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November 13, 2009 Newsletter November 13, 2009

Greetings from Miami...and the Chewy Peps Story

I am in Miami for the Miami Book Fair, one of my favorite events of the year. This is my fifth year attending this wonderfully jam-packed weekend of author talks and book conversation. My schedule started with a dinner last night with panelists for the Day of Comics and Graphic Novels Education program, and I am jotting this note before I head over to that since I know this day will be hectic. I actually hopped into town on Wednesday to score some much-needed reading time by the pool yesterday. The way I see it, reading is wonderful, but reading by the pool is just over the top. And I had a HUGE stack of reading to do, thus I needed a big pool to sit by --- and my hotel has a 110’ one. And yes, this does make sense to a reader who is a swimmer.

I got off the plane and picked up a steel blue Mustang, which went quite well with my turquoise luggage. Seriously, how many girls can coordinate their car with their clothes? No, it’s not a convertible. I learned in California last year that the trunks on the convertibles are minuscule as I propped my luggage in the back seat. I drove…not to the beach, but to a yarn shop. Thanks to one of our readers, Barbara, I was referred to a terrific yarn shop, Anneke’s Needleworks. So with my GPS chirping directions in my ear, I found the shop and spent a nice hour with Megan Befri there indulging my yarn habit. See, there was a reason I have TWO suitcases. One is for clothes; the second is for books, yarn and swim equipment. If you are ever in the area, definitely check this store out. It’s a bit off the beaten track, but so worth the trip. And now I have two more projects I look forward to working on and some yarn to finish another up.

Speaking of books, just before takeoff on my flight, when I heard a flight attendant tell people to turn off all electronic devices, she added, “That includes book readers.” "Hah!" I said as I pulled out my printed book! I counted 24 minutes where we were unplugged, and at a page a minute, I was glad I was holding a book in my hand.

Lots of snowbirds were on my flight reminding me….here come the holidays! For us at, that means our Holiday Basket of Cheer Contest. I spent a couple of days last week shopping around for baskets and items for them. Each year I tick down my list like I am doing a Santa impersonation. Hot chocolate: check; vanilla handcut marshmallows: check; Chewy Peps from Route 29: Out of Stock. What? Yes, ticking around their website every version of Chewy Peps was out of stock.

Unwilling to give up this tradition, I called their office. A very nice woman there told me that the machine that makes the Chewy Peps had a problem last spring and it seems that the only place to get a part for it was in Europe. That took a while, and when they got it, the machine still has not been running up to speed to produce in quantity, so they decided to remove them from their menu of offerings for the holidays. They offered me Peppermint Bark. Convinced someone somewhere had a stock on Chewy Peps, like there was an listing for this product, I searched for a few hours before I logged back on to the Route 29 site and ordered Peppermint Bark, which is very tasty. I know, it’s not the same, but we forge on. Why not King Leo or another peppermint candy? Well, it’s because Chewy Peps cannot be beat. They are hard as rocks when you start eating them and then smoosh down into a really sticky wonderful delight. They also can remove fillings and temporary caps if you chomp on them too hard…they must be savored.

And then there were the candles. In the past, each year I placed an order with Illuminations. As I noted in an earlier newsletter, they went out of business last spring. I have not found any other candle that I like enough to substitute, so I'm skipping candles in the baskets this year. If anyone has suggestions of great candles, let me know. I confess that I am not enamored with Yankee Candle, but I am sure among our readers someone has a great suggestion for me.

THAT said…we again have terrific prize baskets this year that surely will bring you great cheer! Our first contest is for LAKESHORE CHRISTMAS by Susan Wiggs, a whimsical holiday tale about a prim-and-proper librarian scrambling to produce the town's annual Christmas pageant, but not everyone is quite in the spirit. We are including TWO copies of the book --- one to give and one to get. Although LAKESHORE CHRISTMAS is the first title we are celebrating, be sure to peruse the entire feature to get a peek at upcoming titles. Oh, and the last week of the contest….well, that’s a surprise well worth staying tuned for.

This week, we also launch our What to Give/What to Get feature --- 13 categories of terrific book selections that will make great gifts. Besides shopping for others, I am big on the “to me/from me” kinds of presents, and I accomplish this quite well as I am doing altruistic holiday shopping for others. I was making a list as I paged through our feature. We purposely are launching this BEFORE Thanksgiving since so many readers have told us they shop early. Yes, we listen to you.

I picked a new "Bets On" book this week. It released last week, and it’s a book we’ve been talking about a lot here: RAINWATER by Sandra Brown. Yes, I know this is a departure for me from my original intent with the "Bets On" feature, which was to spotlight titles that you might miss. I know RAINWATER is getting a lot of attention, but no matter. It’s the kind of book I want to hand someone and say “read this now.” Since that is the spirit of “Bets On,” I am adding this one to the shelf. Plus, I think Sandra deserves kudos for pointing her writing in a genre tackling historical fiction. And most of all, I keep thinking about this book since I closed it this summer. You can read more about why I picked RAINWATER below.

Speaking of great new titles, please don't miss MANIA by Craig Larsen, which we've been spotlighting in our Debut Suspense/Thriller feature. We received some great feedback from our advance readers, which you can read here.

Here are some highlights on what has been happening on the Facebook page this week: book news, book-to-movie updates, and book trailers. Become a fan here.

As promised, I am happy to introduce you to Stephen Bedford, who slipped into Alex's big shoes and desk chair at this week. Stephen previously worked as the marketing manager of Bookworm of Edwards, a bookstore in Edwards, Colorado, that I visited on one of my trips out west in the summer of 2006, though we did not meet at the time. What made me interested in Stephen when I saw his resume is that he used our websites as references as he worked with customers at Bookworm of Edwards. That and his hands-on bookselling expertise will help us to enhance the advice and ideas we bring to you on the site each month. So, here's to a very warm welcome to Stephen.

Next Thursday, I head to the NCTE Conference (National Council of Teachers of English) in Philadelphia for what I think is my last business trip of the year. I am reading Junot Diaz’s THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO in anticipation of that as he is the opening speaker. But for the moment, onward to Miami Book Fair events…next week…much more on this. Have a great on…

Carol Fitzgerald (



Now in Stores: UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King

UNDER THE DOME by Stephen King (Supernatural Horror)

The undisputed master of horror releases an epic story of what happens when an entire town is sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. How long does it take before anarchy and rampant crime are the norm? You may be surprised. Reviewed by Kate Ayers.

Click here to read a review of UNDER THE DOME.

Now in Stores: THE GATHERING STORM by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

THE GATHERING STORM: Book Twelve of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy)
The final volume of The Wheel of Time, A MEMORY OF LIGHT, was partially written by Robert Jordan before his untimely passing in 2007. Brandon Sanderson was chosen by Jordan’s editor --- his wife, Harriet McDougal --- to complete the last book. In this epic novel, Jordan’s international bestselling series begins its dramatic conclusion. Reviewed by Steve Hubbard.


Click here to read a review of THE GATHERING STORM.

Memorist Mary Karr shocks Jesse Kornbluth: "I used to think religion was like the Easter bunny."

In this interview with founder Jesse Kornbluth, poet and memoirist Mary Karr --- author of THE LIAR'S CLUB and CHERRY --- discusses her latest book, LIT, and the struggles with alcoholism and addiction that are at the center of this memoir. She dissects her conflicting attitudes toward religion and eventual spiritual reawakening, and explains how her late-life conversion to Catholicism has changed both her writing as well as her personal life.

LIT: A Memoir by Mary Karr (Memoir)

Mary Karr's longing for a solid family seems secure when her marriage to a handsome, Shakespeare-quoting blueblood poet produces a son they adore. But she can't outrun her apocalyptic past. She drinks herself into the same numbness that nearly devoured her charismatic but troubled mother, reaching the brink of suicide. A hair-raising stint in "The Mental Marriott," with an oddball tribe of gurus and saviors, awakens her to the possibility of joy and leads her to an unlikely faith.

-Click here to read more about LIT.

Click here to read Jesse Kornbluth’s interview with Mary Karr.

Announcing Our Holiday Basket of Cheer Contest on! Our First Title: LAKESHORE CHRISTMAS by Susan Wiggs

The holiday season is upon us! At, this means it's time for us to share the spirit of the season with you with our Holiday Basket of Cheer Contest. While you are searching for the perfect gifts, we want to remind you that books make affordable, personal and wonderful gifts for EVERYONE on your list --- and are a nice way to treat yourself as well!

From November 13th through January 4th we will spotlight a different title or collection of titles, and readers will have the chance to win one of five holiday baskets filled with winter-themed items as well as a copy of the featured book(s).

We’re kicking off our Holiday Basket of Cheer feature with LAKESHORE CHRISTMAS by Susan Wiggs, a heartwarming holiday tale of two people looking beyond the disappointments of the past to the promise of the future. Our Holiday Basket of Cheer is a woven basket stocked with holiday-themed items. Along with two copies of LAKESHORE CHRISTMAS, winners will receive Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate mix, gourmet hand-cut vanilla marshmallows, peppermint bark candy, plush red socks, a red and white striped fleece blanket, a gift decorated ceramic dish, a snowman dish towel, cinnamon sticks, and a snowman mini planter perfect for a small tree or single bulb.

To enter, fill out this form and answer the following question by Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 11:59PM. You can find the answer by reading the excerpt here.

What time does the library close?

LAKESHORE CHRISTMAS by Susan Wiggs (Romance)

Librarian Maureen Davenport is in a mess. She has a Christmas pageant to produce, a library to save, and a sexy, wayward musician on her hands. Can the uber-organized librarian accomplish her goals and still retain control over her heart and her sanity, or will she throw caution to the wind and rely on a Christmas miracle to save her? Reviewed by Amie Taylor.

-Click here to read a review of LAKESHORE CHRISTMAS.
-Read more about Susan Wiggs and LAKESHORE CHRISTMAS here.


Click here to read all the details of our Holiday Basket of Cheer feature.

New Featured Women's Fiction Author: Janice Y. K. Lee, Author of THE PIANO TEACHER

Janice Y. K. Lee's debut novel, THE PIANO TEACHER, was a national bestseller upon its release in January, and is now poised for even bigger things as the paperback edition hits shelves on November 17th.

We have 10 copies of THE PIANO TEACHER to give away to readers who would like to preview the book and comment about it. If you are interested, please fill out this form by Friday, November 20th.

-Click here to read a review of THE PIANO TEACHER.
here to read Janice Y. K. Lee's bio.
-Visit Janice Y. K. Lee's official website,

More about
Set in Hong Kong during the outbreak of World War II, and its aftermath 10 years later, THE PIANO TEACHER alternates between the lives of two vastly different women whose destinies are linked by the events of the war.

Click here to read more about Janice Y. K. Lee and THE PIANO TEACHER. Bets On: RAINWATER by Sandra Brown

RAINWATER by Sandra Brown (November 3rd): On the last day of my vacation in September, I sat by the pool and read an advance copy of RAINWATER by Sandra Brown, her first historical novel. Set during the Great Depression in Gilead, Texas, it’s a beautifully and tightly written story of love and hope in a world torn with economic and racial strife. Sandra firmly plants the reader in this world, where farms are barren wastelands in the Dust Bowl and the only help for farmers is FDR’s Drought Relief Program --- which comes at quite a cost.

Readers are at the table in Ella Barton’s boardinghouse as she cares for her disabled son and copes with the short hand in life that she has been dealt. She sees her world for what it is; there is no longing for something else. But when Mr. David Rainwater comes into the house as a boarder, Ella’s life goes from gray and brown to sparkles of color. As she begins to feel love and caring, the reader sees what has been suppressed inside Ella, and it’s a metaphor for what’s happening in the country at that time. Sandra writes emotion well here. It’s not cloying or forced; it just rolls with an ease. Courage, inner-core moral values and the rally to do what is right infuse the love story that runs through the prose. Our reviewer likened it to THE GRAPES OF WRATH, which is an apt comparison.

Since I closed RAINWATER, I have thought about it again and again as it was a really satisfying read. It’s short, it’s tight with no spare words, and it feels like the kind of story you would have heard shared over the table from someone who knew those days --- a real telling of an oral history without hype or rhetoric. Thus, it’s a “Bets On” for me, even though Sandra already is a household name. I just don’t want you to miss it.

-Click here to read a review of RAINWATER.

-Click here to read an excerpt from RAINWATER.

-Click here to read our interview with Sandra Brown.

-Click here to see the reading group guide for RAINWATER.

Click here to see all the titles we’re betting you’ll love.

What to Give/What to Get Gift Guide: Spotlight on Mystery, Thriller & Suspense

Headed out to do some holiday shopping? Before you go, check out our What to Give/What to Get feature with ideas in 13 categories.

We are spotlighting the various categories in the newsletter this week and in upcoming weeks. This week we're featuring Mystery Madness & Thrilling Reads, Faces & Places, and Great Tools for Readers and Writers. First up: Mystery Madness & Thrilling Reads

Have a mystery or thriller fan on your list? Be sure to check out our Mystery Madness & Thrilling Reads category, created specifically for suspense-lovers.

Our featured titles in this category are:

AMONG THE MAD: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear
THE ATLANTIS CODE by Charles Brokaw
THE CALLING by David Mack
ENDS OF THE EARTH: A Bug Man Novel by Tim Downs
THE NEGOTIATOR by Dee Henderson
RISK by Colin Harrison


Click here to see our Mystery Madness and Thrilling Reads category.

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Have a memoir-lover on your list? We have some great suggestions on our Faces & Places list for those who are fascinated by people and the lives they live.

Our featured titles in this category are:

BUFFALO GAL by Laura Pedersen
HERBLOCK: The Life and Works of the Great Political Cartoonist by Haynes Johnson and Harry Katz
A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN: A Story of Love and Honor by Dana Canedy
READ MY PINS: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewelry Box by Madeleine Albright


What to Give/What to Get Gift Guide: Spotlight on Biography, Memoir & History
Click here to see our Faces & Places category.

What to Give/What to Get Gift Guide: Spotlight on Accessories for Booklovers

Our Great Tools for Readers and Writers category has some unique gift ideas for the booklovers in your life, including book lights, quilted covers for your Kindle2 and more!

Our featured items in this category are:

Bookmark Light
Handmade Quilted Covers for Your Kindle2
Twin Booklight
Amazon Gift Card
Shop Indiebound


Click here to see our Great Tools for Readers and Writers category.

The Holiday Basket of Cheer Contest is Now Live!

Celebrate the season with's Fourth Annual Holiday Basket of Cheer feature and contest! From November 13th through December 10th, you can enter to win a "Basket of Holiday Reading and Fun."

Five winners each will receive a festive basket that includes 10 of the holiday's hottest books --- THE AMANDA PROJECT: BOOK 1: INVISIBLE I by Melissa Kantor, DEADLY LITTLE LIES by Laurie Faria Stolarz, HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford, IT’S ALL GOOD: A So For Real Novel by Nikki Carter, A MAP OF THE KNOWN WORLD by Lisa Ann Sandell, NEED by Carrie Jones, SECRET SOCIETY by Tom Dolby, SPLENDOR: A Luxe Novel by Anna Godbersen, THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: THE AWAKENING by L.J. Smith, and VIOLA IN REEL LIFE by Adriana Trigiani.

Along with the books, winners will find their basket stocked with tons of seasonal goodies --- a kit to make a mini gingerbread village, Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate mix, peppermint bark candy, a snowflake patterned fleece blanket, red woolen gloves, a snowman ceramic coffee mug, plush warm socks, snowflake tissues, and gourmet hand-cut vanilla marshmallows.


Click here to read all the details of the Holiday Basket of Cheer Contest.

What's New on the Blog
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:

-Book Club Longevity: Farmington Woods Book Group
-Book Club Longevity: Vulture and Culture
-Talking with Keith Desserich about NOTES LEFT BEHIND
-Oprah's Worldwide Web Event Tonight
-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
-Great Book Club, Bad Book Club
-Best Discussion Books: MOLOKA'I
-Best Discussion Books: MY SISTER'S KEEPER
-Emilie Richards: A Writers' Book Club
-Celebrating National Reading Group Month

For those of you who use RSS feeds to keep track of your favorite blogs, you can now add the blog to your list by clicking the link on the blog page.

Click here to read the Blog.

This Week's Reviews

HALF BROKE HORSES: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls (Autobiographical Fiction)

"Those old cows knew trouble was coming before we did." So begins the story of Lily Casey Smith, in Jeannette Walls's magnificent, true-life novel based on her no-nonsense, resourceful, hardworking and spectacularly compelling grandmother. Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.

HIGHEST DUTY: My Search for What Really Matters by Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, with Jeffrey Zaslow (Autobiography)

Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger built his first model airplane at age six. By then he knew, as surely as any young boy could know, that he would grow up to become a pilot. This is the autobiography of a middle-aged, formerly anonymous man who catapulted to instant celebrity and hero status when he safely landed an Airbus A320 with 155 passengers aboard in the Hudson River. Reviewed by Carole Turner.

BREAKING THE RULES by Barbara Taylor Bradford (Romance)

Following a terrifying encounter in the quiet English countryside, a young woman flees to New York in search of a new life. Adopting the initial M as her name, and reinventing herself, she embarks on a journey that will lead her to the catwalks of Paris and an instant attraction to a charming and handsome actor. Reviewed by Hillary Wagy.

THE MONSTER IN THE BOX: An Inspector Wexford Novel by Ruth Rendell (Mystery)

Creepy yet subtle, the work of award-winning suspense writer Ruth Rendell is as much about the mind as the crime. Her latest book juxtaposes old and new, memory and modern life, as Inspector Wexford pursues a killer amid the twists and turns of his own personal history. Reviewed by Kathy Weissman.

TOWER by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman (Thriller)

Born into a rough Brooklyn neighborhood and outsiders in their own families, Nick and Todd forge a lifelong bond that persists in the face of crushing loss, blood and betrayal. Low-level wiseguys with little ambition and even less of a future, the friends become major players in the potential destruction of an international crime syndicate that stretches from the cargo area at Kennedy Airport to the streets of New York, Belfast and Boston to the alleyways of Mexican border towns. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

MY PAPER CHASE: True Stories of Vanished Times by Harold Evans (Memoir)

It’s probably unfair to say that Harold Evans has led a charmed life, but there’s ample support for that conclusion in this spirited memoir of his lengthy career in newspapers and publishing. The story of Evans’s rise from a firmly working class background in Manchester to the heights of British journalism is a briskly told tale of hard work, some luck and an unflagging commitment to the highest standards of the profession he seemed destined to pursue. Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg.

YOURS EVER: People and Their Letters by Thomas Mallon (Social Commentary)

The ancient art of letter writing may (or may not) have been killed by the telephone, fax, email and instant messaging, but it has a long and wonderfully rich history. Literary historian Thomas Mallon samples that history and makes shrewd comments on it in this tasty book. He is not quite ready to pronounce the genre dead, preferring to find it simply changing outward shape while remaining a mirror into the souls of those who practiced it. Reviewed by Robert Finn.

THE FLEET STREET MURDERS by Charles Finch (Mystery)

The third book in the Charles Lenox mystery series finds the amateur sleuth running for a seat in Parliament and attempting to solve the murder of two prominent journalists. Clues lead him to implicate a well-known member of high society, but will he be able to convince Scotland Yard of his theory? Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski.

ABIGAIL ADAMS by Woody Holton (Biography)
In this vivid new biography of Abigail Adams, the most illustrious woman of America's founding era, prize-winning historian Woody Holton offers a sweeping reinterpretation of Adams's life story and of women's roles in the creation of the republic. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.


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.
None of the above
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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