Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Scholastic Press: Beastly Beauty by Jennifer Donnelly

St. Martin's Essentials: Build Like a Woman: The Blueprint for Creating a Business and Life You Love by Kathleen Griffith

Margaret Ferguson Books: Not a Smiley Guy by Polly Horvath, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Bramble: Pen Pal Special Edition by J.T. Geissinger

Sourcebooks Landmark: Long After We Are Gone by Terah Shelton Harris

Soho Crime: Broiler by Eli Cranor

Berkley Books: We Love the Nightlife by Rachel Koller Croft


Distribution Deal: Perseus to Buy Consortium

Perseus Books Group is acquiring Consortium Book Sales and Distribution, which distributes more than 100 publishers from around the world, including City Lights Publishers, Copper Canyon Press, Feminist Press, New Society Publishers, Ocean Press, Seven Stories Press and Soho Press.

Consortium, which has headquarters in St. Paul, Minn., will operate as an independent business. CEO Don Linn, who bought the company in 2002, will continue to head Consortium and report to Perseus president and CEO David Steinberger.

This is the second major distribution acquisition for Perseus. A little over a year ago, Perseus bought CDS, the distribution company that provides a range of services from full distribution to back-office functions. Perseus has more than 50 client publishers, including Abbeville, Distributed Art Publishers, Harvard Business School Press, Planeta, Taschen and the University of Michigan Press.

Linn called Perseus "a partner that shares our values and understands that it is the relationships developed over years among our employees, client publishers, authors and booksellers that make Consortium unique. Becoming a member of the Perseus Books Group is an opportunity to build on what we have accomplished."

For his part, Steinberger said the acquisition "reflects our mission to serve independent book publishers whether those publishers are owned by Perseus, joint ventures or owned by third parties."

In today's New York Times, Steinberger said that Consortium publishers would benefit from Perseus's sales force's contacts with gift and specialty shops and academic institutions. He added, "In general, we have a broader, more extensive sales organization that can help get these books in front of consumers in lots of different ways." He also told the Times he is "not currently considering layoffs" of any Consortium employees.

Consortium has grown significantly in the four and a half years since Linn bought the company. When he purchased the company, it had 70 publishers and sales of about $12 million. Today, its 100 publishers have sales, the Times said, of "less than $50 million."

University of California Press: May Contain Lies: How Stories, Statistics, and Studies Exploit Our Biases--And What We Can Do about It by Alex Edmans

Small Death in Lisbon's Long Life Revisited

With quite a bit of pride, we note a Seattle Post-Intelligencer piece that traces the story of A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson (Berkley, $7.99, 0425184234), a mystery set during World War II originally published in the U.K. in 1999 that has become a handselling favorite at Elliott Bay Book Co., Seattle, Wash.--and in part because of a Shelf Awareness story (April 11)--has been selling well elsewhere in the country.

The tale of the backlist handsell started last summer, according to the Post-Intelligencer, when Elliott Bay bookseller Leah Brock wore a T-shirt from Texas to work, which caught the attention of a fellow ex-Texan, who began talking and eventually recommended A Small Death in Lisbon.

A connoisseur of World War II mysteries, Brock read the book, loved it and put it on the staff recommends display with a shelf talker. Since then, the book has been among Elliott Bay's bestsellers. During the winter, local Penguin rep Meredith Vajda mentioned the phenomenon to Shelf Awareness's own Jenn Risko. The paper wrote: "Independent booksellers are renowned for their ability to sell books through the personal recommendations known in the trade as 'handselling.' That is an article of faith for Risko, a former sales rep who used to call on many independents and still maintains a special place in her heart for such devoted booksellers."

Following our story and after Berkley reps suggested A Small Death in Lisbon to accounts, sales rose 44% in April over March "and have continued an upward trend since." Craig Burke, Berkley's director of publicity, pointed out one lesson of the story: "Not all mass market paperbacks are pulpy beach reads with no literary merit."

The author, Robert Wilson, who lives in Portugal, said he was delighted by the story, "not only because it relies on coincidences, which are not allowed in crime novels, but which happen all the time in everyday life, but also because this is what every writer craves: word of mouth."

GLOW: becker&mayer! kids: The Juneteenth Cookbook: Recipes and Activities for Kids and Families to Celebrate by Alliah L. Agostini and Taffy Elrod, illus. by Sawyer Cloud

Olsson's to Open in Crystal City

This fall, Olsson's Books & Music is opening a 3,600-sq.-ft. store in the Crystal City section of Arlington, Va.--an area well-known to many ABA members after the last BEA. The sixth Olsson's in metropolitan Washington, D.C., the store will be on Crystal Drive and is part of an effort by Charles E. Smith, the largest landlord in Crystal City, to add street-level shops and restaurants and make the '60s and '70s development more pedestrian-friendly.

Like the other Olsson's, the Crystal City store will offer books, music, DVDs (for sale and rent), have a strong events program, invite neighborhood book clubs to meet at the store and support local schools and literacy programs, among other community activities.

John Olsson, who founded the company in 1972, said that one of Olsson's principles is "we don't just have one location and expect customers to come to us. We do our best to bring our services and products to them."

Olsson's has another store in Arlington, two in Washington, one in Old Town Alexandria, Va., and another in Reagan National Airport. The opening marks a nice change in momentum for the company. Late last year Olsson's had to close its Bethesda, Md., store because the building was to be turned into luxury condos (Shelf Awareness, December 15, 2005). And just a year ago, Olsson's closed its Rosslyn, Va., store, which had been open three and a half years (Shelf Awareness, July 21, 2005).

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Assassins Anonymous by Rob Hart

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Cullen on the New American Way of Death

In the center ring this morning on Good Morning America, Cirque du Soleil's The Spark: Igniting the Creative Fire That Lives Within Us All (Doubleday, $19.95, 0385516517).


Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, author of Remember Me: A Lively Tour of the New American Way of Death (HarperBusiness, $24.95, 0060766832).


Today on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Björn Turöque, aka Dan Crane, author of To Air Is Human: One Man's Quest to Become the World's Greatest Air Guitarist (Riverhead, $14, 1594482101).


Tonight on the Colbert Report, Linda R. Hirshman talks about her new book, Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World (Viking, $19.95, 0670038121).

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Summer Romance by Annabel Monaghan

Books & Authors

Attainment: New Books Out Next Week

Significant books with laydown dates next Tuesday, August 8:

Crisis by Robin Cook (Putnam, $25.95, 0399153578) is a medical thriller about a doctor defending himself against a malpractice suit after a hypochondriac patient dies of a heart attack.

Coronado: Stories by Dennis Lehane (Morrow, $24.95, 006113967X) contains five short stories and a play by the author of Mystic River.

Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston (Warner, $21.99, 0446533068) follows a marriage in crisis as a husband has an affair with his trainer.

Golden Threads by Kay Hooper (Bantam, $15, 0553805010) is a love story involving a woman in a small town and a mysterious man, both hiding potentially lethal secrets.

The Last White Knight by Tami Hoag (Bantam, $15, 0553805002) follows a counselor for delinquent girls as she resists the help and amorous advances of a glamorous senator.

An Unexpected Song by Iris Johansen (Bantam, $15, 0553804995) chronicles a young singer as she attempts to catch the murderer who stalks a world famous composer.

Guinness World Records 2007 (Time, $28.95, 1904994121) features over 3,000 new photographs and updated records.

Book Review

Mandahla: The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters Reviewed

Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist (Bantam Books, $26.00 Hardcover, 9780385340359, August 2006)

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters opens with Miss Celeste Temple receiving a letter from her fiancé severing their engagement, "closing with the politely expressed desire that she take pains to never contact nor see him in any way for the complete remainder of her days." Miss Temple "had grown up on an island, bright and hot, in the shadow of slaves, and as she was a sensitive girl, it had marked her like a whip--though part of that marking was how very immune from whips she was, and would, she trusted, remain." Decidedly not docile, the sharp-witted young woman determines to find out why Roger Bascombe has thrown her over. Outfitted with a black traveling cloak, opera glasses, a notebook and all-weather pencil, she puts the play in motion. Following Roger from his Foreign Ministry job, she impulsively boards his train, where she encounters two men with cigars and a woman with a half-mask of peacock feathers. The train is bound across the moors for the aptly-named Harschmort estate, a country house filled with shadowy hallways, catwalks, opulent dressing rooms and operating theatres with drains, blackboards and leather belts. She encounters men and women with strange burns around their eyes and across their noses, who have gone through something called The Process. Nothing good can come of this.
She is joined by two others as unusual as herself in a quest to destroy the creators of The Process--a cabal of power-mad, greedy villains. Cardinal Chang, tall, black-haired, sporting round dark glasses, is called Cardinal from his red leather topcoat, and Chang from scarring across his eyes. An enforcer of sorts, he didn't usually resort to outright assassination, but influenced behavior through violence or information, whatever worked. His name "did bestow a certain veneer of mission--given his life was a persistent and persistently vicious struggle--onto his itinerant church of one, [and the title] made him feel less through the course of his days like an animal fattened in a pen." Doctor Abelard Svenson is a surgeon from the Duchy of Macklenburg and reluctant keeper of the dissolute young Prince Karl-Horst von Maasmärck. He is perceived as "a family retainer, a nurse-maid, essentially dismissible. Such perceptions generally suited the Doctor as well, creating much less bother in his day."
The evildoers have found, through alchemy, an extraordinary way to enslave people. Doctor Svenson first discovers this when he finds a blue glass rectangle the size of a calling card. Gazing into the glass, he enters another person's memory, with movement, sensations, eroticism. "It was as if the essence of this woman's feeling had been captured and somehow infused into this tiny window." It's mesmerizing and addictive, and the three learn that there are entire books of this material--a splendid, horrid prison. They also come across people who have died because of this alchemy, whose veins had shattered as their blood turned into blue glass.
The story is told over a period of only four days, and "intricate" is a paltry word for the baroque plot. Fortunately, Dahlquist excels at both description and cliffhanger endings. As Doctor Svenson is being pulled into the black night sky by an airship, hanging onto a cable, terrified, "gasping, sobbing, all the terrors of hell screaming below his feet," the story cuts to Miss Temple back in the city, calmly on her way to the St. Royale Hotel. Here she takes tea, and the depiction of that tea is elaborate and precise, as she "focused on slicing and preparing the scones with just the right thickness to each half, applying an under-layer of jam, and then on top of that slathering the proper amount of cream." This continues for several pages, as she meticulously eats and drinks, and has a conversation with the brutal Comte d'Orkancz. The author details the train station thusly: "A high, shadowed archway over a great staircase that led down into a cavernous gas-lit tunnel . . . the shifting ground at its base, which she first took to be rats streaming into a sewer, was actually a crowd of dark-garbed people flowing through and down into the depths below. It looked absolutely infernal, a sickly yellow portal surrounded by murk, offering passage to hideous depths." An empty room at Harschmort is limned with precision and wit: "Around the chairs were small end tables, the tops of each punctuated with half-empty tea cups and small plates bearing crusts and demurely unfinished slices of cake."
Dahlquist's glorious cascade of words and complex scheme can be a bit overwhelming, with overlapping chapters told from three protagonists' viewpoints--even Doctor Svenson's head "[swims] with too many names and dates and places and figures." The settings are seemingly familiar, but what looks like Victorian London isn't quite: Stropping Station; the Slavic Baths near the seventh bridge; Lynch's new translation of the Persephone fragments; the Duke of Stäelmaere. By the novel's midpoint you realize that if The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters were a movie, it would be directed by Terry Gilliam from a script by Chris Van Allsburg on opium. This is a Byzantine tale with adventures, chases, seductions, sly humor and an airship, contained in a hefty 760 pages. Dense pages, but page-turning pages. Whenever I thought I couldn't take one more desperate pursuit through a dark corridor, I turned a page. "Somewhere in the house, a clock chimed three." I turned a page again.--Marilyn Dahl

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