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Bookreporter.com Bets On...

With thousands of books published each year and much attention paid to the works of bestselling and well-known authors, it is inevitable that some titles worthy of praise and discussion may not get the attention we think they deserve. Thus throughout the year, we will continue this feature that we started in 2009, to spotlight books that immediately struck a chord with us and made us say “just read this.” We will alert our readers about these titles as soon as they’re released so you can discover them for yourselves and recommend them to your family and friends.

Below are all of our selections thus far. For future "Bets On" titles that we will announce shortly after their release dates, please visit this page.

When Life Gives You Lululemons (Audiobook) by Lauren Weisberger

June 2018

Audiobook listeners know that it’s all about the narrator. I was wildly impressed with Laura Benanti, who narrated Lauren Weisberger's WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LULULEMONS. Every character’s voice was distinct and completely captured their personalities and nuances, which made the listening experience all the more fun. I found myself laughing out loud so many times.

Lauren hit the same groove that worked so well in THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. This time, the setting is Greenwich, Connecticut, and she captures the “I can one-up you” vibe of the town in pitch-perfect style.

How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson

June 2018

For a while, I have been looking for a book that would make me laugh; it’s been a real challenge. I found that in HOW HARD CAN IT BE? by Allison Pearson. Many remember her protagonist, Kate Reddy, from I DON’T KNOW HOW SHE DOES IT. Kate is now a stay-at-home mother who is eager to return to the workforce, but she is 49 and companies are not exactly opening their doors to her. Her children are teenagers who test her nerves, and her husband has left his job to plot a new career as a therapist, but he seems to be spending a lot more time on his high-end bike than he is plotting his future. Layer in aging parents, and Kate is at her wit’s end.

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain

May 2018

To me, Paula McLain is a gold standard writer of historical fiction. THE PARIS WIFE, with its brilliant account of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley Richardson, brought readers a new look at the writer through the eyes of a woman he loved. Her latest book, LOVE AND RUIN, gives us another look at a wife of Hemingway as here she explores the life of his third wife, Martha Gellhorn.

Paula never thought she would write about Hemingway again, but as she shares, “I had a crazily vivid and powerful dream. I was fishing with Hemingway on his boat, the Pilar, and Martha Gellhorn was there, hand-feeding a marlin that had leapt from the sea. The next morning, still gripped by the dream and feeling it was some sort of sign,” she started researching Gellhorn, who she knew surprisingly little about. The more she read, the more she wanted to tell her story --- not just as the wife of Hemingway, but also for the brilliant writer she was in her own right. And that she does.

Beauty in the Broken Places: A Memoir of Love, Faith, and Resilience by Allison Pataki

May 2018

A couple of years ago, I was at a party for Allison Pataki’s historical novel, SISI. Though we had not met before, she was so warm and gracious, spending time with every person in the room. I thought to myself, She really has it all.

Someone mentioned that her life had had a twist the year before. When she was five months pregnant, she and her husband, Dave, had gone on a babymoon to Hawaii. They left from Chicago, planning a stop in Seattle on the way to see her brother-in-law. Shortly after they took off, Dave, who was just 30 years old at the time, asked her to look at his eye, as he could not see out of it. She looked and realized something was dreadfully wrong as his pupil had widened so much that she could not see the iris of his eye. Moments later, he was unconscious, she was seeking help from the flight crew, and not long afterwards they made an emergency landing in Fargo, ND, where he was diagnosed with a stroke.

The Family Next Door (Audiobook) by Sally Hepworth

April 2018

I so enjoyed listening to Sally Hepworth’s latest novel, THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR, which is narrated by Barrie Kreinik. I am a huge fan of Sally’s writing and was lamenting that I had not read this book when our review came out a few weeks ago. Remember Wisteria Lane, the street featured on “Desperate Housewives,” where there always was some drama going on? Sally has a version of that town for you here.

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

March 2018

More than two decades ago, a friend told me that his dad had ALS. I still remember his abject sadness as he described how his father was losing functionality. Then, a couple of years ago, our friend, Peter, was diagnosed. He was living in Florida at the time, and my husband and I thought we would fly down to see him in April. It was a well-laid plan, but he passed away in March, stunning both of us. Also, a couple of years ago, I read UNTIL I SAY GOOD-BYE: My Year of Living with Joy, a memoir by Susan Spencer-Wendel, who had ALS and was determined to live every day. That, too, was a Bets On selection.

All this to say that when I read Lisa Genova’s latest novel, which looks at the world of ALS, I was not coming to the subject of this book as a novice. That said, I knew that in Lisa’s hands, it would be deftly crafted and addressed. And indeed it was.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney

March 2018

I both listened to and read SOMETIMES I LIE by Alice Feeney. The narrator, Stephanie Racine, is a very strong performer, and she had my attention from her opening lines. Here's the setup for the novel: "My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me. 1. I’m in a coma. 2. My husband doesn't love me anymore. 3. Sometimes I lie." The storyline moves from present day (opening on Boxing Day, December 26th) to the weeks before Amber's accident. Also, entries from her childhood diary are sprinkled in here, giving the listener/reader even more to ponder. The pace is brisk; you do need to pay attention to the time frame if you are listening. The pieces of the story are very carefully woven together. I would love to know how Alice constructed the story.

All the Beautiful Girls by Elizabeth J. Church

March 2018

ALL THE BEAUTIFUL GIRLS by Elizabeth J. Church is set in 1960s Las Vegas and features a troupe dancer named Ruby Wilde, who gives readers a fabulously well-written look into life behind the scenes on the Strip. Ruby grew up as Lily Decker in Salina, Kansas. Her parents and sister are killed in a traffic accident, and she is sent to live with her aunt and uncle. Her uncle sexually abuses her, and she is pretty lost and alone.

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

March 2018

EDUCATED by Tara Westover is a brilliant memoir by a young woman who grew up living off the grid with her Mormon family in Idaho. No school. No doctors. And not even a birth certificate to note the date of her birth. Most everyday ways that we live our lives are viewed as "outside" and "wrong."

As you can imagine, Tara’s family lives a tough life. They bear witness to devastating accidents, and instead of seeking traditional medical care, her father allows her mother to treat them with healing herbs. These are used for typical scrapes and scratches, as well as horrific burns from gasoline explosions. For months, her mother cowers in the basement as she recovers from what clearly was a concussion. There is familial abuse, which is tragically ignored.

Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson

March 2018

In ROSIE COLORED GLASSES by Brianna Wolfson, Rosie is the fun mother. With her daughter, Willow, she will play dress-up; a party with a candy fest in the middle of the night is not untypical. Rex is less impulsive. He is the serious parent. While Rex loves Rosie, their lives collide too much to stay together. After the divorce, the children bounce between the two parents. Rex is a traditional dad, while Rosie’s behavior becomes more and more erratic.

Readers see that something is not normal here. Rosie is bipolar, and she is unraveling. What does Willow see? Does she still wear the rose-colored glasses, or is she ready to understand her mother for who she is?