Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, July 20, 2010

HarperCollins: A Home in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: War Outside by Monica Hesse

Arcturus Publishing: Allen Carr's Easyway - Click to request your ARC via Netgalley

Candlewick Press: Good Rosie! by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Harry Bliss

Other Press: Hurry Down Sunshine: A Father's Story of Love and Madness by Michael Greenberg

Andrews McMeel Publishing: How to Be Successful Without Hurting Men's Feelings: Non-Threatening Leadership Strategies for Women by Sarah Cooper


Image of the Day: The Author Who Wowed the Audience

Last Thursday Heidi Durrow, author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky (Algonquin), was the star of a luncheon hosted by McLean and Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, Mich. The audience of 90 included a dozen people who are taking a college writing workshop and who had read and analyzed the book; the next day, Durrow attended their workshop. The store has sold more than 135 copies of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, some 88 at the luncheon. Here Durrow talks with some of the crowd.

Disney-Hyperion: Love Like Sky by Leslie C. Youngblood

Amazon's Relative Gains issued one of its classic press releases yesterday, throwing out lots of numbers but omitting unit sales for the Kindle or e-books, the kind of information that would have made the numbers more meaningful. Among the points:

During the past three months, Amazon has sold 143 e-books for Kindles for every 100 hardcovers, and during the past month the company has sold 180 e-books for every 100 hardcovers. (These figures include sales of hardcovers for which there is no Kindle edition and exclude free e-books.)

Amazon has sold three times as many Kindle e-books in the first half of 2010 as it did in the same period last year. (The company's e-books can be read on Kindle apps on iPads, iPhones and other devices.)

The growth rate of Kindle unit sales has tripled since the company lowered the e-reader's price to $189 from $259 a month ago.

The increase in sales of e-books for Kindles has risen faster than the rate of increase of e-book sales reported by publishers to the AAP of 163% in May and 207% for the year to date through May.

Of the 1.14 million e-book editions of James Patterson titles that Hachette Book Group said earlier this month have been sold, some 867,881 were Kindle e-books.


Still, the numbers awed many. Mike Shatzkin, head of the Idea Logical Company, told the New York Times, "This was a day that was going to come, a day that had to come." He predicts, the paper said, that within a decade, "fewer than 25% of all books sold will be print versions."

(For some lively give-and-take on the question of how bricks-and-mortar bookstores will be affected by rising e-books and online book sales, see Shatzkin's blog and comments by Andy Laties on that blog and on his own rebelbookseller blog.)

The Times noted that the gains in sales growth came as competition increased, particularly following the introduction this year of Apple's iPad as well as a new version of Barnes & Noble's Nook and the Kobo e-reader, sold here by Borders. Fears about that new competition have led Amazon's stock price to drop about 16% in the past three months.

But the announcement seemed to calm some analysts. Speaking of Amazon, Aaron Kessler, director of Internet and digital media equity research at ThinkEquity, told the paper: "Clearly they're still seeing momentum in the digital book area, and hopefully that alleviates concerns."

For its part, the Wall Street Journal noted that e-competitors of Amazon have similar news: B&N has had "a big uptick" in sales of the Nook since it cut prices a month ago and Sony told the paper that sales of the Reader in the second quarter were triple the same period a year earlier. Moreover, the Journal suggested that the numbers may not be representative, saying that despite its size, Amazon "still attracts an online audience that is more inclined to be early adopters of new reading technology."

Whether e-readers and e-books are cutting into sales of trade paperbacks, publishers told the Journal that the verdict is still out. Madeline McIntosh, president, sales, operations and digital at Random House, commented: "Our conclusion is that there's no data to prove any connection--good or bad--between growth in e-books and the growth or decline, in trade paperback sales.... If anything, we may be seeing a positive effect in which the steady pace of e-book sales helps to keep a book in front-of-mind for a growing number of consumers after hardcover momentum slows."


Johns Hopkins University Press: Freedom's Laboratory: The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science by Audra J. Wolfe

Notes: Barbara's Shuts and Opens; Love for I Hate to Cook

After a long battle over rent, the Barbara's Bookstore in Oak Park, Ill., which opened 34 years ago, has closed, Pioneer Press reported. Barbara's, which has stores in Chicago, Minneapolis and Boston, now plans to open a store in Burr Ridge, Ill., in the Burr Ridge Village Center, about 12 miles southwest of Oak Park.

In late May, a judge ruled that the store owed the landlord $126,000 in back rent and court fees. The store's lease expires at the end of the month. The dispute began in February 2009, when Barbara's asked for and received rent deferral until June--but the store didn't pay the deferral on time.



Congratulations to Tricia Bauer, v-p of special markets for Rosen Publishing, New York City, who has won the first FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize for her novel Father Flashes. The $15,000 award is sponsored by Fiction Collective Two, an independent press with offices at the University of Houston-Victoria.

Bauer, who has written for newspapers and magazines and held editorial and marketing jobs at several children's book publishers, is also the author of Working Women and Other Stories, which was published in 1995, and Boondocking, a novel published in 1997.

Father Flashes is less than 100 pages long and started as a book of poetry until Bauer decided to meld poetry and prose. Bauer said she hopes to take some time off from her publishing job to devote herself full-time to writing, adding, "I'm just so excited that Father Flashes was recognized because it doesn't conform to the page requirements or format that most major publishers want right now."


Book trailer of the day: The Gigantic Sweet Potato by Dianne de Las Casas, illustrated by Marita Gentry (Pelican), which will appear in September.


Hashtag of the Day: On Twitter yesterday, a lively conversation grew around the hashtag #waystoimpressbooksellers, with helpful and amusing tips for publishers, authors and customers.


Reporting on the Tokyo International Book Fair, which was held July 8-11, noted that "the Japanese e-book market is expected to grow to 200 billion yen ($2.31 billion) in five years, according to one estimate. Topics surrounding how businesses should respond to an upcoming e-book era dominated discussions and speeches given at the fair as part of its official programs."

Katsushi Ota, v-p of Star Seas Co., which specializes in electronic publishing, said he does not think this trend spells doom for traditional books: "As novels were born after paper books became available, the arrival of e-books will start new literary activities. It does not mean that traditional books will be eliminated by e-books. If traditional books and e-books acknowledge each other's strengths, it will open up new opportunities."


Éditions du Public has launched its "venture into crowdfunded literature," the Guardian reported, noting that the initiative--sporting the slogan "I invest in what I want to read"--has received 80 manuscripts, with 16 having been judged "good enough to make it onto the publisher's website."

Now co-editors are being sought to help fund publication of the books. The Guardian noted that each co-editor invests €11 [US$14.34] in a chosen title, and is then able to discuss the book with the author on the publisher's forum, "following each stage as it is written."  

Authors have six months to sign up 2,000 co-editors. Once that threshold has been met, "an editor at Éditions du Public will go over the text and layout with the author. The book will then be sold online and through bookshops, with each co-editor able to recoup 'up to eight times the amount of their initial subscription' depending on sales, as well as receiving a free copy of the book they have edited," the Guardian wrote.


Happy 50th birthday to Peg Bracken's The I Hate to Cook Book, which will be published in an updated and revised anniversary edition by Grand Central next week. USA Today noted that the "book's premise, unheard of in June Cleaver's day, was for women to get in and out of the kitchen as quickly as possible." Bracken died in 2007.

"It still makes me laugh," said her daughter, Jo, who wrote a new foreword. She was five years old when the original edition was published. "I grew up on it and I still cook from it."


GLOW: William Morrow & Company: The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

A Beer and a Book. Or Two.

Patrons at the Globe Bookstore and Café in Prague don't have to choose between books and drink: here they can find both.

"In Prague, beer is cheaper than water," manager Kaja Curtis (at right, with a customer) said. "But the culture of literature and the arts is alive and well. There's a lot of emphasis on books and literature and on education here. That's always been the Czech tradition."

Stepping into the Globe and entering its quiet, wood-, sun- and book-filled sanctuary, it's clear the indie bookstore is thriving in Prague. The city's first English-language bookstore, the Globe was founded 15 years ago and has welcomed a marquee of literary legends from Klima to Roth and caters to ex-pat poets and writers who've made this capital city their home. The storefront is stacked with titles on two levels and across a wrought-iron balcony; the rear is a spacious bar and café with a lively garden and American-style food.

In May, the store held a launch for The Return of Kral Majales, a hefty collection of English-language ex-pats' poetry, fiction and short stories edited by Louis Armand. The Globe hosts a biweekly book club, poetry readings and music performances, as well as free English-language movies every Sunday.

The café drives the business, but the bookstore is the heart and history of the place, general manager Eva Regulyova said. When I stepped off Pstossova Street into the store on a hot weekday morning, I literally dropped into a café chair, pulled out my notebook and started writing down titles I wanted to read.

From my perch I could see the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, any number of magazines from National Geographic to Vogue; Alain de Botton's The Art of Travel, The Art of Living by Epictetus, The Big Short by Michael Lewis and Too Big to Fail by Andrew Ross Sorkin, to name a few.

Literature looks different when you travel. Fiction by or about Balkan, Czech, Hungarian and Bohemian people jumped out at me. Spies of the Balkans by Alan Furst and The Glass Room by Simon Mawer--how could I have overlooked these titles at home when here they seemed like essential reading? Ditto The Shadow of the Sun and Travels with Herodotus by ex-pat Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuścińsk.

Once a month there's a folk singer in the Globe's café. She was there when I went back for a second visit and had a lovely chat about literature with Kaja. She was singing "I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane," and it was hard not to feel a little melancholy because I'd be leaving soon, too.--Laurie Lico Albanese


Shelf Awareness Giveaway: Central Avenue Publishing: [Dis]connected: Poems & Stories of Connection and Otherwise edited by Michelle Halket

Media and Movies

Media Heat: The Songs of Hollywood

Today on Fresh Air: Sonia Shah, author of The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26, 9780374230012/0374230013).

Also on Fresh Air: Philip Furia, co-author of The Songs of Hollywood (Oxford University Press, $35, 9780195337082/0195337085).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Jane Green, author of Promises to Keep (Viking, $25.95, 9780670021796/0670021792).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Jen Lancaster, author of My Fair Lazy (NAL, $24.95, 9780451229861/045122986X).


Tomorrow on the O'Reilly Factor: Tonya Reiman, author of The Yes Factor: Get What You Want. Say What You Mean. The Secrets of Persuasive Communication (Hudson Street Press, $25.95, 9781594630682/1594630682).


Tomorrow night on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Chelsea Handler, author of Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang (Grand Central, $25.99, 9780446552448/0446552445).


Movies: Daniel Radcliffe Goes Gothic; Fragment

Daniel Radcliffe will star in the film version of The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The gothic thriller will be directed by James Watkins, "produced and co-financed by Hammer Films and Alliance Films from a script penned by Jane Goldman (Kick Ass)." Production is expected to begin in the fall this year.


Lloyd Levin (The Green Zone, United 93) will produce a film adaptation of Warren Fahy's novel Fragment, which combines a reality show on a remote South Pacific island with "a host of terrifying new species of animals," Variety reported, noting that the book "was the subject of a bidding war at the London Book Fair.... Fragment has been widely compared to the works of Michael Crichton and James Rollins and has been picked up by 18 publishers around the world."

"Fragment has found the perfect home," said Fahy, who will write the screenplay. "Lloyd Levin's track record is phenomenal. The movie will be everything Fragment fans have been hoping for, including me."

Books & Authors

Awards: Akutagawa and Naoki Prizes

Akiko Akazome, author of Otome no Mikkoku (The Anonymous Tip of a Virgin), won the Akutagawa award "for budding writers" and Kyoko Nakajima, author of Chiisai O-Uchi (Small Home), received the Naoki prize for popular fiction, the Mainichi Daily News reported. The writers will be honored at an awards ceremony August 20 in Tokyo.

"Akazome skillfully took in the critical historical question of who betrayed Anne Frank and successfully depicted what it is like to lose one's identity and 'forget,' " said Yoko Ogawa, a member of the selection committee for the Akutagawa award.

Mariko Hayashi, a member of the Naoki prize selection committee, said Nakajima "has vividly described the middle-class family of the prewar period. Though Nakajima had kept missing out on prizes, she is such a skilled writer. She has demonstrated outstanding ability in portraying realistic characters and use of sources."


Attainment: New Titles Out Next week

Selected new titles appearing next Monday and Tuesday, July 26 and 27:

Daniel X: Demons and Druids by James Patterson and Adam Sadler (Little, Brown, $16.99, 9780316036986/0316036986) follows a boy whose mission is to hunt down extraterrestrial fugitives on Earth.

Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel by Gary Shteyngart (Random House, $26, 9781400066407/1400066409) is a satiric imagining of a dystopian future in which Americans are obsessed with the superficial and controlled by the Orwellian Bipartisan Party.

Star Island by Carl Hiaasen (Knopf, $26.95, 9780307272584/0307272583) is a hilarious tale about a floundering young singer whose career is jeopardized by booze and drugs, among other things.

Queen of the Night: A Novel of Suspense by J. A. Jance (Morrow, $25.99, 9780061239243/0061239240) follows a series of murders in California and Arizona over 50 years.

Waking the Witch by Kelley Armstrong (Dutton, $25.95, 9780525951780/0525951784) is the 11th entry in the Women of the Otherworld series.

Now in paperback:

Hardball: A V.I. Warshawski Novel by Sara Paretsky (Signet Select, $9.99, 9780451412935/0451412931).


Book Review

Book Review: The Homecoming Party

The Homecoming Party by Carmine Abate (Europa Editions, $15.00 Paperback, 9781933372839, July 2010)

Never have 167 pages seemed so short. This potent new Italian novel from Europa Editions reads way too fast and then the reader is left wet-eyed and awestruck at the emotional wallop of this simple narrative.

In the little southern Italian town of Hora, where an old-fashioned form of Albanian called Arberesh is spoken, the traditional Christmas bonfire is roaring to burn away "all our worst memories." Thirteen-year-old Marco suspects he knows what his father is thinking about, and as father and son swap stories before the bonfire's flames, they come closer and closer to talking about the family's dark secret.

Marco's father works long hours of construction in France, where he can earn enough to support his family--but at the heartbreaking cost of living away from them. His return trips to the village each year at Christmas are the highlights of Marco's young life. With his dog Spertina leaping and yapping with joy, with all the neighbors rejoicing (Marco most of all), his father distributes presents; in the opening sequence, he gives his eight-year-old son a handsome leather soccer ball, with which Marco becomes the dictator of the neighborhood boys.

When an angry boar turns on barking Spertina and gores her nearly to death, a mysterious stranger with salt-and-pepper hair and intense blue eyes appears out of nowhere, approaches grieving Marco and his father, and saves the dog's life by sewing up the wound. This nameless man will appear again and again as the years pass, and will play more than one role in the mystery that haunts the novel. The characterizations are swift and rich, as author Carmine Abate (Between Two Seas) brings to life Marco's mother, who solves all of her problems with food; Marco's troubled, sullen older sister, Elisa, who is hiding a secret life; and their old grandmother, who scrupulously polices the doctor's orders.

Abate creates a complex young narrator in Marco over the six-year span of the story, and paints a picture of village life that always rings true. Drenched with emotion, with the most lovable pooch in years scampering through the pages, The Homecoming Party has the achingly bittersweet humor of Fellini's Amarcord. Here is pure reading joy, with a father and son who are equally vulnerable, a plot that comes together neatly at the end with a gasp, and all served up hot and spicy like a hearty serving of pasta e fagioli.--Nick DiMartino

Shelf Talker: A short but intense novel about an Italian village, a family with a lovable dog and a mysterious stranger--written with bittersweet humor and emotion.


Deeper Understanding

Graphic Novels: Separating the Buzz from the Static

Movie hits don't always lead to a huge boost in sales of the books they're based on, and superhero films follow a mysterious logic. Hits like the various X-Men, Spider-Man and Iron Man flicks have not translated into blockbuster sales for those individual properties. On the other hand, buzz around the Watchmen adaptation--a film that was met with widespread critical and commercial indifference--put that 20-year-old miniseries on the bestseller list.
Here is one possible explanation for why some media events drive graphic lit sales and others do not: to translate a hot film or television series into book sales, the property in question has to be contained enough that you aren't going to intimidate somebody whose introduction to the title was a simplified, two-hour sampler platter. To put it simply, when a customer walks in the door and asks, "Do you have the comic of Movie X?" you need to be able to say, "Yeah, it's right here."
While the entire story of Watchmen comes in a single volume, by comparison, Spider-Man has been in constant publication since the 1960s and, as of this writing, the character appears in (depending how you count it) nine different ongoing titles.
With that in mind, here are two media tie-ins that have a lot of potential to boost book sales in the next few months.

Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim (Oni Press), a manga-format series about Canadian hipsters facing the daunting task of growing up, blends genuinely charming storytelling and characterization with tons of video game, indie rock and comic book references. The book built a devoted cult following, but awareness of the series has exploded due to the massive media blitz for the Edgar Wright-helmed movie adaptation, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. The comic series currently contains five volumes, with a sixth and final volume due out today in comic shops and August 3 in bookstores. The film opens in mid-August. By all accounts, the film adaptation is loyal to the source material, but fans needn't worry about spoilers: the film, shot before the final volume of the comic was completed, has a different ending than the comic.
A considerably grimmer work is Image Comics' ongoing post-apocalyptic zombie series The Walking Dead. Created by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore in 2003, this black-and-white horror comic is being adapted for a TV miniseries for AMC, home of Mad Men. The pilot was written and directed by Frank Darabont, the award-winning writer/director of The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile and The Mist, and will star Andrew Lincoln (Love Actually) and Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer). The series, which is set to air in October, has already generated significant buzz among genre fans, and the Halloween tie-in and star director are should help it garner mainstream attention. The first 12 volumes of series are available in trade paperback collections (each collects six issues of the series); more expensive hardcover deluxe editions (12 issues per collection) and jumbo omnibus editions (24 issues) are also available.
Other notable titles that have just been released:
The titular character of Wilson by Daniel Clowes (Drawn and Quarterly) is a snobbish misanthropic loner who, following the death of his father, tries to reconnect with his ex-wife. This seemingly doomed quest becomes more complicated when Wilson discovers that he's the father of a teenage girl who was born after the divorce and given up for adoption. Clowes, whose Eightball series was the source for the 2000 indie flick Ghost World, is a recognizable name outside the indie comic world. The bitterly humorous drama of Wilson should appeal to fans of the wry irony of Ghost World.
Blacksad, the three-time Eisner-nominated collection of stories by Spanish creators Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido (Dark Horse), is a slice of hardboiled noir brilliance with a twist: all the characters are anthropomorphized animals. This odd conceit is sold by lavish artwork and smart storytelling that evoke the sensual darkness, stylish cool and gallows wit of classic Hollywood film noir flicks better than ultraviolent gonzo works like Sin City. The book includes "Somewhere Within the Shadows," a classic hardboiled murder mystery; "Winter Nation," which pits Blacksad against a sinister KKK-like organization; and the new "Red Soul," a '50s Red Scare-era tale of murder and paranoia.
Megan Kelso's Artichoke Tales (Fantagraphics) is a coming-of-age story about a young woman whose family is torn apart by a civil war. Readers may remember Kelso for her 2007 serialized story "Watergate Sue," which appeared in the Sunday New York Times magazine. Her new graphic novel is earning comparisons with epics like Cold Mountain and The Thorn Birds, and Kelso's nimble, cartoonish two-color art will remind readers of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis.--Michael Bagnulo


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