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August 21, 2015 Newsletter August 21, 2015
Thursday, August 27th, We Turn 19!

Nineteen candles. That’s how many candles we will be lighting on Thursday to celebrate 19 years of! I think back on those early days and smile, when memories of them do not overwhelm me with exhaustion. In those days, we were only seen on AOL, we were using 28.8 modems, we needed to upload any pieces of art we wanted to use 48 hours in advance (and there were strict size restrictions on them) and the code for the site was written in a proprietary program called “Rainman.” You can see what the site looked like to the right.

We had a staff of six --- Jesse, Jennifer, Julie, Jainee (the Js), Sean and me for one site. Today we have a staff of seven --- Tom, Greg, Nikki, Emily, Shara, John and me for seven websites! At the beginning we had chat rooms (Jesse and I would type excitedly when people twirled in to talk about books) and message boards (I remember scouring those to see what was of interest to our readers). Some of the folks who hosted the book chat in "Bookaccino," the name of the chat room that I dreamed Starbucks would sponsor (yes, I was delusional, and no, I do not drink coffee), still get together today. I count some of them as dear, albeit far-flung, friends.

I feel like what we were doing then was the precursor to social media as we know it today. Texting and Facebook posts are basically more sophisticated versions of chat. Twitter is 140-character message board posts. I think maybe that’s why I am not as gaga about social media as many others! I eschew mindless chatter, and I have no interest in sharing memes that tell you how great reading is. You know that already. I prefer to think that instead we have been meaningfully connecting with readers on a day-to-day basis for the past 19 years, not the last 19 months.

And we have great readers. We love your emails --- I always say many of our best ideas have come from listening to you. We also are endlessly impressed by the number of handwritten thank-you notes that we receive from readers for book prizes at a time when most writing is tapped out on keyboards. So big thanks to all of you this week!

Thanks to Jesse Kornbluth, the original co-conspirator of The Book Report Network. Heads up that our anniversary week will be a special one for Jesse, as his novel, MARRIED SEX, will be in stores on Tuesday --- the novel he wrote during most of the last decade. We’ll have much more about that next week when it also will be one of our Summer Reading titles. While Jesse is no longer on staff, we still email or chat almost every day. I just realized this week that his book releases close to the site’s anniversary, which made me smile.

Tom Donadio is our amazing Editorial Director. Every word of every review and interview is read by him twice or three times. He’s the one who reads and re-reads this newsletter before hitting send on Friday nights, ensuring that every detail is right. The rest of the team is dedicated, too; I am VERY lucky to work with all of them. They keep me grounded, cheering the good ideas on and are always bluntly honest when I ask, “Is this a good idea?”

The great art you see on the site is done by Jenni, who takes our words and pictures and spins them into gorgeous designs.

One more thing: Here at, reviews are written by a sharply culled group of writers; our readers contribute comments on “Word of Mouth” and “Sounding Off on Audio.” While some sites call everyone a reviewer, I prefer the way we handle it here, distinguishing the voices you hear on the site. And with that in mind, I want to give a warm thanks to our reviewers, many of whom you can see here. I am proud to say that some of them have been with us right from the beginning.

Another huge thank you to those who comment and share their insights as well. Melanie has been working with us for a bit over a year now editing both "Word of Mouth" and "Sounding Off on Audio." My endless thanks to her for spotting trends and sharing them with us. Hmmm...more similarities to the message boards of old.

So here’s to one last “teen year” for us before we turn “20something"! Now onward to this week’s update…

New York Times bestselling author Sandra Brown is back with her latest thriller, FRICTION. When Crawford, a Texas Ranger, lost his wife four years ago, he fell into a destructive spiral that resulted in his five-year-old daughter being placed in the custody of her grandparents. Now he has cleaned up his act and is ready to get his daughter back --- if Judge Holly Spencer agrees. With an election coming up, Holly has her own stakes in the case, as it could make or break her future. But when a masked gunman enters the courtroom, and Crawford saves Holly from a fatal bullet, the case takes on a new level of complexity. Now Crawford must find the culprit and protect Holly, all while ignoring the growing attraction between them.

Maggie Harding has our review and says, “The characters in FRICTION are so clearly drawn that you'll never have to wonder about who they are and what their roles are…. At a time when the world is so unpredictable, it's rewarding to be able to pick up a book by one of your favorite authors and know, without a doubt, that you are going to have a good time for several hours to come.” I have this to read next; I'm kicking myself for not requesting an advance copy sooner. Sandra is one of my favorites as she truly nails her writing.

Our Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight on Jonathan Kellerman and his explosive new novel, THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER (which is now in stores), continues. After five-year-old Grace Blades witnessed the brutal murder-suicide of her parents, she was fortunate to be adopted by a warm, loving family. Although she channeled her pain into a successful psychology practice, Grace has a dark side as well. When a man from a recent encounter asks for her professional help, she refuses, terrified that he will expose her. But when a detective appears on her doorstep, it seems that her past is back to haunt her.

Reviewer Joe Hartlaub raves, “Kellerman sets the hook in the opening sentence and tugs you gently but inexorably through the narrative to its very end. And while I have long ago given up on attempting to guess what will pique the general reading public’s interest, I can say that if there is any justice in the literary world, this is the title that should be on everyone’s lips over the next several months.” Joe had an opportunity to speak with Jonathan about his “best book to date,” and you can read the enlightening interview here.

We are delighted to present our latest One to Watch Author Spotlight featuring Stephanie Clifford, whose debut novel, EVERYBODY RISE, is now in stores. Set in 2006 Manhattan, the book follows a glamorous and privileged group of friends and the young woman desperate to join their ranks. Although she is bright and funny, 26-year-old Evelyn Beegan is struggling to find herself, often feeling like an outsider amongst her peers. But when she gets a job at a social network aimed at the elite, she must embrace the socially conscious world she has tried to avoid --- and finds it intoxicating. As she tries to pass for old money, however, a family scandal interrupts her plans and forces her to fight for her place in high society.

In celebration of its publication, we are holding a special contest that will give 50 readers the chance to win a copy of EVERYBODY RISE. To enter, please fill out this form by Tuesday, September 8th at noon ET. Our intern Rebecca Munro attended the book’s release party at BookCourt, an independent bookstore in Brooklyn, and has written a blog piece about this fun night, which you can read here. I will have my Bets On commentary on the book in next week’s newsletter. I loved this book --- and the fashionista in me notes that the cover is very Lilly Pulitzer-esque.

Beloved author Jen Hatmaker (who some of you may know from her current eight-episode series on HGTV, “My Big Family Renovation,” with her husband, Brandon) encourages modern women to embrace their freedom in FOR THE LOVE: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards. It’s no secret that the push of life can make us competitive and judgmental, often losing sight of what’s truly important. Hatmaker believes, however, that we can refresh our lives by approaching controversial topics with grace and releasing the need to always be right. Here, she identifies the tools that modern women can use to develop real, lasting bonds that are not tarnished by competition.

According to reviewer Michele Howe, “Hatmaker takes the mundane of life and brings some light-hearted, much-needed clarity to otherwise dismal events that are commonplace to all…. During a time when so many individuals appear to be drowning in self-recrimination and doubt, Hatmaker’s message is both timely and invigorating. With ample personal stories and an overabundance (in the best way possible) of comedic undertones, she does a marvelous job of guiding readers through the potholes with grit and grace.”

As promised, my two latest Bets On picks are THE RACE FOR PARIS by Meg Waite Clayton, an extraordinary tale of friendship, courage and strong, determined women, and PRETTY BABY by Mary Kubica, the story of one charitable woman and the sacrifices she is willing to make for a stranger in need.

In this week’s Summer Reading contests, we gave away the aforementioned EVERYBODY RISE, along with THE GIRL FROM THE GARDEN by Parnaz Foroutan, WE NEVER ASKED FOR WINGS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, and A WINDOW OPENS by Elisabeth Egan, the latter of which will be in stores on Tuesday and will be a Bets On selection. By the way, this piece from the New York Times notes that Egan’s book has echoes of her time working at Amazon. This year’s Summer Reading contests wrap up next week with our final four prize books (we are going out with a bang): THE FALL OF PRINCES by Robert Goolrick (loved this!), THE GATES OF EVANGELINE by Hester Young (on my pile for the weekend), THE LAST TIME I SAW HER by Karen Robards (on my vacation pile), and the aforementioned MARRIED SEX (did you see the book trailer for Jesse's book last week? If not, you can see it here). Check back Monday, August 24th at noon ET when we announce the week’s first prize book.

How would you describe the typical condition of your books after you've read them? Are they in stellar condition, or is it fairly obvious from the marked-up pages and cracked binding that they’ve been devoured by an eager reader? Click here to let us know in our latest poll. I confess, I usually read advance copies and am notorious for folding down pages to hold my place. If I read a hardcover, I slip the cover between the pages. So there is my two cents!

Coloring books for adults was the subject of our previous poll…and it turns out that a whopping 78% of you are into them (or would be if you owned them). 31% of you use coloring books either occasionally or every chance you get, 47% don’t use them but would be interested in doing this, and only 22% have no interest in coloring books.

We have a new Word of Mouth contest up this week. Please let us know the books you’ve finished reading by Friday, September 11th at noon ET, and you’ll be in the running to win DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY by Bill Clegg (which will be a Bets On selection), THE NATURE OF THE BEAST: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny, and PURITY by Jonathan Franzen.

Also new this week is our next Sounding Off on Audio contest. Let us know by Friday, September 18th at noon ET what audiobooks you’ve finished listening to, and three winners will be awarded audio versions of Lee Child's MAKE ME: A Jack Reacher Novel, read by Dick Hill, and Philippa Gregory’s THE TAMING OF THE QUEEN, read by Bianca Amato. I heard a great quote about the audiobook experience from Gail, one of our readers: "I find that listening to a book is like watching a Broadway show inside my head...I call it 'the theater of my mind.'"

News and Pop Culture:

Admiration for William Kent Krueger: This week, Kent shared that he is putting aside the stand-alone novel that we had hoped to read next spring. I wanted to take a moment and thank him for taking a step back as he could not get the book written the way he wanted it to be done. After rewrites and lots of time with it, he opted instead to shelve it and move on. Big admiration to an author who knows the value of quality and does not want to let his readers down. You can read what he has to say here. Kent, we will be waiting when you are ready to share your work with us! And we will continue to savor ORDINARY GRACE.

"The Astronaut Wives Club": The show ended for the season last night. Loved it. I am not sure I ever spent so much time Googling while viewing. The wrap at the end when they summed up where the wives went on with their lives was fun. Wish I had read the book; must get it! You can read more about it here.

Braces: Has anyone else noticed that Katie Holmes is wearing braces on "Ray Donovan"? Did you wonder why? I did and finally found out why here. I think this idea never should have made it out of the writers' room. Seriously, I could have given them six other ideas without trying hard!

Meru: I am an armchair adventurer, which is why I want to see this film.

Pat Conroy: The Washington Post reports that his health is on the mend. For years he suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure and a failing liver. Then, three years ago, he gave up drinking and worked on getting in shape. Now he listens to a nutritionist, who conveniently lives next door, and he opened a fitness studio (that’s really serious!). As for his writing life, the Post reports that he recently finished a young adult novel with his daughter, Melissa, and is working on a new novel about Charleston.

Sully: The Film: Learned this week that Laura Linney will play Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s wife in the Clint Eastwood film; Tom Hanks will play the heroic pilot. Details here.

Above you can see that my husband, Tom, thoroughly enjoyed John Irving's upcoming book on the beach last weekend. His blurb: "Have had a hard time putting down AVENUE OF MYSTERIES. A new John Irving novel is always like an unexpected gift." He’s now reading --- and enjoying --- THE BONE TREE by Greg Iles.

In the Hamptons last week, I floated and read in the pond at our friend Moe’s house; the pond is something like an acre around! On Saturday afternoon, Tom bought me a bright green tube (we had failed to pack any floating devices; I mean, seriously, who packs tubes for adults for a pond?), and I was in business on my own version of the SS Carol. The lobsters above are from dinner last Friday night --- 2 ½ pounds each and crazy good.

I read and loved THE FORGETTING TIME by Sharon Guskin, a debut novel, which will be out February 2nd of next year. It's about Noah, a four-year-old boy who wants to go home. The thing is, he is home. What he actually is talking about is finding the family and home that he had in a former life. Now, I am pretty grounded in reality, but I found myself caught up in this story and rooting for Noah to find his way home so he could let his past go. There is a doctor who guides him on his journey, and the story is unique and lovely.

Then I moved on to INTO THIN AIR by Jon Krakauer, which I had not read when it first came out. While I enjoyed it, it made me appreciate the perspective of Lou Kasischke in AFTER THE WIND, who I feel filled in the real reasons why the 1996 Everest expedition went awry. His perspective more than a decade later gave the events a clearer lens. Krakauer told a very big story and told it well, but when he was writing he clearly was still in recovery from the traumatic events. It's interesting how time lends perspective.

I did hear last week that when talking about the film Meru, Krakauer noted that he regrets his Everest adventure. “Climbing Mount Everest was the biggest mistake I've ever made in my life. I wish I'd never gone. I suffered for years of PTSD, and still suffer from what happened. I'm glad I wrote a book about it. But, you know, if I could go back and relive my life, I would never have climbed Everest." You can see that interview here. And it clearly matches my thoughts about how he felt as I was reading the book.

Quiet weekend on tap after a crazy busy week --- and getting ready for another crazy busy one before we take our annual pre-Labor Day week off to give us the time to gear up for fall! Greg is heading kayaking, Cory is parking cars, Tom swears he is not playing golf (he played today), and I will choose which of the three floatation devices to read on: blue, turquoise and green...yes, the usual palette. No pink tubes for me!

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: FRICTION by Sandra Brown
FRICTION by Sandra Brown (Thriller)
Following the death of his wife four years ago, Crawford Hunt fell into a downward spiral and lost custody of his five-year-old daughter, Georgia, to her grandparents. But he has cleaned up his act and met all the court-imposed requirements, and now the fate of his family lies with Judge Holly Spencer. When a masked gunman barges into the courtroom during the custody hearing, Crawford saves Holly from a bullet. After uncovering a horrifying truth about the gunman, he realizes that the unknown person behind the shooting remains at large…and a threat. Reviewed by Maggie Harding.

-Click here to read more about the book.
Click here to read a review. Talks to Jonathan Kellerman, Author of THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTER --- A Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight Title

Jonathan Kellerman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than three dozen crime novels, including the Alex Delaware series, as well as a frequent collaborator with his wife Faye and son Jesse. His latest, THE MURDERER’S DAUGHTER, is a stand-alone thriller about Grace Blades, who overcame early trauma to become a brilliant psychologist. When her past and present converge, Grace’s harrowing childhood returns with a vengeance. In this interview with’s Joe Hartlaub, Kellerman reveals the reason he was compelled to give Grace --- who originally appeared in the Alex Delaware universe --- her own story. He also talks about the roles that nature and nurture play in personality development, how he would reform the foster care system if given the opportunity, and the secret to successfully collaborating with family members (hint: lots of emails!).

THE MURDERER'S DAUGHTER by Jonathan Kellerman (Psychological Thriller)
A brilliant, deeply dedicated psychologist, Grace Blades has a gift for treating troubled souls and tormented psyches. Only five years old when she witnessed her parents’ deaths in a bloody murder-suicide, Grace took refuge in her fierce intellect and found comfort in the loving couple who adopted her. But even as an adult with an accomplished professional life, she still has a dark, secret side. When her two worlds shockingly converge, Grace’s harrowing past returns with a vengeance. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read a review.
-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Jonathan Kellerman’s bio.
-Click here to visit Jonathan Kellerman’s official website.
-Click here to connect with Jonathan Kellerman on Facebook.
-Click here to see the 25 winners selected to read and comment on the book.
-Click here to read more in our Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight.

Click here to read our interview.
New One to Watch Author Spotlight & Contest: EVERYBODY RISE by Stephanie Clifford
We are celebrating the recent release of EVERYBODY RISE by Stephanie Clifford with a special contest that will give 50 readers the opportunity to win a copy of the book and share their comments on it. To enter, please fill out this form by Tuesday, September 8th at noon ET.

EVERYBODY RISE by Stephanie Clifford (Fiction)
It's 2006 in the Manhattan of the young and glamorous. Money and class are colliding in a city that is about to go over a financial precipice and take much of the country with it. At 26, bright, funny and socially anxious Evelyn Beegan is determined to carve her own path in life and free herself from the influence of her social-climbing mother, who propelled her through prep school and onto the Upper East Side. Evelyn has long felt like an outsider to her privileged peers, but when she gets a job at a social network aimed at the elite, she's forced to embrace them.

Recruiting new members for the site, Evelyn steps into a promised land of Adirondack camps, Newport cottages and Southampton clubs thick with socialites and Wall Streeters. Despite herself, Evelyn finds the lure of belonging intoxicating, and starts trying to pass as old money herself. When her father, a crusading class-action lawyer, is indicted for bribery, Evelyn must contend with her own family's downfall as she keeps up appearances in her new life, grasping with increasing desperation as the ground underneath her begins to give way.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read Stephanie Clifford’s bio.
-Click here to visit Stephanie Clifford’s official website.
-Click here to connect with Stephanie Clifford on Twitter.
Click here to read more in our One to Watch Author Spotlight and enter the contest.
Now in Stores: THE GRATITUDE DIARIES by Janice Kaplan
THE GRATITUDE DIARIES: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life by Janice Kaplan (Memoir/Personal Growth)
On New Year’s Eve, journalist and former Parade editor in chief Janice Kaplan makes a promise to be grateful and look on the bright side of whatever happens. She realizes that how she feels over the next months will have less to do with the events that occur than her own attitude and perspective. Relying on both amusing personal experiences and extensive research, Kaplan explores how gratitude can transform every aspect of life, including marriage and friendship, money and ambition, health and fitness. Reviewed by Carole Turner.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read an excerpt.
Click here to read a review.
Now in Stores: FOR THE LOVE by Jen Hatmaker
FOR THE LOVE: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker (Inspirational)
Bestselling author Jen Hatmaker is convinced that life can be lovely, fun, courageous and kind. She knows how the squeeze of this life can make us competitive and judgmental, how we can lose love for others and then for ourselves. In this raucous ride to freedom for modern women, Hatmaker bares the refreshing wisdom, wry humor, no-nonsense faith, liberating insight and fearless honesty that have made her beloved by women worldwide. Reviewed by Michele Howe.

-Click here to read more about the book.

Click here to read a review. Talks to Charles Todd, Author of A PATTERN OF LIES

The mother-son writing team of Caroline and Charles Todd, collectively known as Charles Todd, is back with another thrilling entry in their Bess Crawford mystery series. In A PATTERN OF LIES, a horrific explosion at a gunpowder mill sends the sleuthing nurse to war-torn France to keep a deadly pattern of lies from leading to more deaths. In this interview, the Todds discuss with The Book Report Network’s Ray Palen why they began telling Bess’ story in the first place, as well as what makes her so popular among readers. They also explain why they feel comfortable writing from the perspectives of both male and female protagonists (“human nature is human nature”) and where they see Bess going next.

A PATTERN OF LIES: A Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd (Historical Mystery)
An explosion and fire at the Ashton Gunpowder Mill in Kent has killed over a hundred men, and suspicion and rumor raise the specter of murder. While visiting the Ashton family, Bess Crawford finds herself caught up in a venomous show of hostility that doesn’t stop with Philip Ashton’s arrest. The only known witness to the tragedy is now at the Front in France, and he refuses to tell Bess anything that will help the Ashtons. Bess has no choice but to risk her own life to protect this man from a clever killer intent on preventing either of them from ever reaching England. Reviewed by Ray Palen.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read a review.
-Click here for the reading group guide.

Click here to read our interview. Bets On: THE RACE FOR PARIS by Meg Waite Clayton and PRETTY BABY by Mary Kubica
THE RACE FOR PARIS by Meg Waite Clayton (Historical Fiction)
A couple of years ago, I watched Hemingway & Gellhorn on HBO and enjoyed the energy and drive that the well-known couple put into the chase to “get the story” during World War II. There was action, adventure, danger and commitment. Hearing that Meg Waite Clayton’s THE RACE FOR PARIS was set in Paris during the war and featured two female correspondents, I was eager to read it. And I am so glad I did. It is a look at the war from the perspective of those who were committed to sharing the action with the folks back home. And it is set in a time when journalism was a reporting art form, not the opinionated blasts that seem to permeate today’s news.

-Click here for more of Carol's thoughts on the book.
-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read a review.
-Click here to read an excerpt.

PRETTY BABY by Mary Kubica (Psychological Thriller)
I discovered Mary Kubica last year with her debut novel, THE GOOD GIRL, so when PRETTY BABY came my way, I was one eager reader. Now I am known as the kind of person who is not fun to watch television or go to the movies with. I am prone to saying, “I figured it out,” which makes my husband and sons crazy. Well, Kubica completely “got me” as I did not see where this story was heading.

Let me back up here. For the last few weeks on the corner by our office, there have been a number of homeless men who sit with a sign asking for money. What is interesting is that there are different men there each day, and they each have the same sign. I walk by and think that somewhere there is a camera here, and this is a social experiment to see how we are reacting. Keep this in mind as I tell you the opener of PRETTY BABY.

-Click here for more of Carol's thoughts on the book.
-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read a review.
-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read our interview with Mary Kubica.

Click here for more books we're betting you'll love.'s Summer Reading Contests and Feature
Summer has arrived! At, this means it's time for us to share some great summer book picks with our Summer Reading Contests and Feature. We are hosting a number of 24-hour contests for these titles on select days throughout the summer, so you will have to check the site each day to see the featured prize book and enter to win. We also are sending a special newsletter to announce the day's title, which you can sign up for here.

Our next prize book will be announced on Monday, August 24th at noon ET.

This year's featured titles are:

Click here to read all the contest details and see our featured titles.
What's New This Month on
We currently are giving away the following books on The entry deadline for each of these contests is Wednesday, September 9th at noon ET:

The following guides are now available:

Please note that these titles, for which we already had the guides when they appeared in hardcover, are now available in paperback:

Click here to visit
Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight: PRETTY BABY by Mary Kubica
PRETTY BABY by Mary Kubica (Psychological Thriller)
She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can't get the girl out of her head…

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal --- or worse. But despite her family's objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow's past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she's willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

-Click here to read more about the book.
-Click here to read a review.
-Click here to read an excerpt.
-Click here to read our interview with Mary Kubica.
-Click here to read Mary Kubica’s bio.
-Click here to visit Mary Kubica’s official website.
-Connect with Mary Kubica on Facebook and Twitter.
-Click here to see the 10 winners selected to read and comment on the book.
Click here to read more in our Suspense/Thriller Author Spotlight.
More Reviews This Week
FOOL'S QUEST: Book II of the Fitz and the Fool Trilogy by Robin Hobb (Fantasy)
Long ago, Fitz and the Fool changed the world, bringing back the magic of dragons and securing both the Farseer succession and the stability of the kingdom. Or so they thought. But now the Fool is near death, maimed by mysterious pale-skinned figures whose plans for world domination hinge upon the powers the Fool may share with Fitz’s own daughter. In a horrible instant, though, Fitz’s world is undone and his beloved daughter stolen away by those who would use her as they had once sought to use the Fool --- as a weapon. Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard.

LAST WORDS by Michael Koryta (Thriller)
An investigator for a Florida-based Death Row defense firm, Markus Novak’s life derailed when his wife, Lauren, was killed in the midst of a case the two were working together. Two years later, her murderer is still at large, and Novak's attempts to learn the truth about her death through less-than-legal means and jailhouse bargaining have put his job on the line. Now he's been sent to Garrison, Indiana, to assess a cold case that he's certain his boss has no intention of taking. But it's not often that the man who many believe got away with murder is the one calling for the case to be reopened. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

BLACK-EYED SUSANS by Julia Heaberlin (Psychological Thriller)
As a 16-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan.” Her testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row. Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans just outside her bedroom window. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Reviewed by Matthew Mastricova.

MESS: One Man's Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act by Barry Yourgrau (Memoir)
Millions of Americans struggle with severe clutter and hoarding. New York writer and bohemian Barry Yourgrau is one of them. Behind the door of his Queens apartment, Yourgrau’s life is, quite literally, chaos. Confronted by his exasperated girlfriend, a globe-trotting food critic, he embarks on a heartfelt, wide-ranging, and too often uproarious project to take control of his crammed, disorderly apartment and life, and to explore the wider world of collecting, clutter and extreme hoarding. Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman.

DRAGONFISH by Vu Tran (Literary Thriller)
Robert, an Oakland cop, still can't let go of Suzy, the enigmatic Vietnamese wife who left him two years ago. Now she's disappeared from her new husband, Sonny, a violent Vietnamese smuggler and gambler who's blackmailing Robert into finding her for him. As he pursues her through the sleek and seamy gambling dens of Las Vegas, shadowed by Sonny's sadistic son, "Junior," and assisted by unexpected and reluctant allies, Robert learns more about his ex-wife than he ever did during their marriage. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

THE STATE WE'RE IN: Maine Stories by Ann Beattie (Fiction/Short Stories)
“We build worlds for ourselves wherever we go,” writes Ann Beattie. THE STATE WE’RE IN, her new collection of linked stories, is about how we live in the places we have chosen --- or been chosen by. It’s about the stories we tell our families, our friends and ourselves, the truths we may or may not see, how our affinities unite or repel us, and where we look for love. Reviewed by Harvey Freedenberg.

THE BANGKOK ASSET by John Burdett (Hard-boiled Mystery)
Sonchai Jitpleecheep --- the brash and beguiling Royal Thai Police Force detective who has been our guide through John Burdett’s five previous Bangkok novels --- is back. The former monk and devout Buddhist, forever battling to protect his karma from the assaults of morally compromising cases, is now faced with the most horrifying technological innovation to make its way to the streets of Bangkok, and a conspiracy of almost unfathomable reach. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

BARBARA THE SLUT AND OTHER PEOPLE by Lauren Holmes (Fiction/Short Stories)
In “Desert Hearts,” a woman takes a job selling sex toys in San Francisco rather than embark on the law career she pursued only for the sake of her father. In “Pearl and the Swiss Guy Fall in Love,” a woman realizes she much prefers the company of her pit bull to the neurotic foreign fling who won’t decamp from her apartment. And in “Barbara the Slut,” a young woman with an autistic brother, a Princeton acceptance letter, and a love of sex navigates her high school’s toxic, slut-shaming culture with open eyes. Lauren Holmes' debut collection is about family, friends and lovers, and the flaws that make us most human. Reviewed by Norah Piehl.

HOSTAGE TAKER by Stefanie Pintoff (Thriller)
A group of strangers are taken hostage inside Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and all of Manhattan is poised to react. When it becomes clear that the centuries-old cathedral itself is in peril, FBI agent Eve Rossi and her team of ex-cons are tasked with identifying the mastermind behind this dastardly plot. Eve is up against a rapidly ticking clock. But the dangerous man calling the shots has a timetable of his own --- and a searing question for his targets: What are you guilty of? Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

I WAS A REVOLUTIONARY: Stories by Andrew Malan Milward (Fiction/Short Stories)
Grounded in place, spanning the Civil War to the present day, the stories in I WAS A REVOLUTIONARY capture the roil of history through the eyes of an unforgettable cast of characters: the visionaries and dreamers, radical farmers and socialist journalists, quack doctors and protestors who haunt the past and present landscape of the state of Kansas. In the collection’s haunting title piece, a professor of Kansas history surveys his decades-long slide from radicalism to complacency, a shift that parallels the landscape around him. Reviewed by Gena LeBlanc.

DARKNESS THE COLOR OF SNOW by Thomas Cobb (Psychological Thriller)
On a cold, icy night, patrolman Ronny Forbert chases after a car driven by his old friend turned nemesis, Matt Laferiere. Within minutes, what begins as a clear-cut arrest for drunk driving spirals out of control into a heated argument between two young men with a troubled past and ends in a fatal hit and run. As uneasy relationships, dark secrets and old grievances reveal themselves, there are people in town who believe that a crime must have been committed, and someone --- Officer Forbert --- must pay a price, a choice that will hold devastating consequences for them all. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

THE DARKEST HEART by Dan Smith (Literary Thriller)
Leaving behind his life of violence in Brazil's darkest shadows, Zico is determined to become a better man. But it seems his old life isn't quite done with him yet when he's tasked with making one last kill. It's one that could get him everything he has ever wanted: a house, some land, cash in his pocket, a future for him and his girlfriend, Daniella. But this one isn't like all the others. This one comes at a much higher price. Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin.
Our Latest Poll: The Condition of Your Books
How would you describe the typical condition of your books after you've read them?

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

Tell us about the books you've finished reading with your comments and a rating of 1 to 5 stars. During the contest period from August 21st to September 11th, FIVE lucky readers each will be randomly chosen to win a copy of DID YOU EVER HAVE A FAMILY by Bill Clegg, THE NATURE OF THE BEAST: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny, and PURITY by Jonathan Franzen.

To make sure other readers will be able to find the books you write about, please include the full title and correct author names (your entry must include these to be eligible to win). For rules and guidelines, click here.

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Sounding Off on Audio Contest: Tell Us What You're Listening to --- and You Can Win Two Audiobooks!
Tell us about the audiobooks you’ve finished listening to with your comments and a rating of 1 to 5 stars for both the performance and the content. During the contest period from August 21st to September 18th, THREE lucky readers each will be randomly chosen to win the audio versions of both MAKE ME: A Jack Reacher Novel written by Lee Child and read by Dick Hill, and THE TAMING OF THE QUEEN written by Philippa Gregory and read by Bianca Amato.

To make sure other readers will be able to find the audiobook, please include the full title and correct author names (your entry must include these to be eligible to win). For complete rules and guidelines, click here.

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