lot)

Book Conferences:

There are TONS of book conferences out there, but these are the ones I hear bloggers talking about most:
ALA: American Library Association (Technically this is the name of the organization, but when bloggers say they’re going to ALA, they’re talking about the organization’s bi-annual convention.)
BEA/BookCon: Book Expo America (which is now being renamed to just Book Expo, I believe). Book Expo is the main conference, which is only open to industry professionals (including bloggers, though that’s being limited a bit more than it was in the past). BookCon takes place immediately after BEA and is open to the public.
RT Booklover’s Convention: This is the Romantic Times convention, which focuses mostly on adult romance (though it’s branched out into more YA in recent years). It has lots of break-out sessions for aspiring writers, bloggers, and readers and also features author signings and tons of fun parties and activities!
Apollycon: Jennifer Armentrout sponsors this conference.

Other Random Terms:

Blogoversary: The anniversary of your first blog post!
Shelfie: A mixture of “shelf” and “selfie”—basically a picture of your bookshelves.
Book spine poetry: Creating a poem from the titles of your books. Often done using a pictures of all the books stacked up to show the poem.

Book Title Abbreviations:

We book bloggers are busy people and we can’t be expected to constantly type out long book titles, right? Besides, when Twitter’s 140 character limit is involved titles like A Court of Thorns and Roses are just darn impractical! So, what do we do? We abbreviate them, of course! ACoTaR is a really common one I see all the time (notice that the words that aren’t capitalized in the title often aren’t capitalized in the abbreviation either). But this abbreviating can be seen all the time, especially in comments or when the name of the book has already been mentioned once. Usually this treatment is reserved for long titles, but sometimes we just get plain lazy—I’ve seen people abbreviate two or three word titles this way from time to time.

Whew! Any of these new to you? I’m sure I’m missing some important terms and abbreviations here. If you think of any that I should add to the list, let me know in the comments!

YALC: the UK’s Young Adult Literature Conventionin social media.
Book Blitz: This type of tour typically includes a giveaway and lots of spotlight posts (sometimes all on the same day or over just a couple of days up to a week) but features no reviews, guest posts, interviews, etc.
Social Media Blitz: A tour that is organized just to be featured on social media (just spotlights).
Top Post of the day: If a tour company says that the tour post needs to be your top post of the day, that means that it should be the last thing you post that day (most tour companies ask that you post by a certain time, say 10AM, so that would mean you couldn’t put up any other posts after 10AM on that day).

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Another Great RBC Meeting...And A Big, Exciting Announcement

I want to talk to you about last night's RBC meeting and show you some pictures.  HOWEVER, I have to, first, give you the big news.  Wait for it...wait for it...Books, Inc. is opening a new store...in The Pruneyard,in Campbell.  This is really good news on so many levels.  First, it's another bookstore.  Second, it's another bookstore in the South Bay.  Third, it's the 1st bookstore in The Pruneyard since Barnes & Noble left 4 or 5 years ago.  For those that don't know, I used to go into B&N there in part to meet local authors.  It was there that I 1st met Jennifer Skully, Shelly Adina, Hannah Jayne, and A.R. Silverberry, all of them authors that I'm happy to say I am still in contact with.  So, for me, it's very nostalgic, among all of the other benefits.  Timing?  Well, The Pruneyard will be going through a remodel this year.  And Books, Inc. will be opening around summertime next year.  CAN'T WAIT!

Okay, that is good news indeed.  But so was our RBC meeting last night. Elizabeth Hunter, author of The Irin Chronicles, came to Recycle to talk about book 1 in the series, The Scribe.  And let me tell you that the members' ratings were sky high.  Not only that, a number of the members have already read book 2 and even book 3.  And Elizabeth brought a bunch of books for us to buy so that we can continue the series.  I was among many who bought both 2 & 3.

What did we learn from Elizabeth last night?  I'm glad you asked:

1.  Elizabeth started writing by doing short stories for fanfiction.  BTW, fanfiction will be the subject of a blog post one of these days.
2.  Elizabeth self-published her 1st book in 2011 and now has a total of 15 books and novellas.  She is currently slowing her pace to 2 full-length books and a few novellas/short stories per year.
3.  She taught us the difference between contemporary fantasy and paranormal.  Since I oftentimes have a lot of problems distinguishing one genre from another, this was a treat to actually get definitions that I can understand.  If you're all nice to me, maybe someday I will give you those definitions.
4.  From that age-old question of whether an author is character-driven or plot-driven, Elizabeth is decidedly character-driven.  Definitely my favorite of the 2.

There's more, but let me show you some pictures, including the head honcho of Recycle Books.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Women's Fiction 6 Years Later

Okay, what you will see below is a post from February of 2011.  Why am I reposting?  Well, the topic of women's fiction, women's contemporary fiction, chick lit, et al is one that is constantly on my mind.  If it's written by a woman or stars a woman, does that mean men can't enjoy it?  Are we not even supposed to read it?  This is ridiculous.  Some of my favorite books of all time are one or the other - or both.  Take a look at the list. And notice the offer I made 6 years ago to all of the men.  Guess what? I was right.  I did not end up sending out any books.  But the offer still stands.  Men, get busy.  And ladies, if you know of any men who would be interested in this challenge, let them know.

One more thing:  Men, I've got 9 authors listed below.  In the last 6 years, I have uncovered (whoops, perhaps a bad choice of words!) numerous authors and books that fit this category. If any of you would like other recommendations besides the ones listed below, let me know.

Hello all,

Did you miss me?  Does anybody even know that I haven't posted a blog for 10 days?  Now that you know that, do you care?  Okay, moving on:  I want to cover what I think is a very interesting topic.  How do we get the male gender of our species, who usually only read about macho men (e.g. Mitch Rapp, Gabriel Allon, or John Wells), to read chick lit?  In fact, what exactly is chick lit?  Beats me.  But I can certainly tell you what it's not.  It's not cheesy romances.  There are a number of female authors who have written excellent novels about relationships (with both male and female protagonists) that I have enjoyed immensely.  Yes, perhaps it can be said that I'm a bit girlie.  But I like to think of it as getting in touch with my feminine side (my metrosexualism, if you will).

Here are some recommendations.*  These are all books that I have read.

Lolly Winston (2) - Good Grief and Happiness Sold Separately
Deborah Wolf (the daughter of someone who worked for Rich for many years) (2) - With You and Without You and When I'm Not Myself
Billie Letts (3) - The Honk and Holler, Opening Soon (the sleeper hit of the year a few years back for Bob and me), Made in the U.S.A., Where the Heart Is
Anna Quindlan (4) - Rise and Shine, Black and Blue, Every Last One, and One True Thing
Jodi Picoult (millions) - her books are either good, really good, or excellent
Alice Sebold (1) - The Lovely Bones
Ann Patchett (3) - Bel Canto, The Magician's Assistant, and Run - very good stuff
Kathryn Stockett (1) - The Help
Sara Gruen (1) - Water for Elephants

That should hold you macho man readers for awhile.  In fact, the first man that tells me he's read at least one book from each of these authors will receive a novel of his choice free, from me.  He can have it in hardcover, softcover, or in ereader form.  I have to say that I feel pretty safe on this one but will be happy
to pay up.

*P.S.  Women will like these books too.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

1 Review and 1 Non-Review (huh?)

This month's 4th Tuesday Evening Book Club for Books, Inc. Palo Alto is called The Slow Waltz of Turtles by a french author, Katherine Pancol.  As Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah's Key, says:  "Lucky you!  You're about to succumb to France's most irresistible writer!  At the end of this delicious, tender, fun, heartwarming novel, you'll feel as if Iris and Josephine are part of your family."

Let me hit you with the blurb on the inside cover:

FORTY SOMETHING MOTHER OF TWO Josephine Cortes is at a crossroads.  She has just moved to a posh new apartment in Paris after the success of the historical novel she ghostwrote for her sister, Iris.  Still struggling with her divorce - the result of her husband running off with his mistress - she is entangled in Iris's messy lie.  And as if that's not enough, people have started turning up dead in her neighborhood.
As Josephine struggles to find her voice and her confidence amidst a tangled web of relationships and a string of murders, she and those around her must learn to push on with determination, like headstrong little turtles learning to dance swollen in a world too violent and moving too fast.

I know this is a popular author and book.  And Goodreads averages 3.51/5, while Amazon is a bit higher at 4/5.  I gave it a 3/4, so I'm pretty much in line with everybody else.  But even though I liked it, it kind of felt like a Seinfeld episode.  There is so much going on that, sometimes, it felt very random to me.  Seinfeld, right?

And, like Seinfeld, I liked all of the various characters.  One of my favorites was Henriette, Jo and Iris's mother, who tried to sabotage (in a very unique way) the marriage of her ex-husband to a much younger woman.  Henriette reminded me a lot of Lady Virginia, another ex-wife, this one in the much-loved-by-me 7-book Clifton Chronicles, from Jeffrey Archer.

There's no question that Pancol can write:
1.  "I'm going to talk to him today, she decided with the boldness of the very shy."
2.  "When it comes to loving, they really love each other.  They're like two candies in a box, stuck together."
3.  "The corners of her mouth curved down, like that of an aging gambler who has lost it all."

I didn't have a lot of emotional connections, although, like I said earlier, I did like the characters.  And late in the book I had a pretty dramatic jaw-drop.  But I do have one complaint.  Whoever translated it into English made way too many errors, many of them of the egregious variety.  I admit that this is a relatively small concern.  I think it's more a problem of my anal-compulsive-ness than anything else.  So be it.

My book cover was blue with yellow stars - odd

My Non-Review:  What's a non-review, you ask?  Well, it's an opportunity to tell you about a book that I stopped reading.  Now I know that many of you (along with millions of others) love Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs series.  Her 13th book, In This Grave Hour, was sent to me by the publisher in ARC form.  This was a couple of months ago.  I finally got to it.  Mind you, I've never read any books in this series.  But I figured, like most series, each book stands on its own.  And I was right.  The problem is that I just couldn't get into it.  I like the fact that it is an historical mystery (it takes place in 1939, right after England enters WWII - and Maisie is British, by-the-by).  Otherwise, not so much.  I did get through 72 pages.  Since I stopped The Goldfinch on page 19, 72 is pretty darn good.  Right?  What?  No?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Novella #2 for Elisabeth Barrett's West Coast Holiday Series

Last December 16, I reviewed Christmas in Tahoe, 1 of 3 novellas in Elisabeth Barrett's West Coast Holiday Series.  I told you that I liked it well enough to write a review of just one novella.  I also said that I didn't know if I would like the other 2 enough to write separate reviews.  Well, that question has been half-answered.  Rendezvous in Point Reyes is definitely worth its own review.  And why did I read it now?  Because it's about Valentine's Day.  And lest we forget, Valentine's Day was Tuesday.  So I started it on VDay and finished it 1 day later.  That's how much I enjoyed it (plus I had some extra reading time!).

P.S.  I already missed out on the timing for the 3rd novella, New Year's in Napa.  I very much doubt that I will wait until next New Year's to read it. But back to RiPR.  Here's the blurb:

Shy, quiet Stella Flynn escapes to Point Reyes to wallow after a rough divorce, but little does she know that sexy, free-spirited Jason Roberts has other plans.  Jason has secretly been in love with Stella for years.  Unfortunately, she's his best friend's younger sister, and Stella's brother would kill him if he ever broke her heart.  Over a long, romantic Valentine's Day weekend, Stella and Jace discover that seduction is a game that's easy to lose...and that the path from friends to lovesr is never as smooth as it seems.

I will try not to repeat all of the things I said about the 1st novella.  But I can't avoid some comparisons:

1.  An immediate connection with the 2 protagonists.  Why yes in some books and not in others?  I don't know.  I only know what I know and feel.  And Elisabeth is 2 for 2.
2.  Lots of tears, chills, tears, smiles, tears, raised eyebrows, and more tears.
3.  And I did have an"episode" near the end of the book in which I had blurred eyes, falling tears, and a certain amount of light blubbering (can blubbering be light?)

But this novella had a few attributes of its own:

1.  The 1st half of page 1 is extremely clever.  In fact, it's one of my very favorite book openings.
2.  I had a moment, besides all of those listed above, where I really almost cheered.  I didn't because I always have complete control of my emotions (yeah, right).  But I wanted to.
3.  I appreciated learning a lot about the cheese industry.  I'll have to ask Elisabeth how she learned so much about the inner workings of making, distributing, and selling cheese.

And no review would be complete without my personal connections. Don't worry, I've only got 2:

1.  They talk about the Oxbow shopping center in Napa.  Joni and I visited that location about 7 months ago and thought it was very cool.
2   The Flynn's not only took very good care of Stella and her brother, but also basically raised Jason. This reminded me of the Maverick Billionaires series, by Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre.  Those parents also took care of kids that weren't biologically their own.  In both cases, I liked those parents - a lot.

It's really a pleasure being able to read Elisabeth's stories.  But, as I mentioned in my 1st review, this is her only book in print.  It almost makes me want to read her other books in e form - but not quite. ELISABETH, HOW 'BOUT MORE PRINT BOOKS?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

More Stuff

I've got a couple of random announcements and thoughts for you:

1.  Daniel Silva's 17th Gabriel Allon novel, House of Spies, will be hitting bookstores July 4.  And this is one of the few series that I still make sure not to miss.  But I have to say that one of Silva's pre-Allon books, The Unlikely Spy, sits on my rec table on Sundays.  You might want to take a look.

2.  I want to start a conversation, but I don't really know how to do it. Do you have to be in a specific age range to enjoy certain genres?  I think I've addressed this before with you guys.  But it just came up again.  One of my favorite bloggers commented that she would have liked a book more if she had been part of the target audience.  My feeling is that your age is irrelevant if you emotionally connect to the characters.  I have read books of all genres in which the protagonists are way younger than me (who isn't?).  But I still loved the book.  The 2 genres that spring to mind are YA (young adults) and romance (because, after all, how many romances feature 60-somethings...or 50-somethings...or 40 somethings).  If anybody is interested, I will be happy to list a few books that were definitely geared for (much) younger audiences; but that I still loved.  Or, this could simply be one of those issues that nobody but me cares about.  I will concede that possibility.

3.  I know that many of you do not have access to our RBC (Recycle Book Club) because you don't live near Campbell, CA.  But I thought I would give you our schedule anyway.  We are currently booked through October!  So here they are, with genre included:

Wednesday, February 22, RBC - The Scribe, book 1 of the Irin Chronicles (paranormal romance), Elizabeth Hunter
Wednesday, March 22, RBC - A Killing at Cotton Hill, Terry Shames (small-town murder mystery)
Thursday, April 20, RBC - If You Are There (historical fiction), Susan Sherman
Wednesday, May 24, RBC - Really Enough: A True Story of Tyranny, Courage and Comedy (memoir), Margaret Zhao
Wednesday, June 14, RBC - The Illuminator’s Gift, book 1 of the Voyages of the Legend (YA fantasy), Alina Sayre
Wednesday, July 12, RBC - here there be dragons (dark fiction), Jeff Rosenplot
Wednesday, August 23, RBC - Pure & Sinful, book 1 of the Pure Souls series (urban fantasy/paranormal), Killian McRae
Wednesday, September 13, RBC, Everything We Keep (contemporary fiction), Kerry Lonsdale
Sunday, October 22, RBC, 4:30 - Incriminating Evidence, book 2 of the Mike & Rosie series (legal mystery), Sheldon Siegel

4.  By tomorrow morning, my page views on the blog will be at 125,000! It's picking up some steam.  If you are reading this, then you are helping me reach some new numbers every day.  THANK YOU!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

At the Risk of Sounding Like a Broken Record, I've Got Another Very Good Book by Another Local Author

I found out about Everything We Keep, by Kerry Lonsdale, from Susan Kankel, who is an RBC member.  And I have to say to Susan:  THANK YOU!  This is a very good book.  I'm going to start right off with the back page blurb:

Sous chef Aimee Tierney has the perfect recipe for the perfect life: marry her childhood sweetheart, raise a family, and buy out her parents' restaurant.  But when her fiancee, James Donato, vanishes in a boating accident, her well-baked future is swept out to sea.  Instead of walking down the aisle on their wedding day, Aimee is at James's funeral - a funeral that leaves her more unsettled than at peace.
As Aimee struggles to reconstruct her life, she delves deeper into James's disappearance.  What she uncovers is an ocean of secrets that make her question everything about the life they built together.  And just below the surface is a truth that may set Aimee free...or shatter her forever.

I have a lot to say about Everything We Keep.  But let me start by quoting the 1st line in the book:  "On our wedding day, my fiance, James, arrived at the church in a casket."  How's that for a grabber?  And it never lets up.  This is an intricately plotted book that holds together. Things happen that you don't usually see in a novel.  But they all make sense in this context.  That's all I'm going to say about that.

Let me list some elements of the book that stood out for me:
1.  I connected emotionally with Aimee as early as page 5, and really got hooked by page 8.
2.  I very much enjoyed Aimee's two best friends, Kristen and Nadia. And I really liked the 3 of them together.
3.  I had a large amount of tears (some heavy) and chills which always makes me like a book more.  In fact, there's one scene early on where I got double chills.  Maybe I was outside in the cold when I read that part? Nah.
4.  Kerry creates a lot of tension that is based on relationships, not on lurking/hiding/shadow-y people.
5   There is a moment of self-discovery/realization that is so cool.
6.  Kerry can write.  On back-to-back pages she refers to vomit as "acidic stew" and compares it to a "toppled can of paint."  Pretty expressive, I would say.
7.  I can favorably compare Kerry's writing to Sarah Jio and Karma Brown, 2 of my favorites (as all/some/none of you know).
8.  I can also compare it to another smash hit - Gone Girl.  In that one, I enjoyed the 1st half and absolutely loved the 2nd half.  In Everything We Keep, I liked the 1st 1/3 and couldn't put the last 2/3 down.

And I just found out today that there is a sequel (but I'm not going to tell you which character is the star of the next one) coming out this July 4.  I will be at the front of the line for that one.  It's called Everything We Left Behind.

P.S.  Kerry has agreed to come to the RBC on September 13.  I know that's down the road some.  But I'm really looking forward to having her there.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The RBC and BookBrowse owner Davina Morgan-Witts

Tuesday night we had a special RBC meeting.  Davina Morgan-Witts, founder and owner of the very popular book recommending website, BookBrowse, came to Recycle Books to talk about her online magazine. Here are a bunch of facts about BookBrowse:

1.    They only recommend books that "engage, entertain, and enlighten."  If you can't learn something from reading a book, then BookBrowse won't recommend it.
2.    They are 20 years old and for the 1st 9 years, they treated it like a hobby.  In 2006, the owners decided to make it into a real business.
3.    They make their money from ads (typically from publishers) and from subscriptions.
4.    They have 125,000 Facebook followers!
5.    They have 500,000 unique views each month!
6.    They feature 20 books and review another 60-80 books each month. 
7.    They have 25,000 signed up for their newsletter!
8.    They have several weekly posts and do their recommending twice each month.
9.    Even though most of their recommendations come from the big 5 of publishing, they still have a form on their website that allows independent authors to apply.
10.  They only feature new books, of which most are hardcover.  They will sometimes feature the same books when they come out in paperback (usually about a year later).

I would strongly recommend that you visit Davina's website.  You will be glad you did.

Davina treated our members to free ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) plus a few published books

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

It's Hodge-Podge Time AKA Random Stuff

1.  The RWA (Romance Writers of America), Silicon Valley Chapter,  has an all-day event coming up in San Jose on Feb. 25.  Here is the info:

Silicon Valley RWA Chapter Presents:
Write, Publish, Market an Amazon Bestseller
February 25, 2017, 9-5, San Jose

Led by Andrea Hurst, President, Andrea Hurst & Associates Literary Management!
Gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to be successful at indie and hybrid publishing—how to obtain higher visibility, greater sales, and a better overall product. Insights that can be applied wherever you are on the publishing journey.
Topics Addressed:
  • The current state of publishing and what this means for you
  • Tips for writing books that sell: genre, audience, craft
  • Navigating your way through the editorial process
  • Writing and leveraging a series
  • Platform building and enhancing your author brand
  • Effective marketing strategies
  • Production advice on pricing, placement and keywords
  • The process of a successful book launch
  • Sales tools to apply anywhere on your publishing journey
  • Basic steps to setting up promotions, ads & social media marketing
  • Attracting publishers and agents from your self-published book
  • How are the Amazon imprints different from traditional publishing
    Want to increase your self-published book sales? Interested in becoming an indie or hybrid author? Just want to build your audience? This workshop is for you.
    Fee: $150 includes full-day workshop and continental breakfast and lunch.
    REGISTER TODAY: http://tinyurl.com/jql9jer
    ANDREA HURST represents high profile adult nonfiction and well-crafted fiction
    to major publishers, and her self-published book,
    The Guestbook, is an Amazon bestseller with over 1,300 reviews. www.AndreaHurst.com and www.AndreaHurst-author.com
    REBECCA BERUS, Founder of 2Market Books, offers strategic consulting and promotional services on finding, engaging and building audiences and effective book marketing. www.2marketbooks.com
    SEAN FLETCHER, Author, Director of Author Services, Developmental Editor, and Agent Scout for Andrea Hurst & Associates, manages editorial and consulting services for clients.
2.  Well-known blogger, JJ Spina, of Jemsbooks, posted this article from 2 notable doctors: 

Does Reading Make You Healthier and Happier?

by jjspina
I recently read the column of Drs. Oz & Roizen, titled Reading makes you healthier and happier. Here is partially what Drs. Oz & Roizen had to say.
…But neuromarketing researchers from the University of Sussex’s Mindlab found that reading an old-fashion, open-a-book-and-learn-something text (start with “You: The Owner’s Manual,” revised) or an escape-to-the-beach-novel (try James Michener’s “Hawaii”) for even six minutes a day is more relaxing than listening to music, taking a walk or even (these were English researchers) having a cup of tea. The study says getting into a good read eases muscle tension and slows down your heart rate. That dispels stress and makes your RealAge significantly younger!
In addition, reading keeps your brain sharp, improves sleep and makes you a more interesting social animal. Also, if you know someone, especially a child, who has difficulty with reading, spend some time with them and read aloud together. Lots of kids have a hard time learning to read, so if you’re a parent, grandparent or just a good neighbor, be aware and help them out. You’re giving a gift of learning. Traveling the world through the written word opens doors in the mind and in life?

3.  Author Appearance Alert:  Anthony Doerr, author of All the Light We Cannot See, is coming to the Bay Area.  He is being sponsored by Books, Inc. and will be at the Santa Clara Convention Center Theater at 7:00 on April 4.  His touring is celebrating the release of his book in paperback.  If you want to buy tickets, go to Books, Inc. website.

4.  Question for authors:  Why do all chapters start on the right-hand side of the book?  I've read a bunch of books recently where a new chapter only starts on the right.  If the previous chapter ends on the right side, then the next page on the left is blank.  I don't get it. Somebody?  Anybody?

NEXT UP:  My next blog will be about Davina Morgan-Witts' appearance at the RBC last night.  Her book-recommending website, BookBrowse, is a great way to find out which books to keep an eye out for.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Murder in the Abstract - A Murder Mystery by Susan C. Shea

As you know, I saw Terry Shames at her book launch at Books, Inc. in Berkeley back on January 13. And as you also know, Terry was in conversation with Susan C. Shea, another local author.  Well, I decided to get book 1 of Susan's Dani O'Rourke mystery series.  And I really enjoyed it.  Here's what Murder in the Abstract is about:

Danielle O'Rourke's gala evening at the Devor Museum ends in catastrophe when the body of a young artist plummets from her office window.  The police label it murder and suspect Dani, the Museum's chief fund raiser.  Self-preservation and an insider's understanding of how money moves the art world drive her to investigate who might have a motive for murder. Dani's playboy ex-husband and a green-eyed cop complicate matters as her search moves through the fashionable worlds of San Francisco and Santa Fe.

This book was very educational for me:

1.  I learned a lot about the business side of the art world.
2.  I learned about the various roles/jobs that an art museum (and probably all museums) has.
3.  I learned about art galleries and what goes into putting on a show.

On top of all that, I also got to sink my teeth into a murder mystery.  And I have to tell you that I did NOT know whodunit until the very end.  And with a wide variety of eccentric and unique characters, I'm definitely looking forward to #2 - The King's Jar - and #3 - Mixed Up with Murder.

Does the pool of local, talented authors ever dry up?  Or even stay at the same level?  To borrow from the current weather in the Bay Area, I can honestly say that the banks are overflowing (have you been on highway 17 in the Santa Cruz mountains lately?).  But most importantly, add Susan C. Shea to that every-burgeoning pool.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Local Bookstore Closes!

Sorry to hit you with another blog post only 1 day after the last one.  But this is important.  Our very local independent bookstore, which has been open for 3.5 years, is going out of business.  I passed it today and saw a big banner on the front of the store saying GOING OUT OF BUSINESS.  This is really some devastating news.  From what I've read, independent bookstores are actually increasing in numbers.  In fact, 2 local chains, Books, Inc. and Book Passage, have both opened new stores in the last few months.  But it still stinks to have any independent bookstore close, especially one in my own home town!

When I went on their website this afternoon, here is what I saw:




Ann Bridges, who is an RBC member AND, more importantly, a published author, had this to say: 

It's a tough business competing with Amazon, who did a remarkable job earning customer loyalty through convenience. With the plethora of reading choices out there, I don't think the concept of "curating" or "recommending" carries much weight anymore. Even the San Jose library is moving its focus to be more of a community learning center, not a collection of great books and the best reading/reference material. And all that is before you realize that the next gen of kids read short snippets at a time, on their devices, and prefer video to all.
Publishers and authors are plentiful, and also at the mercy of Amazon's required pricing margins, leaving writing as more a hobby than a professional pursuit. Gotta love the romance writers, who figured out that writing volume and ebooks for voracious fans would work. Wish the other genres did as well.

There you have it, people.  I have unloaded.  And you know what?  I don't feel any better.

Friday, February 3, 2017

And, Finally, The 3.5s

Final final list of 2016.  I swear it.

2011 - 3
In the Garden of Beasts - Erik Larson
The Turnaround - George Pelicanos
Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand

2012 - 9
The Oracle of Stamboul - Michael David Lukas
The Sins of the Father - Jeffrey Archer (The Clifton Chronicles, #2)
The Innocent - David Baldacci
The Hidden Life - Adina Senft
Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn
Fever - Joan Swan
The Leisure Seeker - Michael Zadoorian
The Tender Bar - J.R. Moehringer

2013 - 13
The Last Man - Vince Flynn
On the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford
Empire and Honor - W.E.B. Griffin
Shades of Passion - Virna DePaul
The Sisterhood - Helen Bryan
From Sleepy Lagoon to the Corner of the Cats - Steve Sporleder
The English Girl - Daniel Silva
Gravity of Birds - Tracy Guzeman
The First Phone Call from Heaven - Mitch Albom
Best Kept Secret - Jeffrey Archer (The Clifton Chronicles, #3)
Mother Daughter Me - Katie Hafner
The Naughty Corner - Jasmine Haynes
Orange Is the New Black - Piper Kerman

2014 - 18
Missing You - Harlan Coben
Songs of Willow Frost - Jamie Ford
Saved by the Rancher - Jennifer Ryan
Loss of Innocence - Richard North Patterson
The House Girl - Tara Conklin
The Home for the Friendless - Betty Auchard
The Princess of Las Pulgas - C. Lee McKenzie
This Is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper
Naked - Betsy Franco
Pack Up the Moon - Rachael Herron
The Moment Before - Suzie Vitello
A Wedding in Provence - Ellen Sussman
The Boys in the Boat - Daniel James Brown
Queen Sugar - Natalie Baszile
The Target - David Baldacci
Free Spirit - Joshua Saffran
All the Light We Cannot See - Jonathan Doerr
The Illuminator's Test - Alina Sayre (The Voyages of the Legend, #2)

2015 - 7
The Stranger - Harlan Coben
The Given Day - Dennis Lehane
Herb of Grace - Shelly Adina
The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah
We Never Asked for Wings - Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Come Away with You - Karma Brown
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry - Gabrielle Zevin

2016 - 13
Mulberry - Paulette Boudreaux
Salt to the Sea - Ruta Sepetys
The Nest - Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
Fearless in Love - Jennifer Skully & Bella Andre (The Maverick Billionaires, #3)
Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi
Home - Harlan Coben
The Wright Brothers - John McCullough
Blackberry Winter - Sarah Jio
Letters from Paris - Juliet Blackwell
Small Great Things - Jodi Picoult
Livia Lone - Barry Eisler
Paris for One - JoJo Moyes
Glitter and Glue - Kelly Corrigan

Total:  63

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

If You Are There, by Susan Sherman - A Look at the Curies in the Early 1900s

Susan Sherman's book, If You Are There, takes a look at Marie and Pierre Curie through the fictional character of a Polish immigrant, Lucia Rutkowska.  It blends science with spiritualism.  Is it true that famous scientists in the 1st decade of the 20th century regularly visited mediums and conducted seances?  I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing yes.  And let me explain the procedure they went through before each seance began. First, if the medium was a woman, another woman would check her clothes and body to make sure that she wasn't hiding anything.  Then, during the seance, the persons on the medium's right and left would put their foot on top of the medium's to make sure that she wasn't using her foot in some kind of tricky way.  All the while, the scientists would be calling out their observations.  And another scientist, designated as the stenographer for the evening, would take notes.  I must admit that I have never seen a connection between science and spiritualism before - at least not to this extent.

What it comes down to is stated in the book jacket:  "Ultimately, Lucia (the Polish immigrant cook/housekeeper) is placed directly in the crosshairs of faith verses science - what is more real, the glowing substances of the Curie laboratory or the glowing visions that surround the medium during her seance?"

Like The Gentleman of Moscow and here there be dragons, this is definitely a very well-written book.  Here are just a couple of passages, after this quote by Henri Poincare (mathematician, physicist, engineer, philosopher) in 1906:

"It matters little what god one believes in:  It is the faith and not the god that makes miracles."

"They cut up vegetables, sorted legumes, grated ginger, and chopped garlic, but they never made anything as delicate as a sauce."

"How thrilling this dance was, the choreography of near misses, unintended caresses, and vague possibilities, and how impatient she was for the next one to begin."

I'm a big fan of historical fiction.  On the non-fiction side, I enjoyed learning about Maria and Pierre Curie, their scientific experiments, and their lifestyle.  It's pretty impressive how Susan learned enough to write about it.  On the fiction side, I thought she did a good job of integrating Lucia with the Curies, the famous real-life medium, Eusapia Palladino, and the journalist (with a little bit of romance thrown in).  If You Are There is an interesting book.  And even though I saw her at her book  launch a couple of weeks ago, I'm looking forward to having her at the RBC.  I'm sure our members will find her and her book very interesting.

UPCOMING POST:  This Friday I will post the list of 3.5s from my 1st 6 years of blogging.  That will complete all lists - for now.