Monday, December 30, 2019

Books 3.5/4 and up in 2019

Here are the books I read/listened to that I rated 3.5/4 or up.  The total is 31 out of 79, an average of 39%!  That doesn't count a bunch of 3.25s and 3.0s.  It was a darn good year.  And for all of you who recommended books that are on this list...THANK YOU!

4.0 - 6
What She Left Behind - Ellen Marie Wiseman
The Winemaker's Wife - Kristin Harmel
In Pieces - Sally Field (audiobook)
All the Devils - Barry Eisler
The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell - Robert Dugoni (audiobook)
Windy City Blues - Renee Rosen

3.75 - 7
The Life She Was Given - Ellen Marie Wiseman
The Great Alone - Kristin Hannah
Swimming for Sunlight - Allie Larkin
The Girl He Used to Know - Tracey Garvis Graves
Mending Fences - Suzanne Woods Fisher
When We Meet Again - Kristin Harmel
The Huntress - Kate Quinn

3.625 - 2
The New Girl - Daniel Silva
The Only Woman in the Room - Marie Benedict

3.5 - 15
A Column of Fire - Ken Follett
The Beautiful Stranger - Camille Di Maio
Beschert - Erin Gordon
The Killer Collective - Barry Eisler
Madam Love, Actually - Rich Amooi
The Memory of Us - Camille Di Maio
The Library of Lost and Found - Phaedra Patrick
The Last Train to London - Meg Waite Clayton
Born a Crime - Trevor Noah (audiobook)
The Lost Girls of Paris - Pam Jenoff
Good Luck with That - Kristan Higgins
Beneath a Scarlet Sky - Mark Sullivan
American Dirt - Jeanine Cummins
Just Watch Me - Jeff Lindsay
The Eighth Sister - Robert Dugoni
Why Can't I Be You - Allie Larkin

Total - 31

Friday, December 27, 2019

A Review That Took Me Way Too Long To Post

Back in May, I read Swimming for Sunlight, by Allie Larkin.  I loved it. And we already had her scheduled to come to the RBC in November.  So why haven't I written a review, you ask?  For the same reason I haven't written dozens of others!...I don't know.  But it is what it is, as they say. In any case, and even though I included it in my list of 22 books that I recommend you all read, I want to take a couple of minutes to give it its own post.  Here's the storyline:

Katie Ellis gave up everything in her divorce to gain custody of her fearful, faithful rescue dog, Bark. Anxious about her next steps, she returns to her hometown in Florida to live with her grandmother Nan.
In her youth, Nan was a mermaid performer in a roadside attraction show, swimming and dancing underwater with a close-knit cast of talented women.  Most of the mermaids have since lost touch, but Katie helps Nan search for her old friends online, sparking hopes for a reunion show and reigniting Katie's crippling fear of water.  Katie offers to design their costumes.  As the show takes shape, she struggles to balance her hopes with her anxiety, and begins to realize just how much Bark's fears are connected to her own in this charming novel about hope after loss and friendships that span generations.

Allie combines humor with many poignant moments (aka I cried a lot!). Plus her writing is excellent.  At one point, Katie's grandma wants Katie to sit with grandma's friends.  Here is Katie's reaction:
"Sitting by the pool to chat with the ladies would be like squeezing a lemon with a hand covered in paper cuts."  That doesn't leave much to the imagination, does it?

A couple of things stick out for me in this book:
1.  I loved all of the characters.  That doesn't happen too often.
2.  In most books, my biggest flowing moments are toward the end.  In SfS, it happened throughout (although I actually sobbed 38 pages from the end).

And, finally, every once in a while a get a takeaway from a book.  It's pretty rare, but when it does happen, it leaves me with something that I actually try to incorporate into my life.  In this case, it's this:  "I was going to be the person who showed up for her because friendship is a love story too."  For me, this is right on.

So, despite the fact that a dog is a central character in Swimming for Sunlight (you all know that I tend to stay away from animal-centric books, although I did like The Art of Racing in the Rain), I highly recommend this book.  And out of 11 people who read it and came to the RBC meeting, the lowest rating was a 3.75/4!  Are you kidding me? That's unheard of.  Do yourself a favor and pick this one up.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

My First Renee Rosen...But Definitely Not My Last!

Melissa strikes again.  She strongly urged me to read Windy City Blues, by Renee Rosen.  And I liked it so much that I immediately bought Park Avenue Summer.  It's sitting in my (increasingly growing) TBR pile.  But back to WCB.  This is historical fiction at its finest.  Renee gives us a story that I knew nothing about (big surprise, eh?).  It's about the record industry in Chicago in the mid-1900s.  Here is the blurb:

In the middle of the twentieth century, the music of the Mississippi delta arrived in Chicago, drawing the attention of entrepreneurs like the Chess brothers.  Their label, Chess Records, helped shape that music into the Chicago blues, the sound track for a transformative era in American history.  
But for Leeba Groski, Chess Records was just where she worked...
Leeba doesn't exactly fit in, but her passion for music is not lost on her neighbor Leonard Chess, who offers her a job at his new record company.  What begins as answering phones and filing becomes much more as Leeba comes into her own as a songwriter and befriends performers like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Chuck Berry and Etta James.  But she also falls in love with a black blues guitarist named Red Dupree.
With their relationship unwelcome in segregated Chicago and the two of them shunned by Leeba's Orthodox Jewish family, Lee and Red soon find themselves in the middle of the civil rights movement, and they discover that in times of struggle, music can bring people together.
Sound good?  It is.  Here is what we learn from this book:
1.  How the blues came to be on a national scale
2.  How record companies recorded, distributed, and sold records (still the same today?)
3.  Details of the Civil Rights movement
4.  Details of the Orthodox Jewish religion
5.  The obstacles that a white woman and black man faced as a couple

Besides this being such a good historical fiction novel, it was also just a good novel.  I teared up multiple times (are you stunned?), dropped a jaw once or twice, and even issued a big verbal "Phew," accompanied by tears of relief.  Need I say more?  This is the first book I am (almost) insisting you read since I listened to The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. Now that's saying a lot!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Jeff Lindsay, of Dexter fame

A couple of times a year, unsolicited, I get books in the mail sent by publishers.  As a blogger, I usually try to read what they send.  Some have been successful (I ALWAYS love getting the latest Coben!), and others...not so much.  In this case, I got a book from Dutton written by Jeff Lindsay. This is the guy who wrote 8 books in the Dexter series, which, as you know, was a successful TV show.  What I got is Just Watch Me.  This is Book 1 about the antihero, Riley Wolfe.  And I have to say that it was pretty darn good.  Here's the blurb:

Sure, Riley Wolfe steals for the money - but mostly he steals for the challenge.
In this series debut, Riley aims for an extraordinary target:  the Crown Jewels of Iran.  Yes, these jewels are worth billions, but Riley's urge to steal them comes down to one simple fact:  it can't be done.  The collection is on tour in America, guarded by space-age electronics and two teams of heavily armed mercenaries.  No one could even think of getting past the airtight security and hope to get away alive, let alone abscond with even a single diamond.
No one except Riley Wolfe.
But this challenge may be more than even he can handle.  Aside from the impenetrable security, Riley is also pursued by a brilliant and relentless cop who has spent his career getting closer and now is barely one step behind him.
With the aid of Monique, his sometime ally and a master art forger, Riley Wolfe goes for the prize that will confirm his legend - or, more likely, leave him dead.
A mesmerizing heist novel for now, this is the book fans of Jeff Lindsay and the wildly successful Dexter Series have been waiting for.

It's not often that the main protagonist is a bad guy.  But he sure is interesting.  The story is pretty complex, but it all makes sense.  It's well written and even comes with some surprises.  I would definitely recommend it.  And I am looking forward to #2.  3.5/4

Sunday, December 1, 2019

22 Reviews!...I mean 22 titles

Can you believe that I am at least 35-40 reviews behind?  Well, it's true. And since it's not possible for me to catch up, I'm taking the chicken's way out.  I will instead list 22 books that I strongly urge you to read. These would all go on my recommend table at Recycle Books on Sunday mornings.  If they're not there yet, they will be (if the store has them).  I am listing all 22 by genre.  This might help you decide which one(s) you'll want to read.  Side note:  I've got one audiobook in this group that I might say a few words about.

Robert Dugoni - The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell (audiobook)
Jeanine Cummins - American Dirt
Erin Gordon - Beschert
Phaedra Patrick - The Library of Lost and Found
Kristin Hannah - The Great Alone
Ally Larkin - Swimming for Sunlight
Daniel Silva - the New Girl
Kristin Higgins - Good Luck with That

Historical Fiction
Marie Benedict - The Only Woman in the Room
Kristin Harmel - The Winemaker's Wife
Kristin Harmel - Until We meet Again
Kate Quinn - The Huntress
Mark Sullivan - Beneath a Scarlet Sky
Marie Ellen Wiseman - the Life She Was Given
Camille Di Maio - The Memory of Us
Meg Waite Clayton - The Last Train to London
Pam Jenoff - The Lost Girls of Paris

Barry Eisler - The Killer Collective
Barry Eisler - All the Devils

Tracy Garvis Graves - The Girl He Used to Know

Romantic Comedy
Rich Amooi - Madam Love, Actually

Religious Fiction
Suzanne Woods Fisher - Mending Fences

Now, about that audiobook, I have a funny story to tell.  A few months ago, our renowned, highly respected, and overall good guy RBC author, Sheldon Siegel, recommended I contact a friend of his, Robert Dugoni, for the RBC.  So, of course, I did.  What I didn't know when I sent the feelers out is that Robert lives in the Seattle area.  But he still said sure, that he would be in the area in early April and would be happy to come to our meeting.  So we set a date for April 2 and picked a book, The Eight Sister (he's written a bunch).  Shortly after that, I get a message from my top source for excellent books, Melissa Amster, who says that I absolutely must listen to an audiobook by none other than Robert Dugoni, called The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell.  Mind you, this is the first time Melissa has ever insisted that I listen to an audiobook, and she had no idea that I had scheduled Robert for the RBC!  Joni and I picked up a copy from the local library and proceeded to be absolutely mesmerized by the book and the narrator, who is Robert himself (award-winning, I might add).  Joni and were worried that maybe the book was better in audio form than print form.  WRONG!  We now know people who have read the print version and came away with the same opinion.  People, whatever format you use, read this book.  It is absolutely outstanding.
P.S.  I asked Robert if we could switch to Sam Hell for our RBC meeting on April 2.  He said sure.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Still Another Author Event

I know that I am abysmally behind on my reviews.  But I've got 1 more author event to tell you about.  Then I will DEFINITELY post some reviews.  This was a particularly unusual event for me to attend.  But it turns out that I have a personal connection to the protagonist of the book.  I will get to that in a minute.  First, the book is The Great Pretender:  The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness, by Susannah Cahalan (author of Brain on Fire).  She was at Kepler's in conversation with Shaili Jain (a local physician/scientist who has written her own book, The Unspeakable Mind).

Susannah's book is about an experiment undertaken by Stanford Professor of Psychology, David Rosenhan, back in 1973.  "Rosenhan's work demonstrated that staff working at psychiatric hospitals, including psychiatrists, could be easily misled to diagnose schizophrenia when individuals were perfectly sane and reported the mistreatment of patients in these facilities." Susannah talks about the experiment and gives her opinion on how it was conducted.  David's article was published back then in the magazine Science.

So here's the personal connection.  We have very close friends, Steve and Diane, who live in NY.  Steve's niece, Sheri, lives in the Bay Area.  We see Sheri and her husband, Jack, socially.  Jack's last name you ask?  Yep, it's Rosenhan.  Jack's father was David, the subject of The Great Pretender.  When we found out about this event, it was a no brainer. We just wanted to be there.

Here are a whole bunch of pictures:

Susannah is on the right.

the Kepler's employee who emceed

Jack Rosenhan, David's son

Monday, November 18, 2019

2 Author Events

A few weeks ago, I had an opportunity to see Ruta Sepetys on tour.  She is that rare author who writes historical fiction for young adults.  I loved her WWII books, Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray (which, not surprisingly, has since had a name change!).  Her latest, The Fountains of Silence, takes place in Franco-led Spain in the 50's.  People, Ruta can flat-out write.  If you're going to start reading her, I would recommend Salt to the Sea first.  P.S.  In case you haven't figured it out yet, you do NOT have to be a young adult to enjoy Ruta's books.

And yesterday I had a chance to see Hampton Sides.  For those of you that don't know who Hampton is, he is a writer of historic events.  I read one quite a few years ago.  It's Ghost Soldiers and is the story of the death march to Bataan in the Philippines during WWII.  Although I haven't read any of his other books, Ghost Soldiers is really good.  His latest, On Desperate Ground, is about the Battle of Chosin during the Korean War.  Do you want to know the good part?  The event was at the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) in downtown Pleasanton, AND there were several veterans there who were in the military during the Korean Way.  One of them was even in the Battle of Chosin!  The veterans were given a standing ovation.  Very cool.

This is the only time that Douglas McArthur and President Truman ever saw each other in person.

Monday, November 11, 2019

3 New Books and 1 New Bookstore!

Hi all.  I've got 4 intros for you:

1.  You all know how much I liked Alina Sayre's YA series The Voyages of the Legend.   Well, books 1 and 2, The Illuminator's Gift and The Illuminator's Test, are currently in audiobook form.  AND, #3, The Illuminator Rising, will be an audiobook in time for Xmas.

But that's not the biggest news for Alina.  What I wanted to tell you is that Alina HAS A NEW BOOK!  It's a book of poetry.  And it's called Fire By Night.  Take a look at how Alina describes this book:

Fire by Night isn't an easy book. It's raw; dark in places. But as the days shorten and the dark comes early, it's also about the authenticity and hope to be found along the way.

You can buy Fire By Night in e-book or paperback form on Amazon. Here's the link:  e-book and paperback.  In a couple of weeks, the paperback will be available at Books, Inc. in Campbell.

2.  Now we have another debut.  C. Lee McKenzie, whose The Princess of Las Pulgas is certainly one of my favorite YA's ever(!), has a brand new YA.  It's called Not Guilty, and I enjoyed it a lot.  Here are some links so that you don't have to search for ways to buy it.  You can't go wrong with a C. Lee McKenzie book.

3.  Did I mention that there's a new bookstore in town?  Towne Center Books in Pleasanton, where I have seen many great authors, has opened a 2nd store, this one in Livermore.  The address is 2375 Railroad Avenue. P.S.  Hampton Sides, who wrote The Ghost Soldiers, an excellent accounting of the march to Bataan during WWII, will be at Veterans Hall, 301 Main Street, Pleasanton, this Sunday, November 17, at 2:00.  Thank you, Towne Center Books.  I will be there!

4.  And, finally, something I found out today...KRISTIN HARMEL HAS A NEW BOOK COMING OUT JULY 21, 2020.  Yes, I know it's a little bit down the road.  But we can all start getting excited now, can't we?  Of course we can.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

A Book Club Meeting That Was Very Bittersweet

Last week I went to the 4th Tuesday Night Book Club meeting at Books, Inc, in Palo Alto.  It was a very bittersweet evening for me.  Why, you ask?  Well, on the sweet side, the book we read and talked about was Meg Waite Clayton's The Last Train to London (I reviewed this on August 16).  And Meg came to the book club meeting!  This is actually not that surprising since Meg has been a member for many years and was the one who suggested I look into it 4-5 years ago.  But it was still great having her there.  For those who didn't read my review (shame on you!), it's an excellent book about Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer (Truus), a Dutch woman (not Jewish) who helped get as many as 10,000 Austrian Jewish children onto trains and safely into London.  These kindertransports took place between December of 1938 and September 1, 1939, when the war started.

And still talking about the sweet side, the daughter of one of the kids that Truus saved was at the meeting!  That was so cool.  In fact, Meg said that just about everywhere she went on book tour she would meet someone who was connected to those trains.  She said it was a pretty humbling experience on several levels.

Here's some more sweet stuff:
1.  A couple of weeks ago TLTTL was #4 on the bestseller's list in Canada - behind Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, and Ruth Ware, and ahead of Louise Penny!
2.  High schools in Germany and Austria teach classes on the Holocaust while many other countries, including the U.S., do not.
3.  Truus kept working to save Jewish children throughout WWII, not just in the months prior to the start of the war.
4.  Meg was selected as 1 of 12 female screenwriters who got to attend a workshop sponsored by Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman.  She said it was an amazing opportunity.

Meg Waite Clayton
Meg and daughter of child rescued by Truus

Now that we've gone through the sweet stuff (and VERY sweet it is), I have tell you about the bitter side.  Margie Scott Tucker, co-owner of the Books, Inc. chain and the book club leader, is retiring.  This book club meeting was her very last.  She will not be replaced.  I have been to many meetings over the years.  And there is nobody that I've ever seen that can run a book club meeting like Margie does/did.  Her inside knowledge of the book industry gave the members info that made you feel like the author was there.  I know I will miss it a lot.  Enjoy that retirement, Margie!

Margie Scott Tucker (with the purse in front of her)

Monday, October 7, 2019

Barry Eisler Launches His Next Livia Lone - Hurray!

There are 1 or 2 days every year that I really look forward to.  These are the days that Barry Eisler launches his next book.  Every event is at Kepler's, and every launch is fun because Barry is a kick.  But here's the best part: He's really a good writer!  The launch this time (9/26) was for his next Livia Lone story, called All the Devils.  I will be writing my review of this one soon.  But let me give you a hint...I LOVED IT!  

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Last Train to London, by Meg Waite Clayton - PLEASE READ THIS BOOK!

I think most of us have read our share of historical fiction.  And a lot of it centers on WWII.  Well, Meg Waite Clayton's The Last Train to London is certainly in that category.  But that's where the similarities end.  First of all, the story does not take place in France or Germany.  It mostly happens in Austria.  Second, the story starts in 1936 and ends in 1940. Most historical fiction runs during the war itself.  Third, this is all about a Dutch woman, Truus Wijsmuller-Meijer, who saved thousands of Jewish children.  An historical fiction writer by the name of Kristin Hannah (ever heard of The Nightingale and The Great Alone? uh...yeah) said:  "An absolutely fascinating, beautifully rendered story of love, loss, and heroism in the dark days leading up to World War II."

I'm not going to post the blurb about the book.  I think you can get the gist from the 1st paragraph.  But let me give you some observations about the book along with some practical matters relating to publication, book tour, and distribution.  First, some of my thoughts about The Last Train to London:

1.  It's a story that I'm pretty sure has never been told.
2.  The amount of research that went into this book is mind-boggling.
3.  I had my share of emotional reactions, but I don't typically cry.  There is a scene where I actually did cry.  And I am perfectly fine with that!
4.  Meg is such a darn good writer.  So if you combine good writing with great storytelling and fascinating material, The Last Train to London is what you get.

Now on to non-content considerations:

1.   The book is available September 10.  You can, of course, preorder it.
2.   Meg's launch will be at Books, Inc. in Palo Alto on Monday, September 9, at 7:00.  Everybody is welcome.
3.   Meg will also be in Northern California bookstores on September 10, 11, 12, 20, 24, and 26 (you can go on her website for locations).
4.   Bookstores have made Last Train an Indie pick for September.
5.   Booklist has given it a starred rating.
6.   Publisher's Weekly calls it "standout historical fiction."
7.   It's being published in 19 languages.
8.   Meg's film rep will be presenting it to the studios.
9.   Here's the link to Meg's website:  The Last Train to London
10. And, finally, her screenplay version of the book has earned her a spot in The Writer's Lab, sponsored by Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman.

Is that enough publishing bling for you?  People, this one will grab you. Get a copy on September 10 so that you can start reading it right away!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Daniel Silva in the Bay Area

Daniel Silva made his only Northern California appearance last night at the JCC in Palo Alto to promote his 19th Gabriel Allon book, The New Girl.  When we saw him 2 years ago at the same venue, the interview was dry.  But not last night!  His wife, noted Washington D.C. journalist, Jamie Gangel, did the interviewing this time.  And it was anything but dry.  Aside from the teasing that went back and forth between the 2 of them, we learned a whole bunch of interesting things about Silva and his books.  Here they are in bullet point form:

1.  At the time Silva started writing his latest book, there was a Saudi prince who looked like he was going to break tradition and actually reach out to Israel.  The Israelis and allies were very excited.  The possibilities seemed endless.  But then came Khashoggi.  As you probably remember, he was assassinated at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul.  It turned out that this Saudi prince that everybody was so excited about was in on it.  Now why does this matter to Silva?  Well, he had written 250 pages of the new book specifically about a Saudi prince who was leaning toward allying with Israel.  So what did Silva do?  He took the 250 pages and dumped them in the garbage can...literally! Since he only has 6 months to write his book each year, he had to basically spend all of his time writing, even when he was on vacation with his family!
2.  On a completely different note, Bill Clinton says that Gabriel Allon is his favorite fictional character of all time!
3.  Dick Cheney says he dreams about Allon!
4.  We all know that Allon is a world-class art restorer.  It turns out that he is patterned after a very close friend of Silva's who is also a world-renowned art restorer.
5.  Not surprisingly, art restorers LOVE Allon!
6.  Silva writes his books almost exclusively on yellow legal notepads with a specific type of pencil (and many of them).  He does NOT like anybody (including his wife) to touch those pencils.  And after he finishes a section longhand, then he will type it up.
7.  Somebody asked him what his 5 favorite books are:  1984, The Great Gatsby, The Sheltering Sky, The Quiet American, Lolita.
8.  All research is done by Silva, his own self.
9.  When it was my turn to get my book signed, I told him that the plotline for The Unlikely Spy (his 1st book and still my #1 Silva), is one of my favorites of all time.  He said that he's been rereading parts of that book in preparation for doing something with it.  Very cryptic, but equally exciting.

Crazy stuff, right?  Here are some pics:

We went with Rich and Leslie.  Here is Rich getting his book signed.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

A Couple of Interesting Articles (plus a warehouse sale)

Hi all,

I've got a couple of very interesting articles about independent bookstores and book sales:

Book Sales News in U.S. for 2018 Announced

One more announcement:

Books, Inc. is having its semi-annual warehouse sale on Saturday, July 20, at 150 Vermont Street, San Francisco.  It starts at 9:00 and goes all day.  And they not only have thousands of books on sale at a 30%-80% discount.  They also sell toys, greeting cards, gifts, and even furniture! Don't miss it.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Cara Black on tour

It's always fun to see Cara Black on book tour.  I try to make it every year, when I can.  So Joni and I saw her this past Tuesday night at Books, Inc. in Palo Alto.  But wait!  This wasn't just any book tour.  Why not, you ask?  I'll tell you why not:

1.  Her latest Aimée Leduc celebrates 20 years!  And with the same publisher!  How cool is that?
2.  Although she had her launch the night before, we saw her on the day Murder in Bel-Air hit the bookstores.
3.  Books, Inc. provided a cake for Cara and guests (see below).
4.  Cara has agreed to come back to the RBC!  We will be welcoming her with arms wide open on January 22, 2020.

Here are some pictures from the event.  And take a look at #3.  Do you think there might have been a whole bunch of people there, with most of them buying a book?  I would say yes to that.

Sunday, June 2, 2019


Hello all.  Here are some random literary-related tidbits for your edification, notification, and gentrification (huh?) :

1.  All the Light We Cannot See is coming to Netflix as a limited series.  As of now, there is no date or casting.

2.  Have you read Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts?  It's really good.  Here is a short blurb I wrote about it a few years ago.:

The story takes place starting in 1933 when a college history professor is appointed by FDR to become ambassador to Germany in Berlin.  It not only addresses the rise to power of Hitler, but it also talks about what being an ambassador meant in those days.  This is the same guy who wrote Devil in the White City, about the 1896 World's Fair in Chicago.  I liked this one much better.

Tom Hanks will be co-producing a big screen version of it.  There are no details as of yet.

 3.  Take a look at this article by author Steve Berry, he of the Cotton Malone series.  It's about the benefits of adult literacy from reading books as an adolescent.  Pretty heady stuff.…/artic…/pii/S0049089X18300607

4.  The owners of the Books, Inc. chain, Michael and Margie Still Tucker, will be retiring in October! I have been a member of the Books, Inc. Tuesday Night Book Club in Palo Alto for a few years now. Margie actually runs the book club.  She is very knowledgeable and does a great job.  I, among many, many others, will miss her. 

5.  Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain will be coming to the multiplexes on August 19.  This is a book I stayed away from only because there is a picture of a dog on the front.  And as some of you may know, I'm really not interested in stories revolving around animals.  HOWEVER, I really liked this book.  The movie starts Milo Ventimiglia (TV's This Is Us) and Amanda Seyfried.  The voice of Enzo, the canine narrator, is Kevin Costner.

6.  And speaking of books that are being made into movies, how about the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Goldfinch?  It comes out on September 19 and stars Nicole Kidman.  Need I remind you that I read 19 pages and said:  "Uh, no.  I can't do 700 pages if they are like the first 19."...or words that that effect?  You don't remember I said that?  Maybe it was just in my head as I wrote the letters DNF (did not finish) in my list of books read.

That's it, y'all.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Another Excellent Kristin Harmel Novel Right Around the Corner

You all know what I think of Kristin Harmel's books.  I gave The Life Intended and The Room on Rue Amelie 4/4.  The Sweetness of Forgetting didn't earn a 4/4.  That's because I rated it a 4+/4!  It was just too good to give it "only" a 4.  (Do you remember how you used to occasionally get an A+ on a school assignment?  Yeah, me neither.)  So certainly her latest, The Winemaker's Wife (which hits bookstores in August), could not match those earlier three novels...WRONG!  It is also outstanding (did you see the title of this post?).  Here's the storyline:

Champagne, 1940:  Ines has just married Michel, the owner of storied champagne house Maison Chauveau, when the Germans invade.  As the danger mounts, Michel turns his back on his marriage to begin hiding munitions for the Resistance.  Ines fears they'll be exposed, but for Celine, half-Jewish wife of Chauveau's chef de cave, the risk is even greater - rumors abound of Jews being shipped east to an unspeakable fate.  When Celine  recklessly follows her heart in one desperate bid for happiness, and Ines makes a dangerous mistake with a Nazi collaborator, they risk the lives of those they love - and the champagne house that ties them together. 

New York, 2019:  Liv Kent has just lost everything when her eccentric French grandmother shows up unannounced, insisting on a trip to France.  But the older woman has an ulterior motive - and a tragic, decades-old story to share.  When past and present finally collide, Liv finds herself on a road to salvation that leads right to the caves of the Maison Chauveau.

I admit that I love a good story that goes back and forth between a different time and the present.  That captured my attention immediately.  But there's got to be a whole bunch more to keep my interest.  And there was that in TWW.  Kristin not only gives us a different historical perspective for Germany-occupied France during WWII (as it related to wineries); but she also presents us with the present-day mystery of family connections for both Liv and her grandmother, Edith.  Intrigued?  How could you not be.

It's unfortunate that you will have to wait until August before you can get a copy of The Winemaker's Wife.  But do you know what I will be doing while you are reading Kristin's book?  Two things, actually.  First, I am hoping that I will be able to see her in person on book tour, IF she comes to Northern California (are you reading this, Ms./Mr. Publisher?). And, second, I will be impatiently waiting for Kristin's next book!  Keep writing, Kristin, keep writing.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A Very Unique Author Event

Last Thursday night, Joni and I went to see Rick Snyder, an old friend of our son, Josh.  They went all the way through elementary and middle school together.  But unlike all of the times we saw Rick at our house, this time we went to Books, Inc. in Berkeley to see him and hear about his book, DECISIVE INTUITION:  USE YOUR GUT INSTINCTS TO MAKE SMART BUSINESS DECISIONS.  And, boy, are we glad we did.  We haven't read the book yet. But Rick captivated us, and the entire audience, for nearly an hour.  He definitely knows his stuff and how to present it.  Here is Rick's dedication:

     This book is dedicated to the individual divine spark inside us that we carry, often forget, and sometimes have to be reminded about daily. May we each continue to bring our deep listening and curiosity to this subtle whisper, our quiet confidant and reliable copilot that simply wants to guide us toward our greatest triumphs, fulfillment, and joy, no matter how much we kick and scream along the 

Have I piqued your curiosity?  I thought so.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Martina McBride and Her New Cookbook

Last Saturday, Joni and I went to a little bit of a different author event. First of all, it took place at a very cool winery in Napa.  Secondly, the author is one of the most successful country singers of our generation. And, thirdly, a cookbook still counts as a book, right?  Yep, we were at Calmere Estate Winery. And the world-famous country singer/cookbook author is...Martina McBride!  How cool is that?  We ended up with appetizers, salad (see below), entree (see below), and dessert, all from Martina's cookbook, Martina's Kitchen Mix.  And between courses we got to give Martina a bunch of questions that she graciously answered.  Plus, we had a good table, as you can see from the 1st picture.  Kudos to Karen West, of Book Passage, for being a great emcee.  And, as usual, Book Passage put on a terrific event.