Shelf Awareness for Thursday, September 5, 2019

Simon & Schuster: Fall Cooking With Simon Element

Ace Books: Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science by Kate McKinnon

Annick Press: Bog Myrtle by Sid Sharp

Minotaur Books: Betrayal at Blackthorn Park: A Mystery (Evelyne Redfern #2) by Julia Kelly

Tor Books: Blood of the Old Kings by Sung-Il Kim, Translated by Anton Hur

Del Rey Books: The Book of Elsewhere by Keeanu Reeves and China Miéville


Amazon Breaks The Testaments Embargo; Indies Furious

Amazon has broken the worldwide embargo on Margaret Atwood's The Testaments (Nan A. Talese), which isn't supposed to go on sale until next Tuesday, September 10. On social media, some people who had pre-ordered the book with Amazon displayed their copies that had arrived in the past several days, and a variety of indie booksellers said some customers had told them they had received copies from Amazon.

The pre-embargo shipping, which apparently took place in the U.S. and consisted of at least 800 copies (according to the Guardian), has infuriated indies, led to early reviews of the book around the world--revealing basic elements that we will refrain from mentioning here--and caused exclusive excerpts to be published earlier than planned. Altogether, the embargo violation stained the release of one of the biggest books of the fall season, Atwood's long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid's Tale.

In response to the situation, publisher Penguin Random House issued this statement: "A very small number of copies of Margaret Atwood's The Testaments were distributed early due to a retailer error which has now been rectified. We appreciate that readers and booksellers have been waiting patiently for the much-anticipated sequel to the bestselling The Handmaid's Tale. In order to ensure our readers around the world receive their copies on the same day, our global publication date remains Tuesday, September 10."

At WORD Bookstore, Jersey City, N.J.

Not naming Amazon and attributing the problem to "a retailer error" irritated many indie booksellers for a number of reasons: some pointed out that if their stores had sold copies of the book early, it would be considered an embargo violation and likely lead to punishments, such as not receiving embargoed books ahead of publication date in the future. Many speculated PRH will not do anything of the sort with Amazon.

In a series of tweets, Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kan., succinctly outlined the problem:

"In order for us to order copies of The Testaments we had to sign an affidavit swearing that we wouldn't put copies out before 9/10. As outlined in the affidavit, if we broke the terms we'd be liable for damages and we wouldn't be allowed to sell the book anymore.

"It should come as no surprise that a certain huge online retailer is selling this book very close to our cost; if we sold it at their price we'd make $1.73 per copy. We've discussed before how this is unfair, and how we deal with it.

Display of Atwood titles at Raven Book Store, with Testaments bookmarks

"But now, not only is the huge online retailer selling it for a price we can't compete with, but they shipped out copies a week early. This increases the likelihood that someone who got it early uploads a bootleg copy online, cutting into sales for everyone.

"It also gave de facto permission to places like the New York Times and NPR to publish spoiler-heavy reviews, which deflates the mysterious buzz about what's in the book. It's likely that less mystery means less vital first-week sales for everyone. I hope we're wrong.

"Here's the thing: 44.8% of our sales last year were between September and December, almost half. This is in part because publishers release their most commercial books in September and October. We're thinking The Testaments might be the year's biggest book.

"The Testaments is one of a select few titles that enable us to imagine the light at the end of the cash flow tunnel. We operate most of the year at a loss, and make up for it with big Fall and pre-holiday releases like this one.

The Golden Notebook, Woodstock, N.Y., suggests booksellers share this image with their customers.

"We know we'll lose sales on The Testaments to a certain online retailer's habit of pricing books too low. We're a bit scared to think the same retailer will cut into even more of our business by breaking the embargo that *every book retailer in the world* had to sign."

And on Facebook, Jennifer Jubenville, store manager of the Bookstore at Fitger's, Duluth, Minn., wrote in part: "I'm sorry that Amazon thinks the rules don't apply to them. Because I follow the rules, and I believe when a person signs an agreement to honor the release date, you do just that--I won't be releasing this book early.... It's incredibly disrespectful to the author, her publicity team, and booksellers around the world who have put together preorder campaigns, countdown publicity (which we're taking part in), and events related to the release of the book. It's also heartbreaking to see people write things like, 'This is why we order from Amazon; they always get you things first.' We're not ENTITLED to things 'first,' which is what Amazon would have you believe. We're better as a whole when we work hard together to create respectful, celebratory, mutually-beneficial circumstances. We here at the Bookstore at Fitger's will ALWAYS work toward the best interests and betterment of the group, as opposed to the entitlement of a few. We have been in business for more than 20 years because we work to support READERS and as a result we know that we have earned your respect. THANK YOU for shopping locally wherever you are and for supporting stores that respect retailer agreements."

Noting that it had expressed to Penguin Random House "our strong disappointment regarding this flagrant violation of the agreed protocol in releasing this book to the public," the American Booksellers Association added that "in recent weeks ABA has communicated with appropriate officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission about the negative impact of Amazon's market dominance in the book industry and U.S. retail overall. Amazon's latest actions only further underscore how important it is that the appropriate federal agencies thoroughly investigate Amazon's destructive business practices."

In Australia, where the embargo was not broken, Australian Booksellers Association CEO Robbie Egan said in the association's weekly e-mail that "our members will sell The Testaments in big quantities and while we are all unhappy about the breach, for both booksellers and readers, this is a hugely important release for us and we have an opportunity to do what we do best: talk to our customers in person and share in their excitement at what is a significant event in contemporary publishing."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: William by Mason Coile

Toronto's Ben McNally Books to Close, May Relocate

Ben McNally Books, "a cherished independent Toronto bookstore and a champion of Canadian authors," will close some time next year to make way for renovations to the building in the city's Bay Street business district, where it has been located since its launch in 2007, the Globe & Mail reported.

Proprietor Ben McNally and his son, Rupert, with whom he runs the business, hope to relocate, but acknowledged that, if they do reopen, the new operation will be quite different. In a statement announcing the decision, Rupert McNally wrote that the bookstore's "existence and its survival owe themselves almost entirely to one man: the eponymous owner, the tireless advocate of reading, readers, writers, and all things books, and my father. This store stands, and has stood through thick and exceedingly thin, as a culmination of his efforts. Only, it will stand no longer."

The store is being replaced by an open-air walkway, forming part of what the landlord will call the Bay Street Village. "At some point during 2020 we'll have to close the doors," McNally noted, adding that "this doesn't necessarily mean the end of Ben McNally Books. We are currently assessing our options for the future. This does, however, mean the end of Ben McNally Books in its current remarkable form. A bookstore in the center of the city, or one with an appealing Art Deco design, or one whose space is open enough for a crowd and quiet enough for solitude, does not come around often. We were fortunate to be all of these, and I think we built something special upon this foundation. I regret the passing of this place."

The store's lease expires at the end of August, 2020, though the McNallys said they may leave earlier, depending on continuing negotiations with their landlord, Dream Office Management Corp.

Ben McNally told the Globe & Mail that several considerations would come into play regarding any new location: "I think it's going to be pretty expensive to maintain this much square footage. In terms of actual books, we won't need that much. We'll have to see what the fiscal limitations are, going forward, to see what we can afford. We're going to be running numbers in a whole different way than we did when we first opened up."

He also noted that even signing a lease for a new location sparks a cautious approach: "There's a certain reluctance on our part to say: Well, let's go into [another] building if we think there's a possibility it's going to get knocked down within, like, 36 months. And, looking around, every place you look, you think: How long is that place going to be here?"

Alana Wilcox, editorial director of Coach House Books, called the news "a heartbreak. It would put a big hole in the middle of downtown Toronto. We're not well-stocked in terms of bookstores in this city. Ben McNally is such an important part of the literary fabric in Toronto. It would be devastating to lose that store."

Kevin Hanson, the president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Canada, said the elder McNally had "created a bit of a temple for books, and we as publishers really enjoyed launching our authors there, because it had that feeling of a place where authors are respected and books are cherished. So I think we'll all be hoping he and Rupert find another location where they can recreate the magic."

Kristin Cochrane, CEO of Penguin Random House Canada, noted that "every international publishing colleague who comes to Toronto is awed by a must-see visit to Ben's store. It is without a doubt a booklover's dream and they are wonderful booksellers who care deeply about authors and their books and their customers. The book industry without Ben is unthinkable for me."

Harpervia: The Alaska Sanders Affair by Joël Dicker, Translated by Robert Bononno

Follett Now Managing Wheaton College Bookstore

Follett has assumed management of the campus bookstore at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill. Wendy Woodward, chief information & campus services officer, said the college's "self-operated bookstore struggled to break even financially, and lost money in recent years." The decision to go with Follet came after the administration designated a Bookstore Contract Committee consisting of multiple offices on campus, including Student Government, to brainstorm solutions. The committee focused on evaluating ways to make the bookstore cost-effective and "revenue positive."

Alma Wilhelm, Follett managing director for the Wheaton bookstore, said, "Beyond course materials, Follett will refresh general merchandise offerings to be a one-stop shop for class and campus life essentials. Wheaton College bookstore customers can expect a custom merchandise assortment that reflects local interests, as well as national trends in supplies, technology, clothing, gifts and more."

The student-run Wheaton Record noted that Follett and Wheaton "have a long history." In the 1860s, avid reader and former army chaplain Charles Barnes followed his mentor, Wheaton College President Jonathan Blanchard, to Illinois. Barnes used his personal library as the seed inventory to open a bookstore catering to Wheaton students.

Barnes eventually moved to Chicago and expanded the bookstore. One of his stock clerks was C.W. Follett, who would eventually become a company executive. Follett purchased the business after Barnes's death and renamed it Wilcox & Follett Company. Barnes's son went on to launch his own bookselling business with G. Clifford Noble. Their partnership resulted in the formation of Barnes & Noble.

CILIP Carnegie Medal Revises Judging Criteria

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has announced revised judging criteria for the CILIP Carnegie Medal, as well as a new partnership with Inclusive Minds.

As a result of an extensive consultation process during 2019, CILIP's new judging criteria for the 2020 CILIP Carnegie Medal, which celebrates outstanding writing for children and young people, "focuses on outstanding reading experiences, asking judges and shadowers alike to reflect on the experiences and representation within each nominated book, the author's treatment of the characters and plot, and the book's relatability to and potential resonance with its readership. A similar review process will take place for the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for illustration during the 2020 awards cycle," the organization said.

Jake Hope, chair of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Awards Working Party, commented: "This is an ongoing process towards greater inclusivity across both medals, as we continue to celebrate the brilliant writing and illustration published in the U.K. and the outstanding reading experiences they offer. We hope our new criteria will facilitate open consideration and discussion both by judges and shadowing groups as they read the books in contention for the Medals, and lead to lists of titles that reflect the broad range of perspectives, experiences and voices encompassed by our readers."

CILIP also announced a new partnership with Inclusive Minds, a collective whose mission "is to change the face of children's books through inclusion, diversity, equality and accessibility." Throughout the 2020 cycle, Inclusive Minds will provide guidance on titles in contention for the medals and contribute to the shadowing program resources.

Alexandra Strick and Beth Cox, co-founders of Inclusive Minds, said: "The best children's books are outstanding stories that are naturally inclusive, representing diverse perspectives and experiences. These awards represent such an important way of highlighting and celebrating the very best such books. We are delighted that our network of Inclusion Ambassadors will also be directly involved in feeding into the process. It is vital that young people with lived experience of different facets of diversity have a real voice in the world of children's books."

CILIP CEO Nick Poole added: "In 2019, we were fortunate to work with an expert equality, diversity and inclusion panel who observed the awards' processes and shared their insights and experience, and we look forward to building on this work through this new partnership. By working with Inclusive Minds and their Ambassadors alongside our network of volunteer librarians, we can ensure a diversity of perspectives feed into the awards processes."

Obituary Note: Dorothea Benton Frank

Dorothea Benton Frank

Dorothea Benton Frank, author of 20 novels set in South Carolina's Lowcountry, died September 2. She was 67 and had had "a brief but intense battle with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, a type of cancer similar to leukemia," the Post and Courier reported.

Her novels, always commercially successful, "spin yarns about family love and conflict, friends who leave and return, impressive matriarchs--almost always set in the sands of South Carolina barrier islands," the paper wrote. "These are, literally, beach reads." Frank's most recent book, Queen Bee, was published in May by Morrow. Other titles included Sullivan's Island, Isle of Palms, Pawley's Island and Folly Beach.

Frank also "cultivated a public persona, promoted the Charleston area, hosted expansive events for her readers and made public appearances at book events. For years, she co-hosted the Post and Courier Book & Author Luncheon. Her fans could be content simply reading her novels, but they often had opportunities to immerse themselves in a Dottie Frank Lowcountry experience."

Carrie Feron, Frank's editor at William Morrow, who worked on her last 15 books, told the Post and Courier: "She was a big part of my life. She was vibrant and fun and fearless. She was a great collaborator." At annual copy editing sessions at Frank's South Carolina home (she also had a home in Montclair, N.J.), "she made me fall in love with a little island off the coast of South Carolina," Feron added. "It's such a special place, and she was so generous about it."

Cassandra King, author and wife of the late Pat Conroy, called Frank "a force of nature" with "such a big heart," the paper wrote. She recalled how much Conroy liked Frank, saying they "were so funny together. She called him Fat Boy and he called her the Dotted One."

On Facebook, Hub City Writers Project, Spartanburg, S.C., wrote in part: "It is fitting that her last book was titled Queen Bee, because that's what Dottie was. And we know how lucky we were to welcome her for the past seven years when, on schedule (but maybe a few minutes late), she would whoosh into town to entertain her unflagging fans who came out by the hundreds from as far away as Kentucky to see their beloved friend, Dottie. For that was her gift. Whether someone tagged along to see Dottie for the first time or if a regular attending for the seventh year in a row, everyone--and I mean everyone--considered Dottie Frank a friend.

"She was also a very savvy writer who wrote richly appealing books that she promoted shrewdly and tirelessly. Her messages were subtle but she was fierce in her defense of causes she felt keenly: domestic violence and environmental advocacy, among others. She was talented, hardworking and an absolute joy to be around."

Browseabout Books, Rehoboth Beach, Del., noted on Facebook that Frank "was the reason we created our 'author luncheon series.' We knew that people would come from all over just to be in the same room with her--to hear her stories, learn about her writing process, and just to enjoy her funny-as-hell personality. She was gracious, sassy, delightful, talented and an all-around wonderful human being. Over the years, we hosted happy hours and more luncheons with her, always to rave reviews from her fans. You'll be missed beyond words, Dottie. Thank you for your books, your humor and your friendship."


Image of the Day: All the Impossible Things

Second Star to the Right, Denver, Colo., hosted local author Lindsay Lackey for the launch of her debut middle grade novel, All the Impossible Things (Roaring Brook). The bookstore donated 10% of sales to a local foster care community, the Adoption Exchange.

Personnel Changes at Knopf

In the Knopf marketing department:

Julianne Clancy has been promoted to assistant director of marketing. She was formerly title marketing manager.

Emily Murphy has been promoted to marketing manager. She was formerly associate marketing manager.

Charlottesville's Best: New Dominion Bookshop

Congratulations to New Dominion Bookshop, Charlottesville, Va., named the "best independent bookstore" in the city for the sixth year in a row by C-Ville Weekly. The citation reads in part: "Readers looking for the latest titles--and expert guidance on their selections--put their faith in New Dominion. A robust program of authors' readings and signings, story times for kids, lunch-and-learn events, and book-release parties keeps Virginia's oldest independent bookseller (1924) fresh and vital."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Samantha Power on Today

Today Show: Samantha Power, author of The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir (Dey Street Books, $29.99, 9780062820693).

Also on Today: Antoinette M. Clarke and Tricia Clarke-Stone, authors of Double Down: Bet on Yourself and Succeed on Your Terms (Currency, $26, 9780525574934).

The Talk repeat: Chelsea Handler, author of Life Will Be the Death of Me:... and you too! (Spiegel & Grau, $27, 9780525511779).

This Weekend on Book TV: Ibram X. Kendi

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, September 7
11 a.m. Michael Beschloss, author of Presidents of War (Crown, $35, 9780307409607), at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

3:20 p.m. Senator Michael Bennet, author of The Land of Flickering Lights: Restoring America in an Age of Broken Politics (Atlantic Monthly Press, $27, 9780802147813).

6 p.m. Elaine Pagels, author of Why Religion?: A Personal Story (Ecco, $27.99, 9780062368539), at the National Book Festival.

6:45 p.m. George Beebe, author of The Russia Trap: How Our Shadow War with Russia Could Spiral into Nuclear Catastrophe (Thomas Dunne, $28.99, 9781250316622), at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C. (Re-airs Sunday at 2 p.m.)

8:15 p.m. P.E. Moskowitz, author of The Case Against Free Speech: The First Amendment, Fascism, and the Future of Dissent (Bold Type Books, $28, 9781568588643).

9:10 p.m. Haben Girma, author of Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law (Twelve, $27, 9781538728727). (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)

10 p.m. Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist (One World, $27, 9780525509288). (Re-airs Sunday 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Jim Mattis, co-author of Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead (Random House, $28, 9780812996838), at Politics and Prose. (Re-airs Sunday at 7:50 p.m.)

Sunday, September 8
12:10 a.m. Christopher Leonard, author of Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781476775388).

9:15 a.m. A discussion about libraries with Joshua Hammer, author of The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts (Simon & Schuster, $16, 9781476777412), Alberto Manguel, author of Packing My Library: An Elegy and Ten Digressions (Yale University Press, $15, 9780300244526), and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden at the National Book Festival.

12:50 p.m. Amy Gutmann and Jonathan D. Moreno, authors of Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die: Bioethics and the Transformation of Health Care in America (Liveright, $27.95, 9780871404466), at the National Book Festival.

6 p.m. Duncan White, author of Cold Warriors: Writers Who Waged the Literary Cold War (Custom House, $32.50, 9780062449818), at the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass.

10:20 p.m. Helen Prejean, author of River of Fire: My Spiritual Journey (Random House, $27, 9781400067305), at Charis Books and More in Decatur, Ga.

Books & Authors

Awards: Paul Engle Winners

Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady have been named recipients of the Paul Engle Prize. Presented by the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature organization, the award "honors an individual who, like Paul Engle, represents a pioneering spirit in the world of literature through writing, editing, publishing, or teaching, and whose active participation in the larger issues of the day has contributed to the betterment of the world through the literary arts."

This is the first time the award has been presented to two people in one year. Each will be receive a one-of-a-kind work of art and $10,000 during a special ceremony as part of the Iowa City Book Festival on October 1.

Derricotte and Eady co-founded Cave Canem in 1996 to remedy the under-representation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape. "What started as a gathering of 26 poets is now an influential movement with a renowned faculty, high-achieving national fellowship of over 400 and a workshop community of 900," Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature noted.

Derricotte commented: "Receiving this award--considering that when Cornelius and I started Cave Canem all we wanted to do was to create a safe space for black poets--makes me think about (and question) many things, especially, how our writing connects us and leads to changes in the world. Cave Canem seems to be something that just wanted to happen, something that, while it needed quite a bit of heavy lifting, attracted just the right people to keep picking it up. Thank you so much for recognizing Cornelius and me for our parts."

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, September 10:

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (Nan A. Talese, $28.95, 9780385543781) is the highly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid's Tale.

She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey (Penguin Press, $28, 9780525560340) is written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story.

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know by Malcolm Gladwell (Little, Brown, $30, 9780316478526) explores how people interact with strangers.

Country Music: An Illustrated History by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns (Knopf, $55, 9780525520542) is the companion to an upcoming PBS series about country music.

Robert B. Parker's The Bitterest Pill by Reed Farrel Coleman (Putnam, $27, 9780399574979) is the 18th thriller with Police Chief Jesse Stone.

Out of Darkness, Shining Light: A Novel by Petina Gappah (Scribner, $27, 9781982110338) fictionalizes the journey of David Livingstone's body from Africa to England.

Ice Cold Heart by P.J. Tracy (Crooked Lane Books, $26.99, 9781643851327) is the 10th Monkeewrench mystery.

Antoni in the Kitchen by Antoni Porowski and Mindy Fox (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9781328631343) is a cookbook by a star of Netflix's Queer Eye.

The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us by Paul Tough (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780544944480) studies higher education in the United States.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi (Make Me a World/Random House, $17.99, 9780525647072) is a young adult debut about finding a monster in a society that has rid itself of all monsters.

The Magnolia Sword by Sherry Thomas (Lee & Low Books, $19.95, 9781620148044) is a YA retelling of the ballad of Mulan.

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster, $18, 9781501175527).

The Goldfinch, based on Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, opens September 13. Ansel Elgort plays a boy adopted by a wealthy New York City family after his mother is killed in a bombing.

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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

Summerlings: A Novel by Lisa Howorth (Doubleday, $24.95, 9780385544641). "On the surface, Lisa Howorth's coming-of-age story follows a group of young friends in a sleepy suburb just outside Washington, D.C., through long lazy summer days punctuated by childhood adventures. Into this setting, where World War II is still a fresh memory for many and the Cold War is heating up daily, she introduces an international cast of supporting characters whose back stories provide fascinating context and drama. By providing the details of the adults' lives as seen through the boys' eyes, Howorth creates a larger story while keeping her eight-year-old protagonists front and center. It's a perfect balance. I loved it!" --Laurie Gillman, East City Bookshop, Washington, D.C.

The Swallows: A Novel by Lisa Lutz (Ballantine, $27, 9781984818232). "Stonebridge Academy, a private prep school of about 400 students located on 50 acres of dense woods, was to be the setting for Alex Witt's second try at being an instructor. Her first ended with a memory that made her skin crawl. Unfortunately, her time at Stonebridge would prove to be even more disturbing. Remember the age-old adage, 'Boys will be boys'? With The Swallows, we have a new adage: 'Girls will be tougher than boys.' This is a powerfully serious yet humorous look at the battle between the sexes and a timely and important book for all readers." --Karen R. Briggs, The Booknook, East Tawas, Mich.

America for Beginners: A Novel by Leah Franqui (Morrow, $15.99, 9780062668769). "A poignant story that confronts cultural, racial, and gender stereotypes through three people who end up on a trip across the U.S. The story revolves around a Bengali widow of means whose gay son was disowned; a young Bangladeshi man who has a job as a tour agent; and a young, white American woman who aspires to be an actress. These three are united in the journey initiated by the widow to tour the U.S., but really to find her son and confront his lover. Courage to face the unknown--whether it is a foreign country or questioning a previously held conviction--shapes the story and shows that we all have the potential to grow and change." --Susan Bush, Island Bound Bookstore, Block Island, R.I.

For Ages 4 to 8
Lambslide by Ann Patchett, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser (HarperCollins, $18.99, 9780062883384). "Oh, what a joyful, playful story! Life on the farm can seem a little dull, but when the lambs hear 'lambslide' instead of 'landslide' by mistake, it becomes the talk of the farm. Getting the votes of the animals and the farmers leads to a cooperative effort to build the best lambslide ever! Great illustrations make this story special. Patchett and Glasser are a dynamic duo for sure." --Melissa DeMotte, The Well-Read Moose, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

For Ages 9 to 12
Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis (Walker Books U.S./Candlewick Press, $24.99, 9781536204988). "In this historical graphic novel, Margaret seeks to learn who she is and how she arrived at the island convent she calls home. When the banished Queen Eleanor of Albion arrives on the island, Margaret realizes the past is more complicated than she thought. Meconis' beautiful watercolor illustrations will captivate readers, while her details on history and folklore enrich this immersive feat of storytelling." --Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass.

For Teen Readers
Don't Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno (Disney-Hyperion, $17.99, 9781368039703). "If you're a guy with a boat, don't date Rosa Santos. Both her grandfather and her father died at sea, so she is supposed to stay close to home and away from the water. But that's tough when you live in Port Coral, Florida! Of course, while organizing a fundraiser to save the community, Rosa meets a boy who feels pulled to the ocean. What's she to do? This debut novel is pitch-perfect in tone and voice, and its characters are as real as your own friends and family." --Cathy Berner, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Tex.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Suicide Woods

Suicide Woods: Stories by Benjamin Percy (Graywolf, $16 paperback, 216p., 9781644450062, October 15, 2019)

Benjamin Percy (The Dark Net) serves up an addictive mix of gritty crime fiction and otherworldly horror in his story collection Suicide Woods.

The book contains nine stories and a novella, each chilling in its own way. Percy's prose is exacting, finely tuning the atmospherics that give the collection such an eerie overall feeling. These are stories full of dread, with an uncanny resemblance to our own world. The collection opens with "The Cold Boy," in which a farmer pulls his drowned nephew out of a frozen pond only to discover the boy is reanimated with some weird, icy life-force. Percy captures the desolation of Midwestern winters, the foreboding features of the environment: "The crows are overhead, hundreds of them, a circling black eddy that blots out the sun."

Percy adeptly switches between the tropes of horror and the trickier narrative structures of neo-noir. Several of the stories are grimly fascinating crime reads. "Suspect Zero" begins with a body on a train and ends with an unexpected suspect striking again. "Dial Tone" features a disaffected and insane telemarketer slowly recalling a gruesome murder. In this unforgettable tale, Percy uses phone lines and cell towers to explore modernity's weird state of estrangement: "There's plenty of room for a signal to ricochet or duplicate or get lost. There are so many words--the ghosts of old conversations--floating around us." In his crime stories, especially in "Writs of Possession," Percy reveals a critical eye. Crime and disenfranchisement go hand in hand, and he never fails to show what stands between the haves and the have-nots. But it's not all class-based. "The Dummy," for example, examines conflicts of gender before culminating in a violent showdown.

In the titular, penultimate story, "Suicide Woods," Percy returns to his sense of horror, depicting a group of suicide survivors who go to extreme lengths to face death. But it is the following novella, "The Uncharted," that is the scariest entry in the collection. It follows a team of adventurers into remote Alaska, where they become stranded on a mysterious island. As the dangers of the island and its fearsome inhabitants become clearer, the characters begin hallucinating and seeing themselves in different parts of their lives. Here Percy holds back nothing in terms of imagery. The story achieves the texture of a nightmare as each character is stalked by phantoms both real and make-believe.

Suicide Woods is a testament to Percy's skill as a writer. He takes no shortcuts in eliciting thrills. The collection is by turns provocative and terrifying. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Shelf Talker: Benjamin Percy is in top form with this collection of crime stories and classic horror.

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