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July 31, 2015 Newsletter July 31, 2015
Reading By the Light of the Moon
The other night, I discovered a new way to read and float in the pool after dark. I grabbed my pool chair, my book (DEAR DAUGHTER, which was a Summer Reading contest title this week) and my book light, and spent a happy hour relaxing and reading while floating. I highly recommend this as a nice way to unwind after a busy day!

Last weekend, I thoroughly enjoyed THE LAST MIDWIFE by Sandra Dallas, which will be on sale September 29th. Set in Colorado (one of my favorite places) in the 1880s, it's the story of Gracy Brookens, a midwife in a mining town. She’s been there for women in the neighboring towns for birthing their babies for years, but everything is called into question when a child she cared for is found dead, and all eyes point to her as the killer. Sandra is a beautifully descriptive writer, who draws a strong sense of character and place. Mysteries lie at the heart of the story, and their careful layering makes it a read you want to stay with from the first page. What great pacing! It will be a Bets On selection shortly after its release.

I have been in battle with Japanese beetles that are loving our roses at the house. I have been plucking them from the plants and depositing them into a bowl of soapy water. Hundreds of them. I typically dump the water in the morning, but on three mornings, I have come out to find an empty bowl with no dead beetles or water in it. Clearly there is some animal or bird who is delighted in my beetle harvest. A few more weeks and the beetles will retreat for the winter --- not sure what my nocturnal visitor will be eating then! Tonight we sprinkle flour to try to identify the diner.

On Monday, I learned what in my office is attractive to an almost-two-year-old girl when Sean Doorly stopped by with his wife and daughter, Katarina. Sean was employee #1 at The Book Report Network back in 1996, which made his visit to the office really special; he’s now living in California and working for Warner Brothers as Executive Director of Digital Media. It was such fun to watch Katarina make a beeline for an Ugly Doll on my shelf and every brightly colored book. I had forgotten how short a little one’s attention span can be!

This Sunday, August 2nd is National Coloring Book Day. I am not making this up! With the popularity of adult coloring books on the rise, I can see pencils being sharpened for Sunday. Two well-known titles are SECRET GARDEN and ENCHANTED FOREST by Johanna Basford. Her third title, LOST OCEAN, will be out on October 27th; we got a pre-publication galley of this in the office, and I scooped it up. When I look at others’ finished works, I realize that I am probably more of a “color by numbers” kind of artist. But I am going to give this a whirl. I have been told by many that coloring is relaxing and almost meditative. If any of you are coloring, I would love to know what you are using to color, what you are coloring and how you are enjoying the experience. Shoot me a note.

I was saddened to hear of the death of true-crime writer Ann Rule, who passed away Sunday at age 83 from congestive heart and respiratory failure. This news came in as we were in our weekly editorial staff meeting. The celebrated author of THE STRANGER BESIDE ME, Rule was praised for her insight into criminal psychology, which resulted in numerous bestselling books, many of which I read and enjoyed ("enjoyed" being a strange word considering the tough subject matter), including SMALL SACRIFICES. My son, Greg, was fortunate to have dinner with Rule during ThrillerFest back in 2012, and he has composed a tribute to her prolific career and his memories of that very special evening. That is a dinner I am very sorry to have missed.

Our newest Women's Fiction Author Spotlight features THE PARIS WIFE author Paula McLain, whose highly anticipated third novel, CIRCLING THE SUN, is now in stores. Here, McLain whisks readers away to 1920s colonial Kenya, where we are introduced to the fearless and endlessly captivating Beryl Markham. Raised in Kenya by her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate, Beryl is taught to respect the power of nature. As an adult, she becomes a highly successful horse trainer, but when she attracts the eye of a bohemian community of European expats, her whole life changes. Beginning with an affair with Denys Finch Hatton and a career change to aviation, Beryl becomes a fiercely independent woman whose professional achievements mirror the intensity of her personal life.

Katherine B. Weissman has our review and says, “CIRCLING THE SUN both entertains and inspires, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it soars as high as THE PARIS WIFE.... Historical novels like this one, which bring neglected or forgotten pioneers to light, give us a view of history that isn’t simply a parade of 'great men,' that acknowledges our gender’s accomplishments and sacrifices." Katherine had the pleasure of speaking with Paula, and we'll feature the interview in next week's newsletter. Also, our intern extraordinaire Rebecca Munro attended Random House’s special event, “Girls Night Out with Paula McLain,” and wrote a wonderful blog piece about it, which you can read here. I love, love, love this book, and it will be a Bets On title next week!

Our latest New Release Spotlight title is BROKEN PROMISE, Linwood Barclay’s 14th novel. David Harwood has lost everything, from his job to his wife, and has no choice but to relocate to his childhood home with his son, Ethan. The two move in with David’s aging parents in the small town of Promise Falls and discover an epic family secret when David is asked to check on his cousin, Marla. Marla suffered a devastating miscarriage nearly a year ago, but when David visits, he finds her tending to a baby boy who she claims belongs to her. When the baby’s real mother is found murdered and slaughtered animals begin appearing around town, David investigates --- only to find that someone is after the residents of Promise Falls.

Reviewer Joe Hartlaub calls BROKEN PROMISE “one of Barclay’s most satisfying efforts to date… Barclay’s writing style, always extremely readable, makes the pages fly by. And while the primary issue regarding Marla is resolved, the novel has a definite cliffhanger ending, which will be taken up in FAR FROM TRUE, Barclay’s next work.” I read BROKEN PROMISE earlier this year and loved it; it’s a very quick, sharp read. It's the first in a three-book story arc set in Promise Falls. It is satisfying on its own, but also sets up the next book beautifully. Our readers loved BROKEN PROMISE; you can see their comments here. They, too, are excited about FAR FROM TRUE, which is due out in March. I have been given an early look at the manuscript, and it’s just as good as PROMISE FALLS. Such a treat when a favorite author delivers like this. I will have Bets On commentary on this next week.

CIRCLING THE SUN and BROKEN PROMISE are two of the prize books we’re awarding our Word of Mouth winners (THE MARRIAGE OF OPPOSITES by Alice Hoffman is the third one). Please let us know the books that you’ve finished reading, and you’ll be in the running to win all three of these novels. Be sure to enter here by Friday, August 7th at noon ET. Melanie, our Word of Mouth editor, reports that both GO SET A WATCHMAN and SHARP OBJECTS, the latter by Gillian Flynn, are trending on Word of Mouth.

We have two Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlights to share with you this week. First up is Mary Kubica and her newest psychological thriller, PRETTY BABY. Heidi Wood has always been the charitable sort. Between her nonprofit work and love of stray cats, it is not unusual for her to help those less fortunate than her. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when she returns home one day with a young homeless woman named Willow --- and her four-month-old baby. As clues into Willow’s past come to light, Heidi must decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to help a total stranger with a twisted past.

According to reviewer Norah Piehl, “With its numerous surprises and haunting scenes, PRETTY BABY proves that THE GOOD GIRL wasn't just a fluke and ensures that Kubica's work will continue to keep readers up at night.” Norah was delighted to interview Mary about her inspiration for this eerie novel, the success of THE GOOD GIRL, and her future projects, which you can read here. I loved THE GOOD GIRL and have PRETTY BABY on tap for the weekend.

Our second Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight features acclaimed author Jonathan Kellerman and his new stand-alone novel, THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER, which releases on August 18th. Brilliant psychologist Grace Blades has a gift for treating her tormented patients, perhaps because of her storied past: as a five-year-old, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murder-suicide. After being adopted, Grace channeled her pain and intellect into helping others, but she has a hidden dark side as well. She is horrified when she recognizes a new patient from a recent encounter, but mild-mannered Andrew is willing to ignore their history in exchange for the care he so desperately needs. But as Grace begins to explore his case, she finds that it mirrors her past too closely and declines --- a decision she regrets when a detective appears on her doorstep.

In anticipation of its upcoming release, we’re giving away 25 copies of THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER to those who would like to read the book and share their comments on it. The deadline for entries is Thursday, August 13th at noon ET.

Our Women's Fiction Author Spotlight on Emilie Richards and her latest Goddesses Anonymous novel, THE COLOR OF LIGHT, continues. For over 10 years, Minister Analiese Wagner has never once wavered in her beliefs or her commitment to her parish. But one frigid night, she finds a homeless family hiding in the churchyard and offers them shelter --- testing the loyalty of her congregation. Left at a crossroads, Analiese has no one to confide in but Isaiah Colburn, the Catholic priest who was her first mentor. Isaiah has his own struggles, however, as he is torn between his sacred vows and his love for Analiese. With a poor family and her own happiness at risk, Analiese must decide where her values lie.

Jamie Layton has our review and raves, “Emilie Richards does a fantastic job of giving yet another Goddess the spotlight and providing readers with more from her past.... This is a terrific series that will warm the heart and soul of every reader.” We’re also happy to share an interview that Jamie conducted with Emilie; click here to check it out. And don’t forget, there is still one week left to enter to win one of 10 copies of THE COLOR OF LIGHT if you would like to read the book and share your comments on it. The deadline for entries is Thursday, August 6th at noon ET.

This week’s Paperback Spotlight features author Heather Graham’s eerie paranormal thriller, THE FORGOTTEN. When Maria Gomez is murdered by her husband, Miguel, FBI agent Brett Cody is left with more than a few puzzling details. First of all, Miguel is dead. Second of all, dead or alive, he loved Maria and would never hurt her. Nearby, dolphin researcher Lara Mayhew is horrified when a dolphin brings her a human hand from the depths of the ocean. As more body parts turn up, it becomes clear that the dismembered corpse was once Miguel. With rumors of zombies creating tension in Miami, Brett and Lara must team up with an elite FBI unit of paranormal investigators and an elderly crime boss to discover the truth.

Last week, we shared Jana Siciliano’s rave review of WHEN THE MOON IS LOW by Nadia Hashimi. Now it’s my turn to let you know how I feel about the book, which is my latest Bets On selection. Click here for my commentary.

In this week’s Summer Reading contests, we gave away the aforementioned BROKEN PROMISE and DEAR DAUGHTER, along with BAD NEWS COWBOY: A Copper Ridge Novel by Maisey Yates and THE WONDER OF ALL THINGS by Jason Mott. Next week’s prize books will be AFTER THE WIND: 1996 Everest Tragedy -- One Survivor's Story by Lou Kasischke (a wonderful memoir about Everest that I am crazy about), IN A DARK, DARK WOOD by Ruth Ware (this will be a Bets On selection), NATCHEZ BURNING by Greg Iles (the book that my husband loved) and THE SECRET PLACE by Tana French (a writer whose books I've wanted to read). We’ll announce the first contest of the week on Monday, August 3rd at noon ET.

We’ve updated our Young Adult Books You Want to Read feature, books we’ve reviewed on that we think our adult readers will enjoy. This month’s titles are SUICIDE NOTES FROM BEAUTIFUL GIRLS by Lynn Weingarten, NAKED by Stacey Trombley and WHAT WE KNEW by Barbara Stewart.

For our latest poll, we’d like to know where you got the book you're currently reading. Did you purchase it in a bookstore? Take it out of the library? Or did a friend give it to you? Click here to answer!

We have a new Sounding Off on Audio contest to tell you about. Let us know by Friday, August 21st at noon ET what audiobooks you’ve finished listening to, and you’ll have the chance to win the digital version or a CD of both GO SET A WATCHMAN written by Harper Lee and performed by Reese Witherspoon (she’s an excellent narrator), and THE ENGLISH SPY written by Daniel Silva and performed by George Guidall. I still am listening to --- and enjoying ---I AM PILGRIM and probably will be for a while. Thanks to Bobbie Cloud for recommending it!

If you are in a book group, tell us “What's Your Book Group Reading This Month” on, and you can be entered to win one of three sets of 12 copies of THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah for your group. This book has been on the New York Times bestseller list since it came out in February (that's 25 weeks!), and is the one title that every reader with whom I have spoken has raved about. The contest is open until Wednesday, August 5th at noon ET.

This week saw the announcement of the longlist for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, which “promotes the finest in fiction by rewarding the very best book of the year. The prize is the world's most important literary award and has the power to transform the fortunes of authors and publishers.” Click here to see all 13 books that made the longlist; one of them is DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY by Bill Clegg, which I raved about in a previous newsletter and will be a Bets On pick after it releases on September 8th.

News and Pop Culture:

Room: Found this trailer for the movie adaptation of Emma Donoghue's ROOM. Really looks good!

WHAT PET SHOULD I GET?: The latest book from Dr. Seuss, just out this week, amuses --- and makes one spend the hours after reading it speaking in rhyme. The text and illustrations “were discovered in 2013 in a box of [Theodor] Geisel’s papers by his widow, Audrey Geisel, and long-time secretary Claudia Prescott. The box of papers originally was set aside by Audrey following the writer’s death in 1991.” Note: If you are the family of an author who has passed away, cleaning the closets could be very lucrative.

"The Astronaut Wives Club": I watch this show and troll the Internet for more about the astronauts and their wives. Betty Grissom is prominently featured in this week’s episode, and I found this video of her from 2011 where it’s clear they have her character right about speaking her mind!

"Ray Donovan": I love this show…it has so much action that it feels longer than an hour. I previewed Sunday’s episode, and Katie Holmes finally gets a bigger role, for those who have been waiting for that.

Amazon Video/Prime Streaming News: Much excitement in our house with the announcement that a new car show by Jeremy Clarkson, formerly of "Top Gear," has been picked up by Amazon Prime. This was a huge move by the Amazon network, as "Top Gear" is wildly popular internationally with something like 80 million viewers, among them the men in our house. Also, season two of "Bosch" is in production; cannot wait for that to come back.

"Ballers": Been watching this on HBO. It’s not brilliant, but I flipped through the episodes while knitting and answering emails. It's probably pretty on target about pro football, though.

"Grace and Frankie": Watching this on Netflix and it’s a bit bloated. I like the premise, but the writing could be sharper. It’s flatter than it should be.

As we were wrapping up this newsletter, we got the very sad news that Alan Cheuse, the author and NPR commentator, passed away from injuries sustained in a car accident. Here's a piece on this from NPR.

Tonight I will be enjoying the blue moon. For those who do not know, this is the second full moon in one month; the last time it happened was in August 2012. The next blue moon won't come until January 2, 2018, so enjoy tonight!

Greg is off camping for the weekend on a friend’s land, where they also will be doing a lot of off-road driving. He will consider mud all over the car to be a sign of a successful weekend; I will insist he wash the car on Monday. Cory is busy weekends with his valet parking job; he reports back on his favorite cars! Tom will play lots of golf and watch golf, too --- there’s a line I can cut and paste from week to week!

My plans will involve lots of reading and floating; after a few very hectic weeks, I have nothing on the agenda this weekend. Whew! Maybe I can finish knitting the shawl that after numerous rip-outs and re-knits has just a few more rows until it is done!

Read on, and here’s to a great week ahead….

Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])

P.S. For those of you who shop online, if you use the store links below, gets a small affiliate fee on your purchases. We would appreciate your considering this!
Remembering Ann Rule, 1931-2015 mourns the loss of true-crime writer Ann Rule, who passed away on July 26th at the age of 83 after suffering a heart attack. Rule was the author of 30 New York Times bestsellers, the first of which was THE STRANGER BESIDE ME, about her personal relationship with infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. A former Seattle police officer, she knew the crime scene firsthand, and she was a powerful advocate for victims of violent crime for more than two decades. In 2012, our very own Greg Fitzgerald had the pleasure of meeting Rule and having dinner with her during the ThrillerFest conference in New York City. He shares his memories of that unforgettable evening in this lovely tribute.
Click here to read Greg Fitzgerald's tribute to Ann Rule.
Now in Stores: CIRCLING THE SUN by Paula McLain --- Our Latest Women’s Fiction Author Spotlight Title
CIRCLING THE SUN by Paula McLain (Historical Fiction)
Beryl Markham's unconventional upbringing transforms her into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships. Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. Reviewed by Katherine B. Weissman.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Paula McLain’s bio.
-Click here to connect with Paula McLain on Instagram.
-Click here to read more in our Women’s Fiction Author Spotlight.
Click here to read a review.
New Release Spotlight: BROKEN PROMISE by Linwood Barclay
BROKEN PROMISE by Linwood Barclay (Thriller)
After his wife’s death and the collapse of his newspaper, David Harwood has no choice but to uproot his nine-year-old son and move back into his childhood home in Promise Falls, New York. David believes his life is in free fall, and he can’t find a way to stop his descent.

Then he comes across a family secret of epic proportions. A year after a devastating miscarriage, David’s cousin Marla has continued to struggle. But when David’s mother asks him to check on her, he’s horrified to discover that she’s been secretly raising a child who is not her own --- a baby she claims was a gift from an “angel” left on her porch.

When the baby’s real mother is found murdered, David can’t help wanting to piece together what happened --- even if it means proving his own cousin’s guilt. But as he uncovers each piece of evidence, David realizes that Marla’s mysterious child is just the tip of the iceberg.

Other strange things are happening. Animals are found ritually slaughtered. An ominous abandoned Ferris wheel seems to stand as a warning that something dark has infected Promise Falls. And someone has decided that the entire town must pay for the sins of its past…in blood.

-Click here to read a review.
-Click here to see advance readers’ comments.
-Click here to read Linwood Barclay’s bio.
-Click here to visit Linwood Barclay’s official website.
-Connect with Linwood Barclay on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
Click here to read more in our New Release Spotlight. Talks to Mary Kubica, Author of PRETTY BABY --- A Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight Title
Mary Kubica’s debut novel, THE GOOD GIRL, was a runaway hit, ringingly endorsed as “GONE GIRL with heart.” Now, she follows up with an impressive sophomore effort, PRETTY BABY, about Heidi Wood, who, despite her husband's objections, takes in a young mother and her four-month-old baby. As clues into the girl’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she's willing to go --- and what she's willing to risk --- to help a stranger. In this interview with’s Norah Piehl, Kubica talks about generous characters and selfish characters, charity gone wrong, and reining in plot points to allow the story maximum suspense. She also shares how the success of THE GOOD GIRL has changed her life, including some of the best letters she has received from her fans.

PRETTY BABY by Mary Kubica (Psychological Thriller)
Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Despite her family's objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home. Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow's past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she's willing to go to help a stranger. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read a review.
-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Mary Kubica’s bio.
-Click here to visit Mary Kubica’s official website.
-Connect with Mary Kubica on Facebook and Twitter.
-Click here to read more in our Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight.
Click here to read our interview.
New Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight & Contest: THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER by Jonathan Kellerman
We have 25 copies of THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTER by Jonathan Kellerman, which releases on August 18th, 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, August 13th at noon ET.

THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTER by Jonathan Kellerman (Psychological Thriller)
A brilliant, deeply dedicated psychologist, Grace Blades has a gift for treating troubled souls and tormented psyches --- perhaps because she bears her own invisible scars: Only five years old when she witnessed her parents’ deaths in a bloody murder-suicide, Grace took refuge in her fierce intellect and found comfort in the loving couple who adopted her. But even as an adult with an accomplished professional life, Grace still has a dark, secret side. When her two worlds shockingly converge, Grace’s harrowing past returns with a vengeance.

Both Grace and her newest patient are stunned when they recognize each other from a recent encounter. Haunted by his bleak past, mild-mannered Andrew Toner is desperate for Grace’s renowned therapeutic expertise and more than willing to ignore their connection. And while Grace is tempted to explore his case, which seems to eerily echo her grim early years, she refuses --- a decision she regrets when a homicide detective appears on her doorstep.

An evil she thought she’d outrun has reared its head again, but Grace fears that a police inquiry will expose her double life. Launching her own personal investigation leads her to a murderously manipulative foe, one whose warped craving for power forces Grace back into the chaos and madness she’d long ago fled.

-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Jonathan Kellerman’s bio.
-Click here to visit Jonathan Kellerman’s official website.
-Click here to connect with Jonathan Kellerman on Facebook.
Click here to read more in our Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight and enter the contest. Talks to Emilie Richards, Author of THE COLOR OF LIGHT --- Enter to Win a Copy and Share Your Comments On It

Emilie Richards has written over 70 novels, beloved for their complex characterizations and in-depth explorations of social issues --- a result of her training and experience as a family counselor. THE COLOR OF LIGHT is the fourth installment in her Goddesses Anonymous series, and it spotlights another Goddess, Minister Analiese Wagner, whose faith is put to the ultimate test when she takes homeless teenager Shiloh Fowler under her wing. In this interview, Richards talks to’s Jamie Layton about the significance of her characters’ names and how they took on a life of their own, to no one’s surprise more than her own. She also discusses how serious the issue of homelessness is, and the strides and setbacks churches experience when dealing with matters of social justice.

THE COLOR OF LIGHT by Emilie Richards (Fiction)
Minister Analiese Wagner's commitment to her parishioners has never been seriously tested until the frigid night she encounters a homeless family huddling in the churchyard. Offering them shelter in a vacant parish house apartment and taking teenage Shiloh Fowler under her wing, she tests the loyalty and faith of her congregation. Isaiah Colburn, the Catholic priest who was her first mentor and the man she secretly longed for, understands her struggles only too well. At a crossroads, he suddenly has reappeared in her life, torn between his priesthood and his growing desire for a future with Analiese. Reviewed by Jamie Layton.

We have 10 copies of THE COLOR OF LIGHT to give away to readers who would like to read the book and share their comments on it. To enter, please fill out this form by Thursday, August 6th at noon ET.

-Click here to read a review.
-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Emilie Richards’ bio.
-Click here to visit Emilie Richards’ official website.
-Connect with Emilie Richards on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
-Click here to read more in our Women’s Fiction Author Spotlight and enter the contest.

Click here to read our interview.
New Paperback Spotlight: THE FORGOTTEN by Heather Graham
THE FORGOTTEN by Heather Graham (Paranormal Romantic Suspense)
A woman named Maria Gomez is murdered in Miami, apparently by her husband --- who'd been presumed dead, slain by a crime boss. FBI agent Brett Cody can't believe it; dead or alive, the man had loved his wife. He also can't help feeling guilty, since he was responsible for protecting Miguel and Maria Gomez.

A few miles away, Lara Mayhew has just begun working at a dolphin research facility. She loves her new job --- until a dolphin brings her something unexpected from the deep. A human hand. More body parts show up, and when Brett looks into the situation, he discovers that the dismembered corpse is Miguel's.

Soon, rumors of crazed zombies abound in the Miami media, and the Krewe of Hunters, an elite FBI unit of paranormal investigators, is called in. Brett and Lara find themselves working with the Krewe --- and working closely together. An elderly crime boss who's losing his memory seems to be key to solving this case, but…there's no motive. Unless Brett and Lara can uncover one in the Miami underworld. And that means they have to protect themselves. And each other.

-Click here to read Heather Graham’s bio.
-Click here to visit Heather Graham’s official website.
-Connect with Heather Graham on Facebook and Twitter.
Click here to read more in our Paperback Spotlight.
An Interview with J. Ryan Stradal, Author of KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST

Although he now lives in Los Angeles, J. Ryan Stradal was born and raised in Minnesota, so it’s no surprise that his debut novel is titled KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST. It’s one of the most hotly anticipated books of the summer, about a young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the iconic chef behind the country’s most coveted dinner reservation. In this interview, Stradal reveals why he chose to tell each chapter from a different character’s point of view and how that enabled him to capture the zeitgeist of the Midwest. He also discusses his philosophy when it comes to foodie culture, how food contributes to identity and community, and why he would never challenge a Midwesterner to a bake-off.

KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST by J. Ryan Stradal (Fiction)
When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine --- and a dashing sommelier --- he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. Each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

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

Click here to read the interview.'s Summer Reading Contests and Feature
Summer has arrived! At, this means it's time for us to share some great summer book picks with our Summer Reading Contests and Feature. We are hosting a number of 24-hour contests for these titles on select days throughout the summer, so you will have to check the site each day to see the featured prize book and enter to win. We also are sending a special newsletter to announce the day's title, which you can sign up for here.

Our next prize book will be announced on Monday, August 3rd at noon ET.

This year's featured titles include:

Click here to read all the contest details and see our featured titles.
More Reviews This Week
BRUSH BACK: A V. I. Warshawski Novel by Sara Paretsky (Mystery)
For six stormy weeks back in high school, V.I. Warshawski thought she was in love with Frank Guzzo. When he broke up with her, she went off to college and he started driving trucks for Bagby Haulage. She forgot about him until the day his mother was convicted of bludgeoning his kid sister to death. Newly released from prison after 25 years behind bars, Stella is looking for exoneration, so Frank asks V.I. for help. Her questions about the case lead her straight into the vipers’ nest of Illinois politics she’s wanted to avoid. Reviewed by Jennifer McCord.

BADLANDS by C. J. Box (Thriller)
In the small town of Grimstad, North Dakota, resides 12-year-old Kyle Westergaard, who wants to get out of town, take care of his mother and give them a better life. While delivering newspapers, he witnesses a car accident and takes a mysterious bundle from the scene. Now in possession of a lot of money and packets of white powder, Kyle wonders if his luck has changed. As detective Cassie Dewell is propelled on a collision course with a murderous enemy, she finds that the key to it all might come in the most unlikely form: an undersized boy on a bike who keeps showing up where he doesn't belong. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

IDEAL by Ayn Rand (Fiction)
Originally conceived as a novel, but then transformed into a play by Ayn Rand, IDEAL is the story of beautiful but tormented actress Kay Gonda. Accused of murder, she is on the run and turns for help to six fans who have written letters to her, each telling her that she represents their ideal. Each reacts to her plight in his own way, their reactions a glimpse into their secret selves and their true values. In the end, their responses to her pleas give Kay the answers she has been seeking. Reviewed by Maggie Harding.

THE PINE TAR GAME: The Kansas City Royals, the New York Yankees, and Baseball's Most Absurd and Entertaining Controversy by Filip Bondy (Sports)
On July 24, 1983, during the finale of a heated four-game series between the dynastic New York Yankees and small-town Kansas City Royals, umpires nullified a go-ahead home run based on an obscure rule, when Yankees manager Billy Martin pointed out an illegal amount of pine tar on Royals third baseman George Brett’s bat. The call temporarily cost the Royals the game, but the decision was eventually overturned, resulting in a resumption of the game several weeks later that created its own hysteria. THE PINE TAR GAME chronicles this watershed moment. Reviewed by Ron Kaplan.

CROOKED HEART by Lissa Evans (Historical Fiction)
When 10-year-old Noel Bostock is evacuated from London to escape the Nazi bombardment, he lands in a suburb northwest of the city with Vera Sedge --- a 36-year-old widow drowning in debts and dependents. Noel is mourning his godmother Mattie, a former suffragette. He has little in common with other children and even less with the impulsive Vee, who hurtles from one self-made crisis to the next. The war has provided unprecedented opportunities for making money, but what Vee needs --- and what she’s never had --- is a cool head and the ability to make a plan. Reviewed by Kate Ayers.

NO ONE NEEDS TO KNOW by Kevin O'Brien (Thriller)
In July 1970, actress Elaina Styles was slain in her rented Seattle mansion along with her husband and their son’s nanny. When the baby’s remains were found buried in a shallow grave close to a hippie commune, police moved in --- only to find all its members already dead in a grisly mass suicide. Now, decades later, a film about the murders is shooting at the mansion. As on-set caterer Laurie Trotter digs deep into what happened all those years ago, a legacy of brutal vengeance reaches its terrifying climax. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

ONE WAY OR ANOTHER by Elizabeth Adler (Mystery/Thriller)
One moment Angie Morse is standing on the deck of a large luxury yacht, and the next she feels a stinging blow to her head. And then a push. She is in the water. She can see people on the yacht, but they don't seem to notice that she is gone. These are her friends and one is her love. Each one had a reason for getting rid of her, though she never would have thought it would come to this. Revenge burns so deeply inside her that she knows she will survive somehow. She will get them all. One way or another. Reviewed by Amie Taylor.

THE SMALL BACKS OF CHILDREN by Lidia Yuknavitch (Fiction)
In a war-torn village in Eastern Europe, an American photographer captures a young girl flying toward the lens, fleeing a fiery explosion that has engulfed her home and family. The image becomes the subject of obsession for one writer, the photographer’s best friend, who has suffered a devastating tragedy of her own. As the writer plunges into a suicidal depression, her filmmaker husband enlists several friends to save her by rescuing the unknown girl and bringing her to the US. Yet, as their plot unfolds, everything we know about the story comes into question. Reviewed by Stephen Febick.

THE DEVIL’S SHARE: A Crissa Stone Novel by Wallace Stroby (Hard-boiled Mystery/Thriller)
It's been a year since professional thief Crissa Stone last pulled a job, and she's spent that time under the radar, very carefully not drawing attention to herself. When Crissa starts to get antsy and low on funds, she agrees to act as a thief-for-hire, partnering with a wealthy art collector to steal a truckload of plundered Iraqi artifacts before they're repatriated to their native country. But what's supposed to be a "give-up" robbery with few complications quickly turns deadly. Soon Crissa is on the run again, with both an ex-military hit squad and her own partners-in-crime in pursuit. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

THE TRAVELS OF DANIEL ASCHER written by Déborah Lévy-Bertherat, translated by Adriana Hunter (Fiction)
Who is the real author of The Black Insignia? Is it H. R. Sanders, whose name is printed on the cover of every installment of the wildly successful young adult adventure series? Or is it Daniel Roche, the enigmatic world traveler who disappears for months at a time? When Daniel’s great-niece, Hélène, moves to Paris to study archaeology, she does not expect to be searching for answers to these questions. In so doing, she uncovers an explosive secret dating back to the darkest days of the Occupation. Reviewed by Judy Gigstad.

ALL TOGETHER NOW by Gill Hornby (Fiction)
The small town of Bridgeford is in crisis. Downtown is deserted, businesses are closing, and the idea of civic pride seems old-fashioned to residents rushing through the streets to get somewhere else. But there is one thing that just might unite the community --- music. The local choir, a group generally either ignored or mocked by most of Bridgeford's inhabitants, is preparing for an important contest. To win it, they need new members and a whole new sound. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.
Young Adult Books You Want to Read
Here are this month's books we reviewed on that we think will appeal to an adult audience:

SUICIDE NOTES FROM BEAUTIFUL GIRLS by Lynn Weingarten (Mystery/Thriller)
June and Delia used to be closer than anything. But one night a year ago, everything changed. June, Delia, and June’s boyfriend, Ryan, were just having a little fun. Their good time got out of hand. And in the cold blue light of morning, June knew only this --- things would never be the same again. And now, a year later, Delia is dead. June is certain she was murdered. And she owes it to her to find out the truth…which is far more complicated than she ever could have imagined.

NAKED by Stacey Trombley (Fiction)
Anna could never fit in to the life her parents demanded. By the time she was 13, she ran away to New York City...and found a nightmare that lasted three years. A nightmare that began and ended with a pimp named Luis. But now, for the first time, she has a chance to start over. Still, the rumors follow her everywhere. The only hope she can see is in Jackson, the boy next door. She lies to protect him from her past, but it's just a matter of time before the real Anna is exposed.

WHAT WE KNEW by Barbara Stewart (Mystery/Horror)
When Tracy and her best friend, Lisa, were kids, stories about a man --- a creep who exposes himself to little girls --- kept them out of the woods and in their own backyards. But Tracy and Lisa aren't so little anymore, and the man in the woods is nothing but a silly story. Right? But someone is in the woods. Someone is watching. And he knows all their secrets, secrets they can't tell anyone --- not even each other.
Click here for more young adult books we recommend you read.
Our Latest Poll: Where Did You Obtain the Book You're Reading Now?
Where did you get the book you're currently reading? If you're reading more than one book, please select one to answer this question.

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Word of Mouth Contest: Tell Us What You're Reading --- and You Can Win Three Books!
Tell us about the books you’ve finished reading with your comments and a rating of 1 to 5 stars. During the contest period from July 24th to August 7th, five lucky readers each will be randomly chosen to win a copy of BROKEN PROMISE by Linwood Barclay, CIRCLING THE SUN by Paula McClain, and THE MARRIAGE OF OPPOSITES by Alice Hoffman.

To make sure other readers will be able to find the books you write about, please include the full title and correct author names (your entry must include these to be eligible to win). For complete rules and guidelines, click here.

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Sounding Off on Audio Contest: Tell Us What You're Listening to --- and You Can Win Two Audiobooks!
Tell us about the audiobooks you’ve finished listening to with your comments and a rating of 1 to 5 stars for both the performance and the content. During the contest period from July 31st to August 21st, THREE lucky readers each will be randomly chosen to win the digital version or a CD of both GO SET A WATCHMAN written by Harper Lee and performed by Reese Witherspoon, and THE ENGLISH SPY written by Daniel Silva and performed by George Guidall.

To make sure other readers will be able to find the audiobook, please include the full title and correct author names (your entry must include these to be eligible to win). For complete rules and guidelines, click here.

-To see reader comments from previous contest periods, click here.

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