Shelf Awareness for Thursday, February 2, 2017


Penguin Press: Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Graphix: Dog Man and Cat Kid (Dog Man #4) by Dav Pilkey

Ecco Press: Varina by Charles Frazier

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick and Marc Rosenthal

News

Wi12: Indies Forward Shares Steps for Taking Action

In an early-morning meeting on Monday at Winter Institute 2017--organized over the weekend by members of Indies Forward--about 50 booksellers gathered to brainstorm and share first steps for taking political action. Among the discussion leaders were Hannah Oliver Depp of WORD Bookstores in Jersey City, N.J., and Brooklyn, N.Y.; Lacy Simons, owner of hello hello books in Rockland, Maine; Angela Maria Spring, formerly of Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C.; and Anna Thorn, general manager at Upshur Street Books in Washington, D.C.

The group included store owners, managers, frontline booksellers, buyers and more from stores all around the country--some in large, liberal cities, others in predominantly conservative rural areas and others still from more mixed parts of the nation. Varying too was the degree to which particular booksellers had "owner buy-in" for taking a political stance and to what extent they might face significant pushback or financial repercussions from members of their community. After a short introduction, the booksellers broke into groups of eight or nine to introduce themselves and discuss ideas before reconvening at the end of the meeting to share their ideas with the larger group.

One of the most-emphasized points was the need for bookstore staffs to meet after Winter Institute and together decide what they stand for and what actions work best for their store and their community. It was also emphasized that owners and managers need to look out for the comfort of their staff and customers.

"Make sure that you are sitting down with your staff," advised Anna Thorn. "Make sure they want to do it. The way that we put it was to do this exact same thing at your store with your staff."

Books Are Borderless: at WI, booksellers posted their cards and bookmarks as a pledge.

A suggestion for all booksellers, even for those who might not have a lot of options, was to consider what books are featured in displays or shelved face-out, with an eye toward making sure people of color and LGBTQ people are represented. A similar and popular suggestion was to create a focused section or display around current events and social and political issues. Various booksellers mentioned having a "resist" table, a "We the People" table, a Black Lives Matter table, or a "Get Uncomfortable" table; there were also suggestions for political and social justice reading groups.

Lucy Simons recommended leaving Lucy Knisley's elected official calling cards, which can be saved, printed and filled out, as a resource for customers (the related website thesixtyfive.org also provides phone numbers of elected officials and simple scripts to follow when calling representatives about particular issues). Stores could also set up a donation jar for the ACLU or a similar organization, or take donations to buy stamps for postcard and letter-writing campaigns. Simons also suggested that owners or managers create a script for frontline booksellers or cashiers who might have to deal with belligerent or aggressive community members, adding that at her own store, she tells her staff "if someone gives you sh-t, make them come to me." Similarly, Hannah Oliver Depp and Anna Thorn suggested booksellers find out who their local police officers are and have their numbers handy by the cash register in the event of threats, vandalism, violence or more run-of-the-mill things like shoplifting.

For further education and planning, it was recommended that Indies Forward help put booksellers who are in similar areas and who might expect similar reactions and degrees of pushback from their community in touch. There were calls for future education sessions on setting up safe space for customers and staff, and leadership workshops for booksellers interested in taking on larger roles at the regional and national level, and it was also suggested that booksellers work with publishers to help bring activists and other experts to regional and national trade shows.

Toward the end of the meeting, Depp emphasized that every store will have a different "sweet spot" as far as what approaches work best for their staff, customers and broader community. For some, that may involve leaving calling cards or a donation box on the counter while making sure to display books written by queer people and people of color. Others might run social media campaigns, host fundraisers or organize an activist book club and discussion group. Said Depp: "Have that meeting with your staff." --Alex Mutter

Note: the organizers of Indies Forward can be reached at indiesforward@gmail.com.


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Land Beyond by Leon McCarron


Some First Steps

Some booksellers and librarians have already responded to the presidential election in a variety of ways.

Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J., has established the Nasty Women Book Club, whose first meeting is February 22. Its first book pick is Difficult Women by Roxane Gay (Grove), who gave a rousing keynote speech last Saturday at Winter Institute 2017.

The store wrote this about the Nasty Women Book Club: " 'Women are powerful and dangerous,' said Audre Lorde, and with that in mind we'll be picking a book each month that is written by a female author with something to say. This book club is for anyone looking to explore the words of 'nasty women' from across a variety of intersectional perspectives, and will include fiction, nonfiction, poetry and graphic novels. Come join booksellers Monica and Rosa (self-proclaimed nasty women), and let's talk about what matters!"

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Riverrun, Portsmouth, N.H., has created "Sunday Morning Civics," a weekly discussion series "designed to help you engage with government on the local and state level. The group is open to all and will focus on informing citizens about issues, and how to have your voice heard. This event is nonpartisan, and fact based."

The first meeting is this Sunday morning at the store and will feature Terie Norelli, former Speaker of the House of the State of New Hampshire, who will talk about the best ways to communicate effectively with State officials. A q&a will follow.

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"In light of the recent executive order on immigration and in solidarity with Portland's immigrant community," Print: A Bookstore, which opened this past November in Portland, Maine, is donating all profits, up to $3,000, from its sales this Saturday, February 4, to the ACLU.

The store commented: "We, like many others, take moral issue with this executive order. The ACLU of Maine is doing historic work this week and into the future. We're making this donation to show Portland that we stand by their work, and with the immigrant community."

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Just before Inauguration Day, January 20, Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., printed a book containing the farewell speeches delivered by President Obama and Michelle Obama just before his term ended, the Boston Globe reported.

Called Barack Obama & Michelle Obama: Farewell Speeches, the 72-page book was printed on Paige M. Gutenborg, the store's Espresso Book Machine. The material is in the public domain.

Marketing manager Alex Meriwether told the paper that the book was produced by the staff, with the cover designed by the bookstore manager. "It's a fulfilling experience reading it as well as listening to it."

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The Brooklyn (N.Y.) Public Library has begun a discussion group that will focus on 1984 by George Orwell and will meet "every month for 48 months"--in other words, for four years. "Each discussion cycle will be facilitated by a librarian, writer, community member, artist, etc.," the library wrote.

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The Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Mass., put up a window display this week highlighting books by authors from the seven countries from which immigration is now banned. Co-owner Dana Brigham told the Boston Globe that while the store tries not to "pick sides" but staff felt compelled to speak out.

"We haven't done it much in our 56-year history, but this seems like an important freedom of speech issue," she said. "We strongly believe in giving a space to all voices. With this ban, that's not what's happening. These voices aren't being heard; they're being censored."

Many of the books deal with immigration and oppression, she said, adding, "Books let you put yourself into someone else's shoes. They let you get a sense of who [other people] are. I think more people should try experiencing what others have." The full list of titles is here.

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Barbara Peters of the Poisoned Pen, Scottsdale, Ariz., took the long view, writing in a store e-mail on Sunday, in part: "I've avoided intruding politics into the Enews but I can say that April Smith's remarkable book [Home Sweet Home, Knopf], which I hugely admire and also found thrilling to read (there's a butchered family in it but this is not a crime novel), comes at a moment when a look back at similar tumultuous times ruled by anxiety and fear, a drive towards isolationism and protectionism, captured the swing of the American political pendulum.

"Robert La Follette in the 1920s, Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s (both from Wisconsin). Neither of these movements ended well. As an historian, I can't help but draw parallels to now.

"I hope I live long enough to see what history writes about where we are. It's unnerving that the war that defined my college days has become history but it's fascinating to see revealed and analyzed facets of the Vietnam conflict the public did not know.

"When you're living in it, you can't learn enough or have enough perspective on which to base decisions. Or to judge. World War II had so many facets books are still exploring and revealing them. If I make it into my 90s, so too will this era have become history and be evaluated with less emotion and in light of how it turned out.

"I am not anti-Republican, there are goals with which I agree like investing in our own infrastructure. But I am firmly anti-extremism and against building fences both actual and virtual. And fear as a driver doesn't work well or live well as those of you old enough to remember the inchoate anxiety of the Cold War will remember.

"My late Mother, a staunch middle-America conservative, nevertheless was wont to quote "Pogo," her favorite comic strip: 'I have met the enemy, and they are us.' "


Trinity University Press: Arte Kids - Bilingual Board Books


Wi12: Budgeting for Cash Flow in Smaller Stores

"Communication" was the word that kept resurfacing at the ABA Winter Institute panel "Finance for Small Stores: Budgeting for Cash Flow," which was moderated by Jamie Fiocco of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, N.C., and featured Janet Geddis of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga., and Kate Schlademan of the Learned Owl Bookshop in Hudson, Ohio.

Geddis stressed the importance of communicating with reps: "Just maintaining an open relationship has led to our getting longer dating terms. I've had a lot of success," she said. "I ask for a lot of things, but in a nice way.... I think continually emphasizing to your sales rep and credit rep that your needs as a small store, especially a newer store, are very different than what they might traditionally be used to working with. If you have a local bank or even a regional bank, it is worth every minute of your time to try to establish relationships with them."

Geddis, Schlademan and Fiocco

Fiocco agreed: "Treat your credit reps as well as you treat your sales reps because communication is key and I do agree that having an established relationship with one or two banks in town is really helpful, even to the point of not using the night drop but walking in every day. They see your face."

One of Schlademan's staff members works 20-25 hours a week as the store's bookkeeper, with the remaining time spent on the sales floor. "I'm not a numbers person, and one of the best things I did was realize that right at the start," she said. "I believe that the cash I put into her salary and her time is some of the best money that I spend because it frees me up to do other things that need to be done.... And I think that has been the most beneficial thing to manage my cash flow."

While Geddis doesn't have a bookkeeper, she does have an accountant who "loves Avid Bookshop, and she's really involved with the store, so she gets it.... I like to be the one who understands all the finances, though I do teach my staff all about cash flow and to see all the expenses we have."

The panelists were unanimous in their recommendation of the ABA's ABACUS Survey, with Fiocco calling it her "number one budgeting tool." Geddis said that when she began consulting it, "I learned that our rent is lower than most people, but our payroll is really high, so I had to look at that. And I also saw that we sold far fewer sidelines than did stores that were in our sales range." She added a part-time sidelines staffer who is "worth her weight in gold.... It's worth taking some calculated risks, and if you can use that ABACUS data and figure out where your holes are, there are tremendous opportunities there."

The most important strategy when it comes to budgeting for smaller stores? "Doing what works best for you," said Schlademan. --Robert Gray


Thomas Nelson: Perennials by Julie Cantrell


Bookstore1Sarasota in Florida Moving to Larger Space

Bookstore1Sarasota's new home.

Bookstore1Sarasota, Sarasota, Fla., is moving later this month into the historic Orange Blossom Building, at the corner of Main and Palm.

"We have needed more space for a long time now," owner Georgia Court said. "That's really clear when we hold author events in the store." The new space, the former gallery of the Orange Blossom Building, is about 50% larger than the store's current space, and will allow Bookstore1Sarasota to have an area set aside for book club meetings. "It will be such a luxury for us not to have to move furniture each time we hold a club meeting or an author signing," Court added.

The store will be closed from February 14 until either February 22 or 23 while the move is taking place.

Bookstore1Sarasota's new address is 12 South Palm Ave., Sarasota, Fla. 34236.


Quirk Books: My Lady's Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris


Lambda Literary Launches Lambda LitFest Los Angeles

Lambda Literary has created Lambda LitFest Los Angeles, which will be held March 6-12 and feature readings, workshops, pop-up events, entertainment and discussions about LGBTQ literature and publishing. Events will take place at more than a dozen sites across Los Angeles County.

LitFest's highlight will be its final weekend, with panel discussions all day on Saturday, March 11, at the Barnsdall Gallery Theater in Hollywood, concluding with UnCabaret, an evening of queer comedy, followed on Sunday, March 12, by pop-up events across Los Angeles and a closing party at Akbar in Silver Lake.

Executive director Tony Valenzuela said, "Lambda LitFest not only showcases the incredible literary talent of queer L.A. and California, it does so at a time when it's critically important for LGBTQ readers and writers to come together to build stronger literary and publishing communities to face the uncertainty that lies ahead. Freedom of expression, queer rights and social justice persevere when we create spaces for the free flow of ideas and then organize to demand the change we need."


Obituary Note: Buchi Emecheta

Buchi Emecheta, "the pioneering Nigerian author whose 20 novels mined her experience as a black single mother in Britain to produce work that inspired a generation of black British writers," died January 25, the Guardian reported. She was 72. Emecheta, whose work included adult and children's fiction, as well as plays, was on the inaugural Granta Best of Young British Novelists list in 1983 and was made an OBE for services to literature in 2005.

Author Aminatta Forna described Emecheta as one of Wole Soyinka's "so-called 'Renaissance generation,' those Africans who came of age at the same time as their countries. She and other writers all over the continent had both the challenge and the joy that comes with being first, of writing Africa and Africans into literary existence. They embraced the task."

Emecheta's books include The Joys of Motherhood, The New Tribe, Second Class Citizen, The Slave Girl, The Bride Price and Head Above Water. She adapted her first play, A Kind of Marriage (1976), into a novel 10 years later.


Notes

Personnel Changes at the Frankfurt Book Fair

Kathrin Grün has been named head of PR and communications for the Frankfurt Book Fair. Before joining the book fair in 2009, she worked for a number of publishing houses, including Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Carl Hanser Verlag, White Star Verlag and Beltz & Gelberg. She also was assistant to the editor-in-chief of the German book trade magazine Börsenblatt für den Deutschen Buchhandel and was press officer for the Deutsches Filmmuseum and Deutsches Filminstitut in Frankfurt.


Cool Idea of the Day: 'Soup-er Bowl Sale'

"We're be celebrating the Patriots competing in Super Bowl 51 with a Soup-er Bowl sale," Hugo Bookstores in Massachusetts announced in an e-mail to customers. From Wednesday until Sunday this week, patrons are receiving 15% off their total purchase if they bring in a canned good or other nonperishable food item to the Spirit of '76 Bookstore in Marblehead, the Andover Bookstore, the Book Rack in Newburyport or Cabot Street Books & Cards in Beverly.

Donations will be passed on to "some great local organizations," including the Marblehead Food Pantry, St. Martha's Food Pantry, Beverly Bootstraps and Community Service of Newburyport.

And one last pre-game tip: "Also, keep in mind we're closing up early on Superbowl Sunday 3 p.m. so that sporty booksellers can watch the game too. We'll open back up at our regular time Monday morning, and if the Patriots won the game, all purchases will get 30% off!"


Media and Movies

Movies: The Black Hand

Leonardo DiCaprio will produce and star as Joseph Petrosino in the film adaptation of Stephan Talty's upcoming book, The Black Hand: The Epic War Between a Brilliant Detective and the Deadliest Secret Society in American History, which will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt April 25, Deadline reported. The film will be produced by Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Jeremy Bell and Jennifer Davisson of the Gotham Group and by Nathaniel Posey on behalf of DiCaprio's Appian Way production company. Ashley Brucks and Gabby Canton are the Paramount executives who will oversee the project.


This Weekend on Book TV: Rancho Mirage Writers Festival

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, February 4
1:30 p.m. Coverage from the 2017 Rancho Mirage Writers Festival in Rancho Mirage, Calif. (Re-airs Sunday at 12 a.m.). Highlights include:

  • Dr. David Agus, author of The Lucky Years: How to Thrive in the Brave New World of Health (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781476712109), at 1:30.
  • Senator Barbara Boxer, author of The Art of Tough: Fearlessly Facing Politics and Life (Hachette, $27, 9780316311465), at 2:20.
  • Carl Hiaasen and Dave Barry on a panel about life and politics in Florida at 4.
  • A panel on the environment with Douglas Brinkley, author of Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America (Harper, $35, 9780062089236), Edward Humes, author of Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair with Trash (Avery, $16, 9781583335239), and Theodore Roosevelt IV at 4:45.
  • Lawrence Wright, author of Thirteen Days in September: The Dramatic Story of the Struggle for Peace (Vintage, $16, 9780804170024) at 5:40.

8:45 p.m. Matt Taibbi, author of Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus (Spiegel & Grau, $26, 9780399592461). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 a.m.)

10 p.m. Hugh Hewitt, author of The Fourth Way: The Conservative Playbook for a Lasting GOP Majority (Simon & Schuster, $24.99, 9781501172441). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Jameel Jaffer, author of The Drone Memos: Targeted Killing, Secrecy, and the Law (New Press, $27.95, 9781620972595). (Re-airs Sunday at 8:15 p.m.)

Sunday, February 5
7 a.m. Kay Hymowitz, author of The New Brooklyn: What It Takes to Bring a City Back (Rowman & Littlefield, $27, 9781442266575). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

12 p.m. Live In-Depth q&a with Nick Adams, author of Green Card Warrior: My Quest for Legal Immigration in an Illegals' System (Post Hill Press, $12.99, 9781682613054).

11 p.m. Michael Tomasky, author of Bill Clinton: The American Presidents Series (Times Books, $25, 9781627796767), at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C.



Books & Authors

Awards: Costa; B&N Discover Great New Writers

Sebastian Barry became the first novelist to win the £30,000 (about $38,020) Costa Book of the Year award twice when he picked up this year's prize for Days Without End, eight years after his first win for The Secret Scripture. Chair of the judges Kate Williams said: "We all loved this magnificent, searing, thrilling book--brutal, terrifying yet with moments of light and beauty.  Brilliant writing that takes you to the depths and the heights of humanity, and a voice you simply can't forget." Jess Kidd won the £3,500 (about $4,435) Costa Short Story Award for "Dirty Little Fishes." 

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Barnes & Noble has announced the six finalists for the 2016 Discover Great New Writers Awards. Winners in each category will receive a $30,000 prize and a full year of promotion from B&N. Runner-up authors get $15,000, and third-place $7,500. Winners will be announced March 1 in New York City. The finalists are:

Fiction
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Knopf)
The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni (Counterpoint)
Shelter by Jung Yun (Picador)

Nonfiction
Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America by Patrick Phillips (Norton)
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (Crown)
Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (Knopf)


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new hardcovers appearing next Tuesday, February 7:

My Not So Perfect Life: A Novel by Sophie Kinsella (Dial Press, $28, 9780812998269) follows a young woman struggling with work and her dreams in London.

Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast by Megan Marshall (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9780544617308) is a biography of the American poet.

Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street by Sheelah Kolhatkar (Random House, $28, 9780812995800) looks at the insider trading case against hedge fund manager Steven Cohen.

It Takes a School: The Extraordinary Story of an American School in the World's #1 Failed State by Jonathan Starr (Holt, $27, 9781250113467) explores a school in Somalia founded by an American hedge fund manager.

The Ruler's Guide: China's Greatest Emperor and His Timeless Secrets of Success by Chinghua Tang (Scribner, $22, 9781501138775) is a translation of wisdom from Chinese emperor Tang Taizong (598-649 A.D.).

Dean Smith: A Basketball Life by Jeff Davis (Rodale, $25.99, 9781623363604) is the biography of the college basketball coach.

The Turn: The Hollows Begins with Death by Kim Harrison (Gallery, $26.99, 9781501108716) is a prequel to the supernatural suspense Hallows series.

Under the Knife: A Novel by Kelly Parsons (St. Martin's Press, $26.99, 9781250033338) is a medical thriller about a biotechnology tycoon seeking revenge for his wife's death.

The Impossible Fortress: A Novel by Jason Rekulak (Simon & Schuster, $24, 9781501144417) is a coming-of-age tale about a nerdy kid in the 1980s.

The Castle in the Mist by Amy Ephron (Philomel, $16.99, 9780399546983)--the first children's book by the author of A Cup of Tea--is about a magical castle in the English countryside.

Tony by Ed Galing, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, $16.99, 9781626723085) is a gentle poem about a horse that pulls a milk truck, illustrated by a Caldecott-winning artist

Paperbacks:
Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction by Mackenzie Phillips (Atria/Beyond Words, $16, 9781582705705).

French Twist: A Detective Luc Moncrief Mystery by James Patterson and Richard DiLallo (BookShots, $4.99, 9780316469715).

Malicious: A Mitchum Story by James Patterson and James O. Born (BookShots, $4.99, 9780316503440).

Movies:
Fifty Shades Darker, based on the book by E.L. James, is the sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey. It opens on February 10.

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth: A Novel by Lindsey Lee Johnson (Random House, $27, 9780812997279). "If only we had had the wisdom back in high school to see behind the facades of the kids who intimidated us, fascinated us, irritated us, and disgusted us--and to understand how the ways we collided with each other and with life would play out for us. Johnson's literary superpower is to plunge us into such a school and make us feel it all again as if we are there--only this time with all of the wisdom we lacked previously." --Nina Barrett, Bookends & Beginnings, Evanston, Ill.

Her Every Fear: A Novel by Peter Swanson (Morrow, $26.99, 9780062427021). "Swanson builds tension in Her Every Fear like a chess grandmaster slowly revealing his game. Kate Priddy tries to escape her dark past with a move to Boston, only to discover that she is not the only one trying to hide their secrets, and that many are darker than her own. Moving seamlessly between each character's point of view, Swanson's heart-stopping thriller draws readers into this terrifying and twisted tale of revenge and holds them until the surprising end." --Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif.

Paperback
The Children's Home: A Novel by Charles Lambert (Scribner, $15, 9781501117404). "Tragically disfigured and reclusive, Morgan lives in a secluded country estate with only his housekeeper, Engel, to keep him company--until the children start to arrive. The first, an infant named Moira, is left in a basket on the doorstep; others soon follow--including the oddly precocious David--the eldest at five years old. But what does the children's enigmatic presence portend for Morgan and the world in which he lives? Through lyrical prose, Lambert creates an absorbing and dream-like narrative that recalls both the pastoral gothic of Shirley Jackson and the dystopic vision of John Wyndham." --Dan Doody, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

For Ages 4 to 8
Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell (Feiwel & Friends, $17.99, 9781250076366). "In this beautiful wordless picture book, a child sets out for a walk and discovers a wolf pup separated from its pack. The journey that follows is difficult and shows the power of kindness and bravery. Reminiscent of William Steig's Brave Irene, Cordell's book is a perfect choice for the dark days of winter." --Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass.

For Ages 9 to 12
A Crack in the Sea by H.M. Bouwman (Putnam, $16.99, 9780399545191). "From the beginning, it is easy to become attached to brother and sister Pip and Kinchen, but A Crack in the Sea presents three stories with three sets of siblings who collide in this adventure in the Second World. Kidnappings, pirates, helpful sea monsters, and more than a little magic are all part of this tale, where each pair experiences the special portal between worlds--a crack in the sea." --Molly Olivo, Barstons Child's Play, Washington, D.C.

For Teen Readers
The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid (Simon & Schuster, $17.99, 9781481472678). "Interstellar meets The Hunger Games meets The Terminator in The Diabolic, a fast-paced thrill ride of a novel with twists unlike any other. Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid creature engineered to have one purpose in life: to defend Sidonia, the kind-hearted daughter of a powerful but heretical senator. When the power-crazed emperor calls Sidonia to court to punish her father, Nemesis goes in her place and finds herself in the most worrisome of predicaments--not only is her life (and Sidonia's) in danger, but she is also beginning to exhibit the most terrifying of human conditions--emotions--for which she has never been programmed. An exciting and addictive read!" --Kelly Morton, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Cincinnati, Ohio

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: Ties

Ties by Domenico Starnone, trans. by Jhumpa Lahiri (Europa Editions, $16 paperback, 144p., 9781609453855, March 7, 2017)

Domenico Starnone's Ties is an expertly crafted short novel that is charmingly intimate, disarmingly chatty and laced with some walloping surprises. Its Italian publication so captivated Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri (whose memoir In Other Words documents her study of Italian) that she translated the novel into English, and superbly so!

First Starnone and then his wife, Anita Raja, have been suspected by many to be Elena Ferrante, the pseudonymous author of the Neapolitan Novels. The possible connection makes the domestic mystery of Ties, with its marital betrayals and illicit love, ring in a way that Ferrante fans might expect.

The novel is a meditation on love--what is gained, what is lost and who is affected when it all goes wrong. Part one follows a sequence of furious letters written by Vanda Minori, a 30-something wife abandoned along with her two well-behaved children by her husband, Aldo, who has fallen in love with 19-year-old Lidia and set off on a new, exciting life.

Part two, told by Aldo 40 years later, opens with Aldo and his wife (they're still together!) returning home one night to discover their apartment vandalized and the cat missing. Among the wreckage Aldo finds a swollen yellow envelope containing his wife's letters from four decades ago--the contents of part one. Something else gone missing as well--the secret little packet with naked photos of Lidia that Aldo has never been able to throw away. Part three is unexpected, perfect and best left without comment here.

Starnone's natural theatricality and robust characters, combined with a sneaky, clever plot, make for a delightful novel that is cruelly short. The tumultuous emotional context of a marriage between the passionate Aldo and Vanda draws out the ferocious language that hurting, angry couples throw at each other in fights. Nevertheless, the whole story reeks of love--the frustrated, truncated, too-much and not-quite-enough love that holds families together in life. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.

Shelf Talker: This perfectly crafted short novel about marital infidelity is by an Italian author suspected of being the real Elena Ferrante--or married to her.


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