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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.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan Henry

October 2018

BECOMING MRS. LEWIS by Patti Callahan is the story of Joy Davidman, who first turned to C. S. Lewis for spiritual guidance, and then slowly but steadily became the woman who won his heart.

When we first meet Joy, she is a wife, a mother and a writer. She struggles with the burden of an uncaring husband who is an alcoholic and whose moods are often dark. He, too, is a writer, but he struggles with his work. The boys are active, and Joy is pulled in many directions. She begins a correspondence with Lewis, questioning her faith and her life. In frail health, she takes a break from her domestic world and travels abroad to, among other things, meet Lewis for the first time. Their conversations are friendly yet professional; he keeps his distance, but clearly there is a connection between them with their writing and their spirited discussions. She loves his mind; he embraces her spirit of life and her questioning of it.

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

October 2018

THE DREAM DAUGHTER by Diane Chamberlain has been one of my toughest Bets On write-ups, as I want to give away nothing about it. One of the delights of the book is the slow reveals that will unfold and be great "aha" moments.

It opens in 1970. Carly Sears is a young pregnant widow who is living with her sister and brother-in-law on the Outer Banks of North Carolina in Nags Head. Her husband was in Vietnam. At a routine doctor's appointment, Carly learns that she is carrying a daughter with a heart problem. Her brother-in-law, a brilliant physicist, is familiar with technology that can help her baby receive the in vitro surgery that she needs to survive. He actually has lived life in the future. What happens and what intervenes along the way will give readers a lot to think about.

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth (Audiobook) by Sarah Smarsh

October 2018

In HEARTLAND: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth, Sarah Smarsh traces her Midwestern Kansas family’s roots back four generations. Along the way, she takes readers on a deep dive into a world where everyone worked, often multiple jobs, yet they remained poor. She shares a perspective of life in this world through the eyes of the family for which she has deep feelings. Her writing is frank and leaves readers with lots to ponder, especially at a time when this country is deeply divided. Here, Sarah shares a perspective that is illuminating, especially for those on either coast. I love the voice and tone of her work, as well as the pacing of her narration. I listened to it on audio, and her Midwestern twang contributed to the success of the story for me.

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

September 2018

One of the oft-asked questions is “What five people would you invite to a dinner party?”

For Sabrina, in THE DINNER LIST by Rebecca Serle, she arrives at dinner on her 30th birthday to find her best friend, her estranged father, her college professor, her former boyfriend of nearly a decade, and Audrey Hepburn. Why those five guests? Each has something to share with Sabrina that will bring insight to her life on this milestone birthday. They are gathered together for one dinner --- and one dinner only, which will end at midnight --- so in these few hours, many stories will be told, truths will be uncovered, coincidences will be rewound, and Sabrina will make sense of so many things that she never quite understood.

The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World by Sarah Weinman

September 2018

I confess that I do not remember reading LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov, though I know I did at some point. That took nothing away from my reading Sarah Weinman’s THE REAL LOLITA. I have long respected Sarah as a journalist, and I know her reporting and interviews are always thought-provoking and in-depth. So when I read this book to interview her for the Author Buzz panel at BookExpo, I knew I was in for both strong storytelling and a no-holds-barred investigation in this true-crime work.

The Mars Room (Audiobook) by Rachel Kushner

September 2018

I listened to THE MARS ROOM by Rachel Kushner, which is also narrated by her. The print copy had been on my shelf for a while, so I was happy to have an opportunity to listen to it on audio, a medium that has allowed me to augment my reading time. In fact, I think the book was even more powerful to me for having listened to it.

Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart

September 2018

In Gary Shteyngart’s LAKE SUCCESS, hedge-fund manager Barry Cohen is coping --- well, actually he is not coping well at all --- with an SEC investigation and his three-year-old son Shiva’s diagnosis of autism. So what does he do? He flees town. But he does not take a private jet, helicopter or Maserati like his typical bros might. No, he jumps on a Greyhound bus after disposing of not just his black American Express card, but all of his credit cards. He also trashes his cell phone. He is a man with a plan --- to track down his college sweetheart and a time when life was simpler, leaving behind his wife, Seema, who is smart and wise (there is a difference).

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams

September 2018

If you read a book about the Lusitania, you can be pretty sure that at least one plotline is not going to have a happy ending. That said, I can imagine some very happy times when three bestselling authors --- Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White --- got together to plot and write THE GLASS OCEAN. Each wrote a section, and they are not sharing who wrote which, so it will be up to you to figure it out, should you so desire.

Vox by Christina Dalcher

September 2018

I heard Christina Dalcher talk about VOX at a breakfast at BookExpo. Interestingly, she has taught linguistics, phonics and phonology, which gives her expertise about voice and being heard. In VOX, women in this country have been told that they are not allowed more than 100 words a day; by comparison, the average person speaks about 16,000 words (though somewhere I saw that women speak 20,000). Each woman wears a wristband, which has been calibrated to capture the modulation of her voice. At word 101, a shock is delivered to the wrist, which escalates exponentially as more words are shared. Soon there are more and more restrictions on women as they realize that, without their voices, the circle of their lives gets smaller, leading to desperate measures by many of them.

Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan

September 2018

With TRUST ME, Hank Phillippi Ryan has written her first stand-alone novel, which challenges an author as she steps away from writing her series character. I like it when authors challenge themselves. I like it even better when they brilliantly succeed. The protagonist, Mercer Hennessey, is a journalist who is grieving the loss of her husband, Dex, and daughter, Sophie. Her grief is raw. She wakes up each day, and in the steam on the bathroom mirror notes the number of days since they passed away. At the start we know they died in a car accident; later we learn more about this. Mercer’s own grief makes her vulnerable. What can draw her from the fog that has overshadowed her life?