Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Storey Publishing: The Universe in Verse: 15 Portals to Wonder Through Science & Poetry by Maria Popova

Tommy Nelson: You'll Always Have a Friend: What to Do When the Lonelies Come by Emily Ley, Illustrated by Romina Galotta

Jimmy Patterson: Amir and the Jinn Princess by M T Khan

Peachtree Publishers: Erno Rubik and His Magic Cube by Kerry Aradhya, Illustrated by Kara Kramer

Beacon Press: Kindred by Octavia Butler

Inkshares: Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

Tundra Books: On a Mushroom Day by Chris Baker, Illustrated by Alexandria Finkeldey

Blue Box Press: A Soul of Ash and Blood: A Blood and Ash Novel by Jennifer L Armentrout


A Freethinker's Corner Bookstore Opens in Dover, N.H.

A Freethinker's Corner, a new and used bookstore that opened in Dover, N.H., in August, has expanded its inventory and "built a growing clientele," wrote. Owner Chris Upton, who created the store with his wife, Kristen McPhee-Upton, said customers routinely say how glad they are to have a local bookstore in Dover.

The pair are aiming to make the store what Chris Upton called "a place where you can sit, and read and talk about books." Besides books, A Freethinker's Corner sells greeting cards and displays local art. It also has a room for book clubs, meetings and other functions for up to 25 people. There are plans for paint nights, poetry nights and author events.

Chris Upton retired as an air traffic controller in October at age 48, planning to work in a bookstore in retirement. But then he met with a financial adviser who said, Upton told Wicked Local, " 'Why don't you own a bookstore instead?' so we sat down and figured out how to make it work."

On the store's website Chris Upton wrote, "As a freethinker myself, the name A Freethinker's Corner represents our core goal and philosophy; a place that provides a wide selection of books to encourage intellectual growth, foster reasoned opinions, and stimulate rational conversations and debate. Our motto, 'think... act... and be outside the box' refers to being out of the 'social norms' box, allowing for physical, mental, and emotional growth; and the 'big retail' box by investing in local, independent people and businesses, helping our communities grow.

"Born, raised, and living in New England, I am fond of what the people and places of New England have to offer. Knowing that local, independent businesses are important to the vitality of our towns, communities and their people, A Freethinker's Corner believes in 'buy local, buy New England.' Here you will find books penned by New England writers, music produced and performed by musicians from around the area, and visual art created by talented local artists. These artists are chosen according to our philosophy of being organic in both quality and creativity."

Weldon Owen: The Gay Icon's Guide to Life by Michael Joosten, Illustrated by Peter Emerich

The French Library in New Orleans Closes

The French Library, a children's bookstore in New Orleans that featured the "largest collection of children's French books in the country" as well as "a mindfully curated selection" of children's English books along with French toys, games and gifts, closed December 15.

A statement posted earlier this month on Facebook said: "To all of our patrons, merci! Over the past three years we have watched in wonder as you guided and nurtured a love for reading and culture within your little ones. We are shuttering our blue doors on Magazine; but only to pave the way for a new adventure! Thank you for all of your love and support and please continue to follow us in a totally new concept and shopping experience."

Noting that the French Library was owned by Katrina Greer, wife of former New Orleans Saints cornerback Jabari Greer, the Times-Picayune reported that "fans of the store expressed their sadness on social media that the store has closed, saying they would miss the story times, gift shopping, beauty and serenity of the book shop."

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Controversy Continues over Fairstein's Grand Master Award

Several longtime, well-known members and honorees of the Mystery Writers of America, including two mystery booksellers and a past president, have made public their extreme displeasure with the association's quick retraction of a Grand Master Edgar to Linda Fairstein last month. They argue that the MWA board caved in to a Twitter campaign that was a form of "cyberbullying" and "mob rule"; did not follow any kind of due process or engage with members on the matter; and was deceptive in saying it didn't know about the mystery author's earlier career as a sex crimes prosecutor in New York City, which involved the 1989 Central Park Jogger case.

In that case, which 30 years later continues to inspire passions, five minority teens were tried and convicted for the rape and severe beating of a jogger in Central Park. Defenders of the young men say their confessions were coerced and point out that years later, another man confessed to the rape. The five were released in 2002 and were paid $41 million by the city in 2014. Fairstein and other law enforcement figures have continued to maintain that the five were involved in the beating and other beatings the night of the crime, and that their confessions were not coerced. And Fairstein emphasizes that she did not lead either the investigation or the prosecution of the case.

The series of events involving the MWA began on Tuesday, November 27, when the association announced that Fairstein and Martin Cruz Smith would be recipients of next year's Grand Master awards. Almost immediately, author Attica Locke condemned the idea of honoring Fairstein, tweeting (see the full thread here): "@EdgarAwards As a member and 2018 Edgar winner, I am begging you to reconsider having Linda Fairstein serve as a Grand Master in next year's awards ceremony. She is almost singlehandedly responsible for the wrongful incarceration of the Central Park Five./ For which she has never apologized or recanted her insistence on their guilt for the most heinous of crimes, 'guilt' based solely on evidence procured through violence and ill treatment of children in lock up..../ Just because she has a flourishing publishing career does not mean we should ignore her past--or her continued unwillingness to accept responsibility for ruining five innocent men's lives. I cannot support this decision. Surely, someone else is more worthy our attention, support, and this laudatory role in the 2019 @EdgarAwards."

Her tweet was widely retweeted and others supported her. The MWA board said in response, "We are taking seriously the issues raised by Attica Locke. Our Board is going to discuss these concerns as soon as possible and make a further statement soon."

By Thursday, November 29, two days after its announcement, the board said it was retracting the award, adding that when it made the decision, it was "unaware of Ms. Fairstein's role in the controversy. After profound reflection, the board has decided that MWA cannot move forward with an award that lacks the support of such a large percentage of our members. Therefore, the board of directors has decided to withdraw the Linda Fairstein Grand Master award. We realize that this action will be unsatisfactory to many. We apologize for any pain and disappointment this situation has caused."

MWA also said it will be "reevaluating and significantly revising its procedures for selecting honorary awards in the future" and hoped members will "work with us to move forward from this extremely troubling event and continue to build a strong and inclusive organization.

In a letter to the board, Otto Penzler, owner of the Mysterious Bookshop, New York City, and a longtime mystery book publisher, recipient of Raven and Ellery Queen awards and a former MWA board member, called the retraction of the award "cowardly and reprehensible."

He wrote, in part: "Many on the MWA board admit they knew nothing about one of the most famous criminal cases in the history of New York, yet it gave 'profound reflection' in making its disgraceful decision, besmirching the reputation of one of the finest, most decent and honorable women I have ever known. Its claim that the award lacks the support of such 'a large percentage of our members' is a disingenuous, outright lie, as it is only the small coterie of frightened sheep caving to political correctness that made the decision. The membership was never polled. You should be ashamed of yourselves."

He concluded his letter to the board this way: "I have been a proud member of MWA for more years than many of you have been alive, but that pride no longer pertains. I am ashamed of you and of the organization for taking such a cowardly stance. For many years, I have welcomed the celebration of the incoming board with a party at the Mysterious Bookshop. The board does not deserve a celebration of any kind, and it would be hypocritical of me to host one. You are no longer welcome in my bookshop."

Noting that he was a 42-year member of the MWA and a past president, author Nelson DeMille sent to the board what he called "a difficult letter for me to write. But it would be more difficult for me to stay silent about your decision to withdraw Linda Fairstein's Grand Master award."

He said he doubted that the board's statement that it was unaware of Fairstein's connection with the Central Park Jogger case. "It was national news at the time, and a quick Internet search as you were researching Linda Fairstein's bio for this award would have all of this. I suspect that the board, or individual members of the board, were aware of Ms. Fairstein's involvement in the case, but like most fair-minded people they understood that Ms. Fairstein as chief of the sex crimes unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office had acted professionally and responsibly and without prejudice or malice."

He also criticized the board for having "no idea of how most MWA members feel about this issue. The board simply panicked in the face of race-tainted accusations from a few perpetually outraged members of the fringe, who while attacking Ms. Fairstein also took an opportunity to attack our organization." He added that he will not attend the Edgar awards next year and said others "should think about staying home."

Barbara Peters, owner of the Poisoned Pen Bookstore, Scottsdale, Ariz., and co-owner of Poisoned Pen Press, a recipient of the MWA's Raven Award and the Ellery Queen Award and nominee and publisher of many Edgar nominees, has resigned from the association after 29 years of membership. She criticized the Twitter campaign, saying that Attica Locke should have identified herself as a screenwriter "on the Ava DuVernay documentary [the Central Park Five miniseries that will air on Netflix next year].... Instead, deliberately choosing to leverage an award given to her into a bully pulpit, she raised a Twitterstorm. It's cyberbullying. And devastatingly, by caving to the mob rather than standing by its decision and by citing a number of implausible rationales for its action, the MWA board has created a culture of fear where its members are reluctant to speak up for fear of retaliation. Not just retaliation by the mob but from MWA itself."

Peters said added: "I am speaking up in hopes that others will, not to take personal sides but to encourage MWA to look at its policies, its lack of due diligence or due process, and how it might address the broad spectrum of issues raised."

Harpervia: Only Big Bumbum Matters Tomorrow by Damilare Kuku

Pineapple Press Opens New Office in Palm Beach, Fla.

Pineapple Press, which was bought by Rowman & Littlefield earlier this year and had its headquarters in Sarasota, Fla., since it was founded in 1982, has opened a new office in Palm Beach, Fla. The new office is located at 203 Royal Poinciana Way, Suite E, Palm Beach, Fla. 33480. The Sarasota office was closed when founders David and June Cussen sold the company.

Pineapple Press specializes in titles about Florida, fiction as well as nonfiction about the history of the state, biographies, and books on Florida trees, beaches, flowers, water and birds.

Jed Lyons, CEO of Rowman & Littlefield, commented: "We are excited to open a book publishing office in Palm Beach where many writers reside and where the town's residents support two first-rate independent bookstores. We hope that authors will send us their book ideas and help us expand Pineapple Press's excellent backlist of 400 titles on the state of Florida."

Obituary Note: Meng Lang

Poet Meng Lang, "who promoted Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, along with other dissident Chinese writers," died December 12, the New York Times reported. He was 57. Meng, "whose own writing has been published and translated into many languages, was a co-founder of the Independent Chinese PEN Center, a nonprofit organization formed in 2011 to promote freedom of expression and publication."

Meng helped edit the book A Compendium of Modern Chinese Poetry, 1986-1988, and was a writer in residence at Brown University from 1995 to 1998. He moved to Hong Kong in 2006 and to Taiwan in 2015. Among his last projects was an anthology of poems in Liu's memory, published this year in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Yibing Huang, an associate professor of Chinese at Connecticut College and a poet, told the Times that Meng "played an important, fearless role in championing an unorthodox, experimental and free-spirited poetry in China back in the 1980s. Although he had been living overseas since 1995, Meng Lang was widely respected and loved by poets, artists and friends in mainland China and overseas. He also contributed to the growth of a new diasporic Chinese poetry."

On Twitter, dissident Chinese novelist Ma Jian, who lives in London, wrote: "The exiled poet Meng Lang has passed away, but he has left behind a lot of poetry, his life's footsteps. As we walk along the path of these poems, we will see him again, this 'child of the sky.' "


Image of the Day: Holiday Shopping

This past weekend, Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif., hosted a special holiday market, co-sponsored by the Journal of Alta California. The market featured gift items and products made locally in California, as well as book signings by guest authors. Booksellers were available to give holiday gift recommendations and customers enjoyed refreshments and snacks while they shopped. Pictured: (l.-r.) Lisa See (The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane), Naomi Hirahara (Hiroshima Boy), Mark Haskell Smith (Blown), Edan Lepucki (Women No. 17) and David Ulin (The Lost Art of Reading).

Politics and Prose: 'Where Literary, Political Worlds Intersect'

Voice of America featured a video exploration of Politics and Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C., "the historic place where literary, political worlds intersect."

Noting that the "relatively modest, independently owned bookstore in Washington has become a standout on the cultural scene in the U.S. capital," VOA spoke with staff, authors and customers to learn more about how Politics and Prose has "managed to survive the age of online book buying and thrive as a magnet for some of the world's highest profile authors, from former Presidents Clinton and Obama, to J.K. Rowling, Salman Rushdie and photographer Annie Leibovitz."

Road Trip: Best Indie Bookshops in Ireland

"Despite all the difficulties of the past decade, Irish people still love books--browsing, choosing, buying, gifting and reading them," the Irish Times observed in highlighting "35 of the best independent bookshops in Ireland."

"A truly great bookshop is where all of those things can happen at once," the Irish Times wrote. "If you're lucky enough to have one in your community, there are good reasons to support it." Economist Jim Power wrote in a report for the Irish Booksellers Association: "The benefits of local booksellers to Irish communities extend beyond the standard contributions to turnover, GDP, employment... These less tangible 'spillover' benefits are... important in the context of the overall social, cultural and economic contribution that bookshops make to the Irish economy."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Pete Souza on the View

CBS This Morning: Gisele Bündchen, author of Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life (Avery, $28, 9780525538646).

Access Live: Chris Colfer, author of The Land of Stories: The Ultimate Book Hugger's Guide (Little, Brown, $18.99, 9780316523301).

The View repeat: Charlotte Pence, author of Where You Go: Life Lessons from My Father (Center Street, $26, 9781546076186).

Also on the View: Pete Souza, author of Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents (Little, Brown, $30, 9780316421829).

Daily Show: Charlamagne Tha God, author of Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me (Touchstone, $26, 9781501193255).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Brian Posehn, author of Forever Nerdy: Living My Dorky Dreams and Staying Metal (Da Capo Press, $26, 9780306825576).

Movies: Let It Snow

Netflix has acquired global rights to Let It Snow from Planet of the Apes franchise producer Dylan Clark, Deadline reported. The film is based on the 2008 book Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances, featuring interconnected stories by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle.

The project marks the feature debut of U.K. filmmaker Luke Snellin (Wanderlust, The A Word). Producers are Clark (for his Dylan Clark Productions banner) and Alexa Faigen. Executive producer is Beau Bauman.

Books & Authors

British Book Awards Adding New Categories

The Bookseller is expanding the British Book Awards (the Nibbies) next year "by splitting the Children’s Book of the Year category in two and adding a new prize for Small Press of the Year." For 2019 there will be two children’s awards--fiction as well as illustrated & nonfiction--"reflecting the importance of children’s books to the wider market and the range of titles published each year."

The Nibbies celebrate the best books, bookshops and publishers and are supported by the Publishers Association, the Booksellers Association and the Independent Publishers Guild.

"One in every three books sold in the U.K. is now a children’s book," said Fiona Noble, children’s book previewer for the Bookseller and Nibbies judge. "In the past few years the Children’s Book of the Year shortlist has become more varied... one prize no longer feels enough to showcase such a vibrant part of our industry. Nonfiction and illustrated books in particular have undergone a real renaissance, and this new prize enables us to celebrate even more outstanding publishing."

Companies with annual revenues of less than £1 million (about $1.3 million) qualify for the Small Press of the Year award. Bookseller editor Philip Jones observed that there "has been an explosion of independent publishing across the length and breadth of the U.K. and Ireland in recent years, and today there are many good and distinctive publishers establishing themselves away from the mainstream.... We are delighted to not only recognize this at the British Book Awards, but also to throw much-needed light on the many authors and books that are now in play thanks to the hard work of these publishers."

Top Library Recommended Titles for January

LibraryReads, the nationwide library staff-picks list, offers the top 10 January titles public library staff across the country love:

Once Upon a River: A Novel by Diane Setterfield (Atria/Emily Bestler, $28, 9780743298070). "A wonderfully dark and mysterious read. Something happens one stormy winter solstice evening that triggers a chain of events that changes the lives of all the main characters. Moody and mystical. For readers who love gothic fiction like The Death of Mrs. Westaway and The Clockmaker's Daughter." --Melanie Liechty, Logan Library, Logan, Utah

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (St. Martin's Press, $27.99, 9781250133731). "Struggling to stay afloat with a job as a makeup artist, Jessica signs up for a study, thinking she will earn some easy money. After the first two parts of the study, she gets invited to the professor's house for more questions and more compensation. Fans of psychological thrillers won't want to miss this one as Jessica is a compelling character and the novel will keep you reading long into the night." --Annice Sevett, Albert Lea Public Library, Albert Lea, Minn.

The Au Pair by Emma Rous (Berkley, $16, 9780440000457). "After giving birth to Seraphine and her twin brother Danny, their mother throws herself from a cliff. 25 years later, Seraphine finds a picture that makes her question everything she thought she knew about her childhood. For fans of compelling suspense novels and family secrets." --Selena Swink, Lake Public Library, Lake, Miss.

The Current: A Novel by Tim Johnston (Algonquin, $27.95, 9781616206772). "When two girls, trapped in a RAV4, fall into an icy river, one dies and the other barely survives. Unanswered questions and old accusations resurface as the small Minnesota town recalls another incident ten years earlier where a girl died in the same river. For readers who love small town suspense." --Shellie Taylor, Iredell County Public Library, Statesville, N.C.

The Dreamers: A Novel by Karen Thompson Walker (Random House, $27, 9780812994162). "A virus appears in the small town of Santa Lora that causes its victims to fall into a deep sleep from which they cannot wake up. While this story is about a pandemic apocalypse, it also reminds us of our humanity and how we are all connected. For fans of The Country of Ice Cream Star and The Water Knife." --Cari Dubiel, Twinsburg Public Library, Twinsburg, Ohio

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren (Gallery, $16, 9781501197406). "Another delightful contemporary rom-com from the author of Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating. Millie and her four male friends decide to jump into the pool of online dating together. When Millie matches with one of the friends, chaos ensues. For fans of The Kiss Quotient and The Wedding Date." --Kelsey Hudson, Middleton Public Library, Middleton, Wis.

The Red Address Book by Sofia Lundberg (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9781328473011). "A ninety-six-year-old Swedish woman reflects on her life, paging through a long-kept address book. A compelling, charming, and ultimately heartwarming read. For fans of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk and The Japanese Lover." --Brenda O'Brien, Woodridge Public Library, Woodridge, Ill.

The Suspect by Fiona Barton (Berkley, $26, 9781101990513). "Reporter Kate Waters pursues the story of two 18-year-olds who have gone missing in Thailand. The case takes a turn when the main suspect is Kate's estranged son. For fans of twisty psychological suspense." --Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, N.J.

Unmarriageable: A Novel by Soniah Kamal (Ballantine, $27, 9781524799717). "A thoroughly enjoyable retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in modern-day Pakistan. The characters, storyline, and dialogue are true to the original while being completely fresh. For readers who enjoy a comedy of manners." --Kristen Gramer, Lewes Public Library, Lewes, Del.

Watching You: A Novel by Lisa Jewell (Atria, $26, 9781501190070). "Set in an upscale English neighborhood where everyone knows everyone and someone is always watching. When one of the residents is found murdered, the police investigation turns up long buried secrets. Told from multiple viewpoints and alternating between past and present." --Cyndi Larsen, Avon Free Public Library, Avon, Conn.

Book Review

Review: We Cast a Shadow

We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World, $27 hardcover, 336p., 9780525509066, January 29, 2019)

The racist world created in Maurice Carlos Ruffin's provocative near-future novel We Cast a Shadow is disturbing but not far-fetched.

The novel is narrated by an unnamed black father who lives in an unnamed city in the American South. Though in the recent past race relations appeared to be improving, things have deteriorated quickly between the city's poor black inhabitants and its more affluent white majority. The father is a lawyer who is married to an activist white woman named Penny. They have a young biracial son named Nigel. The narrator's extended family still work and live around the city's Tiko housing project, though his father, Sir, is in prison for getting in a fight with an abusive police officer.

The racism depicted in the novel operates on many levels. The little things add up. The narrator is mistaken for waitstaff, even a mugger. His coworkers of color are obsessed with whiteness, getting plastic surgery to change their noses and lighten their skin. The narrator is added to his law firm's diversity committee after beating out other black candidates in an outlandishly racist competition. He must work with the Blind Equality Group, or BEG, on a community campaign. The organization spouts tenets of color blindness but is inept at dealing with systemic inequalities. The more speculative yet still realistic aspects of the book include a dreadlock ordinance that allows police to cut off the dreads of African-Americans, intrusive police patrols wherever black people have moved into the white suburbs and even deportation of some black people.

Ruffin skewers institutional racism with style and wit. But he also reveals the insidious nature of racism and the complex psychology of the marginalized. For the narrator is also obsessed with whiteness, so much so that he begins expensive skin treatments for his own son. Nigel has a dark birthmark that seems to be growing larger as he nears his teenage years. Listing all the ways his son will be hurt by society as he grows older, the narrator makes an impassioned plea. "A dark-skinned child can expect a life of diminished light," he says. That his own wife and son are against the treatment makes the narrator even more desperate. The novel becomes his missive to the reader, his only recourse, as he tries to justify his actions.

We Cast a Shadow boldly explores race in America as few novels have. Ruffin tackles his subject matter with lively prose and an entertaining plot. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Shelf Talker: A black father takes desperate measures to protect his son from racism in this hard-hitting speculative novel.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. The Elf on the Shelf by Carol V. Aebersold and Chanda B. Bell
2. Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins
3. The Anthology, Part III: Live by Garth Brooks and Warren Zane
4. Defiance by Cherise Sinclair
5. My Bad (The Bear Bottom Guardians MC Book 4) by Lani Lynn Vale
6. Steele Security Complete Set by A.D. Justice
7. Luna and the Lie by Mariana Zapata
8. Verity by Colleen Hoover
9. Hotshot Doc by R.S. Grey
10. His Package by Penelope Bloom

[Many thanks to!]

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