Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Hampton Roads Publishing Company: Becoming Baba Yaga: Trickster, Feminist, and Witch of the Woods by Kris Spisak, Foreword by Gennarose Nethercott

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Severn House: A Messy Murder (Main) (The Decluttering Mysteries #4) by Simon Brett

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

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

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker


NEIBA Fall Conference Kicks Off

The New England Independent Booksellers Association is holding its annual Fall Conference virtually for the second year in a row. The conference began on Tuesday morning with a welcome from NEIBA executive director Beth Ineson. She introduced the opening keynote discussion between Susan Cain, author of the forthcoming Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole (April 2022), and her editor Gillian Blake, senior v-p and editor-in-chief of Crown.

Before the conversation began, Cain said, "I often talk about kindred spirits... it's hard for me to imagine a community more composed of kindred spirits than this one. All of you devote your lives to selling books.... To have it be all of you that I'm speaking to when this book is going live into the world is really exciting to me." To start the interview, Blake asked Cain about the general concept behind Bittersweet. "It's an answer," she said, "to a lifelong question I have felt about the powers of a more bittersweet and melancholic temperament.... There's an incredible power in looking at the world this way." All her life, Cain explained, she has had "this reaction of intense elation and uplift when I hear sad music." She wondered what it is about this music that made her feel good. And what is it about our society that makes her appreciation of this music funny to others? It's a "question people have been asking for centuries," she explained. "This state of being"--a bittersweet or melancholic temperament--"carries a power that our culture isn't really teaching us about." Our culture, which Blake called "happiness-seeking" and "happiness-promoting," is, in Cain's words, "robbing us of one of our greatest powers of humanity."

When Blake asked Cain why she thinks our culture has such a hard time accepting a gloomier outlook, Cain took a deep dive into Calvinism and the evolving idea of what it means to win or lose. "The idea of a loser became something that was more and more anathema.... Where we had once seen people who lost as victims of misfortune, we started seeing being a loser as something you were internally." Blake turned the conversation toward the "bittersweet tradition in literature." Writers, Cain said, "have been speaking to us about the powers of bittersweet for thousands of years, we just somehow haven't named it. I don't know why. If you think about Homer's Odyssey, for example, the action begins with Odysseus on a beach weeping with homesickness.... That is a metaphor for how we all live. It's the thing that we long for and the sorrow that we have that brings us on our journey."

Guide to Children's Frontline Bookselling

Nicole Brinkley

NEIBA held educational sessions in the afternoon, one of which was the New England Children's Booksellers Advisory Council's Guide to Frontline Bookselling. Nicole Brinkley (Oblong Books, Rhinebeck & Millerton, N.Y.) moderated the session, with panelists Gibran Graham (The Briar Patch, Bangor, Maine), Audrey Huang (Belmont Books, Belmont, Mass.) and Nadja Tiktinsky (Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt.). Brinkley began the conversation by asking a simple question: What is frontline bookselling? Tiktinsky said she thinks of it as "serving as a bridge between readers and books"; Huang said it is "direct engagement with a person... helping them find something they wouldn't typically find on their own"; and Graham pointed out frontline booksellers are also "the first impression and the last impression you give to a customer."

Nadja Tiktinsky
Gibran Graham
Audrey Huang

Brinkley asked the panelists how they are navigating "just getting through" at the moment. Tiktinsky mentioned that a sense of humor is huge for her. "I've had customers who are really upset with seeing Covid-19 in kids' books," she said. When those customers express their dismay, she reminded the attendees, "it's never about you.... Try and take it as lightly as you can." Graham added, "There's very little I think a frontline bookseller should take on themselves as being 'their fault.' " And, he said, it often does help to simply respond with kindness. "Sometimes those smile-releasing endorphins will help you and the customer as well." Tiktinsky brought it around to the specific experience of children's bookselling, noting that it's been more important than ever--especially with kids--to have trusted relationships with customers. "One of the reasons why children's literature is so important is because, as a kid, you don't have much control over what your life is like." She thinks Covid-19 has really shone a light on this childhood experience and it's currently "more important than ever" to connect with customers.

Brinkley began a particularly helpful discussion with the question, "If you are a bookseller who knows nothing about kids' books, where do you start?" Tiktinsky said that she always has a "book of the day" in the children's department. The book is chosen from a range of ages and genres, and it sits behind the counter for the day. "Every bookseller has to familiarize themselves with it enough to be able to handsell it.... We also write up little summaries... in a daily blog." She recommended reading as much as possible when shelving: "Be curious. Flip through something if it looks interesting. I would encourage managers and owners to see reading on the job--or skimming on the job--as work." In the chat, Mariana Calderon of the Savoy Bookshop & Café in Westerly, R.I., agreed with this: "As a manager at a children's bookstore, I tried to instill the 'reading on the job IS the job' philosophy about kids' books from the beginning of training." Huang explained a specific challenge she gave to herself: "One of the things I did when I started was make a resolution that I was going to read one middle-grade book a month, and I found that middle-grade was so much more complex than I remembered it to be." She added, "If you aren't well-versed in kids' books, shelve kids' books.... Just by touching the books, you kind of pick it up through osmosis." Graham agreed: "I'm a fan of immersion in kids' books. Shelving, alphabetizing, being in the section.... You can't know about them unless you're working with them."

Another excellent conversation arose around the differences between handselling to adults and handselling to children. "I am always, always going to try to engage the kid," Graham said, "because they're the customer. They may not be buying, but they're the ones I want to see come back." Huang agreed, saying, "I always try to engage the kid and try to talk to them the way I would an adult." She added, "If the [adult] doesn't let the kid talk, I will move my body so the kid can talk directly to me." ("I've definitely done the casual body block," Brinkley said.) Tiktinsky noted that she likes "to give as much agency to the child reader as possible. I don't like to assume where anyone will be shopping in the store age-wise. I don't ask what their age is, I ask what their favorite all-time books are. You never know if the nine-year-old you're talking to has just read The Hunger Games or if a 14- or 15-year-old is more comfortable hanging out in middle-grade." Graham finished the conversation with an important point about handselling to children: "The last thing you want to do is be another adult telling the kid what to read.... If I'm talking to a parent and kid at the same time, I will always put that book in the kids' hands, not the [adult's]. You always want to put them in a position where they are the ones choosing." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

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Your Brother's Bookstore to Open in Evansville, Ind.

Sam and Adam Morris, co-owners of Your Brother's Bookstore, will host a grand opening celebration October 1 at 504 Main Street, Evansville, Ind., after months of renovating the downtown space.

On the shop's website, the brothers said their goal is to bring "a family-friendly, cozy little shop to downtown Evansville. We sell new books, board games, gaming gear, rare and signed books, as well as works from local authors and artists.... Keep an eye out in the near future for information about programs we'll be offering! We're planning several book clubs, board game nights, some great panels, classes, and a few more secret, way too ambitious projects that we're going to try."

Both men left Evansville when they were younger, but eventually moved back within about a month of each other. "While talking about how Evansville has grown and changed since before leaving, the brothers decided they wanted to help contribute to the growing culture of art and community that they noticed developing downtown. While away, both of us found homes away from home in small, independent bookstores. We decided we wanted to create the same experience in downtown Evansville."

Your Brother's Bookstore has been providing updates on Facebook regarding the bookstore's progress toward opening day, noting earlier this month: "Just about three weeks from opening! Everybody's hard at work!"

GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

Bookspace Brings Front Lawn Sales to Columbus, Ohio

Charlie Pugsley

While working toward opening a bricks-and-mortar bookstore in Columbus, Ohio, Charlie Pugsley has launched Bookspace as a pop-up shop, selling new books and zines on the lawn outside his apartment building, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Bookspace is open for business twice per month, and the shop carries fiction and nonfiction for adults, a variety of zines and a selection of children's books. At the same time, Pugsley runs an online bookstore that he's "beefed up" since the pandemic began.

"I love books," Pugsley told the Dispatch. "It's the way I like to connect to the world--with people. I've always felt comfortable in a bookstore and that was a space I wanted to cultivate."

Pugsley launched the earliest iteration of Bookspace in 2015. At that time he sold used books and set up shop at places like flea markets. Over the years Bookspace has done business in many locations, including several temporary bricks-and-mortar spaces. He held his first front lawn sale in 2020, after his neighbors invited him to sell books during their yard sale.

"I set up a couple of tables and it went extremely well, way better than any flea market," he recalled. "So I realized, 'Ok, this is what we're doing.' "

For the last 18 months Pugsley has been focusing on Bookspace full-time. Prior to that he was also working in the food-service industry.

He noted that he sold more than 4,000 books in 2020, and that some professors at area colleges are sending their students to Bookspace to buy course titles.

Burning Books, Buffalo, N.Y., Expanding

After 10 years in its original space, radical bookstore Burning Books in Buffalo, N.Y., is expanding, Buffalo Rising reported. Co-owner Leslie James Pickering and the Buffalo Rising team have launched a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the expansion, which will see the bookstore take over the building next door.

Burning Books will grow from 628 square feet to 2,378 square feet and the additional footage will allow the bookstore to more than double the size of its inventory and build a dedicated event space. The Burning Books team hopes to use this space for readings as well as book club meetings, collaborations with activists and other community gatherings. The new space will have an accessible entrance and restrooms.

The store carries books for children, teens and adults with a heavy focus on social justice issues. While the inventory covers a range of political and social issues, the store's approach is "largely intersectional and we believe in the interconnectedness of movements, tactics and history." The store also stocks posters, games and other gifts, with social justice and sustainability in mind. 

So far, the Burning Books campaign has raised just over $7,000.

Raccoon River Press, Des Moines, Iowa, Debuts as Online Store

Raccoon River Press, a planned independent bookstore and small press, has debuted as an online bookseller, the Des Moines Register reported. The bookstore carries new titles in a variety of genres, and owner Jena Best hopes eventually to open a bricks-and-mortar location in West Des Moines. She also plans to start publishing the work of local writers, and submissions are currently open to authors, poets and photographers.

Jena Best

Best, who officially launched Raccoon River Press on April 5, left her previous career as a biologist on June 1. With Raccoon River's publishing efforts, she hopes to highlight the work of local and regional authors who are sometimes overlooked by the "big publishing houses on the coasts," and give those stories the recognition they deserve.

Best hosted a number of pop-up shops at breweries and taprooms around Des Moines this summer, and she partnered with the Firetrucker Brewery in Ankeny to create a free book club. The first meeting will be held at the taproom on October 7, with participants reading The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune.

She told the Register that her plans for Raccoon River Press were inspired by her favorite independent bookstore, San Francisco's City Lights Bookstore.


Carle Honors Art Auction Bidding Ends Tomorrow

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Amherst, Mass., is holding the 2021 Carle Honors Art Auction. (To see the art and bid, click here.) The silent auction, which ends tomorrow evening at 8:30 p.m., features 26 works of art, including Gabriella's First Day of School by Raúl Colón, Red Crocodile by Eric Carle and Mni Wiconi, Water Is Life by Michaela Goade. Proceeds from the auction support the mission of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.

Children's literature expert and historian Leonard S. Marcus, founder of the Carle Honors, will introduce the awards. In a special recording, author, poet and activist Amanda Gorman reads from her forthcoming debut picture book, Change Sings, illustrated by Loren Long. A special tribute to the Museum's late co-founder Eric Carle will highlight art from his collection.

Window Display: Let the Pigeon Scare Away the Crows

"There's a friendly new face in the Village Booksmith window!" the bookstore located in Baraboo, Wis., posted on Facebook yesterday. "We're letting the Pigeon have the very important job of scaring away crows, and she would love to say hi to visitors. And don't forget to vote for her in the lineup of scarecrows on parade! Visit the Baraboo library in person or online to vote.... Voting is open until 8pm Tuesday, September 28th."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Cassandra Peterson on Tamron Hall

CBS This Morning: Michael Clinton, author of Roar: Into the Second Half of Your Life... Before It's Too Late (Atria Books/Beyond Words, $26, 9781582708133).

Drew Barrymore Show: Martha Stewart, co-author of Martha Stewart's Fruit Desserts: 100+ Delicious Ways to Savor the Best of Every Season (Clarkson Potter, $28.99, 9780593139189).

Tamron Hall: Cassandra Peterson, author of Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark (Hachette Books, $29, 9780306874352).

The View: Eva Pilgrim, author of Walter Does His Best: A Frenchie Adventure in Kindness and Muddy Paws (Thomas Nelson, $17.99, 9781400226771).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Anderson Cooper, co-author of Vanderbilt: The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty (‎Harper, $30, 9780062964618).

TV: Partner Track

Netflix has given a 10-episode series order to Partner Track, an adaptation of Helen Wan's 2013 novel. Deadline reported that Arden Cho has been cast as the lead of the series, created by Georgia Lee (The Expanse). Also starring are Bradley Gibson (Powerbook III: Ghost), Alexandra Turshen (Ray Donovan), Nolan Gerard Funk (The Flight Attendant), Dominic Sherwood (Penny Dreadful: The City of Angels), Rob Heaps (Good Girls) and Matthew Rauch (Terminal List). Lee and Sarah Goldfinger, a Daytime Emmy winner for Trinkets, are co-showrunners. Julie Anne Robinson (Bridgerton) will direct the first two episodes.

"We are so deeply excited to bring this story of an Asian American woman trying to break the glass ceiling at an elite law firm to life," said Lee, who is also exec producing with Goldfinger and others. Wan is a consultant. Additional directors for the series, which shoots in New York, include Tanya Wexler, Kevin Berlandi, Lily Mariye, and Charles Randolph-Wright.
"We're proud of the incredible team assembled to bring to life Partner Track, an empowering story told through the eyes of our Asian-American lead character Ingrid Yun, played by the talented Arden Cho," said Jinny Howe, v-p, original series at Netflix. "Full of fun and romance, this is a contemporary and insightful look at the added pressures for women and those of underrepresented backgrounds in the workplace today."

Books & Authors

Awards: German Book Prize, Mo Siewcharran Shortlists

The shortlist for the €25,000 (about $29,300) German Book Prize, Börsenblatt reported, is:

Der zweite Jakob by Norbert Gstrein (Hanser)
Vati by Monika Helfer (Hanser)
Eurotrash by Christian Kracht (Kiepenheuer & Witsch)
Zandschower Klinken by Thomas Kunst (Suhrkamp)
Identitti by Mithu Sanyal (Hanser)
Blaue Frau by Antje Rávik Strubel (S. Fischer)

The winner will be announced at a ceremony on October 18 on the eve of the Frankfurt Book Fair.


Hachette has released a shortlist for the Mo Siewcharran Prize, which was launched in 2019 "to help discover unpublished fiction writers from Black, Asian and marginalized ethnic backgrounds." The winner receives £2,500 (about $3,460) plus the offer of a publishing deal, subject to contract, with Little, Brown and Abacus. The winner will be named later this month.

Named in memory of Nielsen Book's former director of marketing and communications, the award "aims to nurture talent from under-represented backgrounds writing in English." Run by Hachette UK's Changing the Story diversity and inclusivity initiative, the prize returns this year following a break in 2020 due to the pandemic. This year's shortlisted titles are:

He Doesn’t Live Here Anymore by Santanu Bhattacharya
Jimmy the Food Thief by Rose Chen
Bellies by Nicola Dinan
Ndelei by Memuna Konteh
The Places We Will Go by Andres Ordorica
Bethnal Green by Amelie Skoda

Reading with... Amanda Jayatissa

photo: Sandun Seneviratne

Amanda Jayatissa loves to read disturbing books with shocking plot twists, so it seemed logical to her that she should attempt to write disturbing books with shocking plot twists. She runs corporate trainings on communication skills development and works as the chief taste tester at the cookie shop she co-owns. She grew up in Sri Lanka and has lived in California's Bay Area and the British countryside before relocating back to her sunny island. Her debut thriller is My Sweet Girl (Berkley, September 14, 2021), about a Sri Lankan-American woman who tries to uncover who murdered her roommate after all evidence of his death has been erased.

On your nightstand now:

Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan and Good Rich People by Eliza Jane Brazier. Both are advance reader copies, and one of the best parts about writing is having access to these awesome titles before they come out!

Favorite book when you were a child:

This is a difficult one to answer because I was a voracious reader for as long as I could remember. I was even caught reading in a locked bathroom during my own birthday party, so yes, I was that kid. Three of the books I adored are: The Witches by Roald Dahl; Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery; The Ghost Next Door by R.L. Stine (my first exposure to an unreliable narrator and it swept the rug out from under me).

Your top five authors:

Shirley Jackson (she had me at The Haunting of Hill House and cemented her position in my heart with We Have Always Lived in the Castle)

Gillian Flynn (the queen!)

Jessica Knoll (the way she writes mean-girl protagonists that you root for really inspired much of my own writing)

Riley Sager (the master of plot twists!)

Stephen King (who's had my heart and many sleepless nights since I read It when I was 14)

Book you've faked reading:

My first attempt at reading It by Stephen King had me so afraid that I had to put the book away, but I'd already told my best friend that I was reading it. When she asked me how it was, I totally lied and said I had finished it and wasn't afraid at all! I did end up reading it a few days later, though, because I absolutely had to know what happened next, and it's been a favorite ever since.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. As a reader, I've always been a huge lover of plot twists, and the twist in Behind Her Eyes lives rent-free in my head. I always recommend this book to anyone who wants a "never saw that coming" moment.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and I'm so glad I did because it ended up being one of my favorite reads of 2020.

Book you hid from your parents:

I was allowed to read anything I wanted, at any age, with one notable exception--Archie comics. Because, to quote my mother, "Who's got time to read about two girls fighting over a boy?"

It was a fair point, I suppose, but it didn't stop me from sneaking the books from my older cousins.

Book that changed your life:

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. This was the first thriller that I read which was set completely outside the U.S. It opened up my eyes and meant so much to me, because I was toying around with my own thriller (that would go on to be My Sweet Girl) that was set partially in Sri Lanka, where I'm from.

Favorite line from a book:

I didn't stop giving hand jobs because I wasn't good at it. I stopped giving hand jobs because I was the best at it.

There have been so many great, introspective, lyrical lines from books, which I've kept highlighted and revisit often, but this first line from Gillian Flynn's short story "The Grownup" made me snort-laugh while intriguing me to purchase and read it immediately. She's written so many bombshell lines (who can forget the "cool girl" monologue from Gone Girl) but this is the one that's my favorite.

Five books you'll never part with:

Living in Sri Lanka, it's tough to get access to hard copies of many of the books I love or want to read, so the few I have are guarded closely. One of the greatest tragedies I've had to face was the Termite Incident of 2006 where my books at home were destroyed while I was away at university.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, which is my number-one comfort read.

Sharp Objects, which is my favorite from Gillian Flynn.

On Writing by Stephen King, which I read every time I feel like I'm struggling with a WIP.

My copies of Anne of Green Gables and The Witches that I've had since I was a child. The Ghost Next Door, sadly, was destroyed by those barbaric termites.

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

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I don't think I've ever been as shaken as when I sat straight up in bed at 3 a.m., scaring my poor husband half to death, shouting "NO WAY!" as when I read that twist.

Book Review

Children's Review: Red and Green and Blue and White

Red and Green and Blue and White by Lee Wind, illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky (Levine Querido, $17.99 hardcover, 32p., ages 4-7, 9781646140879, October 19, 2021)

A community, inspired by a friend's show of support, acts in solidarity after a hate crime targets a Hanukkah celebration in this vibrant and compassionate picture book from Lee Wind and Paul O. Zelinsky.

Best friends and neighbors Isaac and Teresa have much in common, including their love of decorating for winter holidays. A birds-eye view of their night-darkened neighborhood, though, shows Isaac's house standing out: "On a block dressed up in Red and Green, one house shone Blue and White." Isaac helps his parents place a decorative menorah at their picture window in anticipation of Hanukkah. Later that night, a stranger shatters Isaac's window with a rock, ostensibly targeting his family for their religion. After the police visit and the damage is repaired, Isaac bravely rekindles the menorah: "If they didn't, Isaac knew it would be like hiding they were Jewish."

Teresa is relieved to see Isaac's candles glowing again. As snow falls, Teresa draws a menorah of her own, writing "For Isaac" above it, and mounts the artwork in her front window. Isaac is delighted, and Teresa's gesture resonates. "Their friends joined in. Then their school. And their library." Word spreads and within weeks more than 10,000 windows across town feature menorahs in solidarity. A merger of the friends' poetry and artwork tidily concludes the story: "Christmas tree and menorah light; red and green and blue and white. Stronger together... shining bright!"

Inspired by true events, Wind (No Way, They Were Gay?) uses clear language and concise sentences to impart real-life and relatable examples of courage, upstanders and allyship. Minimal text amplifies the innocent tone at the beginning of the story while the prose both quickens and lengthens after the attack. An ominous shift in the palette during that event underscores its severity and the "shards of glass falling" evokes Kristallnacht. A brief author's note radiates hope.

Caldecott Medal and multiple Honor recipient Zelinsky (Rapunzel; Z Is for Moose) draws in readers through illustrations that shift perspective and scale across a mix of single- and double-page spreads. The indigo night suffusing most pages allows the seasonal decor to glow and particularly emphasizes Isaac's snowy and cerulean window. Zelinsky's digital illustrations daringly merge dueling holiday palettes and incorporate the children's rhymes and pictures directly into his art.

As much a how-to as a holiday tale, Wind and Zelinsky's offering gives young readers an inspirational, empathy-building story about honoring your identity and standing up against hate. Stronger together, indeed. --Kit Ballenger, youth librarian, Help Your Shelf

Shelf Talker: Two friends heal themselves and rally their community after an antisemitic attack in this warm, spirited picture book that models allyship.

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