Thursday, June 30, 2011

On the road with James Rollins

Novelist James Rollins in devil horns [insert joke of your choice here].

I spent last weekend on book tour.  Obviously, I wasn't on tour.  No, I was on the road with Jimbo.  (For those that haven't been following along, "Jimbo" is novelist James Rollins.  We've been close friends for more than a decade.  And, no, most people don't call him Jimbo.)  As I type, Jim's been on the road for about a week and a half, and he's only at the midpoint of this tour promoting his new novel, The Devil Colony.  (Hence the photo above.)  For him, this is work--and as glamorous as the *idea* of touring may seem, the reality is grueling.  For instance, the other day he did a book launch event in California, took the red-eye to New York, spent 12 hours on the ground, and flew back to Portland, Oregon without ever sleeping.

It was lucky for the two of us that he had multiple events scheduled for the Bay Area, and that the signings happened to fall over the weekend.  Generally speaking, I have trouble luring him to the big city, and I'm pretty sure the two nights he spent in San Francisco was the longest he's stayed in town in the decade that I've lived here.  We're both busy people, and we don't get to spend as much time together as we once did.  So, a chore for him, but a pleasure for me.  It was truly lovely having so much quality time together!

We kicked off the weekend doing what we do best: eat.  Man, do we like to eat!  We were reminiscing, and realized that more than a few of our all-time best meals have been enjoyed together.  But we were both tired after our long work weeks, so on Friday night, we shared a very nice meal in the excellent hotel restaurant.  Afterwards we sat by the fireplace in the lobby and kibitzed until we were both about to fall asleep.  We said goodnight, and agreed that we wouldn't meet again before noon the next day.  And actually, it was after 1:00pm before we reconnected.

Which brings us to our next favorite activity: shopping.  Or, more like window shopping, 'cause I don't recall us buying anything.  But there's always the potential.  Being poor in San Francisco, I don't pay that much attention to the many gorgeous shops and plentiful offerings all around me.  But when I'm with Jim, I see it all through different eyes.  Several years ago, we were browsing in an art galley and we saw the most fabulous painting.  I call it the "Angry Bunny," and it's rare that I see Jimbo and don't inquire after it.  I think it was love at first sight for both of us.  It wasn't an expensive piece by anyone's standards, but even so there's something exciting about that firm, unquestioning, "Yes, I'll take it."  Even I could have afforded the Angry Bunny, but I wouldn't have bought it.  I'm glad he took it, and I'm glad I get to visit it in his office.

We actually didn't have that much time to goof around before we had to get over to Borderlands Books in San Francisco's Mission neighborhood.  We wanted to leave plenty of time to cab over, because it was Pride Weekend in San Francisco, and as you can imagine, it's a pretty major event.  Borderlands is an independent bookstore that specializes in new and used science fiction, fantasy, and horror.  Regular readers of this blog will realize that I'm not a big consumer of those genres.  Therefore, it's telling that I consider this my favorite bookstore in San Francisco.  It's a very special place.  When I was still new to San Francisco, I walked in one day and announced, "I hate science fiction."  Rather than show me to the door, the staff has spent the past 10 years learning what I do like, and where my interests intersect with theirs.  If manager Jude Feldman tells me that I'll like a book, I buy it on the spot.  These people are real professionals as well as good friends, and this store exemplifies why I value independent booksellers in my community.

Jimbo feels much as I do about this store.  He's not the perfect match for their readership, but they like him and he likes them, and it all works.  They also host lovely events, and a respectable crowd had come out to see Jimbo on an exceptionally lovely Saturday afternoon.  As it happens, the audience even included another best-selling author, Scott Sigler, a friend of Jim's and very much a part of the Borderlands circle. 

Below I'm posting, in it's entirety, Jimbo's appearance at Borderlands on Saturday, June 25, 2011.  If you wanted to catch him on tour, but he didn't swing through Podunk, well, this is the James Rollins experience.  Here's the thing...  I recorded some or all of Jim's talk at three different book shops that weekend.  I thought about trying to cut together a "best of" version with snippets of all three.  For instance, he does "the Chuck story" best at Borderlands, but did a much better job talking about the plot elements of The Devil Colony at M is for Mystery the next day.  But overall, there's a shocking (and slightly disturbing) sameness to all of these signing events.  He tells the same stories.  He gets asked the same questions--and he answers them in the exact same way.  Mostly.  Obviously, each event is unique.

So, I decided that I would start by posting the Borderlands footage first.  If you're going to see him in Boston next week, maybe you don't want to watch this.  Wait and see him live.  But, if you won't have a chance to see him on tour, enjoy this.  He's a lot of fun!  And if there's interest, perhaps I'll post some more of the footage from the other events later to compare and contrast.  You can even critique his performance, LOL.  (Let me know in the comments if you want to see more.)  For now, here's how things opened, along with some info on his professional background, and the infamous Chuck story.  Poor Chuck...

In this second section, he discusses the worst question you can ask an author. Scott Sigler gets it on the first guess. Jimbo then discusses some of the science and history behind The Devil Colony.

In part 3, he wraps up the history and begins the Q & A. This leads to a discussion of the travel he does for research.

More Q & A regarding his work habits, writing style, his favorite among his novels, and film options.

More questions about The Skeleton Key, thoughts on ebooks, the "Rollins" brand, his other alter-egos, book covers, and titles. Plus, he announces an upcoming charitable campaign for the first time!

In this final Q & A segment, Jim discusses the schedule of forthcoming books, the editorial process, mistakes in the novels--including the most embarrassing mistake he ever published. Bonus discussion of his terrible handwriting.

So, this has gotten very long.  I hope you enjoyed seeing Jim on tour.  Do let me know in the comments if you want to hear more about our weekend and/or see more footage of his book tour events.

One more thing...  If you've read this far, you are a serious James Rollins fan.  The question is, have you discovered Boyd Morrison yet?  Boyd is a friend of Jim's, and both Jim and I are fans of his work.  Boyd writes the sort of page-turning science and adventure thrillers that should appeal to any Rollins fan.  His latest novel, The Vault, goes on sale this Tuesday, July 5th, but I'm giving away a copy on the blog right HERE.  I definitely encourage all Rollins fans to enter this giveaway.  And even if you don't win, you might want to give Boyd a try.  You'll thank me.  :-)

A tale of the inexplicable

Long Gone
by Alafair Burke

While Alafair Burke has been on my radar since she published her first novel, I haven’t had the opportunity to read her before now. And perhaps it’s best that I held off, as Long Gone is her first stand alone novel. With the profusion of series being published these days (Burke writes two), I’ve begun to cherish the rare stand alones.

What really got me to finally pick up Burke’s work was the description of the plot. I’m a sucker for tales of the inexplicable. This one revolves around Alice Humphrey. Alice was a child of privilege, daughter of a famous filmmaker and an Oscar-winning actress. She’s been somewhat aimless in her adult life, but is making a real stab at independence now that she’s deep into her thirties. Unfortunately, she’s been out of work for eight months and her options are narrowing. Paying jobs in the art world are few and far between. Then she makes a fortuitous connection at an art show. It seems perfectly organic when Drew Campbell offers her a dream job managing a small gallery. She spends the next several weeks thrilled to be working towards the gallery’s debut, but the very first show opens to unwelcome controversy. She and Drew plan an early morning strategy session to deal with it, but when Alice arrives, the windows are covered with paper. Inside, the space is stripped completely bare—with the exception of Drew’s bloody body. Alice has no idea what’s going on, or why there is suddenly highly incriminating evidence surfacing, such as a photo of her kissing Drew. And while the proof is right in front of her eyes, Alice knows that she never kissed Drew.

That is the main story of Long Gone, but it’s actually only one of three narrative threads. The others concern a missing teenager and a rogue FBI agent on a personal vendetta. How do all of these stories come together? You may occasionally think you’ve got part of the mystery figured, but it’s near impossible to get all of the pieces to fit together until the final reveals.

Overall, this was a strong introduction to Burke’s work. The novel was fast-paced and enjoyably complex. Characters were adequately fleshed out and sympathetic. I can’t claim that every twist and revelation took me by surprise, but enough of them did to make for a thriller that lived up to its billing.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

HUMPDAY GIVEAWAY: The Vault by Boyd Morrison

Well, the Blog Hop Giveaway has been a blast!  Normally I choose winners for my giveaways early on Wednesday, but I'll give stragglers until midnight to enter to win In the Garden of Beasts.  I'll post the names of the winners tomorrow morning, and since just about everyone left an email, I'll notify winners that way, too.

Now, however, it's time for business as usual around here.  And business as usual means the Humpday Giveaway!  (What else is there to look forward to on Wednesdays?)  I came home to a pleasant surprise yesterday, a shiny hardback of Boyd Morrison's novel The Vault--which doesn't even go on sale until next week.  Thanks, Simon & Schuster!  Now, I have a reader who's been begging me to give away a copy of this book for months.  Kerry, this is your week.  Go for it!

It is no secret that I've been a big Morrison fan for about five years now.  That's not bad, considering he's only been in print for about a year.  I was what you'd call an early fan, and I'm in good company--James Rollins, Douglas Preston, Chris Kuzneski, and Steve Berry are among his earliest supporters.  My enthusiastic review of this novel can be seen HERE.  But I'm not alone in my praise for The Vault.  In their starred review, Publisher's Weekly wrote:
Originally published as an e-book in 2009 (The Adamas Blueprint), Morrison's excellent third thriller (after The Ark and The Rogue Wave) finds series hero Tyler Locke, aided by TV journalist and Greek scholar Stacy Benedict, trying to defuse a time bomb aboard a Seattle to Bremerton, Wash., ferry by solving an ancient puzzle created by Archimedes. That is merely the first task devised for Locke and Benedict by criminal mastermind Jordan Orr, whose ultimate goal is to locate the tomb of King Midas and the secret of the Midas touch that transmutes base metals to gold. With the lives of their loved ones at stake, the pair embark on a series of increasingly dangerous jaunts to England, Germany, Greece, and Italy to collect and decipher pieces of a puzzle that will allow them to locate the tomb buried among the miles of tunnels underlying Naples. Compelling action more than compensates for improbabilities and lack of character development in this electrifying blend of history, myth, and science.
"Electrifying"--they don't say that about just any book.  (Never mind that they got their facts slightly confused.  This was never published as an ebook, and is not the novel formerly known as The Adamas Blueprint.)  I'm just saying that you want to read this one, whether you win it from me, or, say, rush to the bookstore when it goes on sale next Tuesday.  For now, to enter this contest, all you have to do is leave a comment below.  Standard rules apply.  For extra winning karma, go to Amazon and vote the review I just posted "helpful."  Other than that, good luck!
  • The giveaway is open to anyone with a U.S. mailing address ('cause I'm footing the postage).
  • To enter, all you need to do is post a comment below by Wednesday, July 6, 2011.
  • At my discretion, if there are less than five respondents, I can cancel or extend the giveaway.
  • Winner will be chosen by me with the help of a random number generator, and will be announced in the comments section of this thread.
  • Please check back to see if you've won. If you have left a way to contact you, I will do so.
  • The winner has one week to respond to me at with a mailing address, or I will choose a new winner.
  • If a second winner fails to respond, the book automatically goes to the lovely members of my face-to-face book club.
  • Previous giveaway winners are welcome to enter.
  • Finally, if at all possible, please comment below only if you're entering the giveaway.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A good day for reading

A Bad Day for Scandal
by Sophie Littlefield

A Bad Day for Scandal is Sophie Littlefield’s third mystery featuring Prosper, Missouri’s answer to… I want to say Clint Eastwood, but that’s not right. Stella Hardesty is one tough lady. Don’t let the sewing machine shop fool you; it’s a cover. Her real calling is meting out justice and vengeance, often in equal parts. Ever since she emancipated herself—permanently—from her abusive husband, she’s been helping out other ladies in the same boat.

Therefore, it really isn’t that unusual when Stella’s phone rings in the middle of a social gathering. Like so many professionals, she’s on call 24/7. Priss Porter’s timing couldn’t be much worse, though. Stella was entertaining, among others, the one man she should be keeping her distance from, Sheriff “Goat” Jones, and for once, things seem to be moving forward between the two of them. But Priss is over at her brother’s, in town from Kansas City, insisting that she needs to see Stella immediately.

It has been said that friends will help you move, and that really good friends will help you move bodies. Well, rest assured, Stella and Priss aren’t THAT close. Stella wants nothing to do with the little problem decomposing in Priss’s trunk. When Stella proves to be unbuyable, Priss moves on to blackmail to elicit her help. That doesn’t work either. Unfortunately, before Stella can get a feel for how to handle Priss, both she and her brother turn up missing. The Sheriff is looking at Stella askance. And Stella and her associates again find themselves following a convoluted path in search of answers.

What I described above are the opening scenes of an enjoyable enough mystery, but unusually for the genre, it’s not the plots that make this series. The mysteries are well-plotted, fast-paced, and complex enough that I’ve never come near to figuring out who done it on my own. Perhaps more impressively, Ms. Littlefield hasn’t fallen back on the same structure or type of story, though the series’ premise suggests she would or could. Nonetheless, each outing finds Stella in a different kettle of fish. Still, for me, these stories are all about character.

I’ve always been able to hear Stella’s distinctive voice in my head, but it was delightful to finally hear it in audiobook form, read by the talented Barbara Rosenblat. Ms. Littlefield strikes a perfect balance between the light elements and the dark ones in her novels, and Ms. Rosenblat gets this balance just right, too. There’s no denying that these books are exceedingly funny, but there’s nothing cute about them. Ms. Rosenblat mines all the humor while still bringing every character realistically to life. It’s worth noting that she does an unusually good job with the male characters. And while Stella is at the center of this universe, over the course of three novels, her world has been fully peopled with individuals that jump off the page. There’s her sidekick, Chrissy; Todd, the teenager across the street; and the Green Hat Ladies—to name but a few.

I guess you could jump into this series with any of the books, but when reading such delicious characters, personally, I think you’d get more pleasure starting at the beginning and watching the relationship and character arcs develop. Both Littlefield and Hardesty seem to be improving with each tale. So far, I’m three for three with Sophie and Stella. I’ve read them on paper, on my Kindle, and now on audio. As far as I can tell, there’s no wrong way to enjoy these novels.

Added bonus:  Totally inane 16 second interaction...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mailbox Monday: All James Rollins all the time edition

A quick note at the top of this Monday's post to again welcome all the new visitors to the blog.  I have been so excited about this blog hop all weekend!  Seriously, thanks, Judith, for the invite to participate.  This is awesome!

So, I fear this Monday's edition is a bit of a misnomer, as there were no James Rollins books in my mailbox...  Wait!  I did acquire a James Rollins novel this week.  I'm covered.  No, the reason why it's "all James Rollins all the time" is that his novel The Devil Colony was published last week.  In addition to reviewing the novel, I took and posted silly photographs, participated in the Dance with the Devil online release party, and then spent the entire past weekend with him on book tour.  I'll post video from the tour and write about our adventures this week.

Mr. Rollins isn't so solicitous to all bloggers.  Jimbo and I have been good friends for more than a decade now.  Everyone who knows us knows the story of how we met, but I'll have to blog about that some time.  Anyway, this week's theme of monster mailboxes is in your honor, Jimbo.  I'm sure that you will appreciate them, LOL.

Other than that, I'm not aware of any other major literary events on my horizon for the coming week.  No, I'll be working frantically at the job that pays my rent before I head out to New York, again.  This time for Thrillerfest.  I'm looking forward to seeing all my friends (which is what T-fest is about for me) but I have to admit that I'm so tired I could curl up in a ball and cry.

One thing that would make my life less stressful is if my sister would recover from her c-section and not be threatened with more surgery.  Because that would be very, very bad for all concerned.  Especially the young children that would need my care.  Please send any spare healing energy her way.  And with that, let's get to the mailbox!

Map of Bones
by James Rollins
Release date: April 26, 2005
Source: Free download at

Just between you and me, this is my least favorite of the Sigma novels.  (I'm just not a big fan of religious thrillers.)  It's also the first official book in the series.  Listening to Jim and his readers speak of it this weekend, though, it made me want to reread it.  It would be nice to revisit how it all started.  Maybe reread both Sandstorm and Map of Bones.  I said it was my least favorite (I mean, one of them has to be), but I still loved it. 

Go the F**k to Sleep
by Adam Mansbach
Release date: June 14, 2011
Source: Free download at

This book is six minutes long, and I haven't found time to listen to it yet.  But I should totally send a copy to my sister.  Or my mother.

Buried Secrets
by Joseph Finder
Release date: June 21, 2011
Source: credit

This is Joe's follow up to Vanished, the first Nick Heller novel.  I enjoyed that one, and have been looking forward to this one.  I made the best discovery ever last night, BTW.  Listening to Audible books on my new hand-me-down iPhone, I can listen to them at one and a half times speed!  I am sooo happy!  (I'm all about the speed, and many audiobooks move at a glacial pace for me.)

A Bad Day for Scandal
by Sophie Littlefield
Release date: June 21, 2011
Source: credit

Yay!  This is Sophie's third Stella Hardesty mystery.  The only thing I enjoy more than the books themselves are the awesome covers!  How much was I looking forward to reading this book?  I've already finished it.  I LOVED hearing the voices of these indelible characters.  Reader Barbara Rosenblatt did a great job, and I seriously think this series gets better with each book.

by Sophie Littlefield
Release date: July 19, 2011
Source: Galley from the publisher

Speaking of Sophie Littlefield, I believe it's been mentioned on this blog that she has a split personality?  Yes, just a month after her nice mystery comes out, the second book in her zombie apocalypse series (following Aftertime) comes out.  She also writes YA fantasy in her "spare" time.  She's the hardest working woman in show biz!  I wish you could see this crazy manuscript her editor at Luna sent.  I can't wait to read this thing.

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
Release date: September 13, 2011
Source: Galley from the publisher

Do you recall me kvetching about the impossibility of acquiring this hugely buzzed book at BEA last week?  Well, guess what showed up in the mailbox this week?  I smell a giveaway!  Meanwhile, I can't wait to read this, but probably won't find the time for a while.

Thirteen Fugues
by Jennifer Natalya Fink
Release date: May 3, 2011
Source: Galley from the publisher

This is a very short novel from a very small publisher.  I shall try to read and review it, as their marketing budget has to be non-existent, and I'd hate to have them waste a galley on me.  Have no idea what the book's about.

The Gashlycrumb Tinies
by Edward Gorey
Release date: October 1997?
Source: Gift from David--Thank you!

So, websites say that this book was published in 1997, but there must have been earlier editions.  I had a good friend named Jim Blakely back in high school in the 80's, and I vividly recall the two of us laughing over "J is for James who took lye by mistake" and "S is for Susan who perished of fits."  I picked up a copy in a bookstore this weekend to check how "K is for Kate" died (Because it will be the headline of my review for Killing Kate.  How can I resist?) and my friend David insisted in purchasing it for me.  I was touched.  It is truly a life-long favorite, and it shall have pride of place next to The Curious Sofa on my coffee table.  Edward Gorey is the best!

by Will Lavender
Release date: July 5, 2011
Source: Galley from the publisher

At dinner on Friday night, I was telling Jimbo about this (hopefully) awesome thriller I was looking forward to reading by this writer, Will Lavender, that somehow neither of us had heard of.  The next morning, I go to the post office to pick up a package, and lo and behold, it's an extra galley of the very book I was telling him about.  So, of course, I gifted it to him.  Mr. Lavender, I've got James Rollins reading your novel.  You owe me one, LOL.

The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc
by Kimberly Cutter
Release date: October 18, 2011
Source: Electronic galley from publisher

I'm not sure if I want to read this or not.  Part of me is very interested in knowing more about a fascinating historic character.  Part of me wants no part of reading about a hallucinating religious lunatic.  I will start reading the book and see what I think.

We The Animals
by Justin Torres
Release date: September 1, 2011
Source: Electronic galley from publisher

This debut family drama and coming-of-age story was another of the big buzz books at BEA.  I'm looking forward to checking it out!

The Black Stiletto
by Raymond Benson
Release date: September 5, 2011
Source: Electronic galley from publisher

Raymond Benson, who is perhaps best known for writing James Bond novels, has been a friend since the very first Thrillerfest, five or six years ago.  I am looking forward to seeing him again next week, and I am looking forward to finally reading one of his books.  Best. Opening. Ever.  "My mother was the masked vigilante known as the Black Stiletto.  I just found out today, and I've been her son for forty-eight years.  All my life I knew she had some secrets, but needless to say, this is a bit of a shock."

Books finished in the past week:

The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein
Blood of the Reich by William Dietrich
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J Watson
A Bad Day for Scandal by Sophie Littlefield

Currently reading:

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
A Map of Time by Felix J.Palma

So, what books have you acquired this week?  What are you reading?  What monsters are living in your mailbox?  Let me know in the comments!

Friday, June 24, 2011


Julie Meets Janet

by Julie Kramer

We authors have favorite authors, too. So when word went out that Janet Evanovich was coming to town, that got my attention.

Janet hardly tours, she doesn't have to. Her intrepid bounty hunter protagonist Stephanie Plum's latest adventure, SMOKIN' SEVENTEEN, sold 218,000 copies of hardcover, e-books, and audio the first day of release this week. Her new publisher, Bantam, sent her to four cities. Among them, Edina, Minnesota. I was proud my state's reputation for being a top literary mecca landed us one of publishing's most popular phenomenons.

So I drove 30 miles to the Barnes and Noble hosting her, arrived at 8:58 am and learned people had been lined up for three hours already. I received a purple wristband numbering 234. Once numbered, fans could leave and return for the evening signing, scheduled to start at 6 pm. A math formula of 50 people per half hour gave us a rough idea of when our group would be called.

I bought my book, drove home 30 miles and read the first 80 pages (my favorite scene thus far being Lulu wrestling with a vampire) admiring Janet's pluck for jumping on the vampire bandwagon.

Not wanting to be late for my line up, I drove 30 miles back and had dinner across the street, checking on my cell phone to stay in touch with the event. At 7:50 pm numbers between 200 and 300 were called to I got in place. The store made the wait interesting by giving away balloons, cake, and a pin that said “Plum Crazy.”

There's a current debate going on in publishing circles on whether author tours are dead and whether bookstores should start requiring attendees to buy a book there, or pay a fee because so many readers are apparently showing up at events with their cheaper online purchases. I always buy an author's book at the event, because I understand how book stores are hurting these days. In this case, the B & N - Galleria welcomed everyone. Readers were even allowed to bring backlist copies and some came pulling suitcases.

One was Angela, who was next to me in line. She's the kind of fan we authors all crave. Buys hardcovers and will stand in line for hours to meet us. Here she is, posing with her haul. And when she heard I was an author, and that the Chicago Tribune had compared me to Janet Evanovich, she bought all three of my books – STALKING SUSAN, MISSING MARK, and SILENCING SAM, and had me sign them. So did another woman standing by us in line. So I was making friends and fans myself.

By 9 pm, our books had been flapped and the line was getting closer to our idol: Janet.

And when we met, she was nice to me. I told her I was a mystery author, too. She asked me my name and one of the store staff heard our exchange and stepped in and vouched for me. We even had our picture taken together.

As I left, about 9:15 pm, I learned 827 numbers had been given out thus far and that Janet would stay until the last book was signed. I later found that didn't happen until nearly one the next morning.
Julie Kramer is moving from journalist to novelist. She writes a series set in the desperate world of television news. Her latest thriller, KILLING KATE, received 4 ½ stars from RT Book Reviews and will be released July 26. Julie won the RT Reviewer's Choice Award for Best First Mystery as well as the Minnesota Book Award. Her work has also been a finalist for the Anthony, Barry, Shamus, Mary Higgins Clark, and Daphne du Maurier Awards.

BLOG HOP GIVEAWAY: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson

Well, as promised, In One Eye, Out the Other is participating in it's very first Blog Hop.  I don't know about you, but I'm excited!  This is one of seventy-three separate book blogs that's doing a book giveaway between Saturday, June 25th - Wednesday, June 29th.  You can read all about it here, at organizer Leeswammes' Blog.  That's a whole lot of chances to win a great book!  And I encourage you to visit each and every one of the participating blogs.

For first-time visitors to this blog, I'll mention that there's a new giveaway here most Wednesdays.  I call it the "Humpday Giveaway."  This blog covers all different types of books, so you never know what will be up for grabs from week to week.  Additionally you'll find book reviews, author interviews, guest blogger posts, literary gossip, and more.  I invite you to look around while you're here, and please do visit again.  Now, here's this week's offering:

Perhaps best known for his book Devil in the White City, the full title of Erik Larson's latest work of narrative non-fiction is In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin.  After five weeks, it's still #3 on the New York Times Bestseller list.  Amazon named it one of their Best of the Month, and in a starred review, Publisher's Weekly wrote:
In this mesmerizing portrait of the Nazi capital, Larson plumbs a far more diabolical urban cauldron than in his bestselling The Devil in the White City. He surveys Berlin, circa 1933–1934, from the perspective of two American naïfs: Roosevelt's ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, an academic historian and Jeffersonian liberal who hoped Nazism would de-fang itself (he urged Hitler to adopt America's milder conventions of anti-Jewish discrimination), and Dodd's daughter Martha, a sexual free spirit who loved Nazism's vigor and ebullience. At first dazzled by the glamorous world of the Nazi ruling elite, they soon started noticing signs of its true nature: the beatings meted out to Americans who failed to salute passing storm troopers; the oppressive surveillance; the incessant propaganda; the intimidation and persecution of friends; the fanaticism lurking beneath the surface charm of its officialdom. Although the narrative sometimes bogs down in Dodd's wranglings with the State Department and Martha's soap opera, Larson offers a vivid, atmospheric panorama of the Third Reich and its leaders, including murderous Nazi factional infighting, through the accretion of small crimes and petty thuggery.
I've got several shiny, new hardback copies of this book, so we're going to do the same thing we did a couple of weeks ago.  The more people that enter this contest, the more copies I'll give away.  If ten people enter, I'll give away one copy; twenty people, two copies; and so on, up to a maximum of five copies.  Other than that, the usual rules apply:
  • The giveaway is open to anyone with a U.S. mailing address ('cause I'm footing the postage).
  • To enter, all you need to do is post a comment below by Wednesday, June 29, 2011.
  • At my discretion, if there are less than five respondents, I can cancel or extend the giveaway.
  • Winner(s) will be chosen by me with the help of a random number generator, and will be announced in the comments section of this thread.
  • Please check back to see if you've won. If you have left a way to contact you, I will do so.
  • The winner has one week to respond to me at with a mailing address, or I will choose a new winner.
  • If a second winner fails to respond, the book automatically goes to the lovely members of my face-to-face book club.
  • Previous giveaway winners are welcome to enter.
  • Finally, if at all possible, please comment below only if you're entering the giveaway.
Good luck to everyone, and thanks for playing!  And now that you've entered my giveaway, I invite you to visit all of the fine sites below.  Each of these sites will have their giveaway posted by Saturday, June 25th.  I jumped the gun by a few hours, but these sites are in all different time zones, so if the giveaway isn't posted yet, it soon will be.  Good luck times seventy-three!

List with all the Participants:

  1. Leeswammes (Int)
  2. The Book Whisperer (Int)
  3. Kristi Loves Books (Int)
  4. Teadevotee (Int)
  5. Bookworm with a View (Int)
  6. Bibliosue (Int)
  7. Sarah Reads Too Much (Int)
  8. write meg! (USA)
  9. My Love Affair With Books (Int)
  10. Seaside Book Nook (Int)
  11. Uniflame Creates (Int)
  12. Always Cooking Up Something (Int)
  13. Book Journey (Int)
  14. ThirtyCreativeStudio (Int)
  15. Col Reads (Int)
  16. The Book Diva's Reads (Int)
  17. The Scarlet Letter (USA)
  18. The Parrish Lantern (Int)
  19. Lizzy's Literary Life (Int)
  20. Read, Write & Live (Int)
  21. Book'd Out (Int)
  22. The Readers' Suite (Int)
  23. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (USA)
  24. Ephemeral Digest (Int)
  25. Miel et lait (Int)
  26. Bibliophile By the Sea (Int)
  27. Polychrome Interest (Int)
  28. Book World In My Head (Int)
  29. In Spring it is the Dawn (Int)
  30. everybookhasasoul (Int)
  31. Nishita's Rants and Raves (Int)
  32. Fresh Ink Books (Int)
  33. Teach with Picture Books (USA)
  34. How to Teach a Novel (USA)
  35. The Blue Bookcase (Int)
  36. Gaskella (Int)
  37. Reflections from the Hinterland (USA)
  38. chasing bawa (Int)
  39. 51stories (Int)
  40. No Page Left Behind (USA)

  1. Silver's Reviews (USA)
  2. Nose in a book (Int)
  3. Lit in the Last Frontier (Int)
  4. The Book Club Blog (Int)
  5. Under My Apple Tree (Int)
  6. Caribousmom (USA)
  7. breienineking (Netherlands)
  8. Let's Go on a Picnic! (Int)
  9. Rikki's Teleidoscope (Int)
  10. De Boekblogger (Netherlands)
  11. Knitting and Sundries (Int)
  12. Elle Lit (USA)
  13. Indie Reader Houston (Int)
  14. The Book Stop (Int)
  15. Eliza Does Very Little (Int)
  16. Joy's Book Blog (Int)
  17. Lit Endeavors (USA)
  18. Roof Beam Reader (Int)
  19. The House of the Seven Tails (Int)
  20. Tony's Reading List (Int)
  22. Rebecca Reads (Int)
  23. Kinna Reads (Int)
  24. In One Eye, Out the Other (USA)
  25. Books in the City (Int)
  26. Lucybird's Book Blog (Europe)
  27. Book Clutter (USA)
  28. Exurbanis (Int)
  29. Lu's Raves and Rants (USA & Canada)
  30. Sam Still Reading (Int)
  31. Dolce Bellezza (Int)
  32. Lena Sledge's Blog...Books, Reviews and Interviews (Int)
  33. a Thousand Books with Quotes (Int)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

No one told me Ann Patchett was so charismatic...

So, as noted about 12 times on this blog, I went out to hear Ann Patchett speak last week.  And I was just enthralled, from start to finish.  I'd never met the lady before, nor heard her speak, and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  I guess I was expecting more of a quiet, literary Nicole Krauss-type (Although why, after reading this novel, I have no idea.) and I got this great, outspoken, unsentimental character.

But now I feel self-conscious, because we had a discussion about this event at my face-to-face book club the other night, and I was all, "Ann Patchett is awesome!"  And a friend, whose opinion I greatly respect, was all, "I used to worship her, but now I spit on her.  Phooey!"  (I'm paraphrasing.)  We'd both sat in the same room, listening to the same lady, but we'd walked away with very differing impressions of her.  And alas, the video below is not going to clarify the situation.

This first little snippet is her opening remarks before she began her reading.  She tells a story about clearing Canadian customs for this book tour, and then she introduces the excerpt she's about to read:

Now, I didn't record the excerpt she read for two reasons.  The first reason is that she read probably the most exciting and dramatic scene in the novel.  It's a terrific scene, and you'll enjoy reading it yourself in context.  The other reason is that I only had a few minutes of space left on my video recorder, or else I would have filmed much more than this.  She talked and did Q & A at length.  (It was the Q & A that was her downfall.)

So, I resumed recording right after she finished reading, and here she is essentially telling a story that took place during her research trip to in Amazon that led to the scene she had just read.  I'll warn the phobic among you: there is much talk of snakes.  In fact, there is exactly six minutes of snakes in the Amazon, followed by two minutes announcing her next venture, which ends abruptly when I run out of digital space. Sorry!

Let me save you some trouble:  Mr. Greg's Reptile Roadshow

But you get the gist of how things were going. It was lively and very entertaining. The Q & A started out well, too. Someone asked if there would be a film version of Bel Canto, which allowed Ms. Patchett to speak at length about the vapidity of Hollywood producers. She said that people had been talking about making a movie for 10 years, and it was like being at a junior high slumber party. One girls says, "I want to take George Clooney to the prom. What do you think?" And the other says, "No, I want to take Matt Damon." And all they do is talk, talk, talk, FOR 10 YEARS!  So, she's not a fan of Hollywood. She said if a film is ever made, she doesn't want to know about it until she see's the ad in her local paper, at which point she'll go and buy a ticket. She also mentioned that Bel Canto has almost been an opera three times and a Broadway musical three times.

Truthfully, I can't remember all the questions, but she did express some unusual sentiments. At one point she stated that she cares about the books for about two weeks after they're published. After that, she said that you could come up to her and say, "I hated your novel," and she would reach into her handbag and hand you your money back, but she doesn't care. She's moved on. That's different. Where she got into trouble was when an adoring fan tried to ask her about an unresolved plot thread from a 20 year old novel.

Ms. Patchett hadn't looked at the book in 20 years, and, as noted above, had moved on. She was not kind to her questioner. She told him that she had done her part of the contract, she had written the book. It was his job to decide what it meant. The questioner did not quit while he was behind. He said something about loving the book, and desperately wanting a sequel. Ms. Patchett said something to the effect of, "Great, grab a pen and paper. Write it yourself. I've done my part. You want a sequel, you write it."

All of the above is paraphrased, and maybe my friend will chime in and share her memories and impressions of where things went astray. But ultimately, she was far more distressed about the interaction than I was. In our discussion the other night, I suggested two reasons why she was so much more disturbed by the author's indifference to her fans. First, she's a hard-core fan herself, whereas I'm merely an admiring newbie. In other words, Ms. Patchett didn't have to live up to any expectations for me. I was just thrilled she was so entertaining. The other thing is that I'm fairly familiar with the hell that is a book tour. Twenty cities in 20 days! It takes a lot out of a person. I've seen the best of them have meltdowns. This was not a full scale meltdown, but Ms. Patchett was not at her most diplomatic. I can empathize.

If you have the opportunity to hear Ann Patchett speak in the future, I urge you to go see her and make up your own mind.  And whether you think she's nice lady or not, I defintely urge you to read State of Wonder, reviewed below.  I, for one, was delighted with this first experience of a new favorite author.

Ann Patchett marries commercial and literary fiction in my dream novel

State of Wonder
by Ann Patchett

A researcher enters the Amazon in search of a missing explorer and on the hunt for a miracle drug. As a life-long fan of science and adventure thrillers, I’ve read that novel any number of times. And I liked it each and every time. It’s a story that never grows old, as far as I’m concerned. However, even in my most far-fetched literary mash-up daydreams, I never thought I’d see novelist Ann Patchett entering that verdant territory!

What Patchett has created is essentially my dream novel, marrying the best of my beloved thrillers with a gorgeous and substantive literary work. In some ways, the novel feels like half of one thing and half the other due to the way the story is structured. It’s told through the eyes of Marina Singh, a pharmaceutical researcher headquartered in Minnesota. When it is learned that her lab partner, Anders Eckman, unexpectedly died on a trip to the Brazilian jungle, both his widow and her boss (and lover) entreat Marina to follow his path into the jungle. The widow wants answers, and the boss wants the job Anders started to be finished. And that job is to find out what is going on out in the field with researcher Annick Swenson, the renowned but difficult doctor who was once Marina’s mentor.

In the first half of the novel, the action is stalled. There’s a lot of waiting for events to transpire. This allows plenty of time for Patchett to set the premise, exposit the background, and richly develop her characters—for as much as plot drives the novel, the characters’ relationships are always at the heart of the story. Around the time that both Marina and the reader have had about as much waiting as they’re going to take, the second half of the novel springs into action. And I do mean action! It’s exotic jungle adventure at its pulpiest best! As beautifully-written as it is, this part of the story is truly plot-driven. Patchett took me delightfully by surprise more than once, yet even when she caught me off guard, I could look back and see her carefully laid foundation. It’s really masterfully constructed.

A lot happens towards the end of the novel. Some may find the conclusion too neat, but for me it was perfect. Now if only John Irving would write a techno-thriller, my life would be complete!

NOTE:  I caught Ann on tour for this book, and will be posting some video footage from the event, hopefully later today.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Getting Devilish in San Francisco

Oh, I was a little silly yesterday.  My friend James Rollins had a big online party to celebrate the publication of his latest novel, The Devil Colony.  The party, on Twitter (at the hashtag #DevilColony) and Facebook, was called Dance with the Devil, and Jimbo was encouraging people to post all sorts of devilish photos.  Well, myself and a few of the members of my book group had a nice chat about The Devil Colony (reviewed here) last night, and apparently it brought out my true colors--right down to the demonic red eyes!

Only for you, Jimbo...  I hope this gives you a laugh!  See you Friday.  :-)

Today's HUMPDAY GIVEAWAY is delayed for an excellent reason...

So, as you know, most Wednesday's I post a book giveaway on the blog.  I have several shiny hardback copies of a current New York Times bestseller that I'm looking forward to giving away this week--but I'm going to have to beg your patience for a few more days.  The reason is that In One Eye, Out the Other will be participating in a huge, international book giveaway blog hop!

I've never done anything like this before, but it should be fun.  It's being organized by my friend Judith over at Leeswammes's Blog.  (Yeah, I don't really get the name of her blog either, but it might make more sense in Dutch.  She's over in the Netherlands, but writes more eloquently in English than I do!)  You should absolutely check her excellent blog out, and that's the beauty part of this blog hop.  Like 60 or 70 different book blogs aound the world will be participating with giveaways, and I'll link to them all here.  You can jump from post to post and enter as many of the giveaways as you like.  It should be all kinds of fun, with dozens of winners, and best of all, you may discover some awesome new literary blogs along the way.  I know I'm looking forward to checking them all out!

So, this week's giveaway will be posted on Saturday.  Please check back then!  In the meanwhile, please feel free to speculate on which book I'll be giving away...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tyler Locke & his Leatherman tool are back!

The Vault
by Boyd Morrison

Yes, Tyler Locke, the protagonist of The Ark, is back, as are his sidekick Grant Westfield, the General, and several other characters from Boyd Morrison’s debut novel. One notable exception is Dilara Kenner, who is not featured in this latest adventure. Obviously, this is the second book in a continuing series. In general, I’m a big proponent of reading series books in order, but in this case I don’t think it matters if you’ve read the first. The events of The Ark are barely referenced, even in passing, so you won’t be missing a thing.

Like so many action heroes, trouble seems to find Tyler Locke. This time it takes the form of an insistently ringing telephone. Tyler is minding his own business on a ferry commute when an unknown caller tells him he has 28 minutes to defuse a bomb on the boat. Having no other option, Tyler investigates. He is indeed led to a bomb, a blonde, and a puzzle. What he doesn’t know is that this set-up is only the first test. The mystery caller is Jordan Orr, a career criminal with an insane-sounding quest. The blonde is Stacy Benedict, another innocent bystander, like Tyler, with a unique skill set. And Orr has acquired exactly the leverage to make both Tyler and Stacy do his bidding. For what he wants is nothing less than the Midas Touch.

Let’s stop right there. Yes, that Midas Touch, where everything you touch turns to gold. As I read this fairly early on in the novel, I was skeptical. Actually, I don’t think skeptical covers it; I was bordering on contemptuous. It was the most ridiculous premise I could imagine for a quest thriller. But I am a big Morrison fan, so I suspended my disbelief and continued reading. (Incidentally, one of the things I like best about Tyler Locke is that he articulates all the things I’m thinking—but more knowledgeably. He doesn’t just say that alchemy is a fantasy; he explains why nuclear fission isn’t a practical means to turn lead into gold.)

Ultimately, I was rewarded for giving the author the latitude to ply his craft. He never let me down on the entertainment—though there were some scenes that felt a bit contrived to me. And while I’m not going to claim that this is the most plausible plot, Morrison pulls it off. He makes it believable enough (and I’m not a pushover when it comes to that). There was a science-based plot twist at one point that made me literally stand up and cheer out loud. It was so awesome!

As far as character development goes, I’d say it’s about status quo with the first book. Don’t pick this book up if you are looking for an intimate character portrait. Pick it up if you want a rockin’ car chase on the Autobahn. Pick it up if you enjoy a good heist. Pick it up if you’re curious how science can explain the legend of Midas. And pick The Vault up if you’re looking for a book that’s hard to put down.

Best. Novel. Yet.

The Devil Colony
by James Rollins

Over the years, I’ve written a lot of enthusiastic things about the novels of James Rollins. But until now, I’ve never written this: THE DEVIL COLONY IS THE BEST NOVEL THAT JAMES ROLLINS HAS EVER WRITTEN! (Yes, in all caps even!) Like many readers, I was disappointed in the two-year wait for this latest installment in the Sigma Force series. Now, I’m thinking perhaps he should take two years on all the novels—I don’t know if it was the extra time, but something has paid off huge dividends.

As always, summarizing the story is the hardest part. First, because I’d hate to spoil any surprises. And secondly, because it’s just really hard to summarize one of Rollins’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink plots. The main action of this book opens in present day Utah. From two boys who can’t resist the lure of the forbidden, a great and terrible discovery is made at a sacred Native American site. There are bodies. There is an artifact. And, astonishingly, something that goes to the very core of Mormon theology!

Just as the scientists on site are beginning to grasp what they’ve discovered, there is a huge explosion. The explosion is blamed on a Native American activist, but it’s clear that this wasn’t your standard bomb. It’s something far more dangerous, with implications that spread further and further afield, and which drag Sigma operatives into the story on differing assignments and for different reasons. All the usual suspects are back, including the enigmatic Seichan, who is again paired in an uneasy alliance with Gray Pierce. Painter Crowe is also back in the field this time around. Operatives from the Guild are up to their usual tricks, and even as readers learn more about the shadowy organization in this novel, new questions are raised for the next book. (It’s infuriating how he does that.)

In provocative messages leading up to the publication of The Devil Colony, James Rollins repeated asked, “Was America founded on a lie?” The plot of this novel does get right to the heart of the formation of this country. What were Lewis and Clark really up to? What was Thomas Jefferson communicating in secret ciphers? It also explains the fate of some of the most mysteriously lost cultures through history. It delves into the not only the most cutting-edge technology, but also some amazingly advanced ancient technology. And, yes, it also explores the foundation of the Mormon Church. Oh, and there’s a super-volcano! And killer whales! And the heist of all heists!

Seriously, I could go on like this all day. The scope of this novel is breath-taking. What’s amazing is that Rollins pulls all of these diverse threads together so plausibly that you’ll find yourself wondering if he has indeed solved half the puzzles of the ages in one fell swoop. As always, there’s a staggering amount of fact laced throughout his fantastic plot. It’s enough to make you go, “Hmmm.”

The pace starts to race early on, and it just never slows down. The stakes in the book simply get bigger and bigger. Technically, it’s a well-structured page-turner. But in the end, it’s the story that got me and held me. Every part of it was just so inventive, exciting, and so darn interesting! I entitled this review “Best. Novel. Yet.” I don’t anticipate Mr. Rollins topping The Devil Colony any time soon, but I hold out hope. He wrote this one. What wonderful tales can we look forward to in the future?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Mailbox Monday: Wish I felt better edition

As far as I'm concerned, there are few things worse that feeling ill on a Monday.  I was sick all weekend.  :-(  So, this Monday I'm indulging myself with an entire series of puppy in the mailbox photos.  They almost make me feel better.  Hopefully you'll enjoy them, too.

  • Speaking of not feeling well, I was a bit premature when I pronounced my sister and new nephew well last week.  My family had failed to keep me in the loop.  Grrr.  The baby is reasonably well, but my sister could use some healing energy sent her way, if you've got any to spare.
  • Ann Patchett's event at Bookshop West Portal was awesome!  I've got some fun video to post later this week.  And, I got to run into my friends Sue and Rachel at the signing, which proves that Ms. Patchett attracts all the best people.
  • On Thursday night, I wound up having dinner with Jacob and Rina Weisman of Tachyon Books, and novelist Michael Kurland and his wife Linda.  Lovely couples both.
  • On tap this week, my face-to-face book group meets tomorrow night.  I run it, so unless I'm at death's door, I'll be there.
  • And guess who I'll be spending this coming weekend with?  James "Jimbo" Rollins, whose book The Devil Colony goes on sale tomorrow.  At long overdue last, I'll be posting a review today.  And Jimbo doesn't know it yet, but I'll have my borrowed video camera on-hand as we hang out all weekend.
  • Speaking of James Rollins, he's having an online world-wide book release party for The Devil Colony.  Details can be found here.  They're calling it Dance with the Devil, and if I can get the energy together, I'll be there wearing the light up devil horns given to me by author Joe Hill (on the occasion of the release of his novel Horns).  Pics if it happens.
  • Also, I'm slightly embarrassed to admit this, but I've recently joined the Twitterverse.  You know how I'm always a month behind blogging about interesting things I'm doing?  Like BEA, the Book Blogger Con, and the rest of the shows I saw in NY?  If you want to hear about stuff in real time, please follow me @SusanTunis.  I'm generally about a decade behind the rest of the planet when it comes to technology, so I'm still learning about the medium, but this would be an excellent time to follow me.  I'm off to NY again in a couple of weeks for more theater and Thrillerfest--and there is always something exciting and/or scandalous to comment on there!  (I'm not joking.)

As for what's in the mailbox, here's a loose collection of books that have come in from sources other than BEA in the recent past.  I'm sure it's incomplete.  Nonetheless...

The Devil Colony
By James Rollins
Release: June 21, 2011
Source: finished hardback from publisher
Thank you, Shawn!  I was thrilled to see this in the mailbox!  It's my very favorite book by one of my favorite authors.

Folly Beach
Dorthea Benton Frank
Release: June 14, 2011

Source: Finished hardback from publisher
I think this one will be a giveaway some week.  I may have a copy of the previous book to package with it.
by Rosamund Lupton
Release: June 7, 2011
Source: The Amazon Vine program
I'm hearing good things on this novel, and I'm looking forward to reading it!

Blood of the Reich
by William Dietrich
Release: June 28, 2011
Source: The Amazon Vine program
I've been a Dietrich fan for years, and this book feels like he's getting back to his early roots.  Ice Reich was the book that made me a fan.  I'm about halfway through this book, but I'm not sure what I think yet.  It's an enjoyable read, but how he pulls it all together will be important.

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern
Release: September 13, 2011
Source: The Amazon Vine program
This debut novel has more buzz than just about any BEA title this year.  And somehow I could NOT acquire a copy at BEA.  It was a little bizzarre.  Thank goodness for my friends at Amazon.  I can't wait to read this!

Lunch Wars: How to Start a School Food Revolution and Win the Battle for Our Childrens Health
by Amy Kalafa
Release: August 18, 2011
Source: Galley from the publisher
Another future giveaway, I'm thinking close to the start of the school year.

The Devil All the Time
by Donald Ray Pollack
Release: July 12, 2011
Source: Galley from the publisher

Yay, I'm finally able to go back to my normal formatting.  I have no idea what I was doing wrong above.  Anyway, I have heard very good things about this thriller, but I suspect that it too will be given away.  So many books, so little time!

Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life
by Sandra Beasley
Release: July 12, 2011

Source: Galley from the publisher
Got Allergies?  This is another future giveaway title.  I have a feeling this memoir will resonate with many readers.

by Alex Shakar
Release: August 23, 2011
Source: Galley from publisher's rep

Random House has a wonderful rep who hooks me up with interesting titles.  I am completely unfamiliar with this author, and I hadn't heard about this title, but it sounds fascinating.  I'm really looking forward to reading it.

Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
Release: August 16, 2011
Source: Galley from publisher's rep

This is the other title my rep friend brought to my attention.  I had heard of it, but I wasn't sure it was for me.  For starters, I'm not an online gamer.  However, he highlighted other aspects of the title that made it sound really interesting and unintimidating.  When it arrived at my house, I got sucked into the first chapter and had to force myself to stop reading.  It was off to an awesome start, but I have too many books I've promised to read first, and this one isn't out until August.

I know there are more books than that, but those are the ones I can remember.

Books I've read since I last reported in:

Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater
A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages by Kristin Chenoweth
Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
Arcadia: Complete Summary & Analysis by Raja Sharma
Skinny by Diana Spechler
The Woodcutter by Reginald Hill
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

(I'm just a little behind on my reviewing.)

Book's I'm currently reading:

The Uncertain Places by Lisa Goldstein
Blood of the Reich by William Dietrich

So, I think we've proven today that puppies in mailboxes never get old.  I could post these pics all day.  Have a great week!