Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, May 15, 2019

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


Fraud Alert: Bullsh*t Author Placing Bullsh*t Orders

BS alert: booksellers around the country are reporting that Oobah Butler, a Vice News contributor and author of How to Bullsh*t Your Way to #1: An Unorthodox Guide to 21st Century Success (Where Publications), is apparently trying to bullsh*t his way onto bestseller lists by placing multiple fraudulent orders for the book. In many cases, the orders are being sent to non-existent addresses. It's unclear whether Butler is doing this himself or enlisting fans to help or both.

Butler has made a career of fakery and fraud. In a YouTube video that describes how he led a campaign to make a fake restaurant the #1 restaurant on TripAdvisor, he says he began his career writing fake restaurant reviews for money. He has also engaged in other fake projects, all of which have received a lot of play on Vice.

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

Root & Press Coffee & Books Opening in Worcester, Mass.

Root & Press Coffee and Books will host its grand opening this Saturday, May 18, at 623 Chandler St. in Worcester, Mass. The independent bookstore with an in-house cafe plans to "focus our book selections (nonfiction and limited fiction) on issues of the moment and area. Our retail selections feature some of the finest works of local artisans. Finally, our coffee is locally roasted and our food selections are locally sourced."

Co-owners Rich Collins and his fiancee, Nicole Cote, along with cafe manager Colleen Hickey "have been busy since October getting their vision realized," the Telegram reported, adding that "since the logo of the big tree surrounded by the name went up, passersby quickly showed interest, often walking in while the trio was installing equipment, cleaning the hardwood floors, or filling the shelves with books and largely homemade gift items."

"I think a lot of people are waiting for that 'open' flag to be out there," Hickey said.

Collins noted that they've already made their first sale: "Our landlord bought a book. That was nice." He also said he hopes the staff will fill a niche in the community, offering customers a comfortable space. "I'm big on team, and working together. You want people you trust around you, especially to open." Cote, a teacher at Chandler Magnet School, will help out after school and on weekends.

Collins observed that independent bookstores have shown resilience in the face of online competition, noting: "I think a lot of it goes back to how you interact to the community, how you present yourself, and how accommodating you are to certain groups."

Cote agreed that interacting with the community was an important part of the vision for the business. "If it's not 'read-alouds with your teacher,' it's going to be book clubs, game nights, trivia, that sort of thing," she said.

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

Publishing Industry Celebrates British Book Awards

Booksellers, publishers and authors gathered Monday night in London for the annual British Book Awards (the Nibbies) ceremony, which is organized by the Bookseller. In addition to accolades for the book industry, the awards honor seven individual books of the year in various categories, as well an author and an illustrator "who have achieved stunning commercial success alongside making a genuine contribution to the general health of the book world." (Check out the complete list of Nibbies winners here.) Among the highlights:

Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh was named Independent Bookshop of the Year "for its stylish boutique-style store, its sharp growth in sales, and its capacity for innovation--including a book subscription service, collaborations with local businesses such as a Wine and Cheese Book Club with a nearby wine bar, and reading clinics with booksellers," the Bookseller reported. "There's an incredible energy and passion there--they must never sleep," said the judges.

Noor Hermani

Noor Hemani of the Lighthouse Bookshop in Edinburgh was honored as Individual Bookseller of the Year "for helping develop one of the most diverse ranges in British bookselling. Spikes in the shop's sales can often be correlated to her recommendations and handselling while she has also helped organize 180 events in 2018, pitching to publishers and shaping sessions at its Radical Book Fair," the Bookseller noted.

For the first time since 2011, Waterstones took the Children's Bookseller of the Year honors, while WH Smith Travel was named Book Retailer of the Year.

Tim Godfray, who is retiring this autumn after 35 years as Booksellers Association CEO, was recognized for Outstanding Contribution to the Book Trade. Describing him as "a tireless leader and an active and engaged role model for his colleagues," BA managing director Meryl Halls said, "His deep knowledge of bookselling has made him the go-to resource for booksellers, and his high standards and epic work ethic will ensure his legacy in the book trade for years to come."

Harpervia: Only Big Bumbum Matters Tomorrow by Damilare Kuku

Elizabeth Monaghan, Barbara Roach Retiring from S&S

Sales representatives Elizabeth Monaghan and Barbara Roach will be retiring from Simon & Schuster after 20 years with the company. Both joined S&S in 1999 and worked in the customer service department, before joining the newly created telesales team in 2001. Since then, they've spent nearly two decades calling on independent bookstores around the country.

Monaghan, who has been shortlisted for PW's Sales Rep of the Year award three times, said she felt lucky to have worked with her daughter Brandy and to have been surrounded by books. She reflected on the relationships she formed with her buyers over the years, and said that being a sales rep was more than just a job. She looks forward to spending more time with her family, including three great nieces, two great nephews, a new granddaughter and a grandbaby on the way.

In 2003, Roach received the S&S Sales Achievement Award, and she recalled fond memories of attending sales conferences and selling books like The Good Earth, The Secret, All the Light We Cannot See and Fear. She said the job's real joys, though, were the business relationships and friendships she built along the way. Roach is excited to spend more time with her family, especially her grandchildren, and to travel with her husband and friends as well volunteer in her community.

Obituary Note: Michelle Lewy

Michelle Lewy, whose career in publishing spanned more than 30 years, died May 7. She was 62. Most recently Lewy had been executive v-p of sales & marketing at Mango Media, an independent publisher she joined in 2015.

Lewy began her publishing career in sales with Bantam Doubleday Dell in 1986, rising to the position of national accounts manager. She went on to work at Scholastic for 13 years, rising to v-p of sales and helping contribute to the phenomena of Harry Potter, Goosebumps and a number of other bestselling series.

After Scholastic, Lewy worked at Spier, the ad agency specializing in book publishing projects, then became senior v-p of sales with Globe Pequot Press. She later moved to Baker & Taylor as director of digital media services, launching B&T's e-book program. Prior to joining Mango, she worked for several years with publishers to develop apps at Mobifusion, a Silicon Valley start-up.

Donations in Lewy's memory can be made to the Smilow Cancer Center at Yale New Haven Hospital.


Image of the Day: NECBA at Candlewick

photo: Jamie Tan

The New England Children's Booksellers Advisory Council (NECBA) met at Candlewick recently to learn about Cece Bell's new book, Smell My Foot, and to discuss handselling biases and how to handsell more inclusively.

Cool Idea of the Day: Kya's Blend Tea

Asheville Tea Co. has released Kya's Blend, a limited-run tea blend inspired by the main character in the novel Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, who recently appeared at an author event hosted by Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, N.C. The Citizen Times reported that Kya's Blend "pairs Ceylon black tea with native North Carolina coastal plants, including Yaupon, along with White Pine, Myrtle Leaf, Lemon Balm, Lemon Peel, Cedar Berry and Bay Leaf."

"Putnam Books were looking for a brand partner to promote the book and do a sweepstakes and specifically for a North Carolina-based tea company because the book is based in North Carolina," said Asheville Tea Co. owner Jessie Dean. "The original connection was reading and tea as a lifestyle, but it really became a custom blend that brings Kya's experience of living in the marsh to life with the tea, inspired by the native botanicals of the Carolina coast."

Dean said she met Owens for the first time May 8 at Malaprop's and gave her packages of the loose leaf tea: "It was really powerful and exciting and interesting to be able to hear more about her life story and background and how that brought the book into being....

"Our mission as a company is to source locally as much as possible and to promote environmental sustainability. So it was even more exciting to hear her background as a zoologist and conservationist and how those values really align with ours."

B&N's May Book Club Pick: The Guest Book

Barnes & Noble has chosen The Guest Book by Sarah Blake (Flatiron Books) as its May national book club selection. The novel will be the focus of a book club night at B&N stores around the country on Tuesday, June 11, at 7 p.m.

Liz Harwell, B&N's senior director of merchandising, trade books, said, "We're so excited to name Sarah Blake's riveting, multi-generational novel The Guest Book as our May Book Club Selection. This ambitious and timely work will make for compelling discussion in our stores, and Sarah Blake's exclusive essay for Barnes & Noble will give readers insight into what motivated her to tell the story of this distinctly American family."

For more information on the event, click here.

Personnel Changes at Independent Publishers Group

Scott Hatfill has joined Independent Publishers Group as director, international sales. He was formerly director of international sales at Diamond Book Distributors.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: John Waters on Late Night with Seth Meyers

Dr. Oz: Dr. Jennifer Ashton, author of Life After Suicide: Finding Courage, Comfort & Community After Unthinkable Loss (Morrow, $24.99, 9780062906038).

The View: Howard Stern, author of Howard Stern Comes Again (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781501194290).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: John Waters, author of Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27, 9780374214968).

TV: The Good Lord Bird

Albert Hughes "is stepping into the director's chair" of the upcoming Showtime limited series The Good Lord Bird, based on James McBride's novel, Variety reported, adding that Hughes "takes over directing multiple episodes of the series from Anthony Hemingway, who departed the project due to scheduling conflicts." The series stars Ethan Hawke, who is also slated to co-write and executive produce alongside Hughes, McBride, author/producer Mark Richard and others.

Gary Levine, president of entertainment for Showtime, described Hughes as "an incredible addition to The Good Lord Bird. We are so pleased to meld Albert's intelligence, talent and perspective with the remarkable creative team that is adapting James McBride's wildly imaginative and profound novel into a singular Showtime limited series."

Books & Authors

Awards: CWA Dagger Longlists

The Crime Writers Association announced the longlists for the annual Dagger awards. Shortlists will be revealed in the summer and winners announced October 24 at the Dagger Awards ceremony in London. The 2019 Diamond Dagger, for a career's outstanding contribution to crime fiction as nominated by CWA members, was previously announced and will be given to bestselling author Robert Goddard.

Reading with... Katrina Leno

photo: Jaimee Dormer

Katrina Leno was born on the East Coast and now lives in Los Angeles. She is the author of five books--The Half Life of Molly Pierce, The Lost & Found, Everything All at Once, Summer of Salt and You Must Not Miss (Little, Brown, available now). She has a habit of peeking into garden sheds to check for impossible worlds. 

On your nightstand now:

I'm currently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama and I just finished In an Absent Dream, the latest book in the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire, so those are both there! I also have an old vintage paperback by Josephine Tey that I use to cover my water glass so my cat can't drink out of it.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The books I read over and over when I was a child were definitely Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia series--probably most often I'd read Prince Caspian or The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I think if you'd asked me when I was a child, I would have said Dawn Treader was my favorite book ever.

Your top five authors:

Virginia Woolf, Gabriel García Márquez, Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein, Maira Kalman.

Book you've faked reading:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë in high school. Try as I might, I just couldn't get into that one!

Book you're an evangelist for:

Well, Seanan McGuire is fresh on my brain, and I think I've recommended Every Heart a Doorway more times in the past few years than any other book I've read. I just adore it so, so much.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I bought the U.K. version of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden solely based on how beautiful the cover is. Luckily, I loved the book too!!

Book you hid from your parents:

I had a very old psychology textbook that belonged to my brother for one of his college courses. I stole it out of his room and kept it under my bed because it talked about Vincent Van Gogh in the introduction and I thought it was fascinating. I also had a book on Wicca that I kept hidden under my bed, probably like every single other girl who was a teen in the late '90s.

Book that changed your life:

The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh is the book that comes to mind. I've never had an experience with a book quite like the one I had with that one. It was a very "right place, right time" read for me. It really did change something in my brain. In a good way, I think!

Favorite line from a book:

This is a very hard question because I have a terrible memory. But I think one of my favorite lines from any book comes from The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh. I used it as the epigraph in my first book, and it says, "Now for the moment things appear to be going very badly with me, and this has been so for a considerable time already, and may continue so in the future for a while; but after everything has seemed to go wrong, there will perhaps come a time when things will go right. I do not count on it, perhaps it will never happen, but if there should come a change for the better, I would consider it so much gain, I would be contented, I would say: at last! you see there was something after all!"

A lot of the book deals with Van Gogh's acute depression and mental illness, but there really is always this spark of hope that lies within him, and I love the idea that he waits for it, not expectantly, not patiently, but with a sort of readiness. If better days ever come, he will be ready for it and he will welcome them.

Five books you'll never part with:

Well, The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, of course. I have a 7-in-1 answer, which is my Chronicles of Narnia collection--it was a gift from my brother and is very meaningful to me. A very tattered paperback copy of Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse that was given to me by my high school English teacher. An old copy of Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme which is another good contender for books that changed my life. And a copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that isn't particularly pretty but it's the copy I owned and read a million times as a kid.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Harry Potter, the entire series, in order.

Book Review

Review: The Grief Keeper

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante (Putnam, $17.99 hardcover, 320p., ages 12-up, 9780525514022, June 11, 2019)

Seventeen-year-old Marisol Morales knows all about bad luck. Her father "gambled and drank" before eventually disappearing, forcing her older brother, Pablo, to join a gang to provide for the family. Then Pablo was killed by the gang. Terrified, Marisol's mother went into hiding and used all of her money to pay coyotes to take Marisol and her sister, 12-year-old Gabriela, to the United States.

After surviving the weeks-long trek from El Salvador to the border, Marisol is told she and Gabi might be allowed to stay--if she will "test a technology." This technology is a "biomedical device" designed to help people with PTSD; the treatment "allows the chemicals, the stress factors--released into the body of a person suffering trauma--to be transferred to another person." That is, Marisol would become a grief repository for another human in exchange for a green card. Seeing no other option, Marisol agrees: "What is a little grief in exchange for safety?"

The sufferer is Rey Warner, a wealthy young woman the same age as Marisol. She is suicidal after her twin brother's death, and her father is trying to convince her to use the device to lighten some of her emotional load. Unwilling to lose her grief for fear of losing her brother, Rey refuses. But if Rey won't use the device, Marisol has no deal. It falls to Marisol to convince Rey to relieve her burden, even though the weight of Rey's grief will become Marisol's. The two slowly develop a relationship that means both beautiful and painful experiences for Marisol--even as she feels how natural her and Rey's mutual attraction is, the trauma she must endure because of Rey makes her fearful.

Most of the action in Alexandra Villasante's debut takes place before the story begins, with the girls' histories of trauma filled in through flashbacks. The Grief Keeper is monumentally cerebral, much of it dedicated to Marisol's emotional turmoil and her constantly-in-motion brain. Marisol believes being sexually attracted to women is a "disease" and is convinced that's what caused her family's problems; she thinks owning someone else's trauma is no big deal while at the same time thinking it is incomprehensibly difficult. Simply, Marisol is a very real young woman dealing with very real emotions in an uncommon situation. Villasante's novel is for the reader who wants to get down and dirty with the emotional landscape, who wants a romance that is hard-earned and sweetly won. The Grief Keeper shows us trauma and grief without ever glorifying the pain or wallowing in the tragedy, creating a realistic yet still hopeful world seen through the gaze of an intelligent, curious protagonist. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: In Alexandra Villasante's YA debut, a young woman from El Salvador agrees to a terrible deal in hopes of finding safety in the United States.

The Bestsellers

Top Book Club Picks in April

The following were the most popular book club books during April based on votes from book club readers in more than 48,000 book clubs registered at

1. Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (Random House)
2. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Putnam)
3. Becoming by Michelle Obama (Crown)
4. Before We Were Yours: A Novel by Lisa Wingate (Ballantine)
5. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (Penguin Press)
6. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (Algonquin Books)
7. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (Vintage)
8. The Woman in the Window: A Novel by A.J. Finn (Morrow)
9. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty (Flatiron)
10. Beneath a Scarlet Sky: A Novel by Mark Sullivan (Lake Union)

Rising Stars:
The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib (St. Martin's Press)
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan (Knopf)

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