Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 16, 2012

Chronicle Books: Stella & Marigold by Annie Barrows, Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Poisoned Pen Press: The Boyfriend by Frieda McFadden

St. Martin's Press: Disney High: The Untold Story of the Rise and Fall of Disney Channel's Tween Empire

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Graphix: 39 Clues: One False Note (39 Clues Graphic Novel #2) by Gordon Korman, Illustrated by Hannah Templer


Show Speakers: BEA Author Breakfasts; Heartland Fall Forum

Stephen Colbert, Barbara Kingsolver, Chris Colfer and Michael Chabon are among the featured speakers at book and author breakfasts during this year's BookExpo America, which will be held June 5-7 at the Javits Center in New York City.

Tuesday's author breakfast will feature Junot Diaz, Barbara Kingsolver and Jo Nesbo, with Stephen Colbert as emcee.

At the children's book and author breakfast on Wednesday, Chris Colfer will be the master of ceremonies and the speakers will be John Green, Lois Lowry and Kadir Nelson.

On Thursday, the breakfast speakers will be Michael Chabon, Zadie Smith and J.R. Moehringer. Kirstie Alley will be the emcee.

And at the Heartland Fall Forum next October, Garrison Keillor will be the first speaker and help launch the inaugural trade show and conference in Minneapolis, hosted by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association. In addition to his work as an author and on A Prairie Home Companion, Keillor is the proprietor of Common Good Books, St. Paul.

"I couldn't imagine a more appropriate person to help us celebrate independent bookselling in the Midwest," said MIBA executive director Carrie Obry.

Peachtree: The Littlest Yak: Home Is Where the Herd Is by Lu Fraser, Illustrated by Kate Hindley

Sterling Changes: Leaver Leaving; Thompson Promoted

Effective next month, Marcus Leaver is leaving Sterling Publishing, where he is president, to return to London to join the Quarto Group as COO, a newly created position. At the same time, Theresea Thompson has been promoted to executive v-p at B&N and will be overseeing Sterling.

Sterling owner Barnes & Noble recently took the publishing company off the market after a lack of buyer interest. The departure is the latest in a string. Publishing Trends noted that Sterling has also lost editorial director Jason Prince; executive editor Nathaniel Marunas; editors Greg Oviatt and Stuart Miller; v-p, operations, Kim Brown; and v-p, sales, Karen Patterson.

Amazon: N.J. Assembly's Tax Break; Ariz. House Revises Bill

By a 70-7 margin (with two abstentions), the New Jersey Assembly approved an estimated $40 million in sales tax breaks for Amazon yesterday, Bloomberg Businessweek reported, adding that "a lawmaker is working on a similar deal in the Senate." Under the legislation, New Jersey would suspend sales tax collections through June 30, 2013, with the understanding that Amazon make a capital investment of at least $130 million and hire no fewer than 1,500 full-time workers.

The Senate has not taken up the measure yet, but Sen. Ray Lesniak (D.) cautioned: "There's not a meeting of the minds right now between Amazon and both houses." He is trying to broker an agreement between Senate members and Amazon officials. Gov. Chris Christie has said he won't express an opinion on the bill until it comes to his desk.


Despite claims it would be a "nearly impossible task" to revive the Amazon online sales tax proposal defeated twice during the past week in Arizona Senate, a House committee still tried to breathe life into the effort on Wednesday. The East Valley Tribune reported that a House panel approved legislation designed to convince Gov. Jan Brewer "to negotiate the same kind of tax-collection deal with that her counterparts elsewhere have obtained."

While SB 1170 is similar to the Senate proposal, it also "includes a sweetener designed to blunt the company's opposition," the Tribune wrote, adding that it would not kick in until 2013 and "would absolve any affected retailer of any financial obligation that might have been incurred prior to that date. That would effectively wipe out a $53 million assessment the state Department of Revenue issued earlier this year against for unpaid taxes from March 1, 2006, through the end of 2010."

"At the end of the day, I think the executive needs to be involved," said Rep. J.D. Mesnard. "Really, what this bill is what has happened in other states.... I suspect Amazon would entertain this (in Arizona) if they had some greater assurance from the executive."

Matthew Benson, Gov. Brewer's press aide, expressed skepticism about her participation: "It is not her proposal. And it is not something we are working on right now."

Labor Issues at the Strand

Employees of the Strand Bookstore, New York, N.Y., have accused the bookstore of "transforming their workplace into the kind of corporate-style environment they think the Strand should stand against," WNET-13's MetroFocus reported.

A labor contract expired last September for the 150 employees who are members of the United Auto Workers Union, and there are indications that "if the Strand's owners won't move forward with negotiations, they intend to escalate the pressure, and said that a strike is always a possibility," MetroFocus wrote.

Union members complained that the Strand has been hiring some former Borders managers rather than promoting from within, and that a proposed two-tier wage system would offer smaller raises and fewer benefits to anyone who began working at the company after last September.

But Eddie Sutton, the Strand's general manager, countered: "Since 1976, we've worked with the union transparently and in good faith and we continue to do so. We live in a very challenging economy and for bookstores large and small the challenges are even greater with significant shifts to E-readers and the Internet. We've managed to keep all of our staff fully employed against this uncertain backdrop and have never laid a single person off in the process. We are proud of all of our booksellers in all departments who continue to provide our customers with a truly positive and singular New York experience seven days a week."

"Pin It": Indie Booksellers and Pinterest Marketing

Many independent booksellers who are adding Pinterest to their social media efforts find "it has been easy and fun to use and better than Twitter for connecting with customers," Bookselling This Week reported, citing as examples "Bookstore and Bookshelf Porn" from Aaron's Books, Lititz, Pa., and "Bookstores We Love" from Village Books, Bellingham, Wash.

"I feel that everyone, especially readers and booksellers, should see this as more of a visual 'word-of-mouth' way of putting information out there," said Linda Parks of Fireside Books and Gifts, Forest City, N.C. "Unlike Facebook, Pinterest allows its users to search by category the things they best love or are curious about. Even though it feels very personal when you are putting together 'your' boards--it's really not about you. It's about the projects, places, people, and things you want to share with others. It's a great way to cross-promote."

Jill Hendrix, owner of Fiction Addiction, Greenville, S.C., noted that "even in the short two weeks we've been on Pinterest, I seem to be reaching more of my local customers through it than I do through Twitter."

Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance executive director Wanda Jewell observed: "I think it has great potential but, as with all social networking, the key is to grow your audience. My advice is get in early and carve out a niche." SIBA's board includes "Cool Stuff Bookstores Do Besides Sell Books" and "Lady Banks' Trailer Park."

Patty Miller of the Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, Colo., praised the user-friendliness of Pinterest. "Anyone can figure it out in minutes, because it's so easy," she said. "I keep the pin-it button in our bookmarks bar. It only takes seconds to share something by clicking on that button, so it's really not time-consuming to keep up with it. We're having lots of fun looking at the boards of other book people, too."


Image of the Day: Chronicle Celebrates Girl Scouts

In celebration of the centennial this week of the founding of the Girl Scouts of America, Chronicle Books invited Girl Scout Troop #62076 to visit its office in San Francisco. The scouts snacked on cupcakes and Girl Scout Cookies, saw pictures of Chronicle Books staffers as girl scouts, learned how Chronicle developed its line of licensed Girl Scout journals and stationery and were treated to a visit and booksigning with Annie Barrows, author of the Ivy and Bean series. Here Barrows poses with happy scouts!

Writer as Bookseller as Bestseller

Author Eowyn Ivey works at Fireside Books, Palmer, Alaska, where her novel, The Snow Child (Reagan Arthur Books), has sold more than 900 copies. The bookstore is currently running a Facebook promotion in which the customer who purchases the 1,000th copy will receive "a $30 gift certificate and--with your permission, of course--we'll post your picture on our website and in other publicity materials!"

Yesterday, Fireside noted that The Snow Child is also #1 on the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association's bestseller list.

Cool Idea of the Day: Author in Window Display

British author Isabel Losa "has set up camp" in a display window of the W.H. Smith bookstore on the Rue de Rivioli in Paris to publicize a new French edition of The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment, AFP reported.

Losada is working a 9-7 shift in the window to draw attention to her book, which "chronicles her pursuit of well-being and enlightenment by passing from seminar to convent to tantric sex to a 'rebirth,' " AFP wrote. 

photo: AFP, Jacques Demarthon

Pennie Picks The Lantern

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson (Harper, $17.99, 9780062192974) as her pick of the month for March. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"A few years ago a friend of mine moved into a brand-new condo. She told me it meant she didn't have to worry about ghosts. I couldn't help but recall that conversation--which seemed silly at the time--when I read The Lantern, a gothic novel.

"When Eve falls for the mysterious Dom, their whirlwind courtship leads them to an abandoned house in the South of France. Each summer day is pure perfection, but as the season changes, the temperature and Dom's passion cool. As Eve sets out to uncover Dom's secrets a second story unfolds, concerning the house's history and the tragic events that took place within its walls.

"If you don't know the history of your current home, I imagine this book will inspire you to find out."

Amanda Fessler Leaving PubWest

Effective April 30, Amanda Fessler is leaving PubWest, where she has been for almost six years, first as administrative assistant, then as assistant director. She is becoming a publishing consultant with Johnson & Hunter, part of Crown King Books, and continues as co-owner of American Traveler Press. PubWest is looking for an administrative assistant, a part-time position.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: R.J. Smith on NPR's All Things Considered

Tonight on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Dylan Ratigan, author of Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781451642223).


Tomorrow morning on Fox & Friends: Kate Stone Lombardi, author of The Mama's Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger (Avery, $26, 9781583334577).


Tomorrow on NPR's All Things Considered: R.J. Smith, author of The One: The Life and Music of James Brown (Gotham, $27.50, 9781592406579).


Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Liza Mundy, author of The Richer Sex: How the New Majority of Female Breadwinners Is Transforming Sex, Love and Family (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781439197714).


Movie Projects: The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, who have teamed up for several films (Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, Shutter Island), will do so again to make The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the Jordan Belfort memoir. reported that Scorsese and DiCaprio "were in the mix for several big feature projects, but they always wanted to make this film together and finally felt the time was right." The script is by Terence Winter, the executive producer of The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire.

Books & Authors

Awards: Woman Wins Man Asian; NYPL Young Lions Shortlist

Kyung-sook Shin became the first woman to win the $30,000 Man Asian Literary Prize for her novel Please Look After Mom. Her translator, Chi-Young Kim, received $5,000.

"Please Look After Mom is an incredibly moving portrait of what it means to be a mother, but also of the tradition and modernity of the family in South Korea," said chair of judges Razia Iqbal. "The novel is a sensitive exploration of the inner life of the family with a very dynamic narrative structure. The story is surprising in its complexity yet has a beating heart at the center of it."


The New York Public Library has announced the finalists for the $10,000 Young Lions Fiction Award, which honors an American writer age 35 or younger for either a novel or collection of short stories. The winner will be named May 14. This year's shortlisted books are:  

Open City by Teju Cole (Random House)
The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale (Twelve/Hachette)
Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner (Coffee House Press)
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Knopf)
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury)

Book Brahmin: Aimee Phan

A 2010 National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellow, Aimee Phan received her MFA from the University of Iowa. Her first story collection, We Should Never Meet, received the Association for Asian American Studies Book Award in Prose, was named a Notable Book by the Kiryama Prize in fiction and was a finalist for the Asian American Literary Awards. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, USA Today and the Oregonian. She grew up in Orange County, Calif., and now teaches in the MFA program at California College of the Arts. Phan's first novel, The Reeducation of Cherry Truong, was published by St. Martin's Press on March 13, 2012.

On your nightstand now:

Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and Jeffrey Eugenides's The Marriage Plot.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Judy Blume's Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself and Just As Long As We're Together and Beverly Cleary's Ramona series.

Your top five authors:

Jessica Hagedorn, Gish Jen, Kazuo Ishiguro, Sherman Alexie and Junot Diaz.

Book you've faked reading:

Philip Roth. (I did not fake it very well. I just vaguely nodded at these acquaintances at the dinner party. Later, I was told they assumed I hated Roth, which I don't.)

Book you're an evangelist for:

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I found a 1952 edition of Steinbeck's East of Eden at a used bookstore that I bought for its salacious cover. It had this seductive temptress leaning against a barren tree, and I can only assume the woman was supposed to be Cathy. But it was one of my favorite books before that. So different from what the cover was trying to suggest was inside.

Book that changed your life:

Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. This book arrived at a pivotal point in my life in high school. She made me realize that as an Asian American woman, I could write, and that our stories were worth telling.

Favorite line from a book:

"Indeed--why should I not admit it?--in that moment, my heart was breaking." --from Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day. It's all the careful, precise writing the author did beforehand to earn that wonderful line.

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

The Hunger Games trilogy. I devoured those books in a single weekend.

Favorite book as a parent to read to my child:

Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut by Margaret Atwood. I think it's out of print because my colleague had to go searching for a used copy to give to me at my baby shower. It is a fantastic story and so cleverly, hilariously told. My three-year-old daughter has it memorized. Who knew Atwood could thrill at every age level?!


Book Review

Review: Divorce Islamic Style

Divorce Islamic Style by Amara Lakhous, trans. by Ann Goldstein (Europa Editions, $15 paperback, 9781609450663, March 27, 2012)

Amara Lakhous, the author of the delightfully original Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio, has written another Roman comedy, Divorce Islamic Style, with a similar cast of immigrant characters in a neighborhood of "the Italy of the future," crowded with illegal Africans and Arabs.

Christian Mazzari, a young Sicilian who speaks perfect Arabic, has been hired by the Italian secret service to pose as "a young Tunisian immigrant in search of his fortune." Terrorists have imported 50 kilos of Goma-2 Eco, the explosive used in the attacks in Madrid, into Rome, and it's been traced to a neighborhood call center named Little Cairo. Christian has been given a new identity as Issa--a name that's the equivalent of Jesus for Muslims.

The story unfolds in two alternating first-person narratives. Although Christian/Issa is charming, it's the alternate narrator, a Muslim housewife named Safia, who steals the show. Her humorous candor is illuminating, as she defends a religion she believes in while struggling with its strictures on women.

A few days before her wedding, her fiancé surprised her by asking her to wear the veil. When outraged Safia refused, his family threatened to ruin her reputation by saying she wasn't a virgin. To her own surprise, Safia comes to accept and ultimately defend the veil as her right. Her brave determination to be herself is endearing, as she secretly cuts hair in her friend's apartment to save money to finance an operation for her sister.

Watching the two narratives intersect is half the fun. When Safia breaks into tears talking to her family at the call center, it's Issa who offers her a tissue. When Issa finally gets a job, it's as a dishwasher at Safia's husband's restaurant. When a racist bully knocks down veiled Safia in the marketplace, the fake Tunisian tells him off in surprisingly perfect Italian. Now Safia's husband has invited his new workmate home for dinner, and Safia is cooking--not knowing that her guest will be the romantic rescuer who is haunting her dreams.

It's all classic Italian farce with a Muslim twist: a topical, character-rich comedy of mistaken identity that dares to take on real religious topics and respectfully wrestle with them. Amara Lakhous's frothy soap opera tap-dances its way over touchy prejudices to create an international commedia for the age of terrorism, laced with tributes to Federico Fellini, Vittorio De Sica, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni--a heartwarming tale of immigrants in collision served up with Italian gusto. --Nick DiMartino

Shelf Talker: An Italian spy and an unhappily married Muslim woman cross paths in an immigrant Roman community.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Not Just Another Comeback Story

Consider this a twist on the traditional comeback story, in which a protagonist overcomes great odds not merely to survive, but to thrive. It's a classic narrative form--Moses, Odysseus, David Copperfield, George Smiley. Now consider the definition of, and odds against, success as a contemporary novelist. The mere fact that someone wants to publish your book could be viewed as a comeback, given the stops and starts, the revisions and rejections, necessary just to bring a manuscript to the starting gate (aka, appropriately enough, the submission stage).  

Peter Golden's story could be framed as an ongoing comeback that just keeps getting better. His novel Comeback Love, about a couple exploring the possibility of a second chance at love 35 years after their relationship ended during the turbulent 1960s, will be published April 3 by Washington Square Press/Atria, but its comeback really began more than two years ago as the first novel released by Staff Picks Press, a small publishing house started by bookseller Susan Novotny, owner of Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y., and Market Block Books, Troy.

"I'm happy that my 30-plus years in the book business has taught me something--namely, how to recognize a novel that readers will enjoy and my indie colleagues can sell; and how to find an author like Peter, who I think will be pleasing readers and booksellers well into the future," said Novotny. Staff Picks Press recently published Where's the Watch and Other Tales: A Memoir from Seinfeld's Uncle Leo by Len Lesser and Tama Ryder.

Golden recalled that Novotny "was certainly diligent when it came to spreading the word about Comeback Love. More than anyone she brought the novel to the attention of publishers. And I might not have met my agent, Susan Golomb, and my editor, Greer Hendricks, both of whom have been enormously helpful."
In 2010, when the Staff Picks Press edition was published, Golden observed that while his marketing responsibilities were substantial with a small publisher, they were still essentially the "same as the author who publishes with a major press. The fact is unless you are extremely lucky--I mean winning a $300-million-lottery lucky--writers have to use all of the avenues available for marketing their books."

I wondered if he felt like a lottery winner now. "Absolutely," he agreed. "I suspect the mathematical odds of winning the lottery are greater than selling a first novel, but it doesn’t feel that way."

That said, he is still focused upon doing whatever he can to help market his novel again: "My responsibilities haven't changed--I just have more help. The publicity and marketing departments at Atria have been wonderful and taught me a good deal about the pleasures of social media."

Ariele Fredman, his publicist at Atria, said that having Comeback Love available on NetGalley "has been very useful in getting the word out to bloggers and reaching more people without having to print more galleys." She also noted the benefits of publicizing a novel with a sales track record: "There hasn't been a disadvantage to working on Comeback Love in its second form. Because the book was published by a small press, the groundwork of support for the author was already laid and as the publicist, I've been able to build on that. The subject matter--love, second chances, women's rights--covers a lot of areas of interest and appeal to a wide range of readers and reviewers."

Golden praised his editor, noting that "this version of Comeback Love is much improved, and Greer is responsible for that." And Hendricks returned the compliment: "I'm so excited about Peter and Comeback Love because to me it perfectly captures the passion of young love. I think readers of all generations will fall in love with this book because it explores that lingering question so many people have: What if you had a second chance with the one that got away?"

The comeback story for Comeback Love goes on, but Golden said his basic writing life hasn't changed: "I've been earning a living writing nonfiction for 28 years, so from a financial perspective fiction simply became another market. But I always wanted to write and publish novels, and so personally it was quite satisfying. As for changing my life: I'm happily married to the same woman, and I still get up every morning and write."--Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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