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.