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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.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

September 2011

I love when creators, be they authors, musicians or artists, take risks and push themselves. Thus it was with great delight that I read WONDERSTRUCK by Brian Selznick. While categorized as a book for ages 9 and up, I, who have many more years than that behind me, was completely captivated by this work. Let me back up a moment. For those who may not be aware, Selznick is the Caldecott Award-winning author of THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, where he first worked his magic pairing a narrative with detailed illustrations that stand alone to tell some of the story.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

September 2011

RULES OF CIVILITY by Amor Towles is a smart escapist novel. It’s beautifully written, with great visual prose that will have you dropped right into 1938. It opens in a jazz bar on New Year’s Eve when Katey Kontent and her friend Eve meet Tinker Grey, a bon vivant banker. The book looks at what happens to these characters over the next year, as Katey drops into a world of wealth and status, including a job at Conde Nast (which the ex-magazine girl in me loved reading about). But what looks so rich and so shiny has an underside that is not what it seems. And Katey, who is quite plucky, navigates her way through this year becoming wiser and wiser.

Next to Love by Ellen Feldman

August 2011

In NEXT TO LOVE by Ellen Feldman, three young women --- Babe, Millie and Grace --- who live in a small town in Massachusetts all send the men they love off to fight in World War II. Not everyone returns, and those who do are profoundly changed, reminding us that the scars of war run deeper than the day that victory is won. This character-rich story begins before the men head out and continues right through the early ’60s.

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

August 2011

THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE by Helen Schulman is a haunting novel about what happens to a family when a 15-year-old boy gets an inappropriate video from a young girl he knows --- and forwards it on. This seemingly small action snowballs, and suddenly two kids are fodder for the tabloids in a story that will not go away. In the world as we know it now, stories go viral, the Internet has its own fingerprints, and visual memories are a mere click away.

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

July 2011

I like books that I can describe really succinctly, like TURN OF MIND by Alice LaPlante. Here's the story. Dr. Jennifer White has Alzheimer's. Her neighbor --- her best friend, the godmother of her daughter --- has been found dead in her home. All clues point to Jennifer, who was a hand surgeon before she became too incapacitated to work, and she cannot remember if she killed her friend or not. It's brilliantly done as you weave in and out of Jennifer's world as it unravels.

The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy

June 2011

When we think about war, we think about everything in black and white. There are two sides. One is good, and the other is evil. There are allies and enemies, and never should the two meet. Or so we think. But THE SOLDIER'S WIFE throws all that to the wind. Author Margaret Leroy places Vivienne de la Mare in a challenging situation. She is at home on the island of Guernsey with her two young daughters and her elderly mother-in-law as her husband is off fighting the Germans. Rumors of war are swirling around, though life for the moment is safe. Some residents of Guernsey are evacuating to England while others continue living their lives at home in peace, or in as much peace as one can have when war is everywhere.

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

July 2011

THE AMERICAN HEIRESS, Daisy Goodwin's debut novel, opens in Newport, Rhode Island, in its glory days when the Astors ruled the social scene and midnight balls were all the rage. But money is not everything, and Cora Cash's mother wants what many mothers of the day want for their society daughters --- a royal title. Thus they travel to England in search of one, and they learn that this is a time when money really does buy anything. These lush times set the scene for a look at the steamy and darker sides of this world. The fashions, customs and other historical details are just pitch perfect. Goodwin's spirited and upbeat writing style is completely entertaining.

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

May 2011

The opening line of SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones is seven words: "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist." Ponder it for a moment and think what those words mean for the person who wrote them, and then think about how that scenario can envelop a whole group of people who are caught up in knowing --- and not knowing --- secrets, lies and the truth that is somewhere between.

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

May 2011

I first became acquainted with Rachel Simon when she wrote RIDING THE BUS WITH MY SISTER back in 2002. When I saw that she had written THE STORY OF BEAUTIFUL GIRL, I immediately wanted to read it. This is a special book.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

March 2011

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys is a young adult book that deserves attention from Bookreporter.com readers. It's the story of a little-spoken-about series of events that occurred in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, where Stalin exiled people from those countries to Siberia during World War II. The war ended, but they stayed prisoners for 15 years. More than 20 million people were killed during these years, 14.5 million of whom were starved to death. It's brilliant, and I was enveloped in the story from the first page.