Skip to main content

September 10, 2004 Newsletter September 10, 2004
This Week on
Thinking Peaceful Thoughts.... Talks to Steve Berry, Author of THE ROMANOV PROPHECY Talks to Raelynn Hillhouse, Author of RIFT ZONE
Fantasy Author Spotlight: Stephen R. Donaldson, Author of THE RUNES OF THE EARTH
One To Watch: ABSENT FRIENDS by S.J. Rozan
SHOPAHOLIC TIES THE KNOT is Now Available in Mass Market Paperback and Here's News about SOPHIE AND SISTER!
This Week's Book Reviews and Features
Poll: Political Books
Question of the Week: What Political Book Have You Enjoyed Most?
Word of Mouth: Tell Us What You're Reading -- TWO Prizes!
On The Book Report Network
Past Reviews
Can't See the Graphics? Read This Newsletter Online
Past Poll: Do you read dedications and acknowledgements in books?
Past Question of the Week: Who would you dedicate a book to?
Thinking Peaceful Thoughts....
I truly loathe when summer comes to a close. Last weekend I decided to prolong summer by reading BEACH GIRLS by Luanne Rice. I had not read her before, but felt the title was just perfect for the last weekend of summer. It's the story of three friends who spent summers together when they were teens --- and what this relationship meant to them. When the story opens, one of the original three beach girls has died and her daughter and her husband have returned to the beach town for the summer. Reading it was a great escape and I confess to leaving two chapters for Tuesday morning so I could pretend it was still summer.

During our hiatus I also read a haunting novel called OUTSIDE VALENTINE. It's written by Liza Ward, who is the granddaughter of two of Charlie Starkweather's victims. She writes the story in three voices --- Caril Fugate, the victims' son and a girl who lives in the town where some of the murders took place. I confess to a serious interest in the minds of serial killers and the lives that they affect, so this one really captivated me. While Starkweather and Fugate have been examined in many books and movies, this is a new look from a fictitious slant. We will have a review and an interview with the author in the next couple of weeks.

Right now I am reading BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE by Aron Ralston. You may remember him as the adventurer who found himself with his arm trapped between a boulder and a stone wall while he was on a solo expedition in a remote canyon in the spring of 2003. He made a bold choice to cut off his arm to survive. The book is about a lot more than this one moment; it's the story of what got him to that point and beyond. I am not an adventurer by nature. There is a well-told line that my idea of camping is Best Western, but this book has got me organizing a small bike trip tomorrow for my sons and a couple of friends into the local wildlife preserve. More than that, it has me thinking about the things in life that matter and the value of having a strong inner core.

This weekend marks the third anniversary of the tragedy of 9/11. It is fitting that this week we are announcing a new One to Watch title --- ABSENT FRIENDS by S.J. Rozan, who is a native New Yorker, now living in Greenwich Village. While many of you know Rozan for her Bill Smith and Lydia Chin series, here she is taking a departure from her series with a stand-alone title set in New York during the aftermath of September 11. It looks at the wounded streets of New York and Staten Island...and into a maze of old crimes, damaged lives, and heartbreaking revelations. I am reading this book, savoring it and seeing why friends who have finished it are telling me they think it is one of the best books of the year. We are looking for 10 advance readers to read ABSENT FRIENDS and let us know what they think of it. Interested? Then please send your name and mailing address to by Friday, September 17th.

Many of you may remember the groundbreaking bestseller SISTERS, which celebrated this profound family relationship. A Tenth Anniversary Edition of the book has just been released and the authors have revisited many of the people whose poignant stories touched so many hearts a decade ago. Do you have a sister story to tell? Share it by clicking on the link below and it will appear on the official Sisters website.

In recognition of the 9/11 anniversary, I wanted to mention a book I read last month called REFINED BY FIRE by Brian Birdwell. He was injured in the Pentagon attack and lived to write an incredible memoir with his wife, Mel. Little has been written about the Pentagon victims, so this story was poignant reading.

This week, please spend some time thinking peaceful thoughts and doing something kind for someone who may not expect it.

Carol Fitzgerald (
Share your Sister story here. Talks to Steve Berry, Author of THE ROMANOV PROPHECY
Joe Hartlaub and Wiley Saichek of interviewed Steve Berry, author of THE ROMANOV PROPHECY. Berry explains the difficulty of accurately depicting the historical aspects of the book, as many versions of the Romanovs' story are contradictory and inconsistent. He also talks about breaking stereotypes with his main character --- an African-American lawyer from the deep south who is fluent in the Russian language and well-versed in the culture --- and the importance of pacing in a thriller.

THE ROMANOV PROPHECY by Steve Berry (Suspense)
Following the collapse of Communism and a series of weak governments, the Russian people have decided to reinstate the monarchy with a distant relative of Nicholas II, and it is Miles Lord's job to perform background checks on the Tsarist candidates. But after he is nearly killed by a gunman, Miles flees from his assassins and stumbles upon the mysterious writings of Rasputin. They reveal a cryptic message, implying that someone may have survived the bloody Romanov massacre, the effects of which could be life-altering for the future Tsar and mother Russia. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub and excerpted.
Read an interview with Steve Berry and a review of THE ROMANOV PROPHECY here Talks to Raelynn Hillhouse, Author of RIFT ZONE's Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight team (Carol Fitzgerald, Joe Hartlaub and Wiley Saichek) interviewed Raelynn Hillhouse, author of RIFT ZONE. Hillhouse talks about her intriguing life in Germany during the 1980s and how her experiences there parallel those of her protagonist, Faith Whitney. She also discusses her views on the fall of the Berlin Wall, reveals some disturbing information concerning airport security in the post-9/11 era, and describes the huge buzz surrounding her debut novel.

RIFT ZONE by Raelynn Hillhouse (Thriller)
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
Faith Whitney is an expert smuggler living in 1989 Germany, though her activities have not gone unnoticed. The East German Stasi have recruited her to deliver a package to Moscow, a package that must be delivered within forty-eight hours...or Faith will be eliminated. Her payment: the long-desired location of her missing father.
Read our inteview with Raelynn Hillhouse and a review of RIFT ZONE here.
Read more about our Fantasy Author Spotlight here.
Fantasy Author Spotlight: Stephen R. Donaldson, Author of THE RUNES OF THE EARTH
Stephen R. Donaldson is back with the latest in his Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series after a hiatus of 21 years. Six books were previously published. Four are planned for this continuation of the series.

New This Week:
See our list of advance readers
Read Author Fast Facts
Read an excerpt

Here is the story so far:

In the original series, Thomas Covenant is transported to a fantastic world in which a battle for the soul of the land is being waged, and he is forced to accept his role as savior of the Land. In THE RUNES OF THE EARTH, Linden Avery comes home one day to find her child building images of the Land with blocks. She never thought that she would be summoned to the Land again or see her beloved Thomas Covenant, who was killed ten years earlier. But in the Land, evil is unmaking the very laws of nature.
Read more about Stephen R. Donaldson and THE RUNES OF THE EARTH here.
Read more about our One To Watch feature here.
One To Watch: ABSENT FRIENDS by S.J. Rozan
S.J. Rozan is the multi-award-winning author of eight novels in the Lydia Chin/Bill Smith series. While she is One To Watch all the time, we are spotlighting her for her stand-alone novel, ABSENT FRIENDS, which hits stores on September 28th.

Here's more about ABSENT FRIENDS:
Jimmy. Markie. Vickie. Sally. Tom. Jack. Childhood friends, each will live in the shadow of a past that still echoes with hopes and regrets. Markie will die in prison. Kim will die a hero when the Towers fall. But it is a reporter's suicide and a colleague's desperate search for answers in the dark aftermath of a horrifying tragedy that will finally penetrate their silence.

Both a daring mystery and a tribute to an event that changed our lives irrevocably, it is ABSENT FRIENDS' rich characters and indelible portrait of New York City that readers will find unforgettable--- and that mark this extraordinary novel as the signature work of an author poised to take her place in the front ranks.

We are looking for 10 advance readers to read this book and share their thoughts about it. Interested? Send your name and your mailing address to by Friday, September 17th to be eligible to win.
Read more about S.J. Rozan and ABSENT FRIENDS here.
SHOPAHOLIC TIES THE KNOT is Now Available in Mass Market Paperback and Here's News about SOPHIE AND SISTER!
SHOPAHOLIC TIES THE KNOT by Sophie Kinsella (Fiction Paperback)
Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara
The irresistible heroine of CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC and SHOPAHOLIC TAKES MANHATTAN has returned in this hilarious tale of mothers and their children --- and one blushing bride who just can't say no to saying "I do."

And mark your calendars --- SHOPAHOLIC AND SISTER, the next Shopaholic title hits stores on September 28th. To whet your appetite: Becky's back from her months-long honeymoon with Luke, and facing the prospect of credit card bills and living (shopping?) on a budget. But along with the delivery of a few (two truck loads) of souvenirs from her trip, comes the delivery of some surprising news: Becky has a long-lost sister! Facing the prospect of finally sharing her passion for shoes with a sister, Becky's over the moon ... until she meets Jessica, the only woman she's ever known who hates, hates, hates to shop....

For more about Sophie Kinsella, go to
Read more about SHOPAHOLIC TIES THE KNOT here.
This Week's Book Reviews and Features
BRIMSTONE by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Thriller)
Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara
FBI special agent Pendergast, Police Officer Vincent D'Agosta, and Laura Hayward, a rising star in the NYPD, come together to solve a horribly gruesome murder in a Hampton estate, which is followed by a second and very similar murder. Their investigation takes them from the luxury estates of Long Island to the crumbling, legend-shrouded castles of the Italian countryside, where Pendergast faces the most treacherous and dangerous adversary of his career.

TRACE by Patricia Cornwell (Thriller)
Reviewed by Maggie Harding
Five years after being fired from her job as Chief Medical Examiner of Richmond, Virginia, Kay Scarpetta returns to help investigate the perplexing death of a fourteen-year-old girl, working with the smallest pieces of evidence --- traces that only the most thorough hunters can identify.

THE SLEEPER by Christopher Dickey (Thriller)
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
All Kurt Kurtovic wants is to be left in peace as he settles down with his wife and child in Westfield, Kansas. But then the horrific events of September 11th occur, and Kurt knows they will never be safe again unless he does the only thing he can do --- deliver terror to the terrorists.

ALL I DID WAS ASK: Conversations With Writers, Actors, Musicians and Artists, by Terry Gross (Nonfiction)
Reviewed by Roz Shea
For nearly 30 years Terry Gross has interviewed celebrated writers, actors, musicians, comics and visual artists on her hit NPR interview show "Fresh Air." Gross has selected 39 of her best interviews for ALL I DID WAS ASK, a colorful and interesting look behind the scenes at one of the longest running interview shows on radio.

WIFE OF MOON by Margaret Coel (Mystery)
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad
Margaret Coel's latest Wind River Reservation mystery centers on two murders --- a century apart --- that are linked to photographs taken of the Arapahos on the reservation in 1907, currently on display at St. Francis Mission. As they begin their investigation, Father John O'Malley and Vicky Holden unearth secrets that are best left buried.

THE INNER CIRCLE by T.C. Boyle (Fiction)
Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman
T.C. Boyle's latest work is narrated by John Milk, a young man who in 1940 accepts a job as an assistant to Dr. Alfred Kinsey, who has just discovered his life's true calling: sex. As a member of Kinsey's "inner circle" of researchers, Milk (and his beautiful new wife) is called on to participate in sexual experiments that become increasingly uninhibited --- and problematic for his marriage.

BLACKBIRD HOUSE by Alice Hoffman (Fiction)
Reviewed by Jocelyn M. Kelley
Alice Hoffman follows her celebrated bestseller THE PROBABLE FUTURE with an unforgettable work that traces the lives of the various occupants of an old Massachusetts house over a span of two hundred years.

JIGS & REELS: Stories by Joanne Harris (Fiction)
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon
Joanne Harris fans, be prepared to be blown away! This varied collection of short stories is completely unlike her romantic food-oriented novels, such as CHOCOLAT, BLACKBERRY WINE, and FIVE QUARTERS OF THE ORANGE.

PLAYING WITH BOYS by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez (Fiction)
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton
Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, whose debut novel was the hugely successful THE DIRTY GIRLS SOCIAL CLUB, returns in this absorbing and entertaining book about three very different Latina women who bond over the trouble with men and the difficulties of making life work in L.A. no matter what you do.

DIRTY SALLY by Michael Simon (Thriller)
Reviewed by Kate Ayers
The Austin Police Department is investigating the homicide of a young woman, but they are hampered by missing body parts --- like arms and a head. Then the missing parts start surfacing in some very interesting places, and the investigation rankles prominent citizens --- and some dirty cops.

A CARNIVORE'S INQUIRY by Sabina Murray (Psychological Thriller)
Reviewed by Stephen M. Deusner
Twenty-three-year-old Katherine Shea has just left Italy and arrives in New York City, but what has propelled her there is a mystery. Soon restless, she begins journeying from literary New York to rural Maine and Mexico City, trailed everywhere she goes by a string of murders.

WHEN THE TUNA WENT DOWN TO TEXAS: How Bill Parcells Led the Cowboys Back to the Promised Land, by Mike Shropshire (Sports)
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman
In the mid-90s the Dallas Cowboys were a football juggernaut, destroying opponents on a weekly basis. But in 2003, after three straight losing seasons, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hired legendary coach Bill Parcells. Mike Shropshire details the saga of this unlikely partnership and how Parcells helped lead America's Team "back to the Promised Land."

SOUL CITY by Touré (Fiction)
Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton
Touré, who is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, an MTV personality and a CNN regular, has written an inventive and hilarious first novel about an African-American utopia threatened by the darker side of human nature.

KISS ME WHILE I SLEEP by Linda Howard (Suspense)
Reviewed by Melissa Palmer
Lily Mansfield is a hired assassin, working as a contract agent for the CIA. Now, after nineteen years of service, Lily has been drawn into a dangerous game that hasn't been sanctioned --- she's seeking vengeance for her own reasons.

BEAUTIFUL STRANGER: A Memoir of an Obsession with Perfection by Hope Donahue (Memoir)
Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott
Hope Donahue appeared to have it all: beauty, wealth, and social status. But she hid a number of ugly truths and became obsessed with attaining physical perfection. In this riveting memoir, Hope recounts her downward spiral that alienated her family and friends, and led her to theft, bankruptcy, and a sadistic relationship before she began her recovery.
Read the reviews and features here.
Read Author Bibliographies here. Search here Read about the Light Wedge reading light here.
Poll: Political Books
Have you found yourself reading more books about politics this year?
Not sure
Answer the Poll here.
Browse through forthcoming books here. Read about books that have won awards here. Read more about Books Into Movies here.
Question of the Week: What Political Book Have You Enjoyed Most?
Which political book have you enjoyed most and why?

Our next question update will be on September 24th.
Answer the Question of the Week.
Read more about LITTLE EARTHQUAKES here. Read more about HARD HARD CITY here.
Word of Mouth: Tell Us What You're Reading -- TWO Prizes!
Tell us what books YOU are reading and loving --- or even those you don't.

This week we have some great prizes: FIVE readers each will win a copy of LITTLE EARTHQUAKES by Jennifer Weiner and HARD HARD CITY by Jim Fusilli. Please note that our next Word of Mouth update will be on September 24th.
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 (see the link on the upper right) or change your preferences below.

Those of you who wish to send mail to, please see the form on the Write to Us page. We were forced to move to this format after we were inundated with SPAM at the other address. If you would like to reach me, please write Writing any of the respond buttons below will not get to us.

Quick observation --- we have noticed that many of you have been changing your Internet providers in the past month. If you do, please be sure to "take us along" by signing up for the newsletter in your new name!

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

--- Carol Fitzgerald (

The Book Report Network
250 W. 57th Street - Suite 1228
New York, New York 10107