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January 17, 2014 Newsletter January 17, 2014
Wheels Up for Seattle
I am flying to Seattle on Monday where I will be attending the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute, meeting dozens of authors and hearing about upcoming spring/summer titles, as well as enjoying the company of hundreds of booksellers. I have been reading up a storm getting ready for this. I do not like meeting authors when I am not prepared! Events like this are flush with serendipitous moments where you hear about a book that you HAVE to read and then dash back to your room after events and stay up way too late doing just that!

It’s been a very, very busy first two weeks of the year. I am thrilled to share that our newly designed site is now live with our new look and a lot of improved technology. This update is part of a much bigger project here at with an eye on bringing you a better experience to discover and explore new books. Besides the fresh new look to the site, we also have some new features to share, some of which will be interesting for you even if you are not in a book group:

  • Discussion Guides Linked from If a book is featured on and a discussion guide is available, you will see it on the menu of information on a book page where we include other links, like About the Book and excerpts. Reading is often a solo experience, and we like offering this opportunity for you to read through these questions to see how they may spark more thoughts about the book.
  • Printing Guides via PDF: Many book groups have asked for the capability to print guides to bring to meetings; this feature also is available on any book page that has a guide available. We’ve been getting RAVES about this from readers this week.
  • Rate Books for Book Groups --- No Need to Be in a Book Group to Participate: This is a brand-new monthly feature, where you can rate the books you’ve read with 1-5 stars and let us know if you think they would be good selections for book groups. You can add books that you have read personally or with your book group. Please note that all submissions will be reviewed before they are posted at the beginning of each month, thus your post will not appear immediately.*
  • “What's Your Book Group Reading This Month?” Contest: We have been running this feature on the site for a while, but this new format will give us the ability to share this information on a monthly basis so you can see what other groups around the country are reading. Again, here your post will not appear immediately.* Oh, and if you enter your book group’s selection, you will be entered to win one of three sets of 12 copies of that month’s featured title. For January, the prize book is AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF US by Aria Beth Sloss, which was one of my Bets On selections last year.
  • Search by Title, Author or Genre: We have three convenient ways for you to search for books. By Title »| By Author »| By Genre »
  • Guides for Other Books by an Author: When you are looking at a guide, you will see links to other titles by that author that we have discussion guides for in the right-hand column.
  • Other Book Suggestions: When you are looking at a guide, you will see suggestions for other books in the same genres as the title you are looking at, in the right-hand column. This is so you can explore other books that may be of interest to you.

And as we ring in 2014, we’ve been asking our readers to reflect on their reading from last year. What were some of your favorite books that your group read in 2013? We know it’s difficult for many of you to pick just one title, so feel free to select up to three. All you have to do is fill out the form on this page by Friday, January 31st at noon ET, and we’ll aim to share the results in February!

* Quick Housekeeping Note: We ask --- no, actually we beg --- that you use correct spelling for the title and author for these features and also capitalize words as appropriate. I know in this text-crazy world that everyone writes like e e cummings, but we are sticklers for how things look on the site and prefer to spend time making fabulous new content rather than shaping up comments. And, ahem, the same thing goes for those contributing to's Word of Mouth feature.

After 17 years of launching and re-launching sites, the moment when the new site goes live is still one filled with great excitement, but I also know that no launch is ever error- or bug-free (though I would sleep a lot better if they were). If you see a tech or design issue, please drop me a note at with the subject line: RGG - Tech or Design Issue. If you can include the operating system you are on (i.e. PC, MAC, tablet or phone) and the browser you are using (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc.), this can help us with our troubleshooting as we can replicate your setup.

Enjoy…and if you take a look around the site, let me know what you think! And as always, suggestions are welcome!

And now onward to our update…

We have a review of THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES, a continuation of Alan Bradley’s award-winning mystery series starring his young protagonist, Flavia de Luce. The 11-year-old chemist and aspiring detective is at the train station awaiting the return of her long-lost mother. Yet upon the train’s arrival, Flavia is approached by a stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear. Moments later he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd. Who was this man, what did his words mean, and why were they intended for Flavia? Roz Shea has our review and advises, “You don’t have to have read the entire series, as the stories are not serial in nature, but it helps to have read at least one or two to become acquainted with the richly drawn characters and atmosphere of post-World War II England.”

Last week, we previewed the upcoming release of PERFECT by Rachel Joyce, whose debut novel THE UNLIKELY PILGRIMAGE OF HAROLD FRY was a national bestseller and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Well, there seems to be no sophomore slump for Rachel, at least according to our reviewer, Norah Piehl. In her review of PERFECT, which is now in stores, Norah praises, “Much as she did with her unforgettable character of Harold Fry, Joyce here skillfully draws characters who will remain in readers' imaginations for a long time…. Pretty much everyone…will be touched by the cautious hopefulness of the novel's ending.”

SOMERSET by Leila Meacham is our latest Women’s Fiction Author Spotlight title. In this prequel to Meacham’s 2010 debut novel, ROSES, we begin in the antebellum South on Plantation Alley in South Carolina, where Silas Toliver, deprived of his inheritance, joins up with his best friend Jeremy Warwick to plan a wagon train expedition to the "black waxy" promise of a new territory called Texas. Slavery, westward expansion, abolition, the Civil War, love, marriage, friendship, tragedy and triumph are all here in abundance. We have 35 copies to give away to those who would like to read the book and comment on it. To enter, please fill out this form by Thursday, January 30th at noon ET. By the way, one of our readers, Ann from San Antonio, Texas, is a friend of Leila’s and has been raving about this book to me since she read it in manuscript. I am looking forward to it. And one more thing: Leila’s books have the most beautiful covers!

Moving from the Deep South to the Midwest leads us to SHOTGUN LOVESONGS, a debut novel from Nickolas Butler that explores the age-old question of whether or not you can ever truly come home again --- and the kind of steely faith and love returning requires. Four friends are brought together for a wedding, and the town of Little Wing seems even smaller than before. While lifelong bonds are still strong, there are stresses --- between the friends, between husbands and wives. There will be heartbreak, but there will also be hope, healing, even heroism as these memorable people learn the true meaning of adult friendship and love. The book doesn’t release until March 11th, but we’re giving 100(!) readers the opportunity to win a copy of the book and submit their comments about it. To enter, please fill out this form by Thursday, January 30th at noon ET.

I read the manuscript for SHOTGUN LOVESONGS last March, lamenting that I could not share it with you for almost a year. Set in a tiny town near Eau Claire, Wisconsin, it has a lot of heart and will touch your soul with a cast of characters who are memorable. It was really poignant that I read it while I was in one of my favorite small towns, Crested Butte. There’s an interesting commentary in it about celebrities and the cost of fame as well. In our celebrity-driven age, the power of roots is something to ponder.

We also have a new Paperback Spotlight title to tell you about. It’s CIDER BROOK, the third book in Carla Neggers’s Swift River Valley romance series. Samantha Bennett is a treasure hunter who has returned to Knights Bridge, Massachusetts to solve a 300-year-old mystery and salvage her good name. Now she has everyone’s attention --- especially that of Justin Sloan. Samantha is daring, determined, seized by wanderlust --- everything that strong, stoic Justin never knew he wanted. Until now… Click here to read more about the book, which releases on January 28th.

Congratulations to the winners of our 2013 End-of-the-Year Contest! Our Grand Prize winner, Claudia from Seattle, WA, will receive all 36 of my Bets On picks from 2013, while 36 others won a copy of one of these titles. Claudia, it's amusing that I'm in Seattle next week! You can see all the winners here, along with last year’s Bets On selections. May you enjoy these books as much as I did!

Speaking of which, I am happy to announce my first two Bets On picks for 2014! The first is UNREMARRIED WIDOW, Artis Henderson’s memoir in which she not only recounts the unlikely love story she shared with her husband Miles and her unfathomable recovery in the wake of his death, but also reveals how Miles’s death mirrored her father’s death in a plane crash, which Artis survived when she was five years old and left her own mother a young widow. I read an advance copy last summer and thought it was a beautiful story by a very gifted writer who I look forward to hearing more from. Click here for more of my thoughts on the book. Plus, be sure to check out Barbara Bamberger Scott’s review, in which she says, “Henderson makes no attempt to ennoble herself in her grief, but her account is honest and modest, offering no magic panacea for her ailment. Because of that, UNREMARRIED WIDOW is heroic in its own quiet way.”

My second Bets On pick of the year is IN THE BLOOD, a new psychological thriller from Lisa Unger that we featured in last week’s newsletter. Following the disappearance of her closest friend, Beck, the police have a lot of questions for Lana when the story about her whereabouts the night he disappeared doesn’t match up with eyewitness accounts. Lana will do anything to hide the truth, but it might not be enough to keep her ominous secrets buried. Click here to see why I’m betting you’ll love this book --- and why you’ll want to seek out some of Lisa’s prior novels. By the way, I passed it along to my husband after I finished it and had the pleasure of watching him get completely wrapped up in it, sitting for hours and not moving. He finished it and handed it to me with that expression that one has when they are still in a story and not quite back in the real world, saying, “That is a really good book.”

And a humorous personal aside about Lisa and me. Years ago, she was visiting a bookstore in the area, and I invited her to stop by the house for coffee on her way there. One thing: I do not know how to make coffee. Seriously. So before he left that morning, my husband set up the coffee pot so I just needed to flick a switch to turn it on. We still laugh about that when we see each other --- and the other night I told him that he once made coffee for Lisa!

Our monthly History Books roundups is off to a great start this year, as a number of history titles are being published for the first time or releasing in paperback in January. Among our featured selections are THE BURGLARY: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI; THE EMPIRE OF NECESSITY: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World; and WAKING FROM THE DREAM: The Struggle for Civil Rights in the Shadow of Martin Luther King, Jr. Many thanks as always to my son Greg, a major history buff, for handpicking these titles and coming up with some wonderful suggestions for our nonfiction readers.

Please be sure to answer our poll question, which will be up until Friday, January 24th at noon ET. Which social networks (if any) influence your purchasing of books? We don't mean just hearing about books, but actually buying them. I love seeing what you have to say, and I peek at this frequently during the time the poll is open!

Also up until Friday the 24th at noon ET is our Word of Mouth contest, where we’re giving away the aforementioned THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES, along with ANDREW’S BRAIN by E.L. Doctorow (which we’re reviewing this week) and MRS. LINCOLN’S RIVAL by Jennifer Chiaverini (we’ll post our review next week). Let us know what you’ve been reading, and you’ll have an opportunity to win all three books.

This week, Mystery Writers of America announced the nominees for the 2014 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television published or produced in 2013. Among the notable finalists are ORDINARY GRACE by William Kent Krueger (Best Novel), RECONSTRUCTING AMELIA by Kimberly McCreight (Best First Novel by an American Author) and JOYLAND by Stephen King (Best Paperback Original). Click here for the complete list of nominees. The winners will be announced on May 1st.

Also this week, the National Book Critics Circle announced its 30 finalists in six categories –-– autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction and poetry --- for the best books of 2013. The finalists include THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt (Fiction) and FIVE DAYS AT MEMORIAL: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital, by Sheri Fink (Nonfiction). Click here for all the nominees. The winners will be announced on March 13th.

And in case you missed it last month, the nominees for the 18th Annual Books for a Better Life Awards were announced, honoring the best self-improvement books of 2013, which you can see here. The winners will be revealed on March 10th.

Last night, Nicole Sherman and I attended a screening for Labor Day, based on the coming-of-age novel by Joyce Maynard, which will be in theaters on January 31st. I still remember where I was reading this book and how I loved how the story was compressed into a few short days. Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin are perfectly cast, and in the film you can see the fingerprints of Jason Reitman, the director, who also did Juno and Up in the Air. There are a few moments where there is toooo much emotionalism, but there are others where the tension is perfectly wrought. Great for Valentine’s Day!

While I am not great at making coffee, I am much better with tea as that task just requires boiling water and steeping properly. My younger son loves tea and has a huge assortment of teas that he always is sipping. Shopping for him over the holidays, I bought a sample of Limonella tea from Argo, which is infused with lemon, dried apples and blackberry leaves. I loved it so much that I bought a tall container of it this week as well as a tea ball. Cory has revived my interest in tea.

In Seattle, I am planning to take the ferry over to Bainbridge Island to have lunch with Kristin Hannah and to visit Churchmouse Yarns & Teas, which is one of the best yarn shops; Greg was kind enough to give me a gift certificate to the store for Christmas. I want to make this Linen Stitch Scarf, which they developed the pattern for. I have been holding off on buying yarn for it since I want to shop for it at the place where it was designed. It’s the ultimate “shop local” experience. I will be shopping for tea as well! And I want to visit So Much Yarn in their new location. Of course, I STILL have yarn on hand from the last time I was in Seattle four years ago. Shelves of books; cubbies of yarn --- these are the things that make me happy.

This weekend, I plan to explore OTTOLENGHI: THE COOKBOOK, which has Mediterranean-themed recipes that have completely captivated me. Clean cooking and the most interesting pairings of foods. Lamb chops with a fabulous-sounding marinade and a fig, goat cheese and walnut salad are on the menu for tomorrow night.

Cory is heading back to school on Monday as I head to Seattle. He’s been home for almost a month, and I find myself sad again that his pattern of footsteps will not be hitting the stairs. His birthday is next Thursday; it’s the first time he will not be home for his birthday and the first time I will not see him on his birthday. Growing pains. Trying to get to Teavana with him this weekend before he goes.

When he is around, we have lots of snack foods in the pantry. I have eaten way too many Mega Oreos and Oreos in other versions over the past weeks. Years ago when I was a teenager, my first job was with a market research company. We would test products on kids. For one project, we were testing triple decker Oreos in various flavors. I videotaped how the kids opened the cookies, how they ate them and what fillings they liked. We saw they were taking them apart to put more cream in the middle. So we went in the back room, deconstructed the triples and made them with double creme. The kids LOVED them. This was 1973. The actual Double Stuff was released in 1975. Pretty cool, eh?

Quiet weekend on tap as Greg is running the annual “Hot Chocolate” event for the New England Lighthouse Lovers on the north shore of Massachusetts, and Tom and Cory are headed to a squash match in New York with our friend, Moe. I will be reading and watching football and overpacking my suitcase! On the football front, I want the Broncos and the 49ers to win. Why? They were the two teams that played the night Greg was born 24 years ago, and it would be such fun to have them play again in our home state.

Read on, enjoy the long weekend, and please take a moment to ponder the achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Carol Fitzgerald (
Now in Stores: ANDREW’S BRAIN by E.L. Doctorow
ANDREW'S BRAIN by E.L. Doctorow (Fiction)
In a series of conversations, a cognitive scientist named Andrew relates salient events of his life to a person he refers to only as Doc. He speaks of his divorce from his wife and of the woman who took her place. But he digresses often to muse upon consciousness and disorders of the mind. ANDREW’S BRAIN is the story of a man attempting to make sense of the unexpected turns his life has taken. Reviewed by Michael Magras.

-Click here to read more about the book.
Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES by Alan Bradley
THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley (Historical Mystery)
Eleven-year-old chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce gathers with her family at the railway station, awaiting the return of her long-lost mother. Yet upon the train’s arrival, Flavia is approached by a stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear. Moments later he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd. Who was this man, what did his words mean, and why were they intended for Flavia? Reviewed by Roz Shea.

-Click here to read more about the book.
Click here to read a review.
New Women's Fiction Author Spotlight & Contest: SOMERSET by Leila Meacham
We have 35 copies of SOMERSET by Leila Meacham, which releases on February 4th, to give away to readers who would like to read the book and comment on it. To enter, please fill out this form by Thursday, January 30th at noon ET.

SOMERSET by Leila Meacham (Historical Fiction)
One hundred fifty years of ROSES' Tolivers, Warwicks and DuMonts! We begin in the antebellum South on Plantation Alley in South Carolina, where Silas Toliver, deprived of his inheritance, joins up with his best friend Jeremy Warwick to plan a wagon train expedition to the "black waxy" promise of a new territory called Texas. Slavery, westward expansion, abolition, the Civil War, love, marriage, friendship, tragedy and triumph --- all the ingredients (and much more) that made so many love ROSES so much --- are here in abundance.

-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Leila Meacham's bio.
-Click here to connect with Leila Meacham on Facebook.

Click here to read more in our Women's Fiction Author Spotlight and enter the contest.
New Special Contest: Win a Copy of SHOTGUN LOVESONGS by Nickolas Butler
We are celebrating the March 11th release of SHOTGUN LOVESONGS by Nickolas Butler with a special contest that will give 100 readers the opportunity to win a copy of the book and submit their comments on it. To enter, please fill out this form by Thursday, January 30th at noon ET.

SHOTGUN LOVESONGS by Nickolas Butler (Fiction)
Hank, Leland, Kip and Ronny were all born and raised in the same Wisconsin town --- Little Wing --- and are now coming into their own (or not) as husbands and fathers. One of them never left, still farming the family's land that's been tilled for generations. Others did leave, went farther afield to make good, with varying degrees of success; as a rock star, commodities trader, rodeo stud. And seamlessly woven into their patchwork is Beth, whose presence among them --- both then and now --- fuels the kind of passion one comes to expect of lovesongs and rivalries.

Now all four are home, in hopes of finding what could be real purchase in the world. The result is a shared memory only half-recreated, riddled with culture clashes between people who desperately wish to see themselves as the unified tribe they remember, but are confronted with how things have, in fact, changed.

-Click here to read more about the book.

-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Nickolas Butler's bio.
Click here to enter the contest.
New Paperback Spotlight: CIDER BROOK by Carla Neggers
CIDER BROOK: A Swift River Valley Novel by Carla Neggers (Romance)
Being rescued by a good-looking, bad-boy firefighter isn’t how Samantha Bennett expected to start her stay in Knights Bridge, Massachusetts. Now she has everyone’s attention --- especially that of Justin Sloan, her rescuer, who wants to know why she was camped out in an abandoned old New England cider mill.

Samantha is a treasure hunter who has returned to Knights Bridge to solve a 300-year-old mystery and salvage her good name. Justin remembers her well. He’s the one who alerted her late mentor to her iffy past and got her fired. But just because he doesn’t trust her doesn’t mean he can resist her. Samantha is daring, determined, seized by wanderlust --- everything that strong, stoic Justin never knew he wanted. Until now...

CIDER BROOK releases on January 28th.

-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Carla Neggers's bio.
-Click here to visit Carla Neggers's official website.
-Connect with Carla Neggers on Facebook and Twitter.
Click here to read more in our Paperback Spotlight. Bets On: UNREMARRIED WIDOW by Artis Henderson and IN THE BLOOD by Lisa Unger
UNREMARRIED WIDOW: A Memoir by Artis Henderson (Memoir)
Last summer, I never had heard the term “unremarried widow” until a friend on Facebook explained what is was in military terms. It means the wife of a dead soldier who has not yet remarried.

Artis Henderson was widowed when her husband’s Army helicopter crashed in Iraq in 2006; she was 26 and newly married. She, like her mom, was widowed by a husband dying in a plane crash. What she writes in UNREMARRIED WIDOW is a love story, as much as a story of survival. She writes about the stress and strain of surviving military life while, at the same time, the joy of falling and being in love. One of the references on it is to THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING, and I can see why. It’s the kind of a book that will stay with me in much the same way. After finishing the book, I wanted to see Artis and hear her talk about the story, thus I was lucky enough to find this video where she does just that.

It’s a beautiful story by a very gifted writer who I look forward to hearing more from.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read a review.
-Click here to read an interview with Artis Henderson.

IN THE BLOOD by Lisa Unger (Psychological Thriller)
I read Lisa Unger's first book, BEAUTIFUL LIES, back in 2006 and knew then with her debut that she was a talent to watch. Reading IN THE BLOOD, her eighth book, I am reminded I was right. This is a taut psychological thriller that reels you in from the start. It's hard to talk about it without revealing anything, a true sign that it is so well done. I do know two things. One, when I was finished reading it, I wanted to start reading again to see how the story was constructed. Two, I would not want to read it at the dark.

Short synopsis: Lana Granger is living a lie. It's hard for her to remember what is real and what is not. As she is wrapping up grad school, two things happen. She starts to babysit a troubled and manipulative young boy, and a close friend disappears on her college campus. And from there, let the story begin...and take you along on one wild ride! I passed it along to my husband after I finished it and had the pleasure of watching him get completely wrapped up in it, sitting for hours and not moving. He finished it and handed it to me with that expression one has when they are still in a story and not quite back in the real world, saying, “That is a really good book.”

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read a review.

Click here to see more books we're betting you'll love.
Now in Stores: THE PAGAN LORD by Bernard Cornwell
THE PAGAN LORD by Bernard Cornwell (Historical Fiction/Adventure)
At the onset of the 10th century, England is in turmoil. Alfred the Great is dead, and Edward his son reigns as king. Wessex survives, but peace cannot hold: the Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand ready to invade and will never rest until the emerald crown is theirs. Uhtred, once Alfred’s great warrior but now out of favor with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old family home. Reviewed by Curtis Edmonds.

-Click here to read more about the book.

Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: SAINTS OF THE SHADOW BIBLE by Ian Rankin
SAINTS OF THE SHADOW BIBLE by Ian Rankin (Mystery)
Rebus is back on the force, albeit with a demotion and a chip on his shoulder. He is investigating a car accident when news arrives that a case from 30 years ago is being reopened. Rebus's team from those days is suspected of helping a murderer escape justice to further their own ends. Malcolm Fox, in what will be his last case as an internal affairs cop, is tasked with finding out the truth. Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum.

-Click here to read more about the book.

Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: THE PRIORITY LIST and THE DEATH CLASS --- Two Inspirational Reads About Teachers Who Made a Difference Both Inside and Outside the Classroom
THE PRIORITY LIST: A Teacher's Final Quest to Discover Life's Greatest Lessons by David Menasche (Memoir)
When a six-year battle with brain cancer ultimately stole his vision, memory, mobility and ability to continue teaching, David Menasche turned to Facebook with an audacious plan: a journey across America in hopes of seeing firsthand how his kids were faring in life. Had he made a difference? Within 48 hours of posting, former students in more than 50 cities replied with offers of support and shelter. Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read a review.

THE DEATH CLASS: A True Story About Life by Erika Hayasaki (Inspirational/Personal Growth)
When nurse Norma Bowe decided to teach a course on death at a college in New Jersey, she never expected it to be popular. But year after year students crowd into her classroom, and the reason is clear: Norma’s “death class” is really about how to make the most of what poet Mary Oliver famously called our “one wild and precious life.” By following her over four years, Erika Hayasaki shows how Norma steers four extraordinary students from their tormented families and neighborhoods toward happiness. Reviewed by Carole Turner.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read a review.’s History Books Roundup for January
January's roundup of History titles includes THE BURGLARY by Betty Medsger, the never-before-told full story of the 1971 history-changing break-in of the FBI offices in Media, Pennsylvania; Greg Gandin’s THE EMPIRE OF NECESSITY, the story of a remarkable slave rebellion that illuminates America’s struggle with slavery and freedom during the Age of Revolution and beyond; WAKING FROM THE DREAM, David L. Chappell's examination of the new phase that the civil rights movement entered following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.; THE POPE AND MUSSOLINI by David I. Kertzer, the gripping story of Pope Pius XI’s secret relations with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini; and CHURCHILL’S FIRST WAR, Con Coughlin's fascinating account of Winston Churchill's early military career fighting in the 1890 Afghan campaign, offering fresh and revealing parallels into today's war in Afghanistan.
Click here to see our History Books roundup for January.
New Guides Now Available on the Redesigned

The following guides are now available on

APPLE TREE YARD by Louise Doughty (Psychological Thriller)
Suspenseful, erotically charged, and masterfully paced, Louise Doughty’s APPLE TREE YARD is an intelligent psychological thriller about desire and its consequences by a writer of phenomenal gifts.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF US by Aria Beth Sloss (Fiction)
A confession of hopes long forgotten, Aria Beth Sloss's AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF US is an achingly beautiful portrait of a decades-long bond and the victories, sacrifices and defeats of a generation.

FOR TODAY I AM A BOY by Kim Fu (Fiction)
FOR TODAY I AM A BOY is a fiercely assured debut novel about four second generation Chinese sisters, one of whom happens to be a boy.

THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR by Barbara Claypole White (Romance)
Award-winning author Barbara Claypole White delivers a poignant new story of hope, healing and the solace two strangers find in mending each other’s broken worlds in THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR.

NETHERWOOD by Jane Sanderson (Historical Fiction)
Two remarkably different worlds --- one of wealth and privilege, the other of poverty and desperation --- are about to collide in one shattering moment in this mesmerizing tale of high drama, forbidden love, and families fighting to hold on to what they have.

THE PURSUIT OF MARY BENNET: A Pride and Prejudice Novel by Pamela Mingle (Historical Fiction)
A tale of love and marriage, society balls and courtship, class and a touch of scandal, Pamela Mingle's THE PURSUIT OF MARY BENNET is a fresh take on one of the most beloved novels of all time, Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

RADIANCE OF TOMORROW by Ishmael Beah (Fiction)
When Ishmael Beah’s memoir, A LONG WAY GONE, was published in 2007, it became an instant classic that turned the world’s attention to the plight of child soldiers on the front lines of Sierra Leone’s civil war. With RADIANCE OF TOMORROW, Beah brings us an astonishing novel of postwar life in Sierra Leone.

A RELIGION OF ONE'S OWN: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World by Thomas Moore (Self Help)
Create an amplified inner life and a world of great purpose, meaning and reflection with the New York Times bestselling author and trusted spiritual adviser, Thomas Moore, in this follow-up to his classic CARE OF THE SOUL.

SATURDAY NIGHT WIDOWS: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives by Becky Aikman (Memoir)
In this transcendent and infectiously wise memoir, Becky Aikman --- a widow, too young, too modern to accept the role --- forms an unlikely group with five other young widows, each seeking a way forward in a strange and disquieting world.

SOMEWHERE IN FRANCE: A Novel of the Great War by Jennifer Robson (Historical Romance)
In the dark and dangerous days of World War I, a daring young woman will risk her life to find her destiny in Jennifer Robson’s debut novel.

TAYLOR'S GIFT: The Courageous Story of Giving Life and Renewing Hope by Todd and Tara Storch, with Jennifer Schuchmann (Memoir)
Todd and Tara Storch tragically lost their 13-year-old daughter in a skiing accident. Their decision to donate Taylor's organs would help save the lives of five desperate people who were anxiously awaiting a miracle.

WHY I READ: The Serious Pleasure of Books by Wendy Lesser (Literary Criticism)
Drawn from a lifetime of pleasure reading and decades of editing The Threepenny Review --- one of the most distinguished literary magazines in the country --- Wendy Lesser’s WHY I READ explores our cultural relationship to books in all their variegated forms, from Victorian poetry to contemporary thrillers.

Please note that these titles, for which we already had the guides when they appeared in hardcover, are now available in paperback:

THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI by Helene Wecker (Historical Fantasy)
THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI is a marvelous and absorbing debut novel, a combination of vivid historical fiction and magical fable, about two supernatural creatures in turn-of-the-century immigrant New York.

NEWS FROM HEAVEN: The Bakerton Stories by Jennifer Haigh (Fiction/Short Stories)
From Jennifer Haigh, the bestselling author of FAITH and THE CONDITION, comes a collection of interconnected short stories centered on the fictional mining town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania, the setting for her previous, award-winning novel, BAKER TOWERS.

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More Reviews This Week

PERFECT by Rachel Joyce (Fiction)
Byron Hemmings wakes to a morning that looks like any other. But when he, his mother and his sister leave home, the morning takes an unmistakable turn. In one terrible moment, something completely unexpected happens. While his mother seems not to have noticed, 11-year-old Byron understands that nothing can be the same. Over the days and weeks that follow, Byron’s perfect world is shattered. Unable to trust his parents, he confides in his best friend, and together they concoct a plan. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

THE POLARIS PROTOCOL: A Pike Logan Thriller by Brad Taylor (Thriller/Adventure)
Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill are in Turkmenistan with the Taskforce --- a top-secret antiterrorist unit that operates outside US law --- when Jennifer gets a call from her brother, Jack. Working on an investigative report into the Mexican drug cartels, Jack Cahill has unknowingly gotten caught between two rival groups. His desperate call to his sister is his last before he’s kidnapped. In their efforts to rescue Jack, Pike and Jennifer uncover a plot much more insidious than illegal drug trafficking. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

THE EXECUTION: A Jeremy Fisk Novel by Dick Wolf (Thriller)
It’s United Nations Week in Manhattan, and Jeremy Fisk can’t let grief over a devastating loss keep him from safeguarding his city. Complicating matters is the startling news of a mass murder in nearby Rockaway --- and the arrival of a disturbingly beautiful and assertive Mexican cop. To have a chance at finding an assassin responsible for 23 beheadings on the US border, these uneasy allies must learn to work together and fast. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

THE LAST DEAD GIRL by Harry Dolan (Mystery/Thriller)
A chance encounter on a lonely road draws David into a romance with the enigmatic Jana Fletcher, a beautiful young law student. David would like to know her secrets, but he lets them lie --- until it’s too late. When Jana is brutally murdered, the police consider David a prime suspect. But as he sets out to uncover the truth about Jana, he begins to realize he’s treading a very dangerous path --- and that her killer is watching every move he makes. Reviewed by Kate Ayers.

WHAT I HAD BEFORE I HAD YOU by Sarah Cornwell (Fiction)
Olivia was only 15 the summer she left her hometown of Ocean Vista. Two decades later, on a visit with her children, her nine-year-old son Daniel, recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder, disappears. Olivia’s search for him sparks tender and painful memories of her past --- of her fiercely loving and secretive mother, an erratic and beautiful psychic, and the discovery of heartbreaking secrets that shattered her world. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

THE ANSWER TO THE RIDDLE IS ME: A Memoir of Amnesia by David Stuart MacLean (Memoir)
On October 17, 2002, David MacLean “woke up” on a train platform in India with no idea who he was or why he was there. Soon he could remember song lyrics, but not his family, his friends, or the woman he was told he loved. All of these symptoms were the result of the commonly prescribed malarial medication he had been taking. Upon his return to the States, he struggled to piece together the fragments of his former life. Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott.

RED 1-2-3 by John Katzenbach (Psychological Thriller)
When three red-haired women receive chilling letters in the mail from a killer known only as the Wolf, their lives are upended as they spend every waking moment fearing that their lives could be snuffed out at any time. The Wolf is stalking them, biding his time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to complete his master plan. Yet the one thing this cunning and devious killer didn't plan for is the Reds discovering each other. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

THE TENTH CIRCLE: A Blaine McCracken Novel by Jon Land (Thriller/Adventure)
Blaine McCracken pulled off the impossible on a mission in Iran, but his work has just begun. Returning to the US, he faces another terrible threat in the form of Reverend Jeremiah Rule, whose hateful rhetoric has inflamed half the world, resulting in a series of devastating terrorist attacks. But Rule isn’t acting alone. A shadowy cabal is pulling his strings, unaware that they are creating a monster who will soon spin free of their control. Reviewed by Ray Palen.

HUNTED by Elizabeth Heiter (Psychological Suspense)
FBI rising star and criminal profiler Evelyn Baine knows how to think like a serial killer. But she's never chased anyone like the Bakersville Burier, who hunts young women and displays them, half-buried, deep in the woods. As the body count climbs, Evelyn's relentless pursuit of the killer puts her career --- and her life --- at risk. And the evil lurking in the Burier's mind may be more than even she can unravel. Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum.

SECRETS OF THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR: A Chronicle 1129-1312 by Susie Hodge (History)
SECRETS OF THE KNIGHTS TEMPLAR is the compelling chronicle of the warrior monks and their fight to defend the Catholic faith, and of their participation in the efforts to vie for control of the Holy Land with the Muslim armies of Kurdish military genius Saladin and his successors. Informally organized in 1119 to protect pilgrims on their journeys to visit the Holy Land, and officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church in 1129, the medieval Knights Templar grew into an elite fighting force that played a central role in the battles of the Crusades. Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.

This Week's Poll: Social Networks and Book Buying
Which of the following social networks influence your book BUYING --- not just hearing about books, but actual purchasing? Please check all that apply.

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Word of Mouth Contest: Tell Us What You've Read --- and You Can Win THREE Books!

Tell us your current reading recommendations with your comments and a rating of 1 to 5 stars. During the contest period from January 10th to January 24th, FIVE lucky readers each will be randomly chosen to win a copy of ANDREW’S BRAIN by E.L. Doctorow, THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley, and MRS. LINCOLN’S RIVAL by Jennifer Chiaverini.

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