Skip to main content

October 2009 Newsletter October 2009
Quick Links to Features on
Coming Together Over a Book
On Wednesday evening I had the pleasure of seeing Jeannette Walls, the author of the mega-bestselling memoir The Glass Castle, talk about her new book, Half Broke Horses, which is just in stores this week. Before she spoke, I was invited backstage along with members of the Clinton Book Shop book club to meet her; the store was sponsoring the event. We all had read The Glass Castle and thus dropped into a conversation with Jeannette almost at mid-sentence. Each of us had different parts of the book that had resonated with us, and, though I knew none of these other women, I found myself chatting with them like we were old friends with our only bond being a book we all had read. As we shared our observations, I tried to imagine what it must be like for Jeannette to have moments like this all the time when people are talking about your work, which actually is your life.

As you may remember, I did not read The Glass Castle until May of this year. It was a book that I had book guilt about. When I mentioned I had not read it around my uber reading friends, there would be gasps and people would say, "I cannot believe YOU (okay perhaps it was my emphasis hearing the word 'you' inflected louder than usual because of my guilt) have not read it." Once I did, I could see why people were eager to talk about it. I have started Half Broke Horses, and have already noted that Jeannette is a wonderful storyteller. She writes prose that is wonderfully descriptive and full of emotion. The combination makes her writing so compelling. Half Broke Horses is the story of her mother and her grandmother, and it is described as "true-life novel." She was able to talk to her mom about her story, but for her grandmother she needed to imagine more parts than she was comfortable writing as a nonfiction. Here’s a video that will give you some insight into the book.

Seeing a book like this prompts us to ask, “What book led to the best discussion your group ever had?” You can name up to three since one might not be easy. Send your replies to Shannon McKenna Schmidt at [email protected], and we will share your replies next month.

October is National Reading Group Month, and with that in mind we have two lists that you might want to check out. The first, The Fall 2009/Winter 2010 Indie Next List for Reading Groups, has been pulled together by the independent bookseller folks at, and you will see that many of their favorites are titles that we have featured here. Also, we have a list from the Women's National Book Association (WNBA), who are hosting a series of events across the country to celebrate the third annual National Reading Group Month. Click here to read more about the stellar programming that the WNBA has pulled together to celebrate National Reading Group Month! Reading the list of authors who will be appearing makes me want to take time to fly around the country and catch each and every event.

October is also National Breast Cancer Awareness Month --- and thus there are many things pink all over town. Years ago I heard Kristin Hannah give a talk about how she had started writing back when her mom was ill with breast cancer while Kristin was in her third year of law school. They collaborated on what she called "the worst, most clichéd historical romance ever written." After her mom's death, she went on to become a lawyer and did not start writing until years later when she was pregnant with her son and confined to bed rest. She realized that her mom had been right all along; she was destined to be a writer. She walked away from her law career and started writing.

Through the years, when I have spoken with Kristin, she had shared stories about her mom, and it was clear she really missed her. To honor her mom --- and all the other women who have lost their lives to breast cancer --- Kristin has created a tribute wall on her website --- and the Firefly Fund to which you can donate will go towards The Fight against inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). Click here to visit Kristin’s website and learn more about this cause. There's a great back story as to how the Firefly Fund got its name. Readers really can make a special community.

Last year I read Thin is the New Happy by Valerie Frankel, which is her memoir about her battle with body image since age 8. I had the pleasure of working with Val at Mademoiselle --- where I loved her smart writing and editing. For the record, she nails what it was like to work on a staff where it seemed everyone was on a never-ending diet. I felt like a moose working there where everyone was size 0, 2 or dieting at 4. I do look back at those pictures, and think I looked pretty good back then. Maybe at 75 I will look good now too! We have the guide for the book this month.

Also, hot off the press we have a discussion guide for The Lost know, that book you might have heard about by that guy, Dan Brown.

It's been fun to see the list of our fans on our Facebook fan page growing in number. I enjoy seeing your pictures and reading your comments when I visit the pages there. The blog posts are uploaded there every day along with little tidbits we hear that might be of interest to you and your group. We also have a fan page for where we post news about books, including links to author television appearances and videos we think you might enjoy seeing. If you are not on Facebook, the Blog has a recap of what we posted each Friday. It’s our way to share the bookish chatter that we are hearing and gives me a chance to share what I am seeing when I am on the road.

Speaking of our blogs, don't forget that we are consistently featuring some really great pieces on the Blog written by authors, book club facilitators, booksellers, librarians and members of the publishing industry.

-Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, shares his top 10 memorable moments in speaking with book clubs.

-Kathleen Kent, author of The Heretic's Daughter, discusses the challenges of her characters and how they relate to women today.

-Michael Mewshaw reveals the unusual circumstances that led him to write his 11th novel, Lying with the Dead.

-Home Safe author Elizabeth Berg proves that sometimes two is the magic number as she recalls weekly phone conversations she had with a long-distance friend about books.

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

Since this event is happening before we will be back to you with a newsletter in November, please note that Publishers Weekly has launched National Bookstore Day to celebrate bookselling and the vibrant culture of bookstores. It’s Saturday, November 7th. May we suggest that you take a list of books that you want to read and head to the store that day to shop?

We are featuring a new book club interview with "The Church on the Bayou Book Groups" in Tarpon Springs, FL, as well as an interview with a bookseller and book club coordinator from Barnes & Noble in Amherst, NY. I really enjoy reading these and learning about reading groups across the country. This month's newsletter contest book is Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom. To be a group to win 20 free copies of this book, all you have to do is sign up for the newsletter by November 1, 2009. If you are receiving this newsletter in your mailbox, you already are signed up! You may find more details on how to be eligible here.

Lots of good reading this month....perhaps you will discover some titles for personal reading, as well as for discussions with your book club.

Here’s to a very colorful fall wherever you are.

Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])

Click here to learn more about National Reading Group Month.

In this stunning follow-up to the global phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown demonstrates once again why he is the world's most popular thriller writer. The Lost Symbol is a masterstroke of storytelling --- a deadly race through a real-world labyrinth of codes, secrets and unseen truths... all under the watchful eye of Brown's most terrifying villain to date. Set within the hidden chambers, tunnels and temples of Washington, D.C., The Lost Symbol accelerates through a startling landscape toward an unthinkable finale.
Click here to read the guide for The Lost Symbol.

CHRONIC CITY by Jonathan Lethem
The acclaimed author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude returns with a roar with this gorgeous, searing portrayal of Manhattanites wrapped in their own delusions, desires and lies. Like Manhattan itself, Jonathan Lethem’s Chronic City is beautiful and tawdry, tragic and forgiving, devastating and antic, a stand-in for the whole world and a place utterly unique.
Click here to read the guide for CHRONIC CITY.

Take a journey back to early 20th century China in The Concubine’s Daughter. Just as Lisa See captivated readers with Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, The Concubine’s Daughter will leave you mesmerized with its passionate tale of love and courage.

From remote mountain refuges to Hong Kong on the eve of World War II, this adventurous tale spanning two generations reveals an amazing cultural journey of a mother and daughter as sweeping changes unfold in 20th century China.

The Concubine’s Daughter is destined to be a reading group favorite, so don’t miss the extensive bonus content in the back of the book; and click here for a chance to win a free copy!

Click here to read the guide for The Concubine's Daughter.

Now Available in Paperback: THIN IS THE NEW HAPPY by Valerie Frankel
For anyone who loves feel-good, relatable memoirs like Eat, Pray, Love. Val Frankel may be a successful novelist and magazine writer, but she was a very unsuccessful dieter: cabbage soup, lemon juice, etc... and she hated herself for it.

Not wanting to pass this legacy to her daughters, Val stopped dieting and started living. Conclusion: unburden yourself from body image, and excess weight dissolves too. Val lost 20 pounds, looks smokin’ and, most notably, loves herself more now than ever!

Click here for a chance to win a free copy of Thin is the New Happy.

Click here to read the guide for Thin is the New Happy.

LYING WITH THE DEAD by Michael Mewshaw
In this novel, Greek tragedy meets a dysfunctional family from Maryland, when the matriarch calls home her three children. Quinn must fly in from England, putting a new love interest and a career-boosting role on hold. Maury rides in on a bus from his quiet life out west. Candy is already in Maryland, where she takes care of her mother and dreams of retiring to North Carolina with her boyfriend. Once the family is reassembled, Mewshaw invites us into the heart of a family dynamic, exploding prejudices about love, religion and murder.
Click here to read the guide for Lying with the Dead.

When in 1705 Kornél Csillag’s grandfather finds a gold pocket watch gleaming in the mud, the shipwrecked fortunes of the Csillag family suddenly take a new and marvelous turn. The golden watch brings with it the gift of clairvoyance. Passed down from father to firstborn son, the gift is a blessing for some, a curse for others. No matter the outcome, each generation records its astonishing, vivid and revelatory visions in a battered journal that becomes known as The Book of Fathers.
Click here to read the guide for The Book of Fathers.

THE RETURN by Victoria Hislop
Sonia knows nothing of Granada's shocking past, but ordering a cup of coffee in a cafe will lead her to the tale of the Ramirez family's fight to survive the horror of the Spanish Civil War 70 years earlier. Four siblings --- a serious teacher, a flamboyant matador, a skilled musician and a spirited flamenco dancer --- must choose whether to submit, fight or attempt escape, and their decisions impact their family forever.
Click here to read the guide for The Return.

ANGEL LANE by Sheila Roberts
Have you ever wanted to change the world for the better?

In this heartwarming novel, three small-town shop owners and best friends set their sights on doing just that. But their aspiration to “keep the heart in Heart Lake” by asking their neighbors to commit one random act of kindness every day leads them to some pretty wild situations, and shows one woman that love can grow from the most unexpected places.

Ripe with irresistible humor, friendship and delicious recipes inspired by the story, Angel Lane teaches the important of kindness, friendship and taking a chance on love.

Click here for a chance to win a free copy of Angel Lane!

Click here to read the guide for Angel Lane.

ACCORDING TO JANE by Marilyn Brant
Jane Austen fans will relish Marilyn Brant’s new novel, According to Jane, as the ghost of Jane Austen takes up residence in brainy Ellie Barnett’s mind. Follow Ellie’s adventures in pride, prejudice and the pursuit of the perfect guy... as she must decide whether to follow her head or her heart to find her own happy ending.
Click here to read the guide for According to Jane.

SUNFLOWERS by Sheramy Bundrick
When love blossoms between Vincent van Gogh and a young prostitute, the artist finds the inspiration he needs to fully invest himself in his paintings. But as time passes, Rachel gains a deeper insight into a man struggling with personal demons. Can Vincent’s growing attachment to Rachel save him? And will Rachel find the strength to stand by a man she has come to care for deeply, even as he spirals into darkness?
Click here to read the guide for Sunflowers.

THE LADIES' GALLERY: A Memoir of Family Secrets, by Irene Vilar
Eleven years after her mother’s suicide, 18-year-old Irene Vilar awakens in a psychiatric hospital after her own attempt and begins to face the devastating inheritance of abandonment and suicide passed down to her from grandmother and mother. Alternating between Vilar’s notes from the ward and the unraveling of her family’s secrets, this lyrical and powerful memoir of three generations of Puerto Rican women is urgent, impassioned and unforgettable.
Click here to read the guide for The Ladies' Gallery.

IMPOSSIBLE MOTHERHOOD: Testimony of an Abortion Addict, by Irene Vilar
Impossible Motherhood is a heartrending and ultimately triumphant testimonial as told by a writer pregnant with her 17th child, looking back at her history of addiction. Abortion has never offered any honest person easy answers, and Vilar’s journey through self-inflicted wounds, compulsive patterns and historical hauntings revisits the difficulties of this difficult subject, and it prompts an important, much needed discussion --- literary, political, social and philosophical. Impossible Motherhood is at once a fragile coming-of-age story and an affirmation of the spirit.
Click here to read the guide for Impossible Motherhood.

Registered Book Club Promotions --- FIVE Great Opportunities!









For October we have FIVE very special opportunities for Registered Book Groups. Our featured titles this month are The Longest Trip Home by John Grogan, Oxygen by Carol Cassella, Windfall by Penny Vincenzi, Thirsty by Tracey Bateman and Where Grace Abides by BJ Hoff. Groups who have registered with us by Thursday, October 15th have the chance to win author chats and/or free books. If your group is not registered, click here to register.

The Longest Trip Home: A Memoir by John Grogan --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: One Grand Prize-winning group will have the opportunity to chat with John Grogan and receive up to 12 copies of the book. Additionally, one first prize runner-up group will receive up to 12 signed copies of The Longest Trip Home for their book club, and a second prize runner-up group will receive up to 12 copies of the book.

More About The Longest Trip Home:

Enter your book club for a chance to speak with John Grogan, the internationally bestselling author who brought you Marley & Me and his most recent nationally bestselling memoir, The Longest Trip Home. Before there was Marley, there was a gleefully mischievous boy navigating his way through the social upheavals of the 1960s, flanked by his loving but traditional Christian parents, and his alternatively minded, persuasive peers. The Longest Trip Home tells the story of Grogan’s coming of age with his trademark humor and affection, offering readers a chance to discuss their own upbringings, whether happy, broken or humorous, and what it means to return back to your parents and family after breaking away and claiming your place in the world.

Oxygen by Carol Cassella --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Two groups will have the opportunity to chat with Carol Cassella and receive up to 12 copies of the book.

More About Oxygen:

Now available in paperback is Carol Cassella’s riveting national bestseller --- an “involving debut that’s just what the doctor ordered” (People). This gripping novel follows anesthesiologist Dr. Marie Heaton, who seeks to understand the death of a child patient during surgery, while also coping with her own aging father and confronting questions of love and betrayal, family bonds and the price of her own choices. With a final twist as heartrending as it is redeeming, Oxygen is an incredible story. Perfect for book clubs, there are many issues to discuss: family; relationships; trust between patients and doctors, parents and children, siblings, and romantic partners; coping with loss; and betrayal.

Windfall by Penny Vincenzi --- Book Giveaway: 10 groups will have the opportunity to receive up to 10 copies of the book.

More About Windfall:

Cassia Tallow, a dutiful doctor’s wife, inherits a fortune from her godmother whom she thought had died penniless. Gaining confidence and independence from her newfound wealth, Cassia sheds her domestic burdens as her husband can only look on with resentment. Soon she is seduced by the glamour and passion among a certain jet-set elite, and reforming old relationships --- one of them of the most dangerous kind. The mystery of her inheritance eventually catches up with Cassia, presenting even more questions about her family and the rest of her life. Too soon the windfall, part benign influence, part brutal force, is an absolutely powerful entity all of its own --- one that Cassia cannot resist...

-Click here to see our Women’s Fiction feature for Penny Vincenzi and Windfall on

Thirsty by Tracey Bateman --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Six groups will have the opportunity to chat with Tracey Bateman and receive up to 10 copies of the book.

More About Thirsty:

In Thirsty by award-winning author Tracey Bateman, recovering alcoholic Nina Parker wants to start fresh in her Ozark hometown. A gruesome murder, her shattered family, and a 250-year-old stranger’s obsession have her torn between surrendering to darkness --- and salvation.

Thirsty offers a multi-dimensional plot that examines the plight of human frailty in stark contrast to the strength and power of the supernatural. It provides book groups with an opportunity to discuss robust themes, including addictive behaviors, intergenerational relations, the role of free will, confronting past events and decisions, and finally, the price of redemption.

Where Grace Abides: The Riverhaven Years by BJ Hoff --- Book Giveaway: 15 groups will have the opportunity to receive up to 10 copies of the book.

More About Where Grace Abides:

Where Grace Abides is a story that includes many challenging topics for discussion, including slavery and abolition, faith and organized religion, personal liberties, issues of discrimination, and more. This book will especially appeal to reading groups who are looking for a thought-provoking read that asks challenging questions in the context of a faith perspective.

In Where Grace Abides, the compelling second book in the
Riverhaven Years series, Hoff offers her readers an even closer look at the Amish community of Riverhaven and the people who live and love and work there. Secrets, treachery and persecution are only a few of the challenges that test Rachel’s faith and her love for the forbidden “outsider,” while Gant’s own hopes and dreams are dealt a life-changing blow, rendering the vow he made to Rachel seemingly impossible to honor.

Click here to register your group.

New Guides Now Available

The following guides are now available on

According to Jane by Marilyn Brant: Jane Austen fans will relish According to Jane, as the ghost of Jane Austen takes up residence in brainy Ellie Barnett’s mind. Follow Ellie’s adventures in pride, prejudice and the pursuit of the perfect guy.
Angel Lane by Sheila Roberts: With irresistible humor, warmth, affection --- and recipes --- author Sheila Roberts serves up a generous, open-hearted story about the friendships we make, the chances we take, and the lives we touch every day.
Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell: With the mob, the government and death itself descending on the hospital, Dr. Peter Brown has to buy time and do whatever it takes to keep his patients, himself, and his last shot at redemption alive. To get through the next eight hours --- and somehow beat the reaper.
Better Because of You by Ginny Hutchinson and Cathy Haffner: Authors Ginny Hutchinson and Cathy Haffner share true-to-life stories that can help you do small things each day to make a big difference in your life.
The Book of Fathers by Miklós Vámos: For 300 years, a battered journal is passed down the Csillag family line, in which each generation’s firstborn son records his life. Known as The Book of Fathers, the journal bears witness to holocaust and wedding feast alike.
Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem: The acclaimed author of The Fortress of Solitude returns with a roar with this gorgeous, searing portrayal of Manhattanites wrapped in their own delusions, desires and lies.
The Concubine’s Daughter by Pai Kit Fai: An epic, heartwrenching story of a mother and daughter’s journey to their destiny.
Dutch by Teri Woods: James Bernard Jr., a.k.a. Dutch, has become the most dangerous criminal in New Jersey. Feared by all, and completely fearless, Dutch and his dangerous clique take over the lucrative heroin business of a local African drug lord.
Evenings at the Argentine Club by Julia Amante: Victor and Jaqueline Torres imagined moving to the U.S. would bring happiness and prosperity --- instead they found a world of frustration.
Feelin' the Vibe by Candice Dow: Clark Winston now has to make the most important decision of her life --- choose the man who broke her heart or the one who fixed it.
Generosity: An Enchantment by Richard Powers: From the National Book Award–winning author of The Echo Maker, a playful and provocative novel about the discovery of the happiness gene.
The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's Memoir by Katrina Kenison: An intimate memoir of a family in transition --- boys becoming teenagers, careers ending and new ones opening up, an attempt to find a deeper sense of place, and a slower pace, in a small New England town.
Have a Little Faith: A True Story by Mitch Albom: A book about a life’s purpose; about losing belief and finding it again; about the divine spark inside us all. It is one man’s journey, but it is everyone’s story.
Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict by Irene Vilar: A courageous and extraordinary memoir of one woman’s journey through family trauma and self-mutilation, and her determined struggle to prevail into motherhood.
The Ladies' Gallery: A Memoir of Family Secrets by Irene Vilar: A razor-sharp memoir about the allure of suicide for three generations of women in one Puerto Rican family and the frightening family secrets that have haunted a grandmother, mother and daughter in their search for self.
The Longest Trip Home: A Memoir by John Grogan: The funny and poignant memoir of faith, family and identity from John Grogan --- the #1 international bestselling author of the beloved Marley & Me.
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown: In this stunning follow-up to the global phenomenon The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown demonstrates once again why he is the world's most popular thriller writer.
Lying with the Dead by Michael Mewshaw: Narrated by three very different siblings --- dutiful but tough Candy, sweet but disturbed Maury, and successful but despondent Quinn --- Lying with the Dead is a moving and darkly humorous story of three adult children and their aging, embittered mother.
Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato: A fiercely funny and touching debut novel about a young girl trying to find out the truth behind her sister’s death.
The Palace of Strange Girls by Sallie Day: Over a holiday week, the Singletons must struggle to find their place in the shifting world of promenade amusements, illicit sex and stilted afternoon teas in this touching and evocative novel.
The Return by Victoria Hislop: Family betrayals, forbidden love and historical turmoil converge between a family's heartwrenching struggle during the Spanish Civil War and a young woman traveling in present-day Granada.
Shadow Baby by Alison McGhee: In Alison McGhee's stunning novel Shadow Baby, 11-year-old Clara struggles to piece together her family history, while her mother refuses to talk about those people lost to her daughter.
Sunflowers by Sheramy Bundrick: A hauntingly beautiful novel about Vincent van Gogh and his relationship with a mysterious young woman named Rachel and the passion they shared, in a debut novel from art historian Sheramy Bundrick.
Thin is the New Happy by Valerie Frankel: The true story of one woman’s quest to exorcise her bad body-image demons, to uncover the truths behind what put them there and to learn how to truly love herself.
Transgression: A Novel of Love and War by James W. Nichol: A beautifully written World War II romance and mystery that follows Adele, a young French woman who falls in love with a German soldier and is cast out of her village as a “horizontal traitor” at the end of the war.
Where Grace Abides: The Riverhaven Years by BJ Hoff: Readers loved Rachel’s Secret, the first book in The Riverhaven Years, and are eagerly awaiting the continuing story of Rachel and Jeremiah Gant.
Windfall by Penny Vincenzi: Windfall is full of the signatures that make Vincenzi’s novels irresistible to devoted fans and newcomers alike: a sharp eye for detail, an assortment of loveable and despicable characters, and a titillating, suspenseful plot.

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

The Bible Salesman by Clyde Edgerton
The Black Tower by Louis Bayard
A Country Called Home by Kim Barnes
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Lulu in Marrakech by Diane Johnson
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

We have the following new guides for Christian book groups:

Amish Peace: Simple Wisdom for a Complicated World by Suzanne Woods Fisher: Organized around five central themes in Amish life, Amish Peace shows you how you can cultivate a simple life of love, gratitude and faith in the midst of a very complicated world.
Divine Inspirations: Words of God’s Love and Grace by Cindy A. Warren: This book is a series of love letters spoken from God that expresses the inseparable love that God truly has for all of His creation.
The Jewel of His Heart: Heart of the West, Book 2 by Maggie Brendan: Juliana Brady is alone in an 1890s Montana mining town, with few prospects for making a living. But she is determined not to be dependent on the charity of others.
Leaving Carolina by Tamara Leigh: Piper Wick left her hometown of Pickwick, North Carolina, 12 years ago, and did not look back. Now all of Piper’s hard-won happiness is threatened by a reclusive uncle’s bout of conscience.
The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey: 1944: When a young woman is asked to "courier" a German scientist who is working on the atomic bomb out of enemy territory, the fate of the world hangs in the balance.
Thirsty by Tracey Bateman: Recovering alcoholic Nina Parker wants to start fresh in her Ozark hometown, but a gruesome murder, her shattered family and a 250-year-old stranger’s obsession have her torn between surrendering to darkness --- and salvation.
White Picket Fences by Susan Meissner: “White Picket Fences is a beautiful yet haunting portrayal of what lies beneath a seemingly perfect suburban family.” --Mary E. DeMuth, author of Daisy Chain and A Slow Burn


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