Also published on this date: Thursday, June 28, 2018 Dedicated Issue: Stoic Series

Shelf Awareness for Thursday, June 28, 2018


Carolrhoda Books: The Manic Pixie Dream Boy Improvement Project by Lenore Appelhans

Grove Press: Solitary by Albert Woodfox

Tor Teen: Dark of the West (Glass Alliance #1) by Joanna Hathaway

Blizzard Entertainment: How to Reach 100 Million Fans!

News

Poetic Justice Books and Arts Opens in Florida

Former Barnes & Noble bookseller Kris Haggblom has opened Poetic Justice Books and Arts, an 800-square-foot bookstore, in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., about two hours north of Miami.

Located in a shopping center near Florida's Highway 1, Poetic Justice carries books from small presses, poetry and literary fiction, with a spotlight on local poets and authors. The space also contains an art gallery featuring the work of local artists, which is available for purchase, and Haggblom has plans to host artist events, author signings, poetry readings and a plethora of other community-focused events.

"I wanted to hear these voices and make them available to this community," said Haggblom, explaining that he aims to provide an outlet for local artists and writers. "The Internet is not the way to experience the heartfelt, inspired visions of a local group of artists."

Haggblom, who has a degree in creative writing from the University of Tampa, worked for B&N for 17 years in a variety of positions, including head cashier, lead bookseller, digital lead and more. He was let go on February 12 when the company fired many hundreds of booksellers at stores across the country; he began the process of launching Poetic Justice on February 13.

"Getting laid off from Barnes & Noble was a further kick and then everything fell together," he said. "The local support has been phenomenal."


Rare Bird Books, a Vireo Book: The Crown Lord by William Sirls


Athenaeum BookBar Launching in Chicago

Athenaeum BookBar, a "new Chicago bookstore concept," plans to use tech and a monthly membership model to draw customers to a space that "combines comfort, technology and a restaurant/bar in a playful Fulton Market location," Broadway World reported.

A spring 2019 opening is planned, but Athenaeum is introducing itself to the city August 10-11 at Block 37 via an "Art Is Life" themed pop-up shop that will include art-based books, selected cocktails and a live street-art demonstration. The business has also launched an Indiegogo campaign.

"The goal was to create a venue that I'd love to hang out in," said concept-creator and owner Danielle Mullen. "My favorite places have always been libraries and bars, so I wanted to bring the best parts of both into one really cool spot."

Athenaeum's business model combines a library-themed concept with a bar, restaurant "and all-around hangout spot," Broadway World noted. The monthly membership allows users to "check out" a specified number of books via an app, then either return them to check out more or purchase them. Users will also be able to order drinks and appetizers in advance, as well as reserve breakout space. "While you don't have to be a member to shop, VIP members get chip-embedded cards that allow access to the membership-only floor, which is appropriately decked out with a top-shelf whiskey bar and cigar lounge," Broadway World added.


Graywolf Press: Notes from No Man's Land: American Essays by Eula Biss


Bookstores Raise Money for Immigrant Aid Organizations

Chalkboard at Bookloft in Great Barrington, Mass.

Bookstores around the country are making donations to and highlighting organizations that are helping immigrants, particularly  asylum-seekers along the border with Mexico whose children have been separated from them by the federal government.

This weekend, Print: A Bookstore, Portland, Maine, is donating 20% of all profits from its sales in-store and online to KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), which works to protect children who enter the U.S. immigration system alone to ensure that no child appears in court without an attorney. The store commented: "We, like many others, take moral issue with the current administration's continued effort to detain families indefinitely at the border and separate children from their parents. KIND and many other terrific organizations like RAICES and the Florence Project are working tirelessly to make sure the rights of immigrants and those seeking asylum are protected. Because we believe that we become stronger as a country, as citizens and as human beings by doing things that bring us together--not things that tear us apart."

Last weekend, the Bookloft, Great Barrington, Mass., donated all proceeds from its sales to RAICES (the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services), which provides free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas. The store posted: "Your purchases allow us to put a check in the mail to RAICES today for $6,609.04."

Last Saturday, Third Place Books, with three stores in Seattle, Wash., donated 20% of all sales to RAICE. The day of donations was the idea of Avery Peregrine, a bookseller at Third Place Books Seward Park who recalled the store's fundraising last October for Hurricane Maria relief in Puerto Rico and suggested doing something similar for the current crisis stemming from President Trump's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy.

Third Place managing partner Robert Sindelar said that the stores raised $7,488 for RAICES and that customer reaction was "incredibly positive. Readers at all three stores were making a point of thanking us throughout the day and purchasing stacks of books in the process." Sales were up almost 80% in the stores and online. Noting that Third Place raised $6,585 for Hurricane Maria relief, he added, "I am thrilled that Avery had the instinct and intuition to suggest a similar campaign to help the children in crisis at the border."

On June 20, United Nations' World Refugee Day, Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo., donated 20% of its proceeds, which amounted to $973.28, to RAICES. "All credit is due to the wonderful community we serve," said store co-owner Jarek Steele. "They responded in force when we put out the call... We are grateful and heartened by the response."

In announcing the event, the store wrote:

"We at Left Bank Books are appalled by the stories of children being separated from their families at the border of our country. We condemn in the strongest terms the cruel actions taken against these families in our name.

"We are obligated, every one of us, to seek a higher ground. To be better than this. To be the best selves we can be. This is our time to show who we are as citizens of this country and grasp the highest moral ground, the strictest code of kindness and compassion. We must use our time on this earth to do good and to leave it a better place for those who come after us.

"That means holding our elected officials accountable, insisting that this practice stop by protest in any form we are able, and showing support to the organizations who are doing the hard work of protecting these families and the rest of us from ourselves.

"This is our watch."

Also in honor of World Refugee Day, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Tex., gave a 20% discount through the end of last week to any customer who could show proof of a donation to RAICES.

Ripped Bodice's Fitz print.

The Ripped Bodice: A Romantic Bookstore, Culver City, Calif., is donating 100% of the proceeds from the sale of a print of Fitzwilliam Waffles, "the most famous romance bookstore dog in the world," to RAICES. Orders for Fitz's Fundraiser must be placed by July 9.

And in related effort, starting on Monday, July 2, One More Page Books, Arlington, Va., is giving away 25 copies of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder (Tim Duggan Books) to the first 25 people who show the store their voter registration cards. Owner Eileen McGervey called On Tyranny "a small and powerful book. We've sold many, many copies, but we want to get it in the hands of even more folks and emphasize the importance of voting."


GLOW: Henry Holt & Company: Trust Exercise by Susan Choi


In Australia, Amazon Launches Prime, Blocks Most Int'l Purchases

Amazon has launched Prime in Australia, offering users free delivery and subscription access to e-books, videos and games at half the price it charges customers in the U.S. Books+Publishing reported that the launch "comes after the announcement that Amazon's international websites will no longer deliver to Australian addresses" beginning this Sunday, July 1, following changes in GST laws requiring online retailers to collect 10% GST on overseas purchases. That new law ends an exemption that resulted in a price advantage to Amazon and others, much as the company's longtime aversion to collecting sales tax in the U.S. gave it an advantage.

Of course, Amazon has fought collecting the GST, much as it fought collecting sales tax in the U.S., until it decided to open warehouses across the U.S. This week, Australian Booksellers Association CEO Joel Becker noted the absurdity of Amazon's oft-repeated argument that sales tax is too complicated to figure out: "Our collective hearts go out to Amazon, who seem to lack the technical capacity to collect the GST, and therefore have decided to 'geoblock' Australians. Clearly those tens of billions of dollars that go into research and development has not provided them with the capacity to add 10% to the retail price of a purchase from the U.S. to Australia. I was amazed to hear recently that they can manage to collect these taxes across state borders within the U.S. Go figure."

Apparently to make up for blocking direct purchases from abroad, the Prime launch offers Australians some Amazon-style perks. For AU$6.99 (about US$5.15) a month or AU$59 (about US$44) a year, products bought from the U.S. on the Amazon Australia website will include free international delivery for Prime customers on orders totaling more than $49. The service includes free "expedited delivery" to addresses in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and other regional centers. Also included is access to the Prime Reading subscription service.

Forbes observed that the "bargain basement pricing strategy suggests that Amazon is looking to quickly jumpstart subscriptions Down Under and is clearly planning to be in Australia for the long haul. However, Amazon in Australia is not quite the Amazon we know in the states. Unlike the 480 million products available in the U.S., amazon.com.au has only about 60 million products for sale, and a lot of those products are sold by third-party sellers and thus are not eligible for free two-day shipping."

Among several factors cited to suggest the success of Amazon Prime may not be straightforward in Australia, Forbes observed that Australians "are not always quick to adopt American brands. Starbucks, for example, had a very difficult time cracking the Australian market.... Although the lifestyle coffee shop experience was something new, the local coffee shops quickly copied these innovations and enriched them with strong local ties and better prices. Starbuck's was forced to retreat. While Amazon might be able to offer something new in terms of e-commerce experience, if the domestic retailers can respond quickly enough, it may not be enough of an advantage to change the local habits."


Bloomsbury: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer


Obituary Note: Nina Baym

Nina Baym, a scholar "who asked why so few women were represented in the American literary canon, then spent her career working to correct that imbalance," died June 15, the New York Times reported. She was 82. Baym taught English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for more than 40 years. In 1975, while writing a book about Nathaniel Hawthorne she began to wonder why 19th-century American literature was so male-dominated, noting that even Hawthorne himself had complained in 1855 that "a damned mob of scribbling women" was cutting into his sales.

"I wanted to know where these women were," she said in a 1987 Times interview.

Baym's 1978 book, Woman's Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and About Women in America, 1820-1870, was "a foundational work in the field of feminist literary history and criticism," the Times noted. Her other titles include Women Writers of the American West, 1832-1927; Feminism and American Literary History; Shape of Hawthorne's Career; and The Scarlet Letter: A Reading.

Baym also "had a chance to have a direct impact on the literature presented to students when she served as general editor of several editions of The Norton Anthology of American Literature," the Times wrote. 

In response to the news of Baym's death, University of Illinois English professor Catherine Prendergast tweeted: "Very sad to hear of the passing of Nina Baym, a titan of American literature, who mentored me at many points during our time together at Illinois. Please read some American woman's literature in her memory."


Melville House Publishing: Dead Men's Trousers by Irvine Welsh


Notes

DIESEL's John Evans on NPR's All Things Considered

John Evans

John Evans, co-owner of DIESEL, A Bookstore in Larkspur and Brentwood, Calif., shared a few great book suggestions with Audie Cornish on NPR's All Things Considered, which is "on the hunt for great reading recommendations."

"Anyone listening to NPR knows this truth--we do love a good book. We also love a good book list," said Cornish. "And this summer, we're asking booksellers and writers for their reading recommendations. John Evans has a few.... He's excited about the new books he's read this year."

Among his choices were poetry titles The Red Wheelbarrow & Other Poems by William Carlos Williams as well as Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems and Gorgeous Nothings. Cornish noted: "You're excited about some poetry for this summer. And I think some people think poetry is hard or that it's for curling up with in the winter. How did you think about this?"

"Poetry is delightfully refreshing at using language intensely to say things that we don't know how to say otherwise," Evans replied. "And I think a lot of people are turning to it for that reason and also just taking pleasure in it.... And, you know, you just relax in your beach chair, read a poem, take a nap, read a poem, go swimming, read a poem, have lunch. And it's so relaxing to step away from computers.... And poetry has come back into some kind of mainstream that's--that no one really could have predicted. And yet, that's what's happening."


'Bookstores Have to Find a New Way to Evolve'

Emma Ramadan, co-owner of Riffraff bookstore/bar in Providence, R.I., appeared on RI Small Biz Fuel with GoLocal CEO Josh Fenton recently to discuss how bookstores are evolving around the country. The segment features small businesses in the state and is part of an ongoing series between GoLocalProv and Commerce RI.

"There are a couple of other bookstore-bars in the country," said Ramadan. "In late 2016 I was up on in the Hudson Valley--at the Spotty Dog--and [realized] my whole life was to open bookstore bar.... Bookstores are evolving--and to keep up with online, and Amazon, bookstores have to find a new way to evolve, and this trend of bookstore-bars has been cropping up the past few years."


'10 Bookshops You Must Visit'

Highlighting "10 bookshops you must visit if you call yourself a book lover," Rojak Daily wrote: "If you consider yourself a bookworm, you'd understand that feeling of excitement and thrill rushing through your veins when you discover a good bookshop! You know that's your spot. You know you'll be a frequent visitor.... If that sounds like you, well, brace yourself, fellow book lovers; we present to you a list of must-visit bookshops all around the world that will make you go gaga!"

"With the rich collections they have to offer to fulfill your reading desire and the unique style of their shops--be it gorgeous architecture or cozy setting of their place--these are the places where the experience of book-hunting sessions is taken to a whole new level!"


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Gillian Flynn on CBS This Morning

Tomorrow:
CBS This Morning: Gillian Flynn, author of Sharp Objects (Broadway Books, $15, 9780307341556). (The HBO series based on the novel begins airing July 8.)

The Real repeat: Grace Byers, author of I Am Enough (Balzer+Bray, $18.99, 9780062667120).

The View: Sebastian Maniscalco, author of Stay Hungry (Gallery, $25, 9781501115974).


Movies: Beautiful Boy

Past Oscar-nominees Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet "look like possible future winners in the first trailer for Beautiful Boy," based on the memoirs Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction by David Sheff and Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamine by Nic Sheff, Entertainment Weekly reported. Directed by Felix Van Groeningen, the film also stars Amy Ryan and Maura Tierney. It opens in theaters on October 12.


This Weekend on Book TV: In-Depth with Brad Thor

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, June 30
6 p.m. Joseph Crespino, author of Atticus Finch: The Biography (Basic Books, $27, 9781541644946), at Lemuria Books in Jackson, Miss. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

6:45 p.m. Rachel Devlin, author of A Girl Stands at the Door: The Generation of Young Women Who Desegregated America's Schools (Basic Books, $32, 9781541697331).

7:45 p.m. Michelle Obama's keynote address at American Library Association's annual conference. (Re-airs Sunday at 10:45 p.m.)

9 p.m. Dan Abrams, author of Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency (Hanover Square Press, $26.99, 9781335424693), at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C. (Re-airs Sunday at 9:30 a.m.)

10 p.m. Mona Hanna-Attisha, author of What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City (One World, $28, 9780399590832). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Ken Bensinger, author of Red Card: How the U.S. Blew the Whistle on the World's Biggest Sports Scandal (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781501133909), at Chevalier's Books in Los Angeles, Calif. (Re-airs Sunday at 5:30 p.m.)

Sunday, July 1
12:10 a.m. Roxane Gay, author of Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (Harper Perennial, $16.99, 9780062413512). (Re-airs Sunday at 3 p.m.)

10:30 a.m. Janet Jones and Alyson Turner of Source Booksellers, Detroit, Mich., in a discussion from BookExpo.

12 p.m. Live In-Depth q&a with thriller author Brad Thor. (Re-airs Monday at 12 a.m.)

6:45 p.m. Andrew Selee, author of Vanishing Frontiers: The Forces Driving Mexico and the United States Together (PublicAffairs, $28, 9781610398596).

7:50 p.m. Peter Stark, author of Young Washington: How Wilderness and War Forged America's Founding Father (Ecco, $35, 9780062416063), at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, Wash.



Books & Authors

Awards: Polari First Book; Whiting Literary Magazine

A longlist has been announced for the Polari First Book Prize, which celebrates "a writer whose first book explores the LGBT experience, whether in poetry, prose, fiction or nonfiction." The shortlist of up to six titles will be unveiled July 24, and the winner named October 20 at the London Literature Festival. This year's longlisted titles are:

Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard by Alex Bertie
Through Your Blood by Toby Campion
Mussolini’s Island by Sarah Day
A Marvellous Party by Ian Elmslie
Good as You: From Prejudice to Pride--30 years of Gay Britain by Paul Flynn
Pansy Boy by Paul Harfleet
Carnivore by Jonathan Lyon
Elmet by Fiona Mozley
Little Gold by Allie Rogers
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Bravado by Scottee
Is Monogamy Dead? by Rosie Wilby

---

Three winners were announced for the inaugural Whiting Literary Magazine Prize, presented by the Whiting Foundation in print and digital categories to smaller and mid-sized journals with budgets of up to $500,000. Each prize includes an outright gift in the first year, followed by "substantial matching grants in the next two years and capacity building opportunities."

The judges looked for applicants that embodied "the best of what magazines do: publish extraordinary writing with verve and flair, support talented writers on the page and in the world, connect with readers, and advance the literary community." The winners are:

A Public Space, which receives $20,000 this year and again in 2019 and 2020, "stands as a paradigm of what literary magazines can be: a gorgeously curated collection we experience as a cabinet of wonders," the judges said.

Receiving $10,000 a year over the same time period are Fence ("This pioneer remains central to the canon.") and Words Without Borders ("a monument to international collaboration and a shared belief in artistic possibility").


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, July 3:

Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan by Ruby Lal (Norton, $27.95, 9780393239348) is the biography of an empress of the Mughal Empire.

The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India's New Gilded Age by James Crabtree (Tim Duggan Books, $28, 9781524760069) explores India's severe economic inequality.

The Last Time I Lied: A Novel by Riley Sager (Dutton, $26, 9781524743079) is a thriller about a woman who returns to a childhood summer camp where a fellow camper disappeared.

Caught in Time: A Novel by Julie McElwain (Pegasus Books, $25.95, 9781681777665) is book three in the Kendra Donovan mystery series.

Picnic with Oliver by Mika Song (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780062429506) has Oliver the cat and Philbert the mouse planning a picnic that goes terribly awry.

Click, Clack, Quack to School by Doreen Cronin, illus. by Betsy Lewin (Atheneum, $17.99, 9781534414495) is the sixth title in the award-winning Click, Clack series.


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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

Hardcover
The Book of Essie: A Novel by Meghan MacLean Weir (Knopf, $25.95, 9780525520313). "The Book of Essie is a captivating debut. The original plot moves at lightning speed while giving the reader characters to hang on to, care for, and sympathize with. The novel focuses on 16-year-old Essie Hicks, a star on a reality TV show following her preacher father and her ultra-religious, conservative family. When Essie finds out she is pregnant, she must protect herself and her future in the face of public scorn. I couldn't stop turning the pages to see what would happen to Essie and Roarke, the boy Essie's mother has decided she will marry in a primetime, live-televised wedding. Weir proves herself to be a brilliant new talent with a sensitive but unflinching take on child exploitation and life in the public eye. A must-read!" --Liv Stratman, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Invitation to a Bonfire: A Novel by Adrienne Celt (Bloomsbury, $26, 9781635571523). "Adrienne Celt's Invitation to a Bonfire is a propulsive literary thriller masterfully constructed and written with an extraordinary, raw urgency that will leave readers breathless. Inspired by the marriage of Vladimir and Vera Nabokov, Celt explores the love and ambition of two strong-willed women who compete for the passions and artistic control of a literary icon. The novel's characters are original and vividly drawn, with all the complexity and contradictions of their emotions and intentions fully realized. This is a story that you will not be able to put down, and certainly one of the most memorable and satisfying reads of the year. Adrienne Celt is a writer to watch." --Lori Feathers, Interabang Books, Dallas, Tex.

Paperback
Meddling Kids: A Novel by Edgar Cantero (Anchor, $16.95, 9781101974445). "I have an abiding fondness for kooky premises executed well, and Edgar Cantero's Meddling Kids is as kooky as they come. In 1977, the tween members of the Blyton Summer Detective Club solved their last case and went their separate ways. Now it's 1990 and the man they sent to jail has been paroled. These former detectives have unfinished business, so one of them resolves to get the gang back together to find out the dark truth behind that final case. Meddling Kids is a pop-culture savvy, uproarious romp but also an action-packed horror-thriller. Highly recommended for fans of Christopher Moore and Ernest Cline, or anyone seeking a little laughter, nostalgia, or escapism." --Susan Tunis, Bookshop West Portal, San Francisco, Calif.

For Ages 4 to 8
Whale in a Fishbowl by Troy Howell, illustrated by Richard Jones (Schwartz & Wade, $17.99, 9781524715182). "I loved the spare, subdued palette of this lovely book. Wednesday the whale is in the middle of everything, but she should be in the middle of the sea. How can a whale in a tank even begin to understand the sea? This is a story about possibilities and finding one's perfect place." --Lillian Welch, Island Books, Mercer Island, Wash.

For Ages 9 to 12: An Indies Introduce Title
The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell (Knopf, $20.99, 9781524719371). "The Cardboard Kingdom is a love letter to make-believers. The kids in Sell's fictional neighborhood spend the summer creating elaborate costumes (including an evil sorceress, an alchemist, a banshee, and a gargoyle), weapons, and secret hideouts from cardboard boxes. Many of the kids face resistance from their parents, such as the professor whose father doesn't understand why she wants to dress up in a mustache or the banshee whose grandmother constantly tells her that 'nice girls don't talk so loud,' but each finds strength in their alter ego. The Cardboard Kingdom is a wonderfully crafted world that has something for everyone, including your inner child." --Kinsey Foreman, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Mass.

For Teen Readers: An Indies Introduce Title
The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen (Balzer+Bray, $17.99, 9780062674159). "This book of riddles is itself a kind of sublime riddle composed of the ingredients of a true classic tale. There is doomed love, an authentic historical backdrop, fallen kingdoms and thwarted destinies, sacrifices that elevate, and an ending that, by transcending its finality, takes the reader full circle to begin the tale again with fresh eyes. Bannen takes the operatic tradition of Princess Turandot's slave girl and infuses it with a richness of character and a convincing dramatic immediacy that rewards the reader at every turn. The Mongol Empire has never been so deftly invaded as it is in the pages of The Bird and the Blade." --Kenny Brechner, Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers, Farmington, Me.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: Mary B: An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice

Mary B: A Novel: An Untold Story of Pride and Prejudice by Katherine J. Chen (Random House, $27 hardcover, 336p., 9780399592218, July 24, 2018)

Mary Bennet, as everyone knows, is the plain middle sister: not beautiful like Jane, witty like Lizzy or even high-spirited like her younger sisters, Kitty and Lydia. But though she may be awkward, Mary is far from dull, and in Katherine J. Chen's debut novel, Mary B, she finally gets a chance to tell her own story. Beginning with the events of Pride and Prejudice, but going far beyond them both in time and scope, Chen imagines a woman ill-suited for the family and the world into which she was born. Mary struggles to make her own way in life without giving in to either convention or despair.
 
Chen begins her narrative with a telling incident from Mary's childhood. During a tussle with her younger sisters in the woods, she sustains a cut on her face from a rock. But her mother's distress and the doctor's attention are all for Jane, who was the intended target but suffered only a muddy dress. This pattern continues throughout the first part of the book, as Mary is undervalued or overlooked in favor of Lizzy, Jane or even Lydia.
 
Understandably, she lapses into self-pity at times, and this, along with the well-worn incidents comprising Lizzy's and Jane's love stories, makes the narrative drag a bit. But the action picks up after Lizzy and Darcy are married, and Mary goes to stay with them at Pemberley. There, she discovers a surprising friendship with Darcy, an unexpected connection with his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, and a latent passion for writing. The latter provides not only amusement and intellectual stimulation, but may change the course of her life. Gradually, Mary Bennet the minor character becomes Mary B the authoress, making bold choices for her fictional creations and herself.
 
Though timid and resigned at first, Mary's narrative voice grows acerbic, even caustic: she does not suffer fools and spares her family members no indignity. Readers of Pride and Prejudice already know of Mrs. Bennet's flightiness and Lydia's lack of self-control, but Mr. Bennet, Charlotte Lucas and Lizzy--especially Lizzy--do not come off well in this retelling. Only Jane, kind to the last, retains her sweetness and beauty.
 
Austen purists may be scandalized at Chen's reimagining of these familiar characters and her handling of the Darcys' relationship, but the book's plot twists are thought-provoking. Mary has long stopped believing in happy endings, but through sheer force of will and a series of unorthodox choices, she creates a surprising future for herself that might even include a bit of joy. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
 
Shelf Talker: Mary Bennet, the awkward middle sister, finally gets to tell her own story in an acerbic, surprising debut novel.

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