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December 2, 2011 Newsletter December 2, 2011
It's All in the Reinterpretation!

When we left off last week, I was headed off to create Thanksgiving dinner. It’s not just making dinner around here; it’s about “creating the experience.” This is different from my friends, who have dinners where the food is catered. There you are “presenting the meal.” Are you a creator or a presenter? At the last minute, I got a great idea from a publishing colleague to brine the turkey, which we did with a very simple recipe of kosher salt in water. However, after we cooked up our most moist turkey ever, I already am thumbing through cookbooks for more flavorful brining tips for next year!

On Sunday night, we went to see Paul Simon. Jimmy Cliff was a surprise guest who showed up to sing three songs. Just a killer evening where the music was excellent, but what was more special was how many of the familiar songs have been reinterpreted. The words were the same, but they were sung in new harmonies, given new riffs and staccato beats, and thus as the evening went on, I was hearing old favorites with fresh sounds. The entire evening there was wonderment of “what’s next” that had the audience full of anticipation.

Reinterpretations made me think about an eBook that Jesse Kornbluth, who founded with me, has published. Last year, he decided to read his daughter a version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. He decided that over two or three nights, she could listen to the 28,000-word Dickens holiday classic. Plan aborted. Five minutes in she said, “This is boring.”

He realized, “Books change over time, and over 170 years, A CHRISTMAS CAROL has changed more than most. The story is a slow starter. The language is clotted. There’s a lot of extraneous description.” His solution: to shorten the text and “update the archaic language, trim the dialogue, cut the extraneous characters and reduce the book to its essence, which is the story.” Wonder how it turned out? Then you can sample it and buy it here. And it’s also one of the titles that we are featuring in our What to Give, What to Get list on

On Tuesday night, Greg and I had a fun evening at a pre-publication book party for Richard Mason, whose novel HISTORY OF A PLEASURE SEEKER will be in stores on February 14th. Set in Amsterdam at the turn of the 20th century, it’s a fast-paced read that is full of great atmospheric detail. You will feel you are in one of the Belle Époque homes on the Gilded Curve with the main character Piet Barol, a cunning and scheming young man who has assessed the needs of more than just the young student who he is planning to tutor in the Vermeulen-Sickerts family. Piet intrigues and charms to get what he wants.

Reading it was a lovely pleasure --- and I found myself taking the three words that close it very much to heart. What are they? Well, you will have to wait til February to find out. And yes, it will be a Bets On selection. Oh, and for the record, Greg enjoyed it as much as I did. The last section of the book is set on an ocean liner, and Greg, a self-ascribed “ship geek,” thought those scenes captured the lush life upon the seas.

Now on to this week’s update…

We are featuring an interview with Michael Connelly, author of THE DROP. THE DROP tells the tale of an LA police officer on the verge of retirement when he is handed two cases: one with an impossible conundrum and another investigating the death of a Councilman’s son. Sounds like anything but a dull end to life on the job to me. In the interview, Connelly talks about the title's triple-meaning, the research he did for the book, and his Lincoln Lawyer series. Our reviewer Joe Hartlaub says about THE DROP that "the investigation takes several twists and turns, all of them deep, dark and fascinating, as Bosch attempts to take what little evidence there is and follow it to its sometimes illogical conclusion."

As the newest Stephanie Plum novel from Janet Evanovich, EXPLOSIVE EIGHTEEN, begins, Stephanie is returning early from a failed vacation in Hawaii. Yet, after the layover, her seatmate goes missing --- only to be found dead in a garbage can! This is certainly not one of Stephanie’s most relaxing flights, especially when the authorities --- and some more nefarious characters --- realize Stephanie is the only one who has seen an important photo the victim was carrying. Watching my back at every turn is NOT how I would want to spend my vacation. Our reviewer Roz Shea says, "Stephanie comes of age in EXPLOSIVE EIGHTEEN. Her survival skills have consistently improved since her early days as an accident-prone bounty hunter."

Literature and history buffs alike will appreciate AND SO IT GOES: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles J. Shields. This is the first biography of Vonnegut to be published; he was resistant to most biographers’ efforts. The result is a biography our reviewer Harvey Freedenberg calls "respectful and serious." I remember when Charles was first plotting this book, so it's such fun to be sharing this with you. Charles also is contributing to our Author Holiday Blog today, which you can read here.

CATHERINE THE GREAT: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie has been getting a lot of attention. Massie tells the tale of Russia’s most famous and bewitching Empress. The book details Catherine’s relatively humble upbringing and her rise to power, and explains the ideologies with which she ran her country, painting a detailed picture of Russia --- and the world --- at the time. We have a review from Shelby Wardlaw, who says of Massie, "Truly, the man could not pen a dull passage if he tried. Unlike the dry, objective tone assumed by some biographers, Massie's style tends towards the dramatic and narrative. Without sacrificing historical accuracy, he dives into the juicy details of Catherine's life, elaborating and speculating to the reader's delight." Sadly I missed getting to see Massie present at the Miami Book Fair, but he had quite a long signing line, the true testament to a great presentation.

Our contest where we are giving away 20 advance copies of Raymond Khoury’s THE DEVIL’S ELIXIR has been extended until December 8th. Knowing that many of you were caught up in the holiday last weekend, we wanted to give you an extra week to enter to win this latest Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight title. Sean Reilly and Tess Chaykin, who you may remember from Khoury’s Templar books, are back. This time, they are on the hunt for a drug kingpin who has formulated a catastrophic drug, and they are also embroiled with the DEA as they try to track it down. And along the way, Sean comes across a surprise that ups the stakes higher than he would have thought. Pre-order a copy now; it’s out December 22nd…and would make a great gift for the thriller readers on your lists.

And speaking of contests, just FYI: we now have a special "Features and Contests" section on the homepage, as well as on the "This Week..." section of our Features page, making it even easier for you to see what contests are happening on the moment you log on.

Our Author Holiday Blogs are back for a fourth season. This week, Kim Edwards, Alyson Richman, Teresa Medeiros and Keija Parssinen each shared a Holiday memory. Today’s post comes from Charles J. Shields, and this weekend you will hear from Alan Bradley and Caroline Leavitt. I have read through many of these pieces, which are being organized and posted by our two newest staffers, Katherine Tandler and Dana Wilson. Enjoy!

The Holiday Blog is only one of our holiday features to get you in the spirit of the season. This week we announced three Holiday Cheer contests for CHRISTMAS AT COLD COMFORT FARM by Stella Gibbons, OMG PANCAKES! by Jim Belosic and WHEN SHE WOKE by Hillary Jordan. Keep an eye out next week for three more contests!

The What to Give, What to Get gift guide has a number of categories. This week, we are spotlighting Great Choices for Book Lovers and Holiday Spirit. We will soon be adding an "eReaders for Book Lovers" page that features all the latest eReaders from B&N and Amazon.

Quick thing as you do your holiday shopping. We would appreciate it if you did your IndieBound, Amazon and B&N shopping via our links. They are here: Amazon, B&N, IndieBound. When you do, we see a small percentage of referral income, and it’s lovely to have that kind of support.

We also have 13 --- for us, this is a lucky number --- new reviews for you this week, including new titles from authors like N. M. Kelby, whose latest book WHITE TRUFFLES IN WINTER re-imagines the life and work of Auguste Escoffier, the chef who changed cuisine through his restaurants at the Savoy and the Ritz; Danielle Steel, whose latest book HOTEL VENDOME also tells the story of a hotel steeped in European elegance; and Spencer Quinn, who has added a new Chet and Bernie mystery to his series, THE DOG WHO KNEW TOO MUCH.

In our new Poll and Question this week, we want to know how you feel about the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books and films. Are you planning to see the upcoming movie? Why do you think these books are so popular? I still see people reading them everywhere. Please weigh in with your thoughts.

While we're on the subject of movies, I'm really looking forward to the film adaptation of Lisa Gardner's HIDE, which will air on Tuesday, December 6th at 9 pm ET/PT as part of TNT's "Mystery Movie Night". The following night will be the premiere of Silent Witness, based on Richard North Patterson's novel of the same name. If you missed last week's movies on TNT, you'll have more chances to see them this weekend: Scott Turow's Innocent will re-air tomorrow (Saturday, December 3rd) at 1 pm ET/PT. Ricochet, based on Sandra Brown's thriller, will be shown again on Sunday, December 4th at 2 pm ET/PT. For all the movies releasing in December on both the big and small screens, including DVDs, see our Books on Screen feature here.

My reading time last weekend was seriously aborted as our contractor called on Thanksgiving Day to say he was ready to install the new tile in the basement. This meant that instead of reading --- or hanging garland and mistletoe --- I was packing up the remnants of the boys’ childhood, including wood trains, blocks, Brio, Lego, Lincoln Logs, and whole lot of Thomas paraphernalia for its new home in the attic. What a trip down memory lane! We do have a wreath hanging outside, so we do not look like we are “bah humbug” kind of folks.

As I write this, I am getting ready to fly to Atlanta for the weekend. My sister lives there, and I have wanted to get down to visit her for a while. Coincidentally, one of my favorite knitting designers, Maggie Jackson, is headed there for the weekend to teach a two-day class in knitting techniques at Cast-on Cottage, a store that I visited the last time I was in Atlanta, which must be about four years ago now. I think this two-day class will be the most I have sat still in months, and I really am looking forward to it. For amusement, I made the pieces for a Cloughjordan Cape that Maggie designed last March, and even my most pattern-savvy pal Lil could NOT figure out how to put this pattern together. So, I shipped the pieces to Atlanta and will bring them to Maggie for a consultation. The way I see it, part of the reason I am flying to Atlanta is to learn how to finish this cape!

I have LITTLE GIRL GONE by Drusilla Campbell packed for plane reading. We are going to be featuring this as a book group giveaway on beginning early next week, as well as one for CARRY THE ONE by Carol Anshaw, which I wrote about recently. I love when I discover a book and FINALLY get to share it with you. In a book club? Then be sure to check out our next update.

Here’s wishing you a great week of reading. Hope you have started on your holiday shopping. My thought: books work for everyone on your list!!!

Carol Fitzgerald (

An Interview with Michael Connelly, Author of THE DROP
In Michael Connelly’s new Harry Bosch novel, THE DROP, the LAPD homicide detective simultaneously takes on two cases. Both deal with shocking deaths, and both go back years --- even decades --- into the past. In this interview, Connelly sheds light on the triple meaning of the title. He also discusses the extensive research he conducts through real crime cases, how he balances Harry Bosch with the protagonist of the Lincoln Lawyer series, Mickey Haller, and the evolution of Bosch’s character over the past 20 years.

THE DROP by Michael Connelly (Thriller)
Nearing the end of his career, Harry Bosch wants cases more than ever. In one morning, he gets two. DNA from a 1989 rape and murder matches a 29-year-old convicted rapist. Meanwhile, Councilman Irvin Irving's son jumped or was pushed from a window, and Irving, Bosch's longtime nemesis, has demanded that Bosch handle the investigation. Relentlessly pursuing both cases, Bosch makes two chilling discoveries. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

-Click here to read a review.
-Click here to read an excerpt.

Click here to read the interview.
Now in Stores: EXPLOSIVE EIGHTEEN by Janet Evanovich
EXPLOSIVE EIGHTEEN: A Stephanie Plum Novel by Janet Evanovich (Mystery)
On the way back from a trip to Hawaii, her dream vacation-turned-nightmare, Stephanie Plum is roped into a complex case when her seatmate on the flight is found dead in a garbage can after the L.A. layover. On the flight, the murdered man had shown Stephanie a photograph. Now she alone holds critical evidence --- not to mention, she could be the killer’s next target. Reviewed by Roz Shea.

Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: AND SO IT GOES by Charles J. Shields
AND SO IT GOES: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by Charles J. Shields (Biography)
Charles Shields’s thoroughly researched, comprehensive biography of Kurt Vonnegut is the second one of this fall to deal with the life and work of a major literary figure of the postwar era. It’s a worthy companion to Tracy Daugherty’s study of Joseph Heller, JUST ONE CATCH, in no small part because of the striking parallels between the lives of these two veterans of World War II who became unlikely heroes of the Baby Boom Generation. Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg.

Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: GABBY by Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly
GABBY: A Story of Courage and Hope by Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly (Memoir)
January 8, 2011 was a dark day for our country. A lone gunman critically wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, killed six people, and seriously injured 13 others, all of whom happened to be attending a “Congress on Your Corner” event hosted by the Congresswoman in Tucson, Arizona. This book is a first-person account by Gabby's husband, former space shuttle commander Mark Kelly. The story of their individual lives, their unusual long-distance marriage, and Gabby's courage, determination and tenacity to recuperate from her life-altering brain injury will most certainly leave the reader in a different place than he or she was prior to reading the book. Reviewed by Carole Turner.

Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: CATHERINE THE GREAT by Robert K. Massie
CATHERINE THE GREAT: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie (Biography)
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Robert K. Massie brings us the extraordinary story of Catherine the Great. Once an obscure young German princess, Catherine transformed herself into Empress of Russia by sheer determination. She traveled to Russia at 14 and rose to become one of the most remarkable, powerful and captivating women in history. Reviewed by Shelby Wardlaw.

Click here to read a review.
Featured Suspense/Thriller Author: Raymond Khoury, Author of THE DEVIL'S ELIXIR
Raymond Khoury's latest book, THE DEVIL'S ELIXIR, marks the return of FBI agent Sean Reilly and his girlfriend, archaeologist Tess Chaykin, as they find themselves on a quest for a drug in the depths of the Central American jungle.

We have 20 advance copies of THE DEVIL'S ELIXIR, which will be in stores December 22nd, to give away to readers who would like to preview the book and comment on it. If you are interested, please fill out this form by Thursday, December 8th at noon ET.

-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read critical praise for Raymond Khoury and his books.
-Click here to read Raymond Khoury’s bio.
-Click here to visit Raymond Khoury’s official website.

In Raymond Khoury's million-copy-selling Templar novels, FBI agent Sean Reilly and his girlfriend, archaeologist Tess Chaykin, traveled the globe to unravel ancient mysteries with present-day ramifications. In THE DEVIL'S ELIXIR, Sean and Tess find themselves in a race --- against the clock, against drug kingpins, and even against the DEA --- to merge two divergent trails, one several hundred years old, the other as current as a heartbeat, which together may lead humanity to the brink of annihilation.
Click here to read more about Raymond Khoury and THE DEVIL'S ELIXIR in our Suspense/Thriller feature.
December's Books on Screen Feature
This month, the festive season brings with it a multitude of long-awaited films based on books. Although it’s “the happiest time of the year,” the big screen is primarily featuring dark, twisted tales. But you’re guaranteed to be entertained by thrills and suspense, and there are a few heartwarming stories in the mix to carry the holiday spirit.

At long last, Stieg Larsson’s international bestseller THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO will be in US theaters on December 21st. The film tells the story of Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who retreats to a remote island in Sweden and joins forces with punk hacker Lisbeth Salandar to solve a murder case from 40 years earlier.

Other films to grace the big screen in December include We Need to Talk About Kevin, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Adventures of Tintin, War Horse and We Bought a Zoo.

On the small screen, Stephen King's Bag of Bones airs on A&E as a two-night miniseries on Sunday, December 11th and Monday, December 12th at 9 pm ET. TNT continues its "Mystery Movie Night" with Hide, Silent Witness, Good Morning, Killer and Deck the Halls, all based on acclaimed mystery novels. Meanwhile, ABC's "Castle” and TNT’s “Rizzoli & Isles” resume their respective seasons.

And if you need something to complement all the books you’re giving as gifts this year, why not throw in some movies based on them? This month, Cowboys & Aliens, The Help, Life, Above All, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Straw Dogs are all new on DVD.
Click here to see our Books on Screen feature for December.'s Author Holiday Blogs --- Authors Write About Their Bookish Holiday Memories

Throughout this holiday season, a number of authors will be sharing their favorite memories of giving or receiving a book at the holidays on our Holiday Blog.

Here are links to some recent posts from authors who already have shared their stories:

-Charles J. Shields on the Gift of Words
-Keija Parssinen on Golden Links to her Childhood
-Teresa Medeiros on the Greatest Gift
-Alyson Richman on THE SAND LADY
-Kim Edwards on Book Gifts from her Family

Keep an eye out for reader favorites like Susan Wiggs, Sarah Addison Allen, Nancy Jensen and John Connolly, who will be posting on the blog in the weeks to come!

Click here to read's Author Holiday Blogs.'s Holiday Cheer Contests and Feature
At, we kick off the holiday season in style with our Holiday Cheer Contests and Feature. As our gift to you, on certain days we will spotlight a book and give five lucky readers a chance to win it. You have to check the site each day to see the featured prize book and enter the contest. Some days may even feature special bonus prizes, including gourmet treats, holiday items, or some of Carol Fitzgerald’s Bets On picks from throughout the year. If you think you will forget to check, no worries: we also send a special newsletter to announce the day's title.

Our next prize book will be announced on Monday, December 5th at noon ET.

-Click here to sign up for our Holiday Cheer Daily Featured Book and Contest alerts.

Click here to see this year's featured Holiday Cheer titles.
What to Give, What to Get: Spotlight on "Great Choices for Book Lovers" knows that readers crave ideas for gift-giving --- and getting --- at the holidays. With this in mind, we're offering a What to Give, What to Get Guide with suggestions in multiple categories: Eat, Drink & Be Merry, Faces & Places, Great Choices for Book Lovers and Holiday Spirit. We have book ideas for everyone on your holiday list! And while you're looking for gifts for others, may we suggest you jot down notes for books YOU want?

This week we are spotlighting Great Choices for Book Lovers and Holiday Spirit. First up, Great Choices for Book Lovers.

Got some avid readers on your list? Our Great Choices for Book Lovers category has great ideas for everyone who, quite simply, loves to read.

Our featured titles in this category are:

-ALREADY HOME by Susan Mallery
-FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen
-THE HARE WITH AMBER EYES: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal
-JUST MY TYPE: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield
-REDEEMING LOVE by Francine Rivers
-THE SISTERS by Nancy Jensen
-WHEN SHE WOKE by Hillary Jordan


Click here to see our "Great Choices for Book Lovers" category.
What to Give, What to Get: Spotlight on "Holiday Spirit"

Shopping for someone who loves the holidays? Know people who really need to get more in the mood? Our Holiday Spirit category has some great choices, from historical narratives to inspiring memoirs.

Our featured titles in this category are:

-CHRISTMAS IN SUGARCREEK: A Christmas Seasons of Sugarcreek Novel by Shelley Shepard Gray
-THE CHRISTMAS SINGING: A Romance from the Heart of Amish Country by Cindy Woodsmall


Click here to see our "Holiday Spirit" category.
This Week's Reviews
HOTEL VENDOME by Danielle Steel (Fiction)
No matter what ups and downs life throws her way as she journeys from childhood to womanhood, and from America to Europe and back again, the elegant and determined Heloise Martin knows that she can count on her Swiss-born father and closest confidante, Hugues, to welcome her home again, back to the one place from where she draws her strength: New York City's magnificent Hotel Vendome. Reviewed by Amie Taylor.

A CHRISTMAS HOMECOMING by Anne Perry (Historical Mystery)
Anne Perry’s ninth foray into Christmas-themed mysteries follows the adventures of the mother of one of her regular characters: Charlotte Pitt’s mother, Caroline. Caroline and husband Joshua have traveled to the Whitby home of a rich theatrical producer to work on the adaptation of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” --- where the murders are not confined to the stage. Reviewed by Ray Palen.

IN OTHER WORLDS: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood (Literary Criticism)
Margaret Atwood is internationally celebrated for memorable novels and speculative fiction such as THE HANDMAID’S TALE, ORYX AND CRAKE, THE BLIND ASSASSIN, and her latest bestseller, THE YEAR OF THE FLOOD. Now she adds to her equally respected stature as literary critic in writing about science fiction, the genre that she elevated almost singlehandedly to high art. Reviewed by Pauline Finch.

ROME: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History by Robert Hughes (History)
Starting on a personal note, Robert Hughes takes us to the Rome he first encountered as a hungry 21-year-old fresh from Australia in 1959. He then takes us back more than 2,000 years to the city's foundation, one mired in mythologies and superstitions that would inform Rome's development for centuries. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

THE DOG WHO KNEW TOO MUCH: A Chet and Bernie Mystery by Spencer Quinn (Mystery)
Bernie is invited to give the keynote speech at the Great Western Private Eye Convention, but it’s Chet that the bigshot P.I. in charge has secret plans for. Meanwhile, Chet and Bernie are hired to find a kid who has gone missing from a wilderness camp in the high country. As if that weren’t enough, matters get complicated at home when a stray puppy that looks suspiciously like Chet shows up. Reviewed by Roz Shea.

WHITE TRUFFLES IN WINTER imagines the world of the remarkable French chef Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935), who changed how we eat through his legendary restaurants at the Savoy and the Ritz. A man of contradictions --- kind yet imperious, food-obsessed yet rarely hungry --- Escoffier was also torn between two dynamic women. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

RED FLAGS by Juris Jurjevics (Historical Thriller)
Army cop Erik Rider is enjoying his war until he’s sent to disrupt Vietcong opium fields in a remote Highland province. Rider lands in Cheo Reo, home to hard-pressed soldiers, intelligence operatives, and profiteers. The tiny U.S. contingent and their unenthusiastic Vietnamese allies are hopelessly outnumbered by enemy infantry. And they’re all surrounded by 60,000 Montagnard tribespeople who want their mountain homeland back. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

HE DIED WITH HIS EYES OPEN by Derek Raymond (Mystery)
The first book in Derek Raymond's acclaimed Factory series is an unflinching yet deeply compassionate portrait of a city plagued by poverty and perversion, and a policeman who may be the only one who cares about the "people who don't matter and who never did." Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.
This Week’s Poll and Question

Are you planning on seeing the English-language version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which will be in theaters on December 21st?

Yes, I am looking forward to it.
Yes, I saw the Swedish version and look forward to seeing the American one.
Yes, but I will wait for it to come out on DVD.
No, I already saw the Swedish version and have no desire to see the American one.
I haven’t decided yet.

-Click here to answer the poll.


Why do you think the Stieg Larsson book trilogy is so popular?

-Click here to answer the 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 December 2nd to December 16th, FIVE lucky readers each will be randomly chosen to win a copy of THE FORGOTTEN AFFAIRS OF YOUTH: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel by Alexander McCall Smith, THE LEOPARD by Jo Nesbø and MAN SEEKS GOD: My Flirtations with the Divine by Eric Weiner.

-To see reader comments from previous contest periods, click here.
Click here for more details about Word of Mouth.

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