Tuesday, February 20, 2018

It's Time for Random Bits of VERY Interesting Information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 16, 2018

Another Author Event - This One A Brit

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

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

Here are a few pictures from the event:

  Matt Haig on the left; Michael on the right

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

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

Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!

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

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

Jennifer Skully

Sonja Rouillard

Jenny Anderson

Ava Bradley

Sunday, February 11, 2018

A Review of the winner of the Help Me contest

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

Here's what it's about:

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Kristin Harmel's The Life Intended - My 1st 4/4 of 2018

As you all know by now, I had 2-4/4s in 2017.  A Gentleman in Moscow in January and Close Enough to Touch in December.  Well, I'm off to a good start in 2018.  The Life Intended, by Kristin Harmel, was not only recommended by my blogging guru, Melissa, but she actually sent this one to me (along with another one that I will get to soon).  It is absolutely terrific.  I'm going to give you the blurb in a minute.  But, first, I want to tell you something I got out of this book:  The Life Intended gave me a takeaway.  I don't get many of these, and they can come from unusual literary sources, but I got one here.  More details are upcoming. (Is the suspense driving you crazy?  No?  Well, you will see what I mean by the end of this review.)

And now to the synopsis:

Finding love once is a gift.  Finding it twice - young widow Kate Waithman understands just how lucky that is.  A music therapist in New York City, Kate is newly engaged to a handsome, successful man.  Life should be just about perfect, except that suddenly Kate is having unsettling dreams about her first husband.  In those dreams, Patrick didn't die on that terrible night twelve years ago, and he and Kate have a daughter, Hannah.  The feelings and images are so vivid, so right, that Kate doesn't know what to think.  Is Patrick trying to tell her something, or is she just afraid to grasp this second chance at happiness?
Slowly, piece by piece, Kate's dream world hands her clues. And as she puts them together, what she finds are unexpected revelations about trusting herself, about hope after heartache, and about Patrick himself.  Most of all, Kate learns that even in loss, love never really leaves, but waits to guide us exactly where we need to be.

I really liked a whole bunch about this book (obviously):

1.  The book taught me a lot about musical therapy, foster care (we all know that Vanessa Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers, one of my top 12 all-time, was about foster care; but it was more what happens after a foster care child ages out of the system), and the deaf and hard of hearing.  I love to learn stuff and still get caught up in a good book. And this isn't even historical fiction!
2.  The dream sequences kept me trying to figure out what was going on. I typically just let a book tell me these things when it's ready.  But Kristin had me reading TLI like it was a mystery or suspense novel.
3.  I was very impressed that every time I read a passage that created a question in my mind, Kristin basically gave me an answer right away. And every answer was right on.
4.  I was an emotional wreck throughout much of the book.  I felt so connected to Kate, especially when she was working with the deaf and hard of hearing.  This was, in part, due to having just seen Mandy Harvey in concert (for those of you who don't remember, or never knew, Mandy was the outstanding singer on last season's America's Got Talent who also happened to be deaf).  But whether that was much of a contributing factor or not, it was impossible not to care deeply for the deaf and hard of hearing kids that Kate worked with and the connection they had.
5.  I really enjoyed learning the story behind the creation of The Beatles' Heh Jude.
6.  The book was well-written from the get-go to the end.  I won't quote you any of the passages because I don't want to make the review too annoyingly long.  But trust me on this one.

And now...drum roll please...for the takeaway that you have been so patiently(?) waiting for:

At one point, Kate trips over a box in her attic.  It tips onto its side and a bunch of paper spills out.  As she's going through it, do you know what she finds?  It's Patrick's list of 100 reasons why he loves her.  You know, 100 is a lot.  But we can all do 10, can't we?  That's what I will be writing to Joni on Valentine's Day.  I am very excited to do this.  It could EASILY end up being more.  But 10 seems like a number that any of us could make time to come up with, don't you think?

So, yeah, this is a really, really good book.  I feel very fortunate to have 2-4/4s within a couple of months of each other.  My reading future looks bright!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Barry Eisler's Latest Launch AND the 3 Winners

Tuesday night we went to see Barry Eisler at Kepler's for the launch of his latest book, The Night Trade.  Here is some interesting info that came out of Barry's talk:

1.  The Night Trade is Barry's 14th book.  And he has launched all of them at Kepler's!
2.  This one is the 2nd book starring Livia Lone.  But it also features one of Barry's favorite characters, Dox.
3.  Barry narrates his own books and has actually received an award for his work (which he mentioned, with a big smile on his face, somewhere between 1 and 5 times!).
4.  He said the key to writing about his characters is knowing them and feeling what they feel.
5.  He told us a story about the possibility of his John Rain series becoming Hollywood-ized; with Keanu Reeves as Rain.  It's not happening yet.  Barry indicated that Hollywood is its own very unique and somewhat crazy industry.
6.  This one is mine:  I like that Barry talks a little and reads a little.  But most of the time is spent with questions from the audience.  For me this is much more interesting than getting a lot of reading and a lot of lecturing from the author.

If you haven't read Livia Lone, do that.  The Night Trade may be a standalone, but it will help you to have the background before you start it.  Here's the link to my review of LL:

And Speaking of Winners, Barry Eisler Has Done It Again Too

And the winners of any book on my 2017 list are:

Diane (Bibliophile by the Sea)
Lanie Moss
Melissa Amster

Here is the link to that list:  

Books of 2017

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!