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June 2011 Newsletter June 2011
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Listening to Our Readers
One of my favorite things is reading feedback from our readers in emails, polls, Facebook comments and other places where you weigh in. May's poll was really interesting to me as I was curious about how being in a book club expands your horizons, so we asked "What percentage of the books that your group has discussed would you have read even if you weren't in a book club?" 38% said 50%; 32% said 75%. You can read the full results of the poll here. Thus 70% of you are saying that being in a book club expanded your reading horizons at least 25%. Interesting to see!

I also hope you can participate in this month’s poll, which asks, “Has the price of gas impacted your book purchases?” Every time I go to the pump, I watch the meter running up and up, and I cringe. I’m curious to see how it’s impacting readers. Vote in our poll here.

One special feature we’ll have on the site throughout the summer is our Fall Preview: Hot Book Club Picks for Fall, which is a great sneak peek at some select fall titles perfect for reading groups. This feature was actually taken from the panel I moderated at BookExpo America. We had 10 representatives from various publishers share a handful of upcoming titles they’re excited about. We had more than 100 readers in the audience and actually ran out of handouts! Click here to see the PDF version, which is perfect for printing and making notes.

A book group title worth considering for your group is Mudbound by Hillary Jordan, which was just named as “Pennie’s Pick” at Costco for the month of June. Mudbound is about one family’s life on a cotton farm in the Mississippi Delta following World War II. It has a tremendous sense of time and place that really draws you into the story. I had the pleasure of having dinner with Hillary two years ago during a library convention, and we had a great time. Pennie’s Pick from May was Shanghai Girls by Lisa See, one of my favorite authors. Shanghai Girls follows two Chinese sisters as they come to California. Lisa’s follow-up, Dreams of Joy, hit stores last week. As I am writing this note, I just got word that it will debut on the New York Times bestseller list at #1! Fans of Lisa’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan should be on the lookout for the film adaptation that hits theaters on July 15th. It’s in very limited release, so please check with your local theaters. Click here for more info about the movie.

Lisa also recently contributed a piece about Dreams of Joy to the Blog. She discusses her personal connection to the story, and it’s a great insight into an author whose titles are always popular among reading groups. Click here to read that piece and here to visit the blog.

We have 100 advance reader editions of The Last Nude by Ellis Avery to give away this month. Although the book won’t be out until January 2012, you can preview it now. (We love when we have an opportunity to share an early look at a book like this.) The Last Nude takes place in Jazz Age Paris circa 1927 and follows the turbulent relationship between painter Tamara de Lempicka and her muse, Rafaela, as they form an unlikely bond and combine for one of the era’s most iconic pieces of art. Enter here by Wednesday, July 6th at noon ET for your chance to win one of our 100 advance reader copies.

This month we also have two special opportunities for our registered readers. Three groups can win an author chat with Deborah Cloyed, author of The Summer We Came to Life, about a group of friends trying to enjoy a summer vacation despite the absence of one of their own. Fifteen winners also can win a chat with author Carla Stewart about her novel, Broken Wings, which is about two women from very different backgrounds who find they have much in common after a chance meeting at a hospital. Winners from both contests will also receive at least 10 copies of the book to share with their group. Register your group here by Tuesday, June 21st. More details about these contests can be found farther down this newsletter.

One lucky newsletter subscriber can also win 20 copies of Healer by Carol Cassella, which will be released as a paperback on Tuesday, June 14th. This was one of my Bets On picks from 2010, and you can read my thoughts about it here. I truly loved this book and think it will make for a dynamic group discussion. Pass this subscription link on to a friend you think might enjoy our newsletter, and get him/her entered to win!

We have two special contests happening on right now. The first is our Summer Reading Daily Contest and Feature. Many of you may remember our Summer Beach Bag of Books contests of the past, but this year we’re doing something different. We adapted the book-a-day contest format that was so popular with Holiday Cheer and are using it here.

For those who did not participate in Holiday Cheer, here’s the skinny on what is going on. Each day from Monday through Thursday, a different book will be featured and there will be a daily contest for you to enter to win a copy. You can also learn the day’s prize by subscribing here for our special daily alert emails. These emails are separate from the newsletter, so you will need to sign up specifically for this “Summer Reading Daily Feature and Contest” newsletter. Subscribe to the special newsletter here, and check out all the books that we’re featuring this summer here --- all 34 of them --- so you can make your summer reading list.

Our sixth annual Father’s Day Contest features seven great titles for dad. We have a really diverse lineup of books, including a legal thriller, an international thriller, a touching memoir, and a prize-winning historical novel. You can check out all our featured titles here. Five lucky winners will win a copy of each book packed inside an oversized backpack. Also inside the backpack is a red-striped beach towel and Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. Enter here by Monday, June 13th at noon ET. Father’s Day is June 19th, and we want to get our book-filled backpacks to winners in time to celebrate. Our Father’s Day Blog Series is also running throughout the month. Check out the series here. We already have posts running from Robert Dugoni, William Kent Krueger, John Sellers and Amanda Hodgkinson.

This month’s Book Group Spotlight interview is with Megan Hand, a mom who started the Guys Read Book Club for her son and his friends from Lakeridge and West Mercer Elementary Schools just outside of Seattle, Washington. Read on as Megan shares with us her inspiration for starting the group, and how her and the fellow moms keep the discussions interesting for their sons by incorporating fun activities for the boys to enjoy. Next month’s Book Group Spotlight is also one to look forward to. In honor of Bastille Day in July, our next interview will feature a discussion with Susan Stone from the Anglo-American Group based in Provence, France. What perfect timing!

Our What to Read Next? Suggest a Book for This Group feature also returns this month. We have some great ideas for our selected groups, including some choices that might stretch you a bit outside your comfort zone and trigger some new discussions. Thanks to all who suggested books for the groups. Keep ’em coming! If your group would like to participate, please click here. We also are looking for suggestions for three groups this month. To make a suggestion, please click here and tell us why you think this group would enjoy your title specifically based upon their past choices. Ideally, read their lists and try to reference a title or two that they already have read when you make your suggestions.

I do my best to keep the focus of this newsletter on reading groups and books for discussion. However, the past few weeks have been filled with great books from some of my favorite authors and others I’m just discovering. I also ran into lots of authors at various trade shows and industry events throughout May. I encourage you to check out these past editions of the weekly newsletter for some great titles to keep in mind for the summer and fall, including Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, which is my latest Bets On pick.

-June 3rd
-May 27th
-May 20th
-May 13th

Here’s to summer and all its glory. We’ve created a fabulous outdoor living room on our patio, and I have been enjoying many an evening out there. Such such fun to kick back and relax outdoors again. It was one loooong winter. Here’s wishing you all a wonderful month of reading.

Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])

Special Contest: Win a Copy of THE LAST NUDE by Ellis Avery for Your Group

We are celebrating the forthcoming release of The Last Nude by Ellis Avery --- a stunning story of love, sexual obsession, treachery and tragedy, about an artist and her most famous muse in Paris between the world wars --- with a special contest. 100 readers will have the opportunity to each win one advance copy of the book, which will be in stores on January 5, 2012, for their group. The deadline for entries is Wednesday, July 6th at noon ET.

More about The Last Nude:
Paris, 1927. In the heady years before the crash, financiers drape their mistresses in Chanel, while expatriates flock to the avant-garde bookshop Shakespeare and Company. One day in July, a young American named Rafaela Fano gets into the car of a coolly dazzling stranger, the Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka. Struggling to halt a downward slide toward prostitution, Rafaela agrees to model for the artist, a dispossessed Saint Petersburg aristocrat with a murky past. The two become lovers, and Rafaela inspires Tamara's most iconic Jazz Age images, among them her most accomplished --- and coveted --- works of art. Inspired by real events in de Lempicka's history, The Last Nude is a tour de force of historical imagination.

-Click here for the reading group guide.

Click here to read all the contest details.

STATE OF WONDER by Ann Patchett

Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a Minnesota pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil to track down her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, who seems to have all but disappeared in the Amazon while working on what is destined to be an extremely valuable new drug, the development of which has already cost the company a fortune. Nothing about Marina's assignment is easy: not only does no one know where Dr. Swenson is, but the last person who was sent to find her, Marina's research partner Anders Eckman, died before he could complete his mission. Plagued by trepidation, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the insect-infested jungle in hopes of finding her former mentor as well as answers to several troubling questions about her friend's death, the state of her company's future, and her own past.

Click here to read the guide for State of Wonder.

FAITH by Jennifer Haigh
Estranged for years from her difficult and demanding relatives, Sheila McGann has remained close to her older brother Art, the popular, dynamic pastor of a large suburban parish. When Art finds himself at the center of the maelstrom, Sheila returns to Boston, ready to fight for him and his reputation. What she discovers is more complicated than she imagined. Her strict, lace-curtain-Irish mother is living in a state of angry denial. Sheila's younger brother Mike, to her horror, has already convicted his brother in his heart. But most disturbing of all is Art himself, who persistently dodges Sheila's questions and refuses to defend himself.
Click here to read the guide for Faith.

MAINE by J. Courtney Sullivan

As three generations of Kelleher women descend on their beachfront property one summer, each brings her own hopes and fears. Maggie is 32 and pregnant, waiting for the perfect moment to tell her imperfect boyfriend the news; Ann Marie, a Kelleher by marriage, is channeling her domestic frustration into a dollhouse obsession and an ill-advised crush; Kathleen, the black sheep, never wanted to set foot in the cottage again; and Alice, the matriarch at the center of it all, would trade every floorboard for a chance to undo the events of one night, long ago.

By turns wickedly funny and achingly sad, Maine unveils the sibling rivalry, alcoholism, social climbing and Catholic guilt at the center of one family, along with the abiding, often irrational love that keeps them coming back, every summer, to Maine and to each other.


Click here to read the guide for Maine.


It’s 1968. The prestigious but cash-strapped Goode School in the town of Cape Wilde is run by its aging, philandering headmaster, Goddard Byrd, known to both his friends and his enemies as God. With Cape Wilde engulfed by the social and political storms of integration, coeducation and the sexual revolution, God has confidently promised coeducation “over my dead body.” And then, through a clerical error, the Goode School admits its first female student: Carole Faust, a brilliant, intractable 15-year-old black girl.

Carolyn Cooke has written a ferociously intelligent, richly sensual novel about the lives of girls and women, the complicated desperation of daughters without fathers, and the erosion of paternalistic power in an elite New England town on the cusp of radical social change.


Click here to read the guide for Daughters of the Revolution.

DON'T BREATHE A WORD by Jennifer McMahon

On a soft summer night in Vermont, 12-year-old Lisa went into the woods behind her house and never came out again. Before she disappeared, she told her little brother, Sam, about a door that led to a magical place where she would meet the King of the Fairies and become his queen.

Fifteen years later, Phoebe is in love with Sam, a practical, sensible man who doesn’t fear the dark and doesn’t have bad dreams --- who, in fact, helps Phoebe ignore her own. But suddenly the couple is faced with a series of eerie, unexplained occurrences that challenge Sam’s hardheaded, realistic view of the world. As they question their reality, a terrible promise Sam made years ago is revealed --- a promise that could destroy them all.


Click here to read the guide for Don't Breathe a Word.


The lives of two very different couples are irrevocably intertwined and forever changed in this stunning World War I epic of love and war.

From the day in 1907 that 11-year-old Riley Purefoy meets Nadine Waveney, daughter of a well-known orchestral conductor, he takes in the difference between their two families: his, working-class; hers, "posh" and artistic. Just a few years later, romance and these differences erupt simultaneously with the war in Europe. In a fit of fury and boyish pride, Riley enlists in the army and finds himself involved in the transformative nightmare of the 20th century. Moving among Ypres, London and Paris, this emotionally rich and evocative novel is both a powerful exploration of the lasting effects of war on those who fight --- and those who don't --- and a poignant testament to the power of enduring love.


Click here to read the guide for My Dear I Wanted to Tell You.

The economic downturn has hit New Bern, Connecticut, and Tessa Woodruff's herbal apothecary shop, For the Love of Lavender, is suffering. So is her once-happy 34-year marriage to Lee. They'd given up everything to come back to New Bern from Boston and start their business, but now they're wondering if they made the right decision. To relieve the strain, Tessa signs up for a quilting class at the Cobbled Court Quilt Shop, and to her surprise, rediscovers the power of sisterhood --- along with the childhood friend she thought she'd lost forever.

From New York Times bestselling author Marie Bostwick comes a beautiful novel of sisterhood lost and found --- and of the ways we create the rich tapestries that encompass the past and the future.

Click here to read the guide for Threading the Needle.


Oscar Hijuelos has enchanted readers with vibrant characters who hunger for success, love and self-acceptance. In his first work of nonfiction, Hijuelos writes from the heart about the people and places that inspired his international bestselling novels.

Born in Manhattan's Morningside Heights to Cuban immigrants in 1951, Hijuelos introduces readers to the colorful circumstances of his upbringing. The son of a Cuban hotel worker and exuberant poetry-writing mother, his story, played out against the backdrop of an often prejudiced working-class neighborhood, takes on an even richer dimension when his relationship to his family and culture changes forever. During a sojourn in pre-Castro Cuba with his mother, he catches a disease that sends him into a Dickensian home for terminally ill children. The yearlong stay estranges him from the very language and people he had so loved.


Click here to read the guide for Thoughts Without Cigarettes.


In the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, a young Orthodox Jewish woman in the holy city of Jerusalem is expected to marry and produce many sons to help hasten the Messiah's arrival. While the feisty Esther Kaminsky understands her obligations, her artistic talent inspires her to secretly explore worlds outside her religion, to dream of studying in Paris --- and to believe that God has a special destiny for her. When tragedy strikes her family, Esther views it as a warning from an angry God and suppresses her desires in order to become an obedient "Jerusalem maiden."

Click here to read the guide for Jerusalem Maiden.

June's Registered Book Club Contests

For June we have two very special opportunities for Registered Book Groups. Our featured titles this month are The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed and Broken Wings by Carla Stewart. Groups who have registered with us by Tuesday, June 21st have the chance to win an author chat and/or free books. If your group is not registered, click here to register.

The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Three groups will have the opportunity to chat with Deborah Cloyed and receive up to 10 copies of the book.

More about The Summer We Came to Life:
Every summer, Samantha Wheland joins her childhood friends --- Isabel, Kendra and Mina --- on a vacation, somewhere exotic and fabulous. Together with their mixed bag of parents, they’ve created a lifetime of memories. This year it's a beach house in Honduras. But for the first time, their clan is not complete. Mina lost her battle against cancer six months ago, and the friends she left behind are still struggling to find their way forward without her.

For Samantha, the vacation just feels wrong without Mina. Despite being surrounded by her friends --- the closest thing she has to family --- Mina’s death has left her a little lost. Unsure what direction her life should take. Fearful that whatever decision she makes about her wealthy French boyfriend's surprise proposal, it'll be the wrong one.

The answers aren't in the journal Mina gave Sam before she died. Or in the messages Sam believes Mina is sending as guideposts. Before the trip ends, the bonds of friendship with her living friends, the older generation's stories of love and loss, and Sam's glimpse into a world far removed from the one in which she belongs will convince her to trust her heart. And follow it.

Broken Wings by Carla Stewart --- Author Chat and Book Giveaway: Fifteen groups will have the opportunity to chat with Carla Stewart and receive up to 10 copies of the book.

More about Broken Wings:
Onstage, the singing duo of Gabe and Mitzi Steiner captured America's heart for more than two decades. Offstage, their own hearts have throbbed as one for 60 years. Only now, Gabe has retreated into the tangles of Alzheimer's, leaving Mitzi to ponder her future alone.

On the other side of Tulsa, everyone believes Brooke Woodson has found the perfect man --- a handsome lawyer with sights on becoming Tulsa's next District Attorney. If only Brooke felt more sure. If only her fiancé could control his anger. If only love didn't come with so many scars.

When an accident lands Brooke in the hospital where Mitzi volunteers, the two women quickly develop an unlikely friendship birthed by providence and bathed in grace. And with Mitzi's help, kindness and insight, Brooke learns how to pick up the broken pieces of her life.


Click here to register your group.'s Book Group Spotlight: Guys Read Book Club
The Book Group Spotlight Feature is designed to share a selected book group with our readers. The spotlight may focus on a group's discussion of a book or on a group that we feel is particularly interesting.

This month’s Book Group Spotlight interview is with Megan Hand, a mom who started the Guys Read Book Club for her son and his friends from Lakeridge and West Mercer Elementary Schools in Washington, just outside of Seattle. Here, Megan shares with us her inspiration for starting the group, and how her and the fellow moms keep the discussions interesting for their sons by incorporating fun activities for the boys to enjoy.

-Click here to read previous Book Group Spotlight interviews.
Click here to read our latest Book Group Spotlight interview.'s "What to Read Next? Suggest a Book for This Group"
Is your book group stuck in a rut? Or looking to stretch beyond its comfort zone? Maybe you’re just searching for that next great read?

We’re here to help! Our latest feature, What to Read Next? Suggest a Book for This Group, aims to help a group by taking suggestions from our thousands of book group members.

We’ll regularly feature groups, tell you something about them and share their previous six selections, and then ask you to leave a suggestion for them in our special form. We’re excited to see groups sharing picks back and forth, and hope this feature helps groups find a new favorite discussion title!

-Click here to see this month’s featured groups.
-Click here to see the suggestions for last month’s groups.
-Click here to see the suggestions for previously featured groups.
-Click here to submit your group for consideration.

Click here to see our "What to Read Next?" feature.

New Guides Now Available

The Bells by Richard Harvell: The life of fictional singer Moses Forben is chronicled, from his humble upbringing in a small Swiss town in the Alps to stardom in bustling Vienna during the 18th century.
Broken Wings by Carla Stewart: A singer finds herself pondering her future alone as her husband --- and duet partner --- succumbs to Alzheimer’s.
Daughters of the Revolution by Carolyn Cooke: The headmaster of a prestigious New England prep school vows never to desegregate his campus, until the school accidentally admits a 15-year-old black girl.
Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon: Family secrets and fairy lore create a shifting reality in Jennifer McMahon's unsettling novel about the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl who longed to become Queen of the Fairies.
Down from Cascom Mountain by Ann Joslin Williams: Newlywed Mary Hall brings her husband to settle in the rural New Hampshire of her youth to fix up the house she grew up in and to reconnect to the land that defined her, with all its beauty and danger.
Eromenos by Melanie McDonald: Eros and Thanatos converge in the story of a glorious youth, an untimely death, and an imperial love affair that gives rise to the last pagan god of antiquity.
Faith by Jennifer Haigh: Set in 2002 amid the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the Catholic Church, and particularly the Boston archdiocese, Jennifer Haigh's novel reaches far beneath the headlines to imagine the impact of allegations on one priest's family.
Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott: The quiet, circumscribed world of divorcée Clara Purdy gets shaken up when she gets in a car accident with the Gage family, who are homeless and have been living in their car.
Healer by Carol Cassella: A housewife tries to hold her family together after her husband’s medical company loses a fortune.
Hello Goodbye by Emily Chenoweth: A family convenes at a posh New England hotel to celebrate the matriarch’s birthday, which may be her last due to an inoperable tumor.
Jerusalem Maiden by Talia Carner: A young woman is torn between her strict Orthodox Jewish heritage and her desire to explore the world, especially Paris, during the final days of the Ottoman Empire.
The Last Nude by Ellis Avery: The unlikely pairing between an American expatriate and a Russian painter with a murky past leads to a classic work of Jazz Age art.
The London Train by Tessa Hadley: A train ride proves fateful for a father searching for his long-lost daughter and a young woman returning home to claim her inheritance.
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan: Three generations of women share their hopes, dreams and fears at the family’s summer retreat along coastal Maine.
The Mighty Walzer by Howard Jacobson: A table-tennis prodigy hones his game with the paddle --- and the ladies --- thanks to sage advice from his father and teammates.
My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young: A young couple wonders if their love and relationship can survive through the horrors of World War I.
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett: A pharmaceutical researcher treks into the Amazon to locate a colleague whose untimely death has raised several questions about his discoveries in the region.
Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel: While visiting southern Florida, a young woman falls madly in love with one of the locals from Stiltsville, a community of raised houses in Biscayne Bay.
The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed: A group of friends try to enjoy their annual summer retreat but can’t help but notice the void left by a recently-deceased member.
Thoughts Without Cigarettes: A Memoir by Oscar Hijuelos: The award-winning novelist chronicles his childhood growing up the son of Cuban immigrants in New York City’s rough Washington Heights district.
Threading the Needle: A Cobbled Court Novel by Marie Bostwick: Two friends rekindle their relationship as each faces tough times during the recent economic depression.

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

American Music by Jane Mendelsohn: An Iraq war veteran and his physical therapist are linked by mysterious, chilling visions in this unusual, creative love story.
The Devil Amongst the Lawyers by Sharyn McCrumb: McCrumb blends fact and fiction in this historical thriller about the media frenzy surrounding a murder in a small Appalachian town in 1935.
Private Life by Jane Smiley: The Pulitzer Prize–winning author offers a cold-eyed view of the compromises required by marriage while also providing an intimate portrait of life in the Midwest and West during the years 1883–1942.
The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey: The O magazine editor-in-chief travels the world, following surfing thrill seekers who are constantly looking for the biggest wave.

The following new guide is now available for Christian book groups:

Martha by Diana Wallis Taylor: The Biblical character of Martha of Bethany comes to life in this historical romance about one woman’s quest for true love while holding her family together.
Megan’s Hero: The Callahans of Texas, Book Three by Sharon Gillenwater: An unwed mother-to-be is rescued from a tornado by a strapping cowboy, leaving both to wonder if this chance meeting was truly fate.


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Happy reading. We'll see you next month.

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Carol Fitzgerald ([email protected])

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