Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 24, 2014

St. Martin's Press: Humans by Brandon Stanton

Andrews McMeel Publishing: Cat Ninja, Volume 1 by Matthew Cody, illustrated by Yehudi Mercado

Berkley Books: In the Garden of Spite: A Novel of the Black Widow of La Porte by Camilla Bruce

Candlewick Press (MA): Stink and the Hairy, Scary Spider by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Scholastic Press:  The Captive Kingdom (the Ascendance Series, Book 4) by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Disney-Hyperion: The Mirror Broken Wish (Mirror #1) by Julie C. Dao


For Sale: Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor

Nicola's Books, which is located in an 8,500-square-foot space at the Westgate Shopping Center in Ann Arbor, Mich., is on the market. Owner Nicola Rooney, who acquired the bookstore in 1995, told that she hopes gradually to transition out of her role due to family issues, adding that there is no fixed timetable for the change of ownership.

"We're not doing this in a rush," she said. "We're not doing this because we're in any sort of a crisis. I'm doing this to ensure the future long-term health of the business.... I'm going to stay with it and just make sure it has somebody new to keep it going. I don't want anyone to think that this is anything bad that's happening. In the end I want people to know that this is a good thing that's happening."

She has fielded several inquiries from potential buyers and has some good candidates, but thus far there have been no substantial talks. Nicola's Books "is a local, independent, community-integrated bookstore," she said. "That's the way customers like it. That's the way my staff is used to running it. That's the way I intend to keep it. And it's my privilege to insist that. I wouldn't sell it to anyone who wouldn't want to do that."

Describing the ideal buyer as someone she can "take a long journey and transition with," Rooney observed: "People do not go into the book business at any level to make money. They go in because they love the product and because they feel books are an important part of people's lives--both their entertainment selves and their intellectual selves--and that they need to be fostered and maintained against the barrage of electronic things that children nowadays have competing for their time and attention."

Berkley Books: Our Italian Summer by Jennifer Probst

WI9: The Seattle7, Reading and Writing Radicals

While the original Seattle Seven were charged in the early 1970s with "conspiracy to incite riots," at yesterday's WI breakfast, six members of the Seattle7Writers group demonstrated what might be called "conspiracy to incite reading."

Now an incorporated nonprofit that has raised some $50,000 for literacy and other causes at events that always include an indie bookstore or library, the group got its start with monthly meetings dubbed "Wine and Whine"--authors gathering to support each other as much as to gripe. But soon, founders Garth Stein (way before indie booksellers made his The Art of Racing in the Rain a huge bestseller) and Jennie Shortridge (whose new book, Love, Water Memory, is just out in paper from Gallery) realized they could pool their power toward the common goal of the continued growth of writing and reading in the Northwest.

(l.-r.) authors Elizabeth George, Carol Cassella, Tara Conklin, Garth Stein, Jennie Shortridge and Deb Caletti

Even though the group now includes more than 60 authors, they kept the name Seattle7 to both reflect their beginnings as a handful of writers and as homage to the radical '70s group with ties to the Weather Underground.

"As authors, we tend to be cave dwellers," said Stein, "but we are all part of the same ecosystem and we realize that we all have to take care of each other and energize each other. It there are no readers, then it doesn't matter how good our stores and our libraries are."

To promote writing and reading, the Seattle7 stages unusual and fun events, such as its writing marathon in 2010, in which 36 authors joined forces to write a single novel, through 65,000 live-streaming hours. The result was The Novel Life, published as an e-book and paperback by Open Road.

Participating author Carol Cassella, whose new novel, Gemini will be published in March by S&S, called the live writing experience "terrifying." Bestselling author Elizabeth George said she expected the event to be surreal but it turned out to be fun. Of course, as Stein pointed out, adding booze made it even more fun. Caffeine helps, too.

Fun with the purpose of connecting writing to readers is what Seattle7 is all about, and it is a concept Shortridge said she hoped would become a national movement where authors team with their libraries and booksellers in ways that suit their regions.

Casella credited indie booksellers with making the selling of books more pleasurable than she expected. As a relative newcomer to the Seattle7 and to writing, former lawyer Deb Caletti (He's Gone, Bantam; The Story of Us, S&S) said she was happy to discover that the reports of the demise of independent bookselling were greatly exaggerated.

Tara Conklin (The House Girl, Morrow) said the human connection that booksellers create between author and reader was especially vital to her when she was starting out. "I could name names," she said of the booksellers who handsold her books. "It's corny, but your love matters," she said.

There were lot of questions about the details of getting such groups started in other communities during the q&a. Shortridge outlined the Seattle7's criteria for author members: traditionally published by a large or indie press (not self-published); having a means of outreach to the world (i.e., willingness to get out of their caves); and a generosity of spirit. Stein added that authors needed to get their publishers to sign on to donating books for their fundraisers.

A bookseller suggested one more criterium: that members not link solely to their Amazon page on their websites. Stein, who lists only IndieBound on his site, promised it would be an item taken up at the next Seattle7Writers board meeting. How's that for radical? --Bridget Kinsella

AuthorBuzz for the Week of 08.10.20

Amazon: Investment Plans for N.C.; New Christian Imprint

The reasoning behind Amazon's decision earlier this week to begin charging sales tax February 1 on purchases by North Carolina customers became a little clearer yesterday when the Raleigh News & Observer reported the online retailer had "confirmed that it plans to make an investment in the state." Although no specific details were revealed, Amazon said it is "considering various opportunities and plans to invest in North Carolina."


Amazon Publishing is launching Waterfall Press, a Christian imprint specializing in faith-based nonfiction and fiction titles published by Brilliance Publishing, an Amazon division that currently offers self-help and personal growth books under the Grand Harbor Press imprint. Tammy Faxel, who has 30 years experience in the Christian publishing industry, including positions at Tyndale House and Oasis Audio, will provide editorial oversight.

Mark Buchanan's The Four Best Places to Live, Waterfall Press's initial title, is scheduled for release next month, followed by Cherie Hill's When You Need a Miracle (April) and Jay Hein's The Quiet Revolution (June). The imprint also plans to publish shorter content. 

BINC: Book Auction to Benefit BINC - Click Here!

Let's Play Books! Sets Grand Opening

Let's Play Books!, Emmaus, Pa., which had its soft opening late last year, will host a grand opening celebration February 1 with a variety of community activities, events and programs, including a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 3 p.m. The 900-square-foot, one-room bookstore is located on the town's green and specializes in infant through young adult books, parenting, family and special needs titles, along with a selection of toys and games.

Although Let's Play Books! does not have a bookstore cat, it is home to two (caged) mice--Despereaux & Princess Pea (named after Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux). 

University of California Press:  Republican Jesus: How the Right Has Rewritten the Gospels by Tony Keddie

B&N to Close Florissant, Mo., Location

Barnes & Noble plans to close its bookstore at the Shoppes at Cross Keys center in Florissant, Mo., by the end of February, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported, adding that the closure "will leave most St. Louis-area Barnes & Noble stores situated in the western corridor. Currently, there are stores in West County Center, Ladue, Chesterfield, Fenton and St. Peters. There also is a store in Fairview Heights."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Little Threats by Emily Schultz

China Offers Financial Support to Bookstores

China has introduced policies to support certain bookstores with capital and tax exemptions in 12 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou. CCTV reported that the initiative is designed to counteract the effect of online retailers like Amazon and Taobao on bricks-and-mortar operations.

Hangzhou Xiaofeng Bookstore, for example, has received 300,000 yuan (about US$50,000) in capital support from the city government over the past two years. Owner Jiang Aijun said the money "is actually like a government prize for innovation. We could use it to improve our business model."

"For many people, [a] bookstore is not only a shop or a business," CCTV wrote. "It represents the culture and spirit of the city. There will be changes of the business model. But there will always be people who want to read or just to spend some time in a bookstore."

Rui Shujun, a marketing manager for the bookstore chain Zilihangjian, told the Global Times that pricing remains a key issue: "We need more policies to support us, but the key one is to control the price of books, especially from online booksellers. I appreciate policies on store rental and other support, but they are hard to put into practice. We choose sites in shopping malls and downtown areas to gain more customers but the rental prices mainly depend on market rules."


Image of the Day: Author Len Vlahos at WI9

Yesterday at Winter Institute, Len Vlahos, executive director of the Book Industry Study Group and former COO of the ABA, introduced his debut YA novel, The Scar Boys (Egmont USA), with a multimedia presentation featuring video, music and a reading. Afterward, at the crowded author reception, Vlahos (along with some 60 other authors and illustrators) signed books. Here: Vlahos with Christine Onorati, owner of WORD bookstores in Jersey City, N.J., and Brooklyn, N.Y.

Strand's Rare Book Room: 'Showroom for Bibliophile Porn'

"Welcome to the rare book room" at the Strand Book Store, the New York Daily News wrote in its profile of the "book-lined room on the top floor [that] hosts readings and other literary events, but it mostly serves as a showroom for bibliophile porn.... Perhaps the greatest feature of the collection is not a rare book, but the room's accessibility. Unlike other antique book dealers, the Strand's historic library is open to anyone who heads upstairs."

"Books like this are so significant," said Vasilis Terpsopoulos, who manages the rare book room with Darren Sutherland.

Toronto Honors the Late Paul Quarrington

The Toronto city council has approved the naming of the Paul Quarrington Ice Rink/Splash Pad as a tribute to the writer who died four years ago. Quillblog reported that the new outdoor facility will be renamed "in honor of the contribution made by Paul Quarrington as a Canadian novelist, playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker, musician and educator."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Anna Quindlen on Morning Joe

This morning on Morning Joe: Anna Quindlen, author of Still Life with Bread Crumbs: A Novel (Random House, $26, 9781400065752).


Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend Edition: Sam Harris, author of Ham: Slices of a Life: Essays and Stories (Gallery, $26, 9781476733418).


Tomorrow on Sirius XM's Judith Regan Show: Justin Klosky, author of Organize & Create Discipline: An A-to-Z Guide to an Organized Existence (Avery, $26, 9781583335291).

TV: The Dovekeepers

Ann Peacock (The Chronicles of Narnia, Nights In Rodanthe) will adapt Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers for Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (The Bible). reported that the four-hour miniseries about the Siege of Masada will air on CBS in 2015.

"We felt [the book] was best served if the screenplay came through the heart of a strong woman and Peacock is such a woman," said Downey. "I met her right before Christmas; she came to our house in Malibu and I sat down with her and she clearly loved the book. Her book had Post-its sticking out from a hundred different pages where she'd lovingly made notes. She said whether she was brought on board or not, she was forever changed from having read the book and I was elated, because I could not put this book down when I first read it. I was like a woman who had fallen in love--I was hungry, turning pages, staying up later than I should have, in the absence of being able to pick it up the next day missing the book. When I was finished I missed the characters, longed for the characters--they got under my skin."

Movies: Mockingjay, Part 1 Poster; A Most Wanted Man Clip

The first poster for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 "has flown into the Internet-sphere, already building anticipation for the flick's November 21 release date," MTV reported, noting that the poster follows a pattern established by the first two installments of the series with a one-sheet that "mirrors the cover of the Suzanne Collins books the movies are based on. A flaming mockingjay blazes against a plain black background, its wings lifted."


The first clip has appeared for A Most Wanted Man, director Anton Corbijn's film adaptation of John le Carré's novel starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright and Daniel Brühl, Indiewire reported.

Books & Authors

Awards: Golden Wreath; Kitschies

South Korean poet and human rights activist Ko Un won the Golden Wreath, an award given to a living poet for his or her body of work, the Bookseller reported. Previous Golden Wreath recipients include Pablo Neruda, Joseph Brodsky and Seamus Heaney.


Shortlists have been unveiled for the Kitschies, which honor books containing elements of the "speculative and fantastic." The award dispenses £2,000 (about US$3,321) in prize money, Tentacle trophies and bottles of The Kraken rum to three category winners, who will be announced February 12.

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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

The Bird Skinner: A Novel by Alice Greenway (Atlantic Monthly Press, $24, 9780802121042). "Following the amputation of one of his legs, ornithologist Jim Carroway withdraws from the world and settles on an island off the coast of Maine. His alcohol- and cigarette-filled solitude is interrupted when the daughter of a friend he hadn't seen in 30 years arrives unannounced from the Solomon Islands. Jim's memories of being stationed there during World War II as a coast watcher, as well as memories of his past life as a scientist, husband, and father, come back to haunt him over the summer the two spend together. Rich in fascinating cultural and scientific details, The Bird Skinner is a compassionate but objective exploration of the psychology of a broken man." --Pierre Camy, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, Mich.

If Only You People Could Follow Directions: A Memoir by Jessica Hendry Nelson (Counterpoint, $25, 9781619022331). "Memory doesn't move in a straight line. It is chaotic, digressive, and imperfect. While most memoirs force life into the restrictions of straight lines, Nelson embraces the chaos by moving back and forth in time, free-associating among memories and organizing her life into a series of essays. What could be just another memoir of a family disintegrated by substance abuse becomes a vibrant and challenging exploration of abuse, obsession, coping, family, friendship, and self-discovery." --Josh Cook, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass.

Cover of Snow: A Novel by Jenny Milchman (Ballantine, $15, 9780345534224). "Small towns have secrets. That's no surprise to anyone who has ever lived in one, but the depth of those secrets is what Nora Hamilton must explore in Milchman's debut. Nora's husband, Brendan, is a police officer in their small town of Wedeskyull, New York. One snowy January morning, Nora wakes up to an awful silence, and finds her husband has hanged himself. She is beyond stunned, and as she tries to make sense of what has happened, Nora discovers that things in Wedeskyull are not as peaceful as she has always believed and that the secrets the town hides go back farther than she could have ever imagined. I love finding debut authors, and Jenny Milchman is one to take note of!" --Fran Fuller, Seattle Mystery Bookshop, Seattle, Wash.

For Ages 4 to 8
Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian, illustrated by Jeremy Holmes (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99, 9780375866906). "Written by U.S. Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis and award-winning children's poet Douglas Florian, this book is the perfect combination of silly and wonderful. The cars described are fantastical and include a Grass Taxi, the Supersonic Ionic Car, a Fish Car, and others just as crazy. The poems are tremendous and the illustrations detailed and engaging. This is a book to be read joyfully again and again!" --Rachel Watkins, Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Brahmin: Christopher Merkner

photo: Molly Kugel Merkner

Born in northern Illinois, Christopher Merkner has been studying the peculiarities of contemporary Midwestern living for almost 40 years. His first book, The Rise & Fall of the Scandamerican Domestic: Stories (Coffee House, January 2014), studies the corrosive and distortive influences of place and region on language and human perspective.

Merkner earned his MFA at the University of Florida and his Ph.D. at the University of Denver. The best thing to come from both programs: his wife and children. He is also grateful to these programs for their help in finding homes for his writing: Black Warrior Review, Cincinnati Review, Gettysburg Review, Fairy Tale Review, Laurel Review, New South, the Collagist and others. Merkner is co-director of the creative writing program at West Chester University. He and his wife and children live just outside of Philadelphia, Pa.

On your nightstand now:

Right now, on the top of the stack, I have Matt Bell's How They Were Found, Tara Masih's The Chalk Circle, David Leavitt's The Two Hotel Francforts, Roxanne Gay's Ayiti and George Saunders's Tenth of December.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I know this isn't very fun, but I sincerely have very few specific memories of my childhood, so I consider my 20s my childhood: as such, Raymond Carver's stories in What We Talk About When We Talk About Love were the first stories that woke me up, and I would say Donald Barthelme's Forty Stories counseled me most on my professional goals and professional life planning.

Your top five authors:

I'm drawn to authors who are as committed to literatures of justice as they are to literatures of form and language. There are many of these, obviously, but the five that I've been reading most recently are W.G. Sebald, Karen Tei Yamashita, Meg Pokrass, Anne Carson and Tara Masih.

Book you've faked reading:

I think I fake reading everything I've read. I'm not being coy, cute or difficult. No sooner do I finish a book than I realize I haven't really read it. I can't think of a book that hasn't left me feeling this way.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Patrik Ouredník's Europeana.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I don't know if I've ever had the money for this, but I think--and this is weird--I am pretty sure I bought Ben Fountain's Brief Encounters with Che Guevara because I liked the title and the birds on the cover. Or maybe I bought it because I liked the title only. I don't remember, but this is the one time I remember actually purchasing a book on impulse.

Book that changed your life:

I read Ann Charters's The Story and Its Writer--an anthology--with an amazing class of my undergraduate peers at St. Olaf College in the winter of 1996. This changed my life, and it convinced me of the ethical force of literature and that books--like just about everything else--are best read in collaboration, in community, with a driven consciousness of a common good.

Favorite line from a book:

"We gave the baby some of our wine, red, whites and blue, and spoke seriously to her." This is from Barthelme's "The Baby." It's a perfect fiction line: it's funny and it's sad, it's inscrutable yet honest, and it's working hard while seeming to not work hard at all.

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

Michael Ondaatje's Collected Works of Billy the Kid and his Coming Through Slaughter. I wasn't ready for them when I first read them, and I would really like another crack.

Book Review

Review: The Secret of Raven Point

The Secret of Raven Point by Jennifer Vanderbes (Scribner, $26 hardcover, 9781439167007, February 4, 2014)

Jennifer Vanderbes (Easter Island; Strangers at the Feast) takes on the ravages of war in The Secret of Raven Point. It is 1943 when 17-year-old Juliet Dufresne graduates from high school. She and her brother, Tuck, are exceptionally close. When she receives a cryptic letter from him and he's declared missing in action, she takes a nursing course, lies about her age and sets off for Europe as an army nurse, determined to find him.

Juliet is thrown in at the deep end, into all the blood and chaos of a field hospital. In a sprawling encampment north of Rome, she finds hard work, camaraderie with new friends and exposure to the worst war has to offer. There is a great cast of characters; nurses, doctors and patients, all bringing occasional moments of levity to a grim scenario. Their backgrounds, personalities and experiences are all new for Juliet, who has led a rather sheltered life. She has always been a smart girl and a good science student; the demands made on her now are much more stringent.

One patient in particular, Christopher Barnaby, a deserter awaiting court-martial because it appears he tried to kill himself, may hold the answer to her brother's whereabouts--but what he suffered in the field has left him catatonic. Juliet's seriousness and diligence draw the attention of a young psychiatrist, Dr. Henry Willard. He takes her on as his assistant as they try to access the deepest recesses of Barnaby's mind before he's taken away.

Some of Vanderbes's best writing comes from Christopher's description of what happened to him in the field. Henry puts him under with sodium pentothal to plumb the horrifying depths of his memories of combat, learning what trauma does to the human mind. After hearing his story, both Juliet and Henry are forced to question all previously held ideas about a "just war" and the wisdom of "curing" these young men only to send them out to battle again. The experience brings them closer together--and they ultimately make a dangerous decision that puts their careers and their lives on the line.

Not all questions are answered, nor are all secrets revealed, but Juliet emerges stronger and more mature for her experience. Part history, part coming of age novel, The Secret of Raven Point is yet another tale of what war does to all of us. --Valerie Ryan

Shelf Talker: During World War II, 17-year-old girl lies about her age so she can be shipped overseas as an army nurse to search for her brother.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Bookstores & Museums, Reading & Art

Sometimes the stars just mysteriously align in our book universe. There's no "mind the gap" caution for readers venturing between past and present; or the diverse worlds in books we read and the "real" world. One of these intriguing alignments occurred recently in my little corner of the universe with art and literature. Here are a few of the signs I noticed:

Excellent books (read or reading now) on my desk: Within reach, and all connected in some way to art, are The Eleven by Pierre Michon (translated by Jody Gladding & Elizabeth Deshays), The Fountain of St. James Court or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman by Sena Jeter Naslund, Secrecy by Rupert Thomson (ARC, April release), The Artist's Library by Laura Damon-Moore & Erinn Batykefer (ARC, May) and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

Cool bookstore road trip: Roxanne Coady, owner of R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, Conn., just hosted what looked like a great bus trip to the Frick Collection in New York City for the exhibition "Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis," featuring Goldfinch, a 17th-century painting by Carel Fabritius that plays a key role in Donna Tartt's novel.

Art, literature & commerce: The influence of books on attendance at the Frick exhibition was phenomenal, driven initially by the presumed star of the show, Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring, which had been expected to draw art lovers as well as fans of Tracy Chevalier's bestselling 2000 novel. Goldfinch, however, soon began "hogging the spotlight," Frick director Ian Wardropper told the New York Times. "Halfway through the exhibition, we noticed a shift.... That's when we started to see book clubs coming in." As of last week, Goldfinch tote bags had outsold their Pearl competition 842 to 582.

The power of fiction: I saw the Frick exhibition in December and was also pleasantly surprised by the crowds huddled around the small work by Fabritius compared to the clear sight lines available for the Vermeer. I was not prepared for a second surprise in store for me when I entered the Living Hall to pay my respects to a pair old friends: Hans Holbein's portraits of Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell, staring one another down grimly as they did centuries ago.

It had been a few years since my last Frick pilgrimage. On previous visits, I was always drawn to the More portrait, perhaps because Utopia is one of my favorite books and I love Peter Ackroyd's biography. Cromwell, by contrast, looked like that grouchy uncle at a family reunion. But last month, for the first time, Cromwell seemed to have altered dramatically; his expression was keen, his eyes radiating intelligence. I glanced over at More. He looked a bit... dyspeptic. There was no mystery; I knew immediately who was to blame for my confusion as well as the apparent touching up of these paintings after nearly 500 years. Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies had clearly disarmed my longstanding prejudice against Cromwell through the irresistible necromancy of fiction.  

What remains of art & of books: In 1999, BookExpo was held in Los Angeles and we arrived a day early so we could see "Van Gogh's Van Goghs" at the L.A. County Museum of Art. I was the remainder buyer for the Northshire Bookstore then, and perhaps can lay blame on that extraordinary--once in a (my, at least) lifetime--exhibition for "inspiring" me to purchase, a few years later at CIROBE in Chicago, nearly 1,000 remaindered hardcover copies of Frederic Tuten's Van Gogh's Bad Café at a cool 25 cents each.

The good news is that we eventually sold more than 600 of them for a tidy profit before I left the Manchester, Vt., bookstore in 2006. The bad news is the remaining copies may still be buried in deep storage there, sealed away like a plot twist in an Edgar Allan Poe story. That novel is part of my bookseller's legacy, as Northshire general manager Chris Morrow jokingly (I hope) reminded me not long ago.

Centuries from now, when android archaeologists are combing through the ruins of an ancient indie bookshop, will they unearth those cartons and wonder what the hell their human forebears were thinking? One can only hope my single contribution to the art world--an installation I call "Van Gogh's Bad Café: The Boxed Remains"--will fascinate lovers of art and literature in the distant future. --Robert Gray, contributing editor

AuthorBuzz: Berrett-Koehler Publishers: Black Fatigue: How Racism Erodes the Mind, Body, and Spirit by Mary-Frances Winters
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