Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 28, 2014

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Little, Brown Ink: The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich (a Graphic Novel) by Deya Muniz

Flatiron Books: Once Upon a Prime: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart

Dundurn Press: Chasing the Black Eagle by Bruce Geddes

Amulet Books: Batcat: Volume 1 by Meggie Ramm

Berkley Books: The Comeback Summer by Ali Brady

Quotation of the Day

Bookstore Survival: The 'Beauty in Careful Curation'

"Independent bookstores can blossom and grow by taking a cue from the strategic merchandising of the more successful retail boutiques: a carefully curated selection of offerings. But bookstores have an advantage over their general wares counterparts: they are repositories of ideas and imagination in the form of books, things of deep emotional attachment to most people. While you'd expect to be impressed in a well-curated boutique of useful or fanciful goods, you should expect to be transported and moved to own (and be owned!) in a well-curated indie bookstore. You don't get that in a warehouse or online....

"Your brand is you, your trade is books, your livelihood ideas. Express them in curating your product and programming your events. Make your place a wonder to enter, a privilege to shop. Your customer will want to own that experience; if just a small token purchase, the cash drawer pop is just as sweet. And you have a new advocate, if not a full-blown future customer."

--Daniel Power, CEO of powerHouse Books and co-owner of the powerHouse Arena and powerHouse on 8th in New York City. He was one of six experts who discussed the topic "How Can Bookstores Stay Alive?" in a New York Times "Room for Debate" feature.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams


Foyles New Flagship to Open with Three-Week Festival

Foyles will celebrate the upcoming opening of its new flagship "bookshop for the 21st century" at 107 Charing Cross Road in London with a grand opening festival that will consist of "three weeks of literature and culture" June 11-July 4.

The festival will feature appearances by authors Michael Palin, Sarah Waters, Simon Armitage, Malorie Blackman, P.D. James and Yotam Ottolenghi, among others. Also on the schedule: jazz and classical concerts, lunchtime talks, debates, film screenings and creative workshops. The festival builds on Foyles's regular literary events programs, including the Charing Cross Road Festival and the Ray's Jazz performances and classical concerts. The events will take place in the new store's event and cultural facilities, which include a 200-seat auditorium, a gallery and a café.

Siôn Hamilton, retail operations director and manager of the new store, said, "We're incredibly honoured that some of most-loved writers of our time are joining us to celebrate the opening of our new flagship bookshop, with many more still to be announced. Ever since the first author lectures of the 1920s, Foyles has a long heritage of supporting authors and bringing them together with their readers. The new custom-designed events spaces at Foyles 107 Charing Road will continue this famous tradition in style. We look forward to welcoming the writers, thinkers, actors and readers who will continue to shape our lives over the next century."

The new flagship store will have 37,000 square feet of flexible retail space on "eight alternating foot-plates over four floors," will stock more than 200,000 different titles on four miles of shelves, and have a central atrium that goes to the ground floor with large windows to fill the store with natural light.

Many of the features of the new Foyles grew out of a February 2013 brainstorming workshop done in partnership with the Bookseller that included industry representatives, tech people, customers and others.

Blink: Come Home Safe by Brian G. Buckmire

Kobo Adds Nickelodeon Titles to E-bookstore

Kobo has signed an agreement with Nickelodeon Publishing to make hundreds of series and titles available to Kobo readers worldwide, including more than 250 e-book titles from children's series like Bubble Guppies, Blue's Clues, The Backyardigans, Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  

Noting that "kids' books are an integral and important part of the Kobo catalogue," said Michael Tamblyn, president and chief content officer. "Nickelodeon has a strong history of igniting the imaginations of children and creating characters that become like favorite friends and we are happy to be a part of their cross-platform storytelling world, bringing their books to more children globally."

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Welcome to the World by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Petition Launched to Protest U.K.'s Prisoner Book Ban


Mark Haddon and Philip Pullman are among the authors supporting a petition launched in the U.K. Monday that calls upon justice minister Chris Grayling to "urgently review and amend your new rules which restrict prisoners access to books and family items," the Guardian reported, adding that numerous writers "have poured scorn on 'despicable' new rules from the Ministry of Justice." The petition already has more than 20,000 signatures.

Haddon called the rules a "malign and pointless extra punishment, which is not only malign and small-minded but desperately counterproductive." Pullman described the situation as "one of the most disgusting, mean, vindictive acts of a barbaric government.... Words nearly fail me on this.... Any government worth having would countermand this loathsome and revolting decision at once, sack the man responsible, and withdraw the whip from him."

Booksellers were also making themselves heard regarding the issue. On Facebook, Word on the Water posted: "I worked with ex-prisoners for 20 years, and know that the secret of salvation for many of them was found between the pages of a book--in one case a copy of The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists that a prisoner found hidden in a toilet cistern that taught him, as he put it, that 'even people like me deserve to be happy.' He went on to direct a charity that, with remarkable success, helped men turn away from committing domestic violence. Please, if you agree that depriving those in prison of the ability to read is plain wrong, consider signing the petition."

Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick told the Independent the government's blanket ban on books being sent to prisoners is a mistake and the policy should be changed. "The problem in this case... is trying to micro-manage this from the center, with the center describing very detailed lists of what prisoners can and can't have," he said. "I think that's a mistake. I think that once the policy intention is clear, how that's implemented should be left much more to the discretion and the common sense of governors, so that they can reflect the needs of their particular prison population.”

Diesel eBooks Shutting Down

Diesel eBooks, which has been selling digital content for a decade, will close at the end of this month. "It's been a great ride!" the company's website announced. "We're exploring our options--e-books are still in the infant years and there are many opportunities opening up now and in the future." After thanking customers, who have until April 1 to download their e-books, the company added that "this doesn't necessarily mean you won't see Diesel in another form in the near future."

Good E-Reader noted that the company has "seen the industry grow from simple PDF file sharing to the boom period of 2011," but is now "unable to compete against the juggernauts of the industry, such as Amazon, Apple, B&N and Kobo."

BAM to Close Palm Coast, Fla., Location

Books-A-Million will close its store in Palm Coast, Fla., April 15, the Observer reported, adding that yesterday "workers on scaffolding erected a large yellow 'store closing' banner above the entrance... as customers arriving to take advantage of everything-must-go sales expressed disbelief that the store--the only large bookstore in Flagler County--will soon be no more." The Palm Coast location has already been removed from BAM's store locator.

Obituary Notes: Jonathan Schell; Lorna Arnold

Jonathan Schell, whose bestselling books "explored warfare in its myriad 20th-century incarnations, from a scathing indictment of United States policy in Vietnam to a sobering portrait of the world in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust," died Tuesday, the New York Times reported. He was 70. As the author of The Fate of the Earth, he "was widely credited with helping rally ordinary citizens around the world to the cause of nuclear disarmament," the Times wrote.


British nuclear historian Lorna Arnold, who was "respected by those who supported and opposed the H-bomb" and wrote "landmark books on the Windscale reactor accident of 1957, on British nuclear testing in Australia and on the development of the hydrogen bomb," died Tuesday, the Guardian reported. She was 98.


Image of the Day: PRH's 'Ideas Exchange' Summit

photo: David C. Thompson

More than 150 publishing leaders participated in this week's three-day Penguin Random House Publisher Services Client "Ideas Exchange" Summit. This event for Penguin Random House's outside publishers featured CEO Markus Dohle and many of the company's sales, distribution and analytics experts presenting seminars, tutorials and dialogues on such topics as adapting to new retail patterns; competing effectively in the international sector; in-depth sales breakdowns and marketplace analysis; and digital transformation and development.

Booksellers Make CityBeat's 'Best of Cincinnati' List

The Booksellers on Fountain Square and Joseph-Beth Booksellers were recognized in this year's edition of CityBeat's Best of Cincinnati.  

The Booksellers on Fountain Square was singled out by CityBeat's staff as the "best proof that physical books will never go out of style." Noting that in recent years, "smaller independent bookstores have demonstrated they're able to take on the Goliath chains and win," CityBeat said that "no other local bookstore exemplifies this more than the Booksellers on Fountain Square--from the people that brought you Joseph-Beth [Neil Van Uum].... They sell these things called books--we're talking about books made out of pulp, not downloadable, Kindle-loving e-books.... Booksellers gives faith that the death of publishing and books made out of paper isn't nigh."

Joseph-Beth topped CityBeat's Readers Choice categories for Best Bookstore Chain and Best Newspaper/Magazines Selection. "The support and love from this community is overwhelming, and we couldn't be prouder to be a part of the hottest city in America!" Joseph-Beth posted on Facebook.

Bound to Be Read Books: 'Best Book Store Ever'

On Facebook, Bound to Be Read Books, Atlanta, Ga., shared the "latest review from one of our young customers," inscribed on a Fisher-Price Doodle Pro Travel: "Best book store ever. I love the cats!!"

Author Seeks Book Signing World Record

On April 16, 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m., author Ryan Avery will attempt to set a new Guinness Book of World Records mark for "Largest Book Signing in History" during an event hosted by the Colorado State University bookstore. Avery hopes to sign 5,000 copies of Speaker, Leader, Champion: Succeed at Work Through the Power of Public Speaking (McGraw-Hill Professional), breaking the record currently held by Sammy Lee, who signed 4,649 copies of his book Autopilot Leadership Model in Shenyang, Liaoning, China on January 19, 2013.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jimmy Carter on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher

This morning on the Today Show: Cass R. Sunstein, author of Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781476726625). Sunstein will also be on Andrea Mitchell Reports today.


Today on Fresh Air: Bruce Levine, author of The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South (Random House Trade Paperbacks, $17, 9780812978728).


Tonight on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Jimmy Carter, author of A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781476773957).


Sunday on This Week with George Stephanopolous: Zachary Karabell, author of The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781451651201).


Sunday on OWN's Super Soul Sunday: Gary Zukav, author of The Seat of the Soul (Simon & Schuster, $16, 9781476755403).

Movies: Adé

Madonna "is getting back in the director's chair," according to the Hollywood Reporter, which noted that "the performer, who last directed 2011's stylish period romance W.E.," will helm a film adaptation of Rebecca Walker's debut novel Adé. THR added that Madonna was a fan of the book and "provided a blurb that appeared in promotional materials."

Books & Authors

Book Brahmin: Kate Mosse

photo: Roderick Field

Kate Mosse is the author of the thrillers Labyrinth and Sepulchre--which have sold millions of copies in more than 40 countries--a playwright and nonfiction writer. She is co-founder of the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction international literary award, and serves on the board of the National Theatre in London and the advisory board of Women of the World. Mosse won the Spirit of Everywoman Award in 2012 and was awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List 2013. Mosse divides her time between Carcassonne, France, and Sussex, England, where she lives with her husband, grown-up children (sometimes!), her mother, mother-in-law and a small white West Highland terrier. Her new novel is Citadel (Morrow, March 18, 2014).

On your nightstand now:

Mason Currey's Daily Rituals, a snapshot of the weird, wonderful and downright peculiar routines writers, artists, musicians and choreographers have to get into their creative zone. Some I share--getting up at 4 a.m., for example, with strong, strong black coffee--others are a little too kooky!

Favorite book when you were a child:

Little Women, what else! The four March sisters and with a writer--the independent, strong-minded Jo, at the heart of the novel. Amazing that it is both of its time and yet incredibly current, topical, nearly 150 years later.

Your top five authors:

Tricky for any writer to answer (and not lose friends!), so I'll go for my favourite "legacy" (i.e., no longer alive!) authors instead: the inestimable Willa Cather, the elegiac T.S. Eliot, the brilliant French short story writer Guy de Maupassant, the adventurous H. Rider Haggard (of She and King Solomon's Mines fame) and, predictable for an English writer of a certain age, the peerless Agatha Christie.

Book you've faked reading:

None--honest! Why do that? It's daft. Then again, the list of novels I've started but failed to finish, well... if I confess to those, all credibility flies out the window!

Book you're an evangelist for:

Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. Her only novel--published in 1847, the year before her death--it's an astonishing tour-de-force that changes every time one reads it. It's about revenge and obsession, strong female characters, race and class, all set against the brutal and unforgiving landscape of the Yorkshire Moors. Even now, the last paragraph still brings tears to my eyes! Beautiful.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Again, none--though I admire great jacket artwork. I used to be a publisher, you see, so learnt the shabby old cliché of never judging a book by its cover was good advice.

Book that changed your life:

Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. Growing up in a lovely, if old-fashioned, corner of the U.K. in the 1960s and 1970s, I'd never consciously registered that some people genuinely thought women and men should have different rights or that the colour of a person's skin should be a cause for discrimination, injustice. Morrison's brilliant novel opened my eyes....

Favorite line from a book:

"What will survive of us is love." --from Philip Larkin's poem "An Arundel Tomb"

When researching for Citadel--the story of an all-women's resistance unit during WWII in France--I saw it was love--of families, of friends, of country--that gave women and men the strength to keep fighting.

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

So many--it's that thrill of discovery, so hard to recapture--but top of the list would be Adrienne Rich's poem "Diving into the Wreck," Milton's Paradise Lost, the ghost stories of M.R. James, Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, Marilyn French's The Women's Room, George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss....

Why we like "best of" book lists:

For the sense of connection it gives with us with other writers, other readers. For the evidence that words, when all is said and done, survive and endure and speak beyond generations, beyond background. But it's good to remember our lists will change--it's about the chemistry of time, place, context and the person we are when we are reading. Tomorrow things might be different.

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:

Gemini: A Novel by Carol Cassella (Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 9781451627930). "A medical mystery, a love story, and a novel of depth and complexity--Cassella manages all of this in Gemini. Jane Doe is transferred late at night into the care of ICU doctor Charlotte Reese. Jane may have been dropped on the hospital doorstep with a thick pile of papers detailing everything that can go wrong with her after a hit-and-run accident, but the crucial detail of her identity is missing, and with it the people who would speak for her while she dwells in a coma. As Charlotte attempts to unravel the mystery of her patient, she finds herself examining her own life. Full of suspense, heartbreak, insight, and a gripping, unexpected ending, Gemini is a pleasure to read." --Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif.

The Enchanted: A Novel by Rene Denfeld (Harper, $25.99, 9780062285508). "A death row inmate, a fallen priest, and the Lady. These nameless characters are central to this dark, enthralling, magical story. Locked in a dungeon cell, the inmate deals with his incarceration by transforming the prison into a wondrous place. The rumblings of the earth become golden horses running below his cell, molten lava flowing from their manes. The Lady works to have the sentences of the condemned commuted to life in prison while the priest is fallen, lost, and desperately in love with her. These characters live and work in a truly enchanted place, and I was sorry to leave them behind when the book was finished." --Jessie Martin, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Snapper by Brian Kimberling (Vintage, $15, 9780345803368). "Snapper is a beautiful collection of related short stories from first-time author Brian Kimberling. The stories observe Nathan Lochmueller--bird researcher and romantic underachiever--and his fellow residents of southern Indiana. By turns melancholy and suspenseful, optimistic and rueful, Snapper is warm, endearing, and wise. You don't have to be a bird lover to spot the charm in this book." --David Enyeart, Common Good Books, St. Paul, Minn.

For Ages 9 to 12
Knightley & Son by Rohan Gavin (Bloomsbury Children's Books, $16.99, 9781619631533). "Could there be anything more evil than a fatuous self-help book? The answer lies in the pages of Knightley & Son, where it shares space with some terrific espionage, puzzle solving, humor, and some very entertaining, if belated, father-and-son bonding. As enjoyable as it is engaging, Knightley & Son succeeds in its dual plans of unmasking a nefarious conspiracy and captivating middle grade readers." --Kenny Brechner, Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers, Farmington, Me.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Frog Music

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue (Little, Brown, $27 hardcover, 9780316324687, April 1, 2014)

Emma Donoghue's Frog Music is a compelling, atmospheric literary crime novel; animated by flawed but very human characters, it combines the suspense of her bestselling Room with elements of the historical fiction that launched her career.

Blanche is a high-priced dancer and whore in Gilded Age San Francisco. She is sitting near an open window with her new and only friend, Jenny Bonnet, an irreverent and enigmatic cross-dresser who gets around on one of the city's first bicycles and earns a living by catching frogs for local restaurants. Blanche bends over to untie her shoes just as a shotgun is fired, killing Jenny but sparing her.

Blanche is convinced the bullet was meant for her and means to find the killer, whom she believes is her former lover Arthur or his devoted minion, Ernest. They despise her for breaking with Arthur and leaving them without an income. And they hate Jenny for shaming Blanche into retrieving her infant son from the baby farm where Arthur sent him after his birth. The novel cuts back and forth in time as Blanche works through the possibilities leading to the murder, tries to find her stolen son, and evades her antagonists.

The result is a novel with plenty of action, rich in atmosphere and dense in historical detail. But it is, above all, a novel that belongs to its characters, especially Blanche. She is flawed and not always sympathetic, but we see her growing and changing. She has many admirers but no friends until she meets Jenny; she revels in the money and fame her seedy profession provides; she is self-absorbed and willfully blind to the welfare of her child. When she takes back her baby son, she is as baffled by his needs as she is fierce in her determination to find him when he's stolen by Arthur and Ernest. One of the novel's many strengths is Blanche's gradual willingness to show her vulnerabilities alongside her growing self-respect and maternal commitment. It avoids the easy cliché of a morality tale while telling the story of one woman's tumultuous journey to maturity.

The essential facts of Frog Music are based on a real-life unsolved murder. Donoghue's meticulous research enhances her story with colorful slang, newspaper clippings and snippets of popular songs. But Donoghue's achievement is finally one of the imagination and rests on her ability to find the emotional heart of her characters and the truths they hold. --Jeanette Zwart

Shelf Discovery: This richly atmospheric novel set in Gilded Age San Francisco, by the author of the bestseller Room, is based on a real-life unsolved murder but wholly succeeds as a tale of character and humanity.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: March Madness--'There Is Method In't'

"Though this be March Madness, yet there is method in't," Polonius almost said in Hamlet. For the record, the poor guy not only didn't make it out of the play alive, he was also defeated in the second round of 2012's Shakespeare Character March Madness Tourney by King Lear ("O, that way March Madness lies; let me shun that").

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, 'tis the season of March Madness and there are brackets, brackets wherever we turn--online, on refrigerators, on bulletin boards, on everything. It's been a long time since bracket fever afflicted only obsessed NCAA college basketball tournament fans.

"Bracketology--the practice of parsing people, places, and things into discrete one-on-one matchups to determine which of the two is superior or preferable--works because it is simple. What could be simpler then breaking down a choice into either/or, black or white, this one or that one?" wrote Mark Reiter, co-editor (with Richard Sandomir) of the 2007 book The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything.

Ben Yagoda, who contributed a "sins against the language" bracket to the book ("I put the phrase in quotation marks to indicate it should be taken with a measure of irony."), observed more recently: "I think we can all agree that March Madness has jumped the shark."

"When did filling out a March Madness bracket become popular?" asked Smithsonian magazine recently, noting that "NCAA bracket madness has also spawned a social phenomenon: The Wire, proclaiming March the 'bracket-iest month of the year,' is rolling out competing brackets each week in a 'tournament of everything.' Even the federal government is getting in on the madness, betting that a bracket will make the Affordable Care Act relevant to millennials. It's hard to turn anywhere on the Internet without running into a bracket of some kind."

The book world is not exempt, of course. Inkwood Books, Tampa, Fla., has its own Staff Pick Madness. Early in the month, Weller Book Works, Salt Lake City, Utah, advised: "Looking for your own March Madness? Check out Tournament of Books sponsored by The Morning News. Bracketed book bouts."

Launched in 2005, the ToB has inspired many variations on a theme, including the Tournament of Sidekicks from Half Price Books, Out of Print's Book Madness, the Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks, Game of Thrones March Madness Bracket, io9's SciFi Versus Fantasy Madness, Picture Book Bracketology, Bracketology for Female Book Characters, and even a Quidditch World Cup bracket challenge contest. The Medina County District Library featured Book Madness, challenging readers "to pick the top winners as the Best Books of 2013 go head-to-head with the Books That Stand the Test of Time."

March Madness also erupts annually in the sidelines department for the lucky few college bookstores whose teams win and progress through each round. Right after the University of Dayton was awarded an NCAA tournament berth last week, the bookstore "reported having between two and three hundred online orders for 2014 March Madness t-shirts." (Sideline sales for the sidelines?) And with the Flyers still in the mix, staff member Taylor Seidl said the retail outlook remained upbeat: "As long as we keep winning we have orders coming in for Sweet 16... Elite Eight." Same story at the University of Virginia bookstore, where executive director John Kates said, "In the thirty years I've been here... I've never seen anything like it."

Speaking of the Elite Eight, there was an unfortunate digital retail slipup on Wednesday when the University of Arizona's bookstore had to issue a public apology for accidentally displaying a page featuring T-shirts that heralded the team's advancement to the next round before they had even played their Sweet Sixteen game against San Diego State last night. They won anyway.

And just so you know, in Las Vegas March Madness means "busy hotels, Bud Lite and bustling books," but not our kind of books.

The endgame of NCAA tournament bracketology is almost always defeat and befuddlement. What began March 16 on Selection Sunday with unsullied brackets and 68 optimistic college basketball teams simply cannot resist the tidal pull of a cresting Shakespearean wave ("The ides of March Madness have come."/ "Yes, Caesar--but not gone."). Maybe it has something to do with March itself, that most confusing of months.

Or, as Polonius sort of put it (anticipating, perhaps, Orchestral March Madness, Tuition Madne$$, Public Media Madness, Mensa Bracket Challenge Champion and even March Madness Meta-Bracket: Which Tournament Is the Best?): "A happiness that often March Madness hits on, which reason and sanity could not so prosperously be delivered of." --Robert Gray, contributing editor

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