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June 20, 2008 Newsletter

June 20, 2008

This Week on

My Life in Sitcoms and Comics.... Talks to Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, Authors of DRAWING WORDS & WRITING PICTURES

Our Summer Beach Bag Contest: Spotlight This Week on THE BEACH HOUSE by Jane Green

Now in Stores: FEARLESS FOURTEEN by Janet Evanovich

Now in Stores: THE GARDEN OF LAST DAYS by Andre Dubus III

Now in Stores: THE OTHER by David Guterson

Featured Mystery Mayhem Author: Tana French, Author of IN THE WOODS

Featured Suspense/Thriller Author: Christopher Reich, Author of RULES OF DECEPTION

Now in Stores: THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS by Meg Waite Clayton

Now in Stores: BEYOND THE NIGHT by Marlo Schalesky
Featured Romantic Suspense Author: Mariah Stewart, Author of MERCY STREET
What's New This Month on

This Week's Reviews

Poll and Question of the Week: Vacation Reading

Word of Mouth: Tell Us What You're Reading --- THREE Prizes

Quick Links to Features On The Book Report Network
Past Reviews
Can't See the Graphics? Read This Newsletter Online
Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight Promotion
Debut Suspense/Thriller One to Watch Promotion
Mystery Mayhem Promotion

Historical Fiction Promotion

One to Watch Promotion
Books Into Movies
Bestseller Lists
Coming Soon
New in Paperback

My Life in Sitcoms and Comics....

I often have said that my life is like a sitcom, with a twist. While in a sitcom there usually are three different storylines running through a half-hour show, each relating to different characters, with me the three storylines usually all involve me and each can get me spinning in a new direction. Sometimes the three scenes get doubled, like today!

Today was the last day of school for my younger son, the first day of graduation practice for my older son, and the delivery of dirt for the redux of the front lawn. All of this was running underneath the other three scenarios that I had planned for the day: pulling together some contest prizes and shooting pictures for them, planning agendas for upcoming trips --- and, oh yeah, writing this newsletter. I am getting to the newsletter opener at 5:30. From that, I think you get the picture of how well the sitcom came together today.

The last day of middle school was handled swimmingly well since I spent yesterday delivering teacher notes and gifts --- determined not to do this at my usual 11th hour. Remind me to do that again next year. My older son moaned about practicing in the sun, but informed me that they had beat the class of 2005 that previously held the record for fastest first practice. I knew this was a bright group! The dirt was delivered and landed on the lawn exactly where it was supposed to be. Of course there was an empty bucket noting the spot, so even Zippy the chimp could have gotten this right. Nonetheless a trifecta.

I am sure that many of you can commiserate on days like this. I also often say that my work days can be summed up as a comic strip like this:

Panel One: I lie in bed making an organized mental checklist of things to accomplish for the day. I feel confident. I feel energized.

Panel Two: I sit at my desk at the house and open my email. Therein lies emails with things like URGENT, MUST HAVE ANSWER, NEED YOUR INPUT, HAVE YOU READ MY BOOK YET. I bang on those for a while.

Panel Three: I drive to the office doing calls and then hit the office where I manage to have meetings, conversations and emails about everything but what I planned in Panel One. I think of my life as that of a firefighter with a fire extinguisher handy at every moment! Hit my office and the spray goes on. Emergency eradicated. Or so I hope.

Panel Four: I drive home thinking about what I planned for the day and how it did not happen, but somehow I am resigned to this and resolve to make it all happen the next day. I am an endless optimist. There is a point to this little story.

Last week at an event at McNally Robinson, a really terrific bookstore here in the city, I had the opportunity to meet the author/creators who we are interviewing this week, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, who wrote a book called DRAWING WORDS & WRITING PICTURES. It's actually a 15-week instruction guide on how to create comics, but as I read through it I also saw it as a great guide on how to READ comics.

I knew I wanted to talk to the authors since reading this book changed how I looked at comics and graphic novels. While before I had just seen pictures and words, now I saw how the layout of those words and pictures --- and even panels that do not have words or pictures --- all play into the creative story.

I learned about thought balloons and word balloons and other dialogue features. I saw that the box outside a text can be as important as the words --- and the size of a panel can factor into a story. And while I always had thought of comics as needing pictures, the 25 of us in the audience that night were challenged to create a comic with just words. I did my four-panel life story; many others pulled together ideas that were much more imaginative --- without ONE drawing. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I appreciated this thought-provoking and creative evening.

That night I saw a stark difference between prose and graphic novels. While authors may have input on cover design, I cannot think of one who has worked on the entire layout design for their book, page by page, thus ensuring that every single component told the story that they planned from pagination to chapter headers. As we continue to explore this format in the months to come, what I learned that night will be kept in mind.

Something else happened that night. I saw a listing of the store's events for that month and realized that I had missed an event with Nancy Horan, the author of LOVING FRANK, and her editor the night before. With that in mind I encourage you all to sign up for your local bookseller's newsletter, if one is available, so you will not miss opportunities like this to enjoy the authors who come to town.

Our Beach Bag title this week is THE BEACH HOUSE by Jane Green, which is set on the island of Nantucket, a place where I always have wanted to visit. My older son was up there last month and pronounced it just wonderful. I would love to spend time in a home like the house described in this book. Reading it, I was seeing the wonderful space that makes a house like this a home. We have a number of Nantucket-themed items in our beach bag this week as well as a candle with a wonderful hydrangea smell. I love those flowers. Our bushes in the backyard will be yielding a particularly big crop this's going to be wonderful. It will make up for the peonies that came and went!

We received great feedback from our readers for I SHALL NOT WANT by Julia Spencer-Fleming. You may read their responses here.

My younger son got off the school bus today and dropped his backpack and a huge stack of notebooks and papers in my home office, with the line, "This is all the stuff from my locker. I figured you wanted to have it." Okay, he knows I am a pack rat and wickedly sentimental about everything, but I think a lot of this is going to be destined for the "garbagio" can.

My older son's graduation is Tuesday night. I assume I will be a puddle of emotion, so I am glad I do not wear mascara! He informed me today that they hand out diplomas in size order...he is about 40th from the end in a class of 500+. Gee, and I thought a last name with F was a good thing. Who knew size mattered?

One more note: Watching the clips of the memorial service for Tim Russert online made me realize that we all really have just one round to make life what we want it to be. I am not sure what struck me most: the poise of his son, the camaraderie of the NBC team or the stories...there were soooo many wonderful stories. Here's to a great week --- make some memories wherever you are!

Carol Fitzgerald ( Talks to Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, Authors of DRAWING WORDS & WRITING PICTURES

Between the two of them, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden have created numerous graphic novels and comic series, including MIRROR, WINDOW, SOUNDTRACK, BLACK CANDY and ODDS OFF. Together, they recently published an instructional guide on writing graphic novels called DRAWING WORDS & WRITING PICTURES, based on classes they teach at Manhattan's School of Visual Arts. In this interview with's Contributing Editor John Hogan, Abel and Madden explain what inspired them to write this textbook, and highlight what both aspiring cartoonists and artists in general will be able to take away from these lessons. They also describe one of the exercises they conduct with their students that involves creating a comic strip without the use of pictures, share their thoughts on the use of computers over traditional hand-lettering and pen-and-ink techniques, and discuss their future projects --- including what to expect from their next book.
Click here to read our interview with Jessica Abel and Matt Madden.


Our Summer Beach Bag Contest: Spotlight This Week on THE BEACH HOUSE by Jane Green

Whether your "beach" is on sand, your backyard deck or a grassy meadow in the country, the summer months mean it's time for "beach reading." is celebrating the lazy days of summer reading with our Fourth Annual " Beach Bag of Books."

Every week from May 16th through August 29th, a different title or collection of titles will be featured with a review and contest prize --- a beach bag stocked with the featured book(s), plus summertime essentials that tie in to the weekly theme. Five FABULOUS beach bags will be given away each week, as well as five copies of the featured book(s) to additional winners.

This week we’re spotlighting THE BEACH HOUSE by Jane Green, a captivating novel about the strength of family, friendship and self-discovery. In a light blue and white striped bag, winners will find a two-toned blue striped towel, a hydrangea-scented candle from the Yankee Candle Company, Nantucket Briar Milk Bath from Crabtree & Evelyn, a book of watercolor paper, watercolor paints, a green and yellow garden trowel, blue garden gloves and an eight-can tote blue cooler, as well as a copy of THE BEACH HOUSE. We have five to give away, as well as five additional prizes of copies of THE BEACH HOUSE.

To enter, fill out this form and answer the following question by Thursday, June 26th at 11:59PM. You can find the answer by reading the excerpt here.

How old is Nan?

THE BEACH HOUSE by Jane Green (Fiction)
Strangers from all different walks of life meet, mingle and breathe life into an old Nantucket estate in THE BEACH HOUSE, a breezy, feel-good novel that just might be this summer's perfect beach read. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

-Read more about Jane Green and THE BEACH HOUSE here.


Click here to read all the details of our Summer Beach Bag Contest.


Now in Stores: FEARLESS FOURTEEN by Janet Evanovich

FEARLESS FOURTEEN: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich (Mystery)
Trenton’s most infamous bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum, may not have a reputation for keeping her promises. But when it comes to a kid, does she have a choice? Personal vendettas, hidden treasure and a monkey named Carl will send Stephanie on her most explosive adventure yet. Reviewed by Roz Shea.

-Click here to read an excerpt from FEARLESS FOURTEEN.


Click here to read a review of FEARLESS FOURTEEN.

Now in Stores: THE GARDEN OF LAST DAYS by Andre Dubus III
THE GARDEN OF LAST DAYS by Andre Dubus III (Fiction)
Inspired by accounts of the activities of the 9/11 hijackers in Florida before embarking on their mission, Andre Dubus’s latest novel is full of penetrating insights into the lives of its characters and of life in the United States on the eve of the day when many believe the world changed forever. Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg.


Click here to read a review of THE GARDEN OF LAST DAYS.


Now in Stores: THE OTHER by David Guterson

THE OTHER by David Guterson (Fiction)
David Guterson’s new book is about the friendship between two boys whose lives diverge when one, the scion of an elite family, turns his back on the world. THE OTHER deals with their intricate relationship and the controversial decision made by one of them, reminiscent of Christopher McCandless in INTO THE WILD. Reviewed by Ray Palen.

-Click here to read an excerpt from THE OTHER.


Click here to read a review of THE OTHER.

Featured Mystery Mayhem Author: Tana French, Author of IN THE WOODS

Released in hardcover in 2007, IN THE WOODS --- Tana French’s critically acclaimed debut novel --- won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Now available in paperback and a New York Times bestseller, IN THE WOODS is a compelling psychological mystery. When the body of a young girl is found murdered, detectives Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox find chilling links to a disappearance decades earlier.

-Click here to read an excerpt from IN THE WOODS.
-Click here to read Tana French’s bio.
-Click here to read critical praise for IN THE WOODS.
-Visit the author’s official website,
-Click here to see our advance copy winners.

More about IN THE WOODS:
In the mid-1980s, a terrible tragedy befell a small suburb of Dublin. Two children mysteriously vanished in the woods while a third was found terrified and with no recollection of what happened.

Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a 12-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Cassie Maddox --- his partner and closest friend --- find themselves investigating a case with chilling links to that long-ago disappearance.


Click here to read more about Tana French and IN THE WOODS.


Featured Suspense/Thriller Author: Christopher Reich, Author of RULES OF DECEPTION

Christopher Reich is the New York Times bestselling author of NUMBERED ACCOUNT and THE PATRIOTS CLUB, the latter of which won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Novel in 2006. In RULES OF DECEPTION, his new thriller releasing on July 15th, a man finds himself the subject of an international manhunt and the target of a master assassin after his wife's death.

-Click here to read fast facts about Christopher Reich.
-Click here to read Christopher Reich’s bio.
-Visit the author’s official website,
-Click here to see our advance copy winners.

Dr. Jonathan Ransom, world-class mountaineer and surgeon for Doctors Without Borders, is climbing in the Swiss Alps with his wife, Emma, when a blizzard sets in. In their bid to escape the storm, Emma is killed when she falls into a hidden crevasse.

Twenty-four hours later, Jonathan receives an envelope addressed to his wife containing two baggage-claim tickets. So begins a journey that will draw him deeper into a world of spies, high-tech weaponry and global terrorism --- a world where no one is who they appear to be and where the end always justifies the means.


Click here to read more about Christopher Reich and RULES OF DECEPTION.


Now in Stores: THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS by Meg Waite Clayton

THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS by Meg Waite Clayton (Fiction)
Meet the Wednesday Sisters: Frankie, the newcomer in town; Linda, the athlete; Kath, the Kentucky Debutante; Ally, the quiet one with a few secrets; and Brett, the whip-smart strawberry blonde with some odd quirks of her own. Bonded by a love of literature, the quintet forms a writers circle to express their hopes and dreams through poems, stories and, eventually, books.

THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS is a literary feast for book lovers that earns a place among those popular works that honor the joyful, mysterious, unbreakable bonds between friends.

-Click here to read a review of THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS.


Click here to read more about Meg Waite Clayton and THE WEDNESDAY SISTERS.

Now in Stores: BEYOND THE NIGHT by Marlo Schalesky

BEYOND THE NIGHT by Marlo Schalesky (Fiction)
With the music of the seventies as their soundtrack and its groovy fashions as their scenery, Maddie and Paul are drawn together and driven apart. Then one night changes everything…forever.

A woman lies unconscious in a hospital bed. A man sits beside her. Between them lies an ocean of fear and the tenuous grip of memories long past. Daylight flees. Darkness deepens. And one final mystery awaits…beyond the night.


Click here to read more about BEYOND THE NIGHT.

Featured Romantic Suspense Author: Mariah Stewart, Author of MERCY STREET
Mariah Stewart is the New York Times bestselling author of 23 novels and the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the RIO Award for excellence in women's fiction and a Reviewers' Choice Award from Romantic Times magazine. In MERCY STREET, her latest romantic suspense novel now in stores, Stewart begins a thrilling new series with a story about a mysterious murder investigation in a Pennsylvania factory town. 

-Click here to read a review of MERCY STREET.
-Click here to read an excerpt from MERCY STREET.
-Click here to read an interview with Mariah Stewart.
-Click here to read Mariah Stewart’s bio.
-Click here to see Mariah Stewart's backlist.
-Click here to read critical praise for Mariah Stewart.
-Visit the author’s official website,
-Click here to see our advance copy winners.

MERCY STREET by Mariah Stewart (Romantic Suspense)
On a balmy spring evening, four high school seniors enter a park in the small Pennsylvania city of Conroy. The next morning, two are found shot to death while the others are missing. In the wake of this tragedy, former detective Mallory Russo and Detective Charlie Wanamaker are called upon to figure out what happened in the park that night.

Click here to read more about Mariah Stewart and MERCY STREET.

What's New This Month on
With more than 2,300 discussion guides available, continues to be the leading place for book clubs to find all the resources they need on the web.

Our Blog continues to be a big hit among our readers. Throughout the month we are sharing postings from regular contributors --- including authors, librarians, book club facilitators, booksellers and experts in the publishing industry --- as well as special guests. The latest blog can be found here, and here are quick links to some recent posts:

-Book Clubs and Cookbooks
-Meg Waite Clayton: The Wednesday Sisters Book Club
-Masha Hamilton: The Camel Bookmobile
-Book and Movie Pairings
-Book Clubs On Air --- Bringing Authors and Readers Together in Conversation
-We're Back...With A Question for You to Ponder!

The following guides are now available on

ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver
THE ART OF KEEPING SECRETS by Patti Callahan Henry
AWAY by Amy Bloom
COST by Roxana Robinson
FAMILY SECRETS: A Vengeance of Tears by R. A. Siracusa
GHOSTWALK by Rebecca Stott
THE GIFT OF RAIN by Tan Twan Eng
GIRLS OF RIYADH by Rajaa Alsanea
NAPPILY FAITHFUL by Trisha R. Thomas
NO WAY TO PEACE by Tom Milton
NORTH RIVER by Pete Hamill
ONE IN A MILLION by Kimberla Lawson Roby
THE OTHER by David Guterson
QUEEN OF THE ROAD: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own by Doreen Orion
THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE: The Truth About Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and How to Change the World by John Perkins
THE SUGAR QUEEN by Sarah Addison Allen
THE UNTETHERED SOUL: The Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer

Please note that these titles, for which we already had the guides when they appeared in hardcover, are now available in paperback:

BAREFOOT by Elin Hilderbrand
LOTTERY by Patricia Wood
MISTER PIP by Lloyd Jones
THE REST OF HER LIFE by Laura Moriarty
THE ROPE WALK by Carrie Brown
THE WEDDING OFFICER by Anthony Capella

UNCOMMON ARRANGEMENTS: Seven Marriages by Katie Roiphe

We have the following new guides for Christian book groups:

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL: America Series, Book 1 by Laura Hayden
SUMMER SNOW by Nicole Baart

Click here to visit

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This Week's Reviews

THIS CHARMING MAN by Marian Keyes (Fiction)
Irish superstar Marian Keyes's ninth novel, THIS CHARMING MAN, is her most ambitious and compelling to date. With her characteristic wit and sensitivity, she tackles politics, scandal, alcoholism and the scars (both visible and invisible) left by domestic abuse. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

-Click here to read an excerpt from THIS CHARMING MAN.
PLAGUE SHIP: A Novel of the Oregon Files by Clive Cussler with Jack DuBrul (Fiction/Action & Adventure)
Leave it to Clive Cussler and Jack DuBrul to create a story involving maritime exploration and a cult. PLAGUE SHIP has all the exciting intrigue and fast-paced escapades of the crew of the Oregon. Juan Cabrillo, the ship’s captain, leads the way as Cussler’s hero, in one of the most interesting plots yet conceived. Reviewed by Marge Fletcher.

SWEET LOVE by Sarah Strohmeyer (Romance)
An elderly parent tries to right a wrong she thinks she committed decades ago, dissuading a prospective love interest of her now middle-aged daughter. SWEET LOVE is fiction at its best and, at the same time, a touching tribute from a bestselling author to her departed mother. Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton.
NIXONLAND: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein (History/Political Science)
Will Election Day be a continuation of the status quo, or a mandate for substantial change? In NIXONLAND, Rick Perlstein, an historian and intelligent political observer, surveys the political landscape of the past decades in an effort to understand where American politics has been and where it may be headed in the future. Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman.
STEALING ATHENA by Karen Essex (Historical Fiction)
Two women, separated by many centuries, support their men as they pursue their passion: one, to achieve immortality by building a monument to the gods; the other, to achieve immortality by claiming that same monument for his country. Reviewed by Kate Ayers.
INFECTED by Scott Sigler (Horror/Thriller)
Across America a mysterious disease is turning ordinary people into raving, paranoid murderers who inflict brutal horrors on strangers, themselves, and even their own families. CIA operative Dew Phillips crisscrosses the country trying in vain to capture a live victim. With only decomposing corpses for clues, CDC epidemiologist Margaret Montoya races to analyze the science behind this deadly contagion. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.
KNOCKEMSTIFF by Donald Ray Pollock (Fiction/Short Stories)
Donald Ray Pollock peers into the soul of a tough Midwestern American town to reveal the sad, stunted but resilient lives of its residents. Spanning a period from the mid-’60s to the late ’90s, the linked stories that comprise KNOCKEMSTIFF feature a cast of recurring characters who are woebegone, baffled and depraved --- but irresistibly, undeniably real. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

Read this week's reviews here.


Poll and Question of the Week: Vacation Reading


If you are going away for a week of vacation, how many books do you bring?

More than 10

-Click here to answer our poll.


What book are you most looking forward to reading this summer?strong>

-Click here to answer our question.


Word of Mouth: Tell Us What You're Reading --- THREE Prizes

Tell us what books YOU are reading and loving --- or even those you don't.

This week we have three great prizes: FIVE readers each will win a copy of FISHERMAN'S BEND: A Jane Bunker Novel by Linda Greenlaw, SOMEBODY ELSE'S DAUGHTERA> by Elizabeth Brundage and SWAN PEAK: A Dave Robicheaux Novel by James Lee Burke. Tell us what you are reading and rate the titles 1-5 by noon on July 11th to ensure that you are in the running to win these books.

Please note that our next Word of Mouth update will be on July 11th.
Need more details about Word of Mouth? Click 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 Writing any of the respond buttons below will not get to us.

Those who are subscribed to the newsletter by June 30, 2008 automatically are entered in our Monthly Newsletter Contest. This month one winner will be selected to win the following five books: THE BROKEN WINDOW: A Lincoln Rhyme Novel by Jeffery Deaver, FEARLESS FOURTEEN: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich, THE MURDER NOTEBOOK by Jonathan Santlofer, NOTHING TO LOSE: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child and THIS CHARMING MAN by Marian Keyes. Alice from Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
was last month's newsletter winner. She won THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein, BLACK OUT by Lisa Unger, COMFORT FOOD by Kate Jacobs, KILLING ROMMEL by Steven Pressfield and ODD HOURS by Dean Koontz.

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

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