Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 3, 2021

Mariner Books: Everyone This Christmas Has a Secret: A Festive Mystery by Benjamin Stevenson

Grove Press: Brightly Shining by Ingvild Rishøi, Translated Caroline Waight

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Broadleaf Books: Trespass: Portraits of Unhoused Life, Love, and Understanding by Kim Watson

Nancy Paulsen Books: Sync by Ellen Hopkins

Running Press Adult: Cat People by Hannah Hillam

Beaming Books: Must-Have Autumn Reads for Your Shelf!

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Editors' Note

Happy Labor Day!

Because of the Labor Day holiday, this is our last issue until Tuesday, September 7. Enjoy the long weekend!

Peachtree Teen: Compound Fracture by Andrew Joseph White


Lala Books Opens in Lowell, Mass.

Laura and Greg Lamarre Anderson launched Lala Books in downtown Lowell, Mass., July 23, wanting "to start a new chapter in their life by opening a business while helping to revitalize downtown Lowell," the Lowell Sun reported.

"Business has been good," Laura told the newspaper. "We've seen a lot of enthusiasm from folks. People are thankful there's a bookstore downtown to browse through."

The couple have spent their lives in Lowell, living downtown for the last four years. She is a former Lowell Public School teacher and they have two adult children "and, as Laura points out, they are all big readers," the Sun noted. The store's name is a play on her initials.

HyperText Bookstore and Café opened in 2016 but closed the next year, leaving Lowell, "the birthplace of one of the nation's most recognized novelists, Jack Kerouac," again without a bookstore. For Laura, it was baffling: "We have a university, a community college and a thriving arts community, and yet there were no bookstores," she commented.

On its website, the store says, "We are here for readers, those who have been reading for a lifetime, those still chewing on the corners of books, and everyone in between. We want to become your place to browse new titles, to meet friends, to explore ideas, to share stories."

Inner Traditions: Expand your collection with these must-have resource books!

Plaid Elephant Books Opens in Danville, Ky.

Kate Snyder at Plaid Elephant

Children's bookstore Plaid Elephant Books has opened in downtown Danville, Ky., Lex18 reported.

The bookstore carries some 4,000 titles for children and teens, ranging from board books to YA novels. Owner Kate Snyder also stocks plenty of sidelines and gift items, including erasers and pencil holders, baby socks, onesies, puzzles and board games. She plans to bring in more toys as the holidays approach, including things like toy trucks made from recycled plastic.

"Kids need a place that's theirs," said Snyder. "A place... that wasn't just a corner of the grown-up space that they're allowed to be in."

She described opening the bookstore as very much a "pandemic story." Being stuck at home gave her plenty of time for introspection, and she began to think about what she wanted Danville to look like once life started to return to normal. She wanted to do something that would benefit the community, and after taking a 10-week entrepreneur program, she interviewed plenty of Danville residents about what they wanted to see in town.

Snyder heard again and again that people in town loved to read but did not have a place nearby to buy books. Once she settled on the idea of a bookstore, she knew right away that it would be a children's bookstore. She noted: "Physical hard copy books for children are never going to go away."

So far, the community's response to Plaid Elephant has been "tremendous." Her two favorite things, Snyder added, are seeing children's eyes light up when they enter the store and hearing parents, teachers and grandparents say "we needed this."

Authors Rally to Promote Sinking Islands by Cai Emmons

Author Ellen Meeropol writes about how she and other authors are rallying to promote a new book by a friend who has no speaking voice:

Novelists are, by definition, imaginative people, but there are a limited number of ways to promote a new novel. We rely primarily on readings and events to transform our words on the page to a dramatic life for an audience. Face to face; voice to ear. This is not easy during the pandemic.

Cai Emmons

For Cai Emmons, that process recently became much more challenging. In the year leading up to the September publication of her fourth novel, Sinking Islands, talking became difficult. Her voice grew slow, slurred, monotone, and gruff. Her words became difficult to understand. Six months ago, she was diagnosed with bulbar onset ALS, the kind that first robs a person of the ability to speak.

The author of three previous novels, a story collection, short fiction, plays and screenplays, Cai has received multiple literary awards and fellowships. She knows what it takes to promote a novel. How could she do this with no speaking voice?

Cai and I met at a Red Hen Press authors event at AWP in early 2018. We connected over a shared interest in writing fiction about activist issues and did some book events together promoting her third novel, Weather Woman, and my 2020 release, Her Sister's Tattoo. During the months Cai struggled to get a diagnosis, I read an early copy of Sinking Islands, loved it, and started thinking about events around her novel. Then I received her e-mail about ALS.

Some writers are so generous that people--friends, writers, former students, readers--gather around them naturally. Cai is one of those people. So, my response to her e-mail, "Let your friends be your voice," wasn't the only one, and Cai had already thought of it, too. Her September 14 book launch hosted by Denver's Tattered Cover Bookstore will include readings by Cai's special guests Aimee Liu, Ellen Meeropol, Sands Hall, Elizabeth Harris, Debra Gwartney and Miriam Gershow.

Other events are in the planning stages, including a signing in her hometown of Eugene, attendance at the Pacific Northwest Book Association conference, and possibly a trip to New York City. All dependent, of course, on the Delta variant and whatever comes next. And throughout these months of tests and infusions, Cai has been busy writing. She has two additional novels forthcoming in 2022 and is brainstorming about how to promote them as disease symptoms progress. And of course, a diagnosis like this changes more than a book tour. Cai and her long-term partner, playwright Paul Calandrino, got married on Valentine's Day.

A Team Cai reading is not Cai's first out-of-the-box idea to promote a novel. The summer before Weather Woman was published, she covered her van with a large image of the book jacket and drove to about 70 independent bookstores in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, meeting booksellers and distributing ARCs of the novel.

Looking at the silver lining of doing events with her text-to-voice computer, using her sister's synthesized voice, Cai notes that a slower pace can make for more thoughtfulness. She writes in her blog, "People will have to slow down in order to interact with me, but if they're willing, I'll be there listening and offering what I can. I won't be narrating every thought that passes through my mind, but less of a running commentary is probably a good thing. After all, something needs to be saved for the writing."

International Update: Peace Prize Keynote; Beirut Bookshop Closes

Tsitsi Dangarembga
Auma Obama

Auma Obama, the Kenyan activist, sociologist and German studies specialist, will give the keynote speech when the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade is awarded on October 24, during the Frankfurt Book Fair, to Zimbabwean author, activist and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga, Börsenblatt reported.

Obama, sister of President Obama, was born in Nairobi and studied in Germany at the University of Heidelberg, at the German Film and TV Academy in Berlin, and received a doctorate from the University of Bayreuth. She lived in the U.K. for many years and is a British citizen and the author of the memoir And Then Life Happens. She has worked for CARE International, and in 2010 created the Sauti Kuu (Strong Voices) Foundation, which aids disadvantaged children and young people.

Obama has been honored many times for her social engagement and has been a longtime friend of Dangarembga.


Aalyia's Books, "the beloved English-language bookshop" and café in Beirut, Lebanon, has closed, the 961 reported. The store cited "the spiralling cost of diesel to power its generator." 961 noted that "the shortage of diesel fuel in Lebanon has become a primary reason for many local businesses to periodically suspend operations or, as is the case here, close down completely."

Aalyia's Books, which sold new and used books, wrote on Instagram: "We hope that someday (in the not extreme future) we will return and embark on another chapter with you all, but for now we raise a glass and thank you for being with us through thick and thin, and we apologize that we cannot at this point chart a path over, under or around the circumstances handed to us by a corrupt and negligent state."


In a recent update on sales and earnings, WH Smith indicated that "our North America business has performed well in July and August, with sales at 93% compared to 2019 levels. We remain confident in the strength of our North American business and in winning further stores in this market."

WH Smith said, too, that it will "open another four of its InMotion airport technology stores on top of the 18 it has previously announced," the Bookseller reported. WH Smith bought InMotion in 2018 with the idea of expanding it outside the U.S. and using it as a bridge to add WH Smith airport stores in the U.S.

Company-wide, WH Smith expects "full-year results to be slightly ahead of expectations following improved revenues in its U.S. travel stores. Revenues in the two months ended August 28 rose to 71% of pre-pandemic, 2019 levels. For the second half of the year, sales were at 65% of 2019 levels, up from 60% in the first half.

Ci9: The Future of Events


On the second day of Children's Institute 9, a trio of marketing and publicity personnel from different publishing houses convened to discuss their experiences hosting virtual events over the past year and a half, and their outlook for the future of hybrid in-person and online events. 

Brein Lopez, manager of Children's Book World in Los Angeles, Calif., moderated the discussion, while the panel consisted of Lara Phan, director of account marketing at Penguin Random House; Erica Barmash, senior director of marketing and publicity at Bloomsbury; and Melissa Campion, senior director of author events at Macmillan.

Campion explained that when it comes to future events, Macmillan is trying to think more about hybrid tours than about just hybrid events. By having a mix of virtual and in-person events spread across an entire tour, it would "take the pressure off" of every event having to be both.

That said, Macmillan will continue to experiment with hybrid events in the fall. There are questions about consumer expectations for hybrid events, and Campion noted that sometimes the budget for hybrid events can be higher than people might initially think. She mentioned one author who had the idea of doing a hybrid book launch where the in-person component would take place outdoors at a botanical garden--which would cost around $100,000.

With book sales generally lower for virtual events compared to in-store events, Campion said Macmillan has "shifted what we mean with ROI on events," and suggested it would be helpful for bookstores to do the same. Some can be more marketing-driven than sales-driven, with the goal of reinforcing the store's brand within the community. Even for free events, she added, Macmillan would encourage stores to offer a paid book and ticket bundle option in addition to a free option.

Phan emphasized that virtual and hybrid events are a new landscape not just for bookstores but also publishers and authors, and she said such events allowed PRH to send authors to "so many stores" that they would never have been able to visit physically because of time or money.

When it comes to simultaneously running an in-person event while streaming it to customers live, Phan said that has mostly been done with adult events, and it depends on whether stores feel they can afford to invest in streaming equipment and have a staff member dedicated to monitoring the stream during the event.

She also shared some data that PRH collected internally on about 1,700 virtual events that took place between March 2020 and March 2021. Out of those 1,700 events, around 1,200 were adult events. While many adult events were scheduled for 7 or 7:30 p.m., the 9 p.m. Eastern time slot was surprisingly popular, and Wednesdays and Thursdays did a little bit better in attendance than Tuesdays. For children's events, afternoon sessions at around 2 or 3 p.m., which on weekdays would be around the time that virtual schooling concluded, did well, and Mondays and Saturdays were solid choices for days of the week.

Barmash agreed that the 9 p.m. Eastern time slot is "underrated" for virtual events, as people are now "living their lives differently." With the cost of virtual events so much lower than in-person events, she said, there is "a lot more willingness to try new things." She mentioned that Bloomsbury will start experimenting with "spoiler events"--events held around a month or so after a book comes out so that the audience and the author can talk about "all the crazy things that happened."

She encouraged booksellers to be up-front as early as possible with their goals for an event, and usually if a publisher hasn't provided some asset or type of support that a bookseller has hoped for, it's because the publisher "just hasn't thought of it." Whether it's something like having the author do a quick video that can be shared on Instagram or asking the publisher to tweet about the event more frequently, it should be mentioned as early as possible. On the subject of how publishers felt about stores recording events and then making them available after the event, Barmash said it might not be welcome for authors where "every event is essentially the same," or if the live event had ticketed sales.

All three panelists agreed that when trying to schedule an event with an author, it is almost always better to go to the publisher first than go to the author directly. The sooner a prospective event is "officially in front of everyone," the better. --Alex Mutter

Reed's GumTree Bookstore in Miss. Offers Dinner Book Club

In Tupelo, Miss., Reed's GumTree Bookstore and Cooking as a First Language have teamed up to create Page & Table, a quarterly dinner book club that held its first gathering in July, the Daily Journal reported.

At that event, 25 participants read The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner, a family saga that covers four generations living on a little island in Italy. They dined on Italian-inspired dishes from chef Nev Taz of Tupelo, including risotto balls, Caprese salad, ricotta cheesecake and homemade limoncello. They had a Facetime discussion with the author, who lives in Italy and, after eating, they discussed the book.

"We set up in the atrium outside the bookstore, and had cafe tables with checkered tablecloths, candles, lots of plants and music," GumTree Bookstore manager Lori Jones told the paper. "We wanted a good backdrop for the food."

The next Page & Table will be held October 21 and focus on the novel The September Society by Charles Finch, a murder mystery set in Victorian England. Because the main character spends much of his time in pubs, the event's menu will feature Sunday roast pie, a roasted beef stew with vegetables and potatoes wrapped in a golden pie crust; buttered English peas; vintage jam and dark chocolate roly-poly; and bread and butter pudding with a beer custard sauce.

"We're mindful of COVID protocols, so we may move the event outside to the alleyway," Jones said. "That might actually be really neat. We could re-create a kind of dark, spooky English street atmosphere."


Sign of the Season: Subterranean Books Chalkboard

Subterranean Books, St. Louis, Mo., shared this appropriately seasonal verse by Harlem Renaissance poet Jessie Redmon Fauset on its sidewalk chalkboard:

"Again it is September!
It seems so strange that I who made no vows
Should sit here desolate this golden weather
And wistfully remember--"

Personnel Changes at Berkley

Danielle Keir has been promoted to publicity manager at Berkley.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Josh Ritter on CBS This Morning Saturday

CBS This Morning Saturday: Josh Ritter, author of The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All: A Novel (Hanover Square Press, $27.99, 9781335522535).

Books & Authors

Reading with... Molly Peacock

photo: Candice Ferreira

Molly Peacock is a biographer and poet. Her first biography, The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life's Work at 72, was named a Book of the Year by Booklist, the Economist, the Globe and Mail, the Irish Times, the London Evening Standard, Maclean's and the Sunday Telegraph. She has also published seven books of poetry, including The Analyst. She is a co-founder of the Poetry in Motion series on New York City subways and buses. Her new biography, Flower Diary: In Which Mary Hiester Reid Paints, Travels, Marries & Opens a Door (ECW Press, September 14, 2021), follows the life and career of the 19th-century painter.

On your nightstand now:

You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin by Rachel Corbett. Her takes on creativity--and the subsidiary lives of the creative women in orbit around creative men--are kaleidoscopic and illuminating.

The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami. Here's how a setting--a shop full of bric-a-brac--can bring together disparate characters of disparate ages and, through their personal quirks, make a love story.

Radiant Night by Patrick Lohier. Thrillers aren't usually my genre, but I love Lohier's portrait of a traumatized Iraq War vet and his encounter with the mysterious Mrs. S, who is looking for an heirloom tarot pack. The audiobook is on my virtual nightstand.

The Yellow House by Sarah Broom. I'm obsessed with home and house and space, and here is the disheveled house that becomes a character in Sarah Broome's memoir of her family and New Orleans.

Forgotten Work by Jason Guriel. Here's a verse-novel that is a sustained, dazzlingly crafted, adventure into the 21st century.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Mr. Bear Squash-You-All-Flat by Morrell Gipson, illustrated by Angela, in which a bear gets his comeuppance by a mouse, a chipmunk and a baby rabbit who all keep house in an abandoned truck tire.

Your top five authors:

As both poet and a prose writer, I'm dividing my top five into two genres. First up, poetry: Poems, the collected works of Elizabeth Bishop, for their clarity and descriptive wonder.

And I can't live without the 17th-century metaphysical poet George Herbert. He's a mix of the sacred and the sexual, always candid about his.

Nancy Milford changed the art of biography with Zelda, but my favorite is Savage Beauty, her biography of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Barbara Pym I adore for the glimpses into post World War II Britain, for gimlet-eyed observation, humor--and for valuing the life choice of living alone.

My ultimate choice? Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji. Here's a piece of 11th-century Japan by a magnificent woman writer tracking the amorous adventures of Genji and the intrigues of the court.

Book you've faked reading:

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. How on earth could my public school fifth-grade teacher have assigned this as "Extra Credit"????? An option I chose, because what good girl didn't need to stockpile Extra Credit for a rainy forgot-her-homework day? In tears I sobbed at the whaling, until my mother picked it up and pointed to passages as if she were opening a Bible. Landing her index finger on a passage, she compiled a list of quotes, and I wrote a 10-year-old's assessment of each one. I have never been able to approach it since.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Denton Welch's memoirs Maiden Voyage and A Voice Through a Cloud. Welch, a detailed, emotional observer, is infatuated with life, writing his memoirs after a bicycle accident derails his career as a visual artist, leaving him often in bed, and sometimes in such terrible pain that he can only write a sentence at a time. In Maiden Voyage he dazzles as a depicter of childhood--remember being the perfect height to reach your tongue out to a door knob?--and he conjures up sumptuously precise details as he tracks his coming of age as a gay boy in England in the 1930s. Welch died at 31.

Books you've bought for the cover:

The Door by Magda Szabó. I loved the spare Eva Hesse drawing on the cover and discovered a triumph of a novel. The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects by Deborah Lutz. I bought this unusual, enrapturing biography because of the Victorian necklace on the cover.

Book you hid from your parents:

I did not hide books from my parents. My mother felt I should read anything at all that I wanted to. And my father didn't really notice.

Book that changed your life:

The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. The mid-20th century French phenomenologist said all the things about space and poetry that I felt and believed but never articulated. I did not grow up in a French villa--far from it. I grew up in a little house in Buffalo where my alcoholic dad punched holes in the walls. But houses and space, dimension and boundaries, I understood intimately, and in the desire for that house of my dreams, and for the mental space that could form a mansion in the mind, and in the belief that poetry was that house, that hut, a shell, a nest, came the magic of this book, a talisman for all I write.

Favorite line from a book:

"Art 'copying from life' and life itself/ life and the meaning of it so impressed/ they've turned into each other. Which is which?" by Elisabeth Bishop in "Poem."

Five books you'll never part with:

The Necessary Fiction: Life with James Joyce's Ulysses by Michael Groden. He's my late husband, and this is his scholar's memoir attempting to answer the question: How can one man spend a whole life with one book? I'm moved again and again by his choices and his lifelong commitment to James Joyce's Ulysses.

The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, edited and with an introduction by Phillis Levin. I'm holding on to this forever. The introduction alone can keep a poet like me going for a lifetime. If you want to see the Western world through a single lens, the sonnet, then start here with Shakespeare and barrel through the centuries, watching the progress of fireworks that inspire sonnets today by the likes of Tyehimba Jess.

A Dictionary of Symbols by Juan Eduardo Cirlot. This is like a tarot pack, a perennial horoscope, an underground stream. It's a compendium of symbols from around the world, something to be lost in, full of associations and depth, from a remarkable Spanish poet, art critic, and symbologist.

Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. Here's the compendium of food columns that novelist Colwin, specialist in domestic happiness, wrote for Gourmet magazine. It's surprisingly contemporary, full of the stories of her cooking for others, especially her failures in the kitchen and the moving recipes of dishes Colwin cooked for homeless women. I particularly adore the audiobook narrated by the straightforward, easy-going voice of Gayle Hendrix.

Playing and Reality by D.W. Winnicott. For me, this is THE book about the psychological sources of creativity for me. Winnicott's idea of how play is a holding area--like poetry--inspires and moves me. I live his theories in my writer's life every hour.

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

War and Peace. I came late to Leo Tolstoy, and one luxurious summer listened to the audiobook read by the amazing Neville Jason. I would adore it if I could be carried back to that summer when my husband was alive and healthy, and I had just started thinking about writing Flower Diary, and the voice of Neville Jason was creating a different tone for every single character in the panoramic novel with his equally panoramic voice. (There's a new War and Peace audiobook narrated by the incomparable Edoardo Ballerini, too.)

Book Review

Review: The Holiday Swap

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox (Putnam, $17 paperback, 352p., 9780593330739, October 5, 2021)

Identical twins--20-something sisters who are both successful bakers--switch lives in The Holiday Swap, a fun and quick-witted first novel by Maggie Knox (pseudonym for authors Karma Brown and Marissa Stapley).

The story launches days before Christmas in sunny California. Charlie Goodwin--a noted Paris-trained pastry chef--is embroiled in a network reality baking show. Her program--Sweet & Salty, produced for two seasons in Los Angeles and cohosted by Chef Austin Nash--is facing the threat of replacement with another show slated to feature only one chef. Charlie and Austin--who is more "cheater than chef" and leaves Charlie feeling more "bah-humbug than merry and bright"--embark as judges on a 12-days-to-Christmas countdown, where 12 amateur bakers compete for a $25,000 prize.

In the midst of the high-stakes competition, a shelving unit laden with heavy pans tips over, hits Charlie in the head and knocks her out. Charlie is diagnosed with a concussion that strips her of the ability to taste and smell. She is ordered to take it easy. But how can she possibly rest with her show and job on the brink of peril?

Afraid to tell anyone of her sensory malfunctions, Charlie secretly enlists the help of her lifelong confidante, her identical twin, Cass, who runs the long-held, family-established Woodburn Breads Bakery in the girls' hometown of Starlight Peak, Calif. Cass--in a dead-end relationship with a local real estate agent--is more business-minded than culinary-based. However, with her sister's injury and job hanging in the balance, Cass steps in to save Charlie in her hour of need, agreeing to swap lives temporarily--and covertly. 

The twins look alike, but that's where the similarities end. Their differences--from coffee versus tea drinking to their tastes in cocktails and men--pose a slew of comedic complications as they slip into alternate personas. The role reversals prove disorienting at first, ultimately morphing into enlightenment and liberation for the pair. However, the guilt of trying to keep their real identities secret proves harder than imagined--especially when new love interests ensnare both sisters, each pretending to be someone they are not.

Knox assembles a memorable cast and whips up inventive switched-lives scenarios filled with a host of mishaps that double the fun. Delightfully romantic plot twists further sweeten this lighthearted, feel-good story--with a message--that is sure to make rom-com readers hunger for whatever Knox decides to dish up next. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Shelf-Talker: In this delightful romantic comedy, twin baker sisters secretly swap lives and hilariously discover their true selves by experiencing how the other lives.

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