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May 2011 Newsletter May 2011
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Pitching Books for Your Group...

For many groups that select books just once a year, ‘tis the season to be making selections. This is the time for book club members to hone their pitch skills. Why? Well, the difference between the book you want to have your group read being selected --- or not --- could be the way it is pitched to other members of the group.

What to do:
1) Know what might interest your group about "your" book and touch on those points.
2) Be passionate. Talk about why the book moved you, kept you up all night or why you want to discuss it.
3) Frame your book by giving it some reference to other titles that your group enjoyed.

Here’s an example. One group member I know pitched The Paris Wife by Paula McLain to her group. She did her homework, and when she presented it, she talked about how, to her, A Moveable Feast was Ernest Hemingway’s story of these years, while The Paris Wife was the story from Hadley’s point of view. If members of their group wanted to do some extra reading, they could read both books. She referenced other books like Loving Frank that the group had read and enjoyed. Her passion for the book came through. Touching about these angles, the group had voted to read it unanimously, which is a very satisfying feeling.

The rest of their eight selections will be A Blind Eye, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Little Bee, One Nation Under Sex, The Senator's Wife, The Widower's Tale and The Wizard of Lies. What did not make the cut? Such terrific books as Cutting for Stone, The Mitford Sisters, A Reliable Wife and Unbroken. This is not to say that these are not all excellent selections. They are. BUT they were not presented in a compelling way that the group would select them. In some cases the group members could not be there to present their selections, and somehow reading their words was not the same as hearing and seeing their passion. Ponder this as you are “making a case” for your selection.

Our poll question asks readers to weigh in on what percentage of the books that your book club reads would you read even if you were not in a book club. One more note about the group I cite above. MANY of those in attendance plan to read the books that were not selected on their own, which proves that the power of book clubs to engage readers goes far beyond the discussions.

Last month on we featured a special tribute site for Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. This month we proudly share another special microsite, this time for author Garth Stein, whose The Art of Racing in the Rain has been another book group favorite since its release in 2008. Why are we celebrating now? Well, because Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog, a junior reader edition of Garth’s bestseller, was just published. This new edition adapts the story of the lovable dog Enzo and his thoughts on life for younger readers. You can visit the site here.

The idea that there are books here that are great for discussion with kids and adults gave us an idea. What about a family book club chat? With the release of the new book, the whole family can read together. And to celebrate that, we are running a contest from now through June 3rd. Enter YOUR FAMILY here to win a family phone or Skype chat with Garth as well as other prizes from the Enzo Store. We really love this idea of the whole family enjoying this book together! Please check out our special family reading guide, and share your thoughts on The Art of Racing in the Rain and Racing in the Rain in our comments section. Summer is on its way, and reading as a family would be a great way to celebrate. Family reunion coming up? Hmmmm think about everyone talking about Enzo as well as family memories.

This month we’re hosting two special contests on the site. Fifteen readers can win a copy of The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls, an original and humorous story about love and marriage. Bess has just about given up hope of marriage until she meets a charming Irish musician and quickly falls for him only to discover she would be wife No. 9. This sends Bess on a huge journey to track down and question the wives who came before. Enter here by Wednesday, June 8th at noon ET.

We have 100 advance reader copies of The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen, an emotional story of a family bonding together in the wake of a newborn’s death. This book explores the aftermath from the perspective of the parents, their older children and grandparents. Fans of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter will want to preview this one as it won’t be in stores until September 15th. Enter here by Wednesday, June 8th at noon ET.

Three of our registered readers can win an author chat with Sandra Dallas about her new book, The Bride’s House. Sandra tells the story of three Colorado women who have all shared the same Victorian mansion. She is always a reader favorite here, so it’s a pleasure to feature her latest and give this special opportunity to three groups. Register your group here by Tuesday, May 17th so you can enter.

This month we also added the guide for Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, which was one of my Bets On picks from 2010 on The paperback version hits stores May 17th, and I know it will make for an interesting discussion book. This well-crafted story stays with you as it follows the relationship of two men from their childhood days in rural Mississippi through their adult lives in the same town, and how a tragedy forever links them. Tom was nominated for Best Novel at the Edgar Awards, which celebrate the best mystery and crime writing of the year. He won the prize for Best Mystery at the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes two weeks ago. This month, one lucky subscriber will be randomly chosen to receive 20 copies of the paperback.

Since the last update, I’ve had the time to enjoy some more wonderful books. I like to keep this newsletter more focused on book group titles and happenings on this site, but if you’re interested in what I’ve read recently and my report on the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (where among others I met Tom Franklin!), then read through these past newsletters: May 6th, April 29th, April 22nd and April 15th.

Next month I'll be able to report on BookExpo America, the industry's annual trade show that is going to be held in New York City from May 23rd til May 26th. I'll be moderating a group of publishers who will be presenting Hot Book Club Titles for Fall on Tuesday, May 24th from 3:30-5:00. Attending? Let me know! Want to attend? Well, if you are the facilitator of a book club with 10 or more members that meets 10 or more times a year, you qualify and can sign up here. Should be lots of fun and lots to report back on!

I also will be presenting Great Books for Summer Reading at the Warren Public Library in Warren, New Jersey on Thursday, May 12th from 7:00-8:30. To sign up, visit and click on “Events/Programs” or call the Adult Reference Desk, 908-754-5554 x32.

Want to be SURE your group is up to speed on the latest hardcover and paperback releases? Then be sure to subscribe to the “On Sale This Week” Newsletter.

I trust that everyone had a lovely Mother’s Day. My rallying cry for Mother’s Day Month continues. If you missed our month-long Mother’s Day blog series at, now is the time to catch up!

Here’s wishing you all a wonderful month of reading with your group --- and remember to hone your pitch so YOUR selections are chosen!

See you next month!

Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])


Special Contest: Win a Copy of THE NINTH WIFE by Amy Stolls for Your Group

We are celebrating the release of The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls --- a smart, funny, eye-opening tale of love, marriage, and the power of stories to unlock the true meaning of home and family --- with a special contest. 15 readers will have the opportunity to each win one copy of the book, which will be in stores May 10th, for their group. The deadline for entries is Wednesday, June 8th at noon ET.

More about The Ninth Wife:
Bess Gray is a 35-year-old folklorist and amateur martial artist living in Washington, DC. Just as she's about to give up all hope of marriage, she meets Rory, a charming Irish musician, and they fall in love. But Rory is a man with a secret, which he confesses to Bess when he asks for her hand: He's been married eight times before. Shocked, Bess embarks on a quest she feels she must undertake before she can give him an answer. With her bickering grandparents (married 65 years), her gay neighbor (himself a mystery), a shar-pei named Stella, and a mannequin named Peace, Bess sets out on a cross-country journey --- unbeknownst to Rory --- to seek out and question the wives who came before. What she discovers about her own past is far more than she bargained for.

-Click here for the reading group guide.


Click here to read all the contest details.

Special Contest: Win an Advance Copy of THE GRIEF OF OTHERS by Leah Hager Cohen
We are celebrating the forthcoming release of The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen --- a gorgeous, absorbing, intricately told tale of one family on the brink of collapse --- with a special contest. 100 readers will have the opportunity to each win one advance copy of the book, which will be in stores September 15th, for their group. The deadline for entries is Wednesday, June 8th at noon ET.

More about The Grief of Others:
In the tradition of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, a gripping, generous and provocative novel chronicling the grief that follows the death of a newborn --- and leads to a family’s emotional reawakening. Moving, psychologically acute and gorgeously written, The Grief of Others is Leah Hager Cohen at the height of her talent in what is sure to be her breakout book, one that forces readers to ask themselves: What would I have done? The Grief of Others exposes the paradox that facing tragedy together can in fact awaken us to our better selves and take us from fear to a place of hope and optimism.

-Click here for the reading group guide.

Click here to read all the contest details.

Special Contest: Win a Chat with Garth Stein for Your Family to Celebrate the Release of RACING IN THE RAIN

"The race is long. It is better to drive within oneself and finish the race behind the other than it is to drive too hard and crash."

That's the wisdom of Enzo, a dog with a lot to say about cars and life. When The Art of Racing in the Rain --- Garth Stein's novel about Enzo and his owners --- was published in 2008, readers immediately fell in love with Enzo, and the book has been a New York Times bestseller ever since. That's because, once people finish reading the novel, they want to tell everybody about it.

Now the whole family can read about Enzo together --- Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog is now available in an edition for junior readers.

Consider this site your “Enzo pit stop” with information about the books as well as a special Racing in the Rain Contest where your family can win a chat with Garth Stein, signed books, and “I Heart Enzo” T-shirts and “Go Enzo” baseball caps from the Enzo Store.


Click here to see our special site for RACING IN THE RAIN.


Brianna Karp entered the workforce at age 10, supporting her mother and sister throughout her teen years in Southern California. Although her young life was scarred by violence and abuse, Karp stayed focused on her dream of a steady job and a home of her own. By age 22 her dream became reality. Karp loved her job as an executive assistant and signed the lease on a tiny cottage near the beach. And then the Great Recession hit. Karp, like millions of others, lost her job. In the six months between the day she was laid off and the day she was forced out onto the street, Karp scrambled for temp work and filed hundreds of job applications, only to find all doors closed.

-Click here to see our Paperback Spotlight feature for The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness on

Click here to read the guide for The Girl's Guide to Homelessness.

Now Available in Paperback: HUSBAND AND WIFE by Leah Stewart

Sarah Price has never regretted trading her MFA for a steady job so that her husband, Nathan, could write fiction. But at age 35, her world is turned upside-down by a shocking revelation: Nathan's upcoming novel, Infidelity, is based on fact. Reeling from his betrayal, Sarah is plagued by dark questions. How well does she really know her husband? More important, how well does she know herself?

Click here to read the guide for Husband and Wife.

Now Available in Paperback: THE LOST GIRLS: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World, by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett and Amanda Pressner

With their 30th birthdays looming, Jen, Holly and Amanda are feeling the pressure to hit certain milestones --- score the big promotion, find a soul mate, have 2.2 kids. Instead, they make a pact to quit their jobs, leave behind everything familiar, and embark on a yearlong round-the-world search for inspiration and direction. Traveling 60,000 miles across four continents, Jen, Holly and Amanda push themselves far outside their comfort zones to embrace every adventure.

Click here to read the guide for The Lost Girls.

THE SUMMER OF US by Holly Chamberlin

At first, the only thing Gincy, Danielle, and Clare have in common is a desire to spend weekends away from the city. No-nonsense Gincy has worked hard to leave her small-town childhood behind. Danielle grew up with every advantage and is looking for a husband who’ll fit neatly into her pampered life, while Clare is enjoying a last burst of independence before marrying her ambitious fiancé. Yet lazy beach days and warm, conversation-filled nights forge an unexpected connection. And over the course of one eventful summer, Gincy, Danielle, and Clare will discover that friendship isn’t always measured in how well you know a person’s past --- but in opening each other’s eyes to everything the future could hold…

Click here to read the guide for The Summer of Us.



As Queen Catherine's maid and daughter of the Duke of Buckingham, the future seems bright for Elizabeth Stafford. But when her father gives her hand to Thomas Howard, third Duke of Norfolk, the spirited young woman must sacrifice all for duty. Yet Elizabeth is surprised by her passion for her powerful new husband. And when he takes on a mistress, she is determined to fight for her love and her honor…

Click here to read the guide for Rivals in the Tudor Court.

May's Registered Book Club Contest

For May we have a very special opportunity for Registered Book Groups. Our featured title this month is The Bride’s House by Sandra Dallas. Groups who have registered with us by Tuesday, May 17th have the chance to win an author chat and/or free books. If your group is not registered, click here to register.

The Bride’s House by Sandra Dallas --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Three groups will have the opportunity to chat with Sandra Dallas and receive up to 10 copies of the book.

More about The Bride’s House:
It’s 1880, and for unassuming 17-year-old Nealie Bent, the Bride’s House is a fairy tale come to life. It seems as if it is being built precisely for her and Will Spaulding, the man she is convinced she will marry. But life doesn’t go according to plan, and Nealie finds herself in the Bride’s House pregnant --- and married to another.

For Pearl, growing up in the Bride’s House is akin to being raised in a mausoleum. Her father has fashioned the house into a shrine to the woman he loved, resisting all forms of change. When the enterprising young Frank Curry comes along and asks for Pearl’s hand in marriage, her father sabotages the union. But he underestimates the lengths to which the women in the Bride’s House will go for love.

Susan is the latest in the line of strong and willful women in the Bride’s House. She’s proud of the women who came before her, but the Bride’s House hides secrets that will force her to question what she wants and who she loves.


Click here to register your group.'s Book Group Spotlight: The Book Ends

The Book Group Spotlight Feature is designed to share a selected book group with our readers. The spotlight may focus on a group's discussion of a book or on a group that we feel is particularly interesting.

This month’s Book Group Spotlight interview features The Book Ends, a North Carolina-based reading group. Three members of the group --- Linda Young, the only original member left; Margaret Ann Aycock, a former librarian; and Jane Wallace, the group moderator --- volunteered to answer some questions for us about how their group works and how difficult it is to get to a bookstore when you live in an isolated mountain town!

-Click here to read previous Book Group Spotlight interviews.

Click here to read our latest Book Group Spotlight interview.'s "What to Read Next? Suggest a Book for This Group"

Is your book group stuck in a rut? Or looking to stretch beyond its comfort zone? Maybe you’re just searching for that next great read?

We’re here to help! Our latest feature, What to Read Next? Suggest a Book for This Group, aims to help a group by taking suggestions from our thousands of book group members.

We’ll regularly feature groups, tell you something about them and share their previous six selections, and then ask you to leave a suggestion for them in our special form. We’re excited to see groups sharing picks back and forth, and hope this feature helps groups find a new favorite discussion title!

-Click here to see this month’s featured groups.
-Click here to see the suggestions for last month’s groups.
-Click here to see the suggestions for previously featured groups.
-Click here to submit your group for consideration.


Click here to see our "What to Read Next?" feature.

What's New on the Blog
Our Blog continues to be a big hit among our readers. Throughout the month we are sharing postings from regular contributors --- including authors, librarians, book club facilitators, booksellers and experts in the publishing industry --- as well as special guests. The latest blog can be found here, and here are quick links to some recent posts:

-Reading: THE GIRL'S GUIDE TO HOMELESSNESS: A Memoir by Brianna Karp
-An Interview with Sandra Dallas, Author of THE BRIDE'S HOUSE
-A Ticket Booth in the Trees
-An Interview with Deanna Fei, Author of A THREAD OF SKY
-Brunonia Barry on Writing
-Shilpi Somaya Gowda: The Spirit of Book Club
-Susan Isaacs: AS HUSBANDS GO

For those of you who use RSS feeds to keep track of your favorite blogs, you can now add the Blog to your list by clicking this link. Also, receive updates by email here. The blog is also shared on the Facebook page.
Click here to read the Blog.

New Guides Now Available

The Bride’s House by Sandra Dallas: From the New York Times bestselling author of Whiter Than Snow and Prayers for Sale comes a novel about the secrets and passions of three generations of Colorado women who have all lived in the same Victorian home called the Bride’s House.
The Council of Dads: A Story of Family, Friendship & Learning How to Live by Bruce Feiler: Bestselling author Bruce Feiler chronicles his diagnosis and fight with cancer, and his decision to form a council of fathers to help raise his young daughters.
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin: Two boyhood friends from opposite sides of town are linked by an unspeakable tragedy that remains unresolved decades later.
The Daughter’s Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick: A mother and daughter cross the country in hopes of breaking into the fashion industry in New York City circa 1890.
The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness: A Memoir by Brianna Karp: A young professional finds herself living in a camper after the economic collapse of 2008.
The Great Night by Chris Adrian: An innovative and daring retelling of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream told in the present day.
The Grief of Others by Leah Hager Cohen: The death of a newborn shatters family members, and then teaches them to share one another's burdens.
Husband and Wife by Leah Stewart: A groom confesses his infidelity on the eve of his wedding, and his bride reconsiders their past, present and future.
The Lost Girls: Three Friends. Four Continents. One Unconventional Detour Around the World by Jennifer Baggett, Holly C. Corbett and Amanda Pressner: Three friends celebrate their 30th birthdays by embarking on an around the world adventure.
Love Fraud: How Marriage to a Sociopath Fulfilled My Spiritual Path by Donna Andersen: Donna Andersen chronicles her marriage based upon lies from a sociopath, and the introspective and spiritual journey she embarked upon to gain perspective.
Miss New India by Bharati Mukherjee: An ambitious small-town girl flees an arranged marriage and finds herself having all sorts of adventures --- professional, social and sexual --- in Bangalore.
The Ninth Wife by Amy Stolls: The Ninth Wife is a smart, funny, eye-opening tale of love, marriage, and the power of stories to unlock the true meaning of home and family.
No Biking in the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene: A journalist writes about her family’s plans to adopt several children from impoverished nations.
Rivals in the Tudor Court by D.L. Bogdan: Intrigue and romance among British royalty during Henry VIII’s tumultuous rule.
Skinny by Diana Spechler: A grieving twenty-something takes a job at a camp for obese kids, only to find herself entangled in a web of family lies.
The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum: A brother and sister are linked by a childhood accident that leads one into the dangerous pastime of storm chasing.
The Summer of Us by Holly Chamberlin: Three strangers share a summer rental on Martha’s Vineyard, and find they have much in common despite their different backgrounds.
When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman: A family saga unfolds across generations and continents as a brother and sister learn secrets about their family.
When We Danced on Water by Evan Fallenberg: A prominent choreographer seeks to leave his rakish ways behind him, until he meets a seductive waitress.
A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism by Peter Mountford: A hedge fund employee finds himself caught between career and personal aspirations when he’s charged with a delicate, international task.

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

Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson: Jackson dazzles readers with a fresh and heartwrenching portrayal of the lengths a mother will go to right the wrongs she's created, and how far a daughter will go to escape the demands of forgiveness.
Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok: Introducing a fresh, exciting Chinese-American voice, Girl in Translation is an inspiring debut about a young immigrant in America, a smart girl balancing schoolwork and factory labor, custom and desire, a girl who is forced at a young age to take responsibility for her family’s future, with decisions she may later regret.
The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees: McNees deftly mixes fact and fiction as she imagines a love affair that would threaten Louisa May Alcott’s writing career --- and inspire the story of Jo and Laurie in Little Women.
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender: On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake.
The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw: A heartbreaking affair, an unsolved murder, an explosive romance: welcome to summer on the Cape in this powerful debut.
What Is Left the Daughter by Howard Norman: Seventeen-year-old Wyatt Hillyer is suddenly orphaned when his parents, within hours of each other, jump off two different bridges --- the result of their separate involvements with the same compelling neighbor.
Where the River Ends by Charles Martin: A man pledges to navigate the 130-mile-long St. Mary's River along with his terminally ill wife.

The following guides are now available for Christian book groups:

The Gift: Chiveis Trilogy, Book 2 by Bryan M. Litfin: A retelling of popular Bible parables set in a fantastical land.
A Great Catch: Lake Manawa Summers, Book 2 by Lorna Seilstad: An ambitious young woman becomes interested in a local baseball heartthrob while on summer vacation.
A Heart Divided: Heart of the Rockies, Book 1 by Kathleen Morgan: A daughter becomes embroiled in a family feud for ranch land, and the target of the sheriff’s investigation.
A Killer Among Us: Women of Justice, Book 3 by Lynette Eason: A hostage negotiator and detective are ensnared in a deadly plot that targets them.
Lilies in Moonlight by Allison Pittman: A young woman stumbles upon a war-ravaged mansion and curmudgeonly veteran, and makes it her mission to fix both.
My Foolish Heart: Deep Haven, Book 4 by Susan May Warren: A radio host begins falling in love with one of her regular callers, who happens to be an Iraq war veteran.


This Month's Poll and Newsletter Contest Book


What percentage of the books that your group has discussed would you have read even if you weren’t in a book club?

Less than 25%
I’m not sure.
I’m not in a book group.

-Click here to answer our poll.

Newsletter Contest:

Win a copy of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin for your reading group!

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, 2011. If you are receiving this newsletter in your mailbox, you already are signed up!

More about Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter:
Tom Franklin's extraordinary talent has been hailed by the leading lights of contemporary literature --- Phillip Roth, Richard Ford, Lee Smith and Dennis Lehane. Reviewers have called his fiction "ingenious" (USA Today) and "compulsively readable" (Memphis Commercial Appeal). His narrative power and flair for characterization have been compared to the likes of Harper Lee, Flannery O'Connor, Elmore Leonard and Cormac McCarthy.

Now the Edgar Award-winning author returns with his most accomplished and resonant novel so far --- an atmospheric drama set in rural Mississippi. In the late 1970s, Larry Ott and Silas "32" Jones were boyhood pals: Larry, the child of white, lower middle-class parents, and Silas, the son of a poor, single black mother. Their worlds were as different as night and day, yet, for a few months, the boys stepped outside of their circumstance and shared a special bond. But then tragedy struck: on a date, Larry took a girl to a drive-in movie, and she was never heard from again. She was never found and there was no confession, but all eyes rested on Larry. The incident shook the county --- and perhaps Silas most of all. He and Larry's friendship was broken, and then Silas left.

-Click here to read all the contest details.


Do you like what you see here, and want to forward it to a friend? Then click our link on the bottom of the page to do just that!

Happy reading. We'll see you next month.

Don't forget to visit our other websites from,,,,, and

Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])

The Book Report Network
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