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December 2009 Newsletter December 2009
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Where Did The Year Go?

I am not sure where this year went. I feel like I was wrapping Christmas presents about 20 minutes ago and now I am doing it again. As I look back, I think it would be interesting to arrange my bookshelves with the books I read this year, lining them up in order. For those of us who love books, they often tell so much of the story of our year.

For the first time this year, I am crowning a book THE Book of the Year. It's The Help by Kathryn Stockett. I read it last December in an advance reading copy and immediately had a feeling this would be a book that readers wanted to talk about --- and you definitely did. Everywhere I went I heard about this book --- and with very good reason. It's terrific. Kathryn Stockett moved readers into the hearts and minds of her characters and made us feel for them. There was emotion and honesty in her prose, as well as a story that many of you, like me, did not want to see end.

Many groups already have read The Help. If you would like to share what your groups have done for your meetings, either about discussing it or special refreshments, please drop a note to [email protected]. For those groups who prefer to read books in paperback rather than in hardcover, please note that The Help is scheduled to be out in paperback on June 1st.

One more note on The Help: I truly think it will become a classic. There are so many books that do not hold up on re-reading years later; I think this one will.

One of the joys of my job is that I get to read ahead, which is what I had the opportunity to do with Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. It will be in stores on February 2nd. Many of you, like me, enjoyed her recent books Firefly Lane and True Colors, the latter of which is one of our contest books this month. In Winter Garden she again writes a strong story with female characters, this time a mother and two sisters. But layered in is a very powerful historical storyline that addresses what happened in Leningrad during World War II. While much has been written about other places where the war took place, Kristin's look at Leningrad is one that has not been mined like this. For those who have not read Kristin before, either True Colors, which will be in paperback on January 5th or Winter Garden is a nice place to start.

Also, for the record, around our house The Hunger Games and Catching Fire have been given a huge thumbs up. They are young adult titles that adult readers are wildly enthusiastic about. In fact, when Suzanne Collins appeared via video at a library conference event recently, the crowd response was wild to watch. I feel strongly that engaging readers when they are young is critically important, and these books certainly are up to the task. But at the same time, they are very satisfying to adult readers as well.

As we look ahead to 2010, we will be bringing you some new features. The first, which will be live in January, will be a Coming Soon guide of books releasing in 2010 that we think will be of interest to book clubs. From our 2009 Reader Survey, we know that many of your groups plan three months, six months or a year in advance --- and many of you select in January, June and September. Thus, we wanted to give you a resource where you can plan ahead to see what will be releasing in both hardcover and paperback so you can better plan your group reading. We're hammering out the last-minute details now, but expect that the feature will be robust by the end of 2010.

And there are a few more features that will be of interest to book clubs that we are not ready to announce quite yet, but are quite excited about!

December 31st will bring an end to Shannon McKenna Schmidt's role with us as Contributing Editor for the Blog. She leaves in the spring on a long-term trip around the country in an RV. After years where she traveled for the research and writing of her book, Novel Destinations, she realized that she wanted to take some time to see America, not just as a vacationer in short spurts, but as a traveler who could spend as long as she wanted in places to truly absorb them. Along the way, I am sure she will be poking around some bookstores and I look forward to seeing what she has to share about this adventure. Shannon has been a part of The Book Report Network for more than a decade, and it's really tough for me to see her leave. Please join me in wishing her all good things. I will be introducing you to our new Contributing Editor in January.

Over the years, Amy Alessio, a terrific YA librarian from Schamuburg, IL, has become a friend of mine. She collects vintage cookbooks and writes about them on her blog here. Given that so many of you enjoy cooking, I wanted to share this with you. She also has started doing library events where her Vintage Cookbook programs are one hour and audience members get to enjoy some samples of purchased gourmet treats, as well as holiday recipes. To set up one of these events at your library, contact her at [email protected].

Also, as we wrap up the year, I wanted to be sure you saw a post from the group who won the Trip to Guernsey earlier this year in connection with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society contest that was conducted by Random House earlier this year. As so many of you loved this book, I wanted to be sure you had a chance to read this blog post from the American group that won.

Okay, I think that wraps up all my loose ends from 2009, so I can get back to holiday wrapping and meal plans, as well as organizing the packing for our trip to the Outer Banks where we again will be doing Christmas this year. I cannot wait. I have been preparing a lovely stack of reading for this trip, editing it with a book here, a book there. As always the stack is huge, and just looking at it I smile and am cheered to know that adventures lay ahead in those pages. After all, The Help was in a stack much like this last December.

Here's wishing you and yours a joyous holiday season, however you celebrate, and all the very best for 2010. I cannot believe we already are through a year in the decade. See you next year.


Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])

Click here to see the reading group guide for THE HELP, our Book of the Year.

Special Contest: Win a Paperback Copy of TRUE COLORS by Kristin Hannah for Your Group
We are celebrating the paperback release of True Colors by Kristin Hannah --- an emotional exploration of the bonds of sisterhood --- with a special contest. 200 readers will have the opportunity to each win a paperback copy of True Colors, which will be available in stores on January 5, 2010, for their group. To enter, fill out this form by Monday, January 4th at 11:59PM EST.

More About True Colors:
True Colors is New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah’s most provocative, compelling and heart-wrenching story yet. With the luminous writing and unforgettable characters that are her trademarks, she tells the story of three sisters whose once-solid world is broken apart by jealousy, betrayal and the kind of passion that rarely comes along.

The Grey sisters have always been close. After their mother’s death, the girls banded together, becoming best friends. Their stern, disapproving father cares less about his children than about his reputation. To Henry Grey, appearances are everything, and years later, he still demands that his daughters reflect his standing in the community.

Kristin Hannah's latest novel, Winter Garden, is scheduled for release February 2, 2010.

-Click here for the reading group guide.
-Click here for Kristin Hannah's holiday author blog post.


Click here to read all the contest details.

Special Contest: Win an Advance Copy of THE SURRENDERED by Chang-rae Lee for Your Group
We are celebrating the late winter release of The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee --- a haunting novel of an orphan and a soldier forever linked --- with a special contest. 100 readers will have the opportunity to each win one advance copy of The Surrendered, which will be available in stores on March 9, 2010, for their group. To enter, fill out this form by Monday, January 4th at 11:59PM EST.

More About The Surrendered:
With his three previous novels, Chang-rae Lee has established himself as one of the most talented writers of his generation. Now he has returned with a novel that amplifies everything we’ve seen in his earlier work. A stunning story about how love and war inalterably change the lives of those they touch, The Surrendered is elegant, suspenseful and unforgettable: a profound meditation on the nature of heroism and sacrifice, the power of love, and the possibilities for mercy and salvation.

The Surrendered is a masterfully crafted novel on the horrors of war, the fate of its victims, and the eternal relationships it forges.

-Click here for the reading group guide.


Click here to read all the contest details.

Special Contest: Win an Advance Copy of THE CREATION OF EVE by Lynn Cullen for Your Group
We are celebrating the spring publication of The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen --- a historical romance staged across Europe during the Renaissance --- with a special contest. 100 readers will have the opportunity to win an advance copy of The Creation of Eve before its official release on March 23, 2010, for their group. To enter, fill out this form by Monday, January 4th at 11:59PM EST.

More About The Creation of Eve:
The Creation of Eve
is a novel based on the true but little-known story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first renowned female artist of the Renaissance. After a scandal in Michelangelo’s workshop, Sofi flees Italy and joins the Spanish court of King Felipe II where she soon becomes embroiled in a royal love triangle. The Creation of Eve combines art, romance and history in a story that asks the question: Can you ever truly know another person’s heart?

The Creation of Eve is a romantic journey through one of the most prosperous times in European history.

-Click here for the reading group guide.

Click here to read all the contest details.


A delightful and moving story set during World War II in England that celebrates the healing powers of friendship and music. It is 1939 and Lavender, "La" to her friends, has left London for the countryside, to avoid the bombs and her shattered marriage. The peace and solitude of the small town are therapeutic, but at times too much so. She organizes an amateur orchestra for diversion and to boost the town's morale. With his all-embracing empathy and his gentle sense of humor, Alexander McCall Smith makes of La's life and love a tale to enjoy and cherish.


Click here to read the guide for La's Orchestra Saves the World.

The first two novels in the Hunger Games trilogy have been met with critical and commercial success, both charting at No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list while also landing on annual "best of" lists. Now, for the first time, discussion guides are ready for these futuristic novels where gladiator-esque showdowns pit friends and rivals alike against one another. Filled with action, romance, adventure and philosophy, this series is scoring with adults just as strongly as its intended young adult market.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
In this gripping young adult novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present, the nation of Panem consists of a shining Capital surrounded by twelve outlying Districts, in the ruins of the area once known as North America. Sixteen-year-old Katniss and her friend Gale forage for food in the woods surrounding their impoverished District, in this stratified society where the Capital controls all resources. The main support for both their families, Katniss and Gale are apprehensive of the approaching annual Reaping, when two “tributes” between the ages of 12 and 18 will be chosen by lottery from each of the 12 districts to compete in The Hunger Games, a survival contest on live TV in which teenagers fight to the death and there can be only one victor.

-Click here for the reading group guide.

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
In the sequel to The Hunger Games, the President announces plans for the Quarter Quell, the 75th anniversary Games. Every 25 years the Capitol devises a new twist for the reaping, and this year they announce that the tributes will be chosen from among the victors of previous Games, ensuring friends and foes will once again face each other with grim consequences likely. All the while, a rebellion brews to end the tyranny.

-Click here for the reading group guide.'s Author Holiday Blogs --- Authors Write About Their Bookish Holiday Memories

Between now and Christmas Day, more than 60 authors are sharing their favorite memories of giving or receiving a book at the holidays.

The following authors have already shared their stories:

-Beverly Barton: The Circle of Love
-Joshua Gaylord: The Gift of the Unreadable
-Edward Falco: In My Family...
-Wendy Smith on Regifted Treasures
-Keith Raffel on MOLLY'S PILGRIM
-Lisa Scottoline: Mother Mary and the Christmas Sinatra
-Holly Goddard Jones on Books as Artifiacts
-Wade Rouse: Wade's Walden
-Celia Rivenbark: The Three Sillies
-Suzan Colón on HEIDI
-Newt Gingrich on THE RIVER WAR
-Kaitlin O'Riley: Making the Mundane Magical
-Marie Bostwick: Christmas Memory
-Mary Burton on Rekindling Fond Holiday Memories
-Jill McCorkle on "A Christmas Memory"
-Vanessa Davis Griggs: The Gift of a Book
-Christina Baker Kline: CHRISTMAS, Out of Print
-Ann Pearlman: On Receiving a Book for Christmas
-Mahbod Seraji: My First Christmas in the U.S., My First Book
-Dolen Perkins Valdez on BELOVED
-Donna VanLiere on CHARLOTTE'S WEB
-Rosalind Noonan: A Sweater for Bob
-Mary Carter on TIME AND AGAIN
-Robert Goolrick: Harper to Harper
-Meg Waite Clayton on the Tales of Beatrix Potter
-Stephen Coonts: Christmas Memories
-Hallie Ephron: Books to Grow Into
-Melissa Mayhue on The Nancy Drew Mysteries
-Gesine Bullock-Prado: An Open Letter to All the Holiday Elves
-Heather Gudenkauf on RAMONA AND HER FATHER
-Lauren Grodstein's Eight Nights of Books
-Laura Kasischke on the Perfect Gift for a Spoiled Child
-Sally Koslow: Everything is Material --- and Sometimes It's Red and Green
-Kristin Hannah on The Lord of the Rings
-Betsy Carter: The Book That Came to Stay


Click here to read's Authors on the Holidays Blog.

Don't Miss Our Holiday Basket of Cheer Contest on!

The holiday season is upon us! At, this means it's time for us to share the spirit of the season with you with our Holiday Basket of Cheer Contest. While you are searching for the perfect gifts, we want to remind you that books make affordable, personal and wonderful gifts for EVERYONE on your list --- and are a nice way to treat yourself as well!

Our featured titles are:

Beginner's Luck by Laura Pedersen
Best Bet by Laura Pedersen
Christmas at Sea Pines Cottage by Sally Smith O'Rourke
The Big Shuffle by Laura Pedersen
Buffalo Gal by Laura Pedersen
Heart's Desire by Laura Pedersen
Her Inheritance Forever by Lyn Cote
Kissing Santa Claus by Donna Kauffman, Jill Shalvis and HelenKay Dimon
Lakeshore Christmas by Susan Wiggs
Leah's Choice by Marta Perry
A Lineage of Grace by Francine Rivers
The Moment Between by Nicole Baart
Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
Santa in a Stetson by Janet Dailey
Snow Angels by Fern Michaels, Marie Bostwick, Janna McMahan and Rosalind Noonan
Stray Affections by Charlene Ann Baumbich
A Wee Christmas Homicide by Kaitlyn Dunnett
Yule Be Mine by Lori Foster


Click here to enter the latest Holiday Basket of Cheer contest on's What to Give/What to Get Gift Guide
Headed out to do some holiday shopping? Before you go, check out our What to Give/What to Get feature with ideas in 14 categories.

This year's featured categories include:

-Eat, Drink & Be Merry: Cookbooks, Entertaining Guides & Culinary Tales
-Faces & Places: Biography, Memoir & History
-Great Choices for Booklovers: Fiction & Nonfiction Highlights
-Great Tools for Readers and Writers: Accessories for Booklovers
-Healthy, Wealthy & Wise: Advice & How-To
-Holiday Spirit: Perfect Selections for Holiday Reading
-Inspirational: Christian Fiction & Nonfiction Highlights
-Mystery Madness & Thrilling Reads: Mysteries, Thrillers & Suspense
-Picture Perfect: Picture Books

-Slam Dunks: Sports Memoirs
-Splendid Series: Series Books for Kids
-Stocking Stuffers: Books Small Enough to Put in Stockings or Buy in Quantity
-Teens’ Choice: For Teens
-True Story: Nonfiction for Kids

Click here to see's What to Give/What to Get Gift Guide.

This Month's Book Club Interview

Maria Piccirillo is the discussion leader of the Bookies Book Club, a 12-member group (soon to be 14) from Warwick, Rhode Island, composed of female co-workers of various ages who use their office meeting room for their monthly talks. In this interview, Maria shares some insights into her club and its meaning for the members, offers advice to other reading groups, and reveals the name of their favorite author. interviews reading groups around the world, spotlighting different groups each month. We hope that you enjoy reading about their experiences and might find some new ideas to try with your group. If you belong to a group that you think should be spotlighted, click here to answer our interview questions.

Click here to see all our interviews with book clubs.

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:

-Susan Kandel: Hitchcock and Christmas Dinner
-Leila Cobo: My Mother's Gift
-Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel: A Book that Keeps on Cooking
-ReadingGroupGuides Facebook roundup for November/December
-Creating Mother-Daughter Book Clubs
-Emilie Richards: A Holiday Jingle
-Hope Edelman: First Impressions
-Laura Kasischke: The Fairy Tale & the Black Death
-More Book Groups Give Back
-Readers in the Hood Give Back
-Who Took Their Book Group to Guernsey?


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. Also, receive updates by email here.

Click here to read the Blog.

Become a Fan of on Facebook and Goodreads! has a fan page on Facebook where we now have more than 1,200 fans! Here we 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. We look forward to seeing you as fans of on Facebook. If you're not on Facebook, you can still follow our daily posts, in blog form, here.

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

The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen: A lush and compelling tale of intrigue and longing, set in the 16th-century Spanish court, that asks the question: Can you ever truly know another person’s heart?
Diary of a Confessions Queen by Kathy Carmichael: To save her home from foreclosure, Amy Crosby has her missing husband declared legally dead. Then she receives a blackmail note, and life-threatening consequences begin.
A Field Guide to Burying Your Parents by Liza Palmer: An estranged daughter reconnects with her hospitalized father, realizing she’s done exactly what she never vowed to do and the importance of family.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Collins delivers a suspenseful tale of adventure, romance, philosophy and, ultimately, survival.
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins: The powerful second novel in the Hunger Games trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Suzanne Collins.
La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith: From the bestselling author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, a delightful story about the restorative powers of friendship and music.
Now & Then by Jacqueline Sheehan: A woman and her nephew gain new perspective on their lives and situations by revisiting a past that’s equally troublesome and prosperous.
The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee: The bestselling, award-winning writer of Native Speaker, A Gesture Life and Aloft returns with a spellbinding story of how love and war echo through an entire lifetime.
True Colors by Kristin Hannah: With breathtaking pace and penetrating insight, Kristin Hannah’s True Colors is a novel about sisters, vengeance, jealousy, betrayal --- and ultimately, what it truly means to be a family.

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

Hot, Flat, and Crowded 2.0: Why We Need a Green Revolution -- and How It Can Renew America by Thomas L. Friedman
Lethal Legacy: An Alexandra Cooper Novel by Linda Fairstein

The following new guides are now available for Christian book groups:

Desert Fire
by Shannon Van Roekel:
A journalist and a lawyer are on two very different paths, their lives are providentially brought together to fight the injustice and violence around them --- and heal their own past hurts.
Hero's Tribute by Graham Garrison: Michael Gavin is a pillar of the community but his troublesome past is about to become public business.
Love Finds You in Holiday, Florida by Sandra D. Bricker: Scripture and crossword puzzles, mayhem with the neighbors, ballroom dancing lessons, some rogue flamingos, New Year’s Eve disco night … Oh! And unexpected love.

A Voice in the Wind: Mark of the Lion, Book 1
by Francine Rivers: The first volume in Francine Rivers's bestselling historical series.
An Echo in the Darkness: Mark of the Lion, Book 2 by Francine Rivers: Marcus shuns the opulence and temptations of Rome and embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
As Sure as the Dawn: Mark of the Lion, Book 3
by Francine Rivers: The thrilling conclusion focuses on Artetes the German gladiator and his new freedom.


This Month’s Poll

Are you giving books as gifts this holiday season?

Not sure

Are you hoping to receive books as gifts this holiday season?

Not sure


Click here to answer the poll.

This Month's Contest Book: IN A PERFECT WORLD by Laura Kasischke
Win a copy of In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke 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 January 1, 2010. If you are receiving this newsletter in your mailbox, you already are signed up!

More About In a Perfect World:

In a Perfect World is critically acclaimed writer Laura Kasischke’s new novel of marriage, motherhood, and the choices we make when we have no choices left. Kasischke tells the story of Jiselle, a young flight attendant who has settled into a fairy tale life with her new family. But as a mysterious new illness spreads rapidly throughout the country, she begins to realize that her marriage, her stepchildren and their perfect world are all in terrible danger...
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])

The Book Report Network
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