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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 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.

The Last Commandment: An Austin Grant of Scotland Yard Novel by Scott Shepherd

July 2021

THE LAST COMMANDMENT is Scott Shepherd’s first thriller, and I am very happy to hear that he is planning a series with his character, Metropolitan Police Commander Austin Grant.

The book opens during Christmastime in London when Grant is weeks from his retirement at the end of the year --- and he is counting the days. He’s still grieving the loss of his wife, and the holidays are particularly tough for him. There have been three seemingly unconnected murders in London. But there is something that gives one pause about the cases. There are sequential Roman numerals on the heads of all the victims. What’s the connection? It’s quickly figured out that the murders are following the Ten Commandments. I started thinking about catechism, which I studied in school, and confess to not remembering all 10 that were drilled into me in third grade.

Falling by T. J. Newman

July 2021

FALLING by T. J. Newman is a great ride. I had seen T. J. (Torri) present twice at publisher previews, and both times that I heard her talk about it, I knew this book was going to be something special. The promo copy is so spot on that I am going to share it here: “You just boarded a flight to New York. There are 143 other passengers onboard. What you don’t know is that 30 minutes before the flight, your pilot’s family was kidnapped. For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die. The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane. Enjoy the flight.” And from there, the book takes off; it is so well done and lands so beautifully.

The Fiancée by Kate White

July 2021

THE FIANCÉE is a locked-room thriller set on a 60-acre estate in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Kate White had me with the setting, and then ramped it up with the plot!

Summer is looking forward to her annual vacation at her in-laws’ estate. She’s headed there with her husband, Gabe, and her precocious nine-year-old stepson. As the family gathers, she recognizes her brother-in-law’s girlfriend, Hannah, who was in an acting showcase with her a few years ago. But when questioned about this, Hannah says she could not recall it. Summer just does not trust her --- and her suspicions only amp up when her brother-in-law announces that they are engaged; they only had been dating for a short time. The weekend rolls along with a number of family bonding moments until someone is found dead. What happened, and just who is the fiancée?

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin

June 2021

When I saw that Joshua Henkin had a new book coming out, MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, I was excited. That was last year; it was held because of the pandemic, and I kept it on my shelf to read it closer to its release. And I am so glad I did since I wanted to be sure that the details in it were fresh come publication time, which is now upon us.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

June 2021

MALIBU RISING by Taylor Jenkins Reid is set in Malibu in August 1983. Nina Riva is set to throw her end-of-summer party, which requires no invite --- those in the know just show up. It’s the place to be. Nina is a fabulous surfer and a supermodel. One brother is a champion surfer, and the other is a well-respected photographer. And there is a younger sister who still is making her way. The kids also are known for their pedigree as their dad is a well-known singer, Mick Riva. Nina is not excited about the party; she recently split with her husband, who is a champion tennis player, but the tradition must go on.

The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter

June 2021

THE PHOTOGRAPHER by Mary Dixie Carter is a brisk psychological thriller about a young woman named Delta Dawn, who photographs the birthday parties of children who come from privileged families. Not only does she shoot the parties, she manipulates the images to ensure that everyone looks happy and smiling.

The Break-Up Book Club by Wendy Wax

June 2021

THE BREAK-UP BOOK CLUB reminded me again of how much I love Wendy Wax’s character-driven stories. Four women, each of whom are at different points in their lives, find their way to a charming indie bookstore that hosts a book group. Their personal stories are compelling and relatable. At the bookstore there is a bond of books between them, and they each feel comfortable to share what is going on in their lives. The result is a sense of camaraderie. “What happens at book club stays at book club.” And yes, there is wine. And fun snacks.

The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff

May 2021

Inspired by true events, THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR by Pam Jenoff tells the story of Sadie Gault, a young woman who takes refuge with her pregnant mother in the sewers beneath the Kraków Ghetto as the Nazis begin to ship Polish Jews to the camps in the middle of World War II. One day, Ella Stepanek, a well-to-do Polish girl, spies Sadie through a grate, and they strike up a cautious conversation.

Horrified by their situation, Ella offers to bring Sadie and her mother food and supplies, putting herself in potential danger. As the war worsens, so does the risk --- and each day there are challenges for both young women.