Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio


Indie Booksellers Are 'Thriving' & 'Staying Viable'

Although there may not be a "breakout hit" among this fall's new books, several independent booksellers told the New York Times that sales trends are still pointing toward a successful holiday season. For example, Peter Aaron, owner of the Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash., said sales were up 15% over the Thanksgiving weekend and tracking well for December.

Steve Bercu  

At BookPeople, Austin, Tex., owner Steve Bercu noted that his sales showed a 10% gain over last year, with shoppers buying traditional fare like coffee-table books as well as the newly available Kobo devices. "I was a naysayer, but they are buying the actual devices, which surprised me," he observed.

"Our Black Friday and Small Business Saturday sales were up considerably over last year," said Becky Anderson, owner of Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, Ill. "That includes hardcovers and purchases made over the Internet, which we either ship or that you can pick up at the store."


Barbara Theroux  

Two independent booksellers in Missoula, Mont., are branching out in a challenging market and "staying viable." Barbara Theroux of Fact and Fiction spoke with the Montana Standard about the shop's introduction of Kobo e-reading devices and e-books as "yet another way to keep Fact and Fiction viable in a sluggish Missoula economy in which consumer spending has yet to bounce back to pre-recession levels."

"I just feel what it does is give us a playing field," she said. "A book is a book and the book isn't going away, but any business has to pay attention to where customers are acquiring a product and how they're accessing it.... It's a nice way to say, 'Yes readers, yes customers, we're listening.' "

At the Book Exchange, sales for the year are down 4%, but up 18% since Thanksgiving and manager Becky Haddad is hoping for a good 2013. "I think two things hit us: the recession seems to have hit pretty late and the other is e-books, of course," said Haddad, adding: "The emphasis will be on books as they've always been; we know they will also be around. That's the bottom line for us. E-books have their place and they will take a corner of the market, but the market for all kinds of books in all kinds of formats is always going to be here."

Holiday House: The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith by Tom Llewellyn; The Selkie's Daughter by Linda Crotta Brennan

New Independent Bookstore for Downtown Ann Arbor?

A "prime storefront" property in downtown Ann Arbor, Mich., could become the home for a new independent bookstore, though reported that the 124 E. Washington Street location has "multiple interested prospective tenants." Contenders include Hilary Lowe and Michael Gustafson, the co-owners of prospective Literati Bookstore who "have raised money from friends and family for the endeavor, as well as secured a loan from Ann Arbor State Bank," wrote.

"We are in lease negotiations for the space right now," Lowe said. "We wanted something downtown because there are a bunch of great niche stores, but nothing has really replaced Borders as a general bookstore. We wanted to be in that walkable area, and it's been a challenge to find the right space at the right price." She added that despite the complexities of the process, "we're pretty confident at this point that it will happen. We had to secure the funding, and then finding the location is the most difficult part of all."

Faramarz Farahanchi, who manages the property, said there are currently three solid applicants for the space, and a final decision "depends on what the use will be and expectations, as well as what the business plan calls for.... In the end, we want to make sure that the people who rent here will be successful. The tenant's success is the landlord's success."

Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

Monte Cristo Bookshop Opens in New London

The Monte Cristo Bookshop New London, Conn., launched with a soft opening last week. Co-owners Gina Holmes and Chris Jones "are happy to finally be in business, the first bookstore to open in downtown New London in a long time," the Day reported. Last summer they used the crowdsourcing site indiegogo to help raise funds for the venture.

While putting the finishing touches on the space they leased at 13 Washington Street, they "decided to open as a work in progress," the Day wrote. Holmes and Jones plan to run a full-service bookstore with a wide-ranging inventory of new and used books and some gifts "and hope to create some synergy with a new restaurant in the same building, the Washington Street Coffee House."

While noting that "both owners are quick to apologize, suggesting the range of available books will become more interesting over time as they begin ordering their own," the Day observed that "downtown New London has a bookstore again. You can put another mark on the hip little city checklist."

WTNH-TV visited the bookshop, noting: "In this day and age of online shopping and book store closings, this opening still seemed right."


Holiday Hum: Gathering at breathe books

While many retailers are shuttered on December 25, breathe books in Baltimore, Md., beckons revelers for a Jewish Christmas Party. A tradition since the store opened in 2004, some 30-40 people typically turn out for the event, about half of whom are Jewish. The soirée is popular with singles and also with those who don't have family in the area.

"Even though I'm crazy tired after working so many hours during the season, I see this as such an important thing to do," said proprietress Susan Weis-Bohlen. She got the idea for the Christmas Day fête from now-defunct Bibelot Books in Pikesville, Md., where she worked when she returned to the states after nearly a decade living in Israel.

"It was the first time I felt included on this day when everything is closed, except for Chinese restaurants and movies," Weis-Bohlen explained. "When I opened breathe books I decided I would do the same thing for the community." Attendees dine potluck-style on vegetarian Chinese food and other dishes, watch a film and listen to a local musician play.

The "December dilemma" is addressed in Joshua Eli Plaut's A Kosher Christmas: 'Tis the Season to be Jewish, a new seasonal favorite this year at breathe books. Another is Jewish Jocks: An Unorthodox Hall of Fame, edited by Franklin Foer and Marc Tracy, a book so popular it sold out and is currently on backorder. Weis-Bohlen stocked the essay collection, which highlights Jewish figures in the sports world, after hearing it reviewed on NPR.

A perennially bestselling holiday title at breathe books is David M. Bader's Haikus for Jews: For You, a Little Wisdom, which often inspires customers to read the rhymes aloud in the store. Also selling well are movie tie-in editions of Life of Pi and Cloud Atlas, along with cookbooks like The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen: Finding Harmony Through Food by Talya Lutzker. Among the top-selling sidelines are private-label organic spices, which Weis-Bohlen uses in the Ayurvedic cooking classes she teaches. (Ayurveda is the ancient Indian science of healing.)

After a 30% increase in sales Thanksgiving weekend, due in part to a robust Small Business Saturday, sales have since leveled off and are on par with last year's tallies. Drawing in shoppers throughout the season, many of them out-of-towners visiting breathe books for the first time, is the Hampden neighborhood's famous "Miracle on 34th Street," a feast for the eyes that has been written up numerous publications. Located not far from the store, the block of row houses is decked out in kitschy style with a hub-cap Christmas tree and other eclectic adornments.

Customers at breathe books can sample and purchase some of the items--truffles and macaroons, fair-trade coffee and tea--that soon will be available in the store's new café. Set to open in early February, the eatery will offer vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, raw and Ayurvedic fare. "I want to show the world how to be a healthy vegetarian--which means I want people to know that cheese, sweets, pizza and peanut butter do not a healthy vegetarian make," Weis-Bohlen said. "We will gently educate while feeding people amazing food."

After searching for a separate space to house a café, Weis-Bohlen decided to incorporate it into the store, which is situated in a renovated house and already has a kitchen, and got rid of some sidelines to make room. She has been working with Maryland resident Michael Shuman, the author of Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity, on how to marshal community resources to finance the venture. The goal of $150,000, raised through private investors, is expected to be reached by the end of the year.

A campaign went live on last week to raise $15,000 for new kitchen equipment. The initiative is "a way of bringing our regular customers into the fundraising aspect of the café," said Weis-Bohlen. Depending on donation level, contributors receive something in return such as tea for two at the café and an in-home Ayurvedic cooking party for 15. Many publishers donated items for incentive, including signed copies of Zadie Smith's NW and a yoga mat autographed by Mariel Hemingway. For a donation of $12,500, a holiday shopper can give a travel buff on their list an amazing adventure: a spot on breathe books' two-week tour of sacred sites in Mongolia next August. --Shannon McKenna Schmidt


Investigation Kindled by Amazon's Chinese E-Store Launch

Amazon's recently launched Chinese Kindle store has triggered an investigation by Chinese authorities over charges it lacks a license to sell e-books in the country. Citing an MIC Gadget report, CNET said that instead of acquiring one of four licenses required by China's General Administration of Press and Publication agency to publish, copy, distribute or import e-books, Amazon "borrowed a license from one of its partners, which is against the law in China." Although a license has been applied for to run the Kindle Store, "that process is likely to take a long time to be approved," CNET wrote.

Obituary Note: Jake Adam York

Poet Jake Adam York, the author of three collections of poetry and a book of literary history, died Sunday, Jacket Copy reported. He was 40. York had recently been named a recipient of an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship in poetry.


Image of the Day: Writer in a Bookshop Window

Amy Halloran, who appears occasionally as the "Writer in the Window" at Market Block Books, Troy, N.Y., (mentioned in Robert Gray's recent SA column about typewriters), was on holiday duty last Saturday, taking orders from customers in the busy bookshop for poems, letters or stories to give to loved ones in exchange for a donation to the local Oakwood Community Center's food pantry.

Bookseller Video of the Day: Christmas Card Interruptus

When Wendy Welch and Jack Beck, co-owners of Tales of the Lonesome Pine bookshop, Big Stone Gap, Va., began filming their annual video Christmas card this year, "we decided a little dignity and gravitas would make a welcome change. Only, it didn't. Enjoy the card. Yes, it’s like this all the time around here." Wendy is also the author of The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap: A Memoir of Friendship, Community, and the Uncommon Pleasure of a Good Book (St. Martin's).

Midpoint Distributing New Holland Publishers U.K.

New Holland Publishers U.K., which specializes in gift, reference and cookbooks, is being distributed in the U.S. now by Midpoint Trade Books. For more than a year, Midpoint has distributed New Holland Publishers Australia titles in the U.S. Sterling had distributed New Holland Publishers U.K. in the U.S.

Lead winter 2013 titles include Blood Sugar: The Family, a continuation of the Michael Moore cookbook series, The Hot Book of Chillies by David Floyd, and 25 Foods Kids Hate . . . And How to Get Them Eating 24 by Fiona Faulkner. 

Personnel: Hoppe to Clarion

Anne Hoppe will join Clarion Books (an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group) as senior executive editor, effective January 23, 2013, based in the New York office. Hoppe was previously executive editor at HarperCollins Children's Books, where she worked with Sir Terry Pratchett, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Melissa Marr and Katherine Applegate, among others. 

Book Trailer of the Day: Janie Face to Face

Janie Face to Face by Caroline B. Cooney (Delacorte Books for Young Readers), the final novel in the series that began with The Face on the Milk Carton.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Charles Burns on KCRW's Bookworm

Tomorrow on Dr. Oz: Mike Isabella, author of Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian: Big Flavors, Small Plates (Da Capo, $35, 9780738215662). He will also appear on Better TV.


Tomorrow on Sirius XM's Judith Regan: Kate Marshall, author of My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future (Gotham, $16, 9781592407842).


Tomorrow on CBN's 700 Club: Jennifer Tuma-Young, author of Balance Your Life, Balance the Scale: Ditch Dieting, Amp Up Your Energy, Feel Amazing, and Release the Weight (HarperOne, $25.99, 9780062117007).


Tomorrow night on a repeat of the Colbert Report: Malcolm Gladwell, author of the foreword to The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs (Random House, $45, 9780679644750).


Thursday on KCRW's Bookworm: Charles Burns, author of The Hive (Pantheon, $21.95, 9780307907882). As the show put it: "In the trilogy that began with X'ed Out, Charles Burns' protagonist enters an alternate, nonlinear, and dismal world. Having just published the second volume of the series, The Hive, Burns reflects on the eerie spaces and dark themes that populate his graphic novels, as well as the nature of suspense that does not necessarily resolve into explanation."


Thursday on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Adam Makos, co-author of A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II (Berkley, $26.95, 9780425252864).

TV: Karin Slaughter's Will Trent Series

Yellow Bird, "which turned Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy into three hit Swedish films," will produce three television films based author Karin Slaughter's Will Trent book series, reported. Slaughter is executive producing and will write the first script, adapted from Triptych, the initial novel in the series.

Books & Authors

Reviewers' Choice: Nonfiction, Mystery, SF

We continue with our Shelf Awareness Pro reviewers' choices for their favorites of 2012. We'll start with nonfiction titles, where Cheryl Strayed scored the trifecta--two picks for Wild, plus one for Tiny Beautiful Things--and then some more fiction: a potpourri of mystery/thriller/fantasy/horror/apocalyptic vision.

Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars by Sonia Faleiro (Grove/Black Cat, $15 paper)
In Beautiful Thing, reporter Sonia Faleiro reveals the underworld of Bombay's "bar dancers" and sex workers through Leela, a 19-year-old dancer of enigmatic charm and vitality. Gritty and glamorous, sad and inspiring, this is a riveting story and a fantastic work of investigative journalism. --Hannah Calkins, blogger at Unpunished Vice

Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz by Cynthia Carr (Bloomsbury, $35)
This is a dense biography of an artist you probably haven't heard of. Before you move on, wait: it's also a masterpiece. Both intimate and huge in scope, Fire in the Belly is an astonishingly thorough and lovingly composed tribute to an extraordinary person--and the most humane chronicle of the early years of the AIDS crisis I've ever read. --Hannah Calkins, blogger at Unpunished Vice

Reading for My Life: Writings, 1958-2008 by John Leonard (Viking, $35)
This exhilarating selection of 50 of the late John Leonard's reviews and essays (culled from the five million words the former New York Times Book Review editor and CBS Sunday Morning guest critic estimated he'd written in the course of his long career) is fueled by an infectious enthusiasm, as Leonard invites us to join him on a roller-coaster ride in the amusement park of contemporary culture. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28)
This has taken some hard hits in reviews (e.g., the New York Times) but I loved the book. I loved it for being oh so readable, fascinating, informative and uplifting, about a man who was flawed, yes, but who cared and did what he set out to do. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed (Vintage, $14.95 paper)
This aptly named collection offers exquisite essays on some of life's biggest challenges. Strayed boldly confronts the darkest corners of the human experience with the torch of an unfailing optimism and above all, love. --Ilana Teitelbaum, book reviewer at the Huffington Post

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (Knopf, $25.95)
Wild was the best book I reviewed for all of 2012. It was a revelatory, gut-wrenching memoir by a young woman dealing with the death of her mother and the personal ordeal of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail alone--all presented in beautiful, powerful, captivating prose. Book prizes, please. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Cheryl Strayed holds nothing in back in Wild, her brave memoir of setting out on a 1,000-mile solo hike with a gargantuan backpack, toe-hobbling boots and a life-stalling grief. Strayed puts the reader on her shoulder for a journey that is alternately lonely, bizarre, physically and emotionally painful and ultimately exhilarating. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts


At the Mouth of the River of Bees: Stories by Kij Johnson (Small Beer Press, $16 paper)
Three Nebula-winning stories anchor Kij Johnson's collection of stories, where psychological realism and hallucinatory vision combine to masterful effect. Johnson shifts easily from domestic dramas to conflicts on alien worlds, touching on small emotional moments that will linger in your memory as vividly as her fantastic imagery. --Ron Hogan, founder of

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman (Ace, $25.95)
Christopher Buehlman's second novel, set during the worst ravages of the Black Plague, starts out like a medieval variation on True Grit, but subtly shifts into a horror story with welcome echoes of early Stephen King. This story of a disgraced former knight and a young girl on a holy mission secures Buehlman's status as one of this generation's best dark fantasy writers. --Ron Hogan, founder of

City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (Graywolf Press, $25)
It's so much fun and so exciting when you come across a novel that is "out there" and doing things you hadn't encountered before, where you need to learn how to "read" anew. Who would have thought a dark tale about a futuristic run-down Irish town could be so engrossing. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (Knopf, $24.95)
Peter Heller's accomplished first novel rises above the inherent darkness of a world stripped bare by disease, climate change, and violence. Like Didi and Gogo in Beckett's Waiting for Godot, his two protagonists are lonely survivors in a post-apocalyptic world waiting for whatever comes next, a time and place where hunting, fishing, and farming (and flying and killing) are the only skills that matter. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Try the Morgue by Eva Maria Staal (Liveright, $24.95)
Staal, a pseudonymous former arms dealer, fictionalizes the dilemma of a young woman caught between the thrill of international gunrunning and the security of family and home. She doesn't take sides, but instead lets the narrator Maria tell her own story, where the sides she must choose between are not political, but personal... and that choice is the most difficult. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Up Jumps the Devil by Michael Poore (Ecco, $13.99)
Meet John Scratch, aka the Devil himself. He's handsome, powerful and plays a mean blues riff, but unless he can woo his angelic ex-girlfriend from Heaven to Earth, all is meaningless. Luckily, he's crafted a secret weapon: the USA. But the master of human temptation has a thing or two left to learn about humanity in this hilarious, heartwarming debut. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger, Infinite Reads


Book Review

Review: The River Swimmer

The River Swimmer by Jim Harrison (Grove Press, $25 hardcover, 9780802120731, January 8, 2013)

Born and raised in Michigan, Jim Harrison often sets the lusty appetites and grizzled fatalism of his work among his native state's north woods, rivers and lakes. When a Harrison character gets off track in urban living or academia or an unsustainable marriage, he goes back to drink from Michigan's nourishing well.

The River Swimmer takes another refreshing dive into that well. The title novella is the story of Thad, a Michigan youth raised on a farm on a river island. Surrounded by water at home, Thad is born with the swimming gift. Swim coaches offer generous scholarships when his untrained time trials break Big Ten records, but in typical Harrison fashion, Thad is more interested in the shapely rear ends and breasts of girls than intercollegiate competition. He swims because "it is the most complete feeling of freedom that there is. The current guides your skin. It's the closest we get to a bird."

"The Land of Unlikeness" is the longer and better of the two novellas, giving Harrison more room to dig into the changes that old age brings to men. Clive is a 60-year-old art history professor from New York City who gave up painting after critics trashed his last gallery show. He returns to the center of Michigan's rural mitten to care for his nearly blind mother. Dreading a month of bad food--"at mother's house you ate what was served and in the proportions she had decided were appropriate"--he bounces back when he finds that his first sexual partner, Laurette, is also back from her downstate job to live in her old neighboring farm home. She has taken in a young down-on-her-luck, bisexual poet, and, consistent with Harrison's prodigious appetite for food, sex and the arts, Clive gathers his paints from his childhood room to discover again the pleasure he found in painting and female company. Older now, Clive realizes that "he didn't want to be a painter, he only wanted to paint," Harrison writes. "He knew how to paint so why not paint. Everybody had to do something while awake."

Harrison includes what could be his own epitaph in the words of an old Indian woman who tells Thad about "a northern Michigan writer friendly with the tribe and author of somber works known as One Who Goes into the Dark a Long Ways and We Hope He Comes Back." The River Swimmer is Harrison at his crusty best. --Bruce Jacobs

Shelf Talker: Jim Harrison returns to Michigan in two novellas that explore the transforming values of his favorite indulgences: nature, art, food and sex.


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