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August 2009 Newsletter August 2009
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Making a List and Checking It Twice

As I write this note the weather is steamy. It's a far cry from last week when I had the windows wide open so I could simulate working outdoors. Now I feel hermetically sealed into my air-conditioned world where, when I step outside, the "wet blanket over my face" moment strikes. I have decided I need a screened-in porch or a gazebo for working on nice days. Since my younger son Cory is 14, I think the swing set can be given away. Wait, there is that nice landing at the top of the slide with the little tent above it. Maybe I can sit there!

Though I love to travel, it's very nice to be home and have time to read and relax instead of packing and unpacking for a few weeks. I spent this weekend in a hammock reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, which I enjoyed enormously. We are featuring the sequel, The Girl Who Played With Fire, this month. As I like to read books in order, I jumped back to the previous one, which is just out in paperback.

Confession: When I do not read books that people are buzzing about, I get what I call "book guilt." I am not good at faking that I read anything and do not think that is polite form, thus I just get guilt and feel a need to catch up. Right now I am doing that with Little Bee by Chris Cleave, a book everyone was buzzing about (yes, pun intended) that I missed when it came out back in February. Cleave blogged for us and you can read his piece here. I look at my shelves and know I "missed" more, so I continue my game of reading cat and mouse trying to catch up.

I am going to the beach the week before Labor Day and already am starting to hone a list of the books I want to read on that trip. I am jiggering and re-jiggering the piles with a plan to bring 10 books. Enough for eight days and some backups, just in case a book disappoints. Recommendations are welcome. Drop me a note at [email protected].
This is in keeping with this month's poll question: "Do you keep lists of books that you want to read?"

I love to hear what people suggest. Also, note that on we have a Word of Mouth section where readers share what they read --- and for this sharing they have an opportunity to win books. Check it out if you have not done so already.

Speaking of suggestions for reading.... Last week I asked readers what books were required of freshmen who were heading to school this fall. This is the list that came back. One of the titles is from a debut author, Mahbod Seraji, that was one of our contest books earlier this year --- Rooftops of Tehran. I love when debut authors get this kind of attention. This was one of my Bets On picks --- books, often debuts, that I want to be sure you will not miss!

Our newsletter contest book is one that I loved last year when I read it, The Geography of Love. Glenda Burgess writes a lovingly honest story. There's a lot to be learned from this book about courage in love and loss. It was a much-deserved nominee for a Books for a Better Life award this year and is just out in paperback.

Great reading on the blog this month, including posts from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout, Annie Barrows on The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and Joyce Maynard on Labor Day, among many, many more terrific pieces. If you have not read the blog posts yet, do stop by. As always, Shannon McKenna Schmidt is doing a great job getting folks writing for us here. If you have a topic you want to write about, drop her a note at [email protected].

I also am thrilled to see how many of you have been reading the blog posts out on our Reading Group Guides page on Facebook and commenting. If you have not "fanned" us yet, get over there now! I spent part of this week reading The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich about the founding of Facebook. You know I think college would be a lot more fun these days with Facebook, cell phones and texting than it was when I was there. We had long-distance phone bills and airmail stamps. Is it me, or did the world get a lot smaller? I do love hearing from friends on Facebook from what I call my former lives --- grammar school, high school, college and my Conde Nast years.

Speaking of connecting, we have two new registered book club contests this month where you can win the chance to connect with authors. Interested? Then be sure your group is registered with us by Monday, August 17th. One of the books, The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf, is my current Bets On pick. I read it in a day a couple of weeks ago. It’s a stunning debut, and for those of you who are price-conscious, it’s a trade paperback original! You can read more about why I selected it here.

Quick note to those of you with teens or kids in your households or who have grandchildren, library patrons or friends. We have surveys running right now on and The 2009 Reader Survey is open until August 31st, and 775 teens will have the chance to win one of the 27 titles being given away if they complete the survey. The 2009 Reader Survey is open until September 15th, and 1,000 readers will have the chance to read one of 24 titles being given away.

My hammock is calling me. Here's to a great month of reading with your group.

Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])


Special Contest: Win a Signed Copy of THE VIRGIN’S DAUGHTERS by Jeane Westin and a Bottle of Elizabeth Perfume for Your Group
We are celebrating the release of The Virgin's Daughters: In the Court of Elizabeth I by Jeane Westin with a special contest. One Grand Prize winner will have the opportunity to receive a signed copy of The Virgin's Daughters as well as a bottle of Queen Elizabeth I's perfume that was recreated from the monarch's garden. Fifty additional readers will have the opportunity to each win one finished copy of The Virgin's Daughters, which is now available in stores, for their group. Enter between now and Monday, August 31st by filling out the form found here.

More About The Virgin's Daughters:
In a court filled with repressed sexual longing, scandal and intrigue, Lady Katherine Grey is Elizabeth's most faithful servant. When the young queen is smitten by the dashing Robert Dudley, Katherine must choose between duty and desire --- as her secret passion for a handsome earl threatens to turn Elizabeth against her. Once the queen becomes a bitter and capricious monarch, another lady-in-waiting, Mistress Mary Rogers, offers the queen comfort. But even Mary cannot remain impervious to the court's sexual tension --- and as Elizabeth gives her doomed heart to the mercurial Earl of Essex, Mary is drawn to the queen's rakish godson...

-Click here for the reading group guide.

Click here to read all the contest details.

THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC by Richard Russo
This is a novel of deep introspection, with a middle-aged man confronting his parents and their failed marriage, his own troubled one, his daughter’s new life and, finally, what it was he thought he wanted and what in fact he has. Moments of great comedy and even hilarity alternate with others of rueful understanding and heart-stopping sadness, and the novel’s ending is at once surprising, uplifting and unlike anything Richard Russo has ever written.
Click here to read the guide for That Old Cape Magic.

The electrifying follow-up to the phenomenal bestseller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo features Lisbeth Salander --- the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker --- as the focus and fierce heart of the story.

"Larsson's two central characters, Salander and Blomkvist, transcend their genre and insinuate themselves in the reader's mind through their oddball individuality, their professional competence and, surprisingly, their emotional vulnerability." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Click here to read the guide for The Girl Who Played with Fire.

SOUTH OF BROAD by Pat Conroy
Against the sumptuous backdrop of Charleston, South Carolina, South of Broad gathers a unique cast of sinners and saints. The ties among them endure for years, surviving marriages happy and troubled, unrequited loves and unspoken longings, hard-won successes and devastating breakdowns, and Charleston's dark legacy of racism and class divisions. But the final test of friendship that brings them to San Francisco is something no one is prepared for. South of Broad is Pat Conroy at his finest.
Click here to read the guide for South of Broad.

Now Available in Paperback: THE LACE READER by Brunonia Barry
This New York Times bestseller has drawn comparisons to Rebecca and The Thirteenth Tale --- a modern-day gothic story that follows Towner Whitney, a troubled woman who can divine the future. Towner hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in patterns of lace, and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations. But the disappearance of two women brings Towner home to Salem, and the truth about the death of her twin sister to light.
Click here to read the guide for The Lace Reader.

From the author of The Abortionist’s Daughter, a gripping new novel about a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon that changes the lives of everyone on board. Over 13 days, as various decisions are second-guessed and sometimes regretted, both passengers and guides find that sometimes the most daunting adventures on a Colorado River trip have nothing to do with white-water rapids, and everything to do with reconfiguring the rocky canyons of the heart.
Click here to read the guide for In the Heart of the Canyon.

In this fictional memoir, Valerie Martin brilliantly re-creates the theater world of 1970s New York. Edward Day, a talented young actor, finds his life forever altered during a weekend party, where he seduces the delicious Madeleine and is saved from drowning by Guy, a man who bears an eerie physical resemblance to Edward. Afterwards, Edward is torn between his desire for Madeleine and his indebtedness to Guy, his rival in love and in art, on stage and off.
Click here to read the guide for The Confessions of Edward Day.

Written with great beauty and economy, Lime Tree Can’t Bear Orange is the story of one woman’s search for love and identity.

"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 read the guide for Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange.

THE HOPE OF REFUGE: An Ada's House Novel, by Cindy Woodsmall
New Yorker Cara Moore has nothing and is on the run. Young Amish woman Deborah Mast has everything and is on her way to the wedding altar. When their lives collide, neither one will be the same. Can the humility and faith of Ada save either of them?
Click here to read the guide for The Hope of Refuge.

Registered Book Club Promotions
For August we have two very special opportunities for Registered Book Groups. Our featured titles this month are The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf and The Night Counter by Alia Yunis. Groups who have registered with us by Monday, August 17th have the chance to win author chats and/or free books. If your group is not registered, click here to register.

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Three groups will have the opportunity to chat with Heather Gudenkauf and receive up to 12 copies of the book.

More About The Weight of Silence:
In an astonishing literary debut, Heather Gudenkauf has crafted a broodingly affecting novel in The Weight of Silence. One hot summer day two little girls disappear into the woods behind their homes, and over the course of the next few days their families and small community must face some ugly truths. A stunning novel of family devotion, honesty and regret, The Weight of Silence is masterfully written and beautifully told.

Perfect for book clubs, this novel will spark conversation and debate long into the evening.

The Night Counter by Alia Yunis --- Book Giveaway: Six groups will have the opportunity to receive up to 12 copies of the book.

More About The Night Counter:
After 85 long years, Fatimah Abdullah is dying, and she knows when her time will come. In fact, it should come just nine days from tonight, the 992nd nightly visit of Scheherazade, the beautiful and immortal storyteller from the epic The Arabian Nights. Shifting between the U.S. and Lebanon over the last hundred years, Alia Yunis crafts a bewitching novel imbued with great humanity, imagination and a touch of magic realism. Be prepared for your reading group to be utterly charmed.

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:

-Hannah Tinti: Wishful Thinking
-Freshmen Summer Reading 2009
-JULIE & JULIA Spices Up the Big Screen
-Tune in Today to Hear Frances de Pontes Peebles
-Debut Novelists
-Carolyn Wall: Creating Characters
-Frances de Pontes Peebles: Recreating Historic Brazil
-THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN: One Book Club's Discussion
-Sharon Kay Penman: Books in Troubled Times
-Mary Jane Clark: How About Picking a Page-Turner?
-Teri Coyne: Discussing THE LAST BRIDGE
-Joyce Maynard: Chance Encounter

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.

New Guides Now Available
The following guides are now available on

The Confessions of Edward Day by Valerie Martin: Valerie Martin brilliantly recreates the theater world of 1970s and 1980s New York and plays with the boundary between reality and performance amongst a group of thespians.
The Geography of Love by Glenda Burgess: A poignant exploration of the depths of the human heart and our ability to love and to trust no matter the obstacles.
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson: In the electrifying follow-up to the bestselling The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Lisbeth Salander, the troubled genius hacker, is drawn into a murderous hunt.
Good-bye and Amen by Beth Gutcheon: The follow-up to the critically acclaimed novel Leeway Cottage follows the newest generation of the Moss family as they gather at their summer home in Maine.
How Does it Feel to be a Problem?: Being Young and Arab in America by Moustafa Bayoumi: Moustafa Bayoumi offers a glimpse into the often-ignored struggles a group of twenty-something Arab Americans face.
In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde: From the author of The Abortionist’s Daughter, a novel about a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon that changes the lives of everyone on board.
Israel is Real: An Obsessive Quest to Understand the Jewish Nation and its History by Rich Cohen: Breaking through the heated polemics and intractable politics, Israel is Real is a fresh voice, a tale of people and ideas, of the background of present-day Israel. It’s a new approach to a story we thought we knew.
Labor Day by Joyce Maynard: Acclaimed author Joyce Maynard weaves a beautiful, poignant tale of love, sex, adolescence and devastating treachery seen through the eyes of a young teenage boy.
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry: The Lace Reader is a mesmerizing tale that spirals into a world of secrets, confused identities, lies and half-truths.
The Night Counter by Alia Yunis: Shifting between the U.S. and the Middle East, first-time novelist Alia Yunis pieces together four generations of family secrets in this hilarious, heartwarming debut that creates a vibrant mosaic of modern Arab American life.
South of Broad by Pat Conroy: The one and only Pat Conroy returns with a big, sprawling novel that is a love letter to Charleston and an ode to lifelong friendship.
That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo: Richard Russo tells the story of a marriage and all the other ties that bind, from parents and in-laws to children and the promises of youth.
Two Brothers: One North, One South by David H. Jones: Navigated by Walt Whitman and based on real people and events, Two Brothers: One North, One South is the quintessential story of the Civil War.
The Virgin’s Daughters: In the Court of Elizabeth I by Jeane Westin: The story of Elizabeth I, as it’s never been told before --- through the eyes of two ladies-in-waiting closest to her…
Wait Until Twilight by Sang Pak: Sang Pak's Wait Until Twilight is a coming-of-age story that explores the complex darkness infecting a damaged psyche in a small Southern town.
The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf: Masterfully written and beautifully told, Heather Gudenkauf’s debut is a stunning novel of family devotion, honesty and regret that will linger long after the last page is turned.
The Widow’s Season by Laura Brodie: A lyrical, mysterious novel about a young, seemingly haunted, widow, inspired by Renaissance plays where husbands faked their deaths in order to spy on their wives.
Worldweavers: Cybermage by Alma Alexander: When Thea Winthrop and her friends are called in by the Federal Bureau of Magic to unlock a mysterious cube left behind by Nikola Tesla, they find themselves in a race against time. by Patt Fero: is a story about two baby boomer-aged best friends who run away from home in a motor home.

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

December by Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper
July and August by Nancy Clark
The Seamstress by Frances De Pontes Peebles
The Sister by Poppy Adams
So Long at the Fair by Christina Schwarz

We have the following new guides for Christian book groups:

The Believer by Ann H. Gabhart: A romantic story of two people caught up in the storms of life.
The Hope of Refuge: An Ada's House Novel by Cindy Woodsmall: Cara and her daughter must run to escape a deadly threat. Can they find refuge in an Amish community with complex, unspoken ties to her family history?
June Bug by Chris Fabry: Publishers Weekly calls June Bug “ a lovely, moving, present-day account of sacrifice.”
The Justice Game by Randy Singer: In his new legal thriller, Randy Singer explores the unseen forces controlling two lawyers involved in a lawsuit against a gun company.

The Sacred Cipher by Terry Brennan: More historically and biblically accurate than The Da Vinci Code and just as adventurous as an Indiana Jones movie, The Sacred Cipher draws readers into a world of ancient secrets and international escapades.
Sweet Waters: An Otter Bay Novel by Julie Carobini: After returning to her hometown, a young woman begins to uncover shocking secrets about why her family left this heaven on earth all those years ago.
Valley of the Shadow by Tom Pawlik: In this sequel to the award-winning novel, Vanish, Tom Pawlik explores the murky world between life and death, where your worst fears can become reality.

This Month's Poll
Do you keep lists of books that you want to read?


How formal is your list?

I keep a list on my computer.
I write notes in a notebook.
I write notes on pieces of paper.
I just try to remember what I want to read.
I am not sure what I do.
I do not keep a list.

Click here to answer the poll.

This Month's Contest Book: THE GEOGRAPHY OF LOVE by Glenda Burgess
Win a copy of The Geography of Love by Glenda Burgess 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 September 1, 2009. If you are receiving this newsletter in your mailbox, you already are signed up!

More About The Geography of Love:
What possesses a woman to fall in love with a man fourteen years her senior, with a troubled teenage daughter and a past shadowed with so much suspicion and misfortune? And why would a man who has loved and lost in such tragic ways take a chance on opening his heart to another woman, despite the odds?

Beautifully written and heart-wrenchingly honest, The Geography of Love is a poignant and unforgettable chronicle of a relationship that defies convention and survives the unthinkable.

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.

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

Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])

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