Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Random House Worlds: Damsel by Evelyn Skye

St. Martin's Press: The Girls of Summer by Katie Bishop

Soho Crime: The Rope Artist by Fuminori Nakamura, transl. by Sam Bett

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

Grand Central Publishing: Goodbye Earl: A Revenge Novel by Leesa Cross-Smith

Texas Bookman Presents Texas Remainder Expo

Steve Madden Ltd: The Cobbler: How I Disrupted an Industry, Fell from Grace, and Came Back Stronger Than Ever by Steve Madden and Jodi Lipper

St. Martin's Griffin: The Bookshop by the Bay by Pamela M. Kelley


On Colbert, Bestseller Lepucki Recommends Sweetness #9

Edan Lepucki, Stephen Colbert, Colbert Report
Edan Lepucki thanks the Colbert Nation.

Last night Stephen Colbert celebrated the debut of California by Edan Lepucki at #3 on this Sunday's New York Times bestseller list with an appearance by the author, who thanked Colbert and the Colbert Nation for preordering her book and then paid it forward by recommending another debut novel from Little, Brown: Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark, which is being published August 19 (see our review below).

Colbert reveled in his demonstration of the "Colbert bump," which has made California, as Colbert put it, "the third goodest book in America right now." He noted, "For the last six weeks, we at the Colbert Nation have been at war with online shopping giant Amazon." Stephen Colbert, Colbert Report, Amazon box, smirkThen, displaying an Amazon shipping box with the arrow running from A to Z, he said, "Oh, we're going to wipe the smirk right off that box's face."

During the segment, called "Colbert Nation vs. Amazon," the show ran a fast-frame video of Lepucki signing 10,000 preordered copies of California at Powell's.

Edan Lepucki, Powell's Books, signing
Lepucki signing at Powell's

Lepucki said, "They called me the robot... I was their fastest signer ever." This caused Colbert to comment: "I assume [your] followup novel is about a young woman battling to overcome a crippling case of carpal tunnel syndrome."

Lepucki also described her reaction when she heard that her book would be recommended on the Colbert Report: "It was bonkers. It was a beautiful moment. Sherman Alexie called me on the telephone and said he was going to talk about my book on the Colbert Report. I pretty much fainted out in the backyard."

Blackstone Publishing: What Remains by Wendy Walker

Amazon/Hachette: Authors United to Develop 'Long-Term Strategy'

Amazon, HachetteThe group of writers who signed an open letter earlier this month regarding the Amazon/Hachette dispute are now "developing a long-term strategy" under the banner Authors United, the Bookseller reported. The group includes Paul Auster, David Baldacci, Tracy Chevalier, Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, Mark Haddon, Sophie Hannah, Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, James Patterson, Philip Pullman and Donna Tartt.

Preston has notified participating writers "that a full-page advert will soon be published in the New York Times, funded by a dozen authors, which will include the letter and the names of the signatories," the Bookseller noted.

"This struggle with Amazon may go on for a while," Preston wrote. "Our group, which we call Authors United, is developing a long-term strategy in case our effort here is not effective. I will be in touch with you about that.

"Together, our group comprises many of the finest writers in the English language, with billions of books sold, and we include journalists and authors in every field and genre imaginable and from all levels of success. I would particularly note that many debut authors have courageously signed this letter. Amazon's recent attempt to dismiss us as a bunch of rich, bestselling authors trying only to protect our income is not going to work.

"We have many loyal and committed readers. They listen when we speak. That represents power; perhaps even enough power to face down one of the world's largest corporations."

GLOW: Flatiron Books: Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum

Backlash for Waterstones' New 'Local Bookshop'

Southwold Books, the "quintessentially local bookshop" Waterstones just opened in the U.K., is meeting resistance from the Southwold & Reydon Society, which says the chain store "will drive out smaller retailers" and "contribute to the loss of the town's independent character," BBC News reported.

Southwold Books, Waterstones"It's dishonest, because it's a national chain pretending not to be a national chain, but trying to look like a local shop," said John Perkins, secretary of the preservation society. "When chain stores arrive you get a feeding frenzy of landlords putting up rents which drives out local independent retailers.... It's not a good thing as it changes the whole character of the High Street." Southwold Books "is the only dedicated bookshop, following the closure of independent bookshops in recent years," BBC News noted.

Matt Gretton, regional retail manager for Waterstones, said: "When we were at a literary festival here last year, it was local people telling us they wanted a dedicated bookshop again. The name was because we wanted to fit in with Southwold as a town and because it's not on the same scale as a normal large town center Waterstones. There was opposition to Costa because there were already lots of other coffee shops, but this is the only dedicated bookshop."

William Morrow & Company: The God of Good Looks by Breanne Mc Ivor

HarperCollins, BitLit Partner on E-Book Bundling Pilot

HarperCollins is partnering with BitLit, a free app that allows readers to purchase the e-book edition of an available title at a discounted price if they already own the print book, on a pilot bundling program. To claim an e-book, readers write their name in ink on the copyright page and snap a photo using their smartphone. BitLit uses computer vision technology to verify authenticity and avoid the need for receipts or POS records, allowing readers to retroactively bundle their books. BitLit can be downloaded for iOS and Android.

The first titles in the pilot program will be Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost, Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison, Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, Wicked by Gregory Maguire, The Success Principles by Jack Canfield and 15 Seconds by Andrew Gross. Titles will promoted through the HarperCollins Bookperk newsletter and on for a month, with one new title each week ranging in price from $1.99 to $2.99.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Celebrants by Steven Rowley

Binc Survey: Increase Awareness, Programs & Participation

BINC logo, Book Industry Study Group logoThe need to raise awareness of the Book Industry Charitable Foundation and expand its offerings were two of the primary results from a recent brand awareness survey, which found that booksellers are in agreement the current financial assistance program offered by the foundation is a necessary safety net, while many offered suggestions for making Binc more useful to the booksellers it serves.

Binc said raising awareness of the foundation will continue to be a major focus, noting that 17% of respondents were extremely or very familiar with the foundation, "and the vast majority of those people considered it a 'very important' resource for booksellers. However many more were not aware of the foundation and the assistance it provides, pointing out an area for continued effort."

Another area that stood out in the survey was "expansion of programs." Binc noted that the recent addition of matching grants, homelessness prevention grants and grants for funeral expenses were prompted by feedback from those who took the survey, and the foundation plans to analyze the data further to see if other program expansion is relevant in the future.

Booksellers responding to the survey "overwhelmingly said they want to help colleagues facing financial challenges," and Binc has now added the option of regular payroll donations, corporate donations and in-store fundraising suggestions to its website. The foundation also advised that one of the best ways to help would be for booksellers to tell each other about the available programs and services.

Executive director Pam French observed that "the feedback was valuable in many ways, particularly in reinforcing the need for continued and expanded efforts to raise awareness of Binc, and that those in the industry are very willing to support the Foundation through volunteering their time and making donations."

Obituary Notes: Thomas Berger; Curt Gentry

Thomas Berger, the "reclusive and bitingly satirical novelist who explored the myths of the American West in Little Big Man and the mores of 20th-century middle-class society in a shelf of other well-received books," died July 13, the New York Times reported. He was 89.

In a 1980 Times interview with critic Richard Schickel, Berger said, "Why does one write? Because it isn't there! Unlike Everest and other celebrated eminences. Beginners sometime ask me how a novel is written, the answer to which is: Any way at all. One knows only when it is finished, and then if one is at all serious, he will never do it the same way again....

"I should like the reader to be aware that a book of mine is written in the English language, which I love with all my heart and write to the best of my ability and with the most honorable of intentions--which is to say, I am peddling no quackery, masking no intent to tyrannize, and asking nobody's pity. (I suspect that I am trying to save my own soul, but that's nobody else's business.)"


Author Curt Gentry, a "well-regarded biographer of J. Edgar Hoover who had his biggest commercial success when he teamed up with Vincent Bugliosi to write the 1974 blockbuster Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders," died July 10, the New York Times reported. He was 83.


Image of the Day: Book Stall Boosts Bird Box

The Book Stall, Winnetka, Bird Box
The staff at the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka, Ill., "love handselling books that we're passionate about, especially when titles don't get huge amounts of PR. So we try and have fun bringing attention to our favorites. Here is a shot of some of the staff showing how much we enjoyed the eerie new Josh Malerman suspense-thriller The Bird Box, from Ecco/Harper."

Cool Idea of the Day: Books Beneath the Bridge

Last night's Books Beneath the Bridge event was hosted by the powerHouse Arena and featured authors Joanna Rakoff and Emma Straub. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that the three-year-old Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy initiative is a "free summer literary series at which local, independent bookstores curate outdoor readings that include a Q&A and book signing with featured authors." Participating bookstores include Freebird Books, Greenlight, WORD, the powerHouse Arena, BookCourt and Community Bookstore.

Nancy Webster, executive director of the organization, said, "This event has quickly become one of our most anticipated programs at the park and we are happy to be welcoming yet another impressive lineup of authors this summer."

"One of the best things about being an independent bookstore in Brooklyn is getting to collaborate with new independent businesses that make the borough unique," said Stephanie Valdez, co-owner of Community Bookstore. "In that spirit, we've asked the new Morbid Anatomy Museum, an arts organization opening in Gowanus dedicated to exploring where art and medicine and death and culture interlace, to curate a Morbid Anatomy reading with us."

Jynne Dilling Martin Named Associate Publisher at Riverhead

Publicity director Jynne Dilling Martin will join Kate Stark and Catherine Lynch in the additional role of associate publisher, Riverhead Books. The new title "recognizes the role she has taken on beyond being an exemplary publicity director," the company said, adding: "Working closely with Kate Stark and Geoffrey Kloske, Ms. Martin has been equally tireless and resourceful in helping to discover emerging platforms, new media forms, and new partnerships."

Prior to joining Riverhead in 2011, Martin was associate director of publicity at the Random House Publishing Group, and worked at Simon & Schuster and St. Martin's Press.

Personnel Changes at HarperCollins

In HarperCollins General Books's digital merchandising team:

Erin Gorham has been promoted to director, digital accounts. She has been manager of e-book sales and has been with the team since its founding.
Lindsey Kline has been promoted to digital sales specialist. She joined the team in 2012.

Book Trailer of the Day: Ghost Month

Ghost Month by Ed Lin (Soho Crime), a new mystery series set in Taiwan starring Jing-nan, an unlikely sleuth who runs a food stand in the Taipei Night Market.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Arthur Allen on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: Arthur Allen, author of The Fantastic Laboratory of Dr. Weigl: How Two Brave Scientists Battled Typhus and Sabotaged the Nazis (Norton, $26.95, 9780393081015).


Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: readers review Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Anchor, $15.95, 9780307455925).


Tomorrow on Fox News's Your World with Neil Cavuto: Larry Winget, author of Grow a Pair: How to Stop Being a Victim and Take Back Your Life, Your Business, and Your Sanity (Gotham, $12, 9781592408559).

Movies: Fifty Shades of Grey; Predestination

While the official trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey is due to appear Thursday, "Beyoncé evidently wanted to get a jump on the action, posting a short teaser on Instagram featuring a lot of heavy breathing," reported, noting that the "singer's involvement in the film has not been confirmed, although when some footage was screened at CinemaCon in March, her 'Haunted' was heard in the background." The Sam Taylor-Johnson directed movie will be released next February.


A new trailer and selection of images have been released for Predestination, based on Robert A. Heinlein's story "All You Zombies" and starring Ethan Hawke, Indiewire reported. No release date has been set.

Books & Authors

Book Review

Review: Sweetness #9

Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark (Little, Brown, $26 hardcover, 9780316278751, August 19, 2014)

Stephan Eirik Clark, Sweetness #9, "Little, Brown"In his first novel, Stephan Eirik Clark (Vladimir's Mustache, a story collection) satirizes our growing concern about what goes in our food through both the realistic and ludicrous trials of an American family man who finds himself at the heart of the issue.

In 1973, David Leveraux begins his career as a flavorist, one of a growing number of chemists who re-create taste through science. They aim to make microwavable dinners palatable, free the American housewife from the kitchen, and bring about an era of cheap, plentiful food. For David, life couldn't be better. He recently married his college sweetheart, Betty; his job at Goldstein, Olivetti, and Dark offers the promise of financial security; and he's just embarked on an exciting round of animal testing for a new calorie-free sweetener called Sweetness #9. But when testing doesn't go as well as expected, David suspects the company of trying to cover up negative side-effects of Sweetness #9. Voicing his suspicions leads to termination, marital strife and time in a mental hospital.

When Ernst Eberhardt, German-born owner of flavor-production company FlavAmerica, visits David in the hospital to offer him a job, David leaps at the chance to start over and leave the unfortunate business of Sweetness #9 in the past. He never mentions his involvement in the research process again, not even to Betty, who becomes a loyal Sweetness #9 user.

By the late '90s, David has an established career at FlavAmerica and the house of his dreams. He also has a teenage daughter who believes artificial flavorings kill, a younger son who uses red food coloring like a condiment but never uses verbs when speaking, and a wife who now fad-diets obsessively. When his daughter decides to write a think piece for her school paper on the alleged dangers of artificial sweeteners, David is unwillingly forced to face his past. In the meantime, an anonymous stranger begins sending him packets of Sweetness #9, an action he can only read as menacing. As his life once again tilts out of control, David has to ask himself what his silence has cost his family, his conscience and his country.

Clark's dark comedy riffs neatly on a national paranoia but, as in any successful satire, grains of truth ground his elements of the ridiculous. Against the dark humor of the flavor industry, with its collection of socially strange scientists and its contradictory ethics, David's inability to connect with his family or find meaning in his suburban paradise is a particularly frank critique of American life. Readers will wince and laugh--and perhaps forgo sweetening their coffee today. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: A chemist in the artificial-flavoring industry finds himself haunted by a potentially dangerous product he helped test decades ago in this dark comedy with a dash of family drama.

Deeper Understanding

Stand Up Comics: Wonders of the Fantastic

Stand Up Comics is a regular column by Adan Jimenez. These titles need no introduction: just read the column, then read some good comics!

Pretty Deadly Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios (Image, $9.99, 9781607069621)
Fox and Sissy are traveling troubadours in the Old West who tell the story of a great beauty and the greedy mason who loved and imprisoned her. The beauty yearned for death, and Death came. He loved her, too, and even though it pained him, he granted her wish and let her die--but not before she bore him a child. Death raised the girl as a reaper of vengeance, and now those who have been wronged can call on Deathface Ginny to avenge them. This is only the beginning of the story.

DeConnick and Rios's weird western tale combines apocalyptic imagery with traditional folklore like shape-changing animals and even a smattering of high fantasy. Fox and Sissy make a great pair of main characters, especially once you realize how much more they are than originally advertised. As great as they are, however, the show is consistently stolen by whomever happens to have the spotlight at any given moment. Johnny Coyote, Big Alice, Deathface Ginny, Sarah, Death himself and the beauty he fell in love with--as well as the bunny and butterfly in the framing story--all could easily support their own stories (and hopefully will in subsequent story arcs). Big Alice especially needs to feature more in the future, as she is currently my favorite character in comics.

Handselling Opportunities: Anybody who enjoys their Old West a little bit weirder, and readers who enjoy a large cast of interesting characters.

Hellboy in Hell, Vol. 1: The Descent by Mike Mignola (Dark Horse, $17.99, 9781616554446)
Hellboy was killed in battle with the Nimue, Queen of Witches, after she was possessed by the Ogdru Jahad and turned into a dragon. Now, Hellboy is in Hell (the title kind of gives that away), trying to figure out what is next for him.

Mignola has been telling the story of Hellboy and his world for the past 20 years, during which time he has created a universe populated by all manner of ghosts, gods, gargoyles, giants and goblins from every folklore and mythology imaginable (even the Malaysian penanggalan!). That might seem daunting for new readers, but this collection is numbered one for a reason. Mignola has reset Hellboy, deftly wrapping up most of what came before and getting Hellboy ready for the next phase of his life (death?) while referencing Milton's Paradise Lost, Dickens's A Christmas Carol and Dante's Inferno.

And for the first time in almost a decade, Mignola is drawing Hellboy, too, which alone is worth the price of admission! Mignola is a master of both shadowy, gothic atmosphere and monster design.

Handselling Opportunities: People who love immersing themselves in world mythologies, folklore and religions (and if you're a new reader, do yourself a favor and check out everything that came before).

Secret, Vol. 1 by Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim (Image, $16.99, 9781607066224)
Grant Miller works for private security firm Steadfast Security Holdings, and he's very good at his job. He's surrounded by equally talented colleagues, including his brother, Marcus, his wife, Veronica, and his best friend, Thomas, making this job very much a family affair. But when Thomas is murdered in London during an op gone wrong, Grant starts to suspect something shady is happening. "You'd think given a career of fighting a war of lies, we'd all be better at sussing such a thing out," Grant says. "Instead, it's what gets us killed."

Hickman's high-concept worldbuilding in both his Marvel and creator-owned projects is possibly the best in comics today, and he consistently and amazingly pairs that with excellently crafted stories. In Secret, Hickman tries his hand at the more-established, but no less high-concept genre of espionage thrillers. He tells a story that at first glance may seem familiar to spy thriller fans, but is still original and unlike what they've seen before.

Handselling Opportunities: Fans of both old-school spy novels like John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and modern spy movies like the Bourne adaptations.

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang (First Second, $17.99, 9781596436589)
Anda is a California girl recently transplanted to Flagstaff, Ariz., where she starts playing Coarsegold Online, a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG). In the real world, she's a nerdy high school student trying to make friends in a new school, but in-game, she's a warrior and looked up to by many newer players. She starts taking missions to hunt and kill gold farmers, players who illegally collect valuable objects in-game and then then sell them to players who have a lot of extra real money and less patience to earn them properly, until she befriends Raymond, a poor Chinese kid working 12-hour days to make enough money to survive.

Doctorow's story is mostly about the very real economics that are at play in the virtual worlds of MMORPGs and how they affect people in different parts of the world, in different strata of class. Wang's cute, cartoony art is a perfect counterpoint to this weighty subject matter, and while this is a very good story with a very important message, I was more attracted by the various bullying that different characters suffer or perpetrate.

There are many instances of bullying in the book, from seasoned MMORPG players bullying noobs, to D&D players deriding a fellow student because she wants to start a board game club with games like Jenga and Scrabble, to the institutionalized bullying of companies overworking their employees and denying them benefits while threatening to fire them. This is a more subtle message, but just as important to learn. Bullying can happen to anyone at any time, and those who suffered through it are often the worst perpetrators.

Handselling Opportunities: Anybody who has ever been bullied for the things they've loved for ages, the things they've only recently learned to love, and the things they might hate, but cannot change. Also, economists.

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