Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn

I think you know by now that I'm a big fan of historical fiction.  And I have read some very good books in this genre in the last couple of years.  Here are a few of them that spring to mind:

The Nightingale, Kristin Hannah
The Orphan's Tale, Pam Jenoff
Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society - Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Burrows

Well, add The Alice Network to the list.  In fact, TAN was one of my top books of 2017.  Thanks to Joni's cousin, Besi, for the recommendation. And it happens to be the January selection for the Books Inc. 4th Tuesday Night Book Club.  So I had a double motivation for reading it.

Take a look at the blurb:

1947.  In the chaotic aftermath of World War II, American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried, and on the verge of being thrown out of her very proper family.  She's also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in Nazi-occupied France during the war, might still be alive.  So when Charlie's parents banish her to Europe to have her "little problem" taken care of, Charlie breaks free and heads to London, determined to find out what happened to the cousin she loves like a sister.
1915.  A year into the Great War, Eve Gardiner burns to join the fight against the Germans and unexpectedly gets her chance when she's recruited  to work as a spy.  Sent into enemy-occupied France, she's trained by the mesmerizing Lili, code name Alice, the "queen of spies," who manages a vast network of secret agents right under the enemy's nose.
Thirty years later, haunted by the betrayal that ultimately tore apart The Alice Network, Eve spends her days drunk and secluded in her crumbling London house.  That is until a young American barges in uttering a name Eve hadn't heard in decades, and launches them both on a mission to find the truth...no matter where it leads.

How cool is it that there was a female spy ring during WWI?  I continue to be amazed at how much history I just didn't have any idea existed.  In any case, I liked a whole bunch of stuff about The Alice Network.  Let's get to it, shall we?

1.  I liked the back-and-forth between Eve in WWI and Eve and Charlie in 1947.
2.  It wasn't until the last 65 pages that I had a slew of emotional reactions.  But, interestingly, the lack of tears and chills through most of the book definitely did NOT affect my enjoyment of it.  As you saw just a few weeks ago, this book was my #6 for the whole year (out of 71).
3.  I really liked learning such a fascinating piece of WWI.
4.  It's just always a pleasure reading a well-written book.

Kate has written 6 other full-length novels, 1 novella, and 3 collaborative works.  With all of the books I have sitting in my TBR pile, I don't know if I will get to her other books.  But I can tell you with great assurance that I will be grabbing anything that Kate Quinn puts out in the future.  She has earned that!





Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Happy 7th Anniversary to the (self-proclaimed) Book Sage!

Yep, today is the day 7 years ago that it all began.  Aaaaaahhhhh.  Okay, enough with the melodrama.   But it is my 7th anniversary.  Way back on this day in 2011 I wrote my 1st blog post.  It's been 2 years since I posted the text from that blog.  I'm going to do it again for the "benefit" of my new readers.

Greetings to all you book lovers.  This the first blog for The Book Sage. My goal is to create a dialogue with those of you who want to talk books. I hope that we will all learn about new authors and new books and that more reading is the end result for everybody.  I know that our mutual love of books (whether they be in hardcover, paperback, or on an ereader) and this give-and-take will lead to more people reading more of the time.  If you're looking for any intellectual discourse or deep philosophical discussions, you've come to the wrong blog.  This blog is for the readers who want to enjoy their books.  I don't want it to feel like a school assignment.  All of us have to make time to fit our reading in, and it should be enjoyable.

In the coming posts, I will discuss different genres and some of my favorite books from those genres.  I will want to know what your favorites are too.  Everybody benefits from these lists.  Let's start by hearing any comments that any of you may have about the direction you would like to see this blog go.  Although I have no problem with (trying to) impose my will on everybody (and it is, in fact, my blog!), I would actually prefer to make it more interactive.  Your comments will always be welcome.

Let the games (and books) begin.

And since I just ran a contest/raffle for 3 winners of books from my 2017 top 11, it doesn't make sense to do it again (like I did last anniversary)...oh, what the heck.  Same rules as before.  Just make a comment on the blog or on the FB Book Sage page.  We'll pick 3 names on the 23rd, and the winners can get any book from last year's reads (yes, I know I'm a softy).  And, finally, a shout-out to Steve S. who talked me into starting the blog.  I have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, writing these posts.



On to other things:

1.  This past Sunday morning at Recycle we had the writing team of Dante Silva and Vanessa Mozes.  They have written 2 novels - Exchanged and The Druid's Gift - and 1 novella - The Dryad.  This was the 1st time that they presented their books in person to the public.  They did a great job!




2.  Here is some info about Mike DeGregorio's book, Thunder Bay:
Are you a fan of the “Titans of Mavericks” annual big wave contest, set to go off early next week? If so, you’ll enjoy reading Michael E. DeGregorio’s “Thunder Bay,” an erie anthology of Mavericks surf break and the surfers who pioneered it.  Set in Half Moon Bay, California, “Thunder Bay” is an exciting and surreal backstory of how Mavericks has become California’s only authentic big wave break, equivalent to Waimea Bay, 
Makaha, and Sunset Beach on Northshore, Hawaii, only much colder and more ominous.
Originally written in 1995, Thunder Bay’s characters are drawn from real life, and the story is strangely prophetic.

It has been edited and re-released and is available on Amazon:  











Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A Double Author Event at Rakestraw Books

We took a jaunt to Rakestraw Books in Danville tonight to see 2 touring authors:  Jessica Shattuck and Chloe Benjamin.  Jessica has 3 published books.  The one she's promoting is the paperback version of her latest, The Women in the Castle.  Chloe's got 2 books.  Her new one is The Immortalists.  They both read a little from their books and then asked each other questions.  After that the audience got to ask a few.  When that was over, I got both books signed and still had enough time to get back home to Rosy Yogurt before they closed at 10:00!

Here are a few pictures of the authors:

Jessica Shattuck



Chloe Benjamin




Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Different Kind of Book for Me - What Lies Beyond The Stars, by Michael Goorjian

I just finished What Lies Beyond The Stars, a book that's pretty unlike most any other book I have read.  It's hard to explain.  The best I can tell you is that when I looked up the genre on Goodreads, it was equal numbers of Fiction and Spirituality.  No matter what you call it, it's a very compelling book.  One of our RBC members, Judith, gave it to me because the author, Michael Goorjian, is a Bay Area guy.  She thought I might be interested in having him come to one of our meetings.  After reading it, I was not only interested in having him as an RBC author, I went out and booked him for June 27th!  The only possible conflict is that he's also an actor (his credits include an Emmy, along with a bunch of other TV and movie roles).  He doesn't expect to take any acting jobs over the summer so that he can concentrate on his writing.  But if he gets an offer that he can't refuse, it could create a conflict.  Well, guess what?  We can definitely live with that.

On to the book.  Here is the back cover blurb:

Words that ring painfully true for Adam Sheppard, a San Francisco programmer who has spent the vast majority of his 30-something years lost in the dim glow of a computer screen. On the verge of a psychotic break, Adam begins to have a recurring dream of his early childhood and the hauntingly rustic town of Mendocino, California, where he grew up. Convinced he has left something behind there, something vital to his present sanity, Adam walks away from his current life to figure out what that is.
One evening, out on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Adam has a chance encounter with a mysterious woman, only to later realize that she may be a long forgotten childhood friend.  The coincidence of their reunion only deepens as Adam discovers that the woman has also returned to Mendocino due to a recurring dream, eerily similar to his own.
Lost soulmates drawn together through time and space, or perhaps their meeting is only the beginning of a much deeper mystery.  As Adam awakens to the possibility that his life could be destined for more than a bleak virtual wasteland, he soon finds himself a crucial pawn in a game that pits forces intent on enslaving the human spirit against those few quixotic souls who still search for meaning, beauty, and magic in the world.

Pretty intriguing storyline, don't you think?  But here's the thing.  It's also very well-written.  And I particularly liked how he referred to everyday situations that we can all relate to.  Take for example this passage:

"Adam gave his head an Etch-A-Sketch shake, attempting to wipe away the lingering bit of code."

Is there anybody who can't see themselves as a child (or even as an adult!) shaking an Etch-A-Sketch over their heads?  I think not.

Or this, on wearing earbuds to avoid contact with people on the streets:

"It was surprisingly useful, especially in San Francisco, where one easily could be accosted by a panhandler, a religious fanatic, and an environmentalist all on the same corner."

If you've been to San Francisco (or any big city, for that matter), I know that right now you are nodding your head.

Or, finally, this, about a restaurant where he had been celebrating his birthday the past 5 years:

"It was convenient and quasi-fancy, kid friendly while also being a hit with the blue-haired set."

We've all noticed this too (I'll be noticing it more as I rapidly approach the age of blue-hairs!).

Michael describes the process of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly.  And I daresay it's an explanation that few of us know.  He also gives a great description of what science is.  I guarantee that it will make you feel very small and just a tad insignificant.  But what grabbed me throughout the book was due to the 1st 5+ pages.  When the book opens, we find Adam at Presidio House, a "long-term inpatient rehab facility."  And he doesn't talk!  The next chapter starts with "Three years earlier..."  In a book that is clearly not a mystery/suspense/thriller, I sure wanted to know what happened to Adam that led him to Presidio House.  That was a lot of suspense for me.

What Lies Beyond The Stars is not only a good debut novel, it's just flat-out a good novel, period.  Michael, you done good.










Wednesday, January 3, 2018

And the 3 Winners are...

Before I announce the 3 winners, let me just say say that Joni picked the names randomly and with her eyes (mostly) closed.  And let me also say that you winners not only can pick the book you want, but you also can pick any format.  Without further ado, heeeeeeeere they (you) are:

Ken C.
Jill B.
Jennifer S.

Way to go, guys.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Authors

I'm always curious as to how many new authors I read each year.  This year it was 43 (40 last year).  Here they are in the order I read them, along with how many of each of their books I read (in case you couldn't figure that out!):

Amor Towles
Jeff Rosenplot
Terry Shames
Susan Sherman
Susan Shea
Kerry Lonsdale (2)
Katherine Pascal
J.D. Vance
Blake Crouch
Jonas Karlsson
Sabaa Tahir (2)
Pam Jenoff
Stacy Lee
Tracy Chevalier
Ehtel Rohan
Nikki Avila
Kimberly Belle (2)
Lucy Sanna
Liz Fenton & Lucy Steinke
Sally Hepworth (3)
Elizabeth Church
Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Rich Amooi
Trami Nguyen Cron
Stephen Robert Stein
Ann Marie Ackermann
Jay Asher
Anthony Horowitz
Michelle Richmond
Josie Brown
Janelle Brown
Michael Lund
Marie Sutro
Liz Helms
Erica Bauermeister
Gail Carriger
Amy Hatvany
Christina Julian
Jennifer Egan
Celeste Ng (2)
Camille Di Maio
Colleen Oakley
Kate Quinn





Saturday, December 30, 2017

Books of 2017

Here they are:

A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles - 4.0
Feels Like the First Time, James Grippando - 2.75
here there be dragons, Jeff Rosenplot - 3.25
A Killing at Cotton Hill, Terry Shames - 3.0
If You Are There, Susan Sherman - 2.75
Murder in the Abstract, Susan Shea - 3.0
Everything We Keep, Kerry Lonsdale - 3.25
The Slow Waltz of Turtles, Katherine Pancol - 3.0
West Coast Holiday Series, #3, Elisabeth Barrett - 3.5
Hillbilly Elegy, J.D. Vance - 3.25
Dark Matter, Blake Crouch - 3.25
The Invoice, Jonas Karlsson - 2.25
It Started with a Kiss, Marina Adair - 3.5
An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir - 3.75
Felony Murder Rule, Sheldon Siegel - 3.0
The Orphan's Tale, Pam Jenoff - 3.875
Orphan X, Gregg Hurwitz - 3.0
Under the Painted Sky, Stacy Lee - 3.0
Irresistible in Love, Jennifer Skully and Bella Andre - 3.75
At the Edge of the Orchard, Tracy Chevalier - 3.25
The Weight of Him, Ethel Rohan - 3.25
Hellhound Angel, Nikki Avila - 2.25
The Marriage Lie, Kimberly Belle - 3.75
The Cherry Harvest, Lucy Sanna - 3.25
Your Perfect Life, Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke - 3.25
The Mother's Promise, Sally Hepworth - 3.75
The Atomic Weight of Love, Elizabeth Church - 3.25
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows - 3.75
Kissing Frogs, Rich Amooi - 3.0
The Last Breath, Kimberly Belle - 3.25
VietnamEazy, Trami Nguyen Cron - 3.0
Kit's Mine, Ann Bridges - 2.5
The Oath, Stephen Robert Stein - 3.0
The Secrets of Midwives, Sally Hepworth - 3.75
Mississippi Blood, Greg Iles - 3.25
The Fifth Reflection, Ellen Kirschman - 3.0
Death of an Assassin, Ann Marie Ackermann - 2.0
Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher - 3.25
Zero Sum, Barry Eisler - 3.0
Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz - 2.75
The Marriage Pact, Michelle Richmond - 3.5
Thunder Bay, Mike Degregorio - 2.0
Totlandia, Fall, Book 1, Josie Brown - 2.5
Watch Me Disappear, Janelle Brown - 3.5
Maddy's Game, Michael Lund - 2.25
A Small Indiscretion, Jan Ellison - 2.75
Don't Let Go, Harlan Coben - 3.5
Everything We Left Behind, Kerry Lonsdale - 3.25
Dark Associations, Marie Sutro - 3.5
House of Spies, Daniel Silva - 3.25
Own It, Elisabeth Barrett - 3.25
Health Care Unhinged, Liz Helms - 3.0
Love and Other Consolation Prizes, Jamie Ford - 3.25
The Things We Keep, Sally Hepworth - 3.75
The School of Essential Ingredients, Erica Bauermeister - 3.25
Not Guilty, C. Lee McKenzie (read and edited)
Soulless, Gail Carriger - 3.0
It Happens All the Time, Amy Hatvany - 3.25
The Dating Bender, Christina Julian - 2.5
The Illuminated Kingdom, Alina Sayre (read and edited)
Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan - 3.0
Slow Medicine, Dr. Victoria Sweet - 2.75
Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng - 2.75
Sourdough, Robin Sloan - 3.25
Before the Rain Falls, Camille Di Maio - 3.5
The Last Watchman of Old Cairo, Michael David Lukas - 3.25
Bed & Breakfast & Bondage 2, Kate Allure - 3.25
In This Moment, Karma Brown - 3.5
A Torch Against the Night, Sabaa Tahir - 3.25
Close Enough to Touch, Colleen Oakley - 4.0
The Alice Network, Kate Quinn - 3.75
Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng - 3.5

DNF (did not finish):

In This Grave Hour, Jacqueline Winspear
Selection Day, Aravind Adega
This Is How It Always Is, Laurie Frankel
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara