California State University, Sacramento, continues its Author Lecture Series, a free program open to the public, with Reyna Grande for “The Distance Between Us.” Her memoir recalls her childhood in Mexico, a narrative the Los Angeles Times calls the “Angela’s Ashes” of the modern Mexican immigrant experience. She is also the author of the novels “Across a Hundred Mountains” and “Dancing With Butterflies.”
Catch her talk and book-signing at 3 p.m. Thursday at the University Library Gallery, 6000 J St., Sacramento. Information and free parking permits: Sally Hitchcock at 916-278-5954. The program is sponsored by the CSUS Friends of the Library.
A few good reads
• Fans of epic fantasy can thank J.R.R. Tolkien for the sub-genre’s resurgence in popular culture over the past six decades. His three-volume “Lord of the Rings,” published in 1954-55, remains the benchmark aspired to by the fantasy writers who are still following. Now comes “No Man’s Land” by his grandson and director of his estate, Simon Tolkien (Nan A. Talese, $28, 592 pages). The novel imagines the senior Tolkien’s first-hand experiences in World War I combat. In a letter home at the time, Lt. Tolkien wrote, “Junior officers were being killed off, a dozen a minute.”
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• Travel-guide publisher Lonely Planet has introduced millions of people to the world since its inception in the mid-1970s. Its new “essential toolkit for honeymooners” is “The Honeymoon Handbook,” which includes solid practical advice on planning and budgeting. Still, even if you’re long married or single and staying home, the vicarious tingles can be found in Vietnam, Bali, Cuba, Hawaii, Italy, New Zealand, Spain and other destinations. But don’t forget – the average honeymoon costs $4,500 (see “Work Out a Realistic Budget”).
• Andrew Grant maintains two thriller series. The new title in his Cooper Devereaux trilogy is “False Friend,” in which the troubled police detective – known for “working outside the lines” – is on the trail of an arsonist (Ballantine, $27, 304 pages). Problem is, unexpected complications from his past keep popping up. Grant is the brother of thriller writer Lee Child, whose 21st Jack Reacher novel is “Night School.”
• Florida has nationally known humor writers Carl Hiaasen (“Razor Girl”) and Dave Barry (“Best. State. Ever”), but when it comes to the art of the bizarre, don’t overlook Tim Dorsey of Tampa and his 20th novel, “Clownfish Blues” (William Morrow, $27, 352 pages). Serge Storms – the “lovable psychotic killer and Floridaphile” – is back and hip-deep trying to bust a state lottery scam. Crazy stuff.
• You can often listen to comedian Paula Poundstone on the zany NPR show “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me!, and now you can read her in “The Totaly Unscientific Study of the Search For Human Happiness” (Algonquin, $26, 288 pages). The first of her series of “experiments” for finding happiness is the “Get Fit Experiment.” It begins like this: “I certainly wouldn’t mind being beautiful, but if it takes more than a few minutes a day, forget it. I’d often heard that being physically fit, however, could be a key to happiness, so it is where I began my study.” Prepare to laugh.