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December 28, 2015 Newsletter December 28, 2015
Wrapping Up 2015; Bring On the New Year!

As promised, we're bringing you a very abbreviated newsletter this week as we all felt that three weeks between newsletters was a loooong time.

We had a lovely Christmas celebration at our house; the flowers to the right are the ones I arranged for our Christmas dinner. There were lots of books given as presents; I love being the book elf for folks. I wonder what it would be like to live in Iceland, a country where giving a book is a treasured thing each holiday season. I loved reading this piece about the annual Iceland Christmas "book flood."

In between making dinners and enjoying other festivities, I have been reading. First up were two Young Adult titles. In THE MEMORY OF LIGHT (January 26th), Francisco X. Stork has crafted a wonderful story that tackles the subject of depression --- and its many dimensions --- and suicide. It is smart and well-plotted with a reasonable (not sugar-coated) conclusion. I love that the protagonist learned to talk about what bothered her --- and how to cope with her depression, as well as manage her parents' expectations. Stork personally has battled depression, and also survived a suicide attempt in his 20s whereby he, like the protagonist, had to learn how to live again.

Second up was Luanne Rice's first YA novel, THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF SISTERS, which will be out on February 23rd. I have read Luanne’s adult titles and was happy to see how she clearly captured the voice, tone and attitude of teens. She tells a very compelling story of a young woman who suffers a serious brain injury --- "locked-in" syndrome --- following a driving accident while texting. Her sister had prompted her to text, and thus there is a lot of guilt involved. The science of communicating with locked-in syndrome was fascinating.

The last two days, I have been under the weather with a wicked cold, so it was nice to curl up on the couch with UNDER THE INFLUENCE, Joyce Maynard's upcoming novel, which also will be in stores on February 23rd and will be a Bets On selection. I always like her writing and find her work to be compelling reads. In UNDER THE INFLUENCE, Helen’s life has unraveled due to her excessive drinking. Her marriage has fallen apart, and she has lost custody of her seven-year-old son, Ollie. Her career as a photographer is on the skids like the rest of her life. Then she meets Ava and Swift Havilland, who are wealthy and connected philanthropists, and becomes swept up in their “fabulous” world. Also new in her world is Elliott, a serious man who is an accountant and gives balance --- not excitement --- to Helen’s life. The story comes to a crescendo when Ollie witnesses an accident, and the ramifications of it unravel the world that has been carefully built.

Now I am reading EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN by Chris Cleave, which will be published on May 3rd. It's set in London at the start of World War II, before the first bombs have fallen. Everyone is bracing for the start of the war. Children have been evacuated from the city. So far, the stories of Mary, Tom and Alastair have been set up, as well as those of the children left behind --- the infirmed, mentally disabled and those whose skin color is dark. Chris' writing in each of his books is original and sharp. I look forward to finishing this one.

Lots of news below this newsletter opener, including our annual BIG Year-End Bets On Contest, a query for those of you in book groups, updates on some features --- and books we are looking forward to during the first week in January!

News and Pop Culture:

"Making a Murderer": Been addicted to this 10-part series on Netflix, which Vinnie, one of our readers and a childhood friend of mine, got on my radar. Steven Avery was imprisoned wrongly for 18 years for a crime he did not commit. Then a young photographer goes missing, and Avery is accused of her murder. Was evidence planted? Then his nephew chimes in with his own view on what happened. It's a brilliantly done documentary. Think of a "Serial"-type episode on video. You can see the trailer here.

News about "Z": Amazon Prime ordered a full-episode schedule for this show. Viewers gave the pilot raves!

Movie Watching: Been doing a lot of movie watching. Best film thus far has been Spotlight. Bridge of Spies is good, though clearly was trying to be this year's The Imitation Game but fell short. Saw Joy, Carol, Steve Jobs and Infinitely Polar Bear, but none wowed me. I have not seen the new Star Wars yet!

"The Affair" and "Homeland": Both had fabulous season finales!

Knitting Detangled: I loathe untangling knitting snarls, thus I loved finding this piece about people who love to detangle yarn. I could keep them busy.

Concussion: Dr. Bennet Omalu is the subject of a new movie, Concussion, starring Will Smith as Bennet. I learned this week that my friend Mayapriya Long helped Dr. Omalu publish his book, PLAY HARD, DIE YOUNG, back in 2008, where "he introduced to the public his research on concussions and brain damage in NFL football players." As she said, "When Bennet brought his book to me, I thought it was so important that I tried to find him a NY publisher, because distribution would be wider for his important research results. But no one would touch it. No one else was taking a stand at that time on the long-term danger of multiple concussions in contact sports --- except Dr. Omalu...the NFL fought Omalu hard at that point, trying to discredit him and his research. But eventually other prominent doctors supported him and his research, and now the tide has turned. Dr. Omalu, Nigerian by birth, is a humble, honest physician with important knowledge of concussion injuries and brain damage (backed by solid evidence from brain-slice studies from many deceased NFL players and others). Anyone who has someone they care about who is playing football should read Dr. Omalu's book."

And this wraps up 2015 for us, except for our joyous wishes to you for a Happy New Year! Your next newsletter will be on Friday, January 8th. Until then, read on and get ready to ring in 2016!

Carol Fitzgerald (

P.S. For those of you who are doing online shopping, if you use the store links below, gets a small affiliate fee on your purchases. We would appreciate your considering this!

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Special Contest: Enter to Win Our End-of-the-Year Celebration, Featuring All 33 "Bets On" Titles from 2015
We are thrilled to announce a very special contest featuring Carol Fitzgerald’s Bets On picks from 2015. One Grand Prize winner will be awarded all 33 books, while 11 other winners will receive a selection of three of these titles. To enter, please fill out this form by Monday, January 11th at noon ET.

Here are this year's Bets On titles:

-Click here for the official contest rules.
Click here to enter the contest. Reviewers Choose Their Favorite Books of 2015
We've asked our reviewers to provide us with a list of some of their favorite books from 2015. Included is a mix of fiction and nonfiction titles, all published this year. Among their top picks are BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates, DEAD WAKE: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson, DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY by Bill Clegg, A GOD IN RUINS by Kate Atkinson, OUR SOULS AT NIGHT by Kent Haruf, and THE TSAR OF LOVE AND TECHNO: Stories by Anthony Marra. Take a moment to read these varied lists of titles and see if you agree with any of their selections!
Click here to see our reviewer picks for 2015.
Special Feature for Book Groups on Tell Us What YOUR Best Books of the Year Are
This is the time of year when everyone is posting “Best Books of the Year” lists. We would like you and your book group to help us compile ours! Click here to share both your favorite book that you read with your group this year and your favorite book that you read this year outside your group.

Please be careful with the spelling of book titles and authors’ first and last names to save us editing time!

And remember, the books can be the same.

The deadline to add your selections is Monday, January 11th.

We will have our reader-compiled Best Of list to share with you in mid-January. We cannot wait to see what you select.
Click here to tell us YOUR favorite books that you read in 2015.
2015 "Best Of" Lists from Around the Web
This is the time of year when “Best Of” lists are everywhere. These annual roundups always seem to spark lively discussions among readers as they reflect on their favorite books of the year. Although we at don’t have a “Best Of” list of our own, we’ve compiled a number of them for you here. See which of your top picks appear on these lists and which titles you feel should've been included but weren't. Perhaps you’ll even find some books to add to your reading list as we head into the new year!
Click here to see 2015 “Best Of” lists.'s Holiday Author Blogs: Authors Write About Their Favorite Holiday Memories of Giving or Receiving Books

Throughout the holiday season, 18 writers shared their favorite memories of giving or receiving a book at the holidays on’s Holiday Author Blog. You can see all their pieces below. As always, we so appreciate all the authors who took the time to share these wonderful stories with us.

Click here to read's 2015 Holiday Author Blogs.'s Holiday Cheer Feature

At, we've been celebrating the holiday season in style with our Holiday Cheer Contests and Feature. As our gift to you, we've been spotlighting a book and giving five lucky readers a chance to win it.

Although the contests have ended, we encourage you to take a look at this year's featured titles. These are books you'll want to read during the holidays --- and throughout the year as well!

-Click here for the winners of this year's Holiday Cheer contests.

Click here to see our Holiday Cheer feature.
Coming January 15th:'s Winter Reading Contests and Feature --- Sign Up Now for Contest Alerts!
As our Holiday Cheer contests come to an end, another series of contests will begin shortly --- our "Winter Reading Dedicated Contests." On select days in January and February, we’ll be awarding new and upcoming releases to lucky readers. Our Winter Reading newsletters will be starting in mid-January, so be sure you’re signed up to receive them so you know what book we’re giving away on each of the contest days. We do not send you our themed newsletters unless you opt-in, so sign up here.
Click here to sign up for Winter Reading contest alerts.
Six Noteworthy Books Releasing on January 5th

Here are some notable titles releasing on January 5th that you may want to consider checking out. We will feature reviews of all of these books in January.

AFTER THE CRASH by Michel Bussi (Psychological Thriller/Mystery)
A night flight from Istanbul bound for Paris, filled with 169 holiday travelers, plummets into the Swiss Alps. The sole survivor is a three-month-old girl who is thrown from the plane onto the snowy mountainside before fire rages through the aircraft. But two infants were on board. Is the miracle baby Lyse-Rose or Emilie? Both families step forward to claim the child --- one poor, one powerful, wealthy and dangerous.

ANGELS BURNING by Tawni O'Dell (Psychological Thriller/Mystery)
When a girl is beaten to death, Chief Dove Carnahan is faced with solving the worst crime of her law enforcement career. She identifies the young lady as a daughter of the Truly family, a notoriously irascible dynasty of rednecks and petty criminals. During her investigation, the man convicted of killing Dove’s mother years earlier is released from prison. Still proclaiming his innocence, he approaches Dove with a startling accusation and a chilling threat that forces her to face the parallels between her own family’s trauma and that of the Trulys.

THE GEOGRAPHY OF GENIUS: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places, from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley by Eric Weiner (Travel/Memoir)
In THE GEOGRAPHY OF GENIUS, acclaimed travel writer Eric Weiner sets out to examine the connection between our surroundings and our most innovative ideas. He explores the history of places --- like Vienna of 1900, Renaissance Florence, ancient Athens, Song Dynasty Hangzhou and Silicon Valley --- to show how certain urban settings are conducive to ingenuity. And he walks the same paths as the geniuses who flourished in these settings to see if the spirit of what inspired figures like Socrates, Michelangelo and Leonardo remains.

by Chris Bohjalian (Fiction)
When Kristin Chapman agrees to let her husband, Richard, host his brother’s bachelor party, she expects a certain amount of debauchery. What she does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, her husband sharing a dangerously intimate moment in the guest room, and two women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night. In the aftermath, Kristin and Richard’s life rapidly spirals into nightmare.

-Click here to see advance readers' comments.

THE PAST by Tessa Hadley (Fiction)
In Tessa Hadley’s latest novel, three sisters, a brother and their children assemble at their country house. These three weeks may be their last time there; the upkeep is prohibitive, and they may be forced to sell this beloved house filled with memories of their shared past (their mother took them there to live when she left their father). Yet beneath the idyllic pastoral surface, hidden passions, devastating secrets and dangerous hostilities threaten to consume them.

STARS OVER SUNSET BOULEVARD by Susan Meissner (Fiction)
Los Angeles, Present Day. When a hat worn by Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind ends up in Christine McAllister's vintage clothing boutique by mistake, her efforts to return it to its owner take her on a journey more enchanting than any classic movie. Los Angeles, 1938. Violet Mayfield goes to Hollywood after her dream of having a family falls apart. There, she meets enigmatic Audrey Duvall, a once-rising film star. Their adventures together among Hollywood's glitterati enthrall Violet...until each woman's deepest desires collide.

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