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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.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

October 2016

For years, my favorites of Jodi Picoult’s 26 books were NINETEEN MINUTES and MY SISTER’S KEEPER. Each of them struck a real chord with me. When I heard the premise of SMALL GREAT THINGS, I was similarly intrigued. It so delivered, making it the third of her books that I highly recommend. Indeed I have found myself “book-talking” this book to friends, colleagues and fellow readers for the last few months. When I read an early copy, it was during a very busy week, and I remember putting aside many tasks to finish it.

Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

October 2016

Caroline Leavitt always brings a fresh approach to her writing. From the moment that I open one of her books, I know I am going to be in for something special and unexpected. CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD is set in the early '70s. Lucy is 16 when she runs away from home with William, one of her teachers, to live on a farm in rural Pennsylvania. It’s all about love, until it’s not. Her much older half-sister, Iris, who she knows as her aunt, and her teenage sister, Charlotte, are frantic to find her. Love, loss and longing all figure into the story, which is written in Caroline’s signature style that pulls apart everyday lives and finds the deeper stories in them by getting into her characters' hearts and heads. Each page begs you to read another.

Karolina's Twins by Ronald H. Balson

September 2016

I have been a fan of Ronald H. Balson’s books since I read ONCE WE WERE BROTHERS a few years ago, which I also selected as a Bets On title. In KAROLINA’S TWINS, Balson’s fiction once again looks at a story with its roots in the Holocaust and World War II. Lena Scheinman lived in Chrzanów, Poland, near the Czech border. Her warm family lives a happy life; her father has a successful business, and he is a respected war hero. Her best friend, Karolina Neuman, lives in circumstances not as fortunate as Lena’s, so she spends a lot of time at the Scheinman home.

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

August 2016

I had the pleasure of hearing Imbolo Mbue present her debut novel, BEHOLD THE DREAMERS, a few months ago. Two minutes into her presentation, I found myself racing to get a copy of the book. She drew me in from the first page; I barely looked up as I read.

It’s the story of Jende and Neni Jonga, a young Cameroonian couple living in Harlem who are making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy. Jende wants his six-year-old son to have the best of what America has to offer --- an education and opportunity. But Jende lacks the papers to get a legal job. In the fall of 2007, luck comes his way as he takes a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, who works on Wall Street at Lehman Brothers in an executive spot. He gets to know Clark, his wife Cindy and his family as he drives them around town each day.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

August 2016

In her debut thriller, THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR, Shari Lapena took me on a ride where every turn brought a twist that propelled the story into a new direction. Some were more subtle than others, but each time I thought Just keep reading. I was 100 pages in one night before I looked up, devoured another 200 pages the following morning, and then raced home to finish it. Most chapters had cliffhanger endings that made me turn the page and say “More!”

The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis

August 2016

When I worked at Mademoiselle, the Barbizon Hotel was legendary as our Guest Editors stayed there. Thus, when THE DOLLHOUSE by Fiona Davis came across my desk, I was eager to read it. The history of the hotel is woven into a modern-day story. When the hotel was converted into high-end condos, a limited number of apartments were allocated for longtime residents. A story about one of these fictitious tenants, Darby McLaughlin, forms one of the narratives in the book. The other is of a modern-day woman, Rose Lewin, who is at a crossroads in her life. How their stories intertwine includes a mystery that has its roots back in the 1950s.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

August 2016

There are few thrillers that make me look away from the page because they are so intense. But BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by B. A. Paris is one of them!

We start out meeting Jack and Grace, who seem to have a perfect life. Their home looks like something from a magazine, and they have amazingly perfect dinner parties. Jack has a great job as a lawyer, and he wins his cases. He is always by Grace’s side, but something feels a bit off. Grace does not seem at ease. It’s hard to put a finger on what’s going on, but readers know something is up.

The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood

August 2016

THE BOOK THAT MATTERS MOST by Ann Hood works on so many levels. First, it’s a delightful read. Second, it’s full of great book suggestions. And third, it’s inspiration for book groups.

In it, Ava is recently separated from her husband of 25 years and nursing some powerful pain from this. A coveted spot in a select book group finally opens up, and she is invited to join. The group’s theme that year is “the book that mattered most to each of them.” I loved seeing what each of the characters selected, and I enjoyed the chance to “eavesdrop” on their recommendations. Ava selects a book and promises to bring the author to the discussion, which her fellow readers are excited about. One problem: She has no idea how to find this author. Every lead has come to a dead end. But there are some lovely surprises ahead for this.

I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows

August 2016

I have read a few books that take place during the years of the Dust Bowl storms. I find this time and place in history so very tragic and always want to learn more about it. So when I saw I WILL SEND RAIN by Rae Meadows, I immediately wanted to read it.

The story is set in Mulehead, Oklahoma in the mid-1930s during the early years of the Dust Bowl. Annie Bell, the protagonist, has a lot on her mind as she chases the dust swirling around her. The dust is killing the crops on her family’s farm, and the livestock are struggling to survive. She watches her husband, who is not coping well with all these changes. Life is closing in on her literally from the hardships of nature and from the pressure of trying to survive in a life where she feels she is lost and cannot find her way.

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

August 2016

I confess to being an Olympics junkie. I am intrigued by those who put great effort towards such a singular goal. To succeed so young requires dedication of the athlete’s family, as well as drive and raw talent. And it starts young, often robbing these young protégés of so-called normal lives. Thus I was drawn to read Megan Abbott’s YOU WILL KNOW ME, a novel that on one level is the poetic story of a young gymnast’s road to success that reads like one of those saccharine stories that accompanies the Olympics broadcasts, and, on another, a nail-biting thriller.