Saturday, December 29, 2018

Books Read in 2018, with Titles for 3.5 and Up (pretty exciting heading, don't you think?)

I finished a total of 69 books this year.  27 of those are 3.5 or higher.  I have my East Coast guru, Melissa, to thank for a bunch of them.  But others have recommended some very good books to me, too.  And some I actually found on my own (go figure)!  Obviously, if you haven't read Harmel, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

In my next post, I will list all books read in 2018, including ratings.

4+ - 1
The Sweetness of Forgetting - Kristin Harmel

4 - 4
The Life Intended - Kristin Harmel
The Room on Rue Amelie - Kristin Harmel
The Dream Daughter - Diane Chamberlain
(1 unpublished)

3.75 - 6
The Love Goddess' Cooking School - Melissa Senate
Still Me - JoJo Moyes
Limelight - Amy Poeppel
How to Walk Away - Kathleen Center
Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate
Where the Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens

3.625 - 2
The Hate We Give - Angie Thomas
The Family Next Door - Sally Hepworth

3.5 - 14
What Lies Beyond the Stars - Michael Goorjian
Before I Go - Colleen Oakley
The Women in the Castle - Jessica Shattuck
The Recipe Box - Maggie Shipman
Three Days Missing - Kimberly Belle
The Life Lucy Knew - Karma Brown
Ghosted - Rosie Walsh
The All-Girls Filling Station's Last Reunion - Fannie Flagg
The Stolen Marriage - Diane Chamberlain
The Way of  Beauty - Camille de Maio
Promise Me You - Marina Adair
My Broken Brain - Jessica Fechtor
The Secret Keeper - Kate Morton
(1 unpublished)

3.25 - 13

3.0 - 18

2.875 - 1

2.75 - 1

2.5 - 7

2.25 - 2

DNF (did not finish) - 5

Thursday, December 13, 2018

I've got a memoir for you...and my 1st Takeaway in a very long time

Stir, MY BROKEN BRAIN AND THE MEALS THAT BROUGHT ME HOME is a very powerful memoir by Jessica Fechtor.  It's interesting because I was sailing along for 62.5 pages, caught up in it but not emotionally connected.  And then BOOM!  Here's what happened to me in the next 14 pages:

BOOM - page  63 -       Jessica and Eli make a mutual commitment
BOOM - page  70 -       the surgeon makes an unexpected comment to Jessica
BOOM - page  75 -       Eli gives Jessica her 1st kiss
BOOM - pages 75-76 - Eli talks to his old girlfriend
BOOM - page  76 -       Sarah, Jessica's mom, reacts to Jessica's announcement about Eli

Now, keep in mind that I read this entire section while walking on the treadmill in a VERY public gym.  Here's this 6' tall guy, walking (relatively) fast, and flat-out crying.  The only good news is that I wasn't crying audibly!  Phew.  Let me point out here that this 14-page section is NOT the only place where I was crying.  It happened a bunch, along with other shows of emotion.  In fact, 2 pages from the end, I may have been heard exclaiming quite loudly "YES!"  That may have happened.

Aside from truly connecting with Jessica, I also was taken with her writing.  It's really, really good and very thought-provoking.  Here are just a couple of examples:

"Baking is an act of generosity, and thereby an act of freedom, since to be generous is to be free from the smallness of thinking only of yourself."  Hmmm...

"...when I went in for the hug, he just barely laid his hands on my back, as if I were a mannequin whose limbs might fall out of their sockets." You can see that, right?

"I checked out of rehab in late September.  I'd missed the season between summer and fall that feels like neither and both.  Just skipped right over it, like an arm on a record player that lifts up from its groove, travels a few rings toward the center, and touches silently back down." We baby boomers can relate to this.

Jessica has a very interesting few pages on the difference between "host" and "guest."  Pay attention to pages 174-177.  We use two completely separate words in the English language.  But, interestingly, that is not the case in other languages.  Take a look.

I told you that I had my first takeaway in a long time.  It's probably been 1-2 years since my last one.  So what did I get out of this book that I want to take with me?  It's about friendship.  Jessica's friend support is extremely inspiring.  I am making the commitment to be a better friend. I look forward to being the friend to my friends like Jessica's friends are to her.  Way cool.

Do I need to tell you to read this?  I don't think so.  I believe that you have gotten the message.

P.S.  There are 27 great recipes in this book that all had a hand in helping Jessica through her ordeal.


Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Searching for a good romance author? - Look no further than Marina Adair!

Let's start with the synopsis:

Mackenzie Hart has made a career out of writing about eternal love, so when she finds her perfect match in Hunter Kane, she decides to put it all on the line.  Irresistibly charming and drenched in alpha-male swagger, Hunter isn't just the catch of the town - he's Mackenzie's best friend.  Only someone beats her to the altar.  After a fresh start and three years to recover, the last thing Mackenzie expects is for her old life to come knocking...
Recently divorced, musician Hunter Kane wants to reconnect with the woman he left behind.  Admitting his biggest mistake comes first.  What comes next is up to Mackenzie.  He hopes she'll give him a second chance.  He may have been the one to break her heart, but he knows he can also be the one to mend it.
As a tenuous friendship turns into something more, Hunter's life on the road beckons once again.  Will love be enough to keep them together, or will their wildly different worlds be too much for them to overcome?

Not only did I enjoy the heck out of Promise Me You, but Marina (with PMY) is also our RBC author for January.  She's already been to the RBC once before.  And it is truly the book club's pleasure to welcome her back.  But what did I like about this book you ask?  Lots of stuff:

1.  (uh, oh, here he goes...) I had an emotional connection with these characters.
2.  Marina always injects humor into her books.  This one is no exception.
3.  She's a very good writer.  Here are a couple of examples:
"And that kind of magnetic confidence was rare.  The industry term for it was X Factor.
Mackenzie called it swagger.  And Hunter had enough swagger to convince Garth Brooks to sing back-up."
"He was confident...that skipping straight to the chemistry would be like pulling the pin on a grenade:  A few seconds of excitement before everything blew to hell."
4.  I enjoyed that it was based in Nashville.  Local authors more often than not write about local spots.
5.  This is a bit of a spoiler alert, so I will state this gently.  Mackenzie has a physical condition that you don't often see in a romance novel.  I applaud Marina for this plot point.  I thought it ramped up the story line considerably.

People, we all know that a romance novel is, in all likelihood, going to end up with a match.  I'm not giving the ending away.  But, c'mon.  If that's your complaint, GET OVER IT!  Because we also know that just about every mystery novel has a mystery-solving ending.  And just about every legal drama ends up with the accused protagonist being found innocent.  You get my point. Bottom line?  Promise Me You is a very good read.  And if you want to see Marina in person, come to Recycle Bookstore on Wednesday night, January 23, at 7:00.  I guarantee you will enjoy your evening.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

It's time for a review: Where The Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

A couple of months ago, I read and reviewed The All-Girls Filling Station's Last Reunion, by Fannie Flagg, based on a recommendation from my friend, Joyce.  I now have another recommendation from Joyce...but it's a different Joyce!  This one is called Where The Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens.  I've gotten many recommendations over the years from a big variety of people.  But this might be the first time I've doubled up on a name.  Okay, moving along, here's what WTCS is about:

For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast.  So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl.
But Kya is not what they say.  Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand.  Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved.  When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life - until the unthinkable happens.

Delia writes beautifully.  That might be why it took me a while to get into it.  You all know that I'm not that (or, at all) literary.  But once I made the connection, I was off and running.  I had a bunch of emotional reactions:

Chills (multiple)
Emotion (not very specific)
What!?  OMG!

Did it get to me?  Uh, yeah.  There is also a moment about 20 pages from the end where I actually put my hand over the page so that I wouldn't accidentally prematurely see what happens.  And on top of all that, I learned a bunch of stuff about how a lot of wildlife mate.  Now, I can't swear that this was something that drew me to the book.  I mean this could have been TMI!  But, in fact, it wasn't.  Delia blends great writing with unforgettable characters who draw you in.  And if I also learned something along the way, then so be it.

This is one of those books that crosses genres and would be enjoyable for just about any reader.  On Goodreads, the genres listed are Fiction, History/Historical Fiction, and Mystery.  That covers most people, doesn't it?  Regardless of how you answer this question, I definitely recommend Where The Crawdads Sing.  If it's good enough for Reese's Book Club, then it's good enough for all of us...right?

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate

I have read a whole bunch of really good books this year.  Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate, is definitely one of them:

Memphis, 1939.  Twelve-year old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family's Mississippi River shantyboat.  But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge - until strangers arrive in force.  Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children's Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents - but they quickly realize the dark truth.  At the mercy of the facility's cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.
Aiken, South Carolina, present day.  Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all:  a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiance, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family's long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

So here's the deal.  This is based on a true story.  There really was an adoption agency that kidnapped kids and then sold them to families around the country.  It reminds me a little bit of Kline's The Orphan Train.  Except, in that case, many of the kids were actually given up by their parents.  In this story, it was always involuntary.  Can you even imagine?  There is something about historical fiction that just grabs me. I have read dozens of books that were not historical fiction that I absolutely loved.  But there is a different feeling when you know that what is described actually happened.  And it's even magnified when you know that children are the victims.

But aside from the historical significance, Before We Were Yours is just a really good, well-written book.  I love the juxtapositon of 1939 and present day (the book was published last year).  You just know that characters from 1939 are going to be present in 2017.  And you keep waiting to find out about those connections.  It actually created a ton of suspense throughout the book.  If you go to Goodreads and check out the different genres people credited to BWWY, you won't find Mystery among them.  But it sure did feel that way to me.  Bravo to Lisa for creating that feeling.

Is the writing good?  Uh, yeah.  Look at how she describes what happens to the memories of an older person:  "It's as if her memory book has fallen open, a persistent wind tearing out the most recent pages first. The older the memories are, the more likely they are to remain intact." Or how about this one:  "The story she tells is heartbreaking but mesmerizing."  I think we can all relate to this, can't we?  

Before We Were Yours is just flat-out a really good book.  You get to learn something and also become attached to characters of all ages. What more can you ask for?

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Dream Daughter - Diane Chamberlain

I know that I gave a 1-line review of The Dream Daughter in my 11/5 post.  But this is another book that deserves its own review.  So, let's start with the blurb:

When Carly Sears, a young woman widowed by the Vietnam War, receives the news that her unborn baby girl has a heart defect, she is devastated.  It is 1970, and she is told that nothing can be done to help her child.  But her brother-in-law, a physicist with a mysterious past, tells her that perhaps there is a way to save her baby.  What he suggests is something that will shatter every preconceived notion Carly has. Something that will require a kind of strength and courage she never knew existed.  Something that will require an unimaginable leap of faith on Carly's part.
And all for the love of her unborn child.

Although it's not evident in the synopsis, I will give you one small spoiler alert:  This book is about time travel.  Now, I have to tell you that I have very good precedents for reading and enjoying this kind of book. Stephen King's 11/22/63 is one of my top 12 books all-time.  And Dean Koontz's Lightning is my favorite Koontz.  Time travel is just so darn interesting, when it's done right.  The Dream Daughter is different because it's really about saving a baby (By the way, have you ever heard the Save My Baby joke?  If you haven't, ask me to tell it to you when I see you next.  It is a crack-up.).

At one point, Carly gets sent to 2013 instead of 2001.  We get a good, and understandable, explanation of how that could happen.  Just like King and Koontz, Chamberlain does a great job of making time travel seem plausible.    I'm pretty sure that's not an easy thing to do.

My notes are filled with all kinds of reactions to TDD:

"emotional connection"
"Oh, no - 9/11?"
"Oh no no no no no - wrong year"
"What the heck?"
"so much tension"

Although this is not a mystery, I sure still spent a lot of time wondering what was going to happen next.  For that I am grateful to Ms. Chamberlain.  And my final word on The Dream Daughter is that I absolutely loved the last sentence.  Even though I didn't make note of it, I have a strong suspicion that there could have been a tear or two when the book wrapped up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

FFTNFR (Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader) - XI

It's been 17 months since I posted my last Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader.  The time has come again.  This is edition #XI (that's 11 for you Roman numeral-phobes).  Let me point out a few features of this list. First of all, every author is female.  There are quite a few titles that come under the genre literary or women's fiction (8).  There are 3 that are historical fiction.  And there is 1 that is #3 of a trilogy.  The final one is culinary fiction (is there such a genre?).  All of them are either 3.75 or 4.0 - except for 1.  it's actually a 4.0+!  You may have a tough time figuring out which one that is.  And let me, once again, give a shout-out to Melissa Amster, who has fed me most of these books. I think 11 of the 13 were recommended by her!  And there are a bunch not on this list that I still really liked (3.25s or 3.5s).  I would like to point out that I (among others) recommended The Alice Network to Melissa.  She liked it a whole lot.  In fact, I have not spoken to one person who hasn't loved TAN.  Read it, if you haven't already.

1.    The Life Intended - Kristin Harmel.  This is the 1st of 3 Harmels that I have read and placed on the list.  It's the story of a woman who lost her husband 10 years earlier, has found love with another man, and, due to some dreams, among other things, is questioning her decision.

2.    The Love Goddess' Cooking School - Melissa Senate.  You get cooking classes, recipes, and some great interactions.  It's not easy to combine all of these elements.  But Melissa does a great job of doing just that.

3.    The Secrets of Midwives - Sally Hepworth.  Of the 4 books that Sally has written (she has a 5th coming out in late Spring!), 3 have made my list.  And the 4th, The Family Next Door, just missed the cut.  It was a 3.625/4.  I know, I know.  Pretty nitpicky.  Secrets tells the story of 3 generations of midwives.  I learned a lot without the author presenting the info in historical fiction form.

4.    The Things We Keep - Sally Hepworth.  In this powerful novel, Anna, a 38-year old woman, is placed in a residential home by her family because she is in the beginning stages of Alzheimers.  While there, she falls in love with another resident, Luke, who is of a similar age.  Then there's Elizabeth, the single mother who works there in a culinary capacity and who becomes involved in the relationship between Anna and Luke.

5.    Close enough to Touch - Colleen Oakley.  Jubilee has a rare disease where she can't be touched.  Eric is a single father whose daughter won't talk to him.  They come together at the library where Jubilee works.  A very interesting concept done extremely well.

6.    The Alice Network - Kate Quinn.  TAN slides between WWI and 1947.  It's the true story of a female spy network in Germany-occupied France that steals secrets from under the noses of the Germans and gets that info to Alice, who sends it on to her handlers.  Great historical fiction that integrates a young girl looking for her cousin after WWII with a spy from WWI (and WWII).  Super interesting.

7.    The Room on Rue Amelie - Kristin Harmel.  Here's another historical fiction about something that I absolutely knew nothing about.  This one concerns a channel of safe houses in France during WWII that help downed British flyers get back home.  This is way different than Kristin's other books.

8.    +The Sweetness of Forgetting+ - Kristin Harmel.  (Notice the asterisks?) This is some book.  All I will tell you is that while reading the synopsis in order to give you a hint of what it's about, I got chills.  Just read it please.

9.    Still Me - Jojo Moyes.  This is book 3 of the trilogy that started with Me Before You.  I loved #1, liked #2 (After You), and loved #3.  You may not remember, but her short story collection, Paris for One and Other Stories, is in FFTNFR, Volume X.

10.  Limelight - Amy Poeppel.  A family moves from Texas to New York City and, understandably, goes through some adjustments.  In a strange turn of events, Allison (wife and mother) ends up involved in the management of Carter Reid, a teenager who VERY CLOSELY reminds us of Justin Bieber.

11.  The Dream Daughter - Diane Chamberlain.  Diane has written over 20 books.  And I have read my 1st 2 in just the last couple of months. The 1st one, The Stolen Marriage, was a solid 3.5.  This one is a 4.0.  I want to tell you up front that a lot of this book centers on time travel. And you will absolutely believe that it's real (11/22/63 anyone?).

12.  How to Walk Away - Katherine Center.  Margaret is living a storybook life and is about to marry the man of her dreams...until a small plane accident changes everything.  And I do mean everything.  But, mostly, this book shows us what courage is all about.

13.  Before We Were Yours - Linsa Wingate.  This is the story of Rill who, at 12, becomes responsible for her 4 younger siblings as a very unethical adoption agency gets a hold of them.  The year is 1939, and this is an adaptation of a true story set in Memphis, Tennessee.  You will do a lot of head-shaking.

That's it for now.  Stay tuned to FFTNFR, Volume X11...someday.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Camille Di Maio Scores Again!

It's been about a year since I read my 1st Di Maio.  It was Before the Rain Falls.  And I liked it a whole bunch (Another New Author for Me - and Another Big Hit).  For the last x amount of months, I've had 2 sitting vertically (that's an important distinction from the ones lying down!) on my makeshift bookshelf.  Well, I finally got to 1 of them.  The Way of Beauty is as good as BTRF.  And it won't be long before I hit #3, The Memory of Us.  In the meantime, here is the synopsis of The Way of Beauty:

Vera Keller, the daughter of German immigrants in turn-of-the-century New York City, finds her life upended when the man she loves becomes engaged to another woman.  But Angelo Bellavia has also inadvertently opened up Vera's life to unexpected possibilities.  Angelo's new wife, Pearl, the wealthy daughter of a clothing manufacturer, has defied her family's expectations by devoting herself to the suffrage movement.  In Pearl, Vera finds an unexpected dear friend...and a stirring new cause of her own.  But when Pearl's selfless work pulls her farther from Angelo and their son, the life Vera craved is suddenly within her reach - if her conscience will allow her to take it.
Her choice will define not only her future but also that of her daughter, Alice.
Vera and Alice - a generation and a world apart - are bound by the same passionate drive to fulfill their dreams.  As first mother and then daughter come of age in a city that is changing as rapidly as its skyline, they'll each discover that love is the only constant.

The book starts briefly in 1963, goes back to 1900-1917, and then, 200 pages in, jumps to 1942-1943.  We learn about the suffragette movement and a little bit about WWI and WWII.  But it's not really an historical fiction.  It's just a good piece of literary fiction.  I am a fan, though, of the back and forth in time, and Camille does it beautifully here.  In fact, on page 207 of 368, she moves 25 years forward, where the focus is on the daughter of the main characters in the prior section. And let me just say this:  I was absolutely caught up immediately with the new protagonist.  There was no gradual interest on my part.  It was BOOM, I was there.

I had my share of chills and tears.  But this one wasn't a bawler for me. And that's okay.  I was totally engrossed in the story and the characters all the way through.  I had a shocker on page 327 that I never saw coming (I know, this is no surprise to any of you).  And although this is a bit of a tell, Camille brings up a very important question:  Which love is preferable - one based on passion?  Or one based on comfort and ease? One is climbing the equivalent of Mt. Everest.  And the other is watching climbers on Mt. Everest sitting in matching lounge chairs in the TV room. I don't know the answer.  But it's interesting to consider, don't you think?

Stay tuned for #3.  But if you have liked my recommendations with Harmel and Hepworth, among others, then do yourselves a favor.  Pick up either The Way of Beauty or Before the Rain Falls (or both).  You will be happy you did.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Three Days Missing, my 3rd Kimberly Belle - it will NOT be my last

As you know (and I'm sure you all remember!), I have enjoyed the 2 other Kimberly Belle's that I have read - The Marriage Lie and The Last Breath.  Well, Three Days Missing does not take a back seat to those. And this one couldn't be more different from the other 2.  Here is the synopsis:

It's every parent's worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night.  When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized.  Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing - vanished from the cabin where he'd been on an overnight class trip. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground, but she's too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan's trail in the mountain forest.
Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband.  She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat's traumatic past.  But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan's disappearance has earth-shattering consequences for Stef, as her path crosses with Kat.  As the two mothers race against the clock, their desperate search for answers reveals how the greatest dangers lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most.

I know that this is a tough subject for everybody.  And some won't be able to do it at all.  But this is what makes reading so enjoyable.  Once upon a time I basically just read Child, Baldacci, Silva, Archer, Follett, et al.  But having discovered such good authors like Kimberly has greatly enhanced my reading pleasure.

But enough about me.  This is about Ethan and Sammy and Kat and Stef. Each character grabs a hold of you emotionally.  And I really like the way the chapters go back and forth between the two moms.  But even with that focus, we still get to meet Lucas, a Jack-Reacher like character, Mac, Andrew, and Josh.

You know that I have these "moments" where, perhaps, I might shed a tear or two.  That certainly didn't happen here...did it?  Uh, yep.  We're not talking a few drips.  We're talking about a real downpour.  So, yeah, I guess I did get caught up in these characters.  I think you might, too. And let me tell you about the ending.  Just kidding.  But it is a GREAT ending.

Final note:  Please read A Conversation with Kimberly Belle at the end of the book.  It's very interesting and enlightening.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Some More (very) Mini-Reviews

The best laid plans, etc., etc.  I was hoping I could start doing regular reviews.  But...nope.  So I'm going to use the same format I used 5 weeks ago.  I've got 8 books to rate and sort of review.

Boardwalk Summer - Meredith Jaeger - 3.0 - liked it - and Meredith is coming to the RBC on Sunday afternoon, December 9, at 4:30
Killers of the Flower Moon - David Grann - 3.0 - read it for the Books, Inc. 4th Thursday Night Book Club at The Pruneyard - non-fiction - story of the Osage Indians and oil and the fledgling FBI in the first 3 decades of the 20th century - interesting but dry
The Dream Daughter - Diane Chamberlain - 4.0 - my 1st Chamberlain was a very good 3.5 - this was even better - loved it
Laying Pipe - Kate Allure - 3.0 - this is a VERY sexy romance (get it?) - local author - always fun
Beautiful Exiles - Meg Waite Clayton - 3.0 - the story of Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gelhorn - pretty illuminating and informative
How to Walk Away - Kathleen Center - 3.75 - I obviously liked this a whole lot - a tragic accident followed by self-discovery - maybe there's even some unexpected romance - you'll have to read it to find out
The Masterpiece - Fiona Davis - 3.25 - this is one that I saw had a lot of buzz - it was good - there's nothing wrong with a 3.25
Before We Were Yours - Lisa Wingate - 3.75 - historical fiction about a very unethical adoption agency in Tennessee in the late 30s - very educational and a really strong story of family

My next post will definitely be something other than mini-mini-reviews. I just don't know what it will be yet.  Stay tuned.  We'll find out together!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Powell's Bookstore - Portland, Oregon

If you have not been to Powell's Bookstore in Portland, Oregon, PUT IT ON YOUR BUCKET LIST!  I've got a bunch of pictures, but they don't do the store justice.  It covers an entire block, bordered by 4 streets!  There are about 10 different bookstores, all connected.  It's unbelievable.  As Joni said, it's The Book Louvre!

On 2 of the pictures, you will see 3 books behind glass.  These are all from the Rare Books Room.  And if you look close, you will see prices of $5,000, $5,000, and $8,000 (unfortunately, I cut off the $8,000 number). In addition, the employee in the room told me that they have a book from Lewis and Clark's expedition that is priced at $350,000!!! Unfortunately, they don't keep that one in the room.

Take a look and enjoy.

the front lobby of the store

25 books you must read - lobby

this speaks for itself - lobby

1 of the individual rooms

another one

and another...

and another

rare book in the Rare Book Room

and 2 more

Saturday, September 29, 2018


Next Thursday is 3 MONTHS SINCE MY LAST POST!  Have I lost interest? Nope.  Did I stop reading?  Nope.  Did I forget how to write?  Perhaps. So how do I catch up in one post?  I can't.  But here's what I can do.  I'm going to list the books I've read in the last 3 months along with my ratings.  I will probably even add a comment or 2 for each book.  And I probably will do full reviews on a couple of them down the road. Without any more palaver, here they are:

There, There - Tommy Orange - 2.5 - lots of buzz - didn't do it for me
Three Days Missing - Kimberly Belle - 3.5 - I like all of Kimberly's books
Paris Metro - Wendell Steavenson - 2.5 - this was given to me, and I felt I should read it -
     it was okay
Strained Relations - Marcia Stein - 2.5 - essays on how to deal with teenagers -
     RBC author on 11/28
The Life Lucy Knew - Karma Brown - 3.5 - I've read all 4 of her very good books -
     3-3.5s & 1-3.75 - next one will be in 2020
Slave - Jabali Smith - 3.0 - given to me by RBC member - could be a possible RBC author -
     rough memoir
Things You Won't Say - Sarah Pekkanen - 3.25 - recommended by my East Coast guru,
     Melissa - didn't like it as much as she did - but still good
Everything We Give - Kerry Lonsdale - 3rd in a trilogy - liked the 1st 2 more -
     RBC author - coming back next August with a standalone
The Other Woman - Daniel Silva - 3.0 - 18 in the series - this is maybe my least favorite
The Exes Revenge - Jo Jakeman - 3.0 - got this as an ARC from the publisher - decent
Limelight - Amy Poeppel - 3.75 - another rec from Melissa - and a darn good one
Short Hair Detention - Channy Chhi Laux - 2.25 - tough life but book didn't grab me
     emotionally - her appearance at the RBC was very emotional
Ghosted - Rosie Walsh - 3.5 - Melissa again - and good again
The All-Girls Filling Station's Last Reunion - Fannie Flagg - 3.5 - friend of mine asked why she
     always read my suggestions and I never read hers - so I did - liked it a whole lot
The Daisy Children - Sofia Grant - 3.25 - pseudonym of Sophia Littlefield - I'm hoping she will
     be an RBC author - I'm not optimistic
The Stolen Marriage - Diane Chamberlain - 3.5 - not only recommended by Melissa - but she
     also sent me a copy - Chamberlain has written 24 books - this is my 1st - not my last
When the Lights Go Out - Mary Kubica - 3.0 - highly rated but was just decent

As you can see, my TBR pile has gotten out of control again.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The 6-Month Report, Y'all + A Mini-Review

Hello, people.  Here's the mid-season report:

35 books read (4 DNF - did not finish):
4.0+ -   1 - yep - The Sweetness of Forgetting - Kristin Harmel
4.0 -     3 - 2 more by Harmel - The Room on Rue Amelie & The Life
                  Intended - she is crazy good
                  1 - I can't tell you about this one because it's in ARC form - it
                  will hopefully be published later this year
3.75 -   2
3.625 - 2 (feel free to make fun of this rating)
3.5 -     4
3.25 -   8
3.0 -   10
2.75 -   1
2.5 -     3
2.25 -   1

Local authors - 13
Fiction - 30
Non-Fiction - 5

Bardwell's Folly, a love story, by Sandra Hutchison:

Young Dori Bardwell's father was the white southern author who wrote THE book about slavery, built a replica of a plantation house in a small New England town, and then flew most of his large family into the sea. She's preoccupied with keeping food on the table, protecting her father's last, unfinished manuscript from a media baron, and figuring out whether her ex is messing with her or just trying to get her attention again.
But when her thoughtless racial joke goes viral, it launches her and a new African American friend on a journey into her Southern heritage that might just lead her right back to where she started.

I liked this a lot.  Of course it didn't hurt that a big part of the book is about books and manuscripts.  But aside from that, I got caught up in the story and made an emotional connection with Dori.  In fact, there is a scene that takes place at her work where I wrote "Not right!"  I obviously didn't like the way she was treated.  And there is another passage that lists quotes on a Twitter page that led me to comment "Ouch."  These are, of course, in addition to emotional reactions I had in several other places in the book.  So, all in all, I liked the story, the writing, and my connection to the protagonist.  I intend to get my hands (and eyes) on her other 2 books - The Awful Mess and the Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire.

One small note:  On page 50 Dori says:  "...she's always been one to stop and smell the flowers."  This brought a smile to my face because I couldn't help but think about the children's classic Ferdinand.  I can't explain, nor is there actually a medical explanation, for how my mind works sometimes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A Coupla More Reviews

Ya know, there just aren't that many Ken Folletts around these days.  He is, of course, the master at making the 3rd book in his trilogies (see Edge of Eternity - haven't read A Column of Fire yet) as, or almost as, good as the 1st 2.  Well, kudos to JoJo Moyes.  Still Me, the sequel to Me Before You (4/4) and After You (3.75/4), falls right into place with 1 & 2.  I gave this one a 3.75/4.  I mean, c'mon, 11.5/12?  That's crazy good.

You don't need the blurb.  It's all about Louisa, of course.  The big change from the 1st 2 is that it takes place mostly in New York.  Other than that, it's Louisa, Louisa, and more Louisa.  And she is a great character.  But what I really like about Moyes' writing is how she combines humor with poignancy with chills with cheers effortlessly.  I laughed 4 different times on page 47, got emotional on page 54, and had a big smile on page 57.  And when it came to the final scene, I put my hand over the whole page and dropped it line by line.  I did NOT want to know what happened ahead of time (unlike Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally!).

If you haven't read any of this series, I would strongly recommend that you remedy that flaw in your literary character.  If you've read 1 & 2 but not 3, you might want to get your hands on it pretty soon (if you don't want to buy a hardcover, then maybe it's available in your local library - or I can loan it to you).  I will definitely read anything that Moyes writes.

This brings me to my 2nd review.  The book is called the recipe box, and it is written by Viola Shipman.  I call this book a Melissa Special.  Can you figure out why?  Yep.  It's because it's another recommendation from my recommending guru, Melissa (clever moniker, no?).  I liked it a lot. And this time I will give you a synopsis.

Growing up in northern Michigan, Sam felt trapped by her family's orchard and pie shop, where generations before her have lived and run the business.  She left with dreams of becoming a classically trained pastry chef and making her own mark in the world.  But life as an overworked, undervalued sous chef at a reality star's New York bakery is not what Sam imagined, and she returns home to take inventory.
One beloved flour-flecked, ink-smeared family recipe at a time, Sam begins to learn about and understand the women in her life, her family's history, and her passion for food through their treasured recipe box.  As Sam discovers what matters most in her life, she opens her heart to a man she left behind but who now might be the key to her happiness.

In the last 12 months, I've read several food-related books.  And I've liked them all.  This one certainly fit right in there.  I liked the story.  I liked the recipes.  I liked the characters.  I liked the emotional connection I made with just about all of them (there were definitely some tears, chills, and even nervousness).  And I liked Viola's writing. (BTW, did you know that Viola Shipman is actually a man?  I didn't either, until I read the bio on the back flap.)  Here are a couple of examples showing how the author painted such strong visuals:

"In the near distance, the cornfields seemed to move as if they were doing the wave at a football game..."
"Sam slowed in traffic, her head bobbing left and right like one of those dogs people put in their back windows..."

The only criticism I have, and it's a pretty small one, is that especially in the first part of the book there was too much repetition of certain words.  It kind of distracted me (not a difficult feat).  But it got better as the book went along, and I ended up forgetting about it.  Do you remember the story about the Christopher Reich book I read in which the author said "Just then" about every 10th page?  It drove me nuts to the point where I felt I had to message him.  He acknowledged me politely (we all know what he told his family and friends).  This one was not nearly as bad.  And if these are not the kinds of things in books that you notice, then it will be no problem for you.

Despite my Scrooge-like, Bah Humbug comment, I liked this a lot and gave it a 3.5/4.

Friday, May 25, 2018


It's time for a few notes of interest (sez me):

1.  Cara Black's 18th book in the Aimee Leduc series, Murder on the Left Bank, will be coming out on June 19.

2.  The Woman in the Window (which I liked quite a bit), by A.J. Finn, is going to be a movie.  I don't know any of the details yet.

3.  Meg Waite Clayton will launch her latest book, Beautiful Exiles, on July 31 at Books, Inc. Palo Alto.  This is the story of the real-life relationship between Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway, in 1936.

4.  #5 in the Maverick Billionaires, Wild in Love (which I loved), is live.  I think you all know that this is definitely one of my very favorite romance series.  And Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre are not done!  I was very excited to learn that there will be more books after this one.  That is good news indeed.

5.  The Goldfinch (which I stopped reading on Page 19!) is being made into a movie.  And Nicole Kidman will be the star.

6.  We had 2 literary superstars pass away in the last week:  Tom Wolfe at 88, and Philip Roth 85.

7.  The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein, is going to be a movie. It will star Milo Ventimiglia (from This Is Us), Amanda Seyfried, and Kevin Costner (as the voice of Enzo).  Patrick Dempsey will be the director. This is a book I never expected to read because it has a picture of a dog on the front cover.  And as you all know by now, I'm not a big pet guy. But I humbly report that I liked this a whole lot.  Thanks to Rich and Leslie, who "made" me read it.

8.  Books, Inc. in the The Pruneyard is opening tomorrow, Saturday, May 26! That is great news. Congrats to Margie and the rest of the Books, Inc. team.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Some More Mini-Reviews

Well, once again I find myself behind on reviews.  And in order to catch up, I've got a couple of quick takes on nationally popular books/authors.

First, there is John Hart's latest, The Hush.  Those of you who have followed my blog for a while (I understand your reluctance to identify yourselves!) know that, as Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman, I am a "big, huge" fan of his books.  I think his last 3 were 4.0, 4.0, 3.75 (and I liked his 1st 2 too).  So I was obviously very excited about reading The Hush.  How was it?  Beats the heck out of me.  I just didn't get it.  I don't know what John was thinking.  The story didn't make a lot of sense to me.  There was tons of description that put me off immediately and that showed up throughout the book.  And then there was some metaphysical stuff that I just couldn't wrap my arms around.  For me it didn't connect with the rest of the book.  Or maybe I just didn't care. Regardless, I'm giving it a 2.25/4.  And only because I like John personally (he always responds to FB messages) and because I recognize what a good writer he is.  Otherwise, uh, uh.

P.S.  John's ratings for his last 4 books on Goodreads out of a max 5:
The Last Child - 4.11
The Iron House - 4.09
Redemption Road - 4.08
The Hush - 3.64
It's obviously not just me.

My other short review is of A.J. Finn's The Woman in the Window.  I liked this one much better - 3.25/4.  It came very highly rated from friends that I trust.  It was a little Girl on the Train for me in that it was very well-written, but I didn't emotionally connect with the characters.  In fact, it was very similar to Gone Girl because I didn't really get engaged until about half-way through.  However, that was all compensated for (at least to some degree) by the fact that it was suspenseful and had a real shocker toward the end.  We all know I'm not that adept (a classic understatement) at figuring out what's going to happen in a book.  But I think this one shocked everybody.  So it was good.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


It's been a year and a half since I last gave a book a 4.0+.  It was Rachael Herron's Splinters of Light. And before that it was July of 2015 when I gave my first 4.0+.  That one was Goodnight June, by Sarah Jio.  I've also got 12-4.5s and 13-4.25s (the link is on the bottom of this post, in case you want/care to see those).  Well, I've got another 4.0+, which now makes a total of 28 all-time favorites.  This one shouldn't be a big surprise because I've just read 2 other books by this author, and they were both 4/4!  But it was a surprise to me because it was published in 2012, before the other 2 hit the bookshelves.  In case you haven't figured it out yet, it's Kristin Harmel.  And it's called The Sweetness of Forgetting.  I just absolutely loved this book.

Are you ready for the blurb?  Well, I'm not giving it to you.  Why, you ask?  Have I become (even more) curmudgeonly in my advancing age? Maybe.  But that's not the reason I'm holding off this time.  There are so many different elements to this book that I want you to experience them the way I did - cold turkey.  It just so happens that I never read the synopsis of a book before I read it.  I want to be surprised.  But as you also know, I usually post the recap in my reviews.  And I certainly can't prevent you from checking it out before you start reading.  In this case, I hope you would consider trusting me that the less you know beforehand, the greater the impact will be.

So is that the end of the review?  One in which I have told you nothing? Okay, I will throw you a bone or two.  Here are a few hints as to what you will read about in Sweetness:

1.    Family-owned bakery (with recipes)
2.    Alzheimers
3.    Germany-occupied France in WWII
4.    Divorce
5.    True Love
6.    Romance (different from true love)
7.    4 generations
8.    Emotional lock-down
9.    Religious collaboration
10.  Discovery - of all kinds

This doesn't take into account the enormous amount of tears (real ones, not baby ones), chills, head-shaking, shoulder-slumping, eye-opening, expletive-yelling, and even some laughing, that I exhibited throughout. It also doesn't factor in just how gosh-darn well the book is written. Some of the passages are flat-out amazing.

What I am hoping will happen is that this blog post will open up a discussion about the book.  Maybe we can do an online something (I am not too tech-savvy).  Or maybe we can exchange comments.  But even if none of that happens, I do hope you will read The Sweetness of Forgetting.  I can't begin to tell you how glad I am that I did.

Here's that link I was telling you about:  

Top 24 (Actually 27) All-Time

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

3 Winners

Okay, people.  We have our 3 winners.  Once again, here are the books that you can choose from:

The Life Intended, Kristin Harmel (new paperback)
The Night the Lights Went Out, Karen White (new paperback - sent by publisher)
the family next door, Sally Hepworth (used hardcover)

Here is the order in which the 3 names were picked:

Kate Vocke
Julie Holden
Sandy Antle

Kate, you will have 1st pick, etc.  Assuming that you 3 don't want your addresses announced to the world, email me at so that I can get these mailed out.

Congratulations, all.  I haven't read Karen's book.  But I can definitely vouch for Harmel and Hepworth.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tons 'o Stuff

1.  Books Inc. is opening in The Pruneyard soon.  This is the 1st bookstore in The Pruneyard since Barnes & Noble left several years ago.

2.  Jodi Picoult's next book will be coming out on October 2.  It's called A Spark of Light and centers on reproductive rights.

3.  I've got one brand new paperback copy of The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel.  This is a 4/4 for me.  It can be yours if you comment on this blog post.  We will draw a winner in a week's time.

4.  Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is being made into a movie starring Cate Blanchett.  It will hit the cineplexes in late 2018.

5.  Karen White's publisher is giving away her new book in paperback. The Night the Lights Went Out gets awarded based on the same conditions as #3.

6.  I've got a used hardcover copy (in good condition) of Sally Hepworth's latest (and 4th), The Family Next Door.  How do you win?  See #3 and #5.

7.  I think you all know how much I liked Michael Zadoorian's The Leisure Seeker.  And then I found out that it was going to be a movie starring Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland.  Boy was I excited to see it.  And boy was I disappointed.  2.5/4

8. Season 3 of Queen Sugar, based on the book of the same name by Natalie Baszile, will be starting on May 28/29 on the OWN.  Can't wait.

9.  The Illuminator's Gift, book 1 in Alina Sayre's 4-book The Voyages of the Legend series, will be coming out in audiobook this summer. Although the series is geared for 9-14 year olds, I loved it.  And, believe me, I am NOT in that age group!

10.  On the weekend of April 28 & 29, the 4th annual Bay Area Book Festival will be held in downtown Berkeley.

11.  We finally have another Meg Waite Clayton book hitting the bookstores.  It's called Beautiful Exiles.  It's an historical fiction that takes place in 1936 and talks about a budding relationship between journalist Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway when they are together covering the Spanish Civil War.  Get set for the August 1 release.

12.  For those of us who grew up with Beezus, Ramona, and Henry Huggins, author Beverly Cleary turned 102 on 4/12/18.

13.  Saturday, April 28 is Independent Bookstore Day.  Please show support for your local bookstore.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Latest Harmel - Darn Good

You all know what I thought of Kristin Harmel's The Life Intended (just in case you inadvertently missed it(!), you can go to my post from February 3 and read all about it).  Now along comes Kristin's latest, The Room on Rue Amelie.  She completely shifts gears from contemporary fiction to historical fiction.  And, might I add, she does it seamlessly.  I happen to be a big fan of historical fiction, especially that which centers on WWII.  I have learned a bunch of history this way.  And I would even add The Alice Network to that group, even though that was geared toward WWI. But Room fits in with my other favorites extremely well.  Here's the synopsis:

When newlywed Ruby Henderson Benoit arrives in Paris in 1939 with her French husband, Marcel, she imagines strolling arm in arm along the grand boulevard, awash in the golden afternoon light.  But war is looming on the horizon, and as France falls to the Nazis, her marriage begins to splinter too.
Charlotte Dacher is eleven when the German roll into the French capital, their sinister swastika flags snapping in the breeze.  After the Jewish restrictions take effect and Jews are ordered to wear a yellow star, Charlotte can't imagine things getting much worse.  But then the mass deportations begin, and her life is forever ripped apart.
Thomas Clarke joins the Royal Air Force to protect his country, but when his beloved mother dies in a German bombing during the waning days of the Blitz, he wonders if he's really making a difference.  Then he finds himself in Paris, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and he discovers a new reason to keep fighting - and an unexpected road home.
When fate brings them together, Ruby, Charlotte, and Thomas must summon the courage to defy the Nazis - and to pen their own broken hearts - as they fight to survive.

What did I like about The Room on Rue Amelie, you ask?  A whole mess a' stuff.  To wit:

1.  I loved learning all about the escape lines out of Paris.  In this book, these were largely for downed pilots to get back across the channel. Fascinating.
2.  I loved that the 1st chapter starts with an older couple in the present (2002) and then goes right to 1938 Paris.  And that the rest of the book, except for the last 5 pages, takes place just prior to, and all during, the war.  My initial reaction to the couple in chapter 1 was that they were going to be one of my favorite literary couples ever.
3.  I loved the emotional connection I got to make with the characters immediately.  And how that did not abate all the way through the end. In fact there might have been a tear or two in a few (dozen) places throughout the book.
4.  I loved the progression of dates from December of 1938 to August of 1944.  I am in awe of how Kristin (and other authors) seem to know almost instinctively how much time should lapse from one chapter to the next.  Kristin did it masterfully, as far as I was concerned.  I remember making comments to myself like "Wow.  6 months have elapsed."  Or "They are still in the same month."  Very cool.
5.  I loved how she somehow slipped in a few chuckle-inducing moments.  Not an easy thing to do with a piece of history that is so serious.
6.  I loved how I accidentally thought I figured out on page 284 (out of 383) who the old couple was.  And then it turned out I was right.  You all know that I usually can't figure out anything until the author chooses to tell me.
7.  And I loved/unloved how my self-revelation led me to be very worried over the last 100+ pages about other main characters.  I had much foreboding.
(8.  I loved how distraught I was as certain circumstances unfolded, leading to a whole bunch of expletives.

So, I guess if you've got nothing to do and want to learn a little bit about Germany-occupied France during WWII, you can pick up The Room on Rue Amelie...I'm pulling your leg.  Pick this sucker up immediately.  You will transition from swearing at me to singing my (limited) virtues. Seriously.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Bunch of Books Read and a Bunch of Ratings

Does anybody care why it's been 47 days since my last review and 30 days since my last post?...didn't think so.  Suffice it to say that it's been nothing more dramatic than simply too busy with my "real" job.  So, having said that, what I'm going to do is simply list the nationally known books I've read since my 2/3/18 review of The Life Intended, along with a rating and a couple of lines for each.  These are in the order read:

1.  before i go, Colleen Oakley (women's fiction).  I read this because I LOVED  her Close Enough to Touch.  This one is also very good.  3.5/4

2.  The Women in the Castle, Jessica Shattuck (historical fiction).  I saw Jessica live at Rakestraw Books with Chloe Benjamin.  I decided to read Jessica's 1st because it looked more interesting.  It was.  3.5/4

3.  The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin (contemporary fiction).  She is obviously the other author I saw at Rakestraw.  This is good too.  I didn't go gaga for it.  But it's still solid.  3/4.

4.  THE HATE U GIVE, Angie Thomas (young adult).  This was recommended by an RBC member, Diana.  She said it was must read. She was right.  3.625/4

5.  The Night Trade, Barry Eisler (thriller).  This is book 2 in Barry's Livia Lone series.  I liked #1 a little better (Livia Lone, 3.5/4).  But I will read anything Barry writes.  3.25/4

6.  The Love Goddess' Cooking School, Melissa Senate (women's fiction). This is the other book (along with The Life Intended) that my blogging guru, Melissa, sent me.  And she was right on.  This was also so good. 3.75/4

7.  How to Stop Time, Matt Haig (fiction/fantasy).  I read this because I went to see Matt at Rakestraw (methinks there is a pattern developing here).  Michael B., the owner of Rakestraw, told me when I was at Chloe and Jessica's event that I needed to come back for Matt.  So I did.  He is definitely very engaging in person.  And the book was good.  3.25/4

8.  The French Girl, Lexie Elliott (mystery).  I got this as an ARC from Berkeley, Penguin Random House.  It's a debut novel, and I liked it. 3.25/4

9.  The Mark of Wu, Stephen M. Gray (fiction/thriller/historical).  I got this ARC from Stephen's publicist, Stephanie Barko.  It's book 1 in a series.  For most of the book, I was pretty sure I wouldn't read #2.  But it turns out that the book grew on me.  And now I think I would.  I want to know what happens to the main characters.  2.75/4

10. Where'd You go, Bernadette, Maria Semple (contemporary fiction).  I used to go to the Los Gatos Library Tuesday Night Book Club all the time. But since our leader, Melissa, left, I haven't been there.   When I saw on an email that the club would be doing this book in March, I decided to get it and show up.  I had seen this book around a lot, and it was an excuse to finally read it.  It didn't blow me away, but I liked it well enough.  3/4

11.  the family next door, Sally Hepworth (contemporary fiction).  This is Sally's 4th, and latest.  If you recall (and why would you?), I read Sally's 1st 3 books last year and gave them all a 3.75/4.  This one was a smidge below those but still absolutely a very worthy read.  3.625/4

Hopefully, I will be able to resume some kind of normal blogging schedule.  We shall see.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

It's Time for Random Bits of VERY Interesting Information

1.  Starting May 22, PBS will be running an 8-episode series about the most popular books of all time with a whole cast of well-known authors participating.  If you want more details, just google PBS' The Great American Read 2018.

2.  The 3rd book - Still Me - in JoJo Moyes Me Before you series was released on January 30.  Goodreads rating is 4.32/5, and Amazon is 4.7/5.  As you all know, Me Before You was a 4/4 for me. And the 2nd one, After You, was still good enough to garner a 3.5/4.  I'm definitely looking forward to #3.

3.  John Hart's next book, Hush, will be released a week from today, Tuesday, February 27!  I love his novels (plus, he really does respond to your FB posts).

4.  Daniel Silva's 18th Gabriel Allon, The Other Woman, will hit the bookstores on July 17.  A friend of mine said, after reading #17, that he was probably done.  I know that I will never be done unless Silva is done.

5.  The Guernsey and Literary Potato Peel Pie Society, which I really liked, is being made into a movie.  One of the authors, Annie Barrows, is part of a 2-person screenwriting team.  The movie will hit Australia, the UK, and New Zealand in April.  I don't know when it gets to the U.S.  But I do know that Lily James, of Downton Abbey, Cinderella, and Darkest Hour fame, has the starring role.

6.  Sheldon Siegel's 9th book in the Mike and Rosie series - Serve and Protect - will be out March 8.  This is very good news indeed.  Let's not forget that Sheldon is an RBC veteran!  And I'm still waiting for him to announce the date and time of his launch (it will probably be at Book Passage in Corte Madera).

7.  I am getting ready to put together #11 in my Fiction for the Non-Fiction Reader (FFTNFR) group. #10 was on June 8 of last year.  And I have read a bunch of very good books since then.  I will probably have that ready before the month is out.  And if you are interested in what books are on the #1-#10 lists, let me know.  I will be happy to provide you links.

8.  I went to my Books, Inc. 4th Tuesday Night Book Club on January 30 and learned that Books, Inc. sold over 160 copies of The Alice Network! (I reviewed it on January 21.)

As soon as I post this, I will immediately start a new list.  There's just too much stuff happening in the literary world to not take notice of it.  I'm sure you would agree.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Another Author Event - This One A Brit

Back on January 10, I went to Rakestraw books in Danville to see both Chloe Benjamin and Jessica Shattuck.  And as we were leaving, Michael, the owner, told me to come back on February 13 to see Matt Haig.  Well, we all know what an author/bookstore owner kiss-up I am.  So, what could I do?  I showed up on 2/13 to see Matt.  Michael was right.  Matt was very entertaining.  But, more importantly, he had some very interesting things to say.  Here are a few of his bon mots:

1.  His book, How to Stop Time, was nominated for Most Romantic Novel of the year in 2017.
2.  He started by writing 8 business books in order to pay the rent.
3.  He was 1 of 17 screenwriters for the movie Paddington.
4.  The 1st paragraph he wrote in HtST ended up on page 314!
5.  He's written 14 books, including some for children.
6.  He is character-, not plot-, driven.
7.  And the best ones of all:  Actor Benedict Cumberbatch has purchased the movie rights!  And,
8.  The 1st draft of the movie has already been written, and it was by the same screenwriter who wrote Darkest Hour (Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill) and The Theory of Everything (Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking).  How cool is that?

Here are a few pictures from the event:

  Matt Haig on the left; Michael on the right

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Book Signing with 4 Romance Authors - and "10 Reasons Why I Love You"

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!

Since today is Valentine's Day, it seems appropriate to discuss romantic topics.  Let's start with something that I mentioned in my last post.  Do you remember (it's only been 3 days!) that there is a scene in Kristin Harmel's The Life Intended in which the protagonist comes across her deceased husband's papers?  And he had written a hundred reasons why he loved her?  Do you also remember that I said I was going to make a list of 10 reasons why I love Joni?  Well, I did it.  And I would have to say that it went over pretty darn well.  Did anybody try that?  If you did, let us know how it went.

So this past Sunday we had 4 romance authors do a book selling/signing at Recycle during Downtown Campbell's Farmers Market.  They are Jennifer Skully (Jasmine Haynes), Sonja Rouillard (Kate Allure), Jenny Anderson, and Ava Bradley.  Here are some pictures:

Jennifer Skully

Sonja Rouillard

Jenny Anderson

Ava Bradley

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Review of the winner of the Help Me contest

As I'm sure you all recall, Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng, was the book in my TBR pile that got the most votes (5).  So I read it.  And as I'm sure you all also know, I wasn't a big fan of Celeste's 1st book, Everything I Never Told You.  So I went into this one with a tad bit of trepidation.  Well, I'm happy to report that I definitely liked LFE better than EINTY.

Here's what it's about:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned - from the layout of the winding roads to the colors of the houses to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Enter Mia Warren - an enigmatic artist and single mother - who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter, Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons.  Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants:  all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair.  But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town - and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past.  But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

Let me start by telling you that this book talks about important things, like adoption, abortion, and surrogacy.  My only real criticism is that it took Celeste too long to get to these issues.  I know an author oftentimes has to lead up to what she wants to say.  But I would have enjoyed the book even more if she had started sooner.

Since I led with what disappointed me, let me now tell you what I liked about the book:

1.  There are not a bunch of clunky similes, which I didn't think was so true of her 1st one.  In fact, here's a quote from my review of book #1: "The author overuses similes, IMHO.  It got to be so frequent that they actually jumped off the page and smacked me.  This was definitely NOT the case with LFE.
2.  On page 75, the youngest Richardson, Izzy, connects with Mia.  I really enjoyed their relationship.
3.  The book is very well-written.  Here are a couple of examples:
Referring to a teenager:  "He seemed embarrassed, too, as if he had just revealed a fondness for a very uncool TV show."
"The silence seemed to stretch itself out like taffy."
4.  There is one passage about Mia's talkative work friend that I strongly agree with:  "Mia shared very little in return, but she'd learned over the year that people seldom noticed this, if you were a good listener - which meant you keep the other person talking about herself."  Have you ever noticed that most people are quite content to talk about themselves? Pay special attention to those who ask you the 2nd question.  These are the people that are interested in you.
5.  One personal note:  The book starts with a big house fire.  We had one of those back in 1996.  Reading about this one brought back tons of memories.  Not fun!

So, all in all, I enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere.  I didn't have much of an emotional reaction to it.  And the ending was not my favorite.  But I still rated it a 3.5/4.  I obviously liked it quite a bit.  So thanks to all for recommending it to me.