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January 29, 2010 Newsletter January 29, 2010

The Weekend Plan: A Roaring Fire, a Stack of Books, and a Chocolate Layer Cake

My younger son, Cory, typically rifles through my Netflix choices when they arrive and dismisses most as “girl movies,” “wildly boring” or “way serious.” Occasionally I score well with an action or adventure movie. But somehow last weekend I got him to agree that The Proposal was worth watching, probably because he, like me, is a Sandra Bullock fan. In fact, I think both my boys would pick her to be their mom if I were not available. Well, WHO KNEW that she played the head of a book publishing company in this film? Why did the previews not make THAT clear to me? Her character was over the top in the way that Meryl Streep overdoes Miranda in The Devil Wears Prada, but was endlessly fun. And if you have watched or plan to watch, note that we replayed the part with Bullock and the dog four times! You’ll know what I mean when you see it.

On Wednesday, when the iPad (I wonder HOW many people it took to come up with that name, and I would love to know the OTHER choices) was announced, I saw somewhere that it was being dubbed “The Jesus Tablet,” as folks were hoping it would save publishing --- book, magazine and newspaper publishing. It was being lauded like the tablets from Moses and just as eagerly studied and awaited. I am going on record, folks, as saying that unless an e-reader can convert non-readers to readers, none of these devices are going to advance reading the way everyone is trying to talk themselves into. I have been spending a lot of time asking non-readers WHY they do not read, a question I think we do not probe enough.

I think another big issue is getting people aware of books that they WANT to read, which is what we try to do here each week. As longtime readers know, I see myself as a book concierge. I think our selections put those who follow us on a pretty wide and well cultivated reading path. And whether you are reading books on paper or digitally, or listening to books, we want you to know what is available. From there you can figure HOW to read it. I think people fall in love with books and authors a lot more than devices. End of sermon.

Speaking of books you'll want to read...we're thrilled to introduce Sarah Blake's THE POSTMISTRESS this week as the newest book in our One to Watch feature. I know I've mentioned this title a few times already, but it's one I just can't stop raving about. It's a historical novel, set during World War II, that just reels you in and surrounds you with details, all with such careful, beautiful language. The book isn't out until February 9th, but 20 of you can win a finished copy by clicking here. Good luck to all!

Wednesday I went to a lunch for Brady Udall, whose novel THE LONELY POLYGAMIST will be in stores May 3rd. Sunday nights I enjoy watching "Big Love" on HBO and am intrigued by the subject of polygamy, so I was all over this invitation. Brady’s great-great grandfather, David Udall, was a polygamist and his great-great grandmother, Ida Hunt, was his second wife. So as Brady says, if polygamy did not exist, he would not be here! In the book, Golden Richards, the main character, has four wives and 28 children --- and is having a midlife crisis. Brady writes so well and the story flows so easily that I looked up the night I started it and realized I was on page 60; delving into it to read “a few pages” had gone that quickly. By the way, Brady did not grow up in a plural home, but his lens on the subject is so clear that it feels like a true insider story.

As many of you probably already know, J.D. Salinger died at the age of 91 on Wednesday. I know there is a copy of CATCHER IN THE RYE in this house on at least two bookshelves, and I also remember discovering FRANNY AND ZOOEY, which we also have at least one copy of. I think we all have a story about when we first met Holden, and Salinger’s influence on YA literature and youth culture is well-documented. Jesse Kornbluth shares his thoughts here, and David Levithan, who is an editorial director at Scholastic as well as an author himself, has another perspective here. I found this piece this morning, where the Rutland Herald has a story about how Salinger's neighbors protected his privacy. Good reading.

My snail mail is usually pretty boring as compared to my email, but this week a piece of mail came in from up-and-coming suspense/thriller author Craig Larsen, who took an alternative, quirky route to marketing his debut MANIA by making postage stamps! All of us at the office got a kick out of his ingenuity, and what better way to promote yourself and gain some traction by livening up the snail mail? We scanned in the stamp to share with you, and you can see it above. We featured Craig as one of our One to Watch Debut Suspense/Thriller authors, and you can read more about him and MANIA here. He is getting high marks from us all for creativity this week.

On Tuesday, before I jump on a plane (more on that in a moment), I am speaking on a panel about “Do Book Reviews Matter?” I have my opinions, but I wonder what you think. Do book reviews per se influence your decisions, or are they tools to make you aware of books? Do you look more closely at traditional reviews, or do those online spur your decisions as much. I am curious! Let me know by dropping me a note at

Later that day I am off to San Jose --- and yes, I know the way to San Jose, but since my airline of choice is Continental, I will be getting there via Houston --- for the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute, a few days packed with seminars about books, authors, trends and bookselling for independent stores. I am wildly excited about this trip.

One of the exciting things about this conference is not just the 38 authors and illustrators participating, but the variety, representing every genre from literary fiction to economics to technology to children’s books. There will be some established authors who I have spent time with before, like Jacqueline Winspear (her Maisie Dobbs series is a favorite); Brunonia Barry, whose THE LACE READER was a recent hit and her THE MAP OF TRUE PLACES (due May 4th) should be another one; Justin Cronin, whose book THE PASSAGE (due June 8th) I mentioned last week has been one of the most talked-about advance galleys, getting chatter; and the aforementioned Brady Udall, whose THE LONELY POLYGAMIST has been getting a ton of buzz. I’m also excited to meet Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, whose ONE AMAZING THING we’re currently spotlighting in our One to Watch feature; those lucky advance reader winners won’t be disappointed. So whew...this will be a reader's delight.

Besides this, it will be wonderful to get to see some of my bookseller friends --- and meet some new ones. To be sure I hit the local spots, Stephen in our office has mapped out book and yarn shops in the area. And though I have been to San Jose once before, if any of you in the area have ideas of things I should not miss, do let me know!

Also, if any of you knit and have a yarn store that you frequent anywhere in the country that has a real sense of community around it, a place where people like to sit, knit and chat, can you send me the name and address of the store? I am noodling an idea and would love this input as I shape it. Thanks to all those who have sent suggestions in the past, and rest assured, I’m building a big list to take with me on all my travels. Just drop me a line at and copy Stephen Bedford at

Our daily Facebook postings touched off a variety of commentaries, particularly about the iPad announcement. And, as usual, there are some great links to articles, interviews and book trailers. For those of you not on Facebook who missed our recent posts, you can read a recap here on the blog, and feel free to join the daily discussions by making an account here.

Those of you with teens at your house, can you encourage them to vote for their nominations for the Teen Choice Book of the Year? Voting closes Monday, so no procrastinating! Also, we're entering the final week of our Valentine’s Day promotion, so enter soon! Our Valentine’s basket is VERY PINK with 8 books that speak to love, a wonderful cushy blanket and many sweets packed in an adorable heart-decorated box. One final new addition to the site this week is our reader responses to Barbara Delinsky's NOT MY DAUGHTER. We were thrilled to work with Barbara on this topical title and got some great reader feedback, which you can read here.

My weekend is going to be about reading at least 100 pages of some books that will be talked about in San Jose since I like to have some background when I come to the table and keeping a fire roaring in the fireplace. I also have one more chocolate cake on the horizon as Greg turned 20 yesterday, and though we went out for dinner on Wednesday night, cake still has to happen for birthday closure. Candle blowing, wish making and all that. I still am grappling with the concept that he is out of his teen years. How did that happen?

Stay warm, and since it seems like there will be some wicked weather in the south and the Plains will be digging out, I suggest more of you join my plan to dig into some reading this weekend for a lovely winter escape. Read on....

Carol Fitzgerald ( Talks to Ken Wheaton, Author of THE FIRST ANNUAL GRAND PRAIRIE RABBIT FESTIVAL

In this interview with's Melanie Smith, author Ken Wheaton traces the humorous and unlikely origins of his debut novel, THE FIRST ANNUAL GRAND PRAIRIE RABBIT FESTIVAL, and examines some of the motivations that drive his characters' actions and behavior in the book. He also provides some background information on Cajun culture in Louisiana and shares story ideas for future projects.


Father Steve Sibille has come home to the bayou to take charge of St. Pete's church. Among his challenges are teenybopper altar girls, insomnia-curing confessions and alarmingly alluring congregant Vicky Carrier. Then there's Miss Rita, an irrepressible centenarian with a taste for whiskey, cracklins and sticking her nose in other people's business. When an outsider threatens to poach Father Steve’s flock, Miss Rita suggests he fight back by staging an event that will keep St. Pete’s parishioners loyal forever. Reviewed by Melanie Smith.

-Click here to read an excerpt from THE FIRST ANNUAL GRAND PRAIRIE RABBIT FESTIVAL.


Click here to read our interview with Ken Wheaton. Talks to Gregory Funaro, Author of THE SCULPTOR's Joe Hartlaub recently spoke with Gregory Funaro, whose chilling debut thriller, THE SCULPTOR, centers on a serial murderer who fashions replicas of the artist Michelangelo's most famous works out of his victims. In this interview, Funaro discusses what initially inspired this rather bizarre plot point and elaborates on what his book's antagonist represents in relation to the world and culture in which we live today. He also explains how he manages to find time to write amidst his teaching and familial responsibilities, lists several literary influences, and shares details on his current project --- a prequel to THE SCULPTOR.


THE SCULPTOR by Gregory Funaro (Thriller)
Dr. Catherine Hildebrant, professor of art history at Brown University, is trying to get her life back on track. Known in academic circles not only as one of the world’s foremost scholars on Michelangelo, she is also the author of a controversial book on his sculptures. Living alone, counting the days until her divorce is final, Cathy is awakened one morning by FBI agent Sam Markham. It seems someone has murdered missing Boston Rebels wide receiver Tommy Campbell, preserved his body, and painted and posed him in the figure of one of Michelangelo’s statues. Reviewed by Joe Harlaub.

-Click here to read a review of THE SCULPTOR.
-Click here to read an excerpt from THE SCULPTOR.


Click here to read our interview with Gregory Funaro.


New Featured One to Watch Author: Sarah Blake, Author of THE POSTMISTRESS

THE POSTMISTRESS, which releases on February 9th, is one of the most eagerly anticipated books of the new year. A sweeping historical epic spanning generations and continents, Sarah Blake's second novel could very well be the sleeper hit of 2010.

We have 20 finished copies of THE POSTMISTRESS to give away to readers who would like to read the book and comment about it. If you are interested, please fill out this form by Friday, February 5th at noon EST.

-Click here to read an excerpt from THE POSTMISTRESS.
here to read Sarah Blake's bio.
-Click here to read critical praise for THE POSTMISTRESS.
-Visit Sarah Blake's official website,

It is 1940. Iris James is the postmistress and spinster of Franklin, Massachusetts, a small town on Cape Cod. She firmly believes that her job is to deliver and keep people’s secrets, to pass along the news of love and sorrow that letters carry. Yet one day Iris does the unthinkable: she slips a letter into her pocket. And then she does something even worse --- she reads the letter, then doesn’t deliver it.

Click here to read more about Sarah Blake and THE POSTMISTRESS.

Jesse Kornbluth Talks About J.D. Salinger's FRANNY AND ZOOEY

J.D. Salinger, best known for his 1951 novel THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, died peacefully on January 27th of natural causes at his home in New Hampshire at the age of 91. founder Jesse Kornbluth pays tribute to Salinger by reflecting on his third book, FRANNY AND ZOOEY. As he sees it, it's those stories --- not CATCHER --- that are Salinger's masterpieces.

Click here to read Jesse Kornbluth's tribute to J.D. Salinger.'s Fifth Annual Valentine's Day Contest --- Enter to Win a Romantic Basket for Yourself or Your Valentine

The countdown to Valentine's Day is on! Stuck on what to buy your Valentine? Our featured titles have the bookish answer. From January 22nd through February 5th, readers will have the chance to win one of our five Valentine's Day Baskets. They are filled with one copy of each of our featured books, as well as some irresistible Valentine's Day-themed goodies --- including a plush blanket, Godiva chocolates, a cherry-flavored handmade lollipop, gourmet cookies and a mesh shower sponge, all delivered in a wooden heart-decorated basket. Whether you are looking for humorous tales, heartwarming love stories, page-turning mysteries or classic works of literature, our Valentine's Day suggestions are sure to satisfy whatever you’re craving to give on this holiday.

Our featured Valentine’s Day titles are:

BRAVA, VALENTINE by Adriana Trigiani
THE BRONTË SISTERS: Three Novels: JANE EYRE, WUTHERING HEIGHTS and AGNES GREY by Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë and Anne Brontë
THE GIRL NEXT DOOR by Elizabeth Noble
A MATTER OF CLASS by Mary Balogh
O, JULIET by Robin Maxwell
VERY VALENTINE by Adriana Trigiani
WICKED CRAVING: A Savannah Reid Mystery by G.A. McKevett


Click here to read all the contest details.


Featured One to Watch Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Author of ONE AMAZING THING

ONE AMAZING THING by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is garnering some serious pre-release buzz for its portrayal of strangers uniting in the face of tragedy by each sharing a secret they've never revealed. Shocking and emotional, ONE AMAZING THING (on sale February 2nd) will have you wondering about your own secrets.

-Click here to read a second excerpt from ONE AMAZING THING.
-Click here to read Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's bio.
-Click here to see Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's backlist.
-Click here to read critical praise for ONE AMAZING THING.
-Visit Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's official website,

Late afternoon sun sneaks through the windows of a passport and visa office in an unnamed American city. Most customers and even most office workers have come and gone, but nine people remain. When an earthquake rips through the afternoon lull, trapping them together, their focus first jolts to their collective struggle to survive. There’s little food. The office begins to flood. As the psychological and emotional stress becomes nearly too much for them to bear, one of them suggests that each tell a personal tale, “one amazing thing” from their lives, which they have never told anyone before. As their surprising stories of romance, marriage, family, political upheaval and self-discovery unfold against the urgency of their life-or-death circumstances, the novel proves the transcendent power of stories and the meaningfulness of human expression itself.


Click here to read more about Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and ONE AMAZING THING.


Featured One to Watch Author: Beth Hoffman, Author of SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT

Drawing comparisons to THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett and THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES by Sue Monk Kidd, SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT by Beth Hoffman is a thoughtful and charming debut destined to win you over with its interweaving themes.

-Click here to read a review of SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT.
-Click here to read an excerpt from SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT.
-Click here to read our interview with Beth Hoffman.
-Click here to read Beth Hoffman's bio.
-Click here to watch a book trailer for SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT.

-Click here to see our finished copy winners.

Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille --- the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town --- a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when Camille is hit by a truck and killed, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell.

In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah's perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons, to Tootie's all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

Click here to read more about Beth Hoffman and SAVING CEECEE HONEYCUTT.


Coming to Theaters February 5th: Dear John

2010 is already shaping up to be a fantastic year for literary-based blockbusters, and one such film to look forward to is Dear John, which will be in theaters on Friday, February 5th. Based on the novel by the king of tear-jerking romantic dramas, Nicholas Sparks, Dear John --- starring Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried --- chronicles the six-year romance developed through letters written between a college student and a soldier stationed in the Middle East.

-Click here/A> to read a review of DEAR JOHN.

Click here for more details about Dear John.'s New Coming Soon Feature
We are thrilled to announce that our new Coming Soon feature is now live on Here you can find books that are being published in upcoming months, which are sorted by release dates and whether they are hardcovers or paperbacks. This feature was conceived after we heard in our 2009 Reader Survey about how many of you select books well in advance instead of month-to-month. We will be adding to this page as more publishers share their information with us, so bookmark it and keep checking back.
font face="verdana,helvetica,sans-serif">Click here to see's new Coming Soon feature.

What’s New on continues to provide the newest updates on the hottest comics and manga around. The site is currently featuring in-depth interviews with Raina Telgemeier (author of one of the most talked-about graphic novels of the new year, Smile); Randy Duncan and Matthew J. Smith (who have written a definitive guide to comics in the university classroom); nationally known writer and illustrator Ted Rall; and many more. Plus, our extensive review coverage brings readers up-to-date information on all the latest releases, including The Chill, Noir, Dokebi Bride, Missile Mouse, and many more.
Click here to visit


Calling All Teens! Nominate Your Favorite Books of 2009 for the Children's Book Council's Teen Choice Book of the Year

Have a teen in your house? If so, we have something they may want to explore. In association with the Children’s Book Council (CBC), is giving teen readers a very special opportunity to share their five favorite books of 2009. The five titles that receive the most “votes” will serve as the finalists for the CBC’s 2010 Teen Choice Book of the Year. Once this first round of nominees is ready, we will have more information on where teens can vote for the winner, which will be announced in May. Voting ends on Monday, February 1st, so be sure they vote now!
Click here for all the details.

This Week's Reviews
KISSER: A Stone Barrington Novel by Stuart Woods (Mystery)
Stone Barrington is back in New York, and after a rather harrowing sojourn in Key West, he's looking to stay closer to home and work on some simple divorce and custody cases for Woodman & Weld. But when he crosses paths with a fetching Broadway actress --- and sometime lip model --- Stone gets a little more deeply involved with business than he'd expected. When his new lady love turns out to be a lady with a shady past, Stone and downtown cop Dino Bacchetti realize that her beauty may have an unusually high price. Reviewed by Judy Gigstad.

THE BURNING LAND by Bernard Cornwell (Historical Fiction)
At the end of the ninth century, King Alfred of Wessex is in ill health; his heir, an untested youth. His enemy, the Danes, having failed to conquer Wessex, now see their chance for victory. Led by the sword of savage warrior Harald Bloodhair, the Viking hordes attack. But Uhtred, Alfred's reluctant warlord, proves his worth, outwitting Harald and handing the Vikings one of their greatest defeats. For Uhtred, the sweetness of victory is soon overshadowed by tragedy. Reviewed by Curtis Edmonds.

I, SNIPER: A Bob Lee Swagger Novel by Stephen Hunter (Thriller)
Four famed '60s radicals are gunned down at long range by a sniper. Under enormous media scrutiny, the FBI quickly concludes that Marine war hero Carl Hitchcock was the shooter. But as the Bureau, led by Special Agent Nick Memphis, bears down, Hitchcock commits suicide. In closing out the investigation, Nick discovers a case made in heaven. Maybe, though, it's a little too perfect. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

GATOR A-GO-GO by Tim Dorsey (Fiction)
Serial killer Serge A. Storms and his drug-addled deputy, Coleman, are going to take a well-deserved vacation. Packing up their guns, drugs and sunscreen, they set out for their own special kind of Spring Break. But they aren’t the only crazies headed to the beach. A Miami crime gang is determined to put the hurt on a snitch’s college-age son dumb enough to go to Florida. When the gang picks up the son’s trail, Serge picks up the gang’s, and the chase is on.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

WILD CHILD: And Other Stories by T.C. Boyle (Fiction/Short Stories)
Nature and civilization collide --- often with unexpected, even violent, results --- in WILD CHILD, T.C Boyle’s latest collection of short stories, many of which showcase his common themes and inimitable style. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

SHADES OF GREY by Jasper Fforde (Fiction)
At first, Jasper Fforde’s latest book, SHADES OF GREY, is a difficult read. It is set in the distant future, in a world nearly unrecognizable technologically and culturally. But as we follow the story of young Edward Russet, poised for adulthood in a civilization that discourages his inquisitiveness and imagination, we are eased into Fforde’s strange world and captivated by it. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

FREEDOM ™ by Daniel Suarez (Thriller)
Daniel Suarez, a former systems consultant to Fortune 1000 companies, returns with this follow-up to his debut novel, DAEMON. With FREEDOM, Suarez continues to combine cutting-edge technology and a frighteningly plausible premise about a computer software system that threatens to create a new world order. Reviewed by Ray Palen.

ORDINARY THUNDERSTORMS by William Boyd (Thriller)
A chance encounter in a restaurant leaves one man dead and the other running for his life. What’s at stake becomes horrifyingly clear as ruthless businessmen put a bounty on Adam Kindred’s head. Can he figure out who the real killer is --- and, more importantly, find crucial evidence --- before his time runs out? Reviewed by Kate Ayers.

HAPPY: A Memoir by Alex Lemon (Memoir)
His freshman year of college, Alex Lemon was supposed to be the star catcher on the Macalester College baseball team. He was the boy getting every girl, the hard-partying kid who everyone called Happy, often without even knowing his real name. In the spring of 1997, he had his first stroke. Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.

CHARLES DICKENS by Michael Slater (Biography)
Just in time for the 2012 bicentennial of Charles Dickens’s birth comes this new biography of the man by perhaps the leading Dickens authority alive today. Michael Slater strikes all the familiar chords of Dickensian scholarship, but adds to them a searching examination of much of his less familiar work. Reviewed by Robert Finn.

Click here to read this week's reviews.

Poll and Question of the Week: Browsing for Books

Do you find yourself browsing for books more in stores or online these days?

I browse for books more in stores.
I browse for books more online (via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, my local bookstores, etc.)
I browse for books both in stores and online.
I do not browse for books.
I'm not sure.

-Click here to answer our poll.


What was the last book you bought as an impulse purchase while browsing in a store or online?

-Click 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 SECRETS OF EDEN by Chris Bohjalian, SHADOW TAG by Louise Erdrich and WINTER GARDEN by Kristin Hannah. Tell us what you are reading and rate the titles 1-5 by noon EST on February 5th 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 January 31, 2010 automatically are entered in our Monthly Newsletter Contest. This month, one winner will be selected to win the following five books: ALICE I HAVE BEEN by Melanie Benjamin, THE BRIGHTEST STAR IN THE SKY by Marian Keyes, IMPACT by Douglas Preston, NOAH'S COMPASS by Anne Tyler and REMARKABLE CREATURES by Tracy Chevalier. Karen from Taunton, MA was last month's newsletter winner. She won THE DISCIPLE by Stephen Coonts, LA'S ORCHESTRA SAVES THE WORLD by Alexander McCall Smith, NANNY RETURNS by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, THE PARIS VENDETTA by Steve Berry and U IS FOR UNDERTOW by Sue Grafton.

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

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