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May 2009 Newsletter May 2009
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Thank You!
MANY thanks to all of you who answered our 2009 Reader Survey. We received more than 7,500 responses in the time that the survey was open! As you will recall, the first 2,500 readers who completed the survey and provided complete address information will receive books as prizes. An additional 200 readers have been selected for additional prizes. For those who have won, it may take a few weeks for our friends at the publishers to get these books out to you, so please be patient. Devon, our terrific intern, will alert you by email if you are a winner. The names of the winners also will be posted online later this month by first and last name only.

As promised, the discussion guide for my Bets On title, A Reliable Wife, is now available, which includes a terrific interview with the author, Robert Goolrick, where he illuminates many of the themes in the book. My latest Bets On selection is Rooftops of Tehran, which we ran a contest for last month. You can see what I had to say about Rooftops of Tehran here, you can see the guide here, and you can see what our blogger Esther Bushell had to say about this book here. I introduced Esther to Mahbod Seraji back at Book Group Expo last October, so it was lovely to see her comments shared here.

Reading books set in the Middle East makes me realize how little I truly know about this part of the world. While we studied Europe extensively when I was in school, Asia and the Middle East were barely covered. I had a conversation about this with my son's social studies teacher earlier this year. Typically American history taught in grade schools marches along until about the end of World War II. Given that that was more than 60 years ago, I see why she is determined to plunge ahead and get to the first Gulf War. Want to test your knowledge of the Middle East? Drag the country's name onto the map here. There is no humbling score or time limit, but rather this exercise is a learning tool. Don't be afraid to make an error, and once you finish the puzzle, you may be surprised just how this landscape looks. Some of my favorite reading group-friendly titles have been set in this part of the world, so putting together the puzzle was an extremely valuable exercise.

This month's poll asks if you discuss a selected title with other members of your group before the meeting. This month's contest book is Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg. To be a group to win 20 free copies of this book, all you have to do is sign up for the newsletter by June 1, 2009. If you are receiving this newsletter in your mailbox, you already are signed up!

I know that many of you have told us that instead of checking in with our blog daily, you prefer to read all the posts at one time. Thus, here's your reminder to click on over to the blog and do just that. There are so many standout pieces from authors this month!

Our question for the month is "What nonfiction books has your group read recently or will be in the coming months?" Email [email protected] and let us know. Along with the titles, please include your first and/or last name, your group's name (if applicable), the city/state where you meet, and any comments you'd like to share about the books. We'll be featuring a nonfiction reading roundup on the blog later this month.

Last night I went to a screening of Angels & Demons, which will be in theaters on Friday. While it does not track the plot of the book completely, the movie is fast-paced and I enjoyed it. It's brisker and tighter than The Da Vinci Code was. I left the theater thinking the car scenes were Bond-like, the ticking clock each hour was reminiscent of "24," and the sets and visuals were brilliant. Most of the film was shot in the Los Angeles area, so the scenes of everything from the square outside the Vatican to the churches was created from drawings and architectural plans. For those of you who like the backstory on the making of movies, Angels & Demons: The Illustrated Movie Companion is available. The foreword by Dan Brown amused me as I read his comments on the differences between writing a book and creating a movie. I can imagine directors and producers taking a pause as they look at some of these sprawling stories and think....hmmm...if he just had spoken about this church and not THAT one, life would have been easier. Transporting characters on the page is far easier than in film.

One last quick note. At the Book Expo America (BEA) trade show this year, I am going to be moderating two panels about book clubs where the audience is publishers, booksellers and librarians. If there is anything in particular that you would like me to share with them, please send me an email at [email protected] with this in the subject line: "Thoughts for BEA Presentation."

LOTS of great reading below, so enjoy your time looking through the titles that you would like to read with your group --- and for pleasure. Have a great May!

Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])

THE WINTER VAULT by Anne Michaels

From the author of Fugitive Pieces, an exquisite second novel about enduring love; about memory keeping faith with the past; and about human desire. It is 1964, and Avery is one of the engineers responsible for dismantling and reconstructing Abu Simbel before the Aswan Dam submerges the Egyptian flood site. Jean is his newlywed wife, a botanist who enters the life of Lucjan, a Polish émigré who draws her away from her husband --- but closer to a more essential life.

Click here to read the guide for The Winter Vault.

In the wake of their mother’s mysterious death, Linno and Anju Vallara are raised in Kerala by their father and grandmother. As a teenager, Anju wins a scholarship to a Manhattan prep school with an act of betrayal that severs her relationship with Linno. But when Anju finds herself ensnared with her own lies, she runs away. Desperate to find Anju, Linno embarks on a journey of her own, toward her sister, toward America and toward forgiveness.
Click here to read the guide for Atlas of Unknowns.

Now Available in Paperback: THE DIVORCE PARTY by Laura Dave
Laura Dave is widely recognized as an up-and-coming talent in women’s fiction. Now, with her characteristic wit and warmth, she captures a much-discussed cultural phenomenon that has never been profiled in fiction before --- divorce celebrations. Set in Hamptons high society, The Divorce Party features two women --- one newly engaged and one at the end of her marriage --- trying to answer the same question: when should you fight to save a relationship, and when should you let go?
Click here to read the guide for The Divorce Party.

HIGH: Confessions of an International Drug Smuggler, by Brian O'Dea
In the early 1980s, Brian O’Dea was operating a $100 million a year, 120-man drug smuggling business, and had developed a terrifying cocaine addiction. Under increasing threat from the DEA for importing 75 tons of marijuana into the United States, he quit the trade --- and the drugs --- and began working with recovering addicts. Despite his life change, the authorities caught up with him years later and O’Dea was sentenced to 10 years in prison. High weaves together extracts from his prison diary with the vivid recounting of his outlaw years and the daunting recognition of those things in life worth living for.

-Click here to read Brian O'Dea's blog entry from May 6, 2009, "Brian O'Dea: Writing as a Life Saving Device."
Click here to read the guide for High.

Philosophy student Susannah Jones stumbles through 1970s university life the only way she knows how: with the help of some of the most important philosophers of modern times. She falls in love, breaks up, and dabbles in feminism and sexual freedom. But circumstances become more complicated than Susannah would like when she finds herself in a particularly impossible dilemma: she becomes pregnant.
Click here to read the guide for A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy.

A renowned concert pianist at the height of her career, Isabel Merton feels increasingly dissatisfied with her itinerant artist’s life. On a European tour, she meets a political exile from war-torn Chechnya. As their paths cross in several cities, they are drawn to each other both by their differences, and their seemingly parallel passions until a menacing incident throws her into a creative crisis, and forces her to re-evaluate his actions, and her own motives.
Click here to read the guide for Appassionata.


The Lacuna Cabal Montreal Young Women’s Book Club loves to bring to life the books they read. But when they begin to enact the Epic of Gilgamesh, in the early days of the Iraq War, the book begins to enact them instead, sending the Cabalists across the globe in search of a wise man who will hopefully have all the answers.

-Click here to read Sean Dixon's blog entry from April 29, 2009, "Sean Dixon: The Book Club in Fiction & Reality."

Click here to read the guide for The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal.

There are big fish in small ponds, and then there is Valeria --- a whale in a puddle. She harrumphs her daily way through her backwater Hungarian village, finding equal fault with the new, the old, the foreign, and the familiar. Her decades of universal contempt have turned her into a touchstone of her little community --- whatever she scorns the least must truly be the best. But one day, on a day like any other, her spinster's heart is struck by an unlikely arrow: the village potter, long known and little noticed, captures her fancy, and Valeria finds herself playing an uncomfortable new role.

With humor and sensitivity, author Marc Fitten delivers an unexpected and entirely inspiring debut novel --- a celebration of late-flowering love that's sure to warm the hearts of even the most committed curmudgeons.

Click here to read the guide for Valeria's Last Stand.

WE ARE RICH by Dori Carter
With the same unerring eye that made her a Los Angeles Times bestseller with Beautiful Wasps Having Sex, Dori Carter trains her incautious wit on the burdens of wealth, class and the unwitting arsonists of the American Dream in this collection of short stories. As if foreshadowing our current economic graveyard, We Are Rich shows us where the bodies are buried as we watch the hillsides of paradise quite literally go up in smoke.
Click here to read the guide for We Are Rich.

AN ACCIDENTAL LIGHT by Elizabeth Diamond
On a quiet road just outside London, a fatal car accident takes the life of 13-year-old Laura Jenkins, and her death changes the lives of two families forever. In this poignant and heart-warming debut novel, Elizabeth Diamond explores the ripple effects of a single moment of tragedy --- the journey from guilt to peace, from vengeance to forgiveness, from sorrow to hope --- and even, ultimately, to joy. An Accidental Light is a tender and deeply affecting story that is not easily forgotten.
Click here to read the guide for An Accidental Light.

Abigail Bennett was completely in control of her life until tragedy suddenly pushed her to the brink of something she’s never experienced: obsession. Now, she’s given up everything to chase down the object of that obsession. His name is Tyler Kamp.

The Moment Between is a complex novel about the emotional risks of relationships between a 30-year-old unmarried accountant looking to reinvent herself, her troubled sister, and the man who becomes, for very different reasons, their shared obsession.

Click here to read the guide for The Moment Between.

From the author of the heartwarming Mulberry Park comes an uplifting, unforgettable new novel.

As a teen, Kristy Smith spent her nights dreaming of a college scholarship --- dreams that ended abruptly when she became pregnant. When Craig Houston became a pastor, he envisioned making a difference in some distant, poverty-stricken country, not dealing with youth groups and shut-ins in a tidy suburb like Fairbrook. But things aren’t always what they seem. One by one, the residents of Fairbrook are about to learn that the future can surprise and redeem us, especially when there is courage and true friendship in abundance, and a little help from an unexpected source.
Click here to read the guide for Entertaining Angels.

Registered Book Club Offers

For May we have three very special opportunities for Registered Book Groups. Our featured titles this month are The No 1. Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, Secrets She Left Behind by Diane Chamberlain and The Killing Tree by Rachel Keener. Groups who have registered with us by Friday, May 15th have the chance to win author chats and/or free books. If your group is not registered, click here to register.

The No 1. Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith --- Special Book and Journal Giveaway: Five groups will have the opportunity to receive the Grand Prize of up to 15 copies of the book as well as 15 special No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency journals. Five additional groups will have the opportunity to receive the First Prize of one copy of the book as well as 15 special No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency journals.

More About The No 1. Ladies’ Detective Agency:
NOW AN HBO ORIGINAL SERIES. Meet Mma Ramotswe, the endearing, engaging, simply irresistible proprietress of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, the first and only detective agency in Botswana. With persistent observation, gentle intuition, and a keen desire to help people with the problems of their lives, she solves mysteries great and small for friends and strangers alike. From tracking down a missing husband to uncovering a con man, there’s plenty to keep Mma Ramotswe busy, but she tackles it all with confidence and determination.

Alexander McCall Smith’s trademark wit and charm suffuse The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and with its themes of family, identity and forgiveness, it’s guaranteed to spark book club discussion.

Secrets She Left Behind by Diane Chamberlain --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Two groups will have the opportunity to chat with Diane Chamberlain and receive up to 12 copies of the book.

More About Secrets She Left Behind:
Every family has its secrets, and the one featured in Diane Chamberlain’s latest novel is no exception. Praised for her emotional and controversial novels, Chamberlain infuses Secrets She Left Behind with heartbreak and redemption, focusing on teenage half-siblings and the turmoil they must face thanks to a lifetime of secrets their parents kept hidden. Chamberlain is a master at creating characters so familiar they might live next door, and embroiling them in moral dilemmas that draw in her readers from the opening pages; with Secrets She Left Behind, she delivers another compelling and thought-provoking read.

The Killing Tree by Rachel Keener --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: 20 groups will have the opportunity to chat with Rachel Keener and receive up to 10 copies of the book. An additional 200 groups will also have the opportunity to receive a copy of the book.

More About The Killing Tree:
The Killing Tree is a vivid debut novel about a young woman’s coming of age, set in the rich contemporary culture of the Appalachian Mountains. This is a passionate and intense story about a young woman trapped in a closed, rural society.

The Killing Tree elicits deep conversations about the struggles and triumphs of the flawed, likable characters. It’s the kind of novel that draws you into its world, refusing to release its hold until the end.


Click here to register your group.

New Guides Now Available

The following guides are now available on

An Accidental Light by Elizabeth Diamond: A car accident takes the life of a 13-year-old girl, and the ripple effects of a single moment of tragedy become a journey from sorrow to hope, and even, ultimately to joy.
The Air Between Us by Deborah Johnson: A novel with the appeal of The Secret Life of Bees that explores the interactions of a small town in 1960s Missouri as it struggles with integration.
All We Ever Wanted Was Everything by Janelle Brown: A smart, comic page-turner about a Silicon Valley family in free fall over the course of one eventful summer.
Appassionata by Eva Hoffman: On tour in Europe, Isabel Merton, a renowned concert pianist, becomes ensnared in a passionate love affair with a Chechen political exile.
Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James: A funny and blazingly original novel about sisterhood, the tantalizing dream of America and the secret histories of families everywhere.
The Divorce Party by Laura Dave: An insightful and funny multi-generational story, this deeply moving novel is sure to touch anyone whose heart has weathered an unexpected storm.
Finding Sara by Linda Hope Lee: A young woman's cross country journey to avoid marrying a man she does not love takes an unexpected turn when she finds herself stranded and alone.
Foreign Tongue: A Novel of Life and Love in Paris by Vanina Marsot: A young woman is forced to confront her notions of love, language and culture when, in the wake of a breakup, she moves to Paris and begins work translating a mysterious erotic novel.
The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton: From the internationally bestselling author of The House at Riverton, an unforgettable new novel that transports the reader from the back alleys of poverty of pre-World War I London to the shores of colonial Australia.

The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women & a Forty-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow: From the co-author of the million-copy bestseller The Last Lecture comes a moving tribute to female friendships, with the inspiring story of 11 girls and the 10 women they became.
A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy by Charlotte Greig: Philosophy student Susannah Jones stumbles through 1970s university life the only way she knows how: with the help of some of the most important philosophers of modern times.
God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens: In the tradition of Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian and Sam Harris’s recent bestseller, The End of Faith, Christopher Hitchens makes the ultimate case against religion.
High: Confessions of an International Drug Smuggler by Brian O'Dea: High weaves together extracts from Brian O’Dea prison diary with the vivid recounting of his outlaw years as one of the world’s most efficient marijuana traffickers.
Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg: The bestselling author of The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and The Year of Pleasure returns with a wonderful novel about a woman, a daughter, and a surprising change in life
The House on Fortune Street by Margot Livesey: Two unlikely college friends form a lifelong bond, bringing them mutual good luck for years; but now that they’ve both found “true love,” tragedy threatens to strike.
The Household Guide to Dying by Debra Adelaide: A gorgeously crafted, witty and uplifting novel that captures the reader --- heart and mind --- and expands our understanding of a meaningful life.
How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson: A playful, witty and remarkably accomplished debut novel about --- of all things --- how reading can save your life.
Killer Cruise: A Jaine Austen Mystery by Laura Levine: Laura Levine’s latest mystery featuring wordsmith-turned-sleuth, Jaine Austen --- who’s about to dive into her most dangerous case yet --- she’s far beyond any ordinary Bon Voyage.
The Killing Tree by Rachel Keener: A powerful and surprising first novel that is commercial and suspenseful in tone while deep and lyrical in its prose, The Killing Tree will wrap you deeply in the folds of contemporary Appalachian culture.
The Last Days of the Lacuna Cabal by Sean Dixon: An offbeat rites-of-passage novel that follows the members of a shallow, squabbling, time-wasting, protracted-adolescent book club as they find themselves transformed through the alchemy of the storyteller’s art.
Love Begins in Winter: Five Stories by Simon Van Booy: A new collection of intimate, redemptive short stories from award-winning writer Simon Van Booy, exposing beauty in sadness, and pain in love.
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick: With echoes of Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, Robert Goolrick's intoxicating debut novel delivers a classic tale of suspenseful seduction, set in a world that seems to have gone temporarily off its axis.
Right of Thirst by Frank Huyler: In this haunting, resonant tour de force, an American doctor’s search for redemption lands him halfway across the world on a relief mission that goes horribly awry.
The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly: Jack McEvoy decides to use his final days at the Los Angeles Times to write the definitive murder story of his career.
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry: An epic story of family, love and unavoidable tragedy from the two-time Man Booker Prize finalist.
Secrets She Left Behind by Diane Chamberlain: One afternoon, single mother Sara Weston says that she's going to the store --- and never returns. In her absence, she leaves her teenaged son alone with his damaged past and a legacy of secrets.
Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber: It swept to the top of the bestseller lists and riveted the consciousness of the world. Sybil is the story of a survivor of terrifying childhood abuse, victim of sudden and mystifying blackouts, and the first case of multiple personality ever to be psychoanalyzed.

The Turnaround by George Pelecanos: A novel of fathers and sons, wives and husbands, loss, victory and violent redemption, The Turnaround is another compelling, highly charged novel from George Pelecanos, "the best crime novelist in America." --Oregonian
Up at the College by Michele Andrea Bowen: After her marriage of 15 years ends, Yvonne Fountain Copeland returns to her hometown of Durham, North Carolina in search of peace and joy.
Valeria's Last Stand by Marc Fitten: A wry folktale about life, love and capitalism in a tiny village off the map of Hungary.
We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters: Revised and Expanded Edition by Cokie Roberts: In this 10th-anniversary edition of We Are Our Mothers’ Daughters, renowned political commentator Cokie Roberts once again examines the nature of women’s roles through the revealing lens of her personal experience.
We Are Rich: Stories by Dori Carter: A novel in stories, We Are Rich presents a fresh look on the burdens of wealth, class and the unwitting arsonists of the American Dream.
The Winter Vault by Anne Michaels: Anne Michaels, author of Fugitive Pieces, writes a love story of extraordinary depth that juxtaposes an intriguing bit of history with the intimate moments of individual lives.

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

An Absolute Scandal by Penny Vincenzi
Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (Movie Tie-in Edition) by Alexander McCall Smith
Testimony by Anita Shreve
The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton
Wit’s End by Karen Joy Fowler

We have the following new guides for Christian book groups:

Enduring Love: Sydney Cove Series, Book 3 by Bonnie Leon: The suspenseful conclusion to the Sydney Cove series, Enduring Love is a gripping story laced with the tender romance and hope that readers have come to expect from Bonnie Leon.
Entertaining Angels by Judy Duarte: From the author of the heartwarming Mulberry Park comes an uplifting, unforgettable new novel.

Jillian Dare by Melanie M. Jeschke: This contemporary story, inspired by the well-loved classic Jane Eyre, will capture your heart with its timeless romance and the mystery of love.
The Moment Between by Nicole Baart: A breathtaking story about the emotional risks of relationships, The Moment Between explores the cost of regret, the desire for revenge, and the redemptive power of forgiveness.
Nothing But Trouble: PJ Sugar Series, Book 1 by Susan May Warren: Award-winning author Susan May Warren returns with Nothing But Trouble, the first novel in a new series for Christian fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum.
Parenting Your Teen and Loving It: Being the Mom Your Kid Needs by Susie Davis: Davis's unfailing advice and encouragement will help you be the best mom you can be by empowering you to parent your teenagers with wisdom.

A Passion Denied: The Daughters of Boston, Book 3 by Julie Lessman: Brimming with romance, longing and redemption, A Passion Denied, will quicken your pulse and gladden your heart with a riveting story of the true power of love.


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Happy reading. We'll see you next month.

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Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])

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