Readers' Favorite

December 31, 2011

Goodbye 2011

It's New Year's Eve! 2011 was a great year in reading. I've discovered so many great books and new favorite authors. As it is the end of the year and I didn't do any Best of lists, I thought I would do a wrap up to highlight the most viewed posts, authors who visited, and events on Girl Who Reads this year.

Top 10 Viewed Posts:

Holiday Buying Guide
A Work in Progress - A. C. Dillon
Mocked by Destiny - Inside the Characters with Michele Richard
Sensitive Subject Handled Well: Lies Inside
Christmas Books - Nancy Adams
A Sweet Short Story - The Gift of Joy
Avid Bookshop Grand Opening
I Came Late to the Harry Potter Party
In my July Mailbox (video)
Guilty as Charged - Douglas Kennedy

Guest Authors: I want to thank each author who appeared on my blog this year. I feel honored that you chose my blog and took the time out of your busy schedule to share with my readers.

Susan Fraser King (Queen Hereafter)
Nancy Adams (Saint Nick and the Fir Tree)
Douglas Kennedy (The Moment)
Abbi Glines (Breathe)
A. C. Dillon (Change of Season)
Schledia Benefield (Plain Jane)
J. B. Lynn (The First Victim)
Aine Greaney (Dance Lessons)
Michele Richard (Mocked by Destiny)


Avid Bookshop Grand Opening
Tayari Jones (Book Reading Silver Sparrow)
Once Upon A Read-a-thon

Well there's a little recap of 2011. I'm so looking forward to 2012 and the books, authors and events I'll be sharing with you. I already have a few authors lined up to visit. My first review of the new year will be up next week: Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman by J. B. Lynn. It is absolutely wonderful and is available for pre-order now (It'll be released January 24). It's a don't miss title of 2012.

I wish you a healthy and happy 2012 filled with great reads!

Girl Who Reads

December 27, 2011

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (promo)

Today, A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is available in paperback. Warner Brothers has secured the rights for this title as well as its sequels (Shadow of Night is due out next summer). If you are like me you like to read the books before seeing the movie. And this book looks great (that saying something as I'm picky about my fantasy).

From A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together.

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.
Intrigued? I know I was and thrilled that Penguin Books offered me a copy for review. I haven't had a chance to read it, yet, with the holidays, but my fellow blogger Tami reviewed it over the summer. You can read her review at Bookish Temptations. In addition to offering me a free copy, Penguin will also send one of my readers a copy! All you need to do is leave a comment with a way to contact you should you be the winner. You have until midnight EST on Friday December 30. Then I will pick a winner using

Want a little more background on A Discovery of Witches? Check out this excellent video:

You can find out more about A Discovery of Witches and Deborah Harkness at her website and on Facebook.

Buy at Amazon
Buy Powell's Books
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December 22, 2011

Brilliant, Beautiful: In the King's Arms

In the King's Arms: A Novel by Sonia Taitz
paperback, 230 pages
Published October 2011 by McWitty Press
ISBN13: 9780975561867
Source: Lucinda Literary
Read December 2011
Goodreads, IndieBound, Amazon

Have you ever read a book so beautifully written that you had to wonder if it was truly prose and not poetry? A story so brilliantly crafted you knew no words of your own could adequately capture it? That is how I feel after reading In the King's Arms by Sonia Taitz.

I had read great things about the book on Twitter and when Lucinda of Lucinda Literary offered to have a copy sent to me, I jumped at the chance. I've read numerous books about World World II, especially when historical fiction was the top of my reading choices. However, those following my blog know that I've been enjoying stories that are set shortly after the war ended or focused on other players during the era. In the King's Arms fit into this new area I've been exploring. The story is about a young woman who is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. I can't imagine how such an event could shape the lives of the next generation. 

When I first started reading In the King's Arms, I was reminded of A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I loved that story when I was in high school, read the sequel, and even used it for a term paper topic. I've been trying to figure out why I wanted to compare them. I think it was because both are "coming of age" stories, but there is more than just that. Maybe it had something to do with how it was written. I'm not sure, but something about the story touched me.

I feel so completely inadequate to review this book. It is beautiful and I can totally see why The Sunday Book Review choose it for inclusion.

A free book was obtained from the source mentioned above in order to provide an honest and free review. Girl Who Reads is an advertising affiliate with Amazon and IndieBound; a small fee is earned when purchases are made using the above links.

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December 20, 2011

Susan Fraser King: Margaret of Scotland (a guest post)

I am happy to introduce to you Susan Fraser King author of Queen Hereafter, which was just released in paperback. If you want to view the book trailer or read the summary, I've posted them here. Today, Susan was kind enough to stop by Girl Who Reads to give us a closer look at her main character - Margaret. I don't know about you, but I don't remember much about medieval history from my school lessons. And I'm positive it never sounded as exciting as Susan has made it. So without further ado...

The holidays are upon us, and as that season blooms green and red and angel-sparkly in our home, I’m pleased to introduce Margaret of Scotland, refugee, queen and saint, in my novel, Queen Hereafter: A Novel of Margaret of Scotland – newly released in trade paperback from Random House and Broadway Books.

Writing a novel about a medieval saint is not the easiest thing to do, as I discovered once I began researching and writing the book. I had written about a medieval queen in my novel, Lady Macbeth; and I had certainly plenty of historical romances (as Susan King and Sarah Gabriel). But a saint? That was a new challenge: all that devoutness and devotion, all that goodness and virtue. As any writer can tell you, a truly well-behaved character can be a lot harder to write than the feisty ones.

Then I got to know Margaret: she had a nicely feisty side, had been shipwrecked, was a needlework artist, a mother, and a tough enough young woman to stand up to the brutish king of Scotland, her own havoc-wreaking husband, and remake him into a more civilized king. A Hungarian-born Saxon princess, Margaret fled the Norman invasion with her siblings and was wrecked on a Scottish shore. The warrior king Malcolm Canmore gave the royal English family sanctuary, and soon offered for Margaret’s hand. A savvy political move, though medieval chroniclers noted that the king fell in love with the beautiful foreign princess, though she resisted the marriage (she wanted to be a nun), but finally relented—and what amounts to a natural fairy
tale romance began.

Margaret has been called by historians one of the most fascinating and complex women of the 11th century and indeed the whole medieval era. She and Malcolm were complete opposites—the young educated cosmopolitan princess accustomed to charitable deeds and luxury surroundings, and the brutish, undereducated warlord raised in a savage warrior culture. Her personal confessor and friend left a rare medieval document in his biography of her, in which he describes her piety, her prayerful devotion, her perfection and compassion—and he mentions her temper, her sense of mischief, her pride, affection for friends, and strict demands of herself.

Despite his idealism, Margaret’s monk, Turgot, provides glimpses of a vital, unique young woman. She respected her tough husband, taught him to read, chided him for his table manners; he adored her, had her favorite book rebound, translated Gaelic for her when she hotly debated with his priests; she fed orphans from her own spoon, stole gold from her husband’s treasury to buy food for the poor, and released his ransomed prisoners; he called her his little thief, boasted of their sons, and begged her to stop fasting.

The fairy tale aspects of her true story are so genuinely the stuff of romance that I could not resist, and had to write about her—a beautiful exiled princess, a shipwreck, a brawny king and love at first sight; a tempestuous but adoring husband, eight healthy, well-behaved children, a deepening mutual love and the growing affection of the Scottish people. Yet as loving, fortunate and intelligent as she was, Margaret worked herself to exhaustion on behalf of the needy, and fasted with such severity that even the priests told her to eat something.

My challenge was to take the various historical facts and many medieval myths about Margaret and spin them into fiction. I wanted to unravel what was known and piece together a new puzzle to make Margaret a real young woman for the modern reader, vulnerable and accessible, rather than just saintly and perfect.

Aside from their political, social and historical significance, the remarkable Queen Margaret and her King Malcolm prove that love blooms in the most unexpected unions, and that not all royal marriages were simply convenient. The story of Margaret and Malcolm is one of a beauty and her beast, two people who changed the course of Scottish, and medieval, history. I hope their romantic story (and that gorgeous cover!) will find a place on your bookshelf, and in your heart, this holiday season.

Thank you, Susan, for sharing with my readers!

If you would like to learn more about Susan Fraser King and her writing, find her on the web:

Buy Queen Hereafter at Amazon

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December 17, 2011

Nancy Adams: Christmas Books (a guest post)

I have the great pleasure of introducing to you Nancy Adams. Today's guest blog is part of her tour promoting her Christmas short story Saint Nick and the Fir Tree, which has just come out in both ebook and print formats ( It looks like it would make an excellent gift exchange party gift for those looking for that last minute item.

Christmas Books

My earliest Christmas book memories center on The Animals' Merry Christmas written by Kathryn Jackson and illustrated by Richard Scarry. It's been years since I've read the book or even thought about it, and I can't recall any specifics about the stories. But just looking at the pictures that came up when I searched for it on the Internet preparing for this post gave me a warm fuzzy feeling. I see that the publisher's reissued it, and I think I'm going to reissue it, too, and give it to myself for Christmas this year. My sister has the copy we grew up with because she's the one with a kid, my wonderful nephew Sam. I'm glad The Animals' Merry Christmas is being passed down to the younger generation.

When I grew a little older, I loved looking through the Christmas issues of the Ideal magazines our mother collected. I don't know whether the magazine is still published, but she had a whole stack of them. The issue I liked best had several pages devoted to the celebrations of Christmas in different lands. It included information on feast days that seemed wonderfully exotic to a girl growing up in the white-bread, Protestant suburban Midwest. There was December 6, St. Nicholas Day, and December 13, when Scandinavians celebrated the Feast of St. Lucia. The accompanying picture showed a young woman wearing a circlet of lit candles on her head, something that stuck in my memory. Today my first thought is to wonder whether any of the candle wearers ever set her hair on fire. The notion never entered my head back then. Ah me, how our mindset changes once we've grown up!

photo of St. Lucia procession, courtesy of ✽^ Li Chin ^✽'s photostream, Flickr Creative Commons
Around the age of thirteen or fourteen I became a huge Charles Dickens fan. I'm sure it began with his A Christmas Carol, which I acquired through a children's classic book club that sent nice little hardbound editions of classics once a month or so. It included his other Christmas stories, but A Christmas Carol is deservedly the most famous. I think reading it was the beginning of my fascination with language. It was the first book where I was conscious of enjoying the language, enjoying the way Dickens played with it, reveled in it, as much as I enjoyed the story he told. I'm still a huge Dickens fan.

Last year I added a new book to my Christmas pantheon with Ken Harmon's The Fat Man: a tale of North Pole Noir. I won it in a blog giveaway, started reading, and couldn't stop laughing. I wound up giving it to everybody I knew. If you like the noir classics of Raymond Chandler and like a good pun, you'll love the comic "noir" tone of the first-person narrator: an elf on the outs named Gumdrop Coal.

This year I'm curious about two. The Man in the Cinder Clouds by Rick Daley, described as "an origins-of-Santa story" and Tim Greaton's The Santa Shop, described as "a homeless man's journey from despair back to life and Christmas"--both discovered via Twitter.

And finally, my own modest contribution to the genre: "Saint Nick and the Fir Tree : a short story of the day after Christmas." I should first say that it's not a children's story, but aimed more at adults. The idea came to me one summer's day when I'd gone out to prune a yew bush in our yard that the previous owner had shaped like a little fir tree. With the new summer growth, the yew looked like a Christmas tree gone punk--little light-green spikes sticking out all over the place.

Once I'd taken care of those, I stepped back to examine the overall shape. Instead of a nice, smooth cone, the middle had become rather bulgy, as if the "tree" had grown a little beer belly. Instantly my imagination kicked into gear. How would a tree indulge? I thought of the Ent draft that Tolkien's Treebeard had given the young hobbits. I thought of the yew's Christmas-tree shape. What if old Saint Nick had come to town and given the tree a flask of Ent draft? What would it be like if he took his new Tree buddy out on the town, to a Jimmy-Stewart kind of tavern? Et voila, "Saint Nick and the Fir Tree" was born.

About Nancy Adams: A freelance editor and theological librarian, Nancy writes mysteries and fantasy. Her short story "The Secret of the Red Mullet" is published in FISH TALES: the Guppy Anthology. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. In her spare time, Nancy reads, sleeps, and whacks the occasional dust bunny. For more about Nancy and her works visit

Nancy has been so kind to offer 2 of my readers a copy of "Saint Nick and the Fir Tree". For US & Canada readers you can win a print copy and for my international readers you can win a ebook. While I would love for you to follow my blog, sign up for my newsletter, or join me on Twitter, none of that is required. All I need you to do to enter is leave a comment, a way to contact you should you win, and your country. I'll do 2 different drawings using on 8 pm EST Tuesday Dec. 20 to choose the winners.

Like Nancy, I love Christmas books. One I treasure greatly was given to me by my sister - Norman Rockwell's Christmas Book: Carol and stories, poems, recollections. What are you favorite Christmas books?

December 10, 2011

Perfect: Haiku for the Single Girl

Haiku for the Single Girl by Beth Griffenhagen
Published October 2011 by Penguin
ISBN13: 9780143120018
Read November 2011

I picked this up to read during my lunch break one day. I wasn't sure what to expect. As a single girl approaching 35, I'm a bit cynical about how people view singleness. However, Beth Griffenhagen was spot on. She definitely gets the age where when becomes if. 

This little book was a fun read that covered all the emotions a single girl feels at some point in their singleness. You know, the "it's great to be single, I can travel without thinking of someone else's schedule" and the "it sucks to be single, the hostess just asked if I'm waiting for the rest of my party" feelings. While I couldn't relate to the many sex related Haikus, I really enjoyed the book.

If you looked at my Holiday Buying Guide, you'll notice Haiku for the Single Girl was a bonus buy. It would make a great gift exchange gift.

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December 7, 2011

Queen Hereafter promo

If you follow me on twitter you know that I have some great authors lined up to appear on Girl Who Reads. The first author will by Susan Fraser King. Her novel, Queen Hereafter, is available in paperback today. I wanted to give you a little info on the book before Susan's guest post.

Summary from
Refugee. Queen. Saint. In eleventh-century Scotland, a young woman strives to fulfill her destiny despite the risks . . .

Shipwrecked on the Scottish coast, a young Saxon princess and her family—including the outlawed Edgar of England—ask sanctuary of the warrior-king Malcolm Canmore, who shrewdly sees the political advantage. He promises to aid Edgar and the Saxon cause in return for the hand of Edgar’s sister, Margaret, in marriage.

A foreign queen in a strange land, Margaret adapts to life among the barbarian Scots, bears princes, and shapes the fierce warrior Malcolm into a sophisticated ruler. Yet even as the king and queen build a passionate and tempestuous partnership, the Scots distrust her. When her husband brings Eva, a Celtic bard, to court as a hostage for the good behavior of the formidable Lady Macbeth, Margaret expects trouble. Instead, an unlikely friendship grows between the queen and her bard, though one has a wild Celtic nature and the other follows the demanding path of obligation.
Torn between old and new loyalties, Eva is bound by a vow to betray the king and his Saxon queen. Soon imprisoned and charged with witchcraft and treason, Eva learns that Queen Margaret—counseled by the furious king and his powerful priests—will decide her fate and that of her kinswoman Lady Macbeth. But can the proud queen forgive such deep treachery?

Impeccably researched, a dramatic page-turner, Queen Hereafter is an unforgettable story of shifting alliances and the tension between fear and trust as a young woman finds her way in a dangerous world.

December 3, 2011

I could be Joan: Stuck in the Middle

Stuck in the Middle (Sister to Sister #1) by Virginia Smith
ebook, 245 pages
Published February 2008 by Baker Publishing Group
ISBN13: 9781585585441
November 2011

I picked this book up shortly after I bought my Nook because it was a free ebook (it's still free at Amazon). You know that I often have a hard time with Christian romance novels. But I loved Stuck in the Middle. It wasn't so much a romance novel as it was more a story of self discovery. And, oh, how I could relate to Joan. 

Joan is 25, still lives at home (which happens to be her Grandmother's house), has an okay job, but just she's basically just going through the motions of life. In moves a hot doctor next door, he's single and the Grandma is all too happy to introduce Joan to the new neighbor. Ken and his sister who comes to visit aren't like the people Joan knows. While Joan is a regular church goer, her faith isn't evident in her life like it is in Ken's. While Joan wants Ken, she even more wants what Ken has - a relationship with the Savior.

At times funny, definitely relateable, and occasionally left me teary eyed. When Joan asks the missionary why God hasn't ever given her chocolate ice cream, a tear fell from my eye and also opened my eyes to things in my own life. A few short days later I was realized I'd been asking for the same thing.

I think what I liked best about Stuck in the Middle was that not everything was tied up in a neat little bow. Joan is making strides to really live life. And while Ken and Joan are dating there is no over the top I love yous or unrealistically fast relationship. I was really looking forward to the sequel, except that it seems to focus on Joan's older sister. While I'm sure there will be glimpses of Joan, I really want to see where her life goes from here.

If you are looking for a great chick-lit novel with a hope-filled message, that isn't over the top in romance, then I highly recommend Stuck in the Middle by Virginia Smith.

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November 24, 2011

Thankful: The White Thread

The White Thread (The Gateway Chronicles #3) by K. B. Hoyle
Paperback, 402 pages
Published October 2011 by Createspace
ISBN13: 9781463767709
Read November 2011
Goodreads, IndieBound, Amazon

As it is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. I thought it befitting to share with you a review of a book by an author that I am truly thankful for having met. K. B. Hoyle was one of the first authors to contact me for a review when I started blogging at the beginning of the year. She had a superb pitch. I don't know if she had been reading my blog, but her email came shortly after a post where I mentioned that I was thinking of reading the Chronicles of Narnia since I was falling in love with the movies (Prince Caspian in The Dawn Treader may have something to do with that). Anyways, she said The Gateway Chronicles were Harry Potter meets Chronicles of Narnia. If you read my reviews of The Six or The Oracle (or any of the other half a dozen mentions I have made of them over the year) then you know she was spot on. Though I've never read the Chronicles of Narnia series I can definitely see the influence they have on K. B. Hoyle's writing.

Not am only thankful that K. B. Hoyle introduced me to a wonderful young adult story, but she has accomplished something no other book has been able to do: The Gateway Chronicles has made my 9 year old niece finally excited about books and wanting to read. Coming from a family where reading has always been important, I cannot express how grateful I am to finally be able to share the love of books with my niece.

Alright, enough gushing, now on to what I thought of the latest installment: The White Thread.

I loved the The White Thread, maybe not as much as I did The Six and The Oracle, but there is usually one book in a series that I'm not super crazy about. Yet, I still demolished this book in a few short days. I actually purchased the series for my niece's school and I was so excited that I started reading that copy. A few days later K. B. Hoyle sent me an autographed copy. I thought The White Thread was a little slower moving than the other two in the series. I have the sense that it is more of a transition book though the story is still advanced and quite enjoyable. You get to see more of the characters' personalities as they grow in to young adults. Oh, and I question that I was kind of left with at the end of The Oracle was answered (what the 3 left behind at the castle did while the others went in search of the Oracle). There is no rehashing of the previous events at the start but subtle reminders throughout the book of important details. (I hate series that rehash everything at the beginning of the next book.) 

Though not as action packed from the get go as the other two books in the series, there is definitely blood pumping action from the middle on. I was left with the impression that this book was about setting out the puzzles pieces of the series and leaving the reader to piece them together without the picture on the lid. I kind of wished I had re-read The Six and The Oracle before reading The White Thread. I also need more people I know reading this series as I am left with some big questions at the end that I need to discuss with people. K. B. has offered to answer my questions, if it wouldn't ruin the plot (she's so sweet). But the questions I'm left with I don't really want to know the answer to until they are revealed in the other books. At the same time they would be fun to discuss with people. My questions are on the order of "Is Snape really evil?" or "What if Harry hadn't disarmed Draco and became the rightful owner of the elder wand?" (I'm having a Harry Potter movie marathon this week, can you tell? Also Harry Potter was the last series where I had a burning desire to discuss it with everyone I met, much like I'm having with The Gateway Chronicles). 

Seriously, please go read these books! I want to see if any else thinks there's a connection between the Oracle and the guy who made the gateways. Plus, I wonder if their clothes changed back when they were ripped from Alitheia. Was Perry's sword just left hanging mid-swing? I don't know if I can wait until 2012 to find out what happens next. Please help assuage my curiosity by joining in on the speculation with me. 

So go pick up this series NOW, read it, then come back and discuss it with me!

2/28/2012 Update: The Gateway Chronicles has been picked up by Australia based independent publisher The Writer's Coffee Shop. The will re-release the first three books in the series this year, starting with The Six on April 5.

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November 20, 2011

Holiday Buying Guide

Whether you are putting together your list for Santa or looking for something the avid reader on your list hasn't read, I have gift suggestions for everyone on your list. These are books either I want (many were library books or ARCs so I want my own copy) or books I'm buying for others.

For the young people:

The Gateway Chronicle (The Six, The Oracle, and The White Thread) by K. B. Hoyle
If you have a reluctant reader on your holiday list, you should get this series. My 9 year old niece has never had much interest in books. We couldn't even get her to read Harry Potter. Back in February the author sent me The Six and The Oracle. They were so good I couldn't stop talking about them. I knew they were above my niece's reading level (she barely reads on grade level), but that she would really love the story. My mom read them to her over the summer. Once they got started, she was constantly asking anyone who would to read another chapter. She now enjoys reading. (She's reading Harry Potter now). This series is on our Christmas list for my niece's school library, because my niece thinks all the kids at her school should read them.

You can read my reviews for the first two books by clicking on the links above. They are like a modern day Chronicles of Narnia with touches of Harry Potter and The Last Airbender. I think my niece really related to the 11 year old girl who doesn't feel like she fits in with anyone.

The Gateway Chronicles would make an excellent gift for both children and adults. I would say the reading level is 5th or 6th grade. Though since it would be enjoyed by the whole family it would great for a family read-a-long for even young children.

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

For the high school age and adult reader that loves sci-fi with a touch of romance, I recommend Across the Universe by Beth Revis (clicking on the link above will take you to my original review. I listened to the audio book and it was excellent, so if you have a visually impaired reader or just someone that needs a little help with reading the audio book would make an great gift.

Huber Hill and the Dead Man's Treasure by B. K. Bostick
In my review (which you can view by clicking on the link above), I mentioned that I would be getting this book for my nephew. He's a 3rd grader but reads on a 4th grade level (perhaps a bit higher if he would apply himself). I think he will enjoy this adventure of middle school age kids seeking treasure thought to only be an urban legend.

For more suggestions for the young reader (many would be enjoyed by adults as well) on your list see all my YA reviews.

For Older Readers:

Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee
For the reader that enjoys books that make them think, this would be a perfect gift. This futuristic story explores a world ruled by fear. The twists and turns (I wasn't so sure who the good guys and bad guys were most of the time) will keep the reader enthralled. As the first in the series, you may just find the gift buying chance already taken care of.

Immortal by Gene Doucette
I was really unsure about this book when I accepted it for review, but it turned out to be one of my favorite books of the year. There is a little something for everyone in this book. If you have a difficult to buy for reader, I highly recommend this book. I know some people are hesitant to pick up indie published books, but this one is truly excellent.

Steven George and the Dragon by Nathan Everett
This was just such a fun read that I had to include it on my holiday buying guide. It is a fairytale of sorts. As other readers commented, it is hard to tell who the intended audience is age-wise. This might be the sort of story best shared as a family.

See my reviews of other Sci-fi and fantasy books for recommendations.

Throwaway by Heather Huffman
Life's a struggle and I like books that don't sugar coat it. Have a reader who's into social issues? Then this book may be their thing.  Though life may not have a happy ending, I prefer the books I read to have one. The suspense in this has you wondering how much of a happy ending there will be. Recommended for the romantic suspense reader on your list. If you are getting a Kindle for someone, at $2.99 Throwaway would be an excellent bonus gift (it's also available in a print edition)

The First Victim by J. B. Lynn
This book ROCKED! It is only available in ebook, but it's priced just right for a "stocking stuffer" or a bonus gift added to the new ereader under the tree. For me the story verged on horror, which made it a truly wonderful thriller without giving me the nightmares that accompany horror stories. There is a steamy romance scene for those readers inclined for those, but it doesn't dominate the story.

Need more suggestions on suspense, thriller, and romance books, click on the links for all my reviews in that genre.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
I know this was an extremely popular book this year, what with a movie and all coming out. If you have a movie lover on your list that you are perhaps trying to convert to a book lover, too, I think this would make an excellent choice. I actually listen to this book which I believe added to its excellency. So if you have someone who prefers audio books (or trying to get into audio books) think about picking up Water for Elephants for them.

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson
I love historical fiction, particularly that which is focused on World War II era. However, I was growing bored with the books because they all seemed to be variations of the same story line. When I saw a review of 22 Britannia Road I knew I had to read it. It is set after the end of the war and focused more on the recovery of the civilian wife and child and how the family tried to reunited after such a long separation.

For more suggestions in audio books and historical fiction just click on the links to see all my reviews.

Bonus Recommendation:

Haiku for the Single Girl by Beth Griffenhagen
I picked this up on Thursday and read it while at lunch. We all have those office or other organization parties to attend. If you need a gift idea, this would make a good one, particularly if there are single people in the group. I loved this little book and if you have a single person on your list, buy them this book (As single person myself, I would love to receive this book as a gift). I read it on my Nook from and it didn't lay out real well. I would prefer a print version.

I have read some truly remarkable books this year. My list could be much longer, but I want to keep it simple. I do encourage you to follow the descriptive links to see what other titles I might not have included here, but would still make wonderful gifts. Also if you are needing more suggestions take a look at the list at Book Riot.

What books do you recommend giving as gifts (or would like to receive as a gift)?
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November 19, 2011

Douglas Kennedy: Guilty as Charged (a guest post)

I'm happy to introduce to you an internationally loved and New York Times best selling author, Douglas Kennedy. This week Mr. Kennedy had his novel The Moment published in the US after it debuted in France as a #1 best seller in French translation. Mr. Kennedy graciously agreed to visit Girl Who Reads as part of his publishing kick-off events. Thank you, Mr. Kennedy, for stopping by and providing the wonderful guest post on being an internationally read author.
When asked how and why I ended up being published in twenty-two languages - and waking up one morning (so to speak) to discover that I was now perhaps the most read contemporary American novelist in France - I put down this success to perhaps two specific things. The first is that my novels - stylistically accessible, yet (I hope) highly intelligent accounts of the way we live now, and the dilemmas that run constantly through our lives - seemed to chime in with a certain French sensibility. The fact that the novels also have a philosophical underside to them - but are also page-turners - has also meant that I have a readership in France that extends from taxi drivers to professors at the Sorbonne. The other key element to my success in France is due to the fact that, ten years ago, I made a conscious decision to learn French. At the time I was married and living in London - and my novels were just taking off in France. So I found a French teacher in the UK and forced myself into a routine of four one-hour private lessons per week. I also found a studio apartment in Paris, and started living in the city one week a month. And I insisted with all Francophone that I only spoke ‘dans la langue de Moliere”.

My press person at my French publishers, Belfond, then dropped me in the deep end, by insisting (a year after I started my lessons) that I do all interviews in French. Trust me, this was baptism by fire - but within three years my conversational skills had improved wildly. Now, a decade on, I am completely at ease in the language and think nothing about going on French radio for an hour and blabbing away in a language which has become like a second skin to me. But - and I must emphasize this - fluent French is not obligatory for literary success in the country that still considers writers to be truly special. I know that Paul Auster speaks excellent French (and is hugely respected here). But there are many American writers - Philip Roth, Jim Harrison, Colum McCann (who, like me, is also Irish), Jonathan Franzen - who do amazingly well in France, and are not fluent in the language. The French love writers. But they will love you even more if you do speak their language... as fluent French is also understandably taken to be a sign of respect for the country. And I have a huge respect for France - and the fact that they still consider language, ideas, all realms of cultural endeavor, to be an essential part of the ongoing human argument.

Of course, with a life based around homes in London, Paris, Berlin and Maine, I am constantly diving in and out of different languages, different cultural identities, different national nuances. Three years ago, after thirty years outside the United States, I decided to return to America and buy a house in coastal Maine. Your country is like your family - it’s the ongoing argument. And I very much wanted to be back home, and be part again of its argument, its day-to-day life. Of course, all my years outside of the States - and my ongoing constant travels - have shaped both my world-view and my fiction. The theme of flight - of running away from a life you don’t want, or the self-entrapment with which we all engage - is everywhere in my novels, as is a perspective on being an American that has, no doubt, be formed by both my own sense of national identity and by looking at my country from outside its borders for so long. It’s very good to be home... but I also like the fact that I continue to roam the planet. As an ex-girlfriend of mine once noted when we were breaking up, “It’s hard being involved with the geographic equivalent of a ping-pong ball”. To which I could only think: ‘Guilty as charged”.

The Moment: A Novel
When a mysterious box arrives in the mail, a solitary American writer haunted by the long shadows of Cold War Berlin is forced to grapple with a past - and an intense love affair - he has never discussed with another living soul. From the back cover.

Twitter: @DouglasLKennedy

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