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Bookreporter.com Bets On...

With thousands of books published each year and much attention paid to the works of bestselling and well-known authors, it is inevitable that some titles worthy of praise and discussion may not get the attention we think they deserve. Thus throughout the year, we will continue this feature that we started in 2009, to spotlight books that immediately struck a chord with us and made us say “just read this.” We will alert our readers about these titles as soon as they’re released so you can discover them for yourselves and recommend them to your family and friends.

Below are all of our selections thus far. For future "Bets On" titles that we will announce shortly after their release dates, please visit this page.

All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

July 2016

I read ALL IS NOT FORGOTTEN by Wendy Walker a long while back in manuscript and then refreshed myself with the story by listening to the audiobook, which is narrated brilliantly by actor Dylan Baker (you’ll know his voice from “The Good Wife” and “The Americans”). 

At the heart of the story is the rape of Jenny Kramer, a young teen who was assaulted in the woods where she wandered off to while a party was going on. A decision is made to erase the memory of what happened to Jenny that night so she can move on with her life. But she does not bounce back to being the teen she was. There are many layers of hurt here, including a scar on her lower back that keeps bothering her. While the memory of that night is gone, there are triggers that remain.

The Girls by Emma Cline

June 2016

THE GIRLS by Emma Cline is set in Northern California at the end of the '60s. The protagonist is Evie Boyd, a lonely teenager drawn to a group of girls who hang out in her town, frolicking and living life with reckless abandon. She is particularly enamored of Suzanne, an older aloof girl. She follows these women into their world, which is a cult where they are led by a charismatic leader on a ranch on the outskirts of town. Swept up, she longs to be part of them, but is too naive to notice that things are spinning wildly out of control and an act of violence is about to unravel her newfound life.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

June 2016

Something I noted as I started BEFORE THE FALL was that earlier this year I read AFTER THE CRASH, which was another Bets On selection. Is this the year of the airline thriller for me? I fastened my seatbelt and settled in for the ride. The author of BEFORE THE FALL is Noah Hawley, who many of you may recognize for his fame as the creator of “Fargo.” He knows how to draw a reader in quickly and provide well-measured suspense. It’s brisk at the start and totally compelling. Once you start reading, it will be a while before you look up --- and when you do, you will have tripped over a lot of red herrings!

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

June 2016

I remember exactly where I sat reading Emma Straub’s THE VACATIONERS two years ago. I remember because it was a one-day read that unfolded like a great escape. Thus I looked forward to getting my hands on MODERN LOVERS, which provided me that same experience.

Here we have three former bandmates from Oberlin (their band was called Kitty’s Mustache) --- Elizabeth, Andrew and Zoe --- locked into a friendship that has matured from their college days, but still carries lots of the baggage and history that come from longtime friendships. Set in Brooklyn, Elizabeth has married Andrew, and Zoe has married Jane. Each couple has bought homes, started businesses and built a family life, which feels oh-so-mature. But at the same time, each of the characters is caught up in some level of midlife crisis drama. Andrew, the trust fund baby, is lost; Elizabeth is selling real estate but is missing her artistic side; and Zoe and Jane are going through marital woes, something that married lesbian couples get to experience as a by-product of exercising their right to marry. I knew someone was going to mine this last plot thread for a novel.

The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church

May 2016

Elizabeth J. Church’s debut novel, THE ATOMIC WEIGHT OF LOVE, is one of those multi-layered books that has one thinking about the road not taken, as well as the changing roles of women through the years. The book opens in Chicago during the height of World War II, where Meridian Wallace is happily studying ornithology at the University of Chicago. As she pursues her course work, she meets a physics professor, Alden Whetstone, who shares with her his theories about motion and space and what allows birds to fly. She is intrigued by him.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

May 2016

EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN by Chris Cleave is based on the story of his grandfather’s service on Malta, as well as his grandmother’s life in the UK during the same time period.

Three characters --- Mary North, Tom Shaw and Alistair Heath --- bring the story to life here. Mary has volunteered to teach a small group of kids who have been left behind in the evacuation of the children, something I had not been aware of. The infirmed, those mentally handicapped and the non-whites typically were rejected by the families in the countryside who boarded the evacuees, or they were not sent at all. Tom is the school administrator who does not wish to join the war effort, preferring to stay behind and help those who were not wanted. Mary and Tom quickly become enamored with each other.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

May 2016

I read I LET YOU GO by Clare Mackintosh in a day, and boy is it good. Psychological thrillers are so courant, and endlessly compared to this one or that one. You all know what I mean. I LET YOU GO is not to be compared. It has set a new standard with a twist that I did not see coming. When you hit it, the entire narrative shifts. Just brilliant.

Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe by Dawn Tripp

April 2016

I confess that I never knew Georgia O’Keefe lived in New York. I always thought she spent her entire life in New Mexico, which I have visited just once, but still think of when I contemplate beautiful places. Thus GEORGIA: A Novel of Georgia O’Keeffe by Dawn Tripp was a real treat as I read about Georgia’s life in New York (where she moved in 1916), her relationship and marriage to the noted photographer and art dealer Alfred Stieglitz, and her works beyond the flowers and landscapes that I have come to associate with her. Stieglitz’s photographs of her, many of them nudes, drew attention to them both. He also marketed and showed her work, positioning her in the art world and continuously urging her to do more.

Glory Over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

April 2016

I tore through GLORY OVER EVERYTHING: Beyond The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom realizing it’s been a while since I had read a book set before the Civil War. It opens in 1830, and Jamie, who is biracial but passes as white, has fled from Virginia where his parentage has been discovered and is living in Philadelphia society as a wealthy silversmith. He must return to the South to do a favor for a man to whom he owes a great debt, traveling there to rescue that man’s son. This will take him near Tall Oakes and a ruthless slave hunter who has not forgotten him. Escape via the Underground Railroad weaves its way into the story, which is a complete page-turner.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

April 2016

LILAC GIRLS by Martha Hall Kelly is set during World War II. It’s the story of three women whose lives intersect during the war. Caroline Ferriday is a humanitarian; Kasia Kuzmerick is a Polish prisoner in the Ravensbrück camp and is known as “a Rabbit” (you will have to read to find out why); and Herta Oberheuser is a doctor at the camp. Each woman’s story is told in stand-alone chapters. Martha writes such brilliant cliffhangers that more than once I found myself flipping to the character’s next chapter to discover what was going to happen!