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November 6, 2009 Newsletter November 6, 2009
Finding Great Books, Hearing Great Stories
As I am writing this newsletter, I am preparing for a quick trip down to Charlotte where is co-sponsoring an event at the American Association of School Libraries tonight. In what I see as a version of reverse Pictionary (which I am very bad at!), a group of graphic novel creators are going to be drawing on the spot based on scenarios that are given to them by the audience. It sounds like a lot of fun, especially to a girl who cannot draw a straight line with a ruler.

Next week, I am headed to sunny Florida where I will feel like I am getting an "extension of summer" as I attend the Miami Book Fair. What a lineup they have --- Dennis Lehane, Wally Lamb, Abraham Verghese and Jeff Lindsay, just to name some of the more than 350 authors who will be appearing there. In addition, I am looking forward to meeting Jamie Ford, the author of HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, and seeing Jill McCorkle, whose wonderful book of stories, GOING AWAY SHOES, was long overdue and is just fabulous.
The entire list of authors is here. It's the fifth year that I have attended this book festival and the first where we will be sponsoring a day of programming, as presents the School of Comics and Graphic Novels on Friday the 13th (no, we are not superstitious) for teachers, librarians and creators. Details on this are here. If you are going to be at the Fair in Miami, drop me a note. I would love to meet up.

For those interested in a Halloween update, here you go. I started my day in Providence, Rhode Island, where I delivered a speech and then headed to the airport to get home to celebrate the holiday. All was smooth until I got to the airport and the 2:20 flight turned into 4:00 and then 5:30 as wind gusts of 45-50 MPH in Newark kept us grounded. UGH. I ended up walking in the door at 7:45, not 4:15 the way I planned. Cory's costumed compadre arrived at 8:00, and they fled up the driveway in costume to start their Halloween candy grab. A few minutes later they were back --- wet --- telling me it was raining hard. My solution:
I would drive them trick or treating. I have an SUV so I popped the trunk, they climbed in and we drove from house to house. At one point, they came back from a house and told me I should cut the lights. In a smooth marketing move, they realized that the combo of the late hour and the rain was getting them extra "sympathy candy." And in a moment of true tech blending with Halloween, at one house, where we knew the people and the light was on but no one was answering, Stephen whipped out his cell phone and called for Helene to answer the door for the candy grab. Needless to say, I was laughing most of the evening, and my chauffeur services were rewarded with Dots and Jujyfruits. You can see the dynamic duo in costume above.

When I was stuck in the airport, I read and knitted and got to know my fellow travelers through smatterings of overheard conversations. More on the latter in a bit. I was reading an ARC of an upcoming book called SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT by Beth Hoffman. It's a debut title coming in January about a young girl from Ohio who is whisked away to live with her aunt in Savannah after the death of her mom; her dad already has created a new life for himself, and she does not fit in. For those who loved Steel Magnolias and THE HELP, and authors like Fannie Flagg and Rebecca Wells, this will be a treat. Great characters with terrific voices, strong plotting and a story that just hangs together well.

Last week, when I was at dinner with some booksellers, they were talking about how they love to read books from certain editors, as they know they can trust that they will deliver something solid that they will enjoy. As we all know, good editing and care for a manuscript can make a good book. Well, this thought trickled back to me when I realized that SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT is edited by Pamela Dorman, who also edited THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES.
As Pamela says in a letter inside the book, as the editor of THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES she "has read a lot of wannabe Southern coming-of-age fiction. This is the real thing." And I do agree.

As I have come to know some terrific editors over the past years, I would love to introduce them to you through interviews in the months ahead. Many, many manuscripts require shaping and culling and cutting. While many of us will say I wish this was tighter or sharper or whatever when we read a book, we have no idea how those words were delivered in the first place. Sometimes, what we see in stores is a very different book from where it originally started in manuscript. And good editors are the ones to salute for that.

Now back to the airport. I fly a lot, and along the way I have heard stories from people who sit beside me on many occasions. There is some truth and raw honesty that comes forth at 30,000 feet from people you never will see again. I often wonder what happened to these people later. I thought about this a lot on Sunday as I read ONE AMAZING THING by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, which is coming in February. The plot goes like this. Nine people are in an Indian visa office in a city in the U.S.; seven of them are travelers, two work in the office.
An earthquake hits and BAM they are united in surviving. As they await rescue, they each will share one amazing thing in a story from their lives. As they do, their survival story gets placed on the backburner as we instead are drawn into the stories of what came before this moment.

From my fellow travelers last week, I overheard a lot about them as we waited near the gate --- who was headed onto a flight to Europe, whose son was a pilot for Continental, who was headed to see family or to work a gig the next day. You got snippets, but as the week wore on, I found myself wondering where they ended up. For a few hours, we came together and then we parted. You all have had moments like this...
it's why I think you will enjoy ONE AMAZING THING. More on both this book and SAVING CEE CEE HONEYCUTT in the weeks to come.

Speaking of partings. There is a team of terrific people who work with me to bring you each week while I am the "front person" who many of you know. One of those players is Alex Kassl, our Advertising/Promotion Associate, who leaves us today for a new job at the New-York Historical Society. Alex joined us when he got out of school a little more than two years ago, becoming a part of the intrepid team that brings you He's incredibly organized, so upbeat and full of ideas.
We all are going to miss him. Next week, I will introduce you to Stephen, who is slipping into Alex's big shoes.

The answers to last week's poll question surprised and cheered me. Unlike me, who feels book guilt on an ongoing basis, almost 60% of you have no book guilt if you have not read a book that everyone else seems to have read.

Lots of great reading this week, including one of my favorite books this year --- RAINWATER by Sandra Brown. I just loved how this story unfolded. Melanie Smith's review shares my admiration for this one. Our interview gives readers a glimpse at Sandra's inspiration.

I read MANIA by Craig Larsen earlier this year and looked forward to sharing it with our readers. Joe Hartlaub concurs, calling it one of the best debuts of 2009. "Larsen is strong on plot and characterization, and there are indications throughout the book that his talents run long and deep in those areas. The novel's ultimate asset, however, is its brooding, disturbing atmosphere." I do agree. Mood really powers this book.

Also, we've added this week's highlights from our Facebook fan page to the Blog. On Facebook but not yet a fan? Then click here.

And as the pumpkins and goblins exit stage right, here come the holidays
. Coming next week, we will bring your our annual Holiday Cheer and What to Give/What to Get features. Ready to get a start on your holiday shopping? Looking for a book to read this weekend? Then celebrate National Bookstore Day tomorrow and pick up a book at your local bookseller. A list of participating booksellers is here. I am hoping for blue skies, no winds and an event-free trip to Charlotte. Have a great weekend... and week.

Carol Fitzgerald ( Talks to Sandra Brown, Author of RAINWATER
Bestselling author Sandra Brown has written over 70 fiction, thriller and romance novels, including FAT TUESDAY, THE ALIBI, RICOCHET, SMOKE SCREEN and the newly released work of historical fiction, RAINWATER. In this interview with's Melanie Smith, Brown describes the real-life event from her family's past that inspired this Depression-era story, and sheds light on some of the social history of that period. She also discusses her research on autism in order to accurately portray this highly misunderstood illness, reveals how she motivates herself to keep writing fresh, authentic and captivating books, and shares details about her next publication, TOUGH CUSTOMER.

RAINWATER by Sandra Brown (Historical Fiction)
From acclaimed bestselling author Sandra Brown comes a powerfully moving novel celebrating the gifts, generosity and foresight of a great bygone generation. Centered on an independent woman who runs a Texas boarding house during the Dust Bowl and a mysterious boarder, RAINWATER tells a story that bears witness to a bittersweet truth: that love is worth whatever price one must pay for it. Reviewed by Melanie Smith.

-Click here to read a review of RAINWATER.
-Click here to read an excerpt from RAINWATER.
-Click here to see the reading group guide for RAINWATER.

Click here to read our interview with Sandra Brown. Talks to Joanne Fluke, Author of PLUM PUDDING MURDER
Joanne Fluke's 12th novel, PLUM PUDDING MURDER, finds baker-turned-amateur detective Hannah Swensen in the middle of yet another murder mystery, this time amidst the chaos of the holiday season. In this interview with's Amie Taylor, Fluke reveals the inspiration behind her appealing protagonist and secondary characters (both human and feline), and reflects on the direction of Hannah's unpredictable love life throughout the course of the series. She also explains how --- after writing a dozen novels --- she manages to keep track of character and plot details, discusses her upbringing in Minnesota and how she's adjusting to her current life on the west coast, and talks about her next release, APPLE TURNOVER MURDER.

PLUM PUDDING MURDER by Joanne Fluke (Mystery)
New York Times bestselling author Joanne Fluke serves up a deliciously deadly holiday treat with her new Hannah Swensen mystery. PLUM PUDDING MURDER includes 12 original dessert recipes, including recipes for a complete Christmas dinner. Reviewed by Amie Taylor.

-Click here to read a review of PLUM PUDDING MURDER.
-Click here to read an excerpt from PLUM PUDDING MURDER.

Click here to read our interview with Joanne Fluke. Talks to Craig Larsen, Author of MANIA
Craig Larsen's debut novel, MANIA, is a suspense thriller that follows a troubled newspaper photographer who must face his own demons as he tracks the serial killer responsible for his brother's death. In this interview with's Joe Hartlaub, Larsen explains the concept that prompted him to write this novel and elaborates on some of the psychological elements that infuse the story. He also discusses the complex sibling relationship central to the main character's struggles, describes how aspects of the plot were written to challenge readers' fundamental ideas of right and wrong, and shares advice for aspiring writers.

MANIA by Craig Larsen (Psychological Thriller)
Newspaper photographer Nick Wilder has been tracking a deranged killer through the dark streets of Seattle. But when the Street Butcher claims Nick's brother as his latest victim, Nick's world is turned upside down. As he zeroes in on the killer, Nick finds himself led in a dizzying circle back to himself. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

-Click here to read a review of MANIA.
-Click here to read an excerpt from MANIA.
-Visit Craig Larsen's official website,

Click here to read our interview with Craig Larsen.

Now in Stores: FORD COUNTY by John Grisham
FORD COUNTY: Stories by John Grisham (Fiction/Short Stories)
In his first collection of short stories, John Grisham takes us back to Ford County, Mississippi, the setting of his first novel, A TIME TO KILL. Featuring a cast of characters you'll never forget, these often hilarious, frequently moving and always entertaining stories bring Ford County to vivid and colorful life. Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman.

-Click here to read an excerpt from FORD COUNTY.

Click here to read a review of FORD COUNTY.

Now in Stores: KINDRED IN DEATH by J. D. Robb
KINDRED IN DEATH by J. D. Robb (Thriller)
Lieutenant Eve Dallas is investigating the brutal murder of the 16-year-old daughter of the newly promoted captain of the NYPSD. When the evidence starts to pile up, Dallas and her team think they are about to arrest their perpetrator. But little do they know yet that someone has gone to great lengths to tease and taunt them by using a variety of identities. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

-Click here to read an excerpt from KINDRED IN DEATH.

Click here to read a review of KINDRED IN DEATH.

Now in Stores: THE LACUNA by Barbara Kingsolver
THE LACUNA by Barbara Kingsolver (Fiction)
In her first novel since 2000, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR and J. Edgar Hoover. This sweeping, well-researched book about history, authorship and national and personal identity was well worth the wait. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

Click here to read a review of THE LACUNA.

Now in Stores: KNIT THE SEASON by Kate Jacobs
KNIT THE SEASON: A Friday Night Knitting Club Novel by Kate Jacobs (Fiction)
Kate Jacobs’s latest novel begins a year after the end of KNIT TWO, with Dakota Walker's trip to spend the Christmas holidays with her Gran in Scotland --- accompanied by her father, her grandparents, and her mother's best friend, Catherine. Together, they share a trove of happy memories about Christmases past with Dakota's mom, Georgia Walker --- from Georgia's childhood to her blissful time as a doting new mom. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

-Click here to read an excerpt from KNIT THE SEASON.

Click here to read a review of KNIT THE SEASON.

Now in Stores: THE HUMBLING by Philip Roth

THE HUMBLING by Philip Roth (Fiction)
Simon Axler, one of the leading American stage actors of his generation, has lost his magic, his talent and his assurance. Into this shattering account of inexplicable and terrifying self-evacuation bursts a counterplot of unusual erotic desire, a consolation for a bereft life so risky and aberrant that it points not toward comfort and gratification but to a yet darker and more shocking end. Reviewed by Max Falkowitz.


Click here to read a review of THE HUMBLING.

November's New in Paperback Roundup

November’s roundup of New in Paperback titles includes Linda Fairstein’s LETHAL LEGACY, an Alexandra Cooper novel that takes readers on a breathtaking ride through the valuable first editions, lost atlases and secret rooms and tunnels of the New York Public Library; THE GATE HOUSE by Nelson DeMille, a continuation of John and Susan Sutter’s story 10 years after Susan killed her Mafia lover on the famed Gold Coast of Long Island; Steve Berry’s THE CHARLEMAGNE PURSUIT, in which Cotton Malone searches for the truth behind his father's mysterious death while also stumbling upon cryptic diaries found in the tomb of the legendary ruler of the Holy Roman Empire; KNIT TWO, a sequel to the book club favorite THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB by Kate Jacobs; BETWEEN HERE AND APRIL, Deborah Copaken Kogan’s exploration of the battles women and mothers secretly --- and sometimes tragically --- wage with themselves; and HOT, FLAT, AND CROWDED 2.0, Thomas L. Friedman’s information-packed treatise on the perilous state of the environment, how we got here and how we must proceed if we are to avoid catastrophe.

Click here to see our New in Paperback feature for November.

Books into Movies/Books into Movies on DVD for November
We have an abundance of literary-based offerings to share with you this month, as November’s Books into Movies feature spotlights 10 buzzworthy, star-studded films that range in tone and topic --- from the light-hearted whimsy of Fantastic Mr. Fox, the squeal-inducing teen romance of New Moon and the coming-of-age-in-middle-age introspection of The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, to the creepy thrills and chills of The Box, and the heart-warming inspirational drama of The Blind Side. Whether you’re in the mood for head-scratching, offbeat comedies like The Men Who Stare at Goats, thought-provoking Oscar-worthy films like the dark urban drama Precious and the dystopic Cormac McCarthy-based The Road, behind-the-scenes period pieces like Me and Orson Welles, or family-friendly holiday tales like Disney’s A Christmas Carol, moviegoers of all ages are bound to find something that will tickle their funny bones, tug on their heart strings and give them plenty of food for thought.

And be sure to update your Netflix queues and stock up on microwave popcorn, because the Jodi Picoult tear-jerker My Sister’s Keeper, the quirky teen romance I Love You, Beth Cooper and this summer’s blockbuster thriller Angels & Demons are releasing on DVD this month.

Click here to read more details about November's films.

What's New This Month on

With more than 2,800 discussion guides now available, continues to be the leading place for book clubs to find all the resources they need on the web.

Our Blog continues to be a big hit among our readers. Throughout the month we are sharing postings from regular contributors --- including authors, librarians, book club facilitators, booksellers and experts in the publishing industry --- as well as special guests. The latest blog can be found here, and here are quick links to some recent posts:

-Best Discussion Books: The Great Apes' Picks
-Best Discussion Books: Oryx & Crake, On Her Own Ground and More
-Susan Meissner: Books that Speak Beyond Their Pages

-Kathryn Stockett's THE HELP
-Good Book Club, Bad Book Club

The following guides are now available on

CHERRIES IN WINTER: My Family's Recipe for Hope in Hard Times by Suzan Colón: An inspirational gem of a book about three generations of women who find solace in the comfort of their kitchens when hard times hit. It's TENDER AT THE BONE meets TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE.
FAR FROM HOME by Anne DeGrace: The story of a lost teenager who finds herself in a diner in the middle of nowhere, FAR FROM HOME is superb introduction for U.S readers to a talented writer who has already made a splash in her native Canada.
FROMMS: How Julius Fromm's Condom Empire Fell to the Nazis by Götz Aly and Michael Sontheimer: A fascinating story of sex, business and family, FROMMS adds a striking new dimension to our understanding of this dark period in German history.
THE GLASS ROOM by Simon Mawer: THE GLASS ROOM is a stunning, detailed portrait of a family struggling to control the fallout of their passions and betrayals as World War II approaches.
IN A PERFECT WORLD by Laura Kasischke: IN A PERFECT WORLD is critically acclaimed writer Laura Kasischke’s new novel of marriage, motherhood and the choices we make when we have no choices left.
A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN: A Story of Love and Honor
by Dana Canedy: A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN is a mother’s letter to her son about the father --- a U.S. soldier in Iraq --- he lost while still an infant.
by Nancy Goldstone: The riveting history of a beautiful queen, a shocking murder, a papal trial --- and a reign as triumphant as any in the Middle Ages.
by M. Ann Jacoby: LIFE AFTER GENIUS follows the remarkable journey of a young man who must discover that the heart may know what the head hasn't yet learned.
NOTES LEFT BEHIND by Brooke and Keith Desserich: NOTES LEFT BEHIND by Brooke and Keith Desserich began as a journal they kept after their five-year-old daughter Elena was diagnosed with brain cancer and given just 165 days to live.
by Holly Chamberlin: ONE WEEK IN DECEMBER is a compelling holiday-themed novel fans of authors Beth Kendrick and Elizabeth Robinson will adore.

THE POSTMISTRESS by Sarah Blake: THE POSTMISTRESS is a tale of three unforgettable women, of lost innocence, of what happens to love when those we cherish leave us.
RAINWATER by Sandra Brown: From acclaimed bestselling author Sandra Brown comes a powerfully moving novel celebrating the gifts, generosity and foresight of a great bygone generation.
TELL ME SOMETHING TRUE by Leila Cobo: When Gabriella discovers a journal that begins as a new mother's letters to her baby girl, but is lost --- the final entry leaves one question unanswered: the night her mother died, was she returning to Colombia to end an affair, or was she abandoning her family for good?

THE WRONG MOTHER by Sophie Hannah: International bestseller Sophie Hannah is back with a new thriller, again exploring the pleasures and conflicts of young motherhood against the backdrop of a terrifying crime.

Please note that these titles, for which we already had the guides when they appeared in hardcover, are now available in paperback:

BETWEEN HERE AND APRIL by Deborah Copaken Kogan
WHILE MY SISTER SLEEPS by Barbara Delinsky


Click here to visit

This Week's Reviews
SUPERFREAKONOMICS: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner (Economics/Popular Culture)
Following up on their entertaining and thought-provoking book on economics for non-economists, Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner repeat their successful formula with SUPERFREAKONOMICS. The theme throughout both titles is that people are more likely to follow a lifestyle or activity if there’s a positive “what’s in it for me” outcome. Reviewed by Ron Kaplan.

WHERE MEN WIN GLORY: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer (Biography)
In May 2002, Pat Tillman walked away from a $3.6 million NFL contract to enlist in the United States Special Operations Forces. Two years later, he died on a desolate hill in eastern Afghanistan. Only after the truth eventually began to leak out did the Army grudgingly notify his closest relatives that he “probably” had been killed by friendly fire. Reviewed by Ray Palen.

THE TIME OF MY LIFE by Patrick Swayze and Lisa Niemi (Memoir)
Depending on your perspective, THE TIME OF MY LIFE will read like a biography or a swashbuckling adventure story. We all know Patrick Swayze as a dancer and an actor, but few realize that he was a horseman, pilot and daredevil. In this memoir, his life story is presented with somber pathos juxtaposed with a sense of humor that was true to Swayze himself. Reviewed by Marge Fletcher.

AYN RAND AND THE WORLD SHE MADE by Anne C. Heller (Biography)
Anne C. Heller traces the controversial author’s life from her childhood in Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution to her years as a screenwriter in Hollywood, the publication of her blockbuster novels, and the rise and fall of the cult that formed around her in the 1950s and 1960s. Throughout, Heller reveals previously unknown facts about Ayn Rand’s history and looks at her with new research and a fresh perspective. Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott.

PILGRIMS: A Wobegon Romance by Garrison Keillor (Fiction)
PILGRIMS has much in common with everything else that flows from Garrison Keillor’s seemingly inexhaustible and irresistible Midwestern imagination. But this time, in a spirit of reckless literary abandon, he transplants 12 unlikely Wobegonians --- including his semi-fictional self --- to the original hotbed of classical culture: Rome. Reviewed by Pauline Finch.

DAY AFTER NIGHT by Anita Diamant (Fiction)
Anita Diamant’s latest novel is based on an actual event that took place in October 1945, following the end of World War II. Four brave young women --- Holocaust survivors --- are freed along with thousands of others, only to find themselves again behind rolls of razor wire. Reviewed by Roz Shea.

RESURRECTING MIDNIGHT by Eric Jerome Dickey (Thriller)
After nearly losing his life in Antigua during a mission that went terribly wrong, international assassin Gideon trusts no one. But when a former lover and grifter, Arizona, resurfaces in need of his skills, she reminds him he was indebted to a man who had once saved his life: the son of the legendary con man Scamz. Gideon is forced to take on an assignment that will lead him to Argentina in pursuit of a briefcase containing one part of a larger puzzle. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

THE BIG MACHINE by Victor LaValle (Fiction)
A traumatized suicide cult survivor is summoned to the frozen woods of Vermont, where he is inducted into a band of paranormal investigators comprised of former addicts and petty criminals, all of whom had at some point in their wasted lives heard The Voice, a mysterious murmur on the wind, a disembodied shout, or a whisper in an empty room that may or may not be from God. Reviewed by Eileen Zimmerman Nicol.

Read this week's reviews here.

Poll and Question of the Week: Book Prices

Do you always consider the price when buying your books?

All of the time
Some of the time
I don’t buy books.

Which of the following best describes how you buy your books? Check as many as apply.

I shop where I have a coupon.
I shop where there are sales and discounts.
I shop where I have a membership card.
I shop where I have a gift card.
I don’t buy books.

-Click here to answer our poll.


Name your last impulse book buy.

here to answer our question.

Word of Mouth: Tell Us What You're Reading --- and You Can Win THREE Books!
Tell us what books YOU are reading and loving --- or even those you don't.

This week we have three great prizes: FIVE readers each will win a copy of NO LESS THAN VICTORY: A Novel of World War II by Jeff Shaara, UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King and WISHIN' AND HOPIN': A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb. Tell us what you are reading and rate the titles 1-5 by noon on November 20th to ensure that you are in the running to win these books.
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 or change your preferences below.

Those of you who wish to send mail to, please see the form on the Write to Us page. If you would like to reach me, please write Writing any of the respond buttons below will not get to us.

Those who are subscribed to the newsletter by November 30, 2009 automatically are entered in our Monthly Newsletter Contest. This month, one winner will be selected to win the following five books: BREATHLESS by Dean Koontz, THE HUMBLING by Philip Roth, THE LACUNA by Barbara Kingsolver, PIRATE LATITUDES by Michael Crichton and UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King. Carlene from Irving, TX was last month's newsletter winner. She won NINE DRAGONS by Michael Connelly, LAST NIGHT IN TWISTED RIVER by John Irving, LOCKED IN: A Sharon McCone Mystery by Marcia Muller, PURSUIT OF HONOR by Vince Flynn and TRUE BLUE by David Baldacci.

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

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