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August 5, 2011 Newsletter August 5, 2011
Reading in Great Spec Style

As we are in transition from the old website to our newly redesigned one that you are seeing here, this newsletter is an updated copy of the one that was mailed out to readers on Friday, August 5th. This time all the links go to content on the new site. I learned long ago not to launch a website on a Friday, and thus this transition happened on Monday, August 8th!

Even the best laid plans for anything technical bring glitches, thus we have a link for you to give us feedback on what is working --- or not --- as you click around, and we welcome feedback. MUCH more about this launch in the next newsletter! We’ve been building our content on both sites all week, and I thank our entire staff for pitching in to accomplish all that we needed to get the launch lineup done! By the way, if anything goes wrong, blame Mercury, which went retrograde last Wednesday; I must be daft doing a project like this without Mercury aligned!

Last weekend, before I started my weekend reading, I did some errands around town, including picking up new glasses. I have been postponing wearing reading glasses for years by using contacts that are just a little bit weaker than what I need. But as I do not pilot an airplane or work as a sniper shooter, I never notice the difference. Two weeks ago, Cory and I went to pick out new glasses together as I realized my current pair may be the ones I was wearing the day he was born; he’s now 16. I am wedded to contacts, but hey, this is what vision insurance is for!

I selected a snazzy pair that are dark brown with aqua touches (and I did try on every turquoise pair in the store) that I love. The glasses are the “right” prescription (in case I decide to pilot a plane), and I perch them lower on my nose when reading, eliminating the need for “readers,” which is pretty important since I already have enough of a struggle to keep track of my phone and my BlackBerry. I do not need one more item to scout around for during the day. Cory, who still is learning to drive got some practice driving us to the store. He loathes going on errands with me, but as there was something in this for him too, he jumped behind the wheel.

After we were “glassed-up,” I asked if he wanted to go to the local peach farm to pick peaches, which he thought sounded like a great idea. We got an oversized basket, followed the instructions on “where to pick” up the hill, and headed to practice what Cory alternately calls migrant worker or early Pilgrim skills. We overpicked, as always, and thus the cash register noted $21.45 for something like 15 pounds of peaches.

When we got back in the car, I suggested we then hit the garden center, to which Cory in his usual dry wit replied, “If you give a mouse a cookie,” which made me laugh. But he agreed to drive there, where I picked up annuals on sale to fill in for those that did not survive the heat. And that night he made two peach pies, one with a homemade crust. Impressive! Last week he made an amazing chocolate cake that he created the recipe for that included chocolate chip mint ice cream! If you give a boy a spatula.

Finally, I headed to my lounge chair where I continued reading WHEN SHE WOKE by Hillary Jordan (pre-order from IndieBound or Amazon), which will be in stores on October 4th and is one fabulous book. As I mentioned last week, I am not a lover of dystopian plots, but this one drew me in from the first page --- and kept my interest. In it, Hannah Payne wakes up after her trial for murder and finds her skin is red. She is now a Chrome --- a criminal whose skin color has been genetically altered to match her crime. Her victim was her unborn child. Hannah has refused to name the father, as he is a high-profile public figure, who is married.

In Hannah’s world, faith and politics are interwoven with the lines between them blurred, and thus the world as we know it does not exist. Not only does Hannah need to find her way as a Chrome, but as she makes her journey, she also will question all that she has believed to be true. It can be discussed on sooooo many different levels; there are so many comparisons, including the very obvious THE SCARLET LETTER. Hillary takes it all on with brilliant plot characterization and development. This is going to be a VERY big book this fall.

I have heard Denise Hamilton speak at many conferences, and she is so smart that each time I leave wanting to read her books. THE LAST EMBRACE (order from IndieBound or Amazon), which came out in 2008, has been sitting on my shelf for a while now begging to be read. But since I always have this feeling I should be reading ahead, not backwards, she was kind enough to send me a copy of DAMAGE CONTROL (pre-order from IndieBound or Amazon), which will be in stores on September 6th. In it, Maggie Silver works at a well-heeled PR firm where the clients are movie stars and athletes who keep these spin doctors on speed dial to clean up their latest gaffes. Maggie is called in on a case with Senator Henry Paxton, a politician who also happens to be the father of Anabelle, her best friend from high school. The Senator’s aide has been murdered, and it’s time for some high-profile damage control. Thus Maggie finds herself rewinding her life back to when she was like a daughter to this family until one night when things changed.

Denise writes about L.A. like it’s a character and captures its layered personality. She provides a good look into the inside world of spin control, which is something intriguing in our tweet and 24/7 news cycle world, and writes a story that reads like it’s real.

Our latest One to Watch Author Spotlight title is THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, which will be in stores on August 23rd. Here, a former child of the foster-care system is now out on her own and discovers she has a gift for flowers as a means of expressing emotion and mood. She begins tending a small garden when a local florist notices her talents. Soon her arrangements are helping people and making a true difference in her life, until she’s forced to confront her own troubled past and long-kept secrets. THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS has been one of the more buzzed-about books this summer. Since I read it, I have been thinking about flowers in a whole new way, though my favorites have more negative than positive emotional connotations than I would like. We have 20 copies of the book for those who would like to read and comment on it. Enter here by Friday, August 12th at noon ET. And check out to learn how your group can win a chat with the author.

Another book getting some serious buzz right now is THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER by Oliver Pötzsch, which was just named “Pennie’s Pick” at Costco. The book was a huge hit in Germany upon its release in 2008 and picked up readers all across Europe. Now it’s made its way across the Atlantic and getting the same kind of interest here. It’s a gothic story, taking place in Bavaria during the mid-1600s, about an executioner who’s charged with investigating claims of witchcraft, a very serious crime in those times. Pötzsch himself is descended from a family of hangmen, and he really nails the atmosphere, mood and historical details. It’s out in paperback now, and I’ll be eager to know what readers think!

Our Fall Preview is off to a great start, our first year of spotlighting publisher picks for fall in this way. This week we featured LITTLE BLACK DRESS by Susan McBride, EXLEY by Brock Clarke, DOMESTIC VIOLETS by Matthew Norman, and MULE by Tony D'Souza. Read below to see what titles we will be spotlighting next week, as well as all the featured titles here.

My latest Bets On pick is THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE by Helen Schulman. It’s a slim novel that tells one powerful story of a family’s unraveling. You can read more about what I loved about it later in this newsletter or by clicking here. I read it back in January when I snatched it from my overpacked bag for some plane reading when I left the American Library Association Conference in San Diego. When the publisher’s rep presented it, I knew it was a book I could get lost in reading as I flew from coast to coast.

We also have a review from Norah Piehl, who says, “Reading this book feels a bit like wandering, tipsy, into a high school party. Fast-paced, heady, even a little disorienting, THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE rockets forward at a pace some readers --- those more accustomed to the traditional problem novels of Jodi Picoult or the upper-class explorations of authors like Ayelet Waldman --- may find unsettling. But that's kind of the point, after all, as Schulman illustrates --- by bringing readers along with her --- just how rapidly and nonsensically whole lives can come tumbling down.”

You probably noticed an ad on the homepage featuring Laura Lippman that is offering a free iPad2 loaded with all of Laura’s books. This a great chance to grab not just a coveted iPad but also the entire catalog --- more than a dozen books! --- from a New York Times bestselling author. Laura’s next book, THE MOST DANGEROUS THING, will be in stores August 23rd (pre-order from IndieBound or Amazon). Can’t wait to read it!

Our reviews this week are led by COLD VENGEANCE by Douglas Preston, who I had the pleasure of having dinner with during ThrillerFest, and Lincoln Child, the latest in their hugely popular Pendergast series. Distraught over the death of his wife, Special Agent Pendergast stalks the killers all around the globe before learning some devastating secrets about his beloved. Reviewer Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum says, “COLD VENGEANCE, the middle book in a trilogy, goes a long way to tickle the reader’s imagination getting ready for the final installment. The characters are finely honed and believable, and the writing style is consistent with the authors’ large body of work. These two writers are professionals who know how to put together a thriller that is full of suspense and surprises around every twist and turn.”

ADRENALINE by Jeff Abbott has been getting lots of great attention, and we have our review by Joe Hartlaub that says, “If there was ever an entity that deserved an award for truth-in-packaging, it would be Jeff Abbott’s new novel. Adrenaline is defined as a hormone produced in high-stress situations; in this fabulous new thriller, both protagonist and reader, over the course of 400 or so pages, will manufacture buckets of it and burn it all off to boot.”

We also have a review of THE SIXES by Kate White, a suspense-filled novel where a Manhattan-based author retreats to a small university in the Pennsylvania countryside after her city life hits a rough patch. Just as she’s settling into her new teaching position, a body washes up on the banks of a local river and leaves a campus and community pointing fingers at a secret society. I loved this one, which has Kate’s brisk style that packs a punch. Kathy Weissman has our review and says, “There’s a lot of page-turning, nail-biting action. White is a skillful plotter who makes you suspect the wrong people, as any respectable whodunit writer must.” In a fun collision of my worlds, I worked with both Kate and Kathy when I was at Mademoiselle magazine, and thus I love reading Kate, as I can picture her reading her books to me in my mind, and Kathy’s reviews, which always are insightful.

I loved REVOLUTION, a young adult novel by Jennifer Donnelly and selected it as a Bets On selection. Adult fans of hers have been craving her next book in the Rose series, thus I am thrilled to share our review of THE WILD ROSE this week. Norah Piehl, who had been familiar with Donnelly’s YA work like the aforementioned REVOLUTION and the award-winning A NORTHERN LIGHT, but not this series, reviews it. She says, “Donnelly does a superb job of integrating historical details without bombarding readers with them. History and literature buffs will delight at cameos by Virginia Woolf, T.E. Lawrence and others. But whether readers are enamored of history or not, they are in for a smashing good story regardless.”

One more review to note this week is THE GENTLEMEN’S HOUR by Don Winslow. Once again, Don takes readers through the seedy underbelly of Southern California when a private detective finds himself at the center of a murder investigation involving a member of his surfing crew. THE DAWN PATROL was one of my favorite books of 2008, and I really look forward to reading this one, which follows the same character. Reviewer Joe Hartlaub says, “Winslow’s matter-of-fact but dark narration is the key to this plot-driven work about the fragility and strength of friendships and principles.” And I am happy to see Joe note that “requests for another volume in the series were being made even as THE GENTLEMEN’S HOUR was first hitting publication. While the book is complete within itself, there is certainly enough unresolved for Daniels professionally and personally to provide grist for however many more tales Winslow is ready to tell.”

This week I have been reading CLEOPATRA'S MOON (order from IndieBound or Amazon), a YA book by Vicky Alvear Shecter, which I am loving and definitely is “grownup reading” as well as a book for teens. I confess that I remember zip zero about the Greeks and the Romans from history class, but reading this book I find myself wanting to read more about this time period and can see myself picking up CLEOPATRA: A Life by Stacy Schiff.

Another quiet weekend on tap, thus my book stack can get attacked. And I can rest up as next week is going to be quite exciting as we release the new There’s so much new there --- can’t wait to share it with you. Will have more about that in the next newsletter. And it’s just the beginning of what we have planned for readers in the months to come. Have a great week of reading.

Carol Fitzgerald (


Now in Stores: COLD VENGEANCE by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

COLD VENGEANCE by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Thriller)
Devastated by the discovery that his wife, Helen, was murdered, Special Agent Pendergast must have retribution. But revenge is not simple. As he stalks his wife's betrayers, he is also forced to dig further into Helen's past. And he is stunned to learn that Helen may have been a collaborator in her own murder. Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum.


Click here to read a review of COLD VENGEANCE.

Now in Stores: THE WILD ROSE by Jennifer Donnelly

THE WILD ROSE by Jennifer Donnelly (Historical Fiction)
THE WILD ROSE concludes the sweeping, multi-generational saga that began with THE TEA ROSE and continued with THE WINTER ROSE. It is London, 1914, when World War I looms on the horizon, women are fighting to vote, and explorers are pushing the limits of endurance in the most forbidding corners of the earth. Into this volatile time, Jennifer Donnelly places her vivid and memorable characters. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.


Click here to read a review of THE WILD ROSE.

Now in Stores: THE SIXES by Kate White

THE SIXES by Kate White (Thriller)
A secret circle of really mean girls --- the dark side of female empowerment --- becomes the nemesis of a gutsy journalist heroine in this intriguing new thriller from the bestselling author of HUSH and the Bailey Weggins mystery series. Reviewed by Kathy Weissman.


Click here to read a review of THE SIXES.

Now in Stores: THE GENTLEMEN’S HOUR by Don Winslow

THE GENTLEMEN’S HOUR by Don Winslow (Thriller)
Boone Daniels, the former cop turned PI, begins each day with the Dawn Patrol, a close-knit group of surfers. It’s the life Boone loves. To him, “There’s no such thing as a bad day at the beach.” So when one of their own is murdered --- especially an icon like Kelly Kuhio, a local hero --- and another surfer, a young punk from the Rockpile Crew, stands accused, the small world of Pacific Beach is rocked to its core. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.


Click here to read a review of THE GENTLEMEN’S HOUR.

New Featured One to Watch Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Author of THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS

Vanessa Diffenbaugh's debut novel, THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS, creates a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.

We have 20 copies of THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS, which will be in stores August 23rd, 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, August 12th at noon ET.

-Click here to read an excerpt from THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS.
-Click here to see the reading group guide for THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS.
-Click here to read Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s bio.

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it's been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now 18 and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them.


Click here to see our One to Watch Author Spotlight feature for Vanessa Diffenbaugh and THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS.

New Paperback Spotlight: THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER by Oliver Potzsch

THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER by Oliver Potzsch (Historical Fiction)
Magdalena, the clever and headstrong daughter of Bavarian hangman Jakob Kuisl, lives with her father outside the village walls and is destined to be married off to another hangman's son --- except that the town physician's son is hopelessly in love with her. And her father's wisdom and empathy are as unusual as his despised profession. It is 1659, the Thirty Years' War has finally ended, and there hasn't been a witchcraft mania in decades. But now, a drowning and gruesomely injured boy, tattooed with the mark of a witch, is pulled from a river and the villagers suspect the local midwife, Martha Stechlin.

-Click here to read an excerpt from THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER.
-Click here to see the reading group guide for THE HANGMAN'S DAUGHTER.
-Click here to read Oliver Potzsch’s bio.


Click here to see our Paperback Spotlight feature for THE HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER. Bets On: THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE by Helen Schulman
THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE by Helen Schulman (Fiction)
THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE by Helen Schulman is a haunting novel about what happens to a family when a 15-year-old boy gets an inappropriate video from a young girl he knows --- and forwards it on. This seemingly small action snowballs, and suddenly two kids are fodder for the tabloids in a story that will not go away. In the world as we know it now, stories go viral, the Internet has its own fingerprints, and visual memories are a mere click away.

The Bergamots live in Manhattan enjoying a family life they’ve created and filled with all the trappings of success --- a corporate job for dad, a lovely apartment, a Riverdale private school. The perfect life. A beautiful life. Until a single action unravels their world and puts it all at risk. Suddenly dad is asked to take a leave from his new job at a prestigious university, Jake ends up expelled from school, adopted daughter Coco wonders what’s going on, and Liz struggles to hold her fractured family together. And we see this family for what they really are --- folks trying very hard to make and keep a beautiful life that’s fracturing pretty quickly.

Schulman’s writing is so real and her prose is so tight that this is both a quick read and a lasting one. When I finished, I felt like I knew Liz, maybe because we all know women like her who are working hard each day to make a beautiful life. By the way, be sure to read to the end as the wrap in the epilogue alone is worth a discussion.

-Click here to read a review of THIS BEAUTIFUL LIFE.


Click here to see all the books we’re betting you’ll love.’s Fall Preview Contests and Feature

Fall is almost upon us, which is known as the biggest season of the year for books! The titles that come out in fall often become holiday gifts, and many are blockbusters. Here are some publisher picks that we know people will be talking about. Each day we will spotlight a different title and offer a contest to win one of three copies of the book. Check the site each day to see the featured book and enter to win. We also will be sending a special daily newsletter to announce each day's title, which you can sign up for here.

Our next prize book will be announced on Monday, August 8th at noon ET.

-Click here to see this year's featured titles.
-Click here to receive our special newsletter announcing each day’s prize book.


Click here to read all the details of's Fall Preview Contests and Feature.

Featured One to Watch Author: Patti Callahan Henry, Author of COMING UP FOR AIR

With her marriage falling apart, Ellie Calvin returns to her coastal Alabama town for her mother's funeral, only to have a decades-old romance rekindled in Patti Callahan Henry's COMING UP FOR AIR.

-Click here to read a second excerpt from COMING UP FOR AIR.
-Click here to read Patti Callahan Henry’s bio.
-Visit Patti Callahan Henry’s official website,

Ellie Calvin is caught in a dying marriage, and she knows this. With her beloved daughter away at college and a growing gap between her and her husband --- between her reality and the woman she wants to be --- she doesn’t quite seem to fit into her own life. But everything changes after her controlling mother, Lillian, passes away. Ellie’s world turns upside down when she sees her ex-boyfriend, Hutch, at her mother’s funeral and learns that he is in charge of a documentary that involved Lillian before her death. He wants answers to questions that Ellie is not sure she can face, until, in the painful midst of going through her mother’s things, she discovers a hidden diary --- and a window onto stories buried long ago.


Click here to see our One to Watch Author Spotlight feature for Patti Callahan Henry and COMING UP FOR AIR.

Paperback Spotlight: LEFT NEGLECTED by Lisa Genova

LEFT NEGLECTED by Lisa Genova (Fiction)
Sarah Nickerson, like any other working mom, is busy trying to have it all. One morning while racing to work and distracted by her cell phone, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In that blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her over-scheduled life come to a screeching halt. After a brain injury steals her awareness of everything on her left side, Sarah must retrain her mind to perceive the world as a whole. In so doing, she also learns how to pay attention to the people and parts of her life that matter most.

-Click here to read a review of LEFT NEGLECTED.
-Click here to read an excerpt from LEFT NEGLECTED.
-Click here to read critical praise for LEFT NEGLECTED.
-Click here to read more about LEFT NEGLECTED in our Bets On feature.
-Click here to read Lisa Genova’s bio.

Click here to see our Paperback Spotlight feature for LEFT NEGLECTED.'s Summer Reading Feature

Thanks to everyone who participated in our daily Summer Reading contests, and congratulations to all the readers who won! These giveaways were a huge success, and we look forward to doing it all over again next year. Even if you weren’t a winner this time, we encourage you to take a look at our 34 featured titles. Reading any of these wonderful books is a great way to pass the time during these dog days of summer.

-Click here to see this year's featured titles.


Click here to see our Summer Reading feature.

This Week’s Reviews
ADRENALINE by Jeff Abbott (Thriller)
Sam Capra ---- brilliant CIA agent, loving husband, expectant father --- loses everything that matters to him in a horrifying moment in London. An unknown enemy has set him up as a traitor. But that enemy has targeted the wrong man. Escaping from the CIA, Sam goes on a desperate hunt for the killer who stole his family, and must save his kidnapped wife and child. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

A GOOD HARD LOOK by Ann Napolitano (Fiction)
In the Milledgeville, Georgia of the early 1960s, ailing writer Flannery O’Connor and three other townspeople enter into relationships with disastrous consequences --- for them and the rest of their small town. Reviewed by Bronwyn Miller.

REIGN OF MADNESS by Lynn Cullen (Historical Fiction)
Princess Juana of Castile knows she may never inherit the Spanish crown, but she also is aware of her royal duty --- to marry and produce heirs. She begins her arranged marriage not knowing what to expect. But when circumstances change dramatically, Juana finds herself queen, and rumors of madness begin to circulate. Who is to be believed --- a young, love-infatuated queen or her well-liked husband? Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski.

ALICE BLISS by Laura Harrington (Fiction)
When Alice Bliss learns that her father is being deployed to Iraq, she's heartbroken. Alice idolizes her father, and he will miss seeing his daughter blossom from a tomboy into a full-blown teenager. At once universal and very personal, this is a transforming story about those who are left at home during wartime, and a teenage girl bravely facing the future. Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.

WILLIAM & CATHERINE: Their Story by Andrew Morton (Current Events)
For all who were fascinated by the pageantry and majesty of England’s royal wedding of the year, or who are simply enthralled by the royal family, WILLIAM & CATHERINE is the true tale of Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s fairy-tale romance and marriage in a hardcover edition that’s full of glossy photos and insider stories. Reviewed by Amie Taylor.

JUST ONE CATCH: A Biography of Joseph Heller by Tracy Daugherty (Biography)
Joseph’s Heller’s CATCH-22 was one of the most influential novels of the second half of the 20th century. In this first full-length biography, Tracy Daugherty demonstrates equal skill at exploring Heller’s work and his colorful life. Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg.

THE PARADISE PROPHECY by Robert Browne (Thriller)
An ancient mystery linked to religious dogma, coded messages and fallen angels who wander the earth are the crux of THE PARADISE PROPHECY. Government agent Bernadette Callahan and religious historian Sebastian “Batty” LaLaurie race against time to decode an archaic text and try to defeat diabolical forces bent on destroying mankind. Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt.

THE PACK by Jason Starr (Thriller)
When Simon Burns is fired from his job, he takes on the role of stay-at-home dad for his three-year-old son. He meets a tight-knit trio of dads at the playground, and soon realizes they are different from other men he has met --- stronger and more confident, more at ease with the darker side of life. Simon is lured into their mix. As he experiences disturbing changes in his body, he suspects that when the guys welcomed him to their "pack," they were talking about much more than male bonding. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

PACIFIC HEIGHTS by Paul Harper (Thriller)
A man plays dangerous mind games with his lovers when he unearths some innermost secrets from their analyst’s files. When the doctor discovers what’s happening, she hires ex-cop Marten Fane, who employs some rather unorthodox methods, to clean up his client’s problems. Reviewed by Kate Ayers.

Poll and Question of the Week: eReaders


Do you own an eReader? If so, which do you own? Please check as many as apply.

Sony Reader
Samsung Reader
I read on my iPod.
I read on my iPhone.
I read on my BlackBerry.
I read on my Droid.
I have another device.
No, but I plan to buy one.
No, but I borrow one from my library.
I do not plan to buy one at this time, but I am interested in them.
I have no interest in buying one.

-Click here to answer our poll.


What is the ONE thing you like about having an eReader?

-Click here to answer our question.


Word of Mouth: Tell Us What You're Reading --- and You Can Win THREE Books!

Tell us your current reading recommendations with your comments and a rating of 1 to 5 stars. During the contest period from August 8th-26th, FIVE lucky readers each will be randomly chosen to win a copy of THE ACCIDENT by Linwood Barclay, THE KEEPER OF LOST CAUSES by Jussi Adler-Olsen and THE MOST DANGEROUS THING by Laura Lippman.

Click here for more details about Word of Mouth.


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