Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 27, 2016


Random House: Last Days of Night by Graham Moore

Nelson Literary Agency Curated Digital Content

Shadow Mountain: Beauty and the Clockwork Beast by Nancy Campbell Allen

Workman: Project Smoke by Steven Raichlen

Editors' Note

Quotation of the Day

'I Trust the Booksellers Completely'

photo: Elizabeth Leitzell

"I credit much of my literary life to independent booksellers. As a very small child in my hometown bookstore, Bookshop Santa Cruz, I would beeline to Ga Lombard, goddess of the children’s book section, who would always set me up with my next read. I have been doing that same thing since with every independent bookstore that I’ve lived close to. Right now I live in Brooklyn, so it's Spoonbill & Sugartown in Williamsburg or WORD in Greenpoint. I trust the booksellers completely, and will pick up most anything that's on their front table, almost like a reading list. I think many people who really love to read do this same thing, which creates community and dialogue around books in the face of an overly-digital intellectual landscape."

--Molly Prentiss, author of Tuesday Nights in 1980, in a q&a with Bookselling This Week

Atria: The Secret Language of Stones by M.J. Rose



News

BookHampton Reopening 'with a Splash'

East Hampton Village, N.Y., "will once again have a bookstore" when BookHampton reopens Memorial Day weekend "with a splash," the Star reported, noting that since "purchasing the shop from Charline Spektor in early March, Carolyn Brody has been hard at work, overseeing a gut renovation in short order." On Saturday afternoon, from 2 to 5 p.m., the bookstore "will host a reopening celebration, with everyone invited to stop in and take a look around."

"It will look familiar, but it will also look new," Brody said, adding: "We will stay open year round. We're a community bookstore, and this isn't only for summer, it's for everyone."

Brody had recruited Roxanne Coady, owner of R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn., to help guide BookHampton and get it "firing on all cylinders--and quickly. We wanted to set the bar high. We wanted to launch in a very strong way."

She told the Star that BookHampton's reopening is the realization of a longtime dream, going back to her childhood. Starting at the age of nine, she wanted to open her own bookstore. "I'm delighted to have finally realized my dream of owning a bookstore. I couldn't let it go."


Grand Central: You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein


The Last Word Bookstore Opens in Fort Worth

The Last Word Bookstore opens today in the Near Southside neighborhood of Fort Worth, Tex., fulfilling a childhood dream of owner Paul Combs, Bookselling This Week reported. "I've wanted to have a bookstore since I was six or seven years old. That was the first time I really remember my mom taking me to one," he said. "But then life intervened and that never really came about." After learning last December that his job was being outsourced, he "made the decision to open his own general interest bookstore, and hasn't looked back since," BTW wrote, adding that Combs used a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for start-up costs.

The 2,700-square-foot location will feature more fiction than nonfiction, as well as a wide selection of local and independently published authors. Because children's bookstore Monkey & Dog Books is located nearby, Combs is offering a relatively small selection for younger readers.

"I'm probably working harder than I ever have in my life to get things going, but I've never been happier doing it," he noted. "When I first found out I was getting laid off, I asked my youngest daughter if it would be crazy to open a bookstore, and she said to me, 'No crazier than if you were to keep talking about it for the rest of your life and not do the one thing you've been wanting to do.' "


Soho Crime: The Kingdom by Fuminori Nakamura


For Sale: Blue Frog Books in Howell, Mich.

Blue Frog Books in Howell, Mich., which opened in 2014, has been put up for sale. Co-owners Penny Coleman and Robert Vedro described the move as "both a family decision and a monetary one. With the addition of a baby in our family, it has really stretched us thin.... Now for the good news! We have built a wonderful little gem in our community, and we are offering to sell the existing business with inventory and fixtures for someone else to continue on with. We hope we have shown how nice it is to have an independent bookstore in the area again, and, that someone will jump at the opportunity to walk right in and start selling books on day 1. However, if we do not get an offer right away, we will have no choice but to close the store."

Noting that they feel the bookshop "has great potential and, if allowed to grow, it will be a pillar of our community for generations to come," the owners said they "vastly over-estimated our first year sales estimates, as newbies tend to do, and with adjustment and a new plan for year two, it still was not enough to pay all the debts down and provide the level of inventory turnover needed to make this work for us, and for you. Now, we are faced with very tough decisions regarding our options and focus."

Nevertheless, Coleman and Vedro said "every community deserves a place like this. The customer base is still growing and we feel, with the passion from a new owner, and our help starting out, this business will thrive in a growing Genoa Township. We have a great new landlord with plans to open up the frontage, large 'anchor stores,' excellent parking, multiple exits, a traffic light for busy times, a very good maintenance crew, a good township and county to work with, a new hospital and other plans for the Latson exchange area, and everything in place for you to start tomorrow. Given everything we know now, we would stay here, if we could. We simply ran out of time. If you have ever dreamed of owning a little bookstore, do not hesitate, this could be your best chance."

For more information, contact Blue Frog Books at 517-552-6080.


Macmillan Acquires Pronoun, Inc.

Macmillan Publishers has acquired the self-publishing company Pronoun, Inc., which provides digital book publishing tools, analytics and services for authors and media companies. Pronoun also operates its own publishing imprints, including Byliner, and publishes books in partnership with media companies, including the New York Times, Fast Company and Forbes. Current CEO Josh Brody will serve as the president of Pronoun, while chief product officer Ben Zhuk will become v-p, product for Macmillan.

"We've been impressed with the team's data, analytics and technology capabilities and believe they will be beneficial to our publishers and authors in addition to an expanding set of independent authors," said Macmillan COO Andrew Weber.

On Pronoun's blog, Brody noted: "By joining forces, we’ll be able to invest even more in improving and growing Pronoun's self-publishing platform, all while giving successful independent authors a path towards more opportunity."


Obituary Note: Darwyn Cooke

Darwyn Cooke, the multiple Eisner award-winning comic book writer, artist and animator "whose work was known for its bold retro style and singular character, page and cover designs," died May 14, the New York Times reported. He was 53. Cooke won three Eisner Awards for The New Frontier, a six-issue series published in 2004, "including one for best limited series in 2005 and two more in 2007 for the lavish hardcover reprint of the story," the Times noted. He also won seven more, from 2010 to 2014, for his adaptations of four hard-boiled novels by Richard Stark, (a pseudonym used by Donald E. Westlake). His most recent Eisner came last year "for his work on a series of so-called variant covers aimed at collectors."

"There was something fresh and energetic about his work, and his peers envied the light sense of humor and the simplicity of design," wrote comic-book historian Mark Evanier on his blog.


Notes

Image of the Day: Backman & Bodeen Were Here

"We had a great event with Fredrik Backman" for his two most recent books (Britt-Marie Was Here and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry), Sue Roegge, owner of Chapter 2 Books, Hudson, Wis., told Shelf Awareness. "He was in town to do a community read in Cambridge, Minn., for Scout and Morgan, but did an event for us too at the Hudson Area Library. There were over 150 people in attendance. Middle grade and YA author Stephanie Bodeen did our q&a portion. Fredrik really enjoyed being interviewed by Stephanie. I had a really fun day driving Fredrik, his publicist from Atria, Ariele, and his agent Tor around Minneapolis-St. Paul and Western Wisconsin."


Indie Bookstore 'Brings Peace to the Town'

Posted on Facebook recently by the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt.:

"A student just came up to the Front Desk and explained that they are doing a project; Acts of Kindness. He chose the Northshire Bookstore and handed me a card with the sweetest writing. He wrote: 'The Northshire Bookstore brings me Peace because everyone is really nice and will help you find the right book. Also, when you are sad or stressed, you can get food and sit down and read. My 3rd reason why I think you bring me Peace is by a nice, quiet place. You can just sit down in a quiet nook and be at Peace. This is a place that I think brings peace to the town.' "


IPS to Distribute Minnesota Historical Society Press

Effective October 1, Ingram Publisher Services will handle Minnesota Historical Society Press for both print and e-book sales. Until then, MNHS Press books will continue to be available from the Chicago Distribution Center and e-books from BookMobile.

MNHS sales and marketing manager Mary Poggione said that Ingram distribution "will allow us to combine more of our sales channels under one roof and, of course, give us access to the capabilities of Lightning Source International."

The Press focuses on the history and culture of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest and publishes books, e-products, Minnesota History magazine, and the free, digital encyclopedia, MNopedia.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Onaje X.O. Woodbine on NPR's Weekend ATC

Tomorrow:
NPR's Weekend All Things Considered: Onaje X.O. Woodbine, author of Black Gods of the Asphalt: Religion, Hip-Hop and Street Basketball (Columbia University Press, $30, 9780231177283).

Monday:
Diane Rehm repeat: Richard Louv, author of Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life (Algonquin, $15.95, 9781616205782).

Meredith Vieira Show repeat: Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time (Harmony, $26, 9781101904008).


TV: Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously; The Little Prince

A trailer has been released for the documentary Neil Gaiman: Dream Dangerously, which will be shown exclusively on Vimeo beginning July 8. Deadline reported that the film, created by Respect Films' director/producer and editor Patrick Meaney and Jordan Rennert (producer/DP), "chronicles Gaiman's childhood in Portsmouth U.K. to his initial success in writing The Sandman comic series to his more recent work."

The story is told in Gaiman's own words, as well as through interviews with friends/collaborators Terry Pratchett, Bill Hader, Michael Sheen, Lenny Henry, Wil Wheaton, Stoya, J.H. Williams III, Lev Grossman, Brea Grant, Merrilee Heifetz, Charles Brownstein, Sam Kieth, Jill Thompson, Colleen Doran, and "his chats with George R.R. Martin, Jonathan Ross, John Barrowman, Grant Morrison and Phillip Pullman."

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Netflix announced that The Little Prince will be released in select theaters and VOD in the U.S. August 5, Deadline reported, adding that the streaming service "picked up the pic in March after Paramount Pictures unexpectedly dropped the film from its schedule only days before its planned theatrical release." The animated adaptation of Antoine Saint-Exupery's classic features an excellent voice cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Paul Rudd, Marion Cotillard, James Franco and Ricky Gervais. A new trailer is also available.


Books & Authors

Awards: Orwell Winner; Trillium Finalists

Arkady Ostrovsky's The Invention of Russia won the £3,000 (about $4,400) Orwell Prize, which recognizes work that comes closest to George Orwell's ambition "to make political writing into an art," the Guardian reported.

Chair of judges Lord William Waldegrave compared the winning book with Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, saying that Ostrovsky's nonfiction title was "absolutely about the central themes that Orwell is most famous of all for... the importance of language, and how he or she who controls the language, controls the narrative. And although there are many strong and brave liberal voices in Russia, if you get control of social and traditional media, you've gone a long way to controlling the message.... It's a wonderful book and it meets the tough criterion of making political writing an art, but it is extraordinary how the theme of it is absolutely in Orwell's own tradition."

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Finalists have been announced for the 2016 Trillium Book Awards, which "recognize excellence, support marketing and foster increased public awareness of the quality and diversity of Ontario writers and writing." The winning authors, who will be named June 22, receive C$20,000 (about US$15,390) and the publisher $2,500 for marketing and promotion. The Trillium Book Award for Poetry winner gets $10,000 ($2,000 to the publishers). Check out the English and French language finalists here.


Top Library Recommended Titles for June

LibraryReads, the nationwide library staff-picks list, offers the top 10 June titles public library staff across the country love:

Vinegar Girl: A Novel by Anne Tyler (Hogarth, $25, 9780804141260). "The newest entry in the Hogarth Shakespeare series brings The Taming of the Shrew into the modern world. Kate is stuck in a life taking care of her absent minded professor father and her sister, Bunny. When her father suggests a marriage of convenience in order to secure a green card for his lab assistant Pyotr, Kate is shocked. This is a sweet and humorous story about two people, who don't quite fit in, finding each other. Tyler's wonderful writing updates and improves on the original." --Catherine Coyne, Mansfield Public Library, Mansfield, Mass.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman (Roc, $15, 9781101988640). "Directed by powerful librarians, agents roam alternate realities searching out special volumes for their mysterious library's collections. Irene is a spy for the library but something is a little off about her current mission; there's something strange about her new assistant that she can't quite put her finger on and worse, the requested volume has already been stolen. Cogman's engaging characters and a most intriguing imagined world are sure to delight readers, especially bibliophiles." --Beth Mills, New Rochelle Public Library, New Rochelle, N.Y.

Under the Harrow: A Novel by Flynn Berry (Penguin Books, $16, 9780143108573). "Nora leaves London to visit her sister, Rachel, in the countryside often. But this trip is different--a silent house, a dead dog hanging from the railing and so much blood. Nora stays, trying to help the police solve the case. She thinks it might have something to do with the unsolved attack on Rachel when she was just a teen but it could be someone new. This story is thrilling and quietly gripping. We become as obsessed as Nora in finding her sister's killer and what if he strikes again?" --Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library, Austin, Tex.

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach (Norton, $26.95, 9780393245448). "With courageous curiosity, journalistic persistence, and a wry empathetic sense of humor, Roach once again delves into a fascinating topic few of us would openly explore. She writes about the issues confronting the military in its attempt to protect and enable combat troops. Roach brings to our attention the amazing efforts of science to tackle all the challenges of modern warfare. Grunt is another triumph of sometimes uncomfortable but fascinating revelation." --Darren Nelson, Sno-Isle Libraries, Marysville, Wash.

Homegoing: A Novel by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf, $26.95, 9781101947135). "An engaging family saga following two half-sisters--one who marries into privilege and one sold into slavery--and their descendants as they navigate the politics of their separate countries and their heritage. Each is directly affected in some way by the choices of the past, and finding the parallels in the triumphs and heartbreak makes for an engrossing read." --Amanda Monson, Bartow County Library System, Cartersville, Ga.

Missing, Presumed: A Novel by Susie Steiner (Random House, $27, 9780812998320). "This is a thoughtful police procedural about a missing person case and the secrets that come to the surface when a feisty detective becomes relentless in finding the truth. Edith is a successful college student from a well-known family, but all is not what it seems. Detective Manon Bradshaw is feeling the pressure to quickly resolve the case. What sets this apart from other detective stories is how the lead character is brought to life; she exposes her melancholy and it adds a satisfying mix to the thrills. Recommended for fans of Tana French." --Andrienne Cruz, Azusa City Library, Azusa, Calif.

Stiletto: A Novel by Daniel O'Malley (Little, Brown, $26, 9780316228046). "In the long-awaited sequel to The Rook, negotiations between two highly secret organizations, one based on science and reason and the other on the supernatural, are continuing. Odette and Pawn both come to the forefront of the story as we get more of the history of the groups and why mortal enemies would want to join forces. With its blend of intricate world-building and fantastical situations, Stiletto both surprised me and made me laugh." --Mary Bell, Wilbraham Public Library, Wilbraham, Mass.

We Could Be Beautiful: A Novel by Swan Huntley (Doubleday, $25.95, 9780385540599). "Wealthy art collector Catherine spends her time fussing over her tiny boutique card shoppe so that she can feel like a productive member of society. She meets the handsome and refined William Stockton, yet something seems just a little too good to be true. The plot thickens as long hidden family secrets emerge. Huntley certainly knows how to build up the suspense. This debut novel includes some nice plot twists and Catherine's character evolves favorably. Recommended for fans of psychological fiction." --Mary Vernau, Tyler Public Library, Tyler, Tex.

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley (Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 9781501126222). "Rowley has lovingly captured what it is like to be totally invested in caring for another life, another heart. This book is a true gift for anyone who has experienced the loss of a dog, but especially for those of us who have nursed a beloved dog through an illness even though you both knew it was going to be a losing battle. A special bond is formed there, and the story of Lily and Ted illustrates it so perfectly." --Mary Coe, Fairfield Woods Branch Library, Fairfield, Conn.

Widowmaker: A Novel by Paul Doiron (Minotaur, $25.99, 9781250063700). "Doiron delivers a novel of intensifying suspense. The brooding and flawed Bowditch deals with a newly revealed family secret that sets him off on a search for the truth. His personal mission leads him into danger as he chases a vigilante through the wintry Maine woods. Doiron perfects his storytelling with a richly detailed setting and admirable sense of timing. You'll want to go back to the previous Bowditch adventures while awaiting the next installment. Highly recommended for fans of Nevada Barr and C.J. Box." --Mamie Ney, Auburn Public Library, Auburn, Me.


Book Brahmin: Karin Salvalaggio

photo: Matt Smith

Karin Salvalaggio was born in West Virginia in the 1960s. She attended the University of California/Santa Cruz, graduating in 1989, but aside from two years in Italy, she has lived in London, England, since 1994. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. Her latest novel, Walleye Junction (St. Martin's Minotaur), is the third installment in the Macy Greeley Mystery Series.

On your nightstand now:

I have slightly eclectic and, dare I say, erratic reading habits. I also have an annoying tendency to dip into books as time and inspiration allow, which is probably why I love short stories. I'm ashamed to say that I'm only just now reading Light Years by James Salter. The prose is exquisite. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison is equally mesmerizing. A collection of short stories and essays by Shirley Jackson called Let Me Tell You is also on my nightstand, along with Jo Nesbø's Headhunters and the story collection Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I'm sure there were other books I treasured, but Jellybeans for Breakfast by Miriam Young is the book I remember most fondly. It was probably one of the first books I read repeatedly, a habit that would continue over the years whenever I found something I loved. It is an imaginative story about friendship, adventure and, best of all, jellybeans. Sadly, I no longer have a copy and an online price of more than $300 puts another one well out of reach.

Your top five authors:

Cormac McCarthy, Shirley Jackson, Joyce Carol Oates, Daphne du Maurier and Henry James.

Book you've faked reading:

It's painful to admit this publicly but I gave up on The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt about two-thirds of the way through. I loved The Secret History and found inspiration for my own writing in Tartt's portrayal of small-town America in The Little Friend, but I couldn't get through her latest novel. Sadly, I'll probably have to wait another 10 years before I get to a chance read the next one.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I highly recommend We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. It is a remarkable novella. Jackson died before its publication at just 48, which was a great loss to modern literature, for despite her ongoing battles with alcoholism, inner demons and obesity, she was clearly at the top of her game. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a haunting work of enduring genius that deserves close study. The 18-year-old protagonist, Mary Katherine Blackwood, or Merricat as she is better known, is not only one of the most precocious voices in Western literature; she also just might be the most unreliable first-person narrator of all time.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Ten Stories About Smoking by Stuart Evers. Picador's packaging is phenomenal. The collection is sealed in an oversized vintage cigarette pack. Thankfully, the short stories live up to the high expectations set out in the presentation.

Book you hid from your parents:

I may have been a precocious reader at the age of 11, but I really wasn't old enough to read The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. At first I didn't understand my parents' reticence. The opening pages seemed so innocent.

Book that changed your life:

I was in high school when I first read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. The author was only 15 years old when she wrote it, so she understood what it was like to be a teenager growing up in America. Set in an Oklahoma high school, the coming-of-age story follows the relationship between two young men as they negotiate a confusing world of gang violence, underage drinking and family dysfunction. The characters, setting and storyline were all immediately recognizable to me. In a single stroke S.E. Hinton democratized fiction. Not only could I, as a teenager, consider writing a book, but I also was free to depict the world from my point of view. All that really mattered was the story.

Favorite line from a book:

"Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting." --All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy

Five books you'll never part with:

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy is an epic coming-of-age story about a young man named John Grady who, in 1950, is evicted from the family ranch. Accompanied by his friend Lacey Rawlins, he sets out across the border to Mexico on horseback. Descriptions blend with dialogue and exposition giving the work an expansiveness that pushes out the boundaries of the written word.

The poignant short story "The Ballad of the Sad Café" lends its name to a collection of stories by Carson McCullers. Passages not only describe the town physically but also set the tone for the loneliness and isolation, which plays a central role throughout the narrative. McCullers's opening paragraph describes the oppressive heat of an Oklahoma afternoon in August and the decay of a building that once housed the café that represented the heart of the community.

Merricat Blackwood is the unreliable narrator in Shirley Jackson's brilliant novella We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Merricat is a young woman living in an elaborate dream world. She believes she's a witch and uses magical spells to ward off what she considers to be threats from the outside world. Addressing the reader in the intimate, Merricat never once apologizes for poisoning her entire family with sugar-laced arsenic six years earlier.

I'd want to take the complete works of Henry James to my desert island, but if pressed to make a choice, I'd pack Wings of a Dove. This exquisite Edwardian tale of love, betrayal and loss is set in London and Venice, two of my favorite cities. When star-crossed lovers Kate and Merton scheme against an ailing American heiress named Milly, they're unprepared for the emotional reckoning that follows.

"Don't Look Now" will be familiar to many readers because of the 1973 film of the same name. Written by Daphne du Maurier, it is part of a larger collection of short stories entitled Not After Midnight. Set in the confusing labyrinth of canals and dark alleyways that crisscross Venice, "Don't Look Now" is inhabited with compelling characters and a narrative structure that leaves the reader begging for release.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy really inspired my writing. The prose is extraordinary and it is clear from the beginning that McCarthy has an accurate ear for naturalistic dialogue, but it is the landscapes described in McCarthy's novels that I'm most attracted to.

Your favorite short story:

"Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" is a short story by Joyce Carol Oates. Though it is only a little over 5,000 words in length, it has more complexity than most novels. It is a tale that can be read as a crime story, an allegory, a snapshot of a shifting culture, a moral parable and a statement on feminism. By setting it in the mid-1960s, it perfectly encapsulates a time when the worship of God was quickly giving way to the worship of popular culture. It is based on the real-life serial killer Charles Schmid, who was nicknamed "The Pied Piper of Tucson" after he murdered three women there in 1964. Oates's story is a fictionalised account of a teenage girl's abduction played out against the backdrop of postwar America's transition into a more turbulent cultural and social age.


Book Review

Review: We Could Be Beautiful

We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley (Doubleday, $25.95 hardcover, 9780385540599, June 28, 2016)

Swan Huntley intimately explores the psyche of a 43-year-old, still single, affluent New Yorker in her first novel, We Could Be Beautiful. The owner of an upscale handmade stationery shop, Catherine West easily affords high-class fashions, a swanky apartment in the West Village, a personal trainer and masseur. Yet, despite her extravagant lifestyle, self-conscious Catherine feels terribly incomplete, like a failure, until she meets handsome and striking William Stockton, a widower and independently wealthy investment banker in his 50s, at an art gallery opening. "There was something familiar about him," Catherine says of their first encounter. "Maybe he looked like an actor, or maybe he was just one of those people who looked familiar to everyone, or maybe his dry-cleaned scent reminded me of home." Catherine and William learn they share a love of fine art and a history--they come from the same privileged societal class, and their parents had been friends years earlier. "I trusted him immediately," Catherine tells the reader.

The couple's attraction is instant and their courtship intense and all-consuming. Catherine is captivated by William's charm and sensitivity, although he steers away from talk of the past--his wife died of breast cancer and his parents perished together in a car accident. William, attentive and a good listener, sets Catherine surprisingly at ease, as she shares feelings about her father, who died of a heart attack, and her mother, Elizabeth--a very difficult, headstrong woman--whose Alzheimer's had progressed "to the point where the task of living alone was beyond her." The hard decision of placing Elizabeth in a home was made by Catherine and her younger sister, Caroline, who forfeited an artist's life to become a wife and mother of three children. The two sisters are opposites, but close, and they regularly visit their mother, who slips in and out of forgetfulness.

When Catherine tells Elizabeth about William, and inquires as to what she might remember about him and his family, her mother's curt, agitated response is jarring. Catherine and her sister blame Elizabeth's reaction on her disease, and William later admits that Catherine's mother might have an issue with him because, as a boy, he was once a guest in their home and broke an expensive vase. The explanation seems plausible as William and Catherine move in together and begin planning their wedding. However, their blissful romance is marred by deepening revelations and suspicions, especially once Catherine discovers an old diary her mother kept and a letter from a former nanny, which may shed light into Elizabeth's troubled reaction to William.

Aspects of deception and greed are suspenseful undercurrents that propel this well-plotted, seductive psychological thriller. Huntley has created a riveting yet flawed heroine in whom readers will eagerly invest as she is forced to unravel the truth about a man who seems too good to be true and a shrouded past that may hold the key to her future. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Shelf Talker: A wealthy single woman falls hard for a handsome, charismatic and attentive older man who may--or may not--be harboring secrets.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Happy Birthday to the 'Professor of Books'

If you would know what nobody knows, read what everybody reads, just one year afterwards... --Ralph Waldo Emerson, who turned a spry 213 years old on Wednesday

Ralph Waldo Emerson

As a reader, I don't think I'm that hard to please, despite the fact that so many of the ARCs I pick up can easily be put down again. Of course, there's never been a chronic shortage of putdownable books. Consider Henry David Thoreau at his caustic best in 1854:

They read the nine thousandth tale about Zebulon and Sephronia, and how they loved as none had ever loved before, and neither did the course of their true love run smooth--at any rate, how it did run and stumble, and get up again and go on!... All this they read with saucer eyes, and erect and primitive curiosity, and with unwearied gizzard, whose corrugations even yet need no sharpening, just as some little four-year-old bencher his two-cent gilt-covered edition of Cinderella.

Or that other legendary reader of Concord, Emerson. He estimated that in 1858, the number of printed books in the world might easily exceed a million volumes. Seems a manageable number now, doesn't it? He also wrote of the challenges inherent in tracking down a great new read:

It is easy to accuse books, and bad ones are easily found; and the best are but records, and not the things recorded; and certainly there is dilettantism enough, and books that are merely neutral and do nothing for us.... The bookseller might certainly know that his customers are in no respect better for the purchase and consumption of his wares. The volume is dear at a dollar, and after reading to weariness the lettered backs, we leave the shop with a sigh, and learn, as I did without surprise of a surly bank director, that in bank parlors they estimate all stocks of this kind as rubbish.

I work in the book trade, where titles of every description and quality are the key to survival for publishers and booksellers and writers. Too many of the ARCs I sample, "buffet reading" 50 pages or so, just don't connect. ("It's not you; it's me." Sometimes that's the reason. Not always.) When someone asks me to recommend a new book that "you really loved," and I haven't read anything recently that genuinely qualifies, I can't lie about it. Is the art of reading too sacramental for deceit? Probably not, though it does often feel that way. As a bookseller, I was no literary shaman, but I tried not to be a hinky used car salesman either. If a book really got through to me, my longtime patrons could hear the enthusiasm in my voice, just as they picked up on the slightest inflection when a recommendation was hesitant.

Emerson's study at his home in Concord, Mass.

Once upon a time, I thought I could find everything I needed in Emerson's works, turning to them as other people leaned on astrology or the I Ching, seeking counsel, solace or wisdom, whatever was needed. I even fantasized about living in 19th-century Concord, accepting invitations to dinner with Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, Hawthorne, maybe a surprise visit from Margaret Fuller. Gradually, however, I realized that given my working-class heritage, I would probably have been serving them soup.

Emerson did, however, create my ideal job description:

Meantime the colleges, whilst they provide us with libraries, furnish no professor of books; and, I think, no chair is so much wanted. In a library we are surrounded by many hundreds of dear friends, but they are imprisoned by an enchanter in these paper and leathern boxes; and though they know us, and have been waiting two, ten, or twenty centuries for us--some of them--and are eager to give us a sign, and unbosom themselves, it is the law of their limbo that they must not speak until spoken to; and as the enchanter has dressed them, like battalions of infantry, in coat and jacket of one cut, by the thousand and ten thousand, your chance of hitting on the right one is to be computed by the arithmetical rule of Permutation and Combination--and not a choice out of three caskets, but out of half a million caskets all alike. But it happens in our experience that in this lottery there are at least fifty or a hundred blanks to a prize. It seems then, as if some charitable soul, after losing a great deal of time among the false books, and alighting upon a few true ones which have made him happy and wise, would do a right act in naming those which have been bridges or ships to carry him safely over dark morasses and barren oceans, into the heart of sacred cities, into palaces and temples.

Professor of Books. Maybe that's what I became after all--in a sense... nontenured. Thanks, R.W.E. And happy birthday. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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