Friday, March 31, 2017

This and That (AKA Quick Hitters, Part Trois)

1.  There are some very cool author events coming up:
-Anthony Doerr, he of All the Light We Cannot See fame, will be at the Santa Clara Convention Center on Tuesday night, April 4, at 7:00. You can get tickets from Books, Inc.
-Jacqueline Winspear, author of the Maisie Dobbs series, will be at Kepler's on Wednesday, April 5, at 7:30.
-Barry Eisler will be launching his 9th book in the John Rain series on Thursday, June 29, at 7:30.  (I've already got tickets - wouldn't miss it!)

2.  Thanks to my dear friend Ken, I've got some short books for you to read:
Things I Cannot Afford, by Bill Gates
Guide to the Pacific, by Amelia Earhart
How to Live Life to the Fullest, by Dr. Jack Kevorkian
The Amish Phone Directory
How to Drive and Drink Safely, by Ted Kennedy

3.  I picked up Laurie Frankel's This Is How It Always Is, based on 2 strong recommendations from bloggers I trust.  Unfortunately, this time it didn't work.  I got to page 105 and had to stop.  It's actually my 3rd DNF (did not finish) in the 1st 3 months of the year.  The other 2 were This Grave Hour, by Jacqueline Winspear (I know she is hugely popular), and Selection Day, by Arvind Adiga.  I firmly believe it's me and not them.

4. As you know, I subscribe to BookBrowse.  Here's what came up earlier this week: 

BookBrowse - based on a book called All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

Every time we review a book we also explore a related topic. Here is the "beyond the book" article for All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Elan Mastai is the latest in a long line of writers, thinkers, inventors, and visionaries who have speculated about what our future might look like.

Edward BellamyAll the way back in 1888, a writer named Edward Bellamy, in his novel Looking Backward, forecast the emergence of debit cards, describing the citizens of his utopia carrying a card that would pull credit from a central bank, without having to use paper money.

H.G. Wells had a hand in these kinds of predictions too. For example, in his novel Men Like Gods from 1923, he envisioned e-mail: "A message is sent to the station of the district in which the recipient is known to be, and there it waits until he chooses to tap his accumulated messages. And any that one wishes to repeat can be repeated. Then he talks back to the senders and dispatches any other messages he wishes. The transmission is wireless."

Pretty cool, right?

5.  Finally, I've got some pics for you.  If you aren't in my area (Northern California), or haven't otherwise been to any RBC (Recycle Book Club) meetings, then you don't know one of our very early members, Nikki.  But that doesn't mean you can't appreciate how cute her son Dougie is.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Orphan's Tale, by Pam Jenoff - A BIG Winner!

I have now basically read 3 novels about circuses in recent years:  Water for Elephants, The Night Circus, and, now, The Orphan's Tale.  This one is clearly the best, IMHO.  My Goodreads friend and fellow blogger, Melissa ( recommended it.  And she is responsible for recommending to me Sarah Jio, Karma Brown, among others.  Plus, between the time Melissa strongly suggested TOT and the time I started reading it, I saw it crop up on a bunch of other blogsites, all with very high ratings.

And now, As the French would say, Le blurb:

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier and being forced to give up her baby.  She lives above a small rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep...  When Noa discovers a boxcar containing dozens of Jewish infants bound for a concentration camp, she is reminded of the child that was taken from her.  And in a moment that will change the course of her life, she snatches one of the babies and flees into the snowy night.
Noa finds refuge with a German circus, but she must learn the flying trapeze act so she can blend in undetected, spurning the resentment of the lead aerialist, Astrid.  At first rivals, Noa and Astrid soon forge a powerful bond.  But as the facade that protects them proves increasingly tenuous, Noa and Astrid must decide whether their friendship is enough to save one another - or if the secrets that burn between them will destroy everything.

I really liked this book a whole lot.  Do you remember the beginning of Water for Elephants when Jacob is speaking as an old man?  Well that happens here too.  In the Prologue, the protagonist is 89 years old.  The entire rest of the book takes place in 1944, until the Epilogue.  When I finished the book, I did something that I can't remember doing before - I reread the Prologue.  It obviously made an impression on me.

In TOT, I realized, once again, that I really like stories that take place during WWII; especially when I learn something that I didn't know (as you might imagine, this happens pretty regularly!).  In this case, I learned about circuses in Europe (here, specifically Germany).  And about how some circuses actually hid Jews from the Germans.  As much as I liked The Nightingale, Salt to the Sea, Between Shades of Grey, and even All the Light We Cannot See, The Orphan's Tale gets the edge.  In fact, I'm thinking a 3.75/4.  But I might have to create the 1st 3.875/4.  I know that seems kind of ridiculous, but I do have a 3.625/4.  So, why not?  Let's do it.

I definitely ran the gamut of emotions in this one.  But besides the tears (some of them major), raised eyebrows, intakes of breath, chills, OMGs, and jaw drops, I also felt some major tension in certain spots.  This is not the kind of tension that you feel in a murder/espionage mystery, where the detective/undercover officer/CIA agent is chasing down the bad guy.  It's more tension that is actually worry.  You will know what I mean after you finish the book.

And speaking of finishing the book, make sure you read both the Author's Note and A Conversation with Pam Jenoff.  They will give you some very valuable insights into this period of time along with Pam's influences in writing the book.  How often do I tell you to do that?  Not often.  In this case, it's really important.

Make sure you get this one into your TBR pile.  And put it near the top.  I know you will be happy you did.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Inside Scoop on Copyediting from an Expert

Have you ever wondered what a copy editor does?  And do you know the difference between copyediting, content editing, and proofreading? If yes, great.  If no, or not sure, then you're in luck.  Leslie Hoffman has taken the time to educate us.  Here is an interview with Leslie:

1. How did you decide to become a copy editor, and are you local to the Bay Area?
The truth is that I never made a conscious decision to work as a copy editor. Copyediting chose me. As a member of Saratoga High School’s first graduating class of 1962, English and Typing were my favorite classes.

2. How long have you been a copy editor?
In 1961, Sherman Miller, Owner-Publisher, hired me to type The Saratoga News. That’s right; I “typed” the weekly newspaper on an IBM Executive, while simultaneously proofreading the copy, prior to the text being typeset for printing.

3. What training did you need to be ready for working as a copy editor?
I worked as an executive assistant for several years prior to earning a degree in civil engineering technology, with a minor in technical writing. Living in Sonoma County at the time inspired me to follow through with my desire to write something more creative than business letters and technical reports, so I joined a local writing group. During the late ’90s, PenHouseInk solicited submissions and published annual anthologies. This was my first experience working closely with authors. I’d finally discovered my niche. Then in 2003, I moved to Las Vegas to live near my grandchildren where I joined the Henderson Writers’ Group. One night after our critique session, a few of the members suggested that I begin working as a proofreader and copy editor. The thought of getting paid for what I loved doing inspired a next-day order of business cards.

4. How do you promote yourself, and do you copyedit for anybody besides authors?
I’m fortunate in that the Henderson Writers were a captive group of authors. At the time, there were few freelance editors in Las Vegas and even fewer who edited fiction. Most of my new clients continue to be Southern Nevada referrals, but I’ve worked for two members of the South Bay Writers. And yes, I continue to edit letters and documents for businesses and non-profit groups.

5. Do you copy edit both fiction and nonfiction?
I work with fiction and nonfiction. The editing of fiction, however, I consider a continuous learning process. Grammatical rules [and my personal opinions] aside, guidelines for the writing of fiction are often subjective, as “style” is unique to the author.

6. Can you give us the names of some of the authors you have copyedited for?
I’d be proud to share all of my authors with your readers, but the following are a few recent publications authored by return clients:

Tamburlaine (2017), a novel by Gregory A. Kompes
The Middle Man (2015), a novel by Gregory A. Kompes, Winner: 2016 San
          Francisco Book Festival - Gay Fiction  
Alabama Blue (2016), a memoir by Toni Pacini
Beware of Memories (2016), a novel by Darlien C. Breeze
Mission in Berlin, JJ Bennett: Junior Spy (2016), YA novel by Alba Arango
Writer’s Bloc V-VII, Las Vegas Valley Author’s Showcase (2014-16)
Caesura 2015, The Journal of Poetry Center San Jose—Co-Editor
Flying Without A Net (2012 & 2016), a memoir by Vital Germaine
7. What's the difference between proofreading, copyediting, and content editing?
Authors who seek traditional publishing need to meet the editing standards of their chosen publisher or literary agent and adhere to their submission guidelines. The editing process is equally important when self-publishing. A published book will only be as clean as the skill level of its editor/proofreader and the author’s ability or willingness to accept and correctly transfer those edits onto the formatted manuscript prior to printing.

Before hiring an editor, decide which type of edit you require—content, copy/line, or proof. These can be separate people or combined, but few can do all three skills well, especially not simultaneously.

Substantive/Content Development: For fiction or nonfiction, but especially for novels, this type of editor is consulted first. A substantive editor critiques your writing with emphasis on content, style, technique, organization, and presentation of the complete text.

Copy/Line: Consult this editor next to do a line-by-line proof. A copy editor looks for typos, misspellings, punctuation and grammatical errors, clarity, flow, and consistency of text. If extensive rewrites are necessary, repeat this process prior to submission.

Proofread: Prior to final printing, a proofreader reviews the galley for typos, misspellings, and punctuation, grammatical, and semantic errors.

Once an editor is selected, a Standard Editorial Agreement (contract) is advisable for both client and editor that specifies editorial tasks, deadline(s), method of payment, and any special requests.

“An editor neither selects nor impels. An editor can only suggest; the story belongs to the writer.”   ~ Author Unknown

Leslie E. Hoffman, Copy Editor

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Another Successful RBC Meeting

This past Wednesday night, we had our March RBC meeting.  Terry Shames, author of a series featuring a 60s-something retired sheriff from a small town in Texas, came to talk about book 1 - A Killing at Cotton Hill.  Here is the report I sent to the RBC members:

So let me begin a recap of Wednesday night by telling you that 16 RBC members read and rated the book.  And the average score was 3.675.  That is outrageously high.  Everybody liked it.  In fact, Terry brought a number of other books in the series that sold like proverbial hotcakes.  And on top of all that, she was super interesting.  She answered our questions and added a few on-point anecdotes for emphasis.  It was a very enjoyable evening.

Just a couple of notes from Terry:
1.  Sophie Littlefield (who once came to Village House of Books) and Sheldon Siegel (who is coming to the RBC at Recycle Books in October) were both huge inspirations for Terry when she was starting out.
2.  Terry said the average number of books that authors write before getting anything published is 8-9.  For Terry it was a mere 6.
3.  Terry also said that her grandfather was her inspiration for the chief protagonist, and that her son was the inspiration for the prequel, which just came out a couple of months ago.

Here are a couple of pics from the meeting:

Next Meeting:  We actually have 2 meetings in April.  Katie Hafner, author of the memoir Mother Daughter Me, was supposed to come late last year but had to cancel.  She is now rescheduled for Wednesday, April 26.  And our regularly scheduled April author, Susan Sherman, author of If You Are There, will be coming on Thursday, April 20.  This is a very exciting month!

VHoB:  Village House of Books in Los Gatos closed its doors this past Tuesday, March 21.  If there is any hopeful news, it's that they are looking for another location.  Let's all hope they find one.  None of us want to see any independent bookstore going out of business.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mike Daley/Rosie Fernandez by Sheldon Siegel - Book 8

I find it harder and harder to stick with series.  As I meet more and more local authors, I am willing to give up some of the series I have been reading through the years.  BUT NOT MIKE AND ROSIE! Sheldon Siegel's legal murder mystery series has been one of my favorites for a very long time.  So when Sheldon finally came out with #8, I was all over that puppy.  And Felony Murder Rule didn't disappoint.

Like most series, the plot is not very important.  Each book has Mike and Rosie defending somebody who is involved in a murder.  So you not only get a crime to solve.  But you also get courtroom drama.  Having myself gone through an unsuccessful law school career (you don't want to know!), I'm always fascinated by what goes on in court.  And since Sheldon is a lawyer, the courtroom action rings true.

One of my favorite parts of all the books in this series is the humor.  I have read 2 other series that combine the legal murder mystery drama with humor - Brian Haig's Sean Drummond and David Rosenfelt's Andy Carpenter.  Sheldon's Mike and Rosie are part of that triumvirate.  I appreciate an author who can make you laugh without taking away from the drama of the story.  Sheldon has now done it 8 times (plus 1 David Gold detective mystery that takes place in Chicago).

There's a lot of stuff that I like about this book, along with the entire series.  Let me briefly (yeah, right) list some:

1.  I feel like I know the family - especially Mike, Rosie, Pete, and Grace. We get introduced to some and reintroduced to others in this book. Welcome to the clan Rolanda, Big John, Melinda, and Thomas.
2.  Although this book will appeal to anybody living anywhere, I still enjoy the local references.  Having lived my entire life in the Bay Area, it's fun to read about places that I know so well.
3.  I am a big fan of legalspeak.  And there's plenty of it.  But it actually enhances the story.  It's never too detailed to detract.
4.  I've already mentioned the humor.  Mike's asides crack me up.
5.  Sheldon makes some really cool comparisons that you definitely don't see every day.  Here are a couple:
-The first thing you learn as a baby prosecutor is that you always point at the defendant.  It's sort
of like throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game.
-He'd worked his way up the criminal ladder in the Tenderloin on an expedited basis - sort of like
the kids who get their MBAs in a year and a half by going to summer school - except the 
curriculum is different.

And then there are the ubiquitous personal connections.  I know, I know.  Just indulge me.

1.  Mike's brother went to Cal.  So did I.  And I think we were there around the same time (yes, I know that his brother is a fictional character...or is he?)
2.  Mike and Rosie now work for the San Francisco County Public Defender's Office.  One of my sons-in-law works for the Public Defender's Office too (not SF County).
3.  There is a situation in which a video taken by a random passerby affects a lawsuit.  My PD son-in-law was involved in a very famous case a few years ago that happened because of a video from a random observer.  You have to admit that this is more interesting than most of my personals, right?

This book has no faults (okay, Sheldon does refer to the 101 freeway as "the 101" one time.  I mean, that is a Southern California nomenclature. But we will forgive him...this once).  It's fun and interesting.  And I strongly recommend that you start with book 1, Special Circumstances. It won't take you long to get to #8.

P.S.  Sheldon is our RBC author for October.  He will be coming to Recycle Books on Sunday, October 22.  Get it on your calendar!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

GREEN APPLE BOOKS - The Interview - Part 2

Last night, you saw a whole mess of pictures of Green Apple Books' 2 locations.  Tonight, you get to read how Pete Mulvihill came to own GAB and a few insights into how they operate their stores.  P.S.  If you haven't been to Green Apple Books yet, make a point of getting there.  Tie it in to dinner in the City, like I did.  You will be REALLY happy you got there. Without further palaver from yours (un)truly, heeeeeeeeerrrrrrr's Pete:

1.      How did you end up owning Green Apple Books?
I started as a temp in 1993 right after college.  I worked for the bookkeeper in the office for a few months, then the receiving department.  I went to grad school part-time, never imagining that bookselling would be my career.  But after a few years, the original owner approached me and another employee about buying the store.  We added a third partner, negotiated an owner-financed buyout, and gradually acquired the store. 

 2.    How long have you owned Green Apple Books?
We took over running the store day-to-day in about 2000.

3.    How many events do you host in a year?
The flagship store on Clement only does about a dozen events a year in-store.  Space is limited.  But our Sunset store, Green Apple Books on the Park, does about 75-100 events each year.

4.    Do you have a social media  and/or event coordinator?
I suppose i"m the social media coordinator, but we have different folks working on different platforms.  And we do have an events coordinator for each store, though those folks also do other things, from running the register to publicity.

5.    How do you pick your authors for the store?
For Clement, we mostly only do local authors.  At Books on the Park, we skew towards literature in translation, small presses, promising debuts writers, and books we just plain love. 

6.    Do you work through publishers, publicists, editors, et al?
We do; we go to NYC each year to meet publishing people who hold the keys. 

7.    Do you have book clubs, kids’ activities, YA groups, etc.?
Not regularly.  

8.    Are you a Bay Area native?
No.  I grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC.  But I moved here right after college, married an SF native, and have two kids who are natives!

9.    Did you grow up a bibliophile?
Yep, though I didn't think of myself that way.  Reading was just part of every night, part of discovering the world beyond my suburb. We were library kids. 

10.  How many stores do you have?   
Two, for now.  Want to buy one?

Monday, March 20, 2017

GREEN APPLE BOOKS - Pictures - Part 1 (stay tuned for an interview - part 2)

I had the pleasure of visiting Green Apple Books in San Francisco this past Saturday night.  It was my 1st visit to their store (plus I stopped in at location #2).  And I came away extremely impressed.  So I've got a whole bunch of pictures to share with you.  Part 2 will be an interview with the store's owner, Pete Mulvihill.  Enjoy!

Flagship store - 506 Clement Street:

Satellite store - 1231 9th Avenue:

When I popped into #2, there was an author event going on.  Very cool.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Quick Hitters - Part Deux

Here is the 2nd part of the Quick Hitters (yeah, I didn't know either that there was going to be a Part Deux):

1.  You know how I'm always referring to my TBR (to be read) pile?  Well, I finally decided to really take a look at what's sitting there.  Here are the different categories of books comprising my TBR pile as of today:

local authors - 11
authors asking me to read their books - 2
recommendations from friends - 4
recommendations from fellow bloggers - 3
recommendations from my Books, Inc. 4th Tuesday Book Club - 1
recommendations from RBC members - 2
upcoming Los Gatos Library Tuesday Night Book Club - 1
gift from Recycle Books employee - 1
recommendation from Joni's workmate - 1
authors I like to read - 1
and my favorite category:
I have no idea who recommended it - 1

There are, of course, a number of crossovers.  But I tried to pick the most dominant category.  And, lest you think that the 28 are all I've got, there are another couple dozen in the back of my car!  They have not yet made their way upstairs to my bookshelf.  However, I am counseling them not to give up hope.  Some of these others could be headed down. And then...who know's who/what will replace them?

2.  Tomorrow, Sunday, the 19th, Linda Gunther will be selling and signing her books at Recycle.  I will be there, too, doing my usual recommending.  If you're at the Campbell Farmers Market, stop by.

3.  Our next RBC meeting is this coming Wednesday night, the 22nd. Terry Shames will be there answering questions about book 1 of her Samuel Craddock series.  It's called A Killing at Cotton Hill.  And she will also have the other books in the series available for buying and signing.

4.  I am 93 pages into Sheldon Siegel's latest Mike and Rosie legal thriller.  #8 is called Felony Murder Rule and is Sheldon's usual top notch, engaging writing.  Plus, he is our RBC author for October.  He will be at Recycle on Sunday, the 22nd, at 4:00.  If you haven't read any books in this series, you should start.  They're enormous fun with a lot of humor.  Book 1 is Special Circumstances.  And our assigned book for the book club meeting is #2, Incriminating Evidence.  Once you start, you won't be able to stop.

5.  Finally, our book this month for the Books, Inc. 4th Tuesday Night Book Club is Selection Day, by Aravind Adiga.  He is the Man Booker Prize winner for The White Tiger.  Even though I was worried about getting through a book written by an award-winning author(!), I figured that I could gut out 285 pages.  Uh, nope.  I got to 130 and said Buh-Bye. I'd rather miss the meeting than read all 285 pages.

I do not plan on Quick Hitters, Part Trois...but you never know.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Do I Have A Fantasy for You!

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir, is one fine fantasy.  I'll give you a quick blurb and then tell you how I came to read (and love) it.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death.  Laia and her family do not challenge the Empire.  They've seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia's brother is arrested for treason, she is forced to make a decision.  In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire's greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school's finest soldier - and, secretly, its most unwilling.  He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined - and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

2 influences convinced me to read this book.  The 1st was Killian McRae - author extraordinaire, RBC member, and valued FB friend.  She raved about it and gave it a 5/5.  The 2nd factor, and the one that cemented it, was that the author is local.  So I ordered it from Recycle, picked it up the next day (they had it in the store), set aside the 6,528.5 books in my TBR pile, and got right to it.  I mean, I'm always looking for RBC authors (even though we are currently booked through October!).  This is my public THANK YOU to Killian.

Having gushed, let me tell you that it took me a while to get hooked. The 1st 100 pages (out of 446) were good.  The 2nd 100 pages hooked me. And the last 250 pages flew by.  I literally hated to put it down (is there such a word as unputdownable?).  I've read books (Gone Girl, A Man Called Ove, and  Everything We Keep anyone?) where this has happened. But rarely has it been so dramatic.

There are numerous reasons why I liked An Ember in the Ashes so much:

1.  The story alternates chapters between the 2 main protagonists - Laia, a slave, and Elias, potentially a future leader for the Empire.  It reminded me of A.R. Silverberry's Wyndano's Cloak.  Every time a chapter ended, I was disappointed.  But then the other star of the story started up.  And I was disappointed when that chapter ended.  This went on all the way through Ember.
2.  There was suspense every few pages.  When I saw Ken Follett quite a few years ago, he said that he likes to have something dramatic happen every 7 pages.  That's what this felt like.
3.  There were several different romantic elements that I enjoyed and that fit perfectly into the story.  And in the case of each protagonist, there were 2 potential love interests.  In fact, I have to shamefacedly admit that there is one scene late in the book that reminded me of something that happened earlier this week on the last episode of The Bachelor (yes, you are reading this correctly).  Nick looks at the loser of the 2 remaining women, and you know that he's picking the other one. Same thing here.
4.  I had a whole bunch of emotional reactions, leading to physical reactions.  There is one chapter where such a heinous event happens, that I had to put the book down for a (very short) time to collect myself. Do you remember when I spoke about a similar scene in Dennis Lehane's Any Given Day?  I've always said that an emotional connection doesn't have to be a happy one.
5.  The writing is darn good.  Here are a very few examples:
     a.  "I stare at her, realize I'm staring, tell myself to stop staring, and then keep staring."
     b.  Referring to laughing - "The release is foreign and familiar, like crying, but without the pain."
     c.  "It's not true, my head tells me with the zeal of denial."
     d.  "...warmth flows from her fingers into my body, like spiced cider on a freezing morning."
     e.  "It is smooth and warm, like rock polished by water and then left to heat in the sun."
     f.  "...worse than I could have imagined.  More than I could have hoped for."

So what do I think of this book?  I finished it on Tuesday...and ordered book 2 on Wednesday.  Does that answer your question?

P.S.  I'm sorry to say that there are only 2 in the series so far.  Rats.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Few Quick-Hitters

Hello, all.  I've got just a few brief (yeah, right) notes for you:

1.  I saw today that Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train, is coming to Lafayette, CA on Saturday night, May 13, at 7:00.  This is 1 of only 5 stops she's making throughout the U.S.  She will be promoting her new book, Into the Water.  If you are interested in attending, go to the website of either Orinda Books or Rakestraw Books for more details. They are co-hosting the event.

2.  I'm looking for book recommendations to.  If you have a rec for a book that you've recently read, how about sharing it with all of us?  Just give it to us in the "reply" section.

3.  And speaking of recommendations, I want to offer all of you the chance to be book bloggers.  If you would like to do a guest blog, and IF you have something that would be of interest to our readers, let me know.  You can email me directly at  Warning: A committee of one will decide if it's worthy!

4.  I will be setting up a book exchange to take place in late April.  I was thinking either Wednesday, the 26th, or Thursday, the 27th, preceding Independent Bookstore Day, which is Saturday, the 29th. I'll give you more details in the next week or so.

5.  If any of you who are not currently on the email list for the Recycle Book Club (RBC) would like to be added, let me know.  Again, you can answer on the blog or simply email me.

6.  In the next couple of days, I will be reviewing a fantasy called An Ember in the Ashes.  It's a terrific book (thanks, Killian McRae), one that I will highly recommend.

7.  Finally, and following up on the post I had a couple of weeks ago (2/20) about women's fiction, chick lit, et al - I want to set up an event that has a panel of authors, agents, publishers' reps, and literary aficionados to discuss the whole subject of "women's lit."  As you know, it's a subject that I have very strong feelings about.  If any of you have suggestions on how to make this work, or people to contact, let me know.  Admittedly, this might be something that is beyond my ability to coordinate.  For right now, I'm just putting it out there.

C'est tout.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Another Stellar Romance

You guys all know that I'm a sucker for a good romance.  Do I not fit the mold for a romance reader? You know - male, older than dirt, male. Doesn't matter.  When it's good, it's good.  And you know I do NOT care what genre a book sits in.  So which book/author am I touting this time? Glad you asked.  It's Marina Adair, and it's Book 1 of a new series, Sequoia Lake.  The book is called It Started with a Kiss, and I liked it a whole lot.

Here's the (fairly lengthy) blurb:

With a kidney transplant behind her, Avery Adams is determined to channel her inner adventurer and explore everything life has to offer.  Only problem is, the closest she's ever come to a real-life adventure was sixth-grade science camp.  So to seize the summer in her rustic Sierra Nevada town, she takes a job as a guide at the local adventure lodge. But Avery doesn't realize her biggest challenge will register at six-plus feet of rugged good looks and alpha-male charm.
As a member of the Sequoia Elite Mountain Rescue team, Tyson Donovan has made a life out of cheating death and rescuing weekend warriors from the treacherous terrain.  "The world is my home" is more than just a motto; it's what scares off women who would otherwise try to tie him down.  When his dad's health lands the family's adventure lodge in serious danger of going up in flames, he moves home - and quickly remembers why he left.  Until he meets Avery, the irresistible new guide who makes him want to stay.
Tyson gives the inexperienced Avery a lesson in romance that her books could never teach her.  And with her undeniable spirit for life, Avery shows Tyson the healing power of love. But with one misstep, everything comes crashing down, and they'll both have to take the biggest leap of all - into the kind of adventure that lasts a lifetime.

Let me start by saying something that I'm not sure I've ever said before (or at least not very often):  I thought the dedication was especially cool. I know that every author's dedication is heartfelt.  But this one actually hit me.  If (when) you read this book, take a look at what Marina says just before chapter 1.

Okay, turning to the actual book, here are a few observations:

1.  I enjoyed the book from the 1st page.
2.  The last 2/3 of the book especially had me feeling like I was going 3 rounds with Rhonda Rousey (look her up if you don't know who she is). It seemed like every other page was a blow to the gut...or, more often, the tear ducts!
3.  I don't know if this is a requirement of romances, but I always like when the chapters alternate between the protagonists.  I like the 2 different perspectives of the same event.
4.  There were some supporting role characters that really got to me. Who were they, you ask?  I'm not telling.  (HINT:  Caroline - OMG - and Dale and Irene and...)

What's my recommendation to all of you?  Read It Started with a Kiss so that you are ready for Book 2 this Fall.  You know I would never steer you wrong!

NEW GENRE:  I learned something from Davina at BookBrowse today. It's a genre I had never heard of.  It's called Circadian.  It refers to a novel that takes place all in the same day.  Who knew?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Some Hodgepodge Notes

If you have never heard of fanfiction, then I would recommend that you read this blurb from Wikipedia and do some of your own investigating. There is much more on the Wikipedia page.  And there are 2 links to the most popular fanfiction sites.  People, this is really cool stuff.  In fact, Elizabeth Hunter, who was our RBC author in February, and who has written a bunch of novels and novellas, started out in fan fiction!

Fan fiction or fanfiction (also abbreviated to fan fic, fanfic, or fic) is fiction about characters or settings from an original work of fiction, created by fans of that work rather than by its creator. It is a popular form of fan labor, particularly since the advent of the Internet.
Fan fiction is rarely commissioned or authorized by the original work's creator or publisher, and is rarely professionally published. It may or may not infringe on the original author's copyright, depending on the jurisdiction and on such questions as whether or not it qualifies as "fair use" (see Legal issues with fan fiction). Attitudes of authors and copyright owners of original works to fan fiction have ranged from indifference to encouragement to rejection. Copyright owners have occasionally responded with legal action.
Fan fiction is defined by being both related to its subject's canonical fictional universe (often referred to as "canon") and simultaneously existing outside it.[1] Most fan fiction writers assume that their work is read primarily by other fans, and therefore presume that their readers have knowledge of the canon universe (created by a professional writer) in which their works are based.
A review of the two largest sites, FanFiction.Net and Archive of Our Own, shows that firstly, a large percentage of the efforts are 'crossovers' where one or more book-based universes or characters are conflated; secondly, an even larger proportion are very short (at less than 1000 words); thirdly, a significant number of the larger works are incomplete; fourthly, that the readership for many genres is very low.

I've got a few other pieces of news for you:

1.  Marty Brounstein, who wrote Two Among the Righteous Few:  A Story of Courage in the Holocaust, will be coming back to the Bay Area for 2 appearances.  I saw Marty last April and blogged about him on April 30. In that post, I said that he is someone you definitely want to see in person.  Here's your chance:

3/20 - 7-8:30, Howley Hall, St. Mary's Church, 219 Bean Avenue, Los Gatos
3/28 - 5:30-7:30, Commonwealth Club, 555 Post Street, San Francisco

2.  I don't know if I have mentioned this to you before.  But Jeanette Walls' The Glass Castle (one of my top 12 all-time) is coming to the big screen.  The movie is starring Brie Larson (winner in 2016 of the Best Actress Oscar for The Room), Naomi Watts, and Woody Harrelson.  I don't know when it's coming out, but I will be among the 1st to see it.

3.  Both Book 4 of the Maverick Billionaires (Irresistible in Love), by Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre, and Book 8 of the Mike and Rosie series (Felony Murder Rule), by Sheldon Siegel, are available for purchase this week.  I'm waiting for my shipment from Amazon even as we speak.

4.  In the next week or so, I will be posting an interview with Leslie Hoffman, who is a professional copyeditor.  Do you ever wonder how the books you read get checked for spelling, grammar, syntax, et al? Leslie will tell us how this works.

That'll do it for now.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Fairly Short Review of The Invoice, by Jonas Karlsson

Have you heard of a short book called The Invoice?  Have you heard of the author, Jonas Karlsson?  Well, I read the book, and I still can't say that I've heard of either one of them!  I know that seems strange.  But it seemed like a lot of book to get across a fairly simple message.  Let's start with the flap-blurb:

Hilarious, profound, and achingly true to life, Jonas Karlsson's new novel explores the nature of happiness through the eyes of a character you won't soon forget.  Our hero, a passionate film buff, leads a life that revolves around his part-time job at a video store, the company of a few precious friends, and a daily routine that more often than not concludes with pizza and a movie in his treasured small space in Stockholm (yes, the author is Swedish).  When he receives an astronomical invoice from a random national bureaucratic agency, everything tumbles into madness as he calls the hotline night and day to find out why he is the recipient of the largest bill in the entire country.
What is the price of a cherished memory?  How much would you pay for a beautiful summer day?  How will our carefree idealist, who is content with so little and has no chance of paying such a bill, find a way out of this mess?  All these questions pull you through The Invoice and prove once again that Jonas Karlsson is simply a master of entertaining, intelligent, and life-affirming work.

Really?  Okay, I get the message that you don't have to have material things to be happy.  And I get that the protagonist was ridiculously happy.  So, by billing him an insane amount of money based on that happiness delivers a message.  I'm just not sure that it should take 200 pages (although the book is physically very small, and the story is a quick read) to say that.  A coupla pages oughta do it.

Did I like it?  What does a 2.25/4 tell you?  And it's only that high for 3 reasons:  1) The book was mercifully short (a 700+ page Goldfinch-like book, and I would have been outa there!); 2) There was one scene in which we find out about an old love affair that he had which I found somewhat compelling; and 3) I did like a little romance at the end of the book.  Other than that, the only other connections I made were of a personal nature.  Do you want to know what those are?  Of course you do:

1.  He refers to having some crossword puzzles waiting for him in his apartment.  Since I just started doing those again a couple of weeks ago, I liked the reference.
2.  He talks about his friend Roger having an issue with a boat repair. And even after the issue is resolved, not costing Roger any money, he still complains about the cost.  That reminded me of one of my favorite jokes.  If you haven't heard the one about the old man who was "toisty," (read: thirsty), then remind me to tell it to you next time I see you.

That's about it, sports fans.

Friday, March 3, 2017

A Review of Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch

I don't usually tell you how I came to read a book.  But this time it's pretty unusual.  One Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago, I was cleaning up my rec table and returning the books to my shelves in the back of Recycle Bookstore (yep, I've got my own shelves - pretty cool, don't you think?).  There was a young couple, Bryce and Tara, standing there considering whether or not to buy a couple of books.  I saw that one was A Man Called Ove and I strongly recommended it to them. Bryce, in turn, said that they would get it if I agreed to read a book that he was holding - Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch.  How could I refuse?  So here's my review of Dark Matter.

This book reminds me of 11/22/63.  That one has a premise, time travel, that you have to accept right up front.  But if you do, then the rest of the book flows very plausibly throughout.  DM is very similar.  It posits alternate worlds and how each one is the same AND different as the one the protagonist originally came from.  More than most, this book calls for a flap-sponsored blurb:

"Are you happy with your life?"  Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
Before a man Jason's never met smiles down at him and says, "Welcome back, my friend."
In this world he's woken up to, Jason's life is not the one he knows.  His wife is not his wife.  His son was never born.  And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable.  Something impossible.
Is it this life or the other that's the dream?  And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves?
The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could have imagined - one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

This is a cool book.  I was already nervous on page 5.  And had my share of raised eyebrows and "Oh, wow"s along the way.  There was even a period of time in the 1st 1/5 of the book where I was pretty confused, but liking it.  Here's what Jason says on page 1:

No one tells you it's all about to change, to be taken away.  There's no proximity alert, no indication that you're standing on the precipice.  And maybe that's what makes tragedy so tragic.  Not just what happens, but how it happens: a sucker punch that comes at you out of nowhere, when you're least expecting it.  No time to flinch or brace.

True that, right?

Crouch's writing is pretty darn good too:

"...and she has one of those smiles that seem architecturally impossible."
"...she becomes belligerently kind..."
"I feel strange.  Like I'm simultaneously watching a movie and acting in it."
"It's like we get so set in our ways, so entrenched in those grooves, we stop seeing our loved ones for who they are."
"Being with Daniela isn't like being home.  It defines home."

Those last two might be a good reminders for all of us!

If I have one small complaint, it's that there is a little bit too much science for my NON-science brain.  It reminds me of The Martian, from that standpoint.  But, just like The Martian, it didn't stop me from enjoying the book.

This is a book that keeps you locked in all the way through.  Are there alternative worlds out there?  Beats me.  Does Dark Matter make you think it's possible?  Absolutely.  I definitely recommend it.

P.S.  Here's a really cool side note.  And I didn't know this until after I bought the book and then read the author's bio.  Blake Crouch wrote the novellas creating Letty, the protagonist for the TV show Good Behavior (starring Michelle Dockery, Lady Mary in Downton Abbey).  In fact, he co-wrote the TV series.  And this show (season 1 ended about a month ago) is one that Joni and I absolutely loved!  Neat, eh?