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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.

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

January 2019

Marie Benedict’s THE OTHER EINSTEIN and CARNEGIE’S MAID were both Bets On selections. Marie’s passion for looking at the lives of forgotten women and writing about them has led her to the subjects that she explores in her work. Thus, I was very interested to see who Marie would focus on next. I never would have guessed Hedy Lamarr. I knew Hedy as the stunning screen actress who was known for her looks. I never knew that she was the person who held the first patent for Wi-Fi. So when you use your cell phone and text, you are embracing technology that Hedy was behind, as well as when you plug in your Bluetooth connection.

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

January 2019

For me, WATCHING YOU is Lisa Jewell’s best book! I could leave you with that comment and, if you like thrillers, just tell you to read it now, but I will whet your appetite a bit more. The story is set in the small village of Melville Heights in Bristol, where the houses are close enough that the comings and goings of the neighbors are closely monitored. On the opening page, there is a diary entry from a young girl who has a crush on her much older teacher; that note is dated 1996. In the Prologue we learn there is a dead body, but that entry is dated March 2017. So what happened in between? Who wrote the note? Who is dead? Lisa wastes no time in setting up the questions that will get you trying to unravel this thriller. Bam, you are into it.

The Library Book (Audiobook) by Susan Orlean

December 2018

THE LIBRARY BOOK by Susan Orlean is a perfect gift for any booklover, perhaps even a “to me, from me” gift. I have spent a lot of time in libraries, remember the sheer joy of seeing the bookmobile on the corner when I was a child, have a number of librarians and library directors as friends, and have been to library conferences and programs, yet I still found myself learning so much as I listened to the audiobook. It is narrated by Susan, who not only writes a good book, but also knows how to tell a good story.

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni

December 2018

I have been a longtime reader of Robert Dugoni’s thrillers; I still remember when the first one, THE JURY MASTER, hit the New York Times bestseller list back in 2006. Somehow I missed his stand-alone title, THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF SAM HELL, when it came out in April. I was happy to catch up on what he has called his “opus.” Just as William Kent Krueger deviated from his Cork O’Connor series with ORDINARY GRACE, here Dugoni takes his writing in a new direction with a beautifully crafted story of a life well-lived.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

November 2018

I am playing catch-up on some books that are getting great buzz that came out this year that I never got to at the time of their release. One is WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens, which was published in August. I have been hearing friends talk about it for weeks, and those with such varied tastes loved it, so I was drawn to make time for it instead of doing my usual “reading ahead.” And I am glad that I did. It is a beautifully written story that will stay with me.

Family Trust by Kathy Wang

November 2018

In FAMILY TRUST by Kathy Wang, Stanley Huang is dying of pancreatic cancer. He has an ex-wife, Linda; a new wife, Mary; a son, Fred; and a daughter, Kate. All of them are wondering, What’s in the trust? Stanley has talked about his wealth for years, but these days he is being so vague. The entire family is dancing around the topic, plotting their lives as millionaires, but Stanley is so tight-lipped. Why is he not talking more about his fortune?

A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl by Jean Thompson

November 2018

A CLOUD IN THE SHAPE OF A GIRL by Jean Thompson follows three generations of women in the Wise family --- Evelyn, Laura and Grace --- who live in a small Midwestern college town. They navigate their lives trailing emotional baggage from generation to generation. I love how the story unwrapped and their messy imperfect lives slid together. There are choices made and not made --- and each has consequences.

A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts (Audiobook) by Therese Anne Fowler

October 2018

I enjoyed listening to A WELL-BEHAVED WOMAN: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler, which is narrated by Barrie Kreinik. This work of historical fiction tells the story of Alva Vanderbilt and her illustrious family. When it begins, Alva Smith is positioning herself to find a husband who will secure her financially and pull her family out of the tight financial straits in which they find themselves. With a marriage to William Vanderbilt firmly in hand, she pursues her next quest: to have the Vanderbilts, who are known as “new money,” accepted by the Astors and those with “old money.”

November Road by Lou Berney

October 2018

I literally read NOVEMBER ROAD by Lou Berney in a day, as it was what I call a propulsive read. The events in Dallas in November 1963 easily could have happened the way Lou plots them out. After all, for decades there have been questions about what really happened to John F. Kennedy. The country was so mob-run in those days; their reach was everywhere. They could have ordered the murder of JFK as the ultimate hit.

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan Henry

October 2018

BECOMING MRS. LEWIS by Patti Callahan is the story of Joy Davidman, who first turned to C. S. Lewis for spiritual guidance, and then slowly but steadily became the woman who won his heart.

When we first meet Joy, she is a wife, a mother and a writer. She struggles with the burden of an uncaring husband who is an alcoholic and whose moods are often dark. He, too, is a writer, but he struggles with his work. The boys are active, and Joy is pulled in many directions. She begins a correspondence with Lewis, questioning her faith and her life. In frail health, she takes a break from her domestic world and travels abroad to, among other things, meet Lewis for the first time. Their conversations are friendly yet professional; he keeps his distance, but clearly there is a connection between them with their writing and their spirited discussions. She loves his mind; he embraces her spirit of life and her questioning of it.