Saturday, December 25, 2021

The Pilot's Daughter, by Meredith Jaeger, Is a MUST Read

I finished The Pilot's Daughter, by Meredith Jaeger, about an hour ago. I'm sorry it took me so long to get to the review!  What a book!  This is so darn good.  It's historical fiction that goes back and forth from the early 1920's in New York and the mid-1940's in San Francisco.  The story centers on Ellie Morgan and her Aunt Iris, who both live in San Francisco.  The story begins with a telegram from the Adjutant General's office, saying that Ellie's dad, William Morgan, was reported missing over the Adriatic Sea during WWII.  Ellie wants to find out whether her father is actually dead and goes to great lengths to get the answer.  She enlists the aid of her aunt.  

That's all I'm going to tell you about the story.  There are plenty of surprises during Ellie's quest.  And I was riveted on every page.  Let me also say that I had plenty of emotional moments, far too many to count (or be held accountable for).  Meredith does a great job of making us care not only about Ellie and Iris, but also about several of the other key characters in the story.

What did I particularly like about The Pilot's Daughter?  I'm glad you asked:

1.  I liked the short distance between the 2 timeframes.  It made both stories come to life for me.
2.  I liked how I cared so much about multiple characters.
3.  I liked that the story took place in San Francisco and New York, great locations for the storyline.
4.  I liked that I hated to put the book away and was so excited to pick it back up.
5.  I liked the Author's Note...a lot.

I read a lot of historical fiction.  I've read some excellent authors - Kate Quinn, Kristin Harmel, Kristen Hannah, Renee Rosen, Marie Benedict, Stephanie Dray, Heather Webb & Hazel Gaynor.  I could go on.  Well, book fans, you can add Meredith Jaeger to that list.  I definitely enjoyed her 2nd book, Boardwalk Summer.  But The Pilot's Daughter elevates her into the ranks of the elite.  You want proof?  Go to Goodreads and check her rating.  Take a look at how many 5 star ratings she got.  I'm not the only one who thinks this is a great book.

Read it! 

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Another Top Notch YA from C. Lee McKenzie

Those of you who have followed my blog for a few years (would the 3 of you please raise your hands?) know that The Princess of Las Pulgas, by C. Lee McKenzie, is my favorite YA.  Now I have read all of Lee's YA and middle grade novels.  And I have definitely liked them all.  But I have to say that Lee's latest YA, Shattered, is my 2nd favorite behind Princess. Shattered is the story of a 19-year old skier named Libby who is on her way to representing the U.S. in the Winter Olympics.  Except that during a practice run, a snowboarder collides with her, and she wakes up in a hospital without any feeling in her legs.  Was it an accident?  You will find out when you read Shattered.  This is a very engaging story where you will definitely get caught up in what happens after the accident.  As you all know, I am well past the age that YA novels are targeted for.  But it doesn't matter.  This is a book that everyone will enjoy. 


Monday, October 18, 2021

Mini-Mini-Mini Reviews

 Hi all.  I know it's been a heckuva long time since my last post (49 days, to be exact!).  But I'm (kinda) ready to get back to it.  I'm going to start my renaissance as book blogger by giving you the names and ratings (with maybe a comment or 2) of the books I've read since my last post.  Here we (I) go:

Stephanie Dray - The Women of Chateau Lafayette - 4.0 - not only do we learn tons about Lafayette and how he helped America break free of England - but Stephanie also weaves in 2 fictional characters in 2 additional time periods - all 3 are mesmerizing

Gail Tsukiyama - The Samurai's Garden - 3.75 - recommended by an RBC member - thanks, Judy

Renee Rosen - What the Lady Wants - 3.75 - everything she writes is really good

Gail Tsukiyama - Women of the Silk - 3.0 - not as good as TSG, but still very readable

Beverly Jenkins - The Taming of Jessi Rose - 3.25 - historical romance - Beverly is coming to the RBC in early November

Marie Benedict - The Other Einstein - 3.75 - fascinating story about Albert Einstein's first wife, who is, in her own right, a great physicist and mathematician who never got the credit she deserved and earned - Marie writes historical fiction about women who have their own stories to be told but are often overshadowed by the men they are with

Robert Dugoni - The World Played Chess - 3.5 - everything Bob writes is very good - this is no exception - it's not The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell - but, then again, what is?

That'll do it for now.  Get reading, people.  There's a lot of good stuff out there (and in here!)

Thursday, September 9, 2021

A New 4.25!

Back on April 24, 2014, I added a 2nd All-Time Top 12 to my original All-Time Top 12.  And then on September 24, 2015, I put a 13th book in the 2nd ATT12.  Well, almost 6 years later, I'm adding #14 to the 2nd ATT12. The book is called The Clover Girls, by Viola Shipman.  I absolutely loved every minute of it.  Instead of posting the book cover synopsis, I'm just going to tell you what it's about:  4 young girls meet at an all-girls camp in Michigan.  They become best friends and keep coming back year-after-year until they are actually camp counsellors.  36 years after that 1st camp, the 4 women are no longer friends.  What happened, and is there any way it can be fixed?  I am giving you NO hints.

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I teared up or just flat-out cried.  We all know that I'm not exactly stoic after I make an emotional connection with a character or 2.  Well, this time I connected with all 4! And it lasted throughout the book.  But there is so much more to it than just emotions.  There is humor.  There is (perhaps) romance.  There is even another takeaway for me.  And, above all else, the writing is superb.  Here is just one example of an analogy that really resonated with me.  And it concerns one character's mother who has been fading for a very long time and is finally near death:

"The body is like a baseball stadium after the last out is made.  Every living thing begins to stream out of it, it grows quiet, calm, cool, and then the lights begin to shut off, one section at a time, starting with the feet."

How cool is that?  I have read one other Shipman book, called The Recipe Box.  I liked it a lot.  But this one has just joined a very special group.  I welcome you, The Clover Girls, to the top 26 books I have read. Feel proud.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Another Excellent Harmel!

It is such a treat to get a new Kristin Harmel book to read (and review). Everything she writes immediately goes into my-favorite-books-of-the-year category.  And her latest, The Forest of Vanishing Stars, is certainly no exception.  Here is the synopsis:

After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of Eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies.  Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror.  Stunned to learn what's happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest - and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.

As a history major, and a big (huge) fan of historical fiction, I have read a lot of books about WWII.  And, yet, I keep reading about things that I absolutely had no knowledge of (yes, I know you're not supposed to end a sentence or phrase with a preposition).  Harmel has, once again, done that for me.  Her writing and story-telling are exemplary.  And her research always blows me away.  On top of all that (as if that isn't enough), she always makes me care about the characters.  As early as page 55 I was already shaking my head.

I mentioned how good her writing is.  Here are just a couple of examples:

"...worry fluttered in her chest like an uncertain butterfly."
"I'm broken too.  But sometimes it's the jagged edges that allow us to fit together."

I basically say the same thing after every new Harmel:  "Just read it." You will always be happy you did.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Allison Larkin Has done It Again!

You all know how much I have enjoyed Allison's 3 previous books - Swimming for Sunlight, Why Can't I Be You, and Stay.  Now comes her latest, and it's right up there with the others.  It's called The People We Keep.  Here's what it's about:

Little River, New York, 1994:  April Sawicki is living in a run-down motorhome, flunking out of school, and picking up shifts at the local diner.  But when April realizes she's finally had enough - enough of her selfish, absent father and barely surviving in an unfeeling town - she makes a break for it.  Determined to live life on her own terms, April steals a car and hits the road, with only her music to keep her company.

She manages to scrape together a meaningful existence as she travels, encountering people and places that grab hold of her heart.  From lifelong friendships to tragic heartbreaks, April chronicles her journey in the beautiful songs she writes as she discovers that home is with the people you choose to keep.

Let me start by saying that you will form an emotional connection to April right away (I sure did).  You will worry when she worries.  You will exult when she exults.  And you will ride alongside her to her various destinations.

You have heard ad nauseam from me that my reading of a book is greatly enhanced when I make an emotional connection to the main protagonist.  Well, this happened for me on page 11!  She was getting ready to perform (small spoiler alert), and I was nervous for her.  It never stopped.  I've got "Uh-oh," "Shoot," and a whole bunch of chills, tears, more tears, and actual crying.  This may surprise you since I have a reputation of being a manly man...oh, wait, that must be somebody else I'm thinking of.  Regardless of my soft-hearted nature(!), it still takes a good author to make me emotional.  And, make no mistake, Allison is a VERY good author.

Lest we forget, Allison creates images that stick with you.  Here are just a few examples:

- She refers to a food prep guy who aggressively chops lettuce as the "Lettuce Murderer."
- In leaving someone behind, she says, "There won't ever be an us, but he'll never forget me."
- Referring to a bar owner where April sometimes plays, she says, "There's nothing there, but there's nothing missing."

Do I think you should read The People We Keep?  That's a big 10-4!  It's available August 3.  Mark your calendars!

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

A Review of Book 1 of a Mystery/Thriller Trilogy

Pigeon-Blood Red, by Ed Duncan, is Book 1 of his Pigeon-Blood Red Thrillogy (his word).  I was sent this book (pub 2015) by the author through his publicist, Kelsey Butts of Book Publicity Services.  Here is the storyline:

For underworld enforcer Richard "Rico" Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job.  Retrieve his gangster boss's priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it.  But the chase quickly goes sideway and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.

As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his order to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves? 

This book reminds me of another trilogy, Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. That one is about a young KGB officer on the rise who suddenly gets a conscience.  It's a very good trilogy.  Pigeon-Blood Red has a ways to go before it reaches that level.  But what started out as a pretty unexciting start definitely picked up as it got rolling.  As the plot became more intricate, I became more interested in where it was going and what was going to happen.  By the end, I have to admit that I would be willing to read Books 2 & 3 (both are already on the market).  That speaks more volumes than anything else I might have said.  Ed and Kelsey, let's see where Rico, Paul, and Evelyn go from here.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Peeps, by Erin Gordon - You're Going to Want to Read This One!

Peeps, by Erin Gordon, is a terrific book.  In fact, I was sorry when I finished it.  I really wanted it to keep going.  Once I got over my disappointment that I was done(!), it was time to cogitate a bit before I wrote my review.  There is a LOT to think about with Peeps.  Let me start by giving you a brief synopsis:

A coming-of-middle-age novel, PEEPS is the story of Meg, a 51-year-old podcaster who’s spent her life afraid of “what ifs.” Single after an unexpected divorce, Meg might finally have the chance for what she calls a Big Life, but isn’t sure she can pull it off. After her mother’s death, Meg gathers the courage to seek answers about her disinterested and cruel mother from her uncle. To get to him, she moves out of her Santa Monica home and drives across the country in a new RV she nicknames Irv.

Along the way, Meg conducts interviews for her podcast Peeps, in which she asks everyday people the same seven questions to “peep” into their lives and uncover shared humanity. Meg’s narrative is peppered with lively “transcripts” of her interviews with the ordinary yet fascinating people she meets. The podcast enables Meg to process the complicated grief and relief related to her mother’s death, her divorce, and her only child leaving home for college.

Isn't this a great storyline?  Let me answer that for you...It sure is!  But let me tell you what I really liked (okay, loved) about this book.  And bear with me because it's going to take a while:

1.  I love that Peeps is a "coming-of-middle-age" novel.
2.  I love Meg's interviews with everyday, regular people.  I got very excited every time I saw a new interview was coming up. 
3.  I love the writing.  It's very visual and very thought-provoking.  Here are just a couple of examples:
"Ah, he said, with the drama of a magician about to reveal your card."  
"I felt a little like an energetic puppy called back indoors just moments after being let out into the yard."
"I've always appreciated the notion that what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while."
4.  I love the 7 questions that she asked every interviewee, especially the one where she asked "Who is someone you never saw again?"
5.  As you all know, I love when I get a takeaway from a book.  I actually got 2 from Peeps.  The 1st one is #4.  Think about all the people in your life who just disappeared. I think we all have those who we wonder about.  And the 2nd one is that there are disappointments in our lives that we just have to let go. Otherwise, they can continue to shape who we are.
6.  I love the whole cross-country road trip in her RV, Irv (my father-in-law's name, by the way).  How brave and eye-opening it was for Meg.
7.  I LOVE the interviews!  Have I already told you that?

As you can see, I loved this book.  It's a combination of a whole bunch of things that resonated with me, and that I think will do the same for you. Do yourself a favor and get a copy of Peeps right away!


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Kate Quinn Has Outdone Herself!

As you all (or most of you) know, I am a big fan of Kate Quinn's The Alice Network and The Huntress.  I rated both of them 3.75/4.  I mean, those are high marks!  But The Rose Code has them both beat.  Did I give it a 4/4?  I did not.  Was it 3.8, 3.85, 3.9, or 3.95?  Nope.  Well what's higher than 4/4?  I'll tell you...  it's a 4/4+.  That's right.  It's better than a 4/4. And it's been 3 years since I gave my last 4/4+ (Kristin Harmel's The Sweetness of Forgetting).  This book is just that good.  Let me read the The Rose Code's introduction:

In the autumn of 1939, Hitler's advance seemed unstoppable.  

          German military communications were relayed using
          hand ciphers, teleprinter codes, and above all Enigma
        machines - portable cipher devices that scrambled orders 
      into nonsense so that they could be relayed via Morse code over
            radio transmitters, then unscrambled in the field.

                Even if the scrambled orders were intercepted 
              by the Allies, no one could break the encryption.
                 Germany thought Enigma was unbreakable.

                                       They were wrong.

This is the story of the men and women who worked at Bletchley Park during WWII going non-stop to intercept the German communications and break the codes.  The story centers on 3 very different women.  And you get caught up with each of them from the get-go.  Here are just a few of the reasons that, all combined, blew me away and made me love this book:

1.  Prince Philip (yes, that Prince Philip) has a significant role throughout the book.
2.  The story alternates in the voices of the 3 women.
3.  One of the women writes something called Bletchley Bletherings, which is a little gossip column.
4.  All of the support characters are interesting in and of themselves.
5.  Because it's historical fiction, we get to see Churchill and even that old codebreaker Alan Turing.
6.  There were so many emotional moments where I got chills, or teared up, or uttered an expletive!
7.  It obviously goes without saying, but Kate can really write.

Make sure you read the Author's Note at the end of the book.  It puts a lot of what she wrote about in historical context.  That was also fascinating.  

I have just two questions for Kate.  What's next?  And when?  Please don't make me wait too long!


Saturday, May 1, 2021

Review of a Really Good Book!

Three Words for Goodbye, by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb, is absolutely terrific.  It's about 2 sisters, their grandmother, and a long-distance trip, all of it taking place in 1937.  I couldn't put it down.  Here's what I liked about it:

1.  The writing is very visual.  Some examples:
"A uniformed guard threw open the compartment doors, sending travel-weary passengers spilling out onto the platform and scattering like marbles from a dropped bag."

"...couples holding hands, families and friends flitting around like butterflies, pollinating each other with love and good humor."

"...the way the watercolors blended and softened, running into each other like old friends."

2.  There is a lot of tension throughout the book regarding a particular mode of transportation that we all know about.  I won't say anything more about that, but you will know what I'm referring to soon enough.

3.  Violet, the grandmother, is a great character.  The chapters in her voice stand out.

4.  The relationship between the sisters is something many people can relate to.  Alas, I cannot.  I have 1brother who is 7 years older than me and who I haven't had any contact with for 40 years.  I certainly was engrossed in watching these 2 sisters work on their relationship.

5.  I am a big fan of books that alternate among 2 or more central characters.  The authors do a great job of making the reader anxious to know what all 3 of their protagonists are saying and doing.

6.  I had plenty of emotional moments, including...I can't tell you!  It's too much information!

7.  I just flat-out liked every page.  That is a rare occurrence.

Is that enough to convince you how I felt about Three Words for Goodbye?  I sure hope so.  You'll have to wait until July 27 for it to hit your bookstores.  But make a note.  You're going to want this in your TBR pile right away!

Heather Webb/Hazel Gaynor (l-r)

Saturday, April 10, 2021

My New Podcast

Yep, that's right.  I am now officially a podcaster.  In conjunction with KCAT TV in Los Gatos, CA, I recorded my 1st author interview yesterday under the moniker of Lloyd on Lit.  It will start out as a monthly 30-minute program.  I don't know exactly when it will air yet, but I will keep you all informed.

My 1st guest was Gary Singh, who is a poet, author, columnist, and, generally speaking, literary man about town.  Gary has been writing weekly columns for a local paper called Metro, Silicon Valley since 2005. He has written approximately 800 so far!  And, in fact, he recently published a book that compiles 250+ of his columns.  It's called Silicon Alleys.  I haven't read it yet but will.  (Plus, he's Zooming in to the RBC in July.)

My 2nd author interview will be with Hannah Jayne, author of the urban fantasy series called the Underworld Detection Agency and a bunch of YAs.  That should air sometime in May.  Meanwhile I am working on getting more authors scheduled.  Details to follow.

Here is a picture of Gary and Me from yesterday.  Just what I needed was a set of headphones to make my head look even bigger!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

6 More Books to Read

I have been reading a plethora (pretty good word, eh?) of good books lately.  I've got 6 to show you.  I rated all 6 of them 3.5/4 or higher!  They are all terrific.  Just look up the blurb to decide in what order you want to read them.  I have listed them in the order they were read:

Have You Seen Luis Velez? - Catherine Ryan Hyde

Winter Garden - Kristin Hannah

We Came Here to Forget - Andrea Dunlop

The Four Winds - Kristin Hannah

 How to Save a Life - Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke 

The Storyteller's Secret - Sejal Badani

Monday, March 15, 2021

A Review of Retirement: Your New Adventure, by Bob Boylan

Although I am of retirement age (I'm an early Baby Boomer!), I am not retiring any time soon.  Having said that, I was still very interested in seeing what Bob Boylan has to say about retiring.  I really like his premise of it being a new adventure.  He says to gear up and down, not just down.  That seems like really good advice.  I think the best way of explaining what Bob has to say about retirement is by giving you a bunch of quotes, from him as well as others.  This should explain his philosophy a lot better than my words will.  Here we go:

The windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror.

It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires great strength to decide on what to do.

Many of us have lived lives paralyzed by unexplored yearnings.

An instinct without execution is only a regret.

"Remember when" vs. "Guess what I'll be doing next month?"

Reading is the gymnasium of the mind.

You cannot move toward anything fulfilling if you're not dreaming.

Your past is now your prologue.

*Keep focusing on seeing what you have, instead of what you don't have. 

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.

We become what we think about.

Of course a lot of these aphorisms apply to any age.  But since Retirement: Your New Adventure is specifically geared to freshly minted retirees (not to say that veteran retirees can't learn from it!), I can definitively say that this is a book that new retirees, old retires, and about-to-become retirees can all benefit from right away. 

*This is my favorite because it's all about gratitude.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Odds and Ends - aka "Stuff"

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

1.  Ken Follett is coming out with a new book in November.  And this one will be a drama set in the
modern day.

2.  Michelle Obama's Becoming has just come out in a Young Reader's version.  The adult book is
too daunting for a young reader.  I saw some copies at Recycle this past Wednesday.  I'm pretty
sure it's going to be a big seller.

3.  The RBC just landed John Hart for May 26.  For those who have followed my blog through the
years (the 2 of you know who you are!), you are already aware that I have loved some of his books and have at least liked others.  There's only 1 that I didn't much care for.  Here are the titles and my ratings:

     The Last Child - 4/4
     Iron House - 4/4
     The King of Lies - 3/4
     Down River - 3/4
     Redemption Road - 3.75/4
     The Hush - 2.25/4

I haven't read his latest, The Unwilling, yet...but I will.  And we will be reading The Last Child for book club.

4.  And speaking of the RBC, Susan Meissner will be Zooming in on May 12.  And here's the exciting part of this news (other than the book is really good):  She will be showing us pictures of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, both pre- and post-.  I've seen them, and they are very cool.

5.  I also want to mention that for those who are interested in seeing authors talk about how they got published, their writing process, whose books might be made into big/small screen movies, et al, then you might want to Zoom in to one of our meetings to see if you like it.  If you want to give it a try, email me at, and I can give you more information.

6.  There is no number 6.


Thursday, February 18, 2021

4 Ideas with Actionable Wisdom, by Bob Boylan

4 Ideas with Actionable Wisdom is a very concise, well-written, well-explained, practical self-help book.  Bob Boylan states those 4 Ideas and the means by which we can achieve them.  Let's start by listing the 4:

1.  Calm water thinking will balance your whitewater day.
2.  See your life through the Lens of Gratitude.  
3.  Making changes more effectively:  Focus on One Thing you want 
     to do and One Thing you need to stop doing.
4.  Thinking outside the box requires risk.  And you've done it

Here's a little more detail for each one:

1.  If you drop a pebble in calm water, it creates concentric circles. Think of these as representing your ability to concentrate your thoughts and adding new ones.  Now think of what happens if you drop that same pebble in whitewater.  You can easily see the difference.

2.  This is the one that grabbed me the hardest.  First of all, Boylan gives us a bunch of quotes on gratitude from Oprah Winfrey to Albert Schweitzer to Suze Orman to John Wooden.  This is the definition of a "wide range," yes?  Then he talks about a daily gratitude journal.  It's suggested that you take 10-15 minutes a day to first speak your gratitudes and then write them down.  Now I have to say that I spend a minute or two each night expressing gratitude for the day's events.  But Boylan's plan is more comprehensive and will make me even more grateful.  I started it this morning!

3.  With the idea being that our lives are already full, Boylan tells us that in order to focus on something we want to do, we have to first give up something else.  I like this quote:  "You can't steal 2nd base and keep your foot on 1st."  Boylan also talks about the scene from City Slickers with Jack Palance and Billy Crystal.  Billy asks Jack "What is the secret of life?"  Jack holds up 1 finger.  When Billy asks him what that means, Jack says that's what each of us need to figure out.  Once we have an answer, then we strive to go after it.  This definitely gives me something to think about.

4.  This one is probably the hardest for me.  Thinking outside the box requires taking a risk but, at the same time, is critical for growth.  Boylan gives us a lot of practical suggestions on how to do this.  It calls for a paradigm shift.  And a paradigm is defined as "...your perception of reality."  He indicates that the coronavirus has created a new paradigm shift for all of us.  And he tells us why and how to achieve it.  I will give you a hint that love is involved.  And here are probably my favorite 2 quotes of the book:

"Loyalty to petrified opinions must be broken." - Mark Twain
"If you want to succeed, double your failure rate." - Tom Watson (founder of IBM)

This book has a lot to say.  I think everybody would find that at least one of his 4 Ideas of Actionable Wisdom would resonate.  And, very likely, it could be 2, 3, or 4!  Take a look.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

2 Short Reviews of Very Good Books

My last 2 books have both been terrific.  And one of them is already scheduled for the RBC!  Here are a couple of (very) short reviews:

Faye, Faraway, by Helen Fisher:

This is a very different take on the time travel theme.  All I will tell you is that the protagonist, Faye, is 37-years old and very happily married with 2 children.  Through an extremely odd set of circumstances ( guess that's obvious if it's time travel!), she is transported back to when she was 6, and her mother, who died when Faye was 8, was 26.  Can you see where this one could be headed?  No?  Me, neither.  It's very cleverly done and has an ending you will want to talk to others about.  I've definitely read some good time travel books in my day, and Faye, Faraway, sits right there with the others.

The Nature of Fragile Things, by Susan Meissner:

Susan, who will be Zooming in to the RBC on May 12, has written a very good book centered on the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.  Aside from the story, the details about the earthquake itself, along with the aftermath, are very educational.  Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area all my (long) life, it seems I would know more about this event than I do.  Plus, I definitely felt the effects of the 1989 earthquake here. But, despite all of that, I really learned a lot about it.

The story itself centers on Sophie, a 19-year old Irishwoman who leaves Ireland at 16, spends a couple of years in New York, and then answers an ad from a man in San Francisco who is looking for a woman to marry who will also help take care of his 6-year old daughter.  Sophie jumps at this opportunity, and she is wed within a couple of hours of her ship landing in San Francisco.  Between the things she ultimately learns about her husband and all of the fallout from the earthquake, we get a very interesting story.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

A Review of Bad Love Beyond, Book 3 of the The Bad Love Series

This book combines a whole bunch of genres and cultural influences. Specifically, there is time travel, science, historical references, and music, to name just a few.  Let me give you the list of elements of the book that I enjoyed:

1.  A list of 31 popular songs from such a varied group of singers as
Neil Diamond, Led Zeppelin, Rod Stewart, The Beatles, and Carole
King.  It would be best to listen to them as they come up in the story
(unfortunately I didn't but wish I had).
2.  Tons of scientific facts about a whole variety of subjects, including 
dinosaurs, volcanos, musicians, monuments, celestial bodies, airplanes
and Zeppelins, and on and on.
3.  Great quotes at the beginning of each chapter.  Again, they range
from scientists (Carl Sagan) to musicians (Chuck Berry) to actors
(Mel Gibson) to Presidents (Abraham Lincoln) and event to fictional
characters (Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek:  The Next Generation).
4.  Good writing - lots of very apt analogies and well-timed aphorisms.
5.  Cultural references - e.g. a detailed description of an Ali-Frazier fight.
6.  A closing scene that had me on the edge of my seat.

My only regret about reading Bad Love Beyond, #3, is that I didn't read 1 & 2 first.  It's not critical that you do so.  But I would have been able to get into Bad Love Beyond a little bit sooner.  Once I did connect though, it was full speed ahead!  Now I will be ready for #4, Bad Love Medicine.


Friday, February 5, 2021

Another Review You Say? How About Susan Wiggs' The Lost and Found Bookshop

As you know, my last review was for Lisa Gardner's 24th published novel.  That is an amazing feat, don't you think?  Well, Lisa is a newbie compared to Susan Wiggs.  The Lost and Found Bookshop, which is really terrific, is her 40TH PUBLISHED NOVEL!!!  I'm a little embarrassed to say that her 40th is my 1st...but it definitely won't be my last.  

In the wake of a shocking tragedy, Natalie Harper inherits a charming but financially strapped bookshop in San Francisco.  She also becomes the caretaker for her grandfather, Andrew, who grew up in the historic Perdita Street building that houses the store.  Grandpa Andrew has begun to struggle with memory loss, and Natalie plans to close the bookstore and sell the building to pay for his care.  There's only one problem - her grandfather owns it outright and refuses to sell.

Although there are two more paragraphs of intro, I'm going to leave them out.  I've got some things to say, and I don't want to run out of room (or test your patience!).  Here's a list of positives from TLaFB:

1.  It's about a bookstore and takes place in San Francisco - enough said.
2.  The writing is excellent.  Some examples:
     "...he could still remember the way the evening light used to slant
     through the window, settling over her like a benediction while she
     was absorbed in a book."
     "The shock and grief of losing Blythe were so deep and intense that it 
     felt as if a new and devastating emotion had been invented just for
     + many, many more
3.  I got chills on many occasions, sprinkled in with at least one "Yes!"
     and "OMG!"
4.  There is a variety of great quotes.
5.  2 of my favorite books were mentioned:  The Extraordinary Life of 
     Sam Hell (Robert Dugoni) and Being Mortal (Atul Gawande).  BTW,
     Being Mortal had such a big impact on me that it took 2 blog posts to
     say everything I wanted/needed to say.
6.  Having been very closely associated with 2 bookstores, it was very fun
     for me to read about all the behind-the-scenes stuff.  And even if you
     don't know what goes on when the lights go out, you will appreciate
     what Susan tells us.

Have you figured out yet whether I liked this book?  It's a resounding YOU BET!  The fact that Susan will be gracing our book club with a Zoom appearance in May is just the extra layer of icing on the cake.  Do yourselves a favor and read The Lost and Found Bookshop.  You will be happy you did.


Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Lisa Gardner's latest - Before She Disappeared

Lisa Gardner has written 23 novels!  I have probably read a couple of the others.  So I was happy when Penguin Random House sent me her latest, Before She Disappeared.  This one has a very interesting storyline:

A recovering alcoholic with more regrets than belongings.  Frankie Elkin has devoted her life to doing what no one else will - searching for the lost and forgotten.  When the police have moved on, when the public no longer remembers, when the media has never paid attention, Frankie starts looking.

A new case brings her to Mattapan, a Boston neighborhood with a rough reputation.  She is searching for Angelique Badeau, a Haitian teenager who vanished from her high school months earlier.  Resistance from the Boston PD and the victim's wary family tells Frankie she's on her own - and she soon learned she's asking questions someone doesn't want answered.  But Frankie will risk it all to discover the truth, even if it means the next person to go missing could be her.  

I'm a big fan of flawed protagonists because, after all, aren't we all flawed to some extent?  Frankie has her demons, even as she is trying to locate Angelique.  We see throughout the book the willpower it takes for Frankie to stick with it even as those demons threaten to overwhelm her.  And Lisa does a good job of giving us supporting characters who are interesting in their own right.  

Aside from the plot line, I was fascinated to learn a lot about alcoholics and alcoholism.  Fortunately, I've never had to face it myself, but, like any addiction, it sure seems like something tough to deal with on an ongoing basis.  I admired Frankie for finding a support group to attend as soon as she got to Boston.  She made a habit of doing that in every new city she came to.  

Before She Disappeared is a solid read.  I think you will get caught up in it pretty quickly, just as I did.  And let's face it, any author who has published 23 novels must be doing something right! 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Trading Secrets, by Rachael Eckles

Rachael Eckles' Trading Secrets is a well-written book that combines thriller, mystery, and romance genres.  I was engaged throughout and definitely got caught up in the what-the-heck-happened and who-did-it questions.  Here is the back cover synopsis:

Celeste Donovan, a high-powered finance executive, seems to have it all - the penthouse apartment, the supermodel physique with a mathematician mind, and a trail of beautiful men she has loved and left behind.  But when her boyfriend Theodore is killed in a mysterious accident, she discovers Omar, her abusive ex she had hoped would never resurface, is behind his death.  Now she's caught in a game of cat and mouse, trying to anticipate Omar's next move, as she realizes he will stop at nothing to get to her.  She sets out alone on a whirlwind journey to entrap him, determined to put an end to Omar's destruction.

I appreciated that Rachael's protagonist is a powerful woman who can be both powerful and a woman at the same time.  Too often, those don't go together.  And I definitely liked guessing wrong on a couple of occasions.  It made the book so much more fun to read.  Bring on #2!


Saturday, January 23, 2021

We Have Our Winners!

Hello, all.  At 10:00 this morning, January 23, Joni pulled 3 names, at random, from the group of those who commented on what they love about reading.  The winners are Rich, Alan, and Claudia.  They will each get the print, ebook, or audiobook of their choosing.  Congrats.

If you want to read some great comments, go to my Facebook Book Sage page.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

HAPPY 10th ANNIVERSARY TO ME! (and you can win a book!)

Guess what this post is about?...Give up?  Yep, on this day, 10 years ago, I posted my 1st blog.  It was called, not surprisingly, Introduction.  How did this blog come about, you ask?  Well, I will tell you.  I was talking to my friend Steve in New York and complaining about how I want to spend more time in Book World.  He said I should write a blog.  And there you have it.  Not that exciting an explanation, but true nonetheless.

To celebrate I'm going to ask you to give me a 1-sentence reason why you read (audiobooks certainly count).  In one week's time, I will have Joni draw 3 names.  Those 3 people will get to pick any paperback, ebook, or audiobook they want.  I'm looking forward to reading what you all have to say.

It will be a much bigger prize for my 20th! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Carole Bumpus Gives Us Her Latest Travelogue/Culinary Adventure

Carole Bumpus' latest book, A SEPTEMBER to REMEMBER:  SEARCHING for CULINARY PLEASURES at the ITALIAN TABLE, is her recounting of a month-long sojourn she and her husband, Winston, took to Italy in 1998. As you would expect, we learn a lot about the food they experienced in different parts of the country.  But this book is much more than that. How so, you ask?  Let me count the ways:

1.    Lots of humor
2.    Great Mark Twain quotes
3.    A very interesting explanation of "Psychology of Place"
4.    Good history
5.    The meaning of "community" in Italy verses how we define it here in
       the U.S.
6.    Scary bus drives that make you cringe with worry
7.    Cultural references in the U.S. (do you remember Car 54, Where Are
8.    Personal connections (ask me when you see me) 
9.    Cute personal stories
10.  Carole makes you feel like you're there with her

If you want to learn about Italian history, culture, and food, then A SEPTEMBER to REMEMBER is a book for you.

Monday, January 4, 2021

New Authors in 2020

And, finally...I'm always curious as to how many new authors I read each year.  I think there are less in 2020 than usual because of Covid.  Instead of having a bunch of new authors coming to Recycle Bookstore, we Zoomed with a lot of authors that I have already been reading.  Here it goes, and we'll see how it compares with previous years:

Max Tomlinson
Andrew Gross
Steve Martin (audiobook)
Simone St. James
Kelly Rimmer
Helen Zia
Stephanie Wrobel
Nicole Meier
Mary Torjussen
Jennifer Rosner
Elayne Klasson
Donna Levin
Laila Ibrahim
Kristina McMorris
Phoebe Fox
Angela Terry
Amanda Prowse
Robyn Harding
Ann Napolitano
Ehsaneh Sadr
Art Rios
Samantha van Leer (with Jodi Picoult)
Rachael Eckles Britt Bennett
Adrian McKinty
Elizabeth Berg


Now that I've finished this year's list, I just looked at 2019 and 2018.  I had 44 new authors in '18 and 48 in '19!

Saturday, January 2, 2021

3.5s and up for 2020

So here is another end-of-year list.  This one is my 3.5s and up for the year ending (thankfully) 2020:

Just Another Silly Love Song - Rich Amooi
Let's Talk - Art Rios

Captivating in Love - Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre
The First Emma - Camille di Maio 
The Book of Lost Names - Kristin Harmel
The Swap - Robyn Harding

3.625s (I know this is kind of a weird rating)-
Park Avenue Summer - Renee Rosen
Big Lies in a Small town - Diane Chamberlain
The Giver of Stars - JoJo Moyes
Sold on a Monday - Kristina McMorris
A Little Bit of Grace - Phoebe Fox
The Orphan Collector - Ellen Marie Wiseman

Stay - Allie Larkin
The Boy from the Woods - Harlan Coben
It's Not PMS, It's You - Rich Amooi
The Things We Cannot Say - Kelly Rimmer
Last Boat out of Shanghai - Helen Zia
The Second Chance Supper Club - Nicole Meier
The Two Lila Bennetts - Li Fenton and Lisa Steinke
The Closer You Get - Mary Torjussen
The Yellow Bird Sings - Jennifer Rosner
Love Is A Rebellious Bird - Elayne Klasson
The Plum Tree - Ellen Marie Wiseman
My Sister's Grave - Robert Dugoni
Side Trip - Kerry Lonsdale
What You Wish For - Katherine Center
The Order - Daniel Silva
The Good Sister - Sally Hepworth
White Collar Girl - Renee Rosen
The Chain - Adrian McKinty
The Story of Arthur Truluv - Elizabeth Berg