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December 18, 2009 Newsletter December 18, 2009

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy 2010!

This is the time of year when there is ALWAYS something to do. My life is busy enough, but layering in parties, presents, decorations and other holiday celebration items ratchets up life to a whole new level. Seriously, I think we all should campaign for Santa. I mean he gets all the credit, though I have NEVER seen him wrap a box around these parts. And did HE go shopping this week? The way I see it, he sits in a chair in the mall convincing children he has it all under control. Ha, I want that job.

We put up the tree here at the house in stages and only because we are entertaining this weekend. First, the artificial tree was assembled. A week later I added the lights. Then I thought we should all participate and make this fun by each hanging 30 ornaments. I have no idea how many we have, but I figured that made sense. Well, all I can say is that something that works on little kids does not work with teenage boys. NO ONE wanted to be the ornament overachiever. Thus I am sure I did more than my 30. I had my famous turquoise tree in the office, which Greg set up for me. Now it needs to come down Monday and go back up in North Carolina on Wednesday. I can imagine how well this will go over.

The tree you see in this newsletter was featured the other day in’s newsletter. I thought it was pretty cool. It’s from Chicklet Books in Princeton, NJ, who made it for the Princeton Merchants Window Display contest aiming to win in the category of "using your store product to its best ability." Owner Deb Hunter explained: "Books are made from trees... and now trees are made from books!" Being politically correct, I am told they also made a menorah out of books. Nice idea.

Of course, along with the holidaze madness, real life exists. The other night I tackled a huge pile of ironing. I have someone who usually does this for me since I never have time, but she was not available, so I spent four hours doing this. I actually like to iron --- gives me a sense of accomplishment. I also like to fold laundry, and matching socks is like winning a bonanza when they all match up, which I think happened last about five years ago. So I finished it all, had it on a rack and decided to put it away the next night. Bad move. The rack collapsed into a heap during the day, probably from the weight of the clothes. And last night I again became ironing queen, liking my title a whole lot less!

As I was dealing with this, I was thinking how Lisa Scottoline would have loved this moment. Her new book, WHY MY THIRD HUSBAND WILL BE A DOG, has been my book for fun this holiday season. The pieces are short, many of them essays that originally ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and I keep turning to it when I have a moment. I find myself saying throughout the day, “Lisa would love this.” I am not sure if she irons, but if she does, that would be a chapter for her.

For the first time this year, I am crowning a book THE Book of the Year. It's THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett. I read it last December in an advance reading copy and immediately had a feeling this would be a book that readers wanted to talk about --- and you definitely did. Everywhere I went I heard about this book --- and with very good reason. It's terrific. Kathryn moved readers into the hearts and minds of her characters and made us feel for them. There was emotion and honesty in her prose, as well as a story that many of you, like me, did not want to see end. You can read more about this book later in this newsletter.

While we have picked THE HELP, we would like to know your selection for THE Book of the Year in our Question of the Week, which you can answer here. Our poll asking about your bookish resolutions is a question we asked back in 2004, but it will be fun to see how your answers changed. Vote in the poll here. We also have both our Staff Picks and our Reviewer Picks for the Best of 2009 if you want more inspiration.

The results of our poll are in, and of the 882 of you who voted, 86.6% plan to get a book and 88.4% plan to give a book this holiday season. I should have asked what will be happening in the “to me/from me” category, my own personal favorite category. Those still stuck on what to get can browse through all our Holiday Basket of Cheer and What to Give/What to Get titles.

As promised, we have a special Holiday Basket of Cheer Contest this week. As you probably know, all year I have been selecting my Bets On picks --- books I was betting you would love. This week’s contest is a collection of all 12 of my selected titles, and we’re awarding five baskets. Click here to enter to win this stellar collection and read more about the contest below. I am really excited about this contest since I feel like I am sharing a shelf of my library with you.

We also have two other contests this week. The first is a Suspense/Thriller feature for THE SCULPTOR by Gregory Funaro, which will be in stores on December 29th. It’s about an FBI agent and an art historian on the trail of a killer with a penchant for posing his victims as famous sculptures. Click here by Monday, January 4th to enter to become one of our advance readers. The second is THE FIRST ANNUAL GRAND PRAIRIE RABBIT FESTIVAL by Ken Wheaton, a witty Southern tale about a preacher trying to hang on to his parishioners with a carnival. It will be in stores on December 29th as well. Click here to enter to be one of our advance readers.

As always, you can enter our Word of Mouth contest for your chance to win some fabulous books. This contest period you can win a copy of THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by Elizabeth Noble, IMPACT by Douglas Preston and NOAH'S COMPASS by Anne Tyler. Elizabeth's book is written with her usual terrific style and takes you inside an apartment house in New York where its inhabitants, who are strangers, come to know each other. Elizabeth moved here from London, and her inspiration came watching the various people in the elevator in her building. We also bring you Dominick Dunne's final book, TOO MUCH MONEY. We miss him already.

Back to holiday thoughts (see what I mean about the holidays shifting you into more than one gear), as our holiday card to you can be found here. By the time I was finished writing this one I was speaking in rhymes for the rest of the day, feeling like I was trapped inside my version of a Dr. Seuss book. Hope you enjoy it; we had fun working on it. Many thanks to Erin and Eric in the office for making my copy strike just the right tone and look.

For the record, our family card has not been planned. I keep thinking I should just subscribe all family and friends to the newsletter and call it a day. Yes, I usually write one of those newsy notes in the newsletter, but seriously I think you readers here really get the good stuff.

For those of you who have not yet had time to dip into our Author Holiday Blogs, do make time for that over the holidays. Each piece has been such fun to read, and we have gotten so many lovely comments about them.

In the flurry of the last few weeks, I was reminded that the end of this year marks the end of the decade. Doesn’t it feel like we just were in wait of Y2K happening? Those years flew by! Looking ahead to next year, I heard big news the other day that Pantone, the folks who pick the colors that show up in fashion, décor and every other part of your life, have selected turquoise as the Color of the Year for 2010. They liked its vacation vibe. Needless to say, The Turquoise Queen here is THRILLED with this news!

Well, my sister and her kids are in this weekend for a holiday celebration, and we are off to the Outer Banks on Wednesday for the holiday where I will be hiding out for two weeks. I cannot wait. My parents will be joining us for the long Christmas weekend. I have been pulling together books and knitting projects that I have not had time for these past months. There are sooooo many terrific books coming up --- and yes, I will have a report on them when I get back. I also have a list of movies I cannot wait to see both on DVD and in theaters.

The staff is taking a much-needed and much-deserved break, and thus we will be back to you on January 8th with our next update. Happy Reading, Happy Shopping, Happy New Year. We all will see you next year. Thanks so much for reading.

Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])'s Book of the Year: THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett
THE HELP is our first ever Book of the Year. Our main reason for selecting it: it was just a wonderful book. It was the book I have been thinking about since I read an advance copy last December; I found myself reaching for it between present opening, dinner preparations and other holiday festivities that month. It's worthy of this moniker because when people finished it, they wanted others to read it --- and thus they talked about it. Yes, there was a core group who loved this book from the start, but that circle has grown wider and wider as more and more people talk about it. A good book will do that. In case you do not know what it's about:

Set in 1962, THE HELP is the story of three women --- two African-American maids in the Deep South and a young white woman who sees a story in the world that they live in. You hear the voices, see the houses and truly feel like you have a place inside their world. Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter are strong characters, and the stories they tell speak volumes about the time. Stockett closes the book with a piece about her family's maid, which shows why she could write this novel with such insight and honesty. No matter what your political views about our new president, reading THE HELP and seeing the world 47 years ago when the right to vote was something that was fought over, and not taken for granted, is interesting.

One more note on THE HELP: I truly think it will become a classic. There are so many books that do not hold up on re-reading years later; I think this one will. Congratulations to everyone who made this book a success --- the author, editor and everyone else at the publishing house who championed it. And also to the readers who loved it and embraced it and made others want to read it as well.

-Click here to read a review of THE HELP.
-Click here to read an excerpt from THE HELP.
-Click here to see the reading group guide for THE HELP.
-Click here to read an interview with Kathryn Stockett.
-Click here to read Kathryn Stockett’s bio.

Holiday Basket of Cheer Contest on --- Enter to Win Our Special End-of-the-Year Celebration, Featuring All 12 "Bets On" Titles!

For the final contest of our Holiday Basket of Cheer feature, we bring you our special End-of-the-Year Celebration. We’re giving away all 12 of our “ Bets On” titles, Carol Fitzgerald’s very favorite books from 2009. They include 31 HOURS by Masha Hamilton, CRAZY FOR THE STORM: A Memoir of Survival by Norman Ollestad, THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett, HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET by Jamie Ford, HOW SHALL I TELL THE DOG?: And Other Final Musings by Miles Kington, THE PHOTOGRAPHER: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders by Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefèvre and Frederic Lemercier, RAINWATER by Sandra Brown, A RELIABLE WIFE by Robert Goolrick, ROOFTOPS OF TEHRAN by Mahbod Seraji, SHELTER ME by Juliette Fay, STILL ALICE by Lisa Genova and THE WEIGHT OF SILENCEA> by Heather Gudenkauf.

Click here to read all the details of our Holiday Basket of Cheer feature. Talks to Janice Y. K. Lee, Author of THE PIANO TEACHER
In this interview with's Norah Piehl, Janice Y. K. Lee discusses the slow evolution of her debut novel, THE PIANO TEACHER, from its origins as a short story and explains some of the challenges she faced in creating characters with backgrounds differing greatly from her own. She also describes the research she performed to accurately capture life in post-World War II Hong Kong, reflects on the struggles of balancing her writing career with her home life as a mother of four, and shares some of her favorite contemporary novelists.

THE PIANO TEACHER by Janice Y. K. Lee (Fiction)
Set in Hong Kong during the outbreak of World War II, and its aftermath 10 years later, THE PIANO TEACHER alternates between the lives of two vastly different women whose destinies are linked by the events of the war. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

-Click here to read a review of THE PIANO TEACHER
-Click here to read an excerpt from THE PIANO TEACHER.

Click here to read our interview with Janice Y. K. Lee.


Author Talk: Elizabeth Noble, Author of THE GIRL NEXT DOOR

In this interview, Elizabeth Noble --- author of THE READING GROUP, THE FRIENDSHIP TEST, ALPHABET WEEKENDS and THINGS I WANT MY DAUGHTERS TO KNOW --- compares her own experiences of moving to New York City with those of Eve, the protagonist of her newly released THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, and explains how much of her own life and personality went into creating that character. She also reflects on how her writing style and abilities have evolved over the course of her five novels, shares some of her current reads, and discusses the two upcoming books she's working on.

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by Elizabeth Noble (Fiction)
When Eve's husband is transferred to New York, they leave Britain. In their new home, an apartment building on the Upper East Side, Eve is lonely until she meets her elderly neighbor, Violet, while all around her the inhabitants of the building lead lives that prove engrossing to readers of this satisfying novel. Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon.

-Click here to read a review of THE GIRL NEXT DOOR.
-Click here to read an excerpt from THE GIRL NEXT DOOR.
-Visit Elizabeth Noble's official website,

Click here to read an interview with Elizabeth Noble.

td>'s Year-End Features: Favorite Books and Author Interviews of 2009 Staff Picks
Before ringing in the new year, we at The Book Report Network reflect on some of our favorite books published for the first time in 2009. Though it was difficult to narrow down, each staff member chose up to five books that he or she enjoyed the most this year. Take a look and see if any of our selections match yours --- and which titles you may want to consider reading in the future.

-Click here to see our 2009 staff picks. Reviewer Picks
Recently we asked our reviewers to provide us with a list of some of their favorite books from 2009. Included is a mix of fiction and nonfiction titles, all published this year. Take a moment to read these varied lists of titles and see if you agree with their selections! Please note that due to personal and professional commitments, some reviewers were not able to participate in this feature.

-Click here to see our 2009 reviewer picks.

Author Interviews of 2009
As 2009 comes to a close, we invite you to take a look at the author interviews that were featured throughout the year on This is a great way to catch up on the discussions you may have missed --- and to re-read what some of your favorite authors had to say about their books.

-Click here to see our roundup of 2009 interviews.


New Featured Debut Suspense/Thriller Author: Gregory Funaro, Author of THE SCULPTOR
Gregory Funaro's debut, THE SCULPTOR, is a thrilling, chilling mystery with an art twist. An FBI agent and an art historian are thrust together to thwart a sadistic killer whose rampage becomes increasingly personal. THE SCULPTOR will be available in stores on December 29th.

We have 10 copies of THE SCULPTOR to give away to readers who would like to read the book and comment about it. If you are interested, please fill out this form by Monday, January 4th.

-Click here to read Gregory Funaro's bio.
-Click here to read critical praise for THE SCULPTOR.
-Visit Gregory Funaro's official website,

More about

Dr. Catherine Hildebrant, professor of art history at Brown University, is trying to get her life back on track. Known in academic circles not only as one of the world’s foremost scholars on Michelangelo, she is also the author of a controversial book on his sculptures. Living alone, counting the days until her divorce is final, Cathy is awakened one morning by FBI agent Sam Markham. It seems someone has murdered missing Boston Rebels wide receiver Tommy Campbell, preserved his body, and painted and posed him in the figure of one of Michelangelo’s statues.

When Cathy is summoned to the garden of a wealthy businessman to help analyze Campbell’s remains, she discovers the unimaginable: the killer has not only drawn on her book for inspiration, but has dedicated his sculpture to her. Determined to clear her name, desperate to catch the killer before he kills again, Cathy joins forces with Special Agent Markham in a frantic race against time to stop the man the media has dubbed “The Michelangelo Killer.”


Click here to read more about Gregory Funaro and THE SCULPTOR.

New Featured One to Watch Author: Ken Wheaton, Author of THE FIRST ANNUAL GRAND PRAIRIE RABBIT FESTIVAL

Debut novelist Ken Wheaton chronicles the life of a small-town preacher and his eccentric parishioners in a sleepy Southern town in THE FIRST ANNUAL GRAND PRAIRIE RABBIT FESTIVAL. Filled with a colorful cast of characters against the backdrop of an improbable event, THE FIRST ANNUAL GRAND PRAIRIE RABBIT FESTIVAL, set to be released on December 29th, will certainly charm its way onto your shelf.

We have 10 copies of THE FIRST ANNUAL GRAND PRAIRIE RABBIT FESTIVAL to give away to readers who would like to read the book and comment about it. If you are interested, please fill out this form by Monday, January 4th.

-Click here to read Ken Wheaton's bio.
-Click here to read critical praise for THE FIRST ANNUAL GRAND PRAIRIE RABBIT FESTIVAL.


Father Steve Sibille has come home to the bayou to take charge of St. Pete's church. Among his challenges are teenybopper altar girls, insomnia-curing confessions and alarmingly alluring congregant Vicky Carrier. Then there's Miss Rita, an irrepressible centenarian with a taste for whiskey, cracklins and sticking her nose in other people's business.

When an outsider threatens to poach Father Steve’s flock, Miss Rita suggests he fight back by staging an event that will keep St. Pete’s parishioners loyal forever. As The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival draws near, help comes from the strangest places. And while the road to the festival may be paved with good intentions --- not to mention bake sales, an elephant and the most bizarre cook-out ever --- where it will lead is anyone’s guess.

Click here to read more about Ken Wheaton and THE FIRST ANNUAL GRAND PRAIRIE RABBIT FESTIVAL.

Featured Women's Fiction Author: Barbara Delinsky, Author of NOT MY DAUGHTER

Bestselling author Barbara Delinsky returns with NOT MY DAUGHTER, her new emotionally-charged novel that begs the central question: What does it take to be a good mother? Once again, Delinsky challenges our notions of unconditional love and the complex relationships between mothers and daughters. NOT MY DAUGHTER will be released on January 5th.

-Click here to read an excerpt from NOT MY DAUGHTER.
-Click here to read Barbara Delinsky's bio.
-Click here to see Barbara Delinsky's backlist.
-Visit Barbara Delinsky's official website,
-Click here to see our finished copy winners.


When Susan Tate's 17-year-old daughter, Lily, announces she is pregnant, Susan is stunned. A single mother, she has struggled to do everything right. She sees the pregnancy as an unimaginable tragedy for both Lily and herself.

Then comes word of two more pregnancies among high school juniors who happen to be Lily's best friends --- and the town turns to talk of a pact. As fingers start pointing, the most ardent criticism is directed at Susan. As principal of the high school, she has always been held up as a role model of hard work and core values. Now her detractors accuse her of being a lax mother, perhaps not worthy of the job of shepherding impressionable students. As Susan struggles with the implications of her daughter's pregnancy, her job, financial independence and long-fought-for dreams are all at risk.


Click here to read more about Barbara Delinsky and NOT MY DAUGHTER.

Featured Suspense/Thriller Authors: Ted Dekker and Erin Healy, Authors of BURN
Following the success of KISS, Ted Dekker and Erin Healy team up again for a tightly-wound thriller with BURN, a novel about choices and their consequences. A young woman disappears with an enormous sum of money, abandoning her best friend for dead. However, the past is harder to hide from than it seems. BURN will be available in stores on January 12th.

-Click here to read an excerpt from BURN.
here to read Ted Dekker's bio.
-Click here to read Erin Healy's bio.
-Click here to see Ted Dekker's backlist.
-Click here to read critical praise for BURN.
-Visit Ted Dekker’s official website,
-Visit Erin Healy’s official website,
-Click here to see our advance copy winners.

More about

Years ago, the Gypsy kumpania where Janeal Mikkado lived was attacked by outsiders. With her best friend about to be consumed by a fire, Janeal had two options: try to save her friend --- at serious risk to her own life --- or disappear with the million dollars that she had just discovered...

But the past is quickly coming back to haunt her. Both the best friend and the boyfriend that she was sure were dead have reappeared in her life, as has someone who knows about the money. There's a debt to be paid for the money she found, but there's an even greater debt she must face --- and if the chaff isn't burned from her own heart, it will consume her

Click here to read more about Ted Dekker, Erin Healy and BURN.

Featured Suspense/Thriller Author: Jeffery Deaver, Contributor to WATCHLIST
Jeffery Deaver leads a talented team of fellow bestselling authors in WATCHLIST: A Serial Thriller, two novellas penned by 21 of the world's foremost suspense/thriller writers. Now packaged together, THE CHOPIN MANUSCRIPT and THE COPPER BRACELET feature characters and plots created by Deaver with contributions from Lee Child, Joseph Finder, Lisa Scottoline and many more. WATCHLIST will be available in stores on January 5th.

-Click here to read a third excerpt from WATCHLIST.
-Click here to read Jeffery Deaver's bio.
-Click here to see Jeffery Deaver’s backlist.
-Click here to read more about the contributing writers to WATCHLIST.
-Click here to visit the official website of the International Thriller Writers Association.
-Click here to see our advance copy winners.

More about WATCHLIST:
From International Thriller Writers comes WATCHLIST: two powerful novellas featuring the same thrilling cast of characters in one major suspenseful package. THE CHOPIN MANUSCRIPT and THE COPPER BRACELET are collaborations of some of the world’s greatest thriller writers, including Lee Child, Joseph Finder, Lisa Scottoline, and Jeffery Deaver, who conceived the characters and set the plots in motion. The other authors each wrote a chapter and Deaver then completed what he started, bringing both novellas to their startling conclusions.


Click here to read more about Jeffery Deaver and WATCHLIST.


Featured Romantic Suspense Author: Mary Burton, Author of DYING SCREAM

Bestselling author Mary Burton is back with another thrilling, chilling novel in DYING SCREAM. Here, she pairs a detective with a wealthy widow to uncover a family's dark, twisted path. DYING SCREAM is now available in stores.

-Click here to read a second excerpt from DYING SCREAM.
here to read Mary Burton's bio.
-Click here to read critical praise for DYING SCREAM.
-Visit Mary Burton's official website,
-Click here to read Mary Burton's blog post, "Mary Burton on Rekindling Fond Holiday Memories."
-Click here to see our finished copy winners.

More about

Mary Burton takes readers down the horrific path of an affluent family’s dark past where well-hidden secrets unveil a series of grisly crimes, forcing a widow and a detective to explore a twisted, forbidden love that someone will kill for, again and again.

Click here to read more about Mary Burton and DYING SCREAM.'s Author Holiday Blogs --- Authors Write About Their Bookish Holiday Memories

Between now and Christmas Day, more than 60 authors are sharing their favorite memories of giving or receiving a book at the holidays. A reminder to keep reading as these will be posted right up until Christmas Day.

The following authors shared their stories this past week:

-Betsy Carter: The Book that Came to Stay
-Ruthie, or Lisa Grunberger, on THE JOYS OF YIDDISH
-Jason Pinter on LITTLE TOOT
-Marcia Muller on Literary Holiday Memories
-Larry Gonick on Embracing a New Medium
-Steve Luxenberg: The Making of a Tradition
-Ann Herendeen: The Gift of Torture --- I Mean Laughter
-Gwen Cooper on THE ODYSSEY
-Susan Shaprio Barash: For the Love of Books


Click here to read all our author holiday blogs.'s What to Give/What to Get Gift Guide
Before you set out to finish your holiday shopping, check out our What to Give/What to Get feature with ideas in 14 categories.

This year's featured categories include:

-Eat, Drink & Be Merry: Cookbooks, Entertaining Guides & Culinary Tales
-Faces & Places: Biography, Memoir & History
-Great Choices for Booklovers: Fiction & Nonfiction Highlights
-Great Tools for Readers and Writers: Accessories for Booklovers
-Healthy, Wealthy & Wise: Advice & How-To
-Holiday Spirit: Perfect Selections for Holiday Reading
-Inspirational: Christian Fiction & Nonfiction Highlights
-Mystery Madness & Thrilling Reads: Mysteries, Thrillers & Suspense
-Picture Perfect: Picture Books

-Slam Dunks: Sports Memoirs
-Splendid Series: Series Books for Kids
-Stocking Stuffers: Books Small Enough to Put in Stockings or Buy in Quantity
-Teens’ Choice: For Teens
-True Story: Nonfiction for Kids

Click here to see's What to Give/What to Get Gift Guide.

This Week's Reviews
BREATHLESS by Dean Koontz (Thriller)
New York Times bestselling author Dean Koontz delivers a thrilling novel of suspense and adventure, as the lives of strangers converge around a mystery unfolding high in the Colorado mountains --- and the balance of the world begins to tilt. Reviewed by Judy Gigstad.

-Click here to read an excerpt from BREATHLESS.

LA’S ORCHESTRA SAVES THE WORLD by Alexander McCall Smith (Historical Fiction)
Comfortable little novellas are Alexander McCall Smith’s stock in trade. Most famous for his No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and his insightful and bemusing Edinburgh stories about 44 Scotland Street and Isabel Dalhousie, LA’S ORCHESTRA SAVES THE WORLD is a stand-alone title taking place in a new era and setting. Reviewed by Roz Shea.

-Click here to read an excerpt from LA’S ORCHESTRA SAVES THE WORLD.
-Click here to see the reading group guide for LA’S ORCHESTRA SAVES THE WORLD.

LITERARY LIFE: A Second Memoir by Larry McMurtry (Memoir)
As a six-year-old boy in Texas, Larry McMurtry had never read or even seen a book. But after devouring a box of books received from a friend, a life of reading, writing and devotion to books was born. LITERARY LIFE, the second of a three-part memoir, is a conversation with readers that shares the joys of a life in literature. Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman.

TOO MUCH MONEY by Dominick Dunne (Fiction)
Dominick Dunne must have known this would be his last book, for he goes out with a bang, as does his character society writer Gus Bailey. In TOO MUCH MONEY, Gus pursues a story that ultimately costs him dearly, but it could have been worse. If not for Dunne’s death in 2009, it would’ve seemed possible that we’d see this protagonist in more precarious positions. Reviewed by Kate Ayers.

AMERICAN SKETCHES: Great Leaders, Creative Thinkers, and Heroes of a Hurricane by Walter Isaacson (History/Biography/Current Affairs)
In a career that has spanned more than a generation and has taken him from his early days as a city hall beat reporter in his native New Orleans to the pinnacle of American journalism, Walter Isaacson has occupied a unique vantage point from which to observe this period of American history. In this wide-ranging anthology, he demonstrates much of what is praiseworthy about American journalism at its best. Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg.

POPS: A Life of Louis Armstrong by Terry Teachout (Biography)
Wall Street Journal arts columnist Terry Teachout has drawn on a cache of important new sources unavailable to previous Louis Armstrong biographers, including hundreds of private recordings of backstage and after-hours conversations that Armstrong made throughout the second half of his life, to craft a sweeping new narrative biography of this towering figure. Reviewed by Mark Shinn.

PAUL MCCARTNEY: A Life by Peter Ames Carlin (Biography)
Peter Ames Carlin examines Paul McCartney's entire life, casting new light not just on the Beatles era, but also on his years with Wings and his 30-year relationship with his first wife, Linda. He takes us on a journey through a tumultuous couple of decades in which Paul struck out on his own as a solo artist, reached the top of the charts with a new band, and once again drew hundreds of thousands of screaming fans to his concerts. Reviewed by Ron Kaplan.

MAKERS by Cory Doctorow (Science Fiction)
Perhaps more treatise than novel, MAKERS is an incredibly ambitious portrayal of the economic ecosystems and creative boom-and-bust cycles to come. While it may be a bit easy to write Doctorow off, flipping through the newspaper offers enough anecdotal evidence to scare you into reading this account of the near future. Reviewed by Max Falkowitz.

FAMILY ALBUM by Penelope Lively (Fiction)
All Alison ever wanted was a blissful childhood for her six children, with summers at the beach and birthday parties on the lawn at their family home. But beneath its postcard sheen, the picture is clouded by a distant father, Alison's inexplicable emotional outbursts, and long-repressed secrets that no one dares mention. Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.

THE DEVIL’S ALPHABET by Daryl Gregory (Fantasy)
, Tennessee was a small, ordinary town until a strange disease began transforming the residents into three new distinct branches of humanity. When Paxton Martin, a former resident and survivor of the transformations, returns for the funeral of a childhood friend, he finds a town greatly changed and seething with secrets. Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski.

FACES OF THE GONE by Brad Parks (Mystery)
Four bodies, each with a single bullet wound in the back of the head. That’s the front-page news facing Carter Ross, investigative reporter with the Newark Eagle-Examiner. Immediately dispatched to the scene, Carter learns that the four victims --- an exotic dancer, a drug dealer, a hustler and a mama’s boy --- came from different parts of the city and didn’t seem to know one another. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

THE MURDERED HOUSE by Pierre Magnan (Mystery)
At the turn of the century in Upper Provence, a family is violently massacred. The sole survivor of the tragedy is a three-week-old baby. Twenty years later, the orphaned survivor returns home to avenge his family’s killers. Then unexpected secrets set in motion a dreadful unveiling of the past. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.
Read this week's reviews here.


As always, here are a few housekeeping notes. If you are seeing this newsletter in a text version, and would prefer to see the graphics, you can either read it online or change your preferences below.

Those of you who wish to send mail to, please see the form on the Write to Us page. If you would like to reach me, please write [email protected]. Writing any of the respond buttons below will not get to us.

Those who are subscribed to the newsletter by December 31, 2009 automatically are entered in our Monthly Newsletter Contest. This month, one winner will be selected to win the following five books: THE DISCIPLE by Stephen Coonts, LA'S ORCHESTRA SAVES THE WORLD by Alexander McCall Smith, NANNY RETURNS by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, THE PARIS VENDETTA by Steve Berry and U IS FOR UNDERTOW by Sue Grafton. Susan from New Hope, PA was last month's newsletter winner. She won BREATHLESS by Dean Koontz, THE HUMBLING by Philip Roth, THE LACUNA by Barbara Kingsolver, PIRATE LATITUDES by Michael Crichton and UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King.

Happy reading! Don't forget to forward this newsletter to a friend or to visit our other websites from,,,,, and

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