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February 2004 Newsletter February 2004
This Month on
Books I Read....
THE USUAL RULES by Joyce Maynard --- And a Contest to Win Copies for Your Group
THE BLESSING STONE by Barbara Wood - A Reading Guide and Special Opportunity to e-Mail the Author!
EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck
LAST CALL by Laura Pedersen
Book Club Interviews
This Month's Poll
Newest Guides
This Month's Contest: Win LAST CALL by Laura Pedersen
Find a Guide by Title
Find a Guide by Author
Advice and Ideas
Search The Book Report Network
Click here to read a guide for A PAINTED HOUSE. Read about this fall's books that have been made into movies. See lists of book award winners here.
Books I Read....
I love to read and I am a fast reader. In a good week, I can read three books. Many times I close a book and immediately start thinking of how to share it with our readers. For me, that is one of the real pleasures of running this company for the past eight years.

I have been a fan of Joyce Maynard's work since she appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine back in 1972 with a piece that defined her as the spokesperson of her generation. I was a few years younger than Maynard, but remember thinking it was pretty amazing to have that opportunity at 18. Fast forward to 2004 when last month I had the opportunity to interview her about her new book, THE USUAL RULES.

This is a book that can be appreciated --- and enjoyed --- on so many levels. It's the story of Wendy, a thirteen-year-old girl who loses her mom on the morning of 9/11. And what happens when life needs to be written "without the usual rules."

There's a wide audience for this book --- moms, grandmothers and teens all will appreciate the voice and the strong themes that percolate throughout the entire story. By the way, this is not a book just about the events of 9/11. It's a story about loss and love --- and the power of family. The translates far beyond the events of that day and the months that followed.

Maynard wrote THE USUAL RULES the year her last child started college. We talk about that in the interview --- how her personal life transcended into her writing. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. If you know teens who are contemplating starting a book club with friends, this book would be an excellent choice. We are giving away up to 20 copies to a book club this month as part of special author contest. See details below.

THE BLESSING STONE is another title that blew me away this month. It's a powerful work of historical fiction that brilliantly weaves together eight vignettes from different times in history into a terrific novel with a blue stone --- the blessing stone --- as its shared element. I am not a history buff, but this book made me think about how we have grown and how those before us shaped this world. You may find yourselves, like I did, giving great thought to it after you close the last page. See our feature below to read this guide, as well as an interview with the author, Barbara Wood, and information about how you and your group can e-mail her with your questions.

Happy to share that A PAINTED HOUSE is now available in trade paperback --- and that we have a guide for it. I met John Grisham last year at the Virginia Festival of the Book and told him how many readers had written us requesting a guide for this book. His publisher wrote one and we are happy to share it with you.

Likewise many of you requested a guide for EAST OF EDEN, and we are happy to share bring that to you this month, as well. And a book our reviewer loved --- REVENGE OF THE MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN --- is now in paperback. That's something to celebrate!

Our poll question is one that you can share with readers who are not book club readers, as well as with those who are. It's all about audiobooks. I do not listen to audiobooks. When I am in the car I typically am on the cellphone (yes, I wear a headset) or sing along badly with the radio. I want to do more coverage of audiobooks on and am trying to figure out HOW to do that. Your replies to this poll question are appreciated.

One reason I think these books do not work for me --- I am a very fast reader and I think I can read faster than I can listen! Any others of you feel that way? Have ideas on how we can cover audiobooks? Please write me at Please put "audiobooks" in the subject line.

Enjoy this month's selections.

Carol Fitzgerald (
Read the Joyce Maynard interview here.
THE USUAL RULES by Joyce Maynard --- And a Contest to Win Copies for Your Group
THE USUAL RULES is a coming-of-age story, a story about discovering family and a story about healing. Thirteen-year-old Wendy must cope with the loss of her mother, who died in the World Trade Center on that fateful day in September 2001. She moves to California to live with her father, who has been absent for years. Torn between her old life in Brooklyn and a new one three thousand miles away, Wendy is faced with a world where the usual rules no longer apply --- and life must go on without them.

Would you like your group to win up to 20 signed copies of THE USUAL RULES? To be eligible send the answer to the following questions, along with your name and your mailing address to All entries must be received by 11:59PM on February 29, 2004.

Who does Wendy want to visit? And where does she want to go for this visit?

The answer may be found by reading the excerpt located here:
Read more about THE USUAL RULES here, including our review .
THE BLESSING STONE by Barbara Wood - A Reading Guide and Special Opportunity to e-Mail the Author!
THE BLESSING STONE is a sweeping epic that chronicles the history of humanity as it traces the path of a mysterious blue stone. The history of the world unfolds as the stone is passed from generation to generation, and across 5 continents from the Jordan River Valley to ancient Israel, from Imperial Rome to Medieval England, from fifteenth-century Germany to the eighteenth-century Caribbean and finally to the pioneers of the American West. Wood's 19th novel is comprised of eight individual books linked by a common thread.

To celebrate the trade paperback release of THE BLESSING STONE, we share a special offer --- from January 22nd through April 9th book clubs and readers are invited to write Barbara Wood, the author of THE BLESSING STONE to ask her questions about the writing and research of the book. interviewed Barbara and we encourage you to review her replies to our questions before you pose your own questions to ensure that you are not duplicating a previously asked question. Email her at We will share the most poignant questions and Barbara's replies at a later date.

Details about the opportunity to e-mail Barbara Wood can be found at

Our interview with Barbara Wood can be read at:

Click on the link below to check out's feature on THE BLESSING STONE and make sure to visit
Click here to read our feature about THE BLESSING STONE.
REVENGE OF THE MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN is a modern Everywoman's tale. It is the funny, heartfelt, and sad --- but definitely not tragic --- story about love and how it touched forty-seven-year-old Rose Lloyd. As a college student, Rose fell in love with a man. His name was Hal and he loved her but also wanted to roam the world. Then she met Nathan, who wanted to marry her and raise a family. Rose loved Nathan, too, although for different reasons. She made a decision.

For 25 years, Rose Lloyd is remarkably successful --- as a wife, as a mother and as a career woman. She is full of happiness and is at such peace with herself. However, Rose's life suddenly comes crashing down around her when both her marriage and career fall apart in the course of just a few days.

Our review of this book said, "Thoroughly British, smart and witty, REVENGE OF THE MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN will have you crying and laughing as Rose roller-coasters through the dissolution of her marriage and an inspirational renewal."
Search here. See the Media Book Club Picks here. Search here.
EAST OF EDEN by John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck's passionate and exhilarating epic, re-creates the seminal stories of Genesis through the intertwined lives of two American families. The result is a purely American saga set in Steinbeck's own childhood home, the Salinas Valley of northern California. The valley is a new world both idyllic and harsh, and Steinbeck sings to it with a personal nostalgia that is clouded by the knowledge that this valley --- as all human dwellings --- is the location for as much tragedy as triumph.
Read a guide for EAST OF EDEN here.
LAST CALL by Laura Pedersen
Having descended from a long line of indomitable, good-humored Scots, Hayden MacBride sees no reason to take his own death lying down. In fact, he now spends his days crashing funerals for the free food and insight into the Great Beyond. Then he meets Rosamond, a nun playing hooky from the Holy Orders. Hayden is smitten the instant her heavy silver cross smacks him in the face when she leaps up to do the wave at a ball game. Luckily, Rosamond has picked the right person to teach her how to live . . . and to love-because nobody does both better than Hayden MacBride.

In an uproariously funny novel of love, laughter, and one man's final call at the riotous watering hole called life, Laura Pedersen proves that miracles are all around us --- when we open our eyes and our hearts to embrace them.
Read a guide for LAST CALL here.
Book Club Interviews
This month we bring you the following book club interviews:

The Monday Afternoon Book Club from Pittsburgh, PA

Literally Speaking, a.k.a. "The Book Bags" from Jamestown, North Dakota

Book Lovers All from Belleville, Illinois

Chick Picks Book Club from Houston, TX
Read our Book Club interviews here.
This Month's Poll
Do you ever listen to audiobooks?
Much of the time
Some of the time

Do you think that listening to an audiobook qualifies as "reading" the book?
Yes, provided that the book is not abridged
Yes, even if the book has been abridged
Not sure
Answer our poll questions here.
Check out our Author Bibliographies here. Read about the titles that readers are talking about. Publishers and Authors add your guides to Details here.
Newest Guides
Annie Dunne by Sebastian Barry
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant
The Coffee Trader by David Liss
A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
The Fall by Simon Mawer
Flash House by Aimee E. Liu
Her Mother's Shadow by Diane Chamberlain
The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander
Miss Julia Throws a Wedding by Ann B. Ross
The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor
Strangers in the House by Raja Shehadeh
Three Daughters by Letty Cottin Pogrebin
The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy
The Usual Rules by Joyce Maynard
Women About Town by Laura Jacobs
See the Newest Guides here.
What To Do When No Guide is Available Search for thousands of book reviews and author interviews. Search lists of books coming out in the next few months.
This Month's Contest: Win LAST CALL by Laura Pedersen
A subscription to our newsletter is all you need to be entered in our monthly contest. This month, one lucky reader will win enough copies of LAST CALL by Laura Pedersen for his or her entire reading group. For more information on Laura Pedersen, go to
Read contest details here.

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.

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Carol Fitzgerald (