Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bloom Books: Queen of Myth and Monsters (Adrian X Isolde #2) by Scarlett St. Clair

Bloom Books: Queen of Myth and Monsters (Adrian X Isolde #2) by Scarlett St. Clair

Blue Box Press: A Light in the Flame: A Flesh and Fire Novel by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Irh Press: The Unknown Stigma Trilogy by Ryuho Okawa

Other Press (NY): The Rebel and the Thief by Jan-Philipp Sendker, translated by Imogen Taylor

Holiday House: Welcome to Feral (Frights from Feral) by Mark Fearing

Charlesbridge Publishing: Too-Small Tyson (Storytelling Math) by Janay Brown-Wood, illustrated by Anastasia Williams

Berkley Books: Stone Cold Fox by Rachel Koller Croft


Dike Blair Remembered

More on Robert Dike Blair, founder and longtime owner of the Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, Vt., who died on Saturday. Steve Fischer, executive director of the New England Independent Booksellers Association, remembers:

Dike hired me at the Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury, right out of college. I was hired to work down in the stock room while the regular guy worked through the holidays at a Christmas tree farm--making far more money than he would in a bookstore. Just as my stint was up, someone from the "shop floor" left and Dike asked me if I'd like to stay on. I leapt at the chance. I worked at the Middlebury store for almost two years and then ran the Waitsfield, Vt., branch for five.

The very first note of congratulations that I received upon being named the executive director of NEIBA was an e-mail from Dike. I felt like I'd come back home.

Dike was a gentleman of the first order and a great bookman.

Minotaur Books: A World of Curiosities (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel #18) by Louise Penny


Notes: Retailers Optimistic; Tuesday's Price War Roller Coaster

Chain store retailers will report sales for October and fiscal third quarters tomorrow, but the Wall Street Journal noted encouraging signs as the holiday season approaches. Retail Metrics projected a 1.9% increase in October sales over the same month last year, while Thomson Reuters predicted a 2% increase.

"There's generally momentum in the business," said Leslie Wexner, CEO of Limited Brands Inc., which operates Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works.

"The confidence is just beginning to come back to the business," added Glenn Murphy, Gap's CEO. "We're walking a little taller."


The book trade experienced its own version of "scoreboard watching" yesterday as the retail price for John Grisham's newly released Ford County fluctuated, thanks to price maneuvers by Amazon and Wal-Mart.

"It was a weird day in the book price wars," the Associated Press reported, noting that the price of Grisham's short story collection "moved up and down like stock market shares as rivals and extended, then rescinded, their high discounts for top-selling pre-orders."

While Amazon was offering the book for $9, " was selling Ford County for $12 early Tuesday, then cut the price to the pre-order discount of $8.98," the AP wrote. "By Tuesday afternoon, the cost was back up to $11.99 for both online sellers."'s price was $15.

A blow-by-blow account of the price standoff was also featured in the New York Times, which tracked three Tuesday releases--Grisham's Ford County, Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna and J. D. Robb's Kindred in Death.

As of Tuesday morning, "Amazon still had those titles priced at $9 while Wal-Mart, which had offered them on pre-order at $8.98, and Target, which had offered pre-orders for $8.99, had raised their prices. At, for example, Ford County was selling for $12, while The Lacuna was $13.50. At, The Lacuna was on sale for $18.89 and Kindred in Death was $17. But by late morning, Amazon had raised its prices--The Lacuna and Kindred in Death, for example, were offered for $13.50--while had cut them again. All three novels that went on sale Tuesday were on sale at for $8.99, but by the afternoon, had raised its prices to just one penny lower than the price for the three titles on Amazon."

This morning, Amazon and Target were selling Ford County for $11.99 and Wal-Mart offered the title for $11.98. Lacuna and Kindred in Death were priced in the $13.49 range, give or take a penny.


As the book pricing wars slog on, independent booksellers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn., area discussed the issue with

"It doesn't seem to be in anyone's best interest to be heading toward a future where it may be impossible for writers to earn a living and where it's difficult for publishers to exist," said Martin Schmutterer, assistant manager at Common Good Books, St. Paul.

He also noted that changes in the newspaper and music industries have already shown "there's only so much you can give away at a loss without ultimately destroying the business. These companies are telling consumers that a book should only cost so much, and if it does cost more, it's not worth it. The fact that it costs more to produce that book than they're selling it for is irrelevant to them."

Gary Shulze of Once Upon a Crime bookstore, Minneapolis, observed that loss-leader pricing strategies are "turning books into a commodity and demeaning the value of a book," but he does not plan to change his ordering habits. "Let people buy those bestsellers at the discount stores; we specialize in books people might not see at other stores. If you left it to the marketers, pretty soon only the top 10 books would be available."


In Boulder, Colo., 9NEWS checked in with Arsen Kashkashian, head buyer at the Boulder Book Store, for his take on the price wars.

"It's never really happened like this before," he said, noting that he had planned to buy extra copies of the hyper-discounted titles. "From the publishers, a $35 book is going to cost us $18 or $19. So if Target or Amazon wants to sell it for $9, then maybe I can buy 20, 30, 40 copies for the store, he said. "It would have lowered our cost by $500."

Unfortunately, Amazon, Target and Wal-Mart quickly installed rationing policies to discourage such plans. "I don't think they wanted to be the wholesaler," said Kashkashian. "They're looking to capture that piece of the market. But they're not willing to stand behind the price."


Good news for Mary Alice and Marvin Schaefer, whose Books With a Past bookshop, Glenwood, Md., was set to close last weekend (Shelf Awareness, October 30, 2009). Erin Matthews will assume ownership of the store December 1. Marvin learned Friday afternoon that Matthews' bank loan had been approved, according to

"She has come through and we are all so happy," he said. "We are resuming buying books. We are here and we are going to stay here."


Marjorie Rosen, author of Boom Town: How Wal-Mart Transformed an All-American Town into an International Community (Chicago Review Press), says that event offers from two libraries in northwest Arkansas were "rescinded after library trustees expressed concern over how the book portrays Wal-Mart," the Arkansas Times reported. Rosen's book "features interviews with Bentonville residents who have seen their lives touched by the rise of Sam Walton's mega-corporation."


Who is Terry Linwood? The correct Jeopardy! answer is that he's a supervisor at Half Price Books, Plano, Tex., who recently won $122,705 on the television game show. The Dallas Morning News reported that the five episodes on which Linwood accumulated his winnings were recently aired, though filming took place two months ago. He had to keep the story of his success a secret until now.

Linwood is "ranked Number 17 on the list of victors who've won the most money on Jeopardy!, which has been on the air in its current form since 1984," the Morning News wrote. "He'll probably return later this season to compete with other top competitors on the show's Tournament of Champions."


NPR's website debuted a new feature, "What We're Reading: Staff Picks of Standout Books," promising to offer readers "our book team's shortlist of new fiction and non-fiction releases, along with candid reactions from our reporters, hosts and critics."


The virtual red carpet may not be out for Amazon's Kindle in Norway. "Norway's Consumer Council reckons the Kindle breaches Norwegian law, and will have to change radically before any local launch," the Register reported, adding that the council "has been trawling through Amazon's terms and conditions for the Kindle, and notes that the very language used is probably illegal, as Norwegian law requires such contracts to be clearly written."


Has "chick lit" found a new role model? The Guardian observed that "the latest publishing phenomenon to sweep America, which has just arrived over here, features a new heroine: the young woman who is seriously overweight--and doesn't care."

GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati

Rhyme Meets Reason at was launched yesterday by Sourcebooks, which has published the successful Poetry Speaks book series for nearly a decade. The new website is designed to serve as a social networking venue for poets and poetry lovers, as well as a business and marketing engine for poets and poetry presses.

"We believe that can solve some of the challenges the poets themselves face in getting their work, their message, and themselves in front of readers," said Dominique Raccah, CEO and publisher of Sourcebooks. "We wanted a site that helps connect poetry readers (and potential poetry readers) and poets. And we wanted to begin developing a new business model for poetry."
Three potential sources of revenue are in place, with several others in development. will sell individual poems in different formats (audio, video or text); books, e-books, DVDs and CDs; and tickets to online performances, slams and readings.
The advisory board includes Anne Halsey from the Poetry Foundation; Bruce George, poet and co-founder of Def Poetry Jam; and Robert Pinsky, former Poet Laureate of the U.S.
"This is the beginning of what we hope will be a site where poets can perform, share and sell their poems," said Raccah. "We are incredibly excited, and we invite all poets and poetry publishers to join us."


Barefoot Books: Save 10%

Image of the Day: Vaynerchuk's Vintage Airport Bookstore Tour

Gary Vaynerchuk, wine merchant, Internet phenomenon and author of Crush It (HarperStudio), yesterday completed his whirlwind, two-day airport bookstore tour, going to six airports across the country and signing copies of his book at Hudson bookstores. (Above at the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport.) The "Hudson hustle" tour went off with only one slight hitch: a delay leaving Denver, which cut his time in Los Angeles to a "run through."
On Vaynerchuk's Wine Library, in episode 762, he appears during the tour at a bar in the DFW Airport, where he pairs wines with chicken nuggets. He recommends an Australian chardonnay and an Australian shiraz.

Also, the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy column has an amusing Q&A with Vaynerchuk about the tour.

Ginger Fox: Free Freight and a Free Book Lovers Mug

Media and Movies

Media Heat: My Paper Chase

Today on Fresh Air: David Plouffe, author of The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory (Viking, $27.95, 9780670021338/0670021334).


Tomorrow on Good Morning America: Harold Evans, author of My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times (Little, Brown, $27.99, 9780316031424/0316031429).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Barbara Smith, author of B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style (Scribner, $35, 9781416553540/1416553541).


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Nicholson Baker, author of The Anthologist (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781416572442/1416572449). As the show put it: "The polymath Nicholson Baker has been able to create a version of himself in the figure of Paul Chowder, an accomplished poet. Chowder likes poetry that rhymes and follows a regular metric--enough of all that free verse (they're 'plums,' not poems). Baker declares his affiliation with Chowder--and even sings."


Tomorrow on Fox News' Strategy Room: Simon Cox, author of Decoding The Lost Symbol: The Unauthorized Expert Guide to the Facts Behind the Fiction (Touchstone, $14.99, 9780743287272/0743287274).


Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Lee Eisenberg, author of Shoptimism: Why the American Consumer Will Keep on Buying No Matter What (Free Press, $26, 9780743296250/0743296257).

Also on Tavis Smiley: Susie Essman, author of What Would Susie Say?: Bullsh*t Wisdom About Love, Life and Comedy (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781439150177/1439150176).


Tomorrow on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Reports: Kati Marton, author of Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781416586128/1416586121).


Tomorrow on the Bonnie Hunt Show: Jodie Sweetin, author of Unsweetined (Simon Spotlight, $25.99, 9781439152683/1439152683).


Movies: The Guardians; The Descendants

The Guardians, a film version of an upcoming children's series by William Joyce, will be adapted by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire for DreamWorks Animation. Peter Ramey is directing the movie, which is scheduled for a November 2, 2012, release.

Variety described the eponymous characters as "a group of iconic figures sworn to protect children from the forces of evil. Their ranks include Santa Claus, Jack Frost, the Easter Bunny and the Man in the Moon. The books, a mix of text and illustrations, will be published in 2011 under the title The Guardians of Childhood. Each book focuses on one of the Guardians."


George Clooney is "circling the lead" for a screen adaptation of The Descendants, a debut novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Clooney would star as "a wealthy landowner who takes his two daughters on a search for his wife's lover in the hopes of keeping his family together," according to Variety. Filming is set to begin in Hawaii next February.


Books & Authors

Awards: Impac Award Longlist

This year's €100,000 (US$146,515 ) International Impac Dublin Literary Award longlist includes "novels by four Irish writers, a huge range of works in translation, and a strong U.S. representation," according to the Irish Times, which observed that "the nomination of two major Chinese writers--Jiang Rong for his stark, autobiographical Wolf Totem, which laments the death of an ancient culture; and Ma Jian, for Beijing Coma--testifies to the importance of this year’s longlist."

The Times also noted that the Impac can have a significant influence "by showcasing the best of international fiction in translation. The readers of the world’s participating libraries have presented the judges with a magnificent list of world-class contenders."

Dublin City Council will announce the shortlist April 14, 2010, and the winner will be named June 17, 2010.


Attainment: New Books Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Monday and Tuesday, November 9 and 10:

Under the Dome: A Novel by Stephen King (Scribner, $35, 9781439148501/1439148503) is set in a small Maine town enfolded in a mysterious force field.

Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi (Knopf, $28.95, 9780307268198/0307268195) chronicles the life and career of the tennis champion.

Last Words: A Memoir by George Carlin and Tony Hendra (Free Press, $26.99, 9781439172957/1439172951) covers 50 years of international comedy superstardom.

Wishin' and Hopin': A Christmas Story by Wally Lamb (Harper, $19.99, 9780061941009/006194100X) takes place during a 10-year-old's Christmas in 1964.

Ice: A Novel by Linda Howard (Ballantine, $22, 9780345517197/0345517199) follows a couple struggling to survive a blizzard and a murderer.


Children's Review: Raiders' Ransom

Raiders' Ransom by Emily Diamand (Chicken House/Scholastic, $17.99, 9780545142977/0545142970, 352 pp., ages 8-12, December 2009)

In this debut novel, winner of the inaugural London Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition, Emily Diamand creates two credible and sympathetic protagonists who tangle in a pageturning adventure. Lilly Melkun, 13, lives with her Granny in a small seaside village where nearly everyone makes his or her living from the sea. Granny does not want Lilly to sail on a large fishing ship because Gramps and Lilly's parents all were lost at sea. Even so, the town's gray seacat "chose" Lilly as its master, and the animal is a valuable asset in a fish-mongering town. Early on in the story, Lilly and Cat go out to do some fishing in her small sailboat, and when they return, the town and its ships have been destroyed by raiders--and they've killed Granny. Moreover, they've kidnapped the Prime Minister's young daughter, Alexandra (aka "Lexy"), who'd been living in the town with the Prime Minister's sister. Lilly, intent on getting Alexandra back and freeing her fellow villagers, who were conscripted by the Prime Minister in payment for Alexandra's kidnapping, disguises herself as a boy and sets out in her little boat with the town's one valuable to try and set things right. That valuable, however, turns out to be of far greater worth than Lilly ever imagined. It is a remnant from the computer age before the "Collapse," during which all computers were destroyed and global warming wreaked havoc on civilization.

Lilly's journey places her in the path of the heir to the strongest of the raider families, and leads them to places and situations neither ever imagined. To Diamand's credit, Zephaniah of the Angel Isling Family is as independent-minded and compelling as Lilly. The author, rather than focusing on moral lessons on how civilization reached this point, instead deals with young people who are left with a legacy of the ravages of the generations before them. Will Lilly, Zeph and Lexy carry the same grudges that brought society to this point? Or will they work together to try and create a better world? Diamand plants enough subplots to fuel future books, but brings this first episode to a satisfying close. (In one of the novel's clever twists, the author places an antique relics-dealer at 10 Downing Street.) Filled with irony and buoyed by the hopes of its young protagonists, this swashbuckling tale will please a wide range of readers and lure them back for more.--Jennifer M. Brown


The Bestsellers

Top Sellers in Chicagoland Last Week

The following were the bestselling titles at independent bookstores in and around Chicago during the week ended Sunday, November 1:

Hardcover Fiction

1. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

2. Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

3. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

4. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

5. The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt 


Hardcover Nonfiction 


1. SuperFreakonomics by Steven Leavitt and Stephen Dubner

2. What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell

3. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

4. The Clinton Tapes by Taylor Branch

5. Drinking with George by George Wendt

Paperback Fiction

1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

2. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

5. Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg Paperback


1. Chicago Haunts by Ursula Bielski

2. The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

3. Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis

4. The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman

5. Freakonomics by Steven Leavitt and Stephen Dubner

Children's 1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid #4: Dog Days by Jeff Kinney

2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

3. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

4. Peter and the Sword of Mercy by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson

5. Julie Andrew's Collection by Julie Andrews

Reporting bookstores: Anderson's, Naperville and Downers Grove; Read Between the Lynes, Woodstock; the Book Table, Oak Park; the Book Cellar, Lincoln Square; Lake Forest Books, Lake Forest; the Bookstall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka; and 57th St. Books; Seminary Co-op; Women and Children First, Chicago.

[Many thanks to the booksellers and Carl Lennertz!]


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