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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.

Mademoiselle Chanel by C. W. Gortner

March 2015

I started my career at a fashion magazine, so Chanel was a name I came to know well as an iconic brand, but I knew little about the woman when I worked there. A few years ago, I watched Coco Before Chanel and learned a tad more about Coco Chanel and her legendary career, but there still were holes. Thus I scooped up an advance copy of C. W. Gortner’s MADEMOISELLE CHANEL as soon as it was available and happily found it to be a wonderfully enjoyable book that rounded out my Chanel experience.

Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born --- Ian Fleming's Jamaica by Matthew Parker

March 2015

I have a thing for the James Bond franchise that goes beyond gadgets and Bond Girls. As an Anglophile, it even goes beyond the fact that Bond is a British icon. Instead, I love to look at James Bond and Ian Fleming in their relation to the British psyche of the 1950s and 1960s, a reflection of a nation with a changing identity as the colonies that once made up so much of its identity started to peel away one by one, amidst the physical and mental rebuilding after the destruction of World War II.

My Sunshine Away by M.O. Walsh

February 2015

I was lucky enough to read MY SUNSHINE AWAY back in the spring of 2014, as I interviewed M.O. Walsh for the BEA Book Buzz session last May. When I read the title, I started humming the song “You Are My Sunshine,” which I learned is one of the state songs of Louisiana. Then I read the first line of the book, “There were four suspects in the rape of Lindy Simpson,” and I stopped thinking sunny thoughts.

Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger

February 2015

Lisa Unger has a knack for writing the kind of edgy psychological thriller that lures you in and wraps itself around you Then, just when you think I got this story nailed, she whooshes you off into another direction. When you settle there, you know you better not get comfortable. When I finished CRAZY LOVE YOU, I still was wondering if I got the ending right. I was paying rapt attention to the story, but what character was I supposed to rely upon?

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

February 2015

I love it when authors take on new challenges and push their craft to a new level. That is what Kristin Hannah has done with THE NIGHTINGALE. About seven months into writing her first draft, she realized that this had the potential to be a bigger book than anything she had written before. The storyline of World War II France was giving her a wide landscape, and the characters of the two sisters were solid, but this was a story that was going to take time to tell. She wanted to look at the war through the eyes of women, as she felt that the subject had been told mainly through the lens of men in the past.

Fear the Darkness by Becky Masterman

January 2015

FEAR THE DARKNESS is Becky Masterman’s follow-up to the Edgar Award and CWA Gold Dagger finalist RAGE AGAINST THE DYING starring ex-FBI agent Brigid Quinn. From the start, Masterman delivered a strong character in Brigid --- someone with a past that has shaped her, but not one that has crippled her. I love that she is not perfect, but instead embraces her flaws.

The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward

January 2015

THE SAME SKY by Amanda Eyre Ward has a two-threaded storyline. One is about Carla, a young girl living in Honduras who is caretaking her six-year-old brother after her mother moves to Texas. The goal is that she will make enough money to bring the children north. She sends them money as she can and talks to them weekly. The children live in abject poverty, scouring garbage dumpsters for food; the brother starts sniffing glue. Carla decides they will head north through Mexico as they are starving and fearful for their lives.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

January 2015

I have been “on board the praise train” for THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins since I first started reading it. I clearly remember picking it up late one Thursday night, getting about 10 pages in and forcing myself to stop. I knew that if I kept reading, there was no way I was going to be able to put it down, and I had a huge day of my “Friday writing” scheduled for the next day. But as SOON as I typed the last word that Friday, I dashed for it to start reading and did not stop until I was done. (I now understand what a child feels like being told to stop playing a video game to do homework!)

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton

January 2015

THE SECRET WISDOM OF THE EARTH by Christopher Scotton blends a coming-of-age story with a look inside the world of modern-day coal mining, known as fracking, and its impact on a community.

Fourteen-year-old Kevin and his mom have moved from Indiana to Medgar, Kentucky, a coal town deep in Appalachia following the death of his three-year-old brother, Joshua, in a horrific accident for which Kevin has been blamed. His mom’s grief has overwhelmed and paralyzed her, leaving Kevin to reach out to his grandfather, Pops, to help him heal. This man, a veterinarian, brings a lot of heart and soul, as well as wisdom, to the story, besides being an anchor for Kevin.

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

January 2015

Confession here: As I was not an English major, I do not have an encyclopedic memory of the work of Virginia Woolf. I had heard of the Bloomsbury Group, but knew little about their members. I am happy to share that after reading VANESSA AND HER SISTER, I am pop quiz-worthy on the latter topic. In this book, Priya Parmar has crafted a fictionalized diary of Vanessa Stephen Bell, otherwise known as the sister of Virginia Woolf.