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April 2009 Newsletter April 2009
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Reading the Day Away....

I am writing this newsletter from the Outer Banks where we are spending Spring Break. This is one of my favorite reading/writing weeks of the year. This house has a small dedicated office where I have managed to set up my desktop and a printer, and that room has a wall of bookshelves where I have moved in the books that I want to read. I wander in there to bang out emails, jot notes to myself and shop the shelves for the next book to read. I have to shoot a picture of this. It's actually quite amusing to see how I have moved in.

In between books I am watching movies and knitting. It's one of those idyllic weeks where I am getting a ton done, but I am having a great time doing it. My life at home has little downtime, thus being here with no schedule feels quite nice. Right now I am sitting on the deck overlooking the golf course tapping away on my laptop. I write better when I can drop into a groove, and this has been a great week for that. The weather today is sunny (sunny enough that if anyone knows a great glare protector for a laptop, I would love you to send info on it my way), but it's still a lot colder than I might like this time of year.

Yesterday my movie watching included The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, the movie adapted from the bestselling book. It's just as wrenchingly sad and thought provoking, perhaps even more so since the boys' innocent faces are so haunting. I heartily recommend it for a book group "Books Into Movies" experience. Typically when I watch movies, I enjoy the chance to talk about them afterwards, especially if they were based on a book.

If you are a group that enjoys that, please note that The Reader releases on DVD on April 14th. I saw the movie when it released in theaters before I had read the book, something I try not to do. But it was so well done that I found myself wanting to read the book afterwards. I actually knew little about the story before I saw the movie, so I was thinking about how the book would have unfolded in prose much the same way that I might have thought about how a movie would depict a book. Interesting experience doing it "backwards." Kate Winslet's performance at every age is truly wonderful as Hanna Schmitz, and you can see why she won the Oscar for her performance. Do note that it has what I call blunt sex in it, meaning the sex scenes are graphic but not gratuitous. I give this word of caution for any of you who have group members who may be offended.

And one more movie note for those of you who are Alexander McCall Smith fans, and from our requested guides we know there are MANY of you. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is currently airing as a series on HBO. New episodes air every Sunday at 8PM through May 3rd. I hope you have a chance to watch it. I have been DVRing it to watch all at once!

Since I often write about books before they are released, I enjoy hearing from readers after they have read them to hear their reactions. Today my friend Annie called to talk about The Help. She had finished it last night and wanted to chat about everything from the characters to the setting and plotline. What amused me about this conversation was that I read this book when we stayed at this house over Christmas, thus I was talking about it with her sitting in the same chair that I had read it in back in December.

I like talking books just about anywhere. It's a reason I enjoyed Monday's blog post where we heard from Patti McFarland, the owner of Book Tales in Encinitas, California, who has started The Literary Walking Companions. Participants burn off calories while discussing whatever books they'd like. Patti tells us about their inaugural outing and what advice she has for those who might want to start their own "walk and talk" group. Click here to read's interview with Patti.

Today's blog post is from Robert Goolrick, whose new release A Reliable Wife is my latest Bets On book pick. I had the pleasure of seeing Goolrick in New York last week, and from his comments after his reading, I think this will give readers some terrific companion information about the message behind the story. We plan to have a guide for this book next month. If you do not read the blog posts each day you may want to consider reading them all once a month!

This month there are two terrific contests, both with books I loved. The first you have heard about a lot here, The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. It's a two-part contest where a grand prize of sorts will be Garth visiting your group for a meeting. The second is for a book that will be published in May called Rooftops of Tehran. I read a manuscript of this book last summer and will share that it's already been tapped by me as a Bets On pick for May.

Is your book group registered with us? If not, you want to be since this month we have FIVE special Registered Book Club contests! Register by April 13th to be eligible.

We've also added something new to the listing of New Guides: one-line descriptions that tell you a tiny bit about what the book is about. We feel that adding this information may spark even more of a reason to select these books for discussion --- or personal reading. And don't forget to answer our Book Group Survey, which ends on April 30th. I have been peeking at your replies, and I can see we are going to have some absolutely wonderful information to share with publishers, authors, booksellers and librarians on this subject. If you have not weighed in yet, click here. Or read more about this below.

Our poll this month asks if your group repeats authors when you are selecting books for discussion. We'd love to know what authors you regularly repeat if you do this. Please drop Shannon McKenna Schmidt a note at and let her know.

I am headed back to reading. On my stack, Lisa See's upcoming Shanghai Girls (May 26th), Patti Callahan Henry's Driftwood Summer (June 2nd) and Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg, which comes out on April 28th.

Here's wishing you all a Happy Easter or Passover...or just Happy Spring. Enjoy!

Carol Fitzgerald ('s 2009 Book Group Survey -- Give Us Your Input and Be Entered to Receive a Complementary Book! is conducting a survey of book groups. Our goal is to identify trends and topics that are of interest to book groups that we can share with publishers and authors, so they can provide the information and resources to enhance your meetings and discussions. We have not done a survey since 2001, and we know that a lot has changed in the last eight years! Thus, we would love to hear from you.

We estimate it will take 12-15 minutes to complete the survey. Each of the first 2,500 respondents will receive one of these 28 books graciously provided by our publisher colleagues. All other entrants will be entered into a random drawing to win one of 200 books. The titles that have been selected each are worthy of a terrific book group discussion, besides providing some wonderful reading enjoyment. Titles will be selected at random. Your name will not be used for any other mailing.

If you know people in other book clubs, may we suggest that you forward
this link to them? The more voices that are heard for this, the more we will be able to have your comments shared with publishers and authors.

The survey will close on April 30th, so
click here to answer the survey NOW.

One quick note: Given customs and mailing restrictions, the prize offerings are only available to residents of the United States and Canada. To our international readers, we welcome your participation and regret we cannot send prizes overseas.

here for more information about the survey and the 28 prize books.

Click here to take part in the 2009 Book Group Survey.

Special Contest: Win a Copy of THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN and the Chance to Have an IN-PERSON Chat with Garth Stein!
We are celebrating the upcoming paperback release of The Art of Racing in the Rain --- Garth Stein’s New York Times bestselling novel about family, love, loyalty and hope --- with a very special two-part contest. 100 readers will receive a copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain for their book club as well as an Art of Racing in the Rain buzz kit. We will then contact our 100 winning groups and ask them to tell us how they would creatively use some or all of the items included in this kit in their book discussion. One Grand Prize Winner will have an IN-PERSON chat with Garth Stein. Two runners-up will receive the opportunity to chat with Garth Stein by phone. Enter between now and Thursday, April 30th by filling out the form found here.

The Art of Racing in the Rain will be available in paperback on June 9th.

More About The Art of Racing in the Rain:
On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through. Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul, he has educated himself by watching television and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

-Click here to read the guide for The Art of Racing in the Rain.

Click here to read all the contest details.

Special Contest: Win a Copy of ROOFTOPS OF TEHRAN by Mahbod Seraji for Your Group
We are celebrating the upcoming release of Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji --- a coming-of-age story set in Iran in the 1970s that is funny, insightful, tragic and ultimately uplifting --- with a special contest. 50 readers will have the opportunity to each win one finished copy of Rooftops of Tehran, which will be in stores on May 5th, for their group. Enter between now and Thursday, April 30th by filling out the form found here.

More About Rooftops of Tehran:
In a middle-class neighborhood of Iran’s sprawling capital city, 17-year-old Pasha Shahed spends the summer of 1973 on his rooftop with his best friend Ahmed, joking around one minute and asking burning questions about life the next. He also hides a secret love for his beautiful neighbor Zari, who has been betrothed since birth to another man. But the bliss of Pasha and Zari’s stolen time together is shattered when Pasha unwittingly acts as a beacon for the Shah’s secret police. The violent consequences awaken him to the reality of living under a powerful despot, and lead Zari to make a shocking choice...

-Click here to read the guide for Rooftops of Tehran.

Click here to read all the contest details.

Now Available in Paperback: CITY OF THIEVES by David Benioff
"This spellbinding story perfectly blends tragedy and comedy." --USA Today

During the Nazis' brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter's wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.

Click here to read the guide for City of Thieves.

Now Available in Paperback: RIVER OF HEAVEN by Lee Martin
On an April evening in 1955, Dewey Finn died on the railroad tracks outside Mt. Gilead, Illinois, and the mystery of his death still confounds the people of this small town.

River of Heaven begins some 50 years later and centers on the story of Dewey’s boyhood friend Sam Brady, whose solitary adult life is much formed by what really went on in the days leading up to that evening at the tracks. It’s a story he’d do anything to keep from telling, but when his brother, Cal, returns to Mt. Gilead after decades of self-exile, it threatens to come to the surface.

Click here to read the guide for River of Heaven.

THE DIARY by Eileen Goudge
When sisters Sarah and Emily stumble across an old diary while cleaning out their mother’s attic, they are stunned to learn she was in love with another man before their dad. As they read on, they are left with more questions than answers. What made the youthful Elizabeth chose their dad in the end? What became of the mysterious AJ? The answers may surprise you --- and have you asking, "How well do I know my parents?"
Click here to read the guide for The Diary.

Now Available in Paperback: SOMEBODY ELSE'S DAUGHTER by Elizabeth Brundage
"[A] deft balancing act of taut plot and richly drawn characters... Brundage is a storyteller supreme." --Wally Lamb

Two young drifters, Nate and Cat, are forced by stress and circumstance to give up their infant daughter Willa for adoption. For 17 years, Willa has lived in elegant prosperity with Joe and Candace Golding, her adoptive parents, in the Massachusetts Berkshires, where she attends the elite, private Pioneer School. But the Goldings have fled a mysterious past, and when a cleaned-up Nate arrives at Pioneer to teach English, the well-varnished façade of an idyllic small town begins to crack.

Click here to read the guide for Somebody Else's Daughter.

LOVE IN BLOOM by Sheila Roberts
"Sheila Roberts makes me laugh. I read her books and come away inspired, hopeful, and happy." --Debbie Macomber, New York Times bestselling author

When Hope Walker stakes out a plot of ground at Heart Lake's community garden, she finds that a woman can grow all sorts of things there: flowers, vegetables, and even friendship. As she gets to know the two women who share neighboring plots, they discover that they can learn a lot from one another --- not just about gardening but about life.

To learn more about Sheila Roberts and Love in Bloom visit her website, There you'll also find great contests, recipes and more.

Click here to read the guide for Love in Bloom.

Registered Book Club Offers --- FIVE Special Opportunities
For April we have FIVE very special opportunities for Registered Book Groups. Our featured titles this month are Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas, Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos, A Flickering Light by Jane Kirkpatrick, A Widow’s Hope by Mary Ellis and The House in Grosvenor Square by Linore Rose Burkard. Groups who have registered with us by Monday, April 13th have the chance to win author chats and/or free books. If your group is not registered, click here to register.

Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Five groups will have the opportunity to chat with Sandra Dallas and receive up to 12 copies of the book.

More About Prayers for Sale:
It's 1936 and the depression has ravaged the country. Hennie Comfort is 86 and has lived in the mountains of Middle Swan, Colorado since before it was Colorado. Nit Spindle is just 17 and newly married. After a chance encounter between the two women, the harsh conditions of life that each have endured create an instant bond and an unlikely friendship is formed, one in which the deepest of hardships are shared and the darkest of secrets are confessed.

Sandra Dallas, author of the critically acclaimed Tallgrass, has created an unforgettable tale of a friendship, one with surprising twists and turns, and one that is ultimately a revelation of the finest parts of the human spirit.

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Five groups will have the opportunity to chat with Marisa de los Santos and receive up to 12 copies of the book.

More About Belong to Me:
A devoted city dweller, Cornelia surprised no one more than herself when she was gripped by the sudden desire to leave urban life behind and head for an idyllic suburb. Cornelia’s mettle is quickly tested by judgmental neighbor Piper, who is the embodiment of everything Cornelia feared she would find in suburbia. A saving grace soon appears in the form of Lake. Cornelia develops an instant bond with this warm yet elusive woman who has also recently arrived in town, ostensibly to send her perceptive and brilliant son, Dev, to a school for the gifted.

Marisa de los Santos creates complex interactions between these three women. As their individual stories unfold, the women become entangled in a web of trust, betrayal, love and loss that challenges them in ways they never imagined.

A Flickering Light: Portraits of the Heart, Book 1 by Jane Kirkpatrick --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: 10 groups will have the opportunity to chat with Jane Kirkpatrick and receive up to 12 copies of the book.

More About A Flickering Light:
Drawn from the author’s historical family album: young Jessie Ann Gaebele pioneers her way into the male-dominated profession of photography during the early 20th century. When she finds herself increasingly attracted to her married employer, she discovers that the interplay between light and shadow creates both opportunity and danger.

The novel is inspired by a real complex family story of the author’s grandmother. The moments described in this lyrical read cause readers to ponder immense decisions and emotions of the main character knowing she was a real person and this was a real struggle. It also causes readers to examine and share similar stories that might be hidden in their own family tree.

A Widow's Hope: The Miller Family Series by Mary Ellis --- Book Giveaway: 15 groups will have the opportunity to receive up to 10 copies of the book.

More About A Widow's Hope:
After the death of her husband, Hannah Brown is determined to make a new life with her sister’s family. But when she sells her farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and moves with her sheep to Ohio, the wool unexpectedly starts to fly. Her deacon brother–in–law finds just about everything about Hannah vexing. When his widower brother shows interest in the young and beautiful widow, the deacon turns to prayer for guidance.

Hannah thought she could never love again, until she meets the strong, gentle farmer. Unfortunately, Seth Miller’s only interest is in Hannah’s sheep. He is content in his bachelor state and slow to recognize his daughter’s need for a new mother. Yet God offers Seth the perfect solution to their problems if he could only open his heart again... and love. This book offers many topics for discussion, including family issues, conflict, dealing with grief and loss and remarriage. It also explores Christian themes.

The House in Grosvenor Square: A Regency Inspirational Romance by Linore Rose Burkard --- Book Giveaway: 15 groups will have the opportunity to receive up to 10 copies of the book.

More About The House in Grosvenor Square:
Readers who loved the author’s first book, Before the Season Ends, will delight in this charming sequel set in Regency London.

Ariana’s story continues as she plans her upcoming wedding. But when Ariana suffers an abduction attempt by two villains, and other mysterious goings-on are unexplained, it is up to her fiancée to unravel the mystery of who is after Ariana and why. Romance, suspense and a deft touch of humor are part of this wonderful story. This novel makes a great choice for book clubs because it will cause readers to think deeply through issues of social inequality, trust in relationships and faith.

Click here to register your group.

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:

-Robert Goolrick: Writing A RELIABLE WIFE
-Stefan Merrill Block: Stories Waiting to Be Told
-Walking & Talking About Books

-What You're Reading: Spring and Summer Picks
-Creating Community with Laurie R. King's Virtual Book Club
-Discussing Barbara Kingsolver's Novels
-Joshua Henkin's Book Club Adventures: The Latest Chapter, February 2009 Part I
-Joshua Henkin's Book Club Adventures: The Latest Chapter, February 2009 Part II
-I'll Bring the Popcorn!
-Six Titles I Wish I Had Read with My Book Club, Part II

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 the link on the blog page.
Click here to read the Blog.

Become a Fan of on Facebook and Goodreads! now has a fan page on Facebook! Since January, we have been joined by more than 600 fans. Here we will feature our daily blogs and put out questions for discussion. We would love you to share pictures of your groups as well as comments on the books that we suggest. While we have a very vibrant message board on the site, we know that many of you like to share your thoughts via Facebook. Note that our daily blogs are linked onto our Facebook page and each month when we do an update we will list our new guides and features there as well! We look forward to seeing you as fans of on Facebook.

We have also created a group page for on Goodreads. Here we are building a virtual bookshelf of the titles we are featuring on the site. We are looking forward to further developing this page in the weeks to come.

-Click here to visit's Facebook page.
-Click here to visit's Goodreads page.

New Guides Now Available
The following guides are now available on

7th Heaven: A Women's Murder Club Novel by James Patterson: Frightened for her life and torn between two men, Lindsay Boxer must find a way to solve the most daunting dilemmas she's ever faced --- at work and at home.
All the Living by C. E. Morgan: An unforgettable novel from a mesmerizing new voice in fiction, All the Living defies the traditional notions of a love story.
B as in Beauty by Alberto Ferreras: Everyone in the world, it seems, is either prettier or thinner (or both) than Beauty Marie Zavala.
City of Thieves by David Benioff: A gripping, cinematic World War II adventure and an intimate coming-of-age story with a contemporary feel for how boys become men.
The Color of Lightning
by Paulette Jiles: In 1863, the War Between the States creeps slowly yet inevitably toward its bloody conclusion --- and eastern thoughts are already turning to different wars and enemies.
The Diary
by Eileen Goudge: The Diary is a love story. It’s also the story of the unshakable bond between a mother and her daughters.
Figures in Silk
by Vanora Bennett: Two sisters discover passion during the War of the Roses --- one in the arms of the king, the other in the world of silk.
A Flickering Light: Portraits of the Heart, Book 1
by Jane Kirkpatrick: Aspiring photographer Jessie Gaebele fights a growing attraction to her employer by fleeing toward the rugged frontier, but the shadows of temptation aren’t easily left behind.
The Inn at Eagle Point
by Sherryl Woods: The Inn at Eagle Point launches New York Times bestselling author Sherryl Woods’s new Chesapeake Shores series featuring another complex family, another charming town.
Love in Bloom
by Sheila Roberts: A woman can grow a lot at a community garden, even friendship. Hope Walker’s new friends help her learn to live life to the fullest.
The Moonflower Vine
by Jetta Carleton: A re-discovered classic and timeless bestseller, this beloved family saga of the American heartland was recommended by Jane Smiley as one of the hundred classic novels everyone should read.
The Ocean Inside by Janna McMahan: The Ocean Inside explores what it means to hope, love and fight for what matters most…even in the face of overwhelming odds.
Prayers for Sale
by Sandra Dallas: Sandra Dallas, author of the critically acclaimed Tallgrass, has created an unforgettable tale of a friendship between two women --- one that is ultimately a revelation of the finest parts of the human spirit.
River of Heaven
by Lee Martin: River of Heaven is a story of love and loss, loneliness and connection as one man tries to find a way to reconcile his past.
Rooftops of Tehran
by Mahbod Seraji: An emotionally engaging debut novel from a talented new writer --- a coming-of-age story set in Iran in the 1970s that is funny, insightful, tragic and ultimately uplifting.
The Sacred Well
by Antoinette May: Two women, both writers, living 80 years apart, stumble into uncertain territory in love --- and perhaps an ancient Mayan curse --- when their careers bring them to the Yucatan and the ruins of Chichen Itza.
Secrets to Happiness
by Sarah Dunn: A big-hearted, knife-sharp and hilariously entertaining story about the perils of love and friendship, sex and betrayal --- and a thoroughly modern take on our struggle to be happy.
by Louise Shaffer: Louise Shaffer brings to life three generations of Italian American women in this stunning novel of surprises, secrets and serendipity.
Somebody Else's Daughter
by Elizabeth Brundage: Elizabeth Brundage, the author of The Doctor’s Wife, has given us another electric, suspenseful tale of conflicted characters and the fractured landscape of the American psyche.
The Sorrows of an American
by Siri Hustvedt: When Erik Davidsen and his sister, Inga, find a disturbing note among their late father's papers, they believe he may be implicated in a mysterious death.
The Story of Forgetting
by Stefan Merrill Block: Now available in paperback, Stefan Merrill Block’s extraordinary first novel illuminates the hard-learned truth that only through the loss of what we consider precious can we understand the value of what remains.
Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven
by Susan Jane Gilman: A hilarious and harrowing post-college journey to China, a modern heart of darkness filled with Communist operatives, backpackers and pancakes.
A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father by Augusten Burroughs: Augusten Burroughs's memoir re-creates the unspeakably terrifying relationship between a sociopathic father and a son yearning for unconditional love.
Wolf Totem
by Jiang Rong: The winner of the inaugural Man Asian Literary prize, Wolf Totem is the fictionalized memoir of author Jiang Rong.

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

Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos
Bound by Sally Gunning
Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch
He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: A Memoir of Finding Faith, Hope, and Happily Ever After by Trish Ryan
Lady MacBeth by Susan Fraser King
The Story of a Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer
The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
Turning Tables by Heather and Rose MacDowell
Unaccustomed Earth: Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri

We have the following new guides for Christian book groups:

The House in Grosvenor Square: A Regency Inspirational Romance by Linore Rose Burkard: Jane Austen readers and fans of Regency romances everywhere will love The House in Grosvenor Square.
My Son, John by Kathi Macias: After a brutal murder, a family searches for answers. Can God bring healing to a family torn apart by a brutal crime?
A Widow's Hope: The Miller Family Series by Mary Ellis: A bright new voice shares a tender love story set in the rolling green fields of Ohio Amish country.

This Month's Poll: Repeating Authors
Does your group repeat authors when you are selecting books for discussion?

We usually will read anything by our favorite authors.
Whether or not we like an author is usually not a selection criteria for us. It’s all about the book.
We try to not repeat authors.
I am not sure what we do.

Click here to answer the poll.

This Month's Contest Book: SERENDIPITY by Louise Shaffer
Win a copy of Serendipity by Louise Shaffer 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 May 1, 2009. If you are receiving this newsletter in your mailbox, you already are signed up!

More About
Louise Shaffer brings to life three generations of Italian American women in this stunning novel of surprises, secrets and serendipity.

A child of theatrical royalty, Carrie Manning is having a hard time getting her own act together. Thirty-seven, aimless, and having just buried a famous mother she never understood, she is desperate to uncover her family’s mysterious past in the hopes that it will help her understand herself.

Click here to read contest details and rules.

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 (

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