Shelf Awareness for Thursday, September 12, 2013

Atheneum Books: Bulldozer's Christmas Dig by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann

St. Martin's Press: The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont

Soho Crime: My Annihilation by Fuminori Nakamura, translated by Sam Bett

Candlewick Press: Hello, Little Fish!: A Mirror Book by Lucy Cousins

Merriam-Webster Kids: Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day: 366 Elevating Utterances to Stretch Your Cranium and Tickle Your Humerus by Merriam-Webster

Other Press: Lemon by Yeo-Sun Kwon, translated by Janet Hong

Ballantine Books: The Maid by Nita Prose


Sales Tax Fairness: Michigan Bill Moves Forward

Yesterday, Michigan lawmakers took a step toward forcing online retailers like Amazon and to collect the state's 6% sales tax on purchases. The Associated Press (via CBS Detroit) reported that the House Tax Policy Committee sent two bills to the full Republican-led House, where their fate is uncertain because "some lawmakers see the legislation as a tax increase, while others say it is a federal issue."

Although Amazon claims it does not have to collect sales tax because it does not have a physical presence in Michigan, the AP noted that besides having affiliates in the state, one of its audiobook publishing subsidiaries, Brilliance, is in Grand Haven. "The measure in part would clarify that Amazon and other Internet companies working through affiliate websites in Michigan have to collect the sales tax."

House of Anansi Press: Out of the Sun: On Race and Storytelling by Esi Edugyan

Crown Restructures Marketing Department

In a restructuring of marketing at the Crown Publishing Group intended to increase focus on the group's diverse imprints:

  • Meredith McGinnis has been named director of marketing for Harmony Books. She was formerly marketing director for Crown Archetype, overseeing marketing for Archetype, Crown Business, Crown Forum, Harmony and Three Rivers Press. She joined Crown in 2009 as associate director of marketing for Crown Business.
  • Marketing manager Christina Foxley will focus exclusively on Harmony.
  • Julie Cepler has been promoted to director of marketing for Archetype, Crown Forum and Three Rivers Press. She was formerly associate director of marketing for Crown, Hogarth and Broadway Books and began her career at Doubleday Broadway in 2005.  
  • Tommy Cabrera has been promoted to marketing associate for Archetype, Crown Forum and Three Rivers Press. He joined the marketing department last year.

GLOW: Clarion Books: The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman

Finally Found Books Finds Happy New Home

After little more than a year in Black Diamond, Wash., last month Finally Found Books moved 15 minutes away to a new location in Auburn. As Todd Hulbert, owner of Finally Found Books, explained in an e-mail to customers sent out earlier this summer, the move was one of necessity. Sales were simply too low to make staying in Black Diamond feasible; the store would have to move or close.

"We were out in a very small, historic mining town," explained Hulbert. "We just couldn't get the traffic necessary to justify leaving the store there."

The store opened on schedule on August 20, after a "mad rush" of putting in new floors, installing more than two miles of shelves and transporting more than 100,000 books to the new location. The Auburn store is around 4,400 square feet--an increase of 800 square feet over the previous location--and Hulbert has already expanded the inventory by about 30%.

The store's opening-night "wine and cheese" celebration drew a crowd of more than 100 people, and featured local writers Jeanne Matthews, author of the Dinah Pelerin mystery series; Susan Schreyer, author of the Thea Campbell mystery series; Tom Blaschko, author of Calculating Soul Connections: A Deeper Understanding of Human Relationships; Lisa Stowe, author of the Mountain Mystery series; and Waverly Curtis, author of the Barking Detective series. Each of the authors talked about and read from their respective books, and two copies of each book were raffled.

By not moving too far away, Hulbert has been able to retain many existing customers while attracting many new ones. "We're a lot more accessible to a lot of people. About 25,000 cars go by per day." In the first two weeks in Auburn, the store's revenues are up more than 50%, Hulbert said.

In Black Diamond, the inventory of Finally Found Books was roughly 95% used books and 5% new. Hulbert has increased the number of new books substantially, and plans to keep increasing as far as revenues allow. He also hopes to expand the store's offerings of author events, ideally hosting events several nights per week. Now that the store is settled in Auburn, there's more work to do: lining up authors and drawing in book clubs. --Alex Mutter

Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association: We're throwing a bookselling party and you're invited!


Image of the Day: Bookseller Wedding Bells

Sarah Teunissen and Mark Donner, with Rev. Claire North. Photo: John Sutton

Bookseller Sarah Teunissen and Mark Donner were married last Sunday at the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt. "Sarah worked for us years ago as a teenager (at 14, she was a 'carder' in high school) and worked for five years, then returned to us three years ago as a bookseller," said Northshire's floor manager Erik Barnum, who reported on the festivities:

"The wedding went off very well. Booksellers in attendance, the grand staircase was festooned with lights, luminaries and beautiful plant arrangements by the booksellers. Customer Rev. Claire North did the officiating in her best brogue. Seems that officiating brings out the accent. One of the booksellers (Deb Wraga) paper-crafted Sarah's bouquet out of a book

"At Sarah's behest, I did a reading of the last lines from Still Life with Woodpecker. The food for the reception in the cafe was all cooked and brought by the booksellers--most out of a cookbook, Bon Appetit: Fast, Easy, Fresh, chosen by Sarah, who is the bookseller in charge of cookbooks. Our itinerant cellist Paul played for the wedding and the reception.

"This was a bookselling family, not a staff, getting together for a wedding of one of their own. It was lovely and very touching."

Artemesia Publishing, LLC: The Last Professional by Ed Davis, illustrated by Colin Elgie

Northshire Bookstore Wins BPRNE's Independent Spirit Award

Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt., and Saratoga Springs, N.Y., has won the Book Publishers Representatives of New England's Independent Spirit Award, recognizing excellence in a member bookstore of the New England Independent Booksellers Association (and this year perhaps recognizing excellence in hosting weddings).

The nominating citation read: "Northshire is a tenacious bookstore: surviving downturns in the economy, slushy ski seasons, hurricane-induced flooding that dropped tourism to a trickle, and the onslaught of e-books. Despite the hits, they’ve maintained a can-do attitude, have filled their shelves judiciously, continue to host a wide range of events, and have fostered Off the Shelf with WAMC's Joe Donahue, ably tying together book promotion with book sales. On top of all that the undeniably dedicated staff has been double-timing their work load in anticipation of the opening of their second location in Saratoga, N.Y." [That second store opened on August 5.]

The award will be presented during NEIBA's annual fall conference in Providence, R.I., October 6-8.

Sterling: Dracula: Deluxe Edition by Bram Stoker, illustrated by Edward Gorey

Happy 60th Birthday, Country Bookshop!

Congratulations to the Country Bookshop, Southern Pines, N.C., which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this month "as not only a downtown landmark and one of the oldest businesses on Broad Street, but as the social and cultural center of Southern Pines," the Pilot wrote.

David Woronoff, who is also publisher of the Pilot, which bought the store in 2010, said, "This community is much more sophisticated than most rural areas of North Carolina, and the Country Bookshop has been able to tap into that all these decades. The bookshop has always been intimately involved with every aspect of the community. I also think it is one of the retailers that makes downtown Southern Pines so successful. I have a hard time envisioning downtown without it."

Country Bookshop manager Kimberly Daniels, a second cousin to Woronoff, told the paper that she wants to ensure that the store's legacy grows. "In small towns, bookstores are learning institutions," she said. "It's also like a travel agency--you open a book to leave where you are. We're selling an experience."

Daniels has added small toys, apparel, games and art supplies and expanded greeting card and journal offerings. At the same time, the store has increased book inventory by 33%. "“We have invested in making sure we have plenty of books on the shelves," she commented.

The store will have a "60th Anniversary Gala" on Saturday, September 29, starting at 4 p.m.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Armen Keteyian Talks About The System

This morning on CBS This Morning: Sandra Boynton, author of Frog Trouble: ...And Eleven Other Pretty Serious Songs (Workman, $16.95, 9780761171768).

Also this morning on CBS This Morning: Armen Keteyian, co-author of The System: The Glory and Scandal of Big-Time College Football (Doubleday, $27.95, 9780385536615).


This morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe: Billy Crystal, author of Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? (Holt, $28, 9780805098204).


Tomorrow on Dateline: Rebecca Musser, author of The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice (Grand Central, $26, 9781455527854).

Movies: The Right Kind of Wrong

The Right Kind of Wrong, based on the novel Sex and Sunsets by Tim Sandlin and directed by Jeremiah Chechik (Benny & Joon), premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival tonight. The movie stars Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), Sara Canning (The Vampire Diaries), Catherine O’Hara (Best In Show) and Will Sasso (The Three Stooges). reported that Magnolia has acquired the movie, with plans to release it early next year.

TV: Outlander Finds Its Claire

The upcoming Starz adaptation of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series has cast the lead role of Claire Randall: Irish actress Caitriona Balfe (Now You See Me; Super 8) will play the nurse swept back in time from 1945 to 1743. Author Diana Gabaldon said, "The moment Caitriona Balfe came on screen, I sat up straight and said, 'There she is!' She and Sam Heughan [who will play Scottish warrior Jamie] absolutely lit up the screen with fireworks."

Filming on the series, produced by Ron Moore (Battlestar Galactica), starts this month in Scotland.

This Weekend on Book TV: JFK's Last Hundred Days

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this holiday 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, September 14
9 p.m. Thurston Clarke, author of JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President (Penguin, $29.95, 9781594204258), at Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C.
10 p.m. After Words. Jenna Greene, senior reporter for National Law Journal, interviews Mark Tushnet, author of In the Balance: Politics in the Roberts Court (Norton, $28.95, 9780393073447). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m., Monday at 12 a.m. & 3 a.m. and September 22 at 11 a.m.)

11 p.m. George Morgan, author of Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America's First Female Rocket Scientist (Prometheus, $18, 9781616147396). (Re-airs Sunday at 4 p.m.)

Sunday, September 15
8:15 a.m. Sanjay Basu, author of The Body Economic: Recessions, Budget Battles and the Politics of Life and Death (Basic Books , $26.99, 9780465063987), at Book Passage, San Francisco, Calif. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

1:30 p.m. Wayne Allyn Root, author of The Ultimate Obama Survival Guide: How to Survive, Thrive and Prosper During Obamageddon (Regnery, $27.95, 9781621570912). (Re-airs Monday at 1:30 a.m.).

2 p.m. Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor: The New Way to Fast-Track Your Career (Harvard Business Review Press, $20, 9781422187166). (Re-airs Sunday at 10:45 p.m.)  

8 p.m. Juan Zarate, author of Treasury's War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare (PublicAffairs, $29.99, 9781610391153).

Books & Authors

Perfect Score: Debbie Stier and SAT Magic

For book industry veteran Debbie Stier--a marketer, publicist, editor and publisher, most recently at HarperStudio and HarperCollins--her book, The Perfect Score Project: Uncovering the Secrets of the SAT, which Harmony Books will publish in February, is not just about her experience taking the SAT seven times in one year or about the vast amount of SAT information she presents that will be helpful for students, their parents and guidance counselors. The book is at heart about "the magic of studying with my son," as she put it.

The Perfect Score Project began when Stier contemplated her son's college options partway through high school. "He had trouble focusing," she said. "He was into having fun and doing sports. He also had a lot of bad fortune in high school: he had mono and had multiple concussions. He had B grades but no honor classes and not many extracurricular activities. I knew he was smart, and I thought the SAT could make him stand out a bit."

The two had already worked closely together when they both read every book--"thousands of pages, including the Odyssey and Mark Twain," she said--that her son was assigned the summer before he transferred to Fordham Prep, Bronx, N.Y. "At the dinner table at the end of the day discussing the books with him was magic," she said.

In the same way, Stier decided to help her son with the SAT process--but for her, there were no half measures. She took the test seven times that year. (It's offered seven times annually.) With a bit of understatement, she said, "I got a bit possessed." But it was a happy possession.

Studying for and taking the SAT and trying to improve her scores was fun, she said, "like doing a crossword." Soon she made it fun for her son, too. ("They resist at first, but they do like it.") Her son was also helped by a friendly competition with a friend and did a practice test every weekend in addition to studying with Stier. The result: he raised his score 540 points. Stier noted this with some pride, but then emphasized the magic of the effort. "My son and I talked about politics and literature, and I learned so much reading his essays," she said. Moreover, "he reached his potential and grew into a driven young man."

As for her own scores--yes, she was counting--during her seven tests in 2011, Stier raised her score 301 points over the results when she first took the SAT in 1982. In one of the seven times, she was very happy to get a perfect 800 on the writing section; she also scored a 760 in critical reading. The math section was a different story. "I pretty much got the same score in math," she said, the lesson of which is that "no amount of test prep will help if you don't have solid skills."

During the process, she unintentionally became an SAT expert, learning about the history of the SAT (which, until the '70s, the College Board claimed was an IQ test for which no studying was useful), the various prep companies, including Kaplan and Princeton, tutoring issues and more.

Through her blog,, and some appearances, Stier quickly became a resource for students, parents and guidance counselors, a role she has embraced. "I like talking about the SAT and helping people through a stressful time," she said. She had expected parents to be the biggest audience, but "a good portion of those on the website and who write me are kids." She's also found that among parents, more often fathers get the message of studying intensely for the SATs with their children. "It is time consuming, but it's incredibly gratifying and rewarding," she said. "Parents who don't study with their children are missing all the good stuff."

Like anyone with book business experience who becomes an author, Stier has seen a different side of things that seemed so simple before. One example: blogging. "I want to apologize to all the authors I have told to blog while they write," she said with a laugh. Although she blogged every day the year she took the SATs, she found it impossible to blog during the year and a half she was writing the book because it was such an effective distraction from writing. (She wound up "turning off the phone, locking myself in the basement, blocking off the world," to finish the book.)

"A marketer at heart," Stier has also found it "hard to be on the other side and not micromanage. I live three blocks away from my publisher; I'll try my best not to bug them." (Also, she said that she's all too aware that things have changed dramatically in marketing since she left Harper in 2010.) She said she's blessed by the team at Harmony Books, many of whom she's worked with before or knows through the industry, including v-p and publisher Tina Constable, who was president of the PPA in the early '90s when Stier was v-p of the organization, and her editor, Rick Horgan, with whom she worked in the late '80s at Warner Books. "I love them," she said. "God is on my side. How lucky am I?"

Stier is also excited about another aspect of the book: the audiobook, which she will narrate. "I love audio, and I especially love audio that's read by the author." The narration will make her "relive the year," she said. "It was a hard year, but a great year. I'll never forget it, and my son won't either."

Ever the publisher, Stier said her book about the SATs could score high for Harmony. "Three million kids per year are taking the SAT," she said. "It's a group that keeps regenerating. It's an evergreen market of people I can help."

In a nice bookend to Stier's tale, her son just started college at Loyola University Maryland, which both mother and son say is an excellent fit for him--an 800 out of a possible 800. --John Mutter

Awards: PEN International/New Voices, Washington State Winners

The 2013 PEN International/New Voices Award has gone to Masande Ntshanga of South Africa for "Space." The award is open to unpublished writers 18-30; nominations are made by local PEN Centres.


The winners of the 2013 Washington State Book Awards, sponsored by the Washington Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library (via the Seattle Times), are:

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin (Harper)
Plume by Kathleen Flenniken (University of Washington Press)
Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
The Rocks Don't Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah's Flood by David Montgomery (Norton)

The Scanduzzi Children's Book Award winners:

Those Rebels, John & Tom by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham (Scholastic)
The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, September 17:

Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin Press, $28.95, 9781594204234) follows a fraud investigator in 2001 New York.

Thankless in Death by J. D. Robb (Putnam, $27.95, 9780399164422) continues the In Death series with Lieutenant Eve Dallas.

War Play: Video Games and the Future of Armed Conflict by Corey Mead (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9780544031562) explores video games used in military training.

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety by Eric Schlosser (Penguin Press, $36, 9781594202278) chronicles the state of the U.S.'s nuclear weapons.

The Big Crowd by Kevin Baker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9780618859900) takes place in postwar New York, where Irish immigrant brothers climb the social ladder.

Asunder by Chloe Aridjis (Mariner, $13.95, 9780544003460) follows a guard at the National Gallery in London.

Book Review

Review: The Hired Man

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna (Atlantic Monthly Press, $24 hardcover, 9780802121912, October 1, 2013)

Duro is out hunting when he notices a newish car approaching the small Croatian village of Gost in the opening scene of Aminatta Forna's The Hired Man. An Englishwoman has come to live in the old deserted Pavic house, with her hostile teenage son and homely younger daughter. Duro is hired to clean the gutters, patch the roof, cut down the dead tree; he becomes indispensable. Stoic and single-minded, Duro is the kind of man you feel you can trust--someone who feeds abandoned young seagulls or takes home a blind dog who's been tied up and left to die.

As Duro and the girl slowly restore an elaborate mosaic mysteriously plastered over on the side of the Pavic house, though, waves of hostility ripple through Gost and old grudges resurface. Especially furious are Fabjan, the owner of the Zodijak café, who has bullied and manipulated the fortunes of Gost for decades, and Duro's former friend Kresimir, whose ruthless treachery has left scars on the whole town.

Forna, whose previous novel The Memory of Love won the 2011 Commonwealth Prize, has created a convincing narrator in Duro, an uneducated but well-meaning Croatian with a clear sense of life and the truth. His voice is one of the novel's key pleasures--unpretentious and perceptive, tolerant, brooding and sometimes surprising.

Forna's characters reveal their secrets gradually, like the plastered and whitewashed mosaic that is slowly exposed. She constantly shows you what you don't notice, and every sentence shimmers with possible depths--with good reason! A second plot is buried inside the first, one that only comes to light in broken, mosaic-like pieces of memory. The war scenes are quietly horrific. Forna humanizes her victims, which makes their deaths excruciating without being graphic.

The set-up is so cinematic that, as with Hitchcock and DePalma, we watch the past begin to resurface, until the crime the town would like to forget appears to be repeating itself in the middle of Main Street like a scene straight out of Vertigo. The plotting is subtle, the suspense maddening, the set-ups undetectable, the character work masterful--and Forna's surprises go off like time bombs. This is literature with a punch, a perfectly contrived artifice examining the unhealed festering wounds of wartime, in which Forna takes the Croatian nightmare and brings it to life as her own. --Nick DiMartino

Shelf Talker: An English family moving into a small Croatian village awakens long-buried anger and secrets from the town's wartime past in this slow-fuse, suspenseful masterpiece.

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