Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Potpourri aka Short Bites aka This 'n That aka...

Well, it's been a week since my last post.  (Did you miss me?  What?  No? Maybe?  I'll settle for maybe.)  And there are a bunch of cool author events coming up.  Here are a couple of them, along with a few other tidbits:

1.  This coming Saturday, April 29, is Independent Bookstore Day.  And no matter where you live, I'm sure that there will be activities and authors galore at your local bookstores.  Here in the Bay Area there are a whole bunch of choices.  We decided to see Kristin Hannah, she of The Nightingale fame, in Oakland.  She will be at the Montclair Presbyterian Church, located at 5701 Thornhill Drive, at 7:00.  She is sponsored by A Great Good Place for Books.  This is Kristin's ONLY Northern California appearance.  P.S.  I liked The Nightingale a lot.

2.  Another big name Bay Area appearance is Paula Hawkins, author of the immensely popular The Girl on the Train (which I thought was just okay).  She will be at The Bentley School, 1000 Upper Happy Valley Road in Lafayette, at 7:00 on Saturday night, May 13.  She will be promoting her new book, Into the Water.  And she is being jointly sponsored by Rakestraw Books and Orinda Books.  I won't be going to that one.

In other news:

3.  Amazon Books has announced that it will be opening 2 brick and mortar bookstores in the Bay Area in 2017 - one in Walnut Creek and one in Santana Row, San Jose.  These will be on top of the 6 they already have in other parts of the country.  There are no specific dates yet.  This will be the 1st bookstore in Santana Row since Borders closed 6 years ago.

4.  In the May/June edition of Content Magazine, there is an interview by RBC author and member, Ann Bridges, of RBC author, Marina Adair.  If you don't have a subscription, there are a variety of locations in the South Bay that carry the magazine.  You can go on their website, content-magazine.com, to get locations and other details.

5.  Just this week I have had 3 people say that Iris and Lilly, by Angela and Julie Scipioni, is their favorite book of all-time!  Has anybody read it? I had never heard of it.  The rating on Amazon is pretty darn good - 4.3/5.  If somebody has read it and wants to weigh in, please feel free to do that.  I think we are all open to hearing about a good book.

6.  And, finally, don't forget that we will be having the First Annual Book Exchange (I just added caps for effect) at Recycle Books on Tuesday night, May 9.  You don't have to be an RBC member to come.  All you have to do is bring one of your favorite books to give away.  You are also guaranteed a book to bring home.  If you do decide to come, please RSVP me at lloydrrussell@gmail.com

7.  We have added one author to the RBC schedule and changed the date for another.  Here is the most up-to-date info:

Wednesday, May 3, RBC - Mother Daughter Me (memoir), Katie Hafner

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 19, 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

Wednesday, December 13, RBC, (romance), Elisabeth Barrett

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Couple of Events & a Couple of Pics

You all know that I'm a huge fan of Melissa Maglio, the impresario extraordinaire of the Los Gatos Library Evening Book Club.  Well, tonight was her last book club meeting.  Sadly for us members, but happily for her, she is moving on to the San Jose library system.  It's a good move for her, bad one for us.  We (I) will miss her a bunch.

I've told you about the book club we have at one of our corporate food service accounts.  This week, we were extremely fortunate to have both Marina Adair and Elisabeth Barrett make the trek from the South Bay to Pleasanton.  They are both not just outstanding romance authors.  They are outstanding authors (and people!) period.  Here they are.

2 Other Quick Notes:
1.  Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, is being made into a movie.  I don't know when it's going to hit the big screen.  But I do know that it stars Julianne Moore as the opera singer.  And opera legend Renee Fleming will provide the singing.  And, by the way, I really liked Bel Canto.  It was my 1st Ann Patchett, and I have read everything since (her latest, Commonwealth, is not one of my favorites).
2.  For those of you who follow RBC news, but aren't on the email list, we've got one change.  Katie Hafner, author of Mother Daughter Me, who was supposed to come to Recycle Books next Wednesday, April 26, has now been moved to the following Wednesday, May 3.  I think everybody is going to be very interested to learn why Katie had to switch days. That's all I'm saying for now.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Back-to-Back-to-Back Reviews - this time it's Under A Painted Sky, by Stacey Lee

It's been a while since I have had 3 reviews in a row.  And I would have to say that they couldn't be more different.  Orphan X is a mystery. Irresistible in Love is definitely a romance.  And Under a Painted Sky is a YA with some historical fiction thrown in.  Here's what SPEAK, an imprint of Penguin Random House, has to say:

All Samantha wanted was to move back to New York and pursue her music, which was difficult enough for a Chinese girl in Missouri in 1949.  Then her fate takes a turn for the worse after a tragic accident leaves her with nothing and she breaks the law in self-defense.  With help from Annamae, a runaway slave she meets at the scene of her crime, the two flee town for the unknown frontier.  But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls.
Disguised as Sammy and Andy, two boys heading for the California gold rush, each searches for a link to her past and struggles to avoid any unwanted attention.  Until they merge paths with a band of cowboys-turned-allies, and Samantha can't stop herself from falling for one.  But the law is closing in on them and new setbacks come each day - the girls will quickly learn there are not many places one can hide on the open trails."

There are 5 main characters in this book:  2 girls/boys and 3 cowboys. There were also 5 in The Girl on the Train.  You know what the difference is?  I cared about these 5.  The other 5?  Eh eh/ix-nay/not so much.  In Painted, I definitely had moments of chills, tears, and laughing.  And 23 pages from the end, I let out a big "No!"  There's also a musical instrument competition about 100 pages from the end that I found as enjoyable as any sports-related contest.  But do you know what impressed me the very most about this book?  The writing was outstanding.  It's not highfalutin', but it's spot on.  Take a look at a few examples:

"Above me, yellow and purple clouds puff out above the tree line, like someone punched the sky in the face."
"He walks with the ease of someone with places to go but time to get there."
"The water's surface shifts the rays of the setting sun like hands sifting through cut jade stones."
"The man's orbs are sunk into his skin like two olives dropped in vanilla pudding."

And how about this truism?

"Yet, I can think of no better way to cheer up Andy than with that cure-all that knows no cultural bounds: music."

Under a Painted Sky has a lot of things going for it.  And I enjoyed not only Samantha, Annamae, and the 3 cowboys.  I also got to learn a little about life on the Oregon Trail.  If you teens are absolutely forced to learn some history, then reading Under a Painted Sky will pave the way. Oh, yeah.  Adults, this goes for you too.

A KID'S WRITING CLASS:  C. Lee McKenzie, one of my very favorite MG/YA authors (check out my review of The Princess of Las Pulgas on 3/16/14, and you will see what I mean), is teaching a writing class for kids.  Here is the info:

C. Lee McKenzie will once again open the world of character creation and story development to a new group of young writers at the Young Writers Workshop.
April 29
10:45 to 1:45
Los Gatos Recreation Center, 123 East Main Street, Los Gatos 95030.
McKenzie is a traditionally published author of four young adult novels: Sliding on the Edge (2009), The Princess of Las Pulgas (2010), Double Negative (2014) and Sudden Secrets(2015). She also writes for younger readers (middle grade, 8-14) and has published three novels in that category: Alligators Overhead, The Great Time Lock Disaster, and Sign of the Green Dragon. To find out more about the author, visit her WEBPAGE.
Friends of the Library will supply all writing materials plus water and cookies at noon. Participants are asked to bring a bag lunch. 
Workshop registration forms are available at the library circulation desk and ONLINE.  Completed forms and a check for $15 should be mailed or delivered to Friends of Los Gatos Library, 100 Villa Ave. 95030
Space is limited. Sign up now.

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Maverick Billionaires #4 - Irresistible in Love - As Good As 1-3!

First of all, I have a message for the authors, Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre:  YOU ARE NOT MY FAVORITE PEOPLE RIGHT NOW!  Okay, that's not true.  You really are.  But I am tired of crying when I read this series. I mean, c'mon.  Do you think it's fair that a 60+++ year old man should be crying every other page?  Do you think it's right that tears should be sliding down my face when I'm eating lunch at my favorite dive (that would be The Garrett, in Campbell)?  Do you think I can use my triple bypass surgery from 5 years ago to justify this aberrant behavior?  No, no, and I hope so.

I'm not going to reproduce the flap on this one.  If you have been following my posts*, you know that there are 5 Maverick Billionaires. Susan and Bob took in Matt, Evan, Will, and Sebastian as young boys to live with them and their son, Daniel (his younger sister, Lyssa, came along a few years later).  They raised these 4 boys as their own.  And now, each of one of them is independently a billionaire, and each is ferociously supportive of his "brothers" and "parents."  3 of the 5 (Will, Sebastian, and Matt) have found love (in books 1-3, not coincidentally). And now it's Evan's turn.

When the book begins, Evan has just ended his long and unsatisfying marriage to Whitney after learning about a bunch of very serious lies she told him.  He sent her packing a month before and is already beginning the divorce proceedings.  Fortunately, he has a very close friendship with Whitney's sister, Paige.  Could this lead to romance? Spoiler alert - the genre IS romance, after all.

And on top of all that, Evan's got a childhood from Hell, until Susan and Bob take him in.  His mother abandoned him to an abusive father when he was only 9, and Evan has lived with that resentment all of these years.  Will he ever see his mother again?  And if he does, will he ever be able to forgive her?  Oh, and is it possible that his mother had other children...with the same father?  I'm not telling.

I can really go on and on.  But I know there's a limit to how much of my review you will actually read.  For that reason, I'm going to give you a few bullet points:

1.  As I have said in earlier reviews, I really, really like Susan and Bob. And, fortunately, they have a much bigger role in #4 than they had in the first 3.  This greatly pleases me.
2.  About a 1/3 of the way in, I realized that I was mad at myself for waiting almost a month before starting #4.  I justified it because I had just finished another romance, and I thought I needed a few other genres in between.  Well, I was wrong.  Moving forward, I will always read this series the minute I get my hands on the next book.  Jennifer and Bella, I apologize for my wayward behavior.
3.  On page 194 of 320, I wrote this note:  STOP CRYING!
4.  This is not only my favorite romance series of all time.  It's also flat-out one my favorite series of all time, regardless of genre.
5.  I got a takeaway from this book, although it's something that I already knew.  We'll call it a reinforcement, rather than a takeaway: "Sometimes it was harder to forgive the things done to your friends than it was the things people did to you."  I think this can be true for both friends and family.
6.  Finally, the Bay Area has a ton of really great romance authors.  I have thoroughly enjoyed many of them.  But none have grabbed me as emotionally as this series does.  Kudos to Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre for accomplishing that.

People, just read the series...for me...pretty please?

*Breathless in Love - 6/26/15 & 6/29/15
Reckless in Love - 12/21/15
Fearless in Love - 7/16/16

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Gregg Hurwitz's Orphan X - Pretty Good

A couple of my friends highly recommended Orphan X by Gregg Hurwitz.  It's been a while since I have read any of his books (O-X is #15).  I didn't remember being a big fan.  But my memory can be a bit spotty at (lots of) times.  Either way, I thought it was pretty good.  I gave it a 3/4.  That is in direct contrast with the rest of the reading public. Amazon averaged 4.4/5 with 658 ratings.  And Goodreads was a 4.08/5, with 12,152 (yep, you're reading that right) ratings.  Let's start with the blurb:

Evan Smoak is a man with skills, resources, and a personal mission to help those with nowhere else to turn.  He's also a man with a dangerous past.  Chosen as a child, he was raised and trained as an Orphan, an off-the-books black box program designed to create the perfect deniable intelligence asset: an assassin.  Evan was Orphan X - until he broke with the program and used everything he learned to disappear.  But now someone is on his tail.  Someone with similar skills and training who will exploit Evan's secret new identity as the Nowhere Man to eliminate him.

There were some things I liked about Orphan X.  And other things...not so much.  Here's a quick list:

thumbs up
1.  the relationship between Evan and Mia and her son, Peter
2.  the conflict between Evan and Slatcher - reminded me of the Soviet and American snipers in Robert Ludlum's The Matarese Circle
3.  the writing - "...an AK held in a gloved hand made a puppet appearance, firing rounds off the walls and ceiling."

thumbs down
1.  one of the main characters was named Katrin - awkward to pronounce in my head (I know that's petty)
2.  long, technical descriptions of weapons, martial arts moves, and electronics - like The Martian, but without the accompanying humor
3.  went on a bit too long

I gave it a 3/4. So, obviously, I did like it.  Would I recommend it?  Yes to some and no to others.  I guess my biggest problem is that I went into it with very high expectations.  That can be a formula for disappointment. In this case, I have to say it was.

Another Upcoming Author Event:  On May 3, at 7:30, Yaa Gyasi, author of The Homegoing, will be coming to the JCC in Palo Alto.  I've already seen her once (at Rakestraw Books in Danville on 7/16/16), and I really enjoyed her book (I posted a review on 7/23/16).  I think you will enjoy both her and her book.

Author Signing at Recycle Books.  This past Sunday, Nikki Avila came to Recycle to sell and sign her book, Hellhound Angel (per her designation, it's a YA fantasy adventure).  She drew a large crowd over the course of 3 hours.  Thanks to Nikki, I've got a copy of HA and will be reading it sometime in the near future.  And she's not even 21!  Here are a couple of pictures.

that's her mom and sister off to the left

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The 1st Annual Book Exchange

I know that many of you who read my blog are out of the area.  Feel free to ignore this post (you probably didn't need permission!).  But we're going to have the 1st Annual Book Exchange, put on by the RBC.  It will be on Tuesday, May 9, at 7:00.  Based on several that I attended at Kepler's, and following the format that Angela Mann set up there, here's how it's going to work:

- everybody will bring one of their favorite books to give away - either new or used (Recycle does have both, after all)
- everybody will draw a number when they check in
- everybody will take a couple of minutes to describe their book to the group (if we have a lot of people, we'll split up into different groups and rotate)
- after we have finished with all of the descriptions, and have placed all the books on a table, we will start the exchange
- the person who drew #1 will go to the table and pick a book
- #2 will then either pick another book or steal the book from #1 - a book can be stolen many times
- anytime a book is stolen, the steelee (yes, I know that's not a real word) picks another one - that book cannot be stolen
- after the last person has gotten a book, then everybody can descend on the table and pick up any books that are still there - these could be ARCs, clearance books, and what-have-you's
- everybody WILL leave there with at least one new book of his/her choosing

Kepler's also had an author there each time to read from his/her book, The author's book(s) was available for sale.  I don't know if we will do that.  But it's possible.  If we have half the good time that I had at several sessions of the Kepler's Book Exchange, then it will still be loads of fun.

P.S.  You do NOT have to be an RBC member to attend.  It's open to the entire book-loving community.  That's all of you, right?

Other News:
1.   I know many of you are big fans of Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend, et al.  Well, HBO has announced that it will be making a mini-series (8 episodes) of book 1 sometime in 2018.  I'm pretty sure that I won't be watching it.  But you never know.
2.  Daniel Silva's 17th book in the Gabriel Allon series (and 20th overall), House of Spies, will be coming out July 11 of this year.  I know I will be grabbing that sucker either on or very near the release date.  And, by the way, his 1st book, The Unlikely Spy, is a standalone that is totally terrific. I have it on my rec table.
3.  Kepler's just announced that Bill Nye, The Science Guy, will be coming to the San Mateo Performing Arts Center on Friday night, July 14, at 7:30.  He will be promoting his new book, Everything All At Once.  You can go on the Kepler's website to purchase tickets.
4.  I have been asked to let everybody know about a women's fiction 1-day writing seminar that will take place on May 20 in Redwood City.  http://womensfictionwriters.org/meetinginfo.php?id=26&ts=1491323652

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Quarterly Reading Report

I've just finished the 1st quarter's reading and thought you might (or might not!) be interested in my recap.
Books read:      16
Pages read (includes the 3 DNF's):  5,081
4.0 -      1
3.875 -  1
3.75 -    1
3.5 -      2
3.25 -    4
3.0 -      4
2.75 -    2
2.25 -    1
This is a decent, not spectacular, start, both in terms of books/pages read and ratings.

Some Other Stuff:

1.  I had a record-breaking day this morning at Recycle Books.  I sold 8 books!  And I signed up one new member for the RBC.  Here's what left the rec table (including one that I grabbed off the back shelf in the store):
Exile - Richard North Patterson
Paris for One - JoJo Moyes
The Last Child - John Hart
My Losing Season - Pat Conroy
Fool Me Once - Harlan Coben
If You Are There - Susan Sherman (RBC)
Mother Daughter Me - Katie Hafner (RBC)
Naked - Betsy Franco

2.  Just found out that Kristin Hannah, she of The Nightingale fame, will be coming to the Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland, courtesy of A Great Good Place for Books (this is the same place that I saw Vanessa Diffenbaugh about a year and a half ago, which led to her making an appearance at the RBC).  This is Kristin's ONLY Northern California appearance.  The date is April 29, and the time is 7:00.  It's already on my calendar.  And I reviewed it on 9/4/15.  Gave it a 3.25/4.  There is no RSVP and no entrance fee.  Buying a book is optional.

3.  Also just discovered that Rebecca Skloot, who wrote The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, will be coming to the Nourse Theater, located at 275 Hayes Street in SF, on Wednesday, April 26, at 7:30.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to make that one.  But I reviewed her book on 1/19/16 and also gave it a 3.25/4.  You need to buy tickets for this one - (415) 392-4400.  But I don't think the ticket price includes a book.  P.S.  Did you know that this is an upcoming HBO TV movie?  It's scheduled to air on Saturday, April 22, and stars Oprah and Rose Byrne.

Did you notice how I titled this post Quarterly Reading Report, when, in reality, it was another series of quick-hitters?  That kind of clever subterfuge is the probable cause of a reduced number of blog readers! As Fagin says in the musical Oliver, I'm reviewing the situation.