Vanessa Diffenbaugh was on the phone from Monterey, where she and her family have lived for a year. If her name seems familiar, it’s likely because of her unexpected 2010 mega-hit, “The Language of Flowers.” The story of a conflicted woman who was shaped by the foster-care system sold more than 1 million copies worldwide and spent 69 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.
“I have deep roots in Sacramento,” Diffenbaugh said. “I wrote most of ‘Flowers’ at Temple Coffee on S Street and launched the Camellia Network out of an office on H Street.” The nonprofit “social support platform” assists young people transitioning out of foster care. It changed its name to LifeSet Network after recently partnering with Youth Villages, a national group specializing in transitional-living programs.
Diffenbaugh’s new novel, “We Never Asked for Wings,” is the story of a young mother working multiple jobs whose children are being raised by her parents. Sudden circumstances put the responsibility of full-time parenthood on her, and she struggles to find ways to elevate her family’s situation.
It’s the Sacramento Bee Book Club’s choice for October, in partnership with the Sacramento Public Library and Barnes & Noble. Because of construction at the usual Bee Book Club venue, the October event is moving to a different location.
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All the tickets to the event have been taken. For ticket-holders, Diffenbaugh will give her presentation at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, in the Clunie Community Center in McKinley Park, 601 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento (doors open at 5:15 p.m.). That’s adjacent to the McKinley Library. Look for my interview with Diffenbaugh in the Monday, Oct. 19, Explore section.
“We Never Asked for Wings (Ballantine, $27, 320 pages) will be offered at a 30 percent discount through Oct. 22 at Barnes & Noble; Avid Reader at the Tower in Sacramento; Avid Reader in Davis; Face in a Book in El Dorado Hills; Time Tested Books; Underground Books; Hornet Bookstore at California State University, Sacramento; the UC Davis Bookstore; and the Bookseller in Grass Valley.
Here comes the fall landslide
A landslide of titles for the coming fall and winter months has landed here at Reading Central. My annual preview samplings of fiction and nonfiction titles are just around the corner; meanwhile, here’s a pre-preview. These books have either recently arrived or will be released this week.
“The Girl With the Deep Blue Eyes” by Lawrence Block (Hard Case Crime, $23, 240 pages): The mega-award-winning Block is a master of the noir thriller, as shown again in this gritty story reminiscent of “Double Indemnity” by James M. Cain. It’s a perfect match for the Hard Case Crime imprint, which specializes in “vintage-style crime fiction,” complete with racy 1950s-style book covers. In “Deep Blue Eyes,” a former cop turned PI gets too involved with a woman looking for a hit man to set up her husband. One of Block’s many books, “A Walk Among the Tombstones” from his 17-title “Matthew Scudder” series (one of seven series), was made into a 2014 movie starring Liam Neeson.
“The Heart Goes Last” by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese, $27, 320 pages): The Canadian novelist-poet-essayist shocks readers with another heart-wrenching story set in the near future. A down-and-out husband-wife join the Positron Project, which requires them to alternate between living in a nice house in a nice town, and living in the company-run prison. What could possibly go wrong? Among Atwood’s 14 novels is the dystopian “The Handmaid’s Tale,” made into a 1990 movie starring Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway and Robert Duvall. It was also translated into stage and radio plays and an opera.
“A Song of Shadows” by John Connolly (Atria, $27, 448 pages): LAPD detective-turned-PI Charlie Parker has retreated to small-town Maine, where he’s recovering from his last battle. There, he befriends a woman and her daughter whose pasts are linked to “dark forces.” The Irish author has written 13 thrillers starring Parker, who involuntarily communes with the deceased. His world is populated with elements of “unspeakable evil.” However, his stories offer philosophical and theological depths.
“Vintage” by David Baker (Touchstone, $25, 320 pages): When wine connoisseur and food journalist Bruno Tannenbaum learns that a long-lost, invaluable bottle of wine is there a for the finding, he embarks on a global treasure hunt. Problem is, so do the bad guys.
“The Company She Kept” by Archer Mayor (Minotaur, $26, 304 pages): A woman’s murder leads Joe Gunther and his team at the Vermont Bureau of Investigation to unexpected places, including the governor’s office. This is Mayor’s 26th entry in the police-procedural series, a niche that’s familiar to him – he’s a sheriff’s office investigator.
“Gold Fame Citrus” by Claire Vaye Watkins (Riverhead, $28, 352 pages): Given California’s drought, this much-heralded debut novel could serve as a cautionary tale. The Southwest has turned into a complete desert, with most citizens evacuated or confined to internment camps. Luz and Ray are hiding out in an abandoned mansion in Southern California when they hear of a prophet-like water diviner and his new Eden. Myth or reality? They begin a dangerous journey east to find out, accompanied by a mysterious child.
“The Lost Landscape: A Writer’s Coming of Age” by Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco, $28, 368 pages): In this disturbing memoir, the prolific Princeton “distinguished professor” (50 novels) and National Book Award-winner recalls how her childhood ultimately shaped her into who she is – one of the world’s most respected living writers. In it, she names “the singular book that changed my life” – an oversized edition of the two “Alice” books by Lewis Caroll.
“A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up With George” by Kelly Carlin (St. Martin’s, $27, 336 pages): The late iconoclast/comedian George Carlin and wife Brenda had one child, Kelly, who was her father’s closest friend from childhood through adulthood. Her painful and funny memoir is a wild road trip through the troubled terrain of their relationship. Tellingly, she describes herself as “thinker, communicator, disruptor.” Just like Dad.