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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.

Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger

September 2021

William Kent Krueger’s ORDINARY GRACE and THIS TENDER LAND are such favorite books of mine. They have details that are memorable, which is the sign of a gifted writer. So when I heard that Kent was writing a prequel to his Cork O’Connor series, which is set in Tamarack County, Minnesota, I was intrigued. LIGHTNING STRIKE takes readers back to the youth of a beloved character with a backstory that is pitch perfect. Readers will connect with the Cork they have come to know and love, and embrace the story of his youth.

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

September 2021

I tiptoed my way into Paula Hawkins’ new novel, A SLOW FIRE BURNING. I enjoyed THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN but was disappointed in her second book, INTO THE WATER. However, a few chapters in, I felt that Paula once again had hit her stride. The more I read, the more I saw how she had ratcheted up her game.

In Every Mirror She's Black by Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström

September 2021

Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström’s debut novel, IN EVERY MIRROR SHE'S BLACK, is told through the perspectives of three women. Kemi Adeyemi is a marketing executive living in the United States. She is hired by a major Swedish marketing company to help them with their diversity efforts with respect to branding; they are recovering from a brutal faux pas. Brittany-Rae Johnson is a former model now working as a flight attendant. She is charmed by the owner of the marketing company, Jonny von Lundin, who sweeps her off her feet. The third woman, Muna Saheed, is a refugee who is seeking residency in Sweden. She is working at a cleaning company, and one of their clients is the marketing company.

The Last Mona Lisa by Jonathan Santlofer

August 2021

THE LAST MONA LISA is Jonathan Santlofer’s first novel with a historical setting. It explores the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre, giving readers a backstage look at what happened with the painting and the thief behind it all. With forgeries popping up in its wake, the ensuing years became a mystery for the art world. Where is the real painting? And what if the Mona Lisa that ended up in the Louvre has been a replica all along? Luke Perrone, a descendant of the thief, tries to sort out what happened and ends up deep in the underworld of art forgery.

Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson

August 2021

DAMNATION SPRING by Ash Davidson is set in 1977 in northern California in a logging town where Rich Gundersen’s family has chopped redwoods for generations. I confess to knowing very little about logging, and the early pages were a bit of an immersive tutorial for me. Yes, we have had trees taken down here at the house, and I know that tree climbing for logging is an art, and dangerous, but here I found myself learning a whole number of new terms while reading more carefully than usual.

Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena

August 2021

NOT A HAPPY FAMILY is the latest from perennial Bets On author Shari Lapena. The book opens with a family at Easter dinner. Fred and Sheila Merton and their adult children  --- Catherine, Dan and Jenna --- have gathered at the sizable home (yes, it could be called a mansion) where the siblings grew up. The setting is beautifully pulled together; it looks like an idyllic family meal being served by their longtime housekeeper, Irena.

The Husbands by Chandler Baker

August 2021

I enjoyed Chandler Baker’s WHISPER NETWORK, so I was looking forward to her new novel, THE HUSBANDS. There’s a lot of talk in this country about “the second shift,” the way that women typically take on more of the management and running of the household than men do, even when they have incredibly busy jobs. This book tackles that subject head on in a very interesting way.

Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara

August 2021

CLARK AND DIVISION by Naomi Hirahara was one of the books that readers who attended July's "Bookaccino Live" event were most looking forward to reading --- and their anticipation is well founded.

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

July 2021

THE PAPER PALACE by Miranda Cowley Heller came to my attention when Reese Witherspoon selected it, and then it debuted on the New York Times bestseller list at #1. I love being on top of upcoming books, but this one was not on my radar. That said, once it was in my hands, I devoured it in 24 hours, not going to sleep until 2am and turning on the light more than once to say, “One more chapter.” It worked for me for all the things one loves in a book --- setting, timing and characters.

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray

July 2021

THE PERSONAL LIBRARIAN by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray is a book that you immediately want to talk about once you finish it. Like the subject of other novels that Marie has written, I wondered how I did not know the story of Belle da Costa Greene.

Belle was J. P. Morgan’s personal librarian. She had an eye for collecting art and treasured manuscripts, along with the funds to pursue buying them in the United States and Europe. But as renowned as she was in these circles, she had a secret. Her name was really Belle Marion Greener. She was dark-skinned not because she was Portuguese, but because she was Black passing as white. Her father was Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard, who lobbied for equal justice for Black people. Her mother, estranged from Richard, chose to raise the children as white, knowing that they could pass and get the equal education and opportunities that she wanted for them. Belle went through life with a fear that her secret would be discovered.