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January 16, 2015 Newsletter January 16, 2015
So About That Mug...

In last Friday’s newsletter, there was a picture of a pretty turquoise coffee mug (which I actually use for tea). In a race to catch you up on the two weeks when we had been on hiatus, I failed to tell you what that was. You clearly are “close readers” (remember that term from school that referenced reading comprehension?), as I got lots of notes asking me about it --- and where you could buy it. It was in the house that we rented on the Outer Banks. In fact, all the dishes in that house were in a blue color scheme, and there was an entire cabinet of turquoise bowls and vases; it’s like they knew I was coming. For those who wanted to know where they can buy the mug, I have no answers, but if you see it somewhere, let me know.

This week, the artwork above features covers of some of the books that we are featuring discussion guides for this month on If you are in a book group, these titles are worth perusing! And if you are not in a book group, consider looking at discussion questions for books that you have read. Many times, doing this enhances the experience for me.

Last week, we posted a poll question that I would love you to take a moment to answer if you have not done so already. “How did you discover” Was it through a search engine, family or friends, another website, social media, or perhaps a bookseller or librarian? Click here to let us know.

Back in October, I told you about a debut psychological thriller, THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins, noting that I was selecting it as a future Bets On pick and sharing that I thought it was destined to be HUGE. It came out this week, and readers have been racing to read it. Here’s how I have been pitching it: Rachel takes the train to London each day, and it often stops on the tracks at the same location to wait for train traffic ahead to clear. From there, she watches a group of houses and the action happening in them. She particularly is intrigued by a young couple in one of the houses who she calls “Jess” and “Jason.” One day, she learns that "Jess" has gone missing and immediately gets caught up in what happened to this woman, who she finds out is actually named Megan. But is she a reliable narrator of this story? You must read to decide. I raced through it thinking Hitchcock would have loved this. I handed it to my husband, and when he looked up, he was on page 175! It was a "no sleep tonight" kind of book.

Our ace mystery/thriller reviewer, Joe Hartlaub, clearly agrees with me about it and has written a rave review of it (note that it is being compared favorably to GONE GIRL) and offers some advice to readers: “You might want to set aside enough time to read THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN twice --- once to enjoy, and another to appreciate how well Hawkins has crafted the twists, turns and sleights of hand that make this Hitchcockian thriller such a pleasure to read and wonder at.” I will be sharing my Bets On commentary in next week’s newsletter.

The publication of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN has inspired our latest bookshelf, “Reliable Reads from Unreliable Narrators,” where we look at 20 books featuring unreliable narrators. These individuals have a knack for reeling us in and wrapping our minds around their stories, which often sound so authentic. The fun of these novels is peeling away the layers to get to the truth. Click here to peruse our latest bookshelf!

On Monday, one of our staffers, John Maher, interviewed Congressman John Lewis, the author of the graphic memoir MARCH: Book Two, the second in a series about his experiences during the American Civil Rights Movement, which will be in stores on Tuesday. Lewis is the only living member of the "Big Six," and one of 10 activists to speak to the more than 250,000 Americans gathered at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington in 1963. Since 1987, he has served as the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th Congressional District. Click here to read the interview and get a sneak peek at a few of the book’s illustrations. We will have our review next week. MARCH: Book One was brilliantly done and well received by critics and readers. As we recognize the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, stories like this are certainly worth reading.

Our first One to Watch Author Spotlight of the new year features Greer Macallister, whose novel THE MAGICIAN'S LIE --- which we previously featured as a Sneak Peek --- is now available. The Amazing Arden is renowned for her illusionist act of sawing a man in half. One fateful night, however, she swaps her saw for a fire ax, blurring the line between trick and murder. When policeman Virgil Holt interrogates Arden, he finds that there is much more hiding behind her powers of illusion.

Kate Ayers has our review and says, “[B]esides the irresistible lure of the mystery surrounding the murder, there are the fascinating inner workings of a magic revue to keep you turning pages…. Whatever you believe at the end, the journey will have been well worth it, for THE MAGICIAN’S LIE is high entertainment.“ And if you are wondering what your fellow readers think about THE MAGICIAN’S LIE, click here to see their praise.

Our latest Women's Fiction Author Spotlight feature focuses on Kristin Hannah, whose latest novel, THE NIGHTINGALE, releases on February 3rd. I LOVE this book! Kristin has pushed her writing to a whole new level with THE NIGHTINGALE and has written an impressive work of historical fiction. Those I know who read early galleys have been calling and writing me to talk about it. They share my enthusiasm, and all are asking how she researched it. This is a story that will stay with you. It’s been selected as a #1 Indie Next Pick for February by Indie booksellers, and it will be a Bets On selection.

Set in 1939 France, the book follows two sisters struggling to survive Nazi-invaded France. Even after saying goodbye to her soldier husband, Vianne does not truly believe the Nazis will invade. But when they do, her house is commandeered by a German captain, and she must learn to live with her enemy or lose everything. Meanwhile, her 18-year-old sister, Isabelle, falls in love and joins the Resistance, risking her life for others. Here’s a quote about the book to ponder: “In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.” In anticipation of its upcoming publication, we're giving away 25 copies to readers who would like to preview the book and share their comments on it. To enter, please fill out this form by Thursday, January 29th at noon ET. You can read more “behind the book” about THE NIGHTINGALE and see where Kristin will be on tour on her website.

Still Alice, based on the book by Lisa Genova, is in theaters this weekend. This week, we are happy to share that in celebration of the April 7th release of Genova's INSIDE THE O'BRIENS, we're featuring a special contest offering 25 readers the chance to win an advance copy and share their comments on it. Devoted husband and father Joe O'Brien is a respected police officer in Charlestown, Massachusetts, when he begins suffering from memory and attitude changes. When his symptoms worsen, he visits a doctor and is diagnosed with Huntington's Disease, a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. As he struggles to maintain his composure, his four children --- each with a 50 percent chance of sharing his fate --- must decide whether or not to be tested. I read this months ago and felt the same way then that I did when I read STILL ALICE. I felt like these characters were real, and I gave much thought to what I had learned about Huntington’s and its impact on the lives of families. To enter, please fill out this form by Friday, January 30th at noon ET.

We’re also holding a special contest this week to give you a chance to read Susan Mallery's THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF, which releases on February 24th. In this opening installment of her new series, three best friends lean on one another as they face heartbreak and sorrow. Nicole Lord has always prided herself on being a good wife, but lately she feels used by her husband, who has quit his job to write a screenplay. Shannon Rigg has been in a serious relationship with her career for years, but a new chance at love has her questioning her choices. Meanwhile, Pam Eiland tries to bring the heat back to her marriage, until an unexpected change forces her to redefine herself. We're offering 25 readers the chance to win a copy of this delightful tale of friendship and share their comments on it. To enter, please fill out this form by Thursday, January 29th at noon ET.

The wait is over! After a few weeks of our version of tantalizing hype, our first-ever Winter Reading feature is now live and the titles for our dedicated newsletters are lined up. We have a great list to share with you. On select days through mid-February, we’ll be hosting a series of 24-hour contests spotlighting a book releasing this winter and giving five lucky readers a chance to win it. We also will be sending a special newsletter to announce the day's title, which you can sign up for here. Our first contest will launch on Tuesday, January 20th at noon ET. The week kicks off with the New York Times bestseller ALL JOY AND NO FUN: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior (which will be available in paperback on Tuesday), BROKEN BONDS: A Cold Creek Novel by Karen Harper, and the aforementioned THE MAGICIAN'S LIE. A special preview newsletter will go out on Monday, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.

Our Historical Fiction Author Spotlight featuring Priya Parmar and her novel, VANESSA AND HER SISTER, continues. Here, Parmar imagines life in the legendary Bloomsbury Group with sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. As Vanessa begins to grow and find love, Virginia fights for her sister's attention, forcing her to make a difficult decision. There is still time to enter to win one of 25 copies of the book in our contest and share your comments on it. All you have to do is fill out this form by Thursday, January 22nd at noon ET.

Our Women's Fiction Author Spotlight also continues, featuring Amanda Eyre Ward, whose novel, THE SAME SKY, releases on January 20th. In this timely and controversial work of fiction, readers will watch as the lives of two women on opposite sides of the American border intersect. One, a happily married woman, longs for something more. The other, a young woman forced to raise her younger brother, dreams of a life of opportunities and chances --- despite the dangerous journey. If you'd like to enter to win one of 25 copies and share your comments on it, click here.

In addition to THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN and THE MAGICIAN’S LIE, we have 17 reviews to share with you. They include SAINT ODD, the final installment in Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series (click here to watch Koontz being interviewed on “CBS This Morning” --- all I want to know is how he has kept that two-decades-old computer running); AS CHIMNEY SWEEPERS COME TO DUST, the latest Flavia de Luce mystery by Alan Bradley; and THE FIRST BAD MAN, the first full-length novel from Miranda July, bestselling author of the short story collection NO ONE BELONGS HERE MORE THAN YOU (be sure to listen to an excerpt from the audiobook here and read an interview with the author here).

After a brief hiatus for the holidays, our “Sounding Off on Audio” feature is back! We kick off the new year with interviews featuring Susie Stangland, a social media consultant for authors and journalists, and Julie Mackey, a mental health therapist. This week, I contacted everyone who expressed interest in being interviewed. If I missed you, or if you are interested in being interviewed but haven’t yet gotten in touch, then please drop me a note at with the subject line "Audiobook Lover."

In our Word of Mouth contest, we’re continuing to give away the aforementioned THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN and SAINT ODD, along with FEAR THE DARKNESS by Becky Masterman (which we’ll be reviewing next week). Let us know by Friday, January 23rd at noon ET what books you’ve read for your chance to win all three novels.

Here are a few pop culture items to share:

Recommended in Theaters This Weekend: Still Alice, based on the book by Lisa Genova; Julianne Moore deserves all the praise that she is getting.

Also Saw and Recommend: American Sniper (very intense; Bradley Cooper is excellent, and I dare you to have a dry eye at the end), based on the memoir by Chris Kyle, and Wild (watching with my husband who is an experienced hiker was amusing as he was rolling his eyes at the naïveté of the protagonist), based on the book by Cheryl Strayed.

Want to See: Selma

Watched: The Golden Globes. Liked how one show or movie did not win everything. Was glad I had watched “Transparent” and "The Affair," among others. George Clooney’s acceptance speech was memorable; Tina and Amy were terrific hosts, made all the more amusing as I had listened to them each narrate their books on audio.

Golden Globes Moment You May Have Missed: Stanley Kubrick’s wife thanks Kevin Spacey.

Something I Do Not Understand: The plot of Taken 3, the latest movie in the Liam Neeson franchise. So your daughter is kidnapped in the first and then your wife is kidnapped in the second. And you leave the house again? Last weekend, it took in $39.2M at the box office.

The Oscars: Can you say indie film? Yesterday morning, when the nominees were announced, only ONE of the Best Picture nominees had done $54M at the box office.

Viral Video Worth Watching and Her Story Should Be a Book (let's see which editor jumps on this): This video was in my Facebook newsfeed for weeks, and I finally gave it a watch this week. Worth viewing as it is inspiring to see how someone saw a problem that homeless folks had, thought she had a solution, was told she did not and worked to fix it. I am serious...her story would make a great book!

What’s New on Netflix This Month: Vulture's roundup of what's streaming on Netflix in January

"House of Cards" Trailer: See the trailer here. Season 3 will be available on February 27th.

Preview "Bosch" on Amazon Instant: Based on the series by Michael Connelly, 10 episodes of “Bosch” will be available on February 13th. The first episode is available now for those of you who want a sneak preview.

Read This Week: Ray Bradbury’s L.A. home was sold for $1.7 million and was demolished in a teardown, which is typical these days. Reminded me that years ago these videos were shot with him at his home. Preserve the memories.

Something to Note: Mercury will be retrograde January 21st - February 11th. Unlucky for me, who seems to be ahead of the curve, it’s already started.

Book News That Excites Me: Paula McLain’s next book (you remember her bestseller, THE PARIS WIFE) will be called CIRCLING THE SUN and will feature aviator Beryl Markham; it will be in stores July 7th.

Quiet loooong weekend on tap. Cory is getting set to go back to school, Greg is off lighthousing with the New England Lighthouse Lovers in Maine, and Tom and I plan to enjoy a quiet weekend of reading, movies, knitting and football --- and making great dinners.

Read on, and here’s to a great week ahead.

Carol Fitzgerald (

P.S. For those of you who shop online, if you use the store links below, gets a small affiliate fee on your purchases. We would appreciate your considering this!

Now in Stores: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins (Psychological Thriller)
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Their life --- as she sees it --- is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything has changed. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read an excerpt.
Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: THE MAGICIAN’S LIE by Greer Macallister --- Our Latest One to Watch Author Spotlight Title
THE MAGICIAN’S LIE by Greer Macallister (Historical Mystery)
The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden's husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear, and she has only one night to convince a small-town policeman of her innocence. Reviewed by Kate Ayers.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here for the reading group guide.
-Click here to see advance readers’ comments.
-Click here to read Greer Macallister’s bio.
-Click here to visit Greer Macallister’s official website.
-Connect with Greer Macallister on Facebook and Twitter.
-Click here to read more in our One to Watch Author Spotlight.
Click here to read a review. Talks to Representative John Lewis, Author of the Graphic Memoir Series, March
Recently, John Maher of The Book Report Network interviewed Representative John Lewis, the author of the graphic memoir MARCH: Book Two, the second in a series about his experiences during the American Civil Rights Movement. The former chairman of the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee, Lewis was one of the leading voices for nonviolent protest and civil disobedience in the 1960s. He is the only living member of the "Big Six," and one of 10 activists to speak to the more than 250,000 Americans gathered at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington in 1963. Lewis has served as the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th Congressional District since 1987, and is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

MARCH: Book Two written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell (Graphic Memoir)
Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, continues his award-winning graphic novel trilogy with co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell. After the success of the Nashville sit-in campaign, Lewis is more committed than ever to changing the world through nonviolence --- but as he and his fellow Freedom Riders board a bus into the vicious heart of the deep south, they will be tested like never before.

-Click here to read more about the book.
Click here to read our interview.
New Women's Fiction Author Spotlight & Contest: THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah
We have 25 copies of THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah to give away to readers who would like to read the book, which releases on February 3rd, and share their comments on it. To enter, please fill out this form by Thursday, January 29th at noon ET.

THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin Hannah (Historical Fiction)
In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious 18-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Kristin Hannah’s bio.
-Click here to visit Kristin Hannah’s official website.
-Click here to connect with Kristin Hannah on Facebook.
Click here to read more in our Women’s Fiction Author Spotlight and enter the contest.
New Special Contest: Win a Copy of INSIDE THE O’BRIENS by Lisa Genova
We are celebrating the April 7th release of INSIDE THE O'BRIENS by Lisa Genova with a special contest that will give 25 readers the opportunity to win an advance copy of the book and submit their comments on it. To enter, please fill out this form by Friday, January 30th at noon ET.

INSIDE THE O’BRIENS by Lisa Genova (Fiction)
Joe O’Brien is a 44-year-old police officer from the Irish Catholic neighborhood of Charlestown, Massachusetts. A devoted husband, proud father of four children in their 20s, and respected officer, Joe begins experiencing bouts of disorganized thinking, uncharacteristic temper outbursts, and strange, involuntary movements. He initially attributes these episodes to the stress of his job, but as these symptoms worsen, he agrees to see a neurologist and is handed a diagnosis that will change his and his family’s lives forever: Huntington’s Disease.

Huntington’s is a lethal neurodegenerative disease with no treatment and no cure. Each of Joe’s four children has a 50 percent chance of inheriting their father’s disease, and a simple blood test can reveal their genetic fate. While watching her potential future in her father’s escalating symptoms, 21-year-old daughter Katie struggles with the questions this test imposes on her young adult life. Does she want to know? What if she’s gene positive? Can she live with the constant anxiety of not knowing?

As his symptoms worsen and he’s eventually stripped of his badge and more, Joe struggles to maintain hope and a sense of purpose, while Katie and her siblings must find the courage to either live a life “at risk” or learn their fate.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Lisa Genova’s bio.
-Click here to visit Lisa Genova’s official website.
-Connect with Lisa Genova on Facebook and Twitter.
Click here to enter the contest.
New Special Contest: Win a Copy of THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY by Susan Mallery
We are celebrating the February 24th release of THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY by Susan Mallery with a special contest that will give 25 readers the opportunity to win an advance copy of the book and submit their comments on it. To enter, please fill out this form by Thursday, January 29th at noon ET.

THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY by Susan Mallery (Fiction)
Nicole Lord wants to be a good wife, but there's a difference between being supportive and supporting her husband, who quit his job to write a screenplay she's never seen. He won't even help take care of their son, leaving Nicole to run the house and work full-time.

Sacrificing a personal life for her career is how Shannon Rigg became VP at her firm, but she wonders now whether she made the right choice. An exciting new relationship with a great guy convinces her that it might not be too late --- until he drops a bombshell that has her questioning whether she really can have it all.

Although Pam Eiland adores her husband, she feels restless now that the kids are grown. Finding sexy new ways to surprise him brings the heat and humor back to their marriage, but when unexpected change turns her life upside down, she'll have to redefine herself. Again.

Through romance and heartbreak, laughter and tears, the girls of Mischief Bay will discover that life is richer with friends at your side.

-Click here to read Susan Mallery’s bio.
-Click here to visit Susan Mallery’s official website.
-Connect with Susan Mallery on Facebook and Twitter.
Click here to enter the contest.
Historical Fiction Author Spotlight & Contest: VANESSA AND HER SISTER by Priya Parmar
We have 25 copies of VANESSA AND HER SISTER by Priya Parmar, which is now in stores, to give away to readers who would like to read the book and comment on it. To enter, please fill out this form by Thursday, January 22nd at noon ET.

VANESSA AND HER SISTER by Priya Parmar (Historical Fiction)
London, 1905: The city is alight with change, and the Stephen siblings are at the forefront. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby and Adrian are leaving behind their childhood home and taking a house in the leafy heart of avant-garde Bloomsbury. There they bring together a glittering circle of bright, outrageous artistic friends who will grow into legend and come to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. And at the center of this charmed circle are the devoted, gifted sisters: Vanessa, the painter, and Virginia, the writer.

Each member of the group will go on to earn fame and success, but so far Vanessa Bell has never sold a painting. Virginia Woolf’s book review has just been turned down by The Times. Lytton Strachey has not published anything. E. M. Forster has finished his first novel but does not like the title. Leonard Woolf is still a civil servant in Ceylon and John Maynard Keynes is looking for a job. Together, this sparkling coterie of artists and intellectuals throw away convention and embrace the wild freedom of being young, single bohemians in London.

But the landscape shifts when Vanessa unexpectedly falls in love and her sister feels dangerously abandoned.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read a review.
-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here for the reading group guide.
-Click here for Carol’s “ Bets On” commentary.
-Click here to read Priya Parmar’s bio.
-Click here to visit Priya Parmar’s official website.
-Click here to connect with Priya Parmar on Facebook.
Click here to read more in our Historical Fiction Author Spotlight and enter the contest.
Women’s Fiction Author Spotlight & Contest: THE SAME SKY by Amanda Eyre Ward
We have 25 copies of THE SAME SKY by Amanda Eyre Ward to give away to readers who would like to read the book, which releases on January 20th, and share their comments on it. To enter, please fill out this form by Thursday, January 22nd at noon ET.

THE SAME SKY by Amanda Eyre Ward (Fiction)
Alice and her husband, Jake, own a barbecue restaurant in Austin, Texas. Hardworking and popular in their community, they have a loving marriage and thriving business, but Alice still feels that something is missing, lying just beyond reach.

Carla is a strong-willed young girl who’s had to grow up fast, acting as caretaker to her six-year-old brother Junior. Years ago, her mother left the family behind in Honduras to make the arduous, illegal journey to Texas. But when Carla’s grandmother dies and violence in the city escalates, Carla takes fate into her own hands --- and with Junior, she joins the thousands of children making their way across Mexico to America, risking great peril for the chance at a better life.

In this elegant novel, the lives of Alice and Carla will intersect in a profound and surprising way. Poignant and arresting, THE SAME SKY is about finding courage through struggle, hope amid heartache, and summoning the strength --- no matter what dangers await --- to find the place where you belong.

-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Amanda Eyre Ward’s bio.
-Click here to visit Amanda Eyre Ward’s official website.
-Connect with Amanda Eyre Ward on Facebook and Twitter.
Click here to read more in our Women’s Fiction Author Spotlight and enter the contest.
Announcing’s First Annual Winter Reading Contests and Feature
At, we are kicking off 2015 with our first-ever Winter Reading Contests and Feature. On select days between now and mid-February, we will be hosting a series of 24-hour contests spotlighting a book releasing this winter and giving five lucky readers a chance to win it. We also will be sending a special newsletter to announce the day's title, which you can sign up for here.

We encourage you to take a look at this year's featured titles, as these are the books you will want to read during the winter months --- and into the warmer ones!

Our first prize book will be announced on Tuesday, January 20th at noon ET.

This year's featured titles include:

Click here to read all the contest details and see our featured titles.’s Latest Bookshelf: Reliable Reads from Unreliable Narrators
Oh, how we love unreliable narrators! They reel us in and wrap our minds around their stories, which often sound so authentic. The fun of these books is peeling away the layers to get to the truth. Many times, when we've turned the last page, we want to go back and look at how the story was crafted. What made us believe? We’ve compiled 20 titles that do just that. Among them are THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins, GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn, ROOM by Emma Donoghue, LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel and THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger.
Click here to see our “Reliable Reads from Unreliable Narrators” bookshelf.
January’s Books on Screen Feature
Warm winter greetings, Books on Screen lovers! And while warm might be looking like a frozen pipe dream as we gear up for the chillier winter months, at the very least we can distract ourselves with the season’s various awards shows --- broadcast from the only warm physical place on the planet right now: Hollywood!

Many of our favorite books on screen from 2014 are already getting awards show attention, including Gone Girl (now available on DVD), Foxcatcher and Wild. Julianne Moore took home a Best Actress Golden Globe for her performance in this month’s Still Alice, an adaptation of Lisa Genova’s bestselling novel of the same name about a brilliant 50-year-old woman’s sudden and heartbreaking descent into early onset Alzheimer’s. For kids, the beloved bear Paddington has gotten a CGI update in a movie that also boasts an impressive A-list roster (making it more bearable for parents, if you know what I mean).

Our favorite books on the small screen are returning this month: “Arrow” and “The Flash” will keep comic book fans inside for a change, and “The Vampire Diaries” is still going strong in season six, proving that vampire trends are immortal, too. “Backstrom,” based on the Swedish book series by Leif G. W. Persson, premieres January 22nd on FOX and stars Rainn Wilson (who played Dwight on “The Office”) as the misanthropic detective. And don’t forget about NBC’s “About a Boy,” a show that has only gotten better since its underrated first season.

So whether you’re willing to brave the cold January temperatures, or you just want to put on your fuzzy TV-watching socks and stay inside, there’s plenty of books on screen to enjoy this month.

Click here to see all the movies, TV shows and DVDs featured in January’s Books on Screen.
Sounding Off on Audio: Interviews with Listeners About Their Love of Audiobooks
In this week's "Sounding Off on Audio" feature, we interview Susie Stangland, a social media consultant for authors and journalists. On a whim (encouraged by Lee Woodruff and cemented by Jim Gaffigan), she decided to try listening to audiobooks and hasn’t looked back. Here, Susie describes the magic of audio and why listening is sometimes better than reading. She also shares her favorite experiences and her big plans for getting the rest of her family hooked.

-Click here to read our interview with Susie Stangland.

We also chat with Julie Mackey, a mental health therapist with a busy, full-time practice. With limited time for reading (which, of course, she loves to do), she relies on audiobooks to “maximize” her book intake. In this interview, Julie shares her personal listening preferences with us and recommends some amazing titles --- some short, some long, but all worth the commitment.

-Click here to read our interview with Julie Mackey.
Click here for more "Sounding Off on Audio" interviews.
More Reviews This Week
SAINT ODD: An Odd Thomas Novel by Dean Koontz (Supernatural Thriller)
Two years after the cataclysmic events that sent him journeying into mystery, Odd Thomas has traveled full circle, back to his beloved hometown of Pico Mundo and the people he loves. Odd has come to save them --- and perhaps humanity --- from the full flowering of evil. He prepares to confront the terrible forces arrayed against him and possibly to journey still farther, to his long-awaited reunion with his lost love, Stormy Llewellyn. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

AS CHIMNEY SWEEPERS COME TO DUST: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley (Historical Mystery)
Shortly after 12-year-old Flavia de Luce arrives at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy boarding school, a charred and mummified body tumbles out of a bedroom chimney. Now, while attending classes, making friends (and enemies), and assessing the school’s stern headmistress and faculty (one of whom is an acquitted murderess), Flavia is on the hunt for the victim’s identity and time of death, as well as suspects, motives and means. Reviewed by Amie Taylor.

THE FIRST BAD MAN by Miranda July (Fiction)
Cheryl is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other people’s babies. She is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit where she works. She believes they’ve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one. When Cheryl’s bosses ask if their 21-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes. Reviewed by Jane Krebs.

THE ROSIE EFFECT by Graeme Simsion (Romance)
The Wife Project is complete, and Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are happily married and living in New York. But they’re about to face a new challenge because Rosie is pregnant. Fortunately, Don’s best friend, Gene, is on hand to offer advice: he’s left Claudia and moved in with Don and Rosie. As Don tries to schedule time for pregnancy research, and getting Gene and Claudia to reconcile, he almost misses the biggest problem of all: he might lose Rosie when she needs him the most. Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.

GOLDEN SON: Book II of the Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown (Science Fiction/Dystopian Thriller)
Darrow, a leader among the elite and a favorite of the masses, is nothing but a fake. Born into the lowest class of society, physically altered to infiltrate the upper echelon and bring about the fall of society, he’s now having doubts about his mission. It’s the memory of his dead wife that keeps him going, the same memory that might also bring about society’s downfall --- if he can stay alive long enough to see it. Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski.

HONEYDEW: Stories by Edith Pearlman (Fiction/Short Stories)
In HONEYDEW, Edith Pearlman writes with warmth about the predicaments of being human. Whether the characters we encounter are a special child with pentachromatic vision, a group of displaced Somali women adjusting to life in suburban Boston, or a staid professor of Latin unsettled by a random invitation to lecture on the mystery of life and death, Pearlman knows each of them intimately and reveals them to us with unsurpassed generosity. Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg.

COLD COLD HEART by Tami Hoag (Psychological Thriller)
Dana Nolan was a promising young TV reporter until a notorious serial killer tried to add her to his list of victims. Struggling with the torment of post-traumatic stress syndrome, Dana returns to her hometown in an attempt to begin to put her life back together. Her harrowing story and return to small town life have rekindled police and media interest in the unsolved case of her childhood best friend, Casey Grant, who disappeared without a trace the summer after their graduation from high school. Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum.

-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here for the reading group guide.

WEST OF SUNSET by Stewart O'Nan (Historical Fiction)
In 1937, F. Scott Fitzgerald was a troubled, uncertain man whose literary success was long over. In poor health, with his wife consigned to a mental asylum and his finances in ruins, he struggled to make a new start as a screenwriter in Hollywood. By December 1940, he would be dead of a heart attack. Those last three years of Fitzgerald’s life, often obscured by the legend of his earlier Jazz Age glamour, are the focus of Stewart O’Nan’s new novel. Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman.

A PLEASURE AND A CALLING by Phil Hogan (Psychological Thriller)
Mr. Heming is a real estate agent who has the keys to every home he's ever sold in town. He has kept them all so he can observe his neighbors, not just on the street, but also behind locked doors. His disturbing hobby soon begins to form a clear pattern, and the reasons behind it come into focus. But when the quiet routine of the village is disrupted by strange occurrences, including a dead body found in the backyard of a client's home, Mr. Heming realizes it may be only a matter of time before his secrets are found out. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

-Click here for the reading group guide.

BECOMING RICHARD PRYOR by Scott Saul (Biography)
Drawing upon a mountain of original research --- interviews with family and friends, court transcripts, unpublished journals and screenplay drafts --- Scott Saul traces Richard Pryor’s rough journey to the heights of fame: from his heartbreaking childhood, his trials in the Army and his apprentice days in Greenwich Village, to his soul-searching interlude in Berkeley and his ascent in the “New Hollywood” of the 1970s. Reviewed by Miriam Tuliao.

THE DRESS SHOP OF DREAMS by Menna van Praag (Fiction)
Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming dress shop appears quite ordinary to passersby. But with just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires. Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Before she knows it, she has set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways. Reviewed by Sara J.

THIRTEEN SOLDIERS: A Personal History of Americans at War by John McCain and Mark Salter (Military History)
THIRTEEN SOLDIERS tells the stories of real soldiers who personify valor, obedience, enterprise and love. Each account illustrates a particular aspect of war, such as Mary Rhoads, an Army reservist forever changed by an Iraqi scud missile attack during the Persian Gulf War, and Monica Lin Brown, a frontline medic in rural Afghanistan who saved several lives in an ambushed convoy. From their acts of self-sacrifice to their astonishing bravery, these 13 soldiers embody the best America has to offer. Reviewed by Judy Gigstad.

UNCLE JANICE by Matt Burgess (Fiction)
Janice Itwaru is an "uncle" --- an undercover narcotics officer --- trying to meet the impossibly high quota of drug busts needed to make detective, or be sent back down to uniformed patrol. With rumors circulating that Internal Affairs has her unit under surveillance, Janice is running very short on luck as her quota deadline approaches. Now she has to decide which evil to confront: the faceless bureaucrats at One Police Plaza, or the violent drug dealers who already may be onto her identity. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

THE UNDERTAKER’S DAUGHTER: A Memoir by Kate Mayfield (Memoir)
After Kate Mayfield was born, she was taken directly to a funeral home. Her father was an undertaker, and for 13 years the family resided in a place nearly synonymous with death. A place where the living and the dead entered their house like a vapor. The place where Kate would spend the entirety of her childhood. In a memoir that reads like a Harper Lee novel, the author draws the reader into a world of Southern mystique and ghosts. Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott.

PUBLISHING: A Writer's Memoir by Gail Godwin (Memoir)
PUBLISHING is a personal story of a writer's hunger to be published, the pursuit of that goal, and then the long haul --- for Gail Godwin, 45 years of being a published writer and all that goes with it. The book reflects on the influence of her mother's writing hopes and accomplishments, and recalls her experiences with teachers Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Coover; John Hawkins, her literary agent for five decades; John Irving and other luminaries; and her editors and publishers. Reviewed by Jennifer McCord.

THE CARRIER: A Zailer and Waterhouse Mystery by Sophie Hannah (Psychological Thriller)
When Gaby’s plane is delayed, she is forced to share a hotel room with a stranger: Lauren, who is terrified of her. But why is she scared of Gaby in particular? Lauren won’t explain. Instead, she blurts out something about an innocent man going to prison for murder. Gaby soon suspects that Lauren’s presence on her flight isn’t a coincidence, because the murder victim is Francine Breary, the wife of the only man Gaby has ever truly loved. Reviewed by Ray Palen.

THE ICE QUEEN by Nele Neuhaus (Mystery)
Ninety-two-year-old Jossi Goldberg, a Holocaust survivor and an American citizen, is found shot to death execution-style in his house near Frankfurt. The autopsy reveals an old and unsuccessfully covered tattoo on the body’s arm --- a blood type marker once used by Hitler's SS. Two more, similar murders happen, and slowly the connections between the victims become evident: All of them were lifelong friends with Vera von Kaltensee --- baroness, well-respected philanthropist, and head of an old, rich family that she rules with an iron fist. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.
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