Shelf Awareness for Monday, March 30, 2015

Little Brown and Company: Wolf at the Table by Adam Rapp

Tor Nightfire: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Severn River Publishing: Covert Action (Command and Control #5) by J.R. Olson and David Bruns

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

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

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


New Co-Owner for E. Shaver, Bookseller, Savannah, Ga.

E. Shaver, Bookseller, Savannah, Ga., which has been on the market since September 2013, has been partly bought by Jessica Osborne, who has worked at the store for three years. WTOC reported that Osborne and Esther Shaver will be co-owners; Shaver "will drop by once a week."

Already Osborne is putting her imprint on the store: on Wednesday, she's opening a tea room called the Savannah Tea Shop, saying, "What's better than a book and a cup of tea?"

University of California Press: The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities by Peter S. Alagona

U.K. Indie Numbers Down, but Signs of Strength

Last year, the number of independent bookstores in the U.K. fell by 48, to 939, according to the Booksellers Association.

"Rising business rates, competition from online booksellers, e-books, greater pressure on people's spare time combined with greater competition in the entertainment marketplace, customers' squeezed budgets and lacklustre high streets have combined to force some bookshops out of business," the Bookseller wrote.

At the same time, the Bookseller noted that some stores opened last year, and others are reporting that business has improved lately.  

In one sign of a healthy market, Eleanor Davies, co-owner of Linghams Bookshop, in Heswell, told the magazine that her store, which is for sale, has had "a lot of interest," with 15 people inquiring about it and two "going for it quite hard now." She said sales were down in the first half of 2014, but "from September they have been up every month. Amazon is going on in the background and causing us trouble all the time--we can't get away from that--but we are in the best place financially since we bought the shop. I definitely think it is crucial for shops to diversify into selling cards and gifts in order to do well."

Likewise Matthew Clarke, owner of the Torbay Bookshop in Paignton, Devon, emphasized the importance of adding products and services besides books to attract customers--although book sales continue to be most important in his store. "We bought a Thornton's franchise [selling chocolates] three years ago after [its] shop in our town closed down and we brought the Tourist Information point into our shop after the local council closed the service due to cuts. Both of those things bring people through the door and enable us to upsell on paid-for tourist guides and maps, and so on."

Clarke emphasized that "the majority of our sales by far are still from books and actually book sales are rising as more people come through the door and we become more savvy at what we stock."

Amazon May Test Drones in U.K.; E.U. Probe Underway

Amazon is trying to make an end run around the FAA's limitations on drone testing in the U.S. by discussing the possibility of drone testing in the U.K., the Bookseller reported. Transport minister Robert Goodwill said that the government is "working with Amazon. And government is working on the whole issue of drones. We're meeting with the British Airline Pilots Association and we're both keen to innovate."

Last year, Amazon posted ads in the U.K. seeking flight operations engineers who would develop drone technology.

At the same time, the E.U. is opening "a sweeping investigation into whether Internet commerce firms, such as, are violating the bloc's antitrust laws by restricting cross-border trade," according to the Wall Street Journal.

The inquiry "follows pressure from France and Germany to use EU competition rules and other regulations to better target the business practices of large technology firms," the paper continued. "It will encompass all 28 countries.

"Though the investigation isn't limited to U.S. firms, the activities of some U.S. online giants will come under serious scrutiny. It is the latest example in a number of separate probes and legislative initiatives in Europe that could end up curbing their businesses."

Obituary Note: Tomas Transtromer

Tomas Transtromer, the Swedish poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2011, died last Thursday. He was 83.

His work was "known for shrewd metaphors couched in deceptively spare language, crystalline descriptions of natural beauty and explorations of the mysteries of identity and creativity," the New York Times wrote. "With a pared-down style and brusque, forthright diction, Mr. Transtromer wrote in accessible language, though often in the service of ideas that were diaphanous and not easy to parse; he could be precisely observant one moment and veer toward surrealism."


Image of the Day: Advice from Skip Horack

Photo: Diane Prokop

Adam Johnson (left), Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Orphan Master's Son, interviewed Skip Horack about his new novel, The Other Joseph (Ecco), at Powell's Books in Portland, Ore., last week. When asked about the best advice to give to young aspiring writers, Horack said to "read wide" and "read like a writer."

'Bookstore Pets of Northern California'

"When was the last time you saw a monkey in a bookstore?" asked SFGate, recalling a spider monkey that used to inhabit the Cottage Bookshop in San Rafael. Noting that even though "bookstore monkeys may be a rarity these days, there are several bookshops in Northern California that are home to other, slightly less wild pets," SFGate showcased a literary menagerie of "bookstore pets of Northern California."

One of our favorites is Parit, in Pegasus Books Downtown, Berkeley, described by store manager Tim Rogers as "the pickiest eater on earth, and yet somehow she's one of the fattest cats on earth."

Cool Idea of the Day: Ferguson Alternative Spring Break

From the Facebook page of Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo., on Friday: "This huge group of incredible students visited our store today. If you haven't heard of the Ferguson Alternative Spring Break or Operation Help or Hush, read this:"

Media and Movies

TV: Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies

Oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee's 2010 book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (Scribner, $18, 9781439170915), is arriving on television. Presented by Ken Burns and directed by Barak Goodman, Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies, the six-hour, three-part miniseries based on the book, premieres tonight on PBS. The show will air tonight, tomorrow and Wednesday from 9 to 11 p.m.

The Emperor of All Maladies won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. Watch an interview with the author here and a show trailer on PBS' website.

Media Heat: Kevin Kruse on Fresh Air

This morning on Morning Joe: Tim Gunn, author of Tim Gunn: The Natty Professor: A Master Class on Mentoring, Motivating, and Making It Work! (Gallery, $25, 9781476780061). He will also appear today on Bloomberg's Taking Stock and tomorrow on Nightline, CNN Tonight and Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto.


This morning on the Today Show: Bernard B. Kerik, author of From Jailer to Jailed: My Journey from Correction and Police Commissioner to Inmate #84888-054 (Threshold Editions, $27, 9781476783703).


Today on Fresh Air: Kevin Kruse, author of One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (Basic, $29.99, 9780465049493).


Today on Diane Rehm: Benjamin Wittes and Gabriella Blum, authors of The Future of Violence: Robots and Germs, Hackers and Drones--Confronting a New Age of Threat (Basic, $29.99, 9780465089741).


Today on the Meredith Vieira Show: Robin Rinaldi, author of The Wild Oats Project: One Woman's Midlife Quest for Passion at Any Cost (Sarah Crichton, $26, 9780374290214).

Movies: The BFG; The Billionaire's Vinegar

Bill Hader has joined the cast of Steven Spielberg's The BFG, based on Roald Dahl's novel. reported that Hader "will star as one of the giants in the tale about a little girl who leads a friendly giant and the Queen of England on an adventure to stop other mean giants from gobbling up others." Mark Rylance had previously been announced to star in the title role, with Ruby Barnhill as the little girl. The adaptation was completed by Melissa Mathison, who teamed up with Spielberg on E.T.


Matthew McConaughey will star in The Billionaire's Vinegar, based on Benjamin Wallace's book The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine, reported. The script is by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (Wanted, 3:10 to Yuma, Chicago Fire).

Books & Authors

Awards: Bancroft; Waterstones Children's Book; Oddest Book Title

The two winners of the $10,000 Bancroft Prize, awarded by Columbia University for books about "diplomacy or the history of the Americas," are Empire of Cotton: A Global History by Sven Beckert (Harvard University Press) and Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World by Greg Grandin (Metropolitan Books), the New York Times wrote.


Rob Biddulph won the overall £3,000 (about $4,465) Waterstones Children's Book Prize for Blown Away, as well as the £2,000 (about $2,975) best illustrated book category. Judge Melissa Cox, children's book buyer for Waterstones, said the "test of a good picture book is not how good it is on first reading, but how enjoyable it is on its 50th. Blown Away more than delivers--its whimsical, madcap plot engages immediately and its rhythmic text drives the story along while the illustrations charm and thrill on every page. It is truly wonderful, and a very worthy winner."

Other category winners were Sally Green's Half Bad (best book for teens) and Robin Stevens's Murder Most Unladylike (best young fiction), with each author receiving £2,000 ($2,975).


The winner of Diagram's Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year is Strangers Have the Best Candy by Margaret Meps Schulte, a self-published travelogue, which won 26.1% of the votes. (The prize has been open to public voting since 2000.) The runner up, with 25.1% of the vote, was Divorcing a Real Witch: For Pagans and the People who Used to Love Them by Diana Rajchel.

Book Review

Review: Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories

Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories by Rebecca Barry (Simon & Schuster, $25 hardcover, 9781416593362, April 7, 2015)

Rebecca Barry assumed that following her dreams would be simple, if not easy: make a plan and stick to it. For Barry and her husband, Tommy, Plan A meant moving to a small town in upstate New York, buying a charming fixer-upper house and earning enough income from their various writing jobs. Barry (Later, at the Bar) wanted to write a novel while paying the bills with freelance magazine assignments; her husband wanted to launch a green-living magazine. Both of them wanted a nourishing family life, full of fresh, local veggies, close friends and plenty of time with their two young sons. In her memoir, Recipes for a Beautiful Life, Barry chronicles their pursuit of this dream, and the messy, uncertain, luminous reality they ended up with instead.

At first, Barry thought the plan was working perfectly. She and Tommy bought a quirky Italianate house, joined a local farm share, found the nearby coffee shop and made a few firm friends. "Everything was going exactly as we'd planned," Barry writes. "Which should have been the surest sign." Less than two years later, in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, freelance assignments and patience both wore thin. Tommy's constantly changing work meant frequent travel and more stress, and their children, Liam and Dawson, refused to conform to anyone's expectations, or frequently, even to wear pants.

In short, hilarious chapters she calls "journal entries," Barry explores the challenges of pursuing the life she wants. She loves her children, but longs for time away from them; she wants to support her husband's dreams, but is constantly worried about money; she loves living near her parents and sister, but family tensions flare up frequently. Barry's mounting anxiety about her novel doesn't help matters.

The titles of Barry's chapters complement her subject matter perfectly, ranging from wry ("How to Civilize a Two-Year-Old"), to poignant ("How to Know When to Move On"), to disarmingly sincere ("How to Find Your Way Back to Brightness"). Occasional recipes for food and drinks (vegetable biryani, "Angry Mommy Tea" with whiskey) and other remedies (a soothing face mask, a pleasant family vacation) dot the book. As she goes to yoga, tries to meditate or takes refuge in venting to good friends, Barry begins to realize that her Plan B (or C, or D) life may just be beautiful after all.

"All our lives are small, really, and it's the smallness that makes them tender and bright," Barry writes. This book will bring a welcome dose of brightness--leavened with acerbic wit--to readers who, like Barry, are simply trying to do worthwhile work and care for the people they love. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Rebecca Barry's wry, insightful memoir addresses home renovation, life with young children and the slow realization that following your dreams is hard work.

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