Skip to main content

July 2009 Newsletter July 2009
Quick Links to Features on
Wishing You Were Here....

Some people go to the beach in the summer. I go to conventions! Right now I am at ThrillerFest, the International Thriller Writers Conference in New York. I fly to Chicago Friday afternoon for the American Library Association Convention. Then it's on to the Romance Writers of America Conference in Washington, DC and then Comic-Con in San Diego. Adventures like this are great for meeting both authors and readers.

Next Wednesday night I will be in Washington, DC for the annual literacy signing, which is a Romance Writers of America event. More than 500 authors will be there signing books with the proceeds going to ProLiteracy Worldwide. The event will be held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, which is the conference hotel. You can find more details about this event and a list of participating authors here: Literacy Autographing | Romance Writers of America. What an opportunity to not only meet authors, buy books and get them signed, but also make a contribution to a literacy charity.

We are happy to announce the winners of the second part of the special contest we held last month for The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Thanks so much for your patience as we and the publishers took the time to coordinate all of the entries we received. You may see our winners here.

We are also happy to share the names of the 10 readers selected to receive a copy of Julie Metz's new memoir, Perfection. You may view our winners here. If you would like to learn more about the title, I encourage you to take a look at an interview we did with Julie, which you can see on our blog here.

We have a special contest running on the site this month for Impossible by Nancy Werlin. 25 readers will be sent a copy of the book as well as a series of questions about it. You can read more about this contest here. As we know our readers are both informed and influential, we look forward to your feedback with this project. It's the first of many select opportunities like this that we hope to bring to you. By the way, Impossible references one of my favorite Simon and Garfunkel songs, "Scarborough Fair," which was inspiration for Nancy.

Donna Woolfolk Cross, the author of Pope Joan, has announced a special offer in which one lucky reader will have the opportunity to join her and her family the night of the U.S. Pope Joan movie premiere! The prize includes two tickets to the premiere, round-trip airfare for two from any location in the continental United States or Canada, and one night hotel accommodation for you to share with your guest. Click here for details on how to enter.

I am a fast reader, which is the only way I can keep up with the books that find their way onto my bookshelves. Our Poll Question this month asks, "Do you consider yourself to be a fast reader?"

After reading the results of our recent survey, we realize that only 2.8% of the 7,700 respondents have been in a group for more than 20 years, while 44.1% have been in groups for two years or less. We want to interview people in clubs that have been around for more than 20 years so you can share the secrets of your success. Thus, if your club has been in existence for more than 20 years and you would like to be interviewed, please write [email protected].

On the blog, there are so many standout pieces from authors this month, including the following:

-Monica McInerney, author of Greetings from Somewhere Else, talks about how her life as a writer has changed her as a reader.

-Nancy Thayer talks about her dream book club gathering to discuss Summer House --- where it would take place, what would be discussed --- and reveals details about the characters and the story.

-Joshua Henkin shares behind-the-scenes stories about his meetings with reading groups to discuss his novel Matrimony. By the way, Joshua and his outreach efforts to book clubs were spotlighted in a piece on The Daily Beast.

-Carol Cassella, author of Oxygen, shares some of the benefits to personally connecting with book clubs.

And those are only a sampling of this month's outstanding posts. Read more here now.

We have a great lineup of books this month, including two that I am currently reading --- The Best of Times by Penny Vincenzi and Swimming by Nicola Keegan. I had attended a lunch where I sat with Nicola a few months ago, and since I love to swim, I have been enjoying this one!

This month's contest book is The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells. To be a group to win 20 free copies of this book, all you have to do is sign up for the newsletter by August 1, 2009. If you are receiving this newsletter in your mailbox, you already are signed up! Read on to learn more about this book.

Have a great month....happy reading....

Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])


Special Contest: Win a Copy of IMPOSSIBLE by Nancy Werlin for Your Group --- And Send Us Your Thoughts!
This month we are running a special contest for Impossible by Nancy Werlin, a riveting novel that combines suspense, fantasy and romance for an intensely page-turning and masterfully original tale. We have 25 finished copies to give away to readers who would like to read the book and comment about it. Impossible will be available in stores on August 11th. Enter between now and Monday, July 27th by filling out the form found here.

Once the prize copies have been shipped, we will contact our winners and ask them to respond with their thoughts about the book.

More about Impossible:
To break the curse that has plagued the women of her family for generations, Lucy Scarborough must complete the impossible tasks set forth in an old ballad. But can Lucy finish before the curse takes hold of her and she is lost forever?

Nancy Werlin’s Impossible is a haunting, thrilling, romantic puzzle with unexpected twists and turns that make it a perfect book club pick.

-Click here for the reading group guide.

Click here to read all the contest details.

Known for her beloved Ya-Ya books (including Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood), Rebecca Wells has helped women name, claim and celebrate their shared sisterhood for over a decade.

A tale of family and friendship, tragedy and triumph, loss and love, Wells’s new novel, The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder, features the warmth, humor, soul and wonder that have made Wells one of today's most cherished writers, and gives us an unforgettable new heroine to treasure.

Click here to read the guide for The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder.

THE BEST OF TIMES by Penny Vincenzi
On a Friday afternoon, on a motorway outside of London, a trailer truck suddenly and violently swerves across fives lanes of traffic --- careening cars into one another like dominoes and leaving a trail of chaos and confusion.

Within the space of a minute, a pileup has amassed, and, as the survivors await help, their stories unfold. In this masterfully crafted page-turner, plot-twist queen Penny Vincenzi vividly captures how the actions of one person can dramatically affect many in the blink of an eye.

Click here to read the guide for The Best of Times.

Now Available in Paperback: THE GARDEN OF LAST DAYS by Andre Dubus III
What was America like in the moment before the world changed on 9/11?

Andre Dubus III, a master of gripping psychological realism (author of the bestselling House of Sand and Fog), captures a world on the brink of disaster through the story of several aching lives in south Florida. Jean, a widow, tends her lush, vibrant garden and babysits adorable, three-year-old Franny --- whose proud, ambitious mother, April, works in a strip club to save money to move on to better things. AJ, estranged from his wife and young son, is back living with his mother and looking for someone to blame. Lonnie, a dyslexic bouncer, awaits his chance to shine. And Bassam, a young foreigner with a violent mission, struggles against the yearnings of the flesh.

One warm September night, their lives will intersect.

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

Border Songs is a riveting novel about a distinctive community straddling the largely invisible boundary between Washington state and British Columbia. Rich in characters contending with a swiftly changing world and their own elusive hopes and dreams, Jim Lynch has written “an antidote to the 21st century: a kind of metaphorical insistence on hope and simplicity and art in the face of a surrounding storm” (Kent Haruf).
Click here to read the guide for Border Songs.

TROUBLE by Kate Christensen
Trouble is a vibrant story of female friendship and midlife sexual awakening from Kate Christensen, the acclaimed author of The Great Man, winner of the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award. A tragicomedy of marriage and friendship, Trouble is a funny, piercing and moving examination of the battle between the need for connection and the quest for freedom that every modern woman must fight.
Click here to read the guide for strong>Trouble.

SWIMMING by Nicola Keegan
A spectacular debut about the rise of an Olympic champion --- a novel about competition, the hunger for victory and a young girl with an unsinkable spirit.

“I loved Swimming. It’s the most original novel I’ve read all year. I can’t get Pip’s voice out of my mind. Give yourself a treat this summer --- read this book.” --Judy Blume

Click here to read the guide for Swimming.

BRODECK by Philippe Claudel
“Claudel's style is very visual and evocative (he also wrote and directed the film I've Loved You So Long), and this novel, like the brothers Grimm fables, is full of terror, horror, and beauty and wonder.” --Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

“Deeply wise and classically beautiful... Brodeck won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens in the original French and John Cullen's English translation is as clear as a mountain stream. It is a modern masterpiece.” --The DailyTelegraph

Click here to read the guide for Brodeck.

Blending humor with carefully observed details of life in Beijing, Jonathan Tel’s short stories offer a rich and entertaining guide to the city and its many and varied inhabitants --- from a modern-day Monkey King to an equally contemporary indentured servant, from a boy tasting his first cotton candy to a Ming Dynasty princess posting her first online profile.
Click here to read the guide for The Beijing of Possibilities.

First published in 1920 and now a major motion picture starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Chéri is one of Colette’s most admired novels and one of the most honest, sensual and poignant breakup stories ever written. Known as Chéri, Fred Peloux is a young playboy under the spell of Léa de Lonval, a courtesan twice his age. Once famous for her beauty and charisma, she must confront the reality of her fading good looks, along with Chéri’s intention to marry a wealthy girl. Yet Chéri is deeply attached to Léa, and the feeling is mutual --- a realization neither lover can fully comprehend until they have abandoned their affair.
Click here to read the guide for Chéri and The Last of Chéri.

Now Available in Paperback: THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US by Bart Yates
Award-winning author Bart Yates’s powerful and evocative novel of family, friendship...and the dual-edged nature of fame and talent.

After her bitter divorce at age 71, Hester rents her attic to a troubled young man, Alex. And along with her equally troubled children, she unwittingly exposes all the old family wounds. After a month of anguish and painful revealing memories, her budding friendship with Alex slowly allows her to come to terms with herself and her family. Their friendship provides her with the strength to fix what she can, and open her heart once again to love.

“Absorbing...brims with quiet intensity.” --Publishers Weekly

Click here to read the guide for The Distance Between Us.

Now Available in Paperback: THE OUTLANDER by Gil Adamson
In 1903 a mysterious young woman flees alone across the west, one heart-pounding step ahead of the law. At 19, she has just become a widow --- and her husband's murderer. As bloodhounds track Mary Boulton through the mountains, she is tormented by mad visions and by the knowledge that her two cold-blooded brothers-in-law are hot on her trail. As she flees further and further into the wilderness, and into the wilds of her own mind, she encounters an unforgettable cast of eccentrics along the way.
Click here to read the guide for The Outlander.

Registered Book Club Promotions
For July we have three very special opportunities for Registered Book Groups. Our featured titles this month are Happiness Key by Emilie Richards, The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper and Lime Tree Can’t Bear Orange by Amanda Smyth. Groups who have registered with us by Wednesday, July 15th have the chance to win author chats and/or free books. If your group is not registered, click here to register.

Happiness Key by Emilie Richards --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Three groups will have the opportunity to chat with Emilie Richards and receive up to 12 copies of the book.

More About Happiness Key:
When elderly resident of Happiness Key, Herbert Krause, dies alone in his cottage clutching a mysterious key, four women are reluctantly diverted from their personal sorrows and warily come together to find his family.

As Herb’s real story is revealed, the women discover difficult truths about their own lives and the men they love. Most important they also discover the treasure of a friendship that almost didn't happen.

A perfect book club selection, Happiness Key explores the differences that keep us at arm’s length and the joys of breaching that distance.

The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper --- Book Giveaway: Two groups will have the opportunity to receive up to 12 copies of the book.

More About The House at Sugar Beach:
A national bestseller, now in paperback... In the tradition of A Long Way Gone and The Glass Castle, a haunting memoir by a world-renowned journalist of a war-torn childhood in Liberia and her return to her native country 20 years after her family’s flight (during the 1980 coup), to reunite with the foster sister her family left behind.

The House at Sugar Beach makes an excellent book club selection because it incites discussion both about Cooper’s personal tale and Liberia’s volatile history.

Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange by Amanda Smyth --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: One group will have the opportunity to chat with Amanda Smyth and receive up to 12 copies of the book. Two additional groups will also have the opportunity to receive up to 12 copies of the book.

More About Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange:
Written with great beauty and economy, Lime Tree Can’t Bear Orange is the story of one woman’s search for love and identity. In the tradition of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and Wide Sargasso Sea, reading groups will find themselves swept away by the exotic scenery and romance.

"The Caribbean's tropical sights and smells permeate Smyth's moving debut novel, but all is not paradise... Smyth paints a vivid portrait of a naive young girl who learns some hard truths about herself and her family, but though Celia's story is not always happy, it's arresting and powerful, a shining testament to human resilience.” --The Miami Herald

Click here to register your group.

New Guides Now Available

The following guides are now available on

The Air We Breathe by Andrea Barrett: Andrea Barrett masterfully sets this luminous novel in a historical period of great progress in science and medicine --- even in the art of war.
The Beijing of Possibilities by Jonathan Tel: A surreally realistic chronicle of life in modern-day Beijing, featuring figures from a modern-day Monkey King to a Ming Dynasty princess posting her first online profile.
The Best of Times by Penny Vincenzi: Penny Vincenzi delivers another brilliantly crafted page-turner centered on one devastating moment that will change lives forever.
Border Songs by Jim Lynch: By the acclaimed author of The Highest Tide, a novel about a distinctive community straddling the largely invisible boundary between Washington state and British Columbia.
Brodeck by Philippe Claudel: Winner of the 2007 Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, Brodeck is a lyrically dramatic account of a terrifying murder in a small town and the tortured soul chosen to tell the tale.
Chéri and The Last of Chéri (Movie Tie-in Edition) by Colette: Chéri, now a major motion picture starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Kathy Bates, is one of the most honest, sensual and poignant breakup stories ever written.
The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca Wells: The long-awaited new novel from Rebecca Wells, New York Times bestselling author of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.
The Distance Between Us by Bart Yates: Award-winning author Bart Yates’s powerful and evocative novel of family, friendship...and the dual-edged nature of fame and talent.
A Fatal Waltz: A Novel of Suspense by Tasha Alexander: Lady Emily Ashton reluctantly agrees to attend a party at the sprawling English country estate of a man she finds odious. But the despised Lord Fortescue is not to be her greatest problem.
The Garden of Last Days by Andre Dubus III: In his stunning follow-up to the #1 bestselling House of Sand and Fog, Andre Dubus draws us into the lives of three deeply flawed, driven people whose paths intersect on a September night in Florida.
A Good Indian Wife by Anne Cherian: First-time novelist Anne Cherian explores how immigrants, caught between two worlds, have to learn to overcome their own suspicions of others in order to find themselves.
Happiness Key by Emilie Richards: Meet four women who think they have nothing in common except the oyster shell road that runs between their ramshackle beach cottages on a spit of land called Happiness Key.
The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood by Helene Cooper: Helene Cooper’s bestselling memoir is an account of her family's flight from Liberia, and her return 20 years later to find a foster sister left behind.
Impossible by Nancy Werlin: A beautifully wrought modern fairy tale from master storyteller and award-winning author Nancy Werlin.
Lime Tree Can’t Bear Orange by Amanda Smyth: Written with great beauty and economy, Lime Tree Can’t Bear Orange is the story of one woman’s search for love and identity.
Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore: An entertaining and touching novel about one small-town girl's search for her place in a much bigger world and finding that it was right where she began.
The Outlander by Gil Adamson: An intoxicating debut novel reminiscent of early Cormac McCarthy, about a young murderess’s desperate journey into the 1903 wilderness.
The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein: “[An] engrossing story of a woman forced to choose between following her heart and pursuing her art.” --Library Journal
Pharmakon by Dirk Wittenborn: Pharmakon is a classic American epic about family, ambition and the price we are willing to pay for happiness.
A Pragmatist and His Free Spirit: The Half-Century Romance of Hu Shi & Edith Clifford Williams by Susan Chan Egan and Chih-p'ing Chou: This is an “East meets West” story, portraying the unconventional love of a Chinese civil rights activist and an American avant-garde artist.
The Secrets of Jin-shei by Alma Alexander: In an ancient kingdom, eight young women are bound together by Jin-shei: a vow of lifelong sisterhood --- a promise that is everlasting, a bond that cannot be broken, whatever the cost.
Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill: Kidnapped from Africa as a child, Aminata Diallo is enslaved in South Carolina but escapes during the chaos of the Revolutionary War.
Swimming by Nicola Keegan: A spectacular debut about the rise of an Olympic champion --- a novel about competition, the hunger for victory, and a young girl with an unsinkable spirit.
Trouble by Kate Christensen: A tragicomedy of marriage and friendship from Kate Christensen, the acclaimed author of The Great Man, winner of the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award.
The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman: After their zoo was bombed, Polish zookeepers Jan and Antoninia Zabinski managed to save over 300 people from Nazi racism by hiding refugees in the empty animal cages.

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

Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons
Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross

We have the following new guides for Christian book groups:

Bertie's War
by Barbara Blakey: In the fall of 1961, the world goes crazy --- and takes a young girl with it.
Certain Jeopardy by Captain Jeff Struecker, with Alton Gansky: Certain Jeopardy is an immersing and pulsating fictional account of what really happens at every level of a stealth engagement.
A Different Kind of Wild: Is Your Faith Too Tame? by Debbie Alsdorf: Join Debbie Alsdorf as she coaches you into the exhilarating process of developing as a woman of God.
Essie in Progress by Marjorie Presten: Told with a unique wit and a genuine Southern sensibility, Essie in Progress is a stirring story about realizing the life God has in store for you.
The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz: This epic novel gives you a glimpse into the simple yet daring lives of the pioneers who first crossed the Appalachians.
Hallie's Heart by Shelly Beach: Winner of a Christy Award in 2008, an eccentric antique dealer and her 15-year-old niece struggle to find healing in this Mitford-type novel.
An Irishwoman's Tale by Patti Lacy: Far away from her Irish home, Mary Freeman begins to adapt to life in Midwest America, but family turmoil and her own haunting memories threaten to ruin her future.
Love's First Light by Jamie Carie: Christophé, the Count of St. Laurent, has lost his entire family to the blood-soaked French Revolution and must flee to an ancient castle along the southern border of France to survive.
Morningsong by Shelly Beach: In this highly-anticipated follow-up to the Christy Award-winning Hallie's Heart, a terrifying accident on the shores of Lake Michigan forces a woman to pick up the pieces of her life.
What the Bayou Saw by Patti Lacy: Patti Lacy's second novel exposes the life of Sally, set amid the shadows of prejudice in Louisiana.


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
250 W. 57th Street - Suite 1228
New York, New York 10107