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December is upon us and that means one thing: the holiday season is officially here! Whether you’re looking for books to buy as gifts or for the perfect read to curl up with by the fire, you’ll definitely find something in this month’s extra-special issue of Bloggers Recommend.  We bring you the best and brightest book picks each month, but it’s inevitable that some titles simply escape our attention until after the newsletter has gone to press. That’s why December’s issue features great books we haven't yet recommended in 2013; we're sure at least a few of these titles will capture your attention. We wish you all the best of the holiday season and will be back in the new year with more books you’re bound to love. —Swapna


Editor’s picks:

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (April, Harper) Wecker takes the 19th-century immigrant experience and manages to make it magical, while still maintaining a gritty realism. Her mythical creatures have more life and depth than the human characters of many novels, creating a book that is compulsively readable.—Jen Karsbaek
More Love From: Audra Friend

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban (January, Knopf Books for Young Readers) The Tragedy Paper evokes all the strong emotions that are expected when you think of two teenagers trespassing upon the strict social boundaries imposed at an elite prep school. Newcomer Laban's beautifully constructed narrative is by turns enchanting and melancholy as readers are carried hopelessly along to its heartbreaking conclusion. â€” Nicole Bonia

Once Upon a Lie by Maggie Barbieri (December, Minotaur Books) Barbieri introduces us to Maeve Conlon, whose cousin Sean has been murdered, and her Alzheimer’s-suffering father, who is tagged as the prime suspect. Barbieri's novel is about deep, dark family secrets and the damage they can inflict; she paces her narrative well, and readers will be intrigued by the story as they’re drawn into Maeve’s life. —Swapna Krishna

The Conversation by Jean d'Ormesson (November, Arcade) Using Napoleon's own words, d'Ormesson imagines a conversation the French general could have had to justify his decision to declare himself emperor. A creative novel that provides insight into French history and one of its most famous leaders. —Emma Cazabonne

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (April, Mulholland Books) The Cuckoo’s Calling harkens back to old-school detective novels. Mirroring protagonist Strike’s detective work, the novel is quiet and methodical. The satisfactory and surprising resolution is built on the time and care Galbraith takes in developing the characters, establishing the plot, and using well-hidden clues and excellent red herrings. A refreshing upgrade on the classic murder mystery. —Michelle Shannon

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (September, Scribner) Grown-up Dan Torrance, a recovering alcoholic, uses his “shining” to help the dying cross over. After teaming up with a young girl whose powers are stronger than his, Torrance faces an evil that kills and feeds off those who possess psychic abilities. This long-awaited sequel to The Shining proves that, like wine, King’s writing gets better with age. —Jenn Lawrence

The Sweet Girl by Annabel Lyon (June, Knopf) Set in fourth-century b.c.e., The Sweet Girl follows Pythias, beloved daughter of Aristotle, cruelly left to struggle in a violent world unwelcoming to women. A brutal coming-of-age narrative, this vibrantly told story of living in the shadow of someone brilliant, famous, and contradictory is electric, disquieting, and captivating. —Audra Friend

The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley (February, William Morrow Paperbacks) This beautiful love story explores the moral and legal obligations of following a loved one's living will when mitigating circumstances weigh heavily on everyone's heart. As his pregnant wife is kept alive on life support, Matt must fight for what he believes in and what he knows Elle would ultimately want. —Julie Caldwell
More Love From: Swapna Krishna & Nicole Bonia

Elders by Ryan McIlvain (March, Hogarth) Elder McLeod is a young American Mormon missionary in Brazil. His motivations for going on his mission are as complicated as his experiences as an American abroad in a time of war. Elders is an intelligent and well written look at Mormon missionaries, exploring the faith of McIlvain's upbringing with openness, honesty, and dignity. —Jennifer Conner

The Color of Light by Helen Maryles Shankman (October, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform) The Color of Light is an ambitious novel, combining art, vampires, and one of the darkest chapters in our history. Shankman sweeps readers up with the tender melancholy of her story, treating the Holocaust with the sensitivity and care it deserves. –Jennifer Smeth

The Kings and Queens of Roam by Daniel Wallace (May, Touchstone) Wallace explores the burden of knowledge, the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children, the way our external appearances shape our internal realities, and the importance of the stories we tell each other and ourselves. The Kings and Queens of Roam is beautiful and melancholy. —Amy Riley

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (June, Viking Adult) During the fraught 1936 Berlin Olympics a ragtag group of college farmers, fishermen, and lumberjacks from the University of Washington took on the elite crew teams on Europe in a race for Olympic gold. Even if you know nothing about rowing, Brown’s vivid descriptions of the races and the boys will grab your attention. —Kim Ukura

You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt (May, Penguin Press) You Are One of Them is about middle-school friendship, isolation, the cold war, and the lengths we will go to get to the heart of a unresolved mystery. Holt nails the treachery of adolescent relationships and sets up a chilling, credible thriller in an exotic but unsettling locale (Moscow) in this impressive debut novel.  â€”Gayle Weiswasser 
 
Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese by Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord (October, Little, Brown & Co.) Think beyond school-cafeteria mac and cheese to discover the modern, bright flavors of today's cheese and pasta dishes. The easy recipes run the gamut from an updated baked ziti to a light pasta salad with goat cheese and grilled peaches. With its world of flavors and casual feel, Melt is destined to become your go-to cookbook for relaxed entertaining. —Candace B. Levy

A Dangerous Fiction by Barbara Rogan (July, Viking)  When her literary agency comes under siege and one of her writers is murdered, Jo Donovan must face her past and reexamine all she once held dear. Barbara Rogan doesn't bargain character development or plot for wit and whim in this smart mystery.—Jenn Ravey

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (December, Disney-Hyperion) Set in space, These Broken Stars is a dazzling story of love, survival, and secrets. After a luxurious spaceliner crashes on a nearby planet, two passengers must fight for survival in a deserted, mysterious world. —Jamie Miller


A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (March, Viking) Of the many books published in 2013, A Tale For the Time Being is one of the few that stands out. Ruth Ozeki takes Zen Buddhism, school bullying, and meditations about time and give readers an unforgettable experience. It's a book that's meant to be savored and shared.—Natasha Vasillis

The Siege: 68 Hours Inside the Taj Hotel by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy (October, Penguin Books) The Siege is a tense account of the 2008 terrorist attacks on the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, India. Written in a narrative nonfiction style, the authors take the reader into the middle of the action, exposing the difficult facts of the situation. Well written, impeccably researched, and absolutely gripping, this is a must read for any fan of journalistic nonfiction.—Swapna Krishna


The Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell (January, HarperCollins) Teenaged Marnie buries her parents in the backyard on Christmas Eve at the novel’s open. Set in contemporary Glasgow, the novel focuses on Marnie's determination to care for her younger sister while avoiding adult attention. Misery is balanced with wry narration and darkly humorous moments in this unforgettable novel. —Audra Friend
More Love From: Nicole Bonia

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman (May, Pamela Dorman Books) A beautiful novel about what happens when a family member purposefully disappears for no obvious reason. Hoffman's style immediately pulls you in, making Teddi, the missing boy's sister, accessible and easy to love. A story about forgiveness and making peace, this is a don’t-miss novel. —Julie Caldwell
More Love From: Amy Riley, Nicole Bonia, Candace Levy & Michelle Shannon

The Good Boy by Theresa Schwegel (November, Minotaur) Is the good boy in this terrific thriller 11-year-old Joel Murphy, son of disgraced police officer Pete Murphy, or Butchie, a police-trained German shepherd mix? Boy and dog are forced into a perilous situation on the cold and dangerous streets of Chicago in this emotional family story. —Ann Walters
Audiobooks


The Good House by Ann Leary; narrated by Mary Beth Hurt (January, Macmillan Audio) Narrator Hurt hooks listeners immediately with her skillful rendition of the honest, irreverent, middle-aged reflections of Hildy, a real estate agent in a small New England town. Hildy has seen her neighbors’ dirty laundry but excels at turning a blind eye to her own weaknesses. As Hildy hits a downward spiral, Hurt’s performance, full of bitterness, anguish, and remorse, is unforgettable.—Jennifer Conner

Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel; narrated by Karen White (July, Harper Audio) Sea Creatures is about parenthood: the sacrifices we make to keep our kids safe and the mistakes in judgment that sometimes have ramifications far beyond what we feared. Narrator White's voice matches the tone of the book perfectly—urgent, yet emotionally restrained. The audio moves along swiftly, effectively conveying the growing tension throughout the book. –Gayle Weiswasser

Provence, 1970: M. F. K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste by Luke Barr; narrated by John Rubinstein (October, Random House Audio) Relying on firsthand accounts from the major food writers of the 1970s, Barr (great-nephew of Fisher) explores one of the pivotal moments in American food culture. Rubinstein's insightful performance captures the voice of each person, nicely avoiding caricature while finding the essence of his or her personality. His pacing and excellent French accent bring Barr's fascinating true story to life. —Candace B. Levy


Blood & Beauty by Sarah Dunant; narrated by Edoardo Ballerini (July, Random House Audio) In Blood & Beauty, Dunant gifts listeners with a fresh look at that old sinful papal family, the Borgias. Dunant’s prose is gorgeous, and in audio it is enhanced by the masterful narration of Ballerini, whose fluency with both emotions and Italian accents serves the story very well. â€”Jen Karsbaek

Schroder by Amity Gaige; narrated by Will Collyer (February, Hachette Audio) In this novel about a beguiling father on the run with his daughter, narrator Collyer shines in his performance of protagonist Eric Schroder. Through Collyer’s reading, one understands how easily Eric utterly charms those who cross his path. All the while, he showcases Gaige’s writing. Schroder is an exhilarating audiobook. —Jennifer Conner

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell; narrated by Gretchen Mol (May, Penguin Audio) This psychological thriller, set in Prohibition-era New York, is told by protagonist Rose Baker, a quiet woman working as a typist in a busy police precinct. Actress Mol’s audiobook performance fits Rose’s uptight personality, betraying emotion only when the ultimately unreliable narrator loses control and feels threatened. The audio is perfectly cast and executed, enhancing the intrigue of the novel. – Gayle Weiswasser
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Book bloggers can submit any titles appearing in print for the first time in hard back or paperback at this page. Selections are due by the 20th of the month prior to the month of the newsletter they are submitting for (e.g., January titles must be submitted by December 20th).

Bloggers needing more information should contact Jennifer Karsbaek (jen@bloggers-recommend.com).

Publishers may submit titles for newsletter consideration. For more information on participation, contact Swapna Krishna (swapna@bloggers-recommed.com). To inquire about advertising, please contact Nicole Bonía (nicole@bloggers-recommend.com). 

Contact Jennifer Lawrence (jenn@bloggers-recommend.com) to receive Bloggers Recommend at your bookstore or library.
Bloggers Recommend is available by subscription on the last weekday of each month.

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