Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 19, 2021

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Little, Brown Ink: The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich (a Graphic Novel) by Deya Muniz

Flatiron Books: Once Upon a Prime: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart

Dundurn Press: Chasing the Black Eagle by Bruce Geddes

Amulet Books: Batcat: Volume 1 by Meggie Ramm

Berkley Books: The Comeback Summer by Ali Brady


ABA Call for Amazon Breakup: Publisher Reactions

The American Booksellers Association's newly released white paper "American Monopoly: Amazon's Anti-Competitive Behavior Is in Violation of Antitrust Laws," which calls for Amazon's breakup, has resonated with many in the business. Publishers also chimed in:

Maria A. Pallante, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, said in a statement that the white paper "provides a clear outline of the longstanding, anti-competitive behavior that has enabled Amazon to gain a dominant position in the publishing industry. As AAP noted in comments filed with the FTC in 2019, the fact is that no publisher can avoid distributing through Amazon and, for all intents and purposes, Amazon dictates the economic terms, with publishers paying more for Amazon's services each year and receiving less in return. At the same time, Amazon's approach to its bookstore enables widespread counterfeiting, defective products, and fake reviews that both degrade the consumer experience and diminish the incentives of authors and publishers to create new works and bring them to the marketplace. We thank the American Booksellers Association for making a clear, concise, and powerful case for government officials to step in quickly and decisively to exercise corrective measures and appropriate governance of this dominant platform."

And author/publisher Randi Levin of the Muffin Lady wrote, saying that Amazon "plays games" in how it pays--and in many cases doesn't pay--publishers. She explained: "I have been with Amazon since 2003, when I published my first cookbook. Sure I have sold many books through Amazon, yet they fail to pay for all the sales of my cookbooks. Initially all payments were made in full, yet around 10 years ago payments began to decrease. And excuses such as this one shared below were the responses I would always get, and I have a feeling I am not the only indie/self publisher who has received such repetitive words with different numbers of association."

She offered an example of one of these robotic exchanges:

The Muffin Lady's query from last month: "Short Description: I have questions regarding a payment I received: Why was $52.12 deleted from Payments due?"

Answer: "Hello from Amazon Selling Partner Support,

"I understand that you would like to as to why the amount of $52.12 was deleted from your Payments.

"After looking into the Reports tab of your account I can see that the adjustment to your account was made because we located 4 copies of this ASIN: 0974500828 which was previously thought to be lost/we determined.

"Hence, is the reason an amount of $52.12 was deleted from your Payments.

"The adjustment to your account is a debit in this case, as we paid you for this lost item in a previous payment statement. Now that the item has been located, we are debiting your account for the amount we paid you when we believed the item was lost.

"Further, our payments team states that this payment was scheduled to be paid on 30 Jan, but since it was a weekend the amount was released on 1st Feb. Hence, the email you received has the date of 01-FEB-2021."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams

Books Around the Corner, Gresham, Ore., Becomes Genre Bookstore

Books Around the Corner in Greshman, Ore., is becoming a genre bookstore, owner Stephanie Csaszar announced this week. Going forward, the new and used bookstore will focus primarily on science fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery. It will continue to carry books for all ages as well as related nonfiction titles and gifts.

Customers will still be able to special order any title, and popular pre-orders in all genres will be displayed on the website. In addition, the store's remaining non-genre titles will be 40% off through Independent Bookstore Day.

The store's new genre focus will also be represented in its book clubs. There are five in total, including a science fiction club, a fantasy club, a horror club, a mystery club and the No Shelf Control Book Club, which will read books from a variety of genres.

Csaszar, who opened the store in 2018, noted that genre fiction has always made up more of the inventory than fiction and nonfiction, and over time sales of those genres have only increased. Throughout the pandemic, she continued, she's had more time to look at sales and see "what is actually selling and what is collecting dust on the shelves."

Since making the announcement earlier this week, Csaszar reported, she's received "not only support but excitement from our readers." She added: "I love all things strange and unusual and escaping to different worlds."

Blink: Come Home Safe by Brian G. Buckmire

Coreander's Children's Bookshoppe Coming to Grosse Pointe Park, Mich.

Coreander's Children's Bookshoppe, a new bookstore located in the Kercheval business district of Grosse Pointe Park, Mich., is expected to open for business this June, Grosse Pointe News reported.

Co-owners Shery Cotton, Mike Cotton and Sean Cotton have always dreamed of opening a bookstore. "All of us are voracious readers and always wanted to own a bookstore, my mom for years and years," Sean Cotton said. "I grew up with the bookstore being one of my favorite places to go as a kid, finding new adventures." Recalling travels to bookstores throughout Manhattan during his college years, he noted that the idea of bookstores becoming less mainstream with the surge of online shopping is upsetting: "The loss of bookstores is devastating. They are places to go and learn and love the written word."

Shery Cotton added: "If I visit a city, an independent bookstore is always my first stop. From Inverness, Scotland to Sardinia, Italy, I always am home when I enter the local bookstore."

Coreander's Children's Bookshoppe will focus primarily on titles ranging from newborn to YA, along with a small section for parents consisting of a few periodicals and bestsellers. Grosse Pointe News noted that the owners "hope to use the shop for more than just selling books. In a backroom space of the bookstore, they plan to host puppet shows, interactive learning experiences and Saturday movie nights, where parents can drop off their children for pizza and a movie while they go out to dinner." Plans also call for hosting author book readings, as well as providing an after-school learning program, potentially with reading tutors for the kids.

In addition, Coreander's Children's Bookshoppe will have a café, featuring indoor space along with an outdoor garden space next door, which will have tree-shaded tables and chairs. Two apartments are being built above the bookstore with the goal of renting them out through an "artist in residence" and a "writer in residence" program each year. 

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Welcome to the World by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

International Update: Scottish Booksellers Shocked by Delayed Reopening, Canadian Shop Local API

Scottish booksellers were confused and upset over not being able to reopen until April 26--in tandem with all "non-essential" retail--after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her restriction easing plan earlier this week, the Bookseller reported. Bookshops in England will be reopening April 12.

"The Scottish government made bookshops an exception to allow click and collect from December 26, so we had been hoping that we'd be allowed to reopen along with garden centers on April 5," said Rosamund De la Hey, owner of the Mainstreet Books and Trading Company in St. Boswells. "It's been a very long three months already, so to wait an additional two weeks beyond the rest of the U.K., is quite devastating. It's also hard to understand the logic, given the close contact required for hairdressers and the fact that places of worship are allowed 50 people to meet indoors."

Sally Pattle, manager of Far from the Madding Crowd in Linlithgow, noted: "I'm pretty confused actually. We've been classed as essential since January, along with garden centers and clothing stores, which has enabled us to offer click and collect during the long intervening months. I have no idea why we're now being classed as non-essential again, and I’m pretty upset that we will completely miss the retail opportunities the Easter holidays will bring, unlike shops in England which at least get the second week of the holidays. Of course, there is scant information available--just a three-page document on the Scottish government website. This, despite the fact that we’ve been waiting for three weeks for this supposed roadmap to freedom. Sadly, it's what we've come to expect from the current Scottish government, so like we've been doing for the past year, we'll adapt and comply."


Bookmanager has launched a Shop Local API for Canadian independent booksellers. The button is free and can be added on any website featuring a book. "We hope publishers, authors, book bloggers, etc. will install buttons on their websites to increase the visibility of indies across the country," Bookmanager noted, adding: "For now this is a Canadian initiative, as our database of U.S. bookstores is building but not yet complete enough to provide reliable results."

The widget ties in the ISBN and a maps app, putting readers in touch with the closest copy of a particular book. A pop-up window displays the names of the stores local to them. For best results, Bookmanager is encouraging stores to share their current stock availability with the company.

"We aim to make shopping local convenient for consumers and give them an option wherever other retailer links are provided," Bookmanager said. "The idea is to simply put people in touch with books, so we're unable to provide referral revenue through this initiative, as it's not an affiliate link program."

help page is available for those wanting to implement the API with their web developer. On March 24, Chris Stephenson of Bookmanager will present an open registration event, hosted by the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association, for anyone interested in learning more.


Dutch bookseller the American Book Center has opened a new store at the Westfield Mall of the Netherlands in Leidschendam, writing on Facebook: "These past weeks have been wild and it is with great excitement and a hint of pride that we are now opening our third permanent location today. Look how beautiful it has turned out to be! We want to celebrate with you!" ABC's other stores are in Amsterdam and the Hague. --Robert Gray

HSU Bookstore Moving to Downtown Arcata, Calif.

The Humboldt State University Bookstore is moving to downtown Arcata, Calif., KRCR reported. The bookstore will be open for business in its new location by June 1, in a space previously occupied by sporting goods store Pacific Outfitters.

Follett will continue to manage the bookstore, and in addition to books, school apparel and a variety of gifts, the downtown store will sell coffee and tea. Eventually it will host guest lectures, mixers and other community events.

The bookstore will continue to operate its warehouse space on campus, which will be used for receiving and picking up textbooks as well as textbook rentals. It is also looking into offering textbook delivery to students in the university's residence halls.

According to KRCR, the move came about very recently after HSU learned that Pacific Outfitters was looking to lease its Arcata space.


Personnel Changes at Avid Reader Press/S&S

Alexandra Primiani has been promoted to senior publicity manager at Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster. She was formerly publicity manager.

Media and Movies

TV: Showtime

Adrien Brody will star as former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Pat Riley in the HBO drama series based on Jeff Pearlman's book Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s. Written by Max Borenstein, the untitled project is being produced by Adam McKay's Hyperobject Industries, Deadline reported.

Brody joins a cast that includes John C. Reilly as Jerry Buss, Jason Clarke as Jerry West, Quincy Isaiah as Magic Johnson, Solomon Hughes as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Gaby Hoffmann as Claire Rothman, Hadley Robinson as Jeanie Buss, DeVaughn Nixon as Norm Nixon, Molly Gordon as Linda Zafrani, Rob Morgan as Earvin Johnson Sr., Spencer Garrett as Chick Hearn, Kirk Bovill as Donald Sterling, Delante Desouza as Michael Cooper, Stephen Adly Guirgis as Frank Mariani, Tamera Tomakili as Earletha "Cookie" Kelly and Joey Brooks as Lon Rosen.

Books & Authors

Awards: Nebula Finalists; CILIP Carnegie, Kate Greenaway Shortlists

Finalists for the 56th Annual Nebula Awards, sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, can be seen here. The winners will be announced during the 2021 Nebula Conference Online, June 4-6.


The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has released shortlists for the Carnegie Medal (author of a book for children & young people) and Kate Greenaway Medal (illustrator). The winners, who each receive £500 (about $695) worth of books to donate to their local library, a gold medal and a £5,000 (about $6,950) Colin Mears Award cash prize, will be named June 16. The Shadowers' Choice Award will be announced at the same time. This year's shortlisted titles are: 

Carnegie Medal
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo 
The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson, illustrated by Kathrin Honesta
The Girl Who Became a Tree by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Kate Milner 
On Midnight Beach by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick 
Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann 
Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds 
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys 
Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk 

Kate Greenaway Medal
Starbird, illustrated and written by Sharon King-Chai
The Bird within Me, illustrated by Sara Lundberg and translated by B. J. Epstein
It's a No-Money Day, illustrated and written by Kate Milner
How the Stars Came to Be, illustrated and written by Poonam Mistry
Hike, illustrated and written by Pete Oswald
I Go Quiet, illustrated and written by David Ouimet
Arlo the Lion Who Couldn't Sleep, illustrated and written by Catherine Rayner
Small in the City, illustrated and written by Sydney Smith

Reading with... Femi Kayode

photo: Nicholas Louw

Femi Kayode trained as a clinical psychologist in Nigeria before starting a career in advertising. He is the managing partner of an advertising agency in Namibia. He has written for stage, screen and radio. Kayode recently graduated from the University of East Anglia with a distinction in Crime Fiction. His debut novel, Lightseekers (Mulholland), won the Little, Brown Crime Fiction Award.

On your nightstand now:

I purchased the complete four books in the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante as a Christmas gift to myself. So far, I am not disappointed. The White Tiger is now on Netflix, so I went back to reading parts of Aravind Adiga's Booker-winning book. The book remains one of the most accessible examples of picaresque writing in modern literature.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Naked Face by Sidney Sheldon. I wasn't quite a child when I read this book, but definitely in my very early teens. I remember it so well because there was no electricity, and I was reading the book with a candle. I was so enthralled that I didn't notice the candle flame singing the polyester shirt I was wearing. I stretched, and the burnt fabric scalded my skin. I still have the scar. The power of a novel to pull me so deeply in, that I was oblivious to my physical environment or impending danger was proven by The Naked Face, and I have never forgotten the experience.

Your top five authors:

John Irving's compassion for those living in the fringes of society have always struck me as profound. He is the kind of writer I most aspire to be. Stephen King is godlike to my mind for his prolific writing, the scale of his imagination and frankly, some really great innovation in the field of publishing. Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger is my standard when it comes to culturally respectful writing. The instruction to "show don't tell" is a really difficult one for new writers, but in The White Tiger, Adiga follows this instruction so elegantly, I feel God whispered every word of that novel into his ears. William Styron's Sophie's Choice remains my most profound reading experience, and I still think he was not just a writer of overwhelming talent but also one for whom craft is king. Toni Morrison's Beloved scared and scarred me at the same time. Her wisdom and the uncompromising lens through which she tells stories inspire me.

Book you've faked reading:

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. This was a text in high school, and I swear, I just could not get into it. I tried, and in the end gave up. I think to my teenage mind, the lack of a torrid romance and high-stakes crime were a major turn-off. I got the summarized notes, practiced past questions and bluffed my way through class discussions by listening to everyone else describe their fascination with Mrs. Havisham. This was no mean feat since there was no Internet and I was not known for my ability to keep quiet. I know I should be ashamed, but I did get an A in English Literature.

Book you're an evangelist for:

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. It is a dark book; troubling, gratuitously melodramatic, over the top and, yet, filled with profound moments of tenderness and wisdom. It is a master class in a writer's ability to grab the reader's attention by making us care deeply. I belong to a PTSD group on social media, dedicated to members recovering from reading this book.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. At the time, having pills scattered across the cover, with only the author's name and the title was dramatic and minimalistic, all at once. I think it was also the first book I ever bought with my own money. Since then, I almost never, ever buy a book based on the front cover. Now, the back cover, with all the summaries and blurbs, that gets me every time.

Book you hid from your parents:

Every James Hadley Chase book I read before I turned 12. But I do remember this cover of Jackie Collins's Lovers and Gamblers. It was a cut-out of lush red, thick lips. I was sure my mom would call it soft porn, which was also the very reason why I had to read it.

Book that changed your life:

A good book should change you in some way. No matter how small. James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room had a profound effect on my young mind. If Beale Street Could Talk made me so angry and sad at the same time. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara for previously stated reasons. A Son of the Circus by John Irving reinforced my desire to be a writer, and The Naked Face because I still bear the physical scar from my reading experience.

Favorite line from a book:

The most profound statement yet made about Auschwitz was not a statement at all, but a response.

The query: "At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?"
And the answer: "Where was man?" 
--from Sophie's Choice by William Styron

Five books you'll never part with:

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
The House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
Release the Bats by DB Pierre

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

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote--that sparse prose, and the controlled narrative is a master class in craft.

Books that made you want to become a writer:

August Wilson's Fences and Ola Rotimi's The Gods Are Not to Blame. Both are plays, but I can never forget the experience of watching the performances, then reading the texts and deciding that I wanted to live my life telling stories.

Book Review

Review: A River Called Time

A River Called Time by Courttia Newland (Akashic Books, $28.95 hardcover, 448p., 9781617759260, April 6, 2021)

A River Called Time combines speculative fiction and alternative history to bring to life a disturbingly recognizable portrait of pressure-cooker existence in cities plagued by vast inequality. Courttia Newland, author of The Gospel According to Cane and screenwriter for two episodes of the Steve McQueen series Small Axe, imagines a world where colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade never took root and English-speakers occupy the very bottom rung of society. Newland's worldbuilding is dense and impressively detailed, incorporating many strange new technologies, but protagonist Markriss Denny's motivations are grounded as they come, at least at first. Markriss hopes to study his way out of his violent, impoverished home and into a city-sized building called the Ark where the inhabitants are presumed to live lives of ease and plenty.

Unfortunately for Markriss, his goal of upward mobility is complicated by an alarming and involuntary power: at unpredictable moments, his soul leaves his body in something between an out-of-body experience and astral projection. In this unbounded form, his soul can travel throughout the city and beyond the physical plane. It is here that Newland's novel takes a turn for the deeply strange, with Markriss encountering a long-deceased inventor in his astral travels who warns him of someone with a similar power and even greater ability. Markriss is charged with finding and stopping this person before his power can be used to wreak terrible havoc.

Markriss's abilities allow Newland to explore trippy, dream-like imagery: "So many lights were around him he felt warmed by their presence. Some darted at full velocity, others meandered.... So many luminescences, so many stars, so many colors, from orange to violet, peach to gray, swimming tropical fish in the vast sea of the solar system." His abilities also allow for a number of surprising narrative possibilities--suffice it to say that the novel has a few ambitious gear-shift moments where characters and events warp and change.

In some ways, A River Called Time asks a great deal of readers, but its rewards are manifold. Newland has managed to craft a narrative where the otherworldly coexists alongside more recognizable concerns, such as the spiritual cost of collaboration with an immoral system versus the very real costs of resistance. A River Called Time is ambitious, sprawling, unpredictable and fascinating. --Hank Stephenson, the Sun magazine, manuscript reader

Shelf Talker: A River Called Time is a relentlessly imaginative novel about a world where colonialism and slavery never occurred and yet brutal inequality persists.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: March 2020--'How Little We Knew of What Was to Come'

For a long time to come, the early weeks of March will be a haunting reminder of 2020 and the moment when a Covid-19 pandemic reality check hit us like an overhand right. Recently, many independent booksellers have been reflecting on how this singular year impacted their personal and professional lives, as well as expressing gratitude to customers for epic levels of support during the ongoing crisis.

"One year ago today I was shaking as I took our booksellers aside to tell them we were closing the store immediately, without knowing when we would be able to reopen or what the future of our store would be," Suzanna Hermans, co-owner of Oblong Books & Music, Millerton and Rhinebeck, N.Y., recalled in a Facebook post. "Those next few weeks and months were the hardest of my life. We absolutely would not have made it through without the massive outpouring of support from our customers and the incredibly hard work of our staff behind our closed doors. We processed thousands upon thousands of web orders and became an online bookstore, something we never wanted to be, but something that saved our business."

Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, Vt., marked its Covid closure anniversary by sharing some numbers, including website orders filled (7,235), jigsaw puzzles sold (796) and boxes of wine consumed by staff (countless), adding: "It's been a heck of a year for all of us, hasn't it? It's hard to even look back at where we were a year ago when we closed our doors to shoppers... for what we thought might be a couple of weeks. It was scary, it was chaotic and it certainly was a learning experience. We learned to be adaptable, we learned that we are resilient, and we learned, once again, that our customers are the best, most loyal and most supportive community anyone could ask for."  

Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif., shuttered on March 16, 2020: "One year later, we are bruised but not broken due to the support of our customers, the dedication of our booksellers, and the generosity of government relief. We've been through so much with our downtown community that we want to do something to say thank you to the customers who kept us all going and to our fellow businesses who made it to this one-year mark."

Looking further back, Quill Books & Beverage, Westbrook, Maine, posted: "Three years ago today! We never would have guessed when we canceled our two-year anniversary celebration at this time last year, that we would still be closed for our three-year anniversary. Thank you all for helping us hold on this past year and allowing us to make it through. Like many other businesses, we are waiting until we are vaccinated and our community has been able to get vaccinated before reopening to the public, and will be sticking to subscription boxes in the meantime."

On the "anniversary" of the day Browseabout Books, Rehoboth Beach, Del., closed its doors to the public in 2020, the shop offered "a sincere thank you to everyone who supported us during this crazy year. It means a great deal that you chose to spend your hard-earned dollars at our independent, locally-owned, downtown Rehoboth Beach business. Your support means that even during a pandemic when our doors were closed for two and a half months, we were able to keep 16 amazing (AMAZING) staff members employed.... Our doors are open because YOU chose to spend your money with us, and we couldn't be more grateful."

Remembering the moment when the pandemic shutdown occurred, Uncle Bobbie's Coffee & Books, Philadelphia, Pa., posted: "Shortly after, all of the emotions kicked in--the fear, the anxiety, the uncertainty. How will the staff pay their bills? Will we all manage to stay healthy? Would we ever reopen?... In addition to the financial support, the love and well wishes that we got from everyone gave us the motivation to not only push through this crisis but to work to be an even better organization when we were fortunate enough to reopen. One year later, we are just that--a better stronger company poised to deliver on our mission which is to make everyone feel represented, seen and valued. We Still Here... because of you."

In the latest newsletter from East Bay Booksellers, Oakland, Calif., owner Brad Johnson wrote: "We've endured it to this point, some days and weeks better than others, memories of either misplaced somewhere in the heap of months. Have we turned a corner on the virus? I suppose it depends on where you are, physically and mentally, but each new report of a successful vaccination makes me hopeful. It's nice seeing you venture back to the store. While we've gotten quite good at fulfilling your online orders and developing online browsing tools, nothing beats the in-store experience."

Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, Mass., shared a photo taken March 15, 2020: "We're all reflecting on this devastating pandemic year--where we were a year ago, how little we knew of what was to come. This image was a gut punch.... It was a haunting and rare sight to see Harvard Book Store with the lights out during daylight hours.... As we look hopefully to the future, please: get vaccinated, keep wearing masks, be safe, take care of your physical and mental health, and that of others. Keep reading books. And help us keep the lights on."

--Robert Gray, editor

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