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Friday, December 4, 2009

December 4, 2009

The following reviews, interviews and features began running on on Friday, December 4th.

The titles below are discussed in the Newsletter Opener, which can be read here:

by Debbie Macomber

Reviews and Excerpts
U IS FOR UNDERTOW by Sue Grafton (Mystery)
Kinsey Millhone is alone in her office doing paperwork when Michael Sutton, an unemployed college dropout, arrives unannounced. Twenty-one years earlier, a four-year-old girl disappeared. Sutton now believes he stumbled on her lonely burial when he was six years old, and he wants Kinsey's help in locating the child's remains and finding the men who killed her. As her investigation unfolds, she discovers that Sutton has an uneasy relationship with the truth. Reviewed by Roz Shea and excerpted.
- Click here to read an excerpt from U IS FOR UNDERTOW.

THE PARIS VENDETTA by Steve Berry (Thriller)
When Napoleon Bonaparte died in exile in 1821, he took to the grave a powerful secret. As general and emperor, he had stolen immeasurable riches from palaces, national treasuries, and even the Knights of Malta and the Vatican. In his final days, his British captors hoped to learn where the loot lay hidden. But he told them nothing, and in his will he made no mention of the treasure. Or did he? Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub and excerpted.
- Click here to read an excerpt from THE PARIS VENDETTA.

OPEN: An Autobiography, by Andre Agassi (Memoir)
Coaxed to swing a racket while still in the crib, forced to hit hundreds of balls a day while still in grade school, tennis superstar Andre Agassi resented the constant pressure even as he drove himself to become a prodigy, an inner conflict that would define him. Now, in this long-awaited autobiography, Agassi tells the story of a life framed by such conflicts, a life balanced precariously between self-destruction and perfectionism. Reviewed by Ron Kaplan.

WHY MY THIRD HUSBAND WILL BE A DOG: The Amazing Adventures of an Ordinary Woman, by Lisa Scottoline (Essays)
At last, together in one collection, are Lisa Scottoline’s wildly popular Philadelphia Inquirer columns. In “Chick Wit,” Lisa lets her hair down, roots and all, to show the humorous side of life from a woman’s perspective. The Sunday column, which debuted in 2007, gained momentum and popularity. Word of mouth spread, and readers demanded a collection. WHY MY THIRD HUSBAND WILL BE A DOG is that collection. Reviewed by Roberta O’Hara.
- Click here to read Lisa Scottoline’s holiday blog post, “Mother Mary and the Christmas Sinatra.”

A CHRISTMAS BLIZZARD by Garrison Keillor (Fiction)
A very wealthy man who dreads winter and hates everything about Christmas desperately wants to escape to his vacation estate in Hawaii. His wife, who has no knowledge of his neurotic fear of winter and who loves everything about Christmas, prefers to remain at home in their 55th floor Chicago penthouse for the holidays. Leave it to Garrison Keillor to create a rather bizarre Christmas fable somewhat reminiscent of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Reviewed by Carole Turner.

A RUMPOLE CHRISTMAS: Stories by John Mortimer (Fiction/Short Stories)
Legendary barrister Horace Rumpole was the creation of English author John Mortimer, who sadly passed away in 2009. Rumpole, a wry observer of life and law, returns in this collection of short stories for what may well be his final appearance in the courtrooms of the Old Bailey. Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman.

EATING THE DINOSAUR by Chuck Klosterman (Essays)
Whether he's dissecting the boredom of voyeurism, the reason why music fans inevitably hate their favorite band's latest album, or why we love watching can't-miss superstars fail spectacularly, Chuck Klosterman remains obsessed with the relationship between expectation, reality and living history. Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.

THE GIFT OF AN ORDINARY DAY: A Mother’s Memoir, by Katrina Kenison (Memoir)
THE GIFT OF AN ORDINARY DAY is 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. It is a story of mid-life longings and discoveries, of lessons learned in the search for home and a new sense of purpose, and the bittersweet intensity of life with teenagers. Reviewed by Jana Siciliano.
-Click here to see the reading group guide for THE GIFT OF AN ORDINARY DAY.

Melody Tarleton is on her way to a family Christmas in Massachusetts when icy conditions cause her to hit a man who appears in the middle of the road. But this isn't just any man. Jake Mallory claims to be a Patriot soldier from 1776, and a typical family Christmas takes a new turn when Melody does her best to help Jake return to his world without letting him take her heart with him. Reviewed by Amie Taylor.

THE VIOLET HOUR by Daniel Judson (Thriller)
Bridgehampton auto mechanic Caleb Rakowski is sheltering a pregnant friend who will do anything to keep her abusive husband away from herself and her baby. Little does he know, though, the trouble destined to come down on them over the course of three days when he learns the truth about his friend, Eric Carver, and what he's been hiding all these years. And little does Cal know how those lies will force him to risk everything to save the people closest to him. Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub.

CHURCHILL by Paul Johnson (Biography)
The literature on Winston Churchill is enormous, but the great British wartime leader has been dead for 44 years now, and there are lots of readers out there to whom he may be just a name in the history books. British historian Paul Johnson has produced a short and readable biography of this many-sided political, literary and oratorical giant. Reviewed by Robert Finn.

TINSEL: A Search for America's Christmas Present, by Hank Stuever
(Cultural Studies)
In this compelling book, Hank Stuever turns his unerring eye for the idiosyncrasies of modern life to Frisco, Texas, a suburb at once all-American and completely itself, to tell the story of the nation's most over-the-top celebration: Christmas. Reviewed by Curtis Edmonds.

Author Talks
Steve Berry
Having explored some of history's biggest unanswered questions --- such as the truth behind the Romanov murders, the fate of the Templar fortune and the location of Alexander the Great's tomb --- in his seven previous works, Steve Berry turns his attention to Napoleon Bonaparte's legendary hidden cache in his latest thriller, THE PARIS VENDETTA. In this interview, Berry speculates on the appeal of this compelling but polarizing figure and describes some of the real objects, like Rommell's gold and THE REPORT FROM IRON MOUNTAIN, that fueled the book's plot. He also discusses some of the locations he visited in France in the name of research, shares details about a foundation he and his wife founded for historic preservation and restoration, and hints what's in store for protagonist Cotton Malone in his next adventure.

Bill Willingham
For nearly 30 years, Bill Willingham has been a key player in the comics industry, both as an artist and a writer. Today, he concentrates primarily on the writing, working on two of DC Comics/Vertigo’s biggest publications: Fables, the Vertigo series he created in 2001, and the iconic Justice Society of America, the very first --- and possibly greatest --- superhero team of all. Bill was gracious enough to speak at length with’s John Hogan about his work on Fables, which includes the new prose novel PETER & MAX (the first prose novel ever published by Vertigo) and what he has planned for the Justice Society, as well as what he has learned and experienced as a veteran of the industry.

New in Paperback
December’s roundup of New in Paperback titles includes Janet Evanovich’s PLUM SPOOKY, a Stephanie Plum Between-the-Numbers novel in which a mysterious man named Diesel is the instigator for the bounty hunter’s latest adventure; ON THE GRIND, a Shane Scully thriller from Stephen J. Cannell that finds the LAPD detective charged with felony misconduct in a high-profile solicitation of murder case; PATHS OF GLORY by Jeffrey Archer, a fictional account of one man’s extraordinary quest to climb Mt. Everest; the 2009 National Book Award winner LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN, Colum McCann’s vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery and promise of New York City in the 1970s; THE WOMEN by T.C. Boyle, a novel of Frank Lloyd Wright and the women in his life; and THE BLACK GIRL NEXT DOOR, Jennifer Baszile’s memoir about coming of age as a black girl in an exclusive white suburb in "integrated," post-Civil Rights California in the 1970s and 1980s.

Books into Movies

The films in this month’s Books into Movies Roundup include:
The Lovely Bones
Up in the Air
Mrs. Miracle
The Christmas Shoes
The Christmas Blessing
The Christmas Hope
Julie & Julia
Public Enemies
Taking Woodstock

Need ideas for holiday gift-giving (and getting)? Check out these "reader perfect" suggestions in 14 categories. There's something for everyone on your list. Let the shopping begin!


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!

From November 13th through January 4th, we will spotlight a different title or collection of titles, and readers will have the chance to win one of five holiday baskets filled with winter-themed items as well as a copy of the featured book(s).

This week we’re spotlighting five wonderful titles by Laura Pedersen, including the first four books in her Hallie Palmer series --- BEGINNER’S LUCK, HEART’S DESIRE, THE BIG SHUFFLE and BEST BET --- and BUFFALO GAL, her hilarious memoir.

BEGINNER’S LUCK by Laura Pedersen (Fiction)
BEGINNER'S LUCK is a story of belonging, and the love and courage it can instill within the human heart. And paradoxically, the freedom and feeling of independence that a sense of belonging kindles in a soul that is hungry for life in all its glories and disappointments.

HEART’S DESIRE by Laura Pedersen
Card shark and former wild child Hallie Palmer is in college now, and Bernard, her former legal guardian and go-to guy for crepes suzettes, has suddenly appeared during final exams. He's hysterical that his relationship has gone down in flames and wants to enlist Hallie in a scheme to win Gil back.

THE BIG SHUFFLE by Laura Pedersen (Fiction)
When the death of her father leaves her mother in a state of shock, card shark Hallie Palmer --- the fiery protagonist from BEGINNER’S LUCK and HEART’S DESIRE --- returns home from college to bravely deal herself in as head of a chaotic household and care for her eight younger siblings.

BEST BET by Laura Pedersen (Fiction)
Since Hallie's father died and left behind 10 children, money at the Palmer household is tighter than ever. And just when Hallie thought she was graduating from college, it turns out she is four credits short. A professor needs one more student for a project that will take her around the world. Only longtime boyfriend Craig has another proposition for Hallie.

BUFFALO GAL by Laura Pedersen (Memoir)
With its Catholic majority and proximity to Canada, Buffalo was a flash point for race riots, anti-war protests, abortion rallies, bingo, bowling and Friday night fish frys. Join the Pedersens as they survive separation, stagflation, the energy crisis and President Jimmy Carter's boozy chain smoking brother marketing his own line of "Billy" beer.

Romantic Suspense Author Spotlight

DYING SCREAM by Mary Burton
Mary Burton takes readers down the horrific path of an affluent family’s dark past where well-hidden secrets unveil a series of grisly crimes, forcing a widow and a detective to explore a twisted, forbidden love that someone will kill for, again and again.
- Click here to read Mary Burton’s Bio.
- Click here to read more about DYING SCREAM.

Suspense Thriller Author Spotlight
WATCHLIST: A Serial Thriller by Jeffery Deaver and Others (Thriller)
From International Thriller Writers comes WATCHLIST: two powerful novellas featuring the same thrilling cast of characters in one major suspenseful package. THE CHOPIN MANUSCRIPT and THE COPPER BRACELET are collaborations of some of the world’s greatest thriller writers, including Lee Child, Joseph Finder, Lisa Scottoline, and Jeffery Deaver, who conceived the characters and set the plots in motion. The other authors each wrote a chapter and Deaver then completed what he started, bringing both novellas to their startling conclusions.
- Click here to read an excerpt from WATCHLIST.

Women’s Fiction Author Spotlight
Set in Hong Kong during the outbreak of World War II, and its aftermath ten years later, THE PIANO TEACHER alternates between the lives of two vastly different women whose destinies are linked by the events of the war.
- Click here to read a third excerpt from THE PIANO TEACHER.

Click here to read the full newsletter.

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