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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 Mitford Affair by Marie Benedict

January 2023

I am a huge fan of Marie Benedict’s writing. Her books are about women in history whose stories have been overlooked, often because they stood in the shadows of the men in their lives. THE MITFORD AFFAIR is a variation on this theme and focuses on three of the Mitford sisters. One is the writer, Nancy, and the other two --- Diana and Unity --- become known for their political leanings.

Reef Road by Deborah Goodrich Royce

January 2023

REEF ROAD by Deborah Goodrich Royce is my first Bets On selection of 2023. Any book that is set in Palm Beach, Florida, and opens on a beach is going to catch my eye in January. But it starts with a less than serene scene as a hand is found by some boys who are surfing on a beach that has been marked as closed. It sets up the crime that will be revealed later on.

A Heart That Works by Rob Delaney

December 2022

A HEART THAT WORKS, a memoir by actor Rob Delaney, is my final Bets On selection of 2022. While it’s the saddest book that I read this year, it’s also one that I literally could not put down.

Rob’s son, Henry, was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was just a year old. Rob's family had moved from Los Angeles to London for his work. His wife, Leah, gave birth to Henry there. For a while, their lives were crazy busy, which is what happens when there are three young boys in the house. Then came the diagnosis that changed their lives and took them on a journey that was not going to have a happy ending.

Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro

December 2022

Is it possible that SIGNAL FIRES is the first Dani Shapiro book that I have read? It definitely has me scrambling to see what else I have missed. But before I do, let me tell you why I am betting on this book, which completely grabbed me from the start and held me through 200 pages of characters and plot.

The book is set on Division Street, a quiet suburban block in Westchester County, New York. As it opens in 1985, there is an accident that will forever change the brother and sister who were in the car when it happened --- a terrible tragedy where a young woman died. And the first secret is laid out. From there, we delve deeply into the lives of two families who are neighbors. The accident happens on a night when Sarah Wilf has had too much to drink, and she tosses her car keys to her younger brother, Theo, so he can drive. Their passenger in the front seat is Misty Zimmerman, who dies when Theo loses control and hits an oak tree on the front lawn of their house. The family pledges to keep secret that Theo was driving. But the guilt that the teens feel will be something that they carry with them.

The Lifeguards by Amanda Eyre Ward

December 2022

Amanda Eyre Ward draws her latest work of domestic suspense, THE LIFEGUARDS, from a time of life that many of us know well --- when your friends are the parents of your children’s friends.

Here we have three women --- suburban moms Liza, Whitney and Annette --- who live in Austin’s Zilker Park neighborhood. Their boys --- Charlie, Xavier and Bobcat (Robert) --- are close friends and lifeguards at the same pool. These Three Musketeers, as they refer to themselves, are finally off on their own, or at least their version of this. Their moms hang out enjoying margaritas and conversation. Life is placid and good until one night when the boys ride their bikes to where their moms are drinking. While they were hanging out at one of Zilker Park’s watering holes, they found the body of a young woman. They are quick to note that they have no idea who she is. But something sounds just a bit fishy here.

The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh

November 2022

THE LAST PARTY is the third Clare Mackintosh book that I have read; her first two, I LET YOU GO and I SEE YOU, were also Bets On picks. Her latest is a smartly plotted work in which she juggles both timelines and characters. Many voices tell this story. There are multiple twists. And it requires that you pay attention. It’s a great blend of police procedural and psychological thriller, and the balance between the two is part of why it works so well.

Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger

November 2022

Ahhhh, who would not love the concept of heading off to a fabulous luxury cabin with a few friends? That is the premise of Lisa Unger’s latest thriller, SECLUDED CABIN SLEEPS SIX. This special getaway has been planned by Mako, who has become a tech mogul, as a way to celebrate his sister Hannah’s birthday. Our reviewer, Ray Palen, got it right when he said that this one has a “slow burn.” Suspicions quickly surface as you know this beautiful spot is not going to be placid and warm in Lisa’s skilled hands.

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

November 2022

MAD HONEY had its origins in a very different way. In 2017, Jennifer Finney Boylan had a dream that she wrote a book with Jodi Picoult, and she tweeted about it. Jodi got wind of this and said, “Let’s do it.” Previously her only co-writer was her daughter, Samantha van Leer. What Jodi and Jennifer created together is a novel that takes on an issue as Jodi’s books are wont to do. At the same time, it blends in experiences that Jennifer knows all too well as she is transgender. 

Told in alternating narratives, we get to know these characters, yet we do not see from the start exactly how they will impact one another.

Count the Ways by Joyce Maynard

November 2022

Every time I read a book by Joyce Maynard, I find myself remembering the characters for a very long time. This is exactly what happened when I read COUNT THE WAYS. It came out in hardcover last year, and I had every intention of reading it then. But life got in the way, so I read it this fall in anticipation of interviewing Joyce. It was billed as her most ambitious novel to date, and indeed it is. The themes that I have come to love in her books are there --- family in all its messiness.

Honor by Thrity Umrigar

October 2022

I discovered Thrity Umrigar’s work back in 2006 when I read THE SPACE BETWEEN US. It’s a book from which I drew so much meaning; I still know exactly where it is on my bookshelf. Her latest novel, HONOR, once again brought me memorable characters and a lot to think about.

In it, Smita, an Indian American journalist, has been asked by her colleague, Shannon, to cover the verdict of a trial in a small Indian village for her. For years, Smita has traveled the world working on stories but with one proviso: she will not go to India. However, Shannon convinces her that this assignment is urgent. Meena, a young Hindu woman, married a Muslim man. Her family is so shamed by this union that a horrific act of violence was committed on the couple by her brothers. And they are on trial.