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October 21, 2011 Newsletter October 21, 2011
A Book Celebration Brings Up Memories...
I work at home on Fridays, eschewing our lovely New York offices for the quiet of my home office, where I can write with no distracting meetings or phone calls. I have a huge window to the right of my desk where I chart the passing of the seasons by looking at the trees. There are a lot fewer leaves on them this week than there were last. And in a true way to chart the passing of the seasons, I found myself pulling on socks today when my bare feet on the hardwood floor were really cold. The pool is covered, and I am moving towards acceptance about cold weather being on the way!

There are moments that bring back lovely memories of book discoveries that make you smile. One of those came on Tuesday night as I attended a party celebrating 15 years since the publication of THE NOTEBOOK by Nicholas Sparks. These days, unlike the days of old, there are very few big parties to celebrate books and authors --- the kind where the cocktails flow, there are lovely hors d'oeuvres, and the mood is just warm and celebratory. The party for Nick was all that, but also something more. It was a time for us all to think back to the fall 15 years ago when a debut author sprung out of nowhere (he was a pharmaceutical salesman from the South with a wife and two small children) and took the country by storm with a book about the power of love and commitment as told by an elderly man talking about the love of his life --- his wife. I still remember where I sat in our family room reading the whole book in one sitting.

The evening had toasts and a lovely video, but what was shared most in that room was a moment to pause and reflect on not just a writer’s talent, but also what goes into building a writer’s career. From the iconic book jackets that showcase his work to the books that came later (all 18 of them) and the hundreds of events around the country (the first year he did 50; this year 10) and then the movies and now even a television gig that have come along the way, it’s all been a terrific team effort of taking a writer’s words and caretaking them to be sure people had the chance to view them in the best possible light. The one thing that people kept talking about was how, after all these years, Nick not only is humble, but he also shares the praise for his success. He had been nervous about this party as he knew that gathered there were a number of people who had meant something to him through the years. And in fact, he never finished his speech, overcome with the emotion of being together with those who had been with him all along the way.

One of the key players in the Nick Sparks story has been Jamie Raab, his editor throughout the years, who took a chance on an unknown writer who came to her attention after being found in the slush pile at the office of an unknown agent at the time, Theresa Park. That story alone could be a terrific book. We have a photo of the two of them above. Nick’s latest novel, THE BEST OF ME, is about two high school sweethearts who meet again in middle age, and though they each have lived very different lives, they cannot forget their original passion for one another. Their memories force them to confront their lives and the choices they have made since they last saw one another. Our reviewer, Marie Hashima Lofton, says, “It has been a few years since I have read a Nicholas Sparks novel that has touched me as much as this one has. If I can pick my favorites from him, THE BEST OF ME will rank with MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE and THE NOTEBOOK --- it was THAT good.” I have a copy here and look forward to reading it.

New York Comic Con was a blast last weekend. The show has gotten big enough that once I got there with my son Cory and his friend, Josh, we split up and I never saw them til the show closed; I also never saw John Hogan, our Editorial Director for, thus we all spent a lot of time this week talking about what we saw --- and what we loved. For the record, I still have no clue how to apply zombie makeup!

Sunday night I was a whirling DVR dervish. I had plans to watch "The Walking Dead" and DVR "The Good Wife" and "Pan Am." Then I saw a Facebook post that the UK mystery series "Case Histories" was kicking off Sunday on PBS. Thus I rushed to another DVR and recorded that. The series, based on the fabulous books by Kate Atkinson, originally aired on the BBC in six parts, but will air on PBS in three, two-hour specials. Based on three novels by Kate, the show follows inspector Jackson Brodie, played by Jason Isaacs, as he investigates mysterious crimes in Edinburgh. It will be a special treat to watch it; the debate now is whether to watch week by week or just hunker down with all six hours at once. Ah, the joy of DVR.

On Wednesday, I attended the AAP’s Tri-State Librarian Spring 2012 Preview event. As I walked in the room, they were introducing the day’s special author guest, Amor Towles, the author of RULES OF CIVILITY, a book that I am crazy about and was a Bets On pick. What a lovely surprise! He went on to give a wonderful presentation about the story behind the book, which he actually got the idea for many years ago when he scrawled a few notes on a matchbook. From those notes, he always knew this book would be written from a woman’s point of view and in her voice. He also talked about the ‘30s and what they meant in America; his entire talk referenced history and historical details, making the subject both approachable and interesting. He also shared that there is a lot of background about this book on his website, which can be found here. Definitely worth checking out.

And, as always, we have a number of reviews for you this week.

In DOUBLE DEXTER, the sixth book in Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series, serial killer/blood spatter analyst Dexter finds out that someone has been copying his methods, and he is none too pleased at his new shadow. Reviewer Joe Hartlaub says of the book: “There are twists and turns galore, not to mention buckets full of dark and grim humor.”

Philippa Gregory’s latest book, THE LADY OF THE RIVERS, is set amidst British political turmoil during the War of the Roses. Yet the story describes much more than dry historical fact. Jacquetta of Luxembourg is the Duchess of Bedford, but is also the direct descendent of river goddess Melusina, and has inherited the gift of second sight. She knows how dangerous it can be for a woman with her talents, yet her powers prove useful amid the upheaval at court. Part romance, part history and part magic, reviewer Amie Taylor says, “THE LADY OF THE RIVERS is a fascinating novel that reflects King Henry VI's reign as though author Philippa Gregory were there herself to experience it firsthand.”

Gregory has a new series in the works --- this time for Young Adults. The themes will remain historical, however, like her other books. “I am delighted to move into a new form of writing,” Gregory told Simon & Schuster, whose imprint, Simon Pulse, will be publishing the books. “I know I have many young readers already and it will be a pleasure to write a series especially for them. Bringing history alive is a great joy and to bring it to a young generation doubly so.” As one who always preferred to learn history from historical fiction rather than from textbooks, I say bravo!

The newest Agatha Raisin mystery, AS THE PIG TURNS by M.C. Beaton, proves to be yet another adventure for the “short-tempered, sharp-tongued and eccentric” crime-solving heroine Agatha Raisin. When Agatha notices that the “pig” roasting over the fire at a town gathering has a tattoo, she knows something is amiss. A local policeman has been murdered, and this is just the beginning of her new case. Our reviewer Roz Shea says that Beaton’s “characters dress for the weather, not for fashion, and her spare and witty dialogue moves the story along at a page-turning pace. … If you haven’t yet experienced the prickly and amusing Agatha Raisin, these crisp fall weekends are just the time to curl up with a cozy murder mystery with a kick.” AS THE PIG TURNS will have you turning pages like they are on a spit.

HELL TO PAY is the third in a series by Wendy Corsi Staub that tells the story of Lucy Walsh and Jeremy Cavalon, a couple who together avoided the wrath of a local serial killer when they were young. Yet Jeremy has a history of mental illness, and soon things take a turn for the worse as they find themselves facing a “shadowy predator.” Reviewer Joe Hartlaub says: “Staub can take something as ordinary as an apartment building airshaft and compel a reader to think of it in an entirely different way.”

Hillary Jordan’s WHEN SHE WOKE is my latest’s Bets On pick. Our loyal readers have seen our extensive coverage of this book already. Those who have missed it, click here to read our feature and here to see why I loved this book.

We updated our poll and question this week. No cheating. We want to know, “Do you ever skip to the end of books before finishing them, or are you strict about reading straight through?” And our question asks, "If you skip right to the end, which was the last book that you did that with?

I have an interest in the World Series and am pulling for St. Louis for the oddest of reasons. When I was there for Bouchercon back in September, I walked to a publisher party on Saturday evening and passed Busch Stadium and saw a wedding going on. The bride and groom were exchanging vows on the field with their voices echoing over the PA system as their guests sat in the stands. Outside the stadium, there was another couple waiting for their wedding. Over her gown and his tux, they wore the jersey of player Albert Pujols. I found all this uber fan craziness amusing, and thus I am tossing my usual Yankee spirit their way.

Looking forward to watching "60 Minutes" on Sunday night where Walter Issacson will be talking about his biography of Steve Jobs, which hits stores on Monday. Isaacson is a good interview subject, I think, because he is a journalist, so this should be interesting.

I am reading KILL SWITCH by Neal Baer and Jonathan Greene, who have written for "Law and Order: SVU" (which I often call "SUV") and "E.R." (I still miss "E.R.") In it, a young forensic psychiatrist gets into the mind of a criminal and takes readers on a fast-paced journey. I am loving it and look forward to sharing it with you; it’s one of those books that I keep saying…one more chapter…just one more.

Just as I was getting ready to wrap up this newsletter, I saw a link to this page where the folks at Book People in Austin, Texas (where I had the pleasure of shopping in March) hosted a party for THE NIGHT CIRCUS that looks like it was amazingly fun. For all the folks who love a great themed book party, this was a great one!

Quiet weekend planned….and I love quiet weekends. Next trip is not til mid-November and the Miami Book Fair. And if you too are going to be there, let me know!

Here’s to some great reading.

Carol Fitzgerald (

Now in Stores: THE BEST OF ME by Nicholas Sparks

THE BEST OF ME by Nicholas Sparks (Fiction)
High school students Amanda and Dawson were deeply in love. But after unforeseen events tore them apart, the two followed radically divergent paths and became estranged. Now, 25 years later, the funeral of their beloved mentor, Tuck, brings them both back to Oriental, North Carolina. Following instructions Tuck has left for them, Amanda and Dawson are finally forced to confront their painful past. Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton.


Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: DOUBLE DEXTER by Jeff Lindsay

DOUBLE DEXTER by Jeff Lindsay (Thriller)
Dexter Morgan enjoys his day job as a blood spatter analyst --- but he lives for his nighttime hobby of hunting other killers. When he discovers that someone is shadowing him, observ­ing him, and copying his methods, Dexter is not pleased. But he is not one to tolerate displeasure --- in fact, he has a knack for extricating himself from trouble in his own pleasurable way. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: THE LADY OF THE RIVERS by Philippa Gregory
THE LADY OF THE RIVERS by Philippa Gregory (Historical Fiction)
Before young Jacquetta of Luxembourg has time to explore the gift of second sight that she has inherited from her female ancestors, she is married to the Duke of Bedford and sets sail for a new life in England where she is immediately immersed in the corruption and manipulations of the court of the young King Henry VI. Reviewed by Amie Taylor. Reviewed by Amie Taylor.
Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: AS THE PIG TURNS by M.C. Beaton
AS THE PIG TURNS: An Agatha Raisin Mystery by M.C. Beaton (Mystery)
After the village of Winter Parva has a disappointing Christmas season, they hold a special festival on a foggy January evening, complete with a pig roast. But as the fog lifts, Agatha Raisin notices that the “pig” has a tattoo --- and that it’s not a pig at all, but Gary Beech, an unpopular local policeman. Mystery turns to chaos when Agatha’s detective agency is hired to investigate. Reviewed by Roz Shea.
Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: HELL TO PAY by Wendy Corsi Staub

HELL TO PAY by Wendy Corsi Staub (Thriller)
Survivors of a killer who invaded their childhood, Lucy Walsh and Jeremy Cavalon are now married and expecting a baby. For Lucy and Jeremy, the horrible death of a loved one is a tragic accident. But for a shadowy predator, it’s the first step toward completing a dark mission that was interrupted so long ago. And unbeknownst to Lucy, Jeremy is guarding a deadly secret. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

-Click here to read an excerpt.


Click here to read a review. Bets On: WHEN SHE WOKE by Hillary Jordan

WHEN SHE WOKE by Hillary Jordan (Dystopian Thriller)
Hillary Jordan’s debut novel, MUDBOUND, won a number of prizes and became a reader favorite for its honest portrayal of a family struggling to make ends meet on its Mississippi Delta farm during the 1940s. The topic of WHEN SHE WOKE couldn’t be much more of a 180, as it’s a dystopian novel set in the not-too-distant future where criminals are referred to as Chromes. The skin color of all Chromes is dyed to reflect their crime. At the start of the sentence, their jail time is continuously filmed in a reality show kind of format, and their actions are broadcast nationwide. Once released from their original sentence, they remain dyed, and their skin tones define them and keep them ostracized from the general public. It’s chilling and haunting and a brilliant social commentary.

If you read MUDBOUND, you would likely never guess that Hillary’s next book would take this kind of turn. And, by the way, I am not a fan of the futuristic or dystopian work, but this book was done so brilliantly that I was way beyond seeing its genre. I found myself thinking a lot about not just social issues of today --- and my dislike for reality television --- but also about the novel 1984 and how it painted a picture of the future. And, of course, there are parallels to THE SCARLET LETTER.

I was not the only one in our family completely caught up in this book. My husband read it on an airplane, and as he walked through the airport when he landed, a man who had been seated near him called out and asked what he was reading. He was intrigued as Tom had barely looked up the entire flight. Tom gave him a quick synopsis of WHEN SHE WOKE as his fellow traveler wrote down the title. It’s the kind of book you will pass along so you have someone to converse with about it.

-Click here to read a review.
-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Hillary Jordan’s bio.
-Click here to read our interview.


Click here to see all the books we're betting you'll love.
Now in Stores: LOST MEMORY OF SKIN by Russell Banks

LOST MEMORY OF SKIN by Russell Banks (Fiction)
The Kid is a former sex offender trying to make a new life for himself living under a Miami causeway with a group of fellow social miscreants. When a local college professor approaches the Kid and members of his shanty town, things get interesting. The Professor may not be who he claims to be, and his intentions will make the Kid question everything he ever believed in. Reviewed by Ray Palen.


Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: THE INFERNALS by John Connolly

THE INFERNALS by John Connolly (Fantasy)
Young Samuel Johnson is in trouble --- an angry demon is seeking revenge for his part in foiling the invasion of Earth by the forces of evil. It wants to get its claws on Samuel, and when Samuel and his faithful dachshund, Boswell, are pulled through a portal into the dark realm, the home of the Infernals, it may get its chance. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.


Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: ED KING by David Guterson
ED KING by David Guterson (Fiction)
In 1962, Walter Cousins, a mild-mannered actuary, makes the biggest error of his life. He sleeps with Diane Burroughs, the British au pair who’s caring for his children for the summer. Diane gets pregnant, and the baby, whom she abandons, is adopted and named Edward Aaron King. Ed grows up to become a famous billionaire Internet tycoon and unknowingly hurtles through life toward a fate he may have no power to shape. Reviewed by Eileen Zimmerman Nicol.

Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: THE MAID by Kimberly Cutter
THE MAID: A Novel of Joan of Arc by Kimberly Cutter (Historical Fiction)
THE MAID is the story of Jehanne (Saint Joan of Arc), a peasant girl who is terrified and confused after a voice calls out, “Jehanne, my virgin, Maid of France.” Later, when the voices of saints follow, Jehanne believes she has been chosen by God to defeat the English who have invaded France. Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt.

-Click here to read an excerpt.

Click here to read a review.
Miami Book Fair International: November 13-20, 2011
Miami Book Fair International
November 13-20, 2011 - Street Fair: November 18-20
Wolfson Campus, Miami Dade College

Enjoy the 28th edition of the nation’s finest and largest literary gathering presented by the Florida Center for the Literary Arts at Miami Dade College. Renowned authors such as Elizabeth Berg (ONCE UPON A TIME, THERE WAS YOU), Jeffrey Eugenides (THE MARRIAGE PLOT), Michael Moore (HERE COMES TROUBLE), Hillary Jordan (WHEN SHE WOKE), Amor Towles (RULES OF CIVILITY), and hundreds more will be attending. Plus, there will be 250 exhibitors from around the country and plenty of activities for the kids.

For more information, visit
This Week’s Reviews

THE CHRISTMAS WEDDING by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo (Fiction)
Gaby Summerhill announces to her four children that she's getting married this Christmas --- and that the groom will remain a secret until the wedding day. But the wedding isn't Gaby's only surprise. She has another gift for her children, and it could change all their lives forever. Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.

-Click here to read an excerpt.

GODDESS OF VENGEANCE by Jackie Collins (Romance)
Lucky runs a high-profile casino and hotel complex in Vegas. Her movie star husband is highly successful, while Max, her stubborn and gorgeous teenage daughter, is about to celebrate her 18th birthday, and her son, Bobby, owns a string of hot clubs. Lucky has everything. And everything is exactly what billionaire businessman Armand Jordan is determined to take from her, one way or the other. Reviewed by Hillary Wagy.

WHY READ MOBY-DICK? by Nathaniel Philbrick (Literary Criticism)
MOBY-DICK is perhaps the greatest of the Great American Novels, yet its length and subject matter create an aura of difficulty that often keeps readers at bay. In WHY READ MOBY-DICK?, Nathaniel Philbrick gives us a fresh perspective on the novel that will start conversations, inspire arguments, and, best of all, bring a new wave of readers to a classic tale waiting to be discovered anew. Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman.

DEATH IN THE CITY OF LIGHT: The Serial Killer of Nazi-Occupied Paris by David King
This is the gripping, true story of a brutal serial killer who unleashed his own reign of terror in Nazi-Occupied Paris. As decapitated heads and dismembered body parts surfaced in the Seine, Commissaire Georges-Victor Massu, head of the Brigade Criminelle, was tasked with tracking down the elusive murderer. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

THE LOST ANGEL by Javier Sierra (Thriller)
In approximately 72 hours, an elusive Middle Eastern terrorist group plans to end the world. Convinced they are the descendants of angels, they believe this act will return them to heaven. Central to their plan is the kidnapping of Martin Faber, an undercover American scientist who holds an extraordinary secret. Martin’s only hope for survival is his young wife, Julia Alvarez --- a woman born with a rare psychic gift. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT by Joseph Monninger (Fiction)
THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT goes well beyond ordinary entertainment, sparking the imagination, introducing new friends, filling the soul with passion and visions of purest beauty and love. It will make you feel new and recall your love for reading and the times you’ve felt lucky enough to discover a gifted writer. Reviewed by Melanie Smith.

ACT OF DECEIT: A Harlan Donnally Novel by Steven Gore (Thriller)
A heart-racing masterwork of mystery, thrills and suspense, ACT OF DECEIT lunges former San Francisco homicide detective Harlan Donnally into a deadly morass of murder, sex trafficking and church corruption as he seeks the dark truth about the death of his dying friend’s sister. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

This Week’s Poll and Question


Do you ever skip to the end of books before finishing them, or are you strict about reading straight through?

I never skip to the end.
I always read the last chapter first.
I always skip to the end at some point when I read a book.
I sometimes skip to the end, especially if I want to see something like if a favorite character survives.
I am not sure what I do.

-Click here to answer our poll.


If you skip right to the end, which was the last book that you did that with?

-Click here to answer our question.

Word of Mouth: Tell Us What You’re Reading --- and You Could 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 October 20th - November 4th, FIVE lucky readers each will be randomly chosen to win a copy of BLUE NIGHTS by Joan Didion, THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis, and ZERO DAY by David Baldacci.

-To view reader comments from previous contest periods, click here.

Click here for more details.

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