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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.

The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont

March 2012

Money does not buy happiness. Just ask Jason Prosper, the protagonist in THE STARBOARD SEA, a debut novel from Amber Dermont.  As the book opens, Jason is on his way to yet another prep school, this time Bellingham Academy. The school is not prestigious and storied, but rather for wealthy offspring who need second chances. And Jason needs just that ---  a chance to start fresh.

A Good American by Alex George

February 2012

I am often asked, “What have you read recently that you loved?” Last fall, after I finished A GOOD AMERICAN by Alex George, it was the book that I found myself talking about the most. As I read it months in advance of publication, I kept having to add a coda of “but it’s not in stores until February 2012.” Over the holiday, I asked the publisher for some extra advance reading copies and wrapped them up for family members and close friends --- and their responses upon reading it mirrored mine. They loved it.

History of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason

February 2012

HISTORY OF A PLEASURE SEEKER by Richard Mason is set in Amsterdam at the turn of the 20th century at the height of Europe’s Belle Époque. The book isa fast-paced story that is full of great atmospheric detail. From the rich descriptions, I immediately felt like I was inside one of the homes on the Gilded Curve with the main character Piet Barol, an attractive, cunning and scheming young man.

Defending Jacob by William Landay

February 2012

William Landay wrote one of my favorite books, MISSION FLATS, back in 2003 and since then I have been a huge fan of his work. DEFENDING JACOB takes his writing to a whole new level of both plotting and character development.

The Rules of Inheritance: A Memoir by Claire Bidwell Smith

February 2012

THE RULES OF INHERITANCE by Claire Bidwell Smith is a brilliant memoir about a young woman who at age 14 learns that both of her parents have cancer. A huge burden at any age, but even more difficult for an adolescent. Her choice the night her mother dies will haunt her, her father’s death will be a lonely vigil, and who she becomes between these two experiences and how she emerges after them is one powerful story.

The Sisters by Nancy Jensen

November 2011

THE SISTERS, a debut novel by Nancy Jensen, opens in rural Kentucky in 1927 with two sisters --- Bertie Fischer and her older sister, Mabel --- who become separated through a tragic string of events. For a moment, I got settled in with these characters and thought this book was just going to be their story. But as I kept reading, I realized that these are not the only compelling sister characters we come to know in THE SISTERS. As the years unfold, other generations of sisters in this family form the backdrop for the narrative. The story flows through 80 years, marking the social changes that affect life in America as well as the ways these changes affect the characters. A secret that was buried in the past will impact all these sisters --- and the courses of their lives.

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

October 2011

Hillary Jordan’s debut novel, MUDBOUND, won a number of prizes and became a reader favorite for its honest portrayal of a family struggling to make ends meet on its Mississippi Delta farm during the 1940s. The topic of WHEN SHE WOKE couldn’t be much more of a 180, as it’s a dystopian novel set in the not-too-distant future where criminals are referred to as Chromes. The skin color of all Chromes is dyed to reflect their crime. At the start of the sentence, their jail time is continuously filmed in a reality show kind of format, and their actions are broadcast nationwide. Once released from their original sentence, they remain dyed, and their skin tones define them and keep them ostracized from the general public. It’s chilling and haunting and a brilliant social commentary.

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.