Shelf Awareness for Thursday, June 23, 2022

Feiwel & Friends: Odder by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Charles Santoso

Ace Books: Station Eternity (The Midsolar Murders) by Mur Lafferty

St. Martin's Press: Maame by Jessica George

Sourcebooks Explore: Black Boy, Black Boy by Ali Kamanda and Jorge Redmond, illustrated by Ken Daley

Graphic Universe (Tm): Notes from a Sickbed by Tessa Brunton

Soho Crime: Cruz by Nicolás Ferraro, translated by Mallory N. Craig-Kuhn

Berkley Books: Such Sharp Teeth by Rachel Harrison


Ci10: Banned Books, Community and Challenging Conversations

At Children's Institute 10 in Phoenix, Ariz., booksellers gathered on Tuesday morning to discuss their experiences regarding the recent surge of book banning that has swept across the U.S. The session touched on everything from how those book bans have affected children's book buying to how stores have responded to online trolls and how staff members can support each other during difficult conversations.

From left: Gen de Botton, Casey Morrissey, Lexi Beach and Mack Burner.

The panelists were Lexi Beach, owner of Astoria Bookshop in Queens, N.Y.; Mack Burner, assistant manager and buyer at Bookworm of Edwards in Edwards, Colo.; and Casey Morrissey, children's buyer at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y. The ABA's Gen de Botton served as moderator.

Beach recalled that around January, she started drafting a blog post about the recent book bans, but as the list kept growing she began to wonder whether she, as a bookseller, was really the person to be talking about it. She decided it was worth having some information available for customers who wanted to learn more and eventually put up a brief blog post featuring a list of commonly banned and challenged books, grouped by age. She noted that the book bans have influenced her buying in the sense that she feels "I need to have more than one copy of Gender Queer in stock, if I can get it at all." She tries to make sure she has these books available for customers, and when new book bannings make the news, it does sometimes result in increased sales for those titles.

Burner said he views the simple act of putting a book on a store shelf "as a form of passive activism," and the most important step as a bookseller is to have the book available. When it comes to selling children's books, there are plenty of "customer education" moments, either with a child or with a parent. Burner described himself as a big proponent of the idea that books are safe spaces for processing new ideas, and when parents sometimes object to the content in certain books, he likes to ask whether they would prefer that their children be confronted with these things for the first time "in the real world," or be able to digest it in a book first. Bookstores themselves, he added, have an opportunity to be a "port in the storm" for both customers and staff members.

Morrissey pointed out that Greenlight is fortunate to be in New York City. The team can pretty much feature whatever books they like on display tables and no one comes in to say "why do you have this book here?" They try to make sure banned titles are "getting to customers" by having them in the store as well as at off-site events. In the instances where people have called to "have a fight" about a particular book, those callers are often not regular customers.

Elaborating on the issue of harassment coming from people who aren't customers, Burner explained that Bookworm of Edwards held its first drag queen story time last week and subsequently experienced its first online troll attack. Looking at the names of people commenting and messaging, Burner realized that they "don't shop here." Burner remarked that as a manager, he views his staff and their well-being as his biggest priority, even before customers, and while Bookworm of Edwards is not very hierarchical, there is a "tiered system" for when "sh-t hits the fan." There are "layers of protection" at the store, and floor staff are told to find a manager if a situation makes them feel uncomfortable. From there, floor managers can bring an issue to the owner, and the owner can do "whatever they want."

On the subject of empowering staff, Morrissey mentioned de-escalation training as something that was "really helpful." It teaches staff members what to do when faced with an irate customer, and also how to help other booksellers when they've been cornered by a customer. Morrissey added that with a lot of these banned and challenged titles, the content tends to get misrepresented. As an example, they pointed to the book Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers and Marla Frazee. The controversy around the book would lead one to believe that the entire picture book is about gay parents, but that is actually "only one small illustration."

Beach said that she's been "really lucky in Astoria." There have been minimal "problem conversations" with customers and most of those have been about the store's mask policy. Beach gave her team a script to follow in those instances that reiterates that the store is just trying to do its best to keep everyone and their families safe. And while it hasn't come up very often, Beach has a standing policy with her staff that if someone is trying to order a book that makes them deeply uncomfortable or threatens or demeans who they are, they have the right to tell the customer that the store "can't get that for you." --Alex Mutter

Disney-Hyperion: Drizzle, Dreams, and Lovestruck Things by Maya Prasad

Ci10 Keynote: 'Native Stories Now'

Wednesday's breakfast keynote at the 10th annual ABA Children's Institute, "Native Stories Now," featured a conversation with Indigenous authors Cynthia Leitich Smith, Traci Sorell and Danielle Greendeer. The discussion, moderated by ABA copy editor Britt Camacho, invited the talented women to speak about how "reader awareness and shifts in publishing have affected the way they create new stories with Native characters at the center."

From l.: Cynthia Leitich Smith, Traci Sorell, Danielle Greendeer, Britt Camacho.

Camacho began by asking a general question of all three panelists: How did you get here, specifically in relation to creating Native books for kids? Debut author Greendeer (Keepunumuk, Charlesbridge), who is a Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Citizen, Hawk Clan, responded directly and without guile: "I don't know how I got here. I'm just a lover of books." Further discussion revealed her desire to create, and to include her dedication and focus on the natural world into her work. Keepunumuk co-creators Anthony Perry and Alexis Bunton reached out to Greendeer "all of a sudden out of the blue" to ask if she would like to write a Thanksgiving story. Yes, she said, but "we're not going to regurgitate what's already out there.... I'm going to create a new dynamic and put myself in the place of the animals and the sentient beings and what they would have observed."

Traci Sorell, who has several books for young readers (We Are Grateful, Charlesbridge) and is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, said that, for her, "It was finding as a mother that there weren't culturally accurate books available." Although she had never seen herself writing, she felt that necessity demanded she try it. Smith, author of Sisters of the Neversea, curator of the Heartdrum line at HarperCollins and a citizen of the Muscogee Nation, said a huge influence for her was the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. After the attack, she had an "epiphany" that she said was "one of those moments that made you stop and think about the need for more hope in the world." She was on track to become a lawyer but believed she could make more of a difference in the world of children's literature. "I have more hope right now than ever before about the power of books to enact positive change and I attribute so much of that to this group of people"--booksellers.

How, Camacho asked, do you balance the interplay of fiction and nonfiction "of writing about your communities, where you're from, the land?" Sorell's response was swift: "All books about Native people are rooted in nonfiction. It doesn't really matter what you're writing. There's an experience--culture, land--that are all very tangible.... It's based on our human experience." Smith mentioned that it's a tremendous amount of research to write any of these books even when the authors are writing from their own experience. "We are not only people of yesterday," she said, "but today and tomorrow. We have a full range of experience, we have a full range of emotions and we are three dimensional in our humanity--it's important to me that kids realize we are humans first."

Interestingly, Greendeer focused in on asking permission from the elders of her community (a topic that Camacho later expanded upon). The language of the Wampanoag people, Wôpanâak, is sacred, so the creators worked with both the tribe and the Wôpanâak Language Reclamation Project--dedicated to preserving the language--to be sure they used words they could publish for an audience that would include non-Native readers. "I felt like we were creating new stories, new lore, new mythology, new oral histories. And something that prevents or discourages tribal folks from my generation is, 'do we have the permission to create new stories?' I think the answer that I was given--or just took--was 'yes.' I don't need to keep talking about what happened 400 years ago. We're new. We're new souls. So, we have to have a new narrative."

Camacho brought up backmatter after this and Smith used Greendeer's previous answer as a launching pad. Backmatter is helpful, she said, because "it's a big question what we do and what we don't share. Not everything is talked about cross-culturally.... Often it feels best to brushstroke in a line that can be read in more than one way." That is, members of the community will understand it while others will see it as simply referring to the story in a different way. "At Heartdrum," Smith said, "this is an ongoing conversation with every book." It's important to be mindful of backmatter, Smith noted, and make sure it flows "from the content of the book [while also acting] as a bridge for the young reader and the outside world." It's also important that the tribe and the culture is "represented in a way that they would feel good about [that is also] in service to the character, to the story, to the emotional resonance." Overall, though, it's difficult--many communities want to keep things private, sacred and away from non-Natives but they also feel frustrated with decades of erasure and the historic inability they have had to tell their own stories. Sorell noted that the art is a place where these discussions happen, too: "What gets included in there, someone in the know is going to see more than someone not in the know. And none of that gets explained in the book." Almost every single excellent point made by one of the creators throughout the panel was met with applause from the eager and involved audience.

Camacho finished with, "What do you hope or envision the future of Native stories to look like." Greendeer wants to "change the rituals and assumptions around Thanksgiving. I dream that every Thanksgiving meal will have a Wampanoag recipe where people are sharing food and eating and understanding the historical roots behind foods.... It's about honoring those being who nourish us." Sorell wants to inspire the next generation of writers: "My hope is for more stories because that is how we have genuine connection and how we move forward together." Smith became a bit more introspective. "I genuinely didn't think that we'd ever get this far in my lifetime.... The bigger the challenges, the stronger the heroes, and you are all heroes. You have all made this happen in a big way. I look forward to the day when I can celebrate 100 debuts and 100 shining stars, where I'm not surprised any more that I'm not the only Native author at an event." Looking to the audience, she said, "I hope when that day comes, you greet those voices with the same love and respect that you've shown to us." --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

GLOW: Drawn & Quarterly: Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Kate Beaton

International Update: Börsenverein Chair Reelected; Toronto's Ben McNally Books Finds Permanent Home

Börsenverein board: Stephan Schierke, Nadja Kneissler, Kilian Kissling, Christiane Schulz-Rother, Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, Annerose Beurich, Klaus Gravemann, Stefan Könemann. Not pictured: Birte Hackenjos.

Karin Schmidt-Friderichs of the Hermann Schmidt Verlag in Mainz has been reelected chair of the Börsenverein, the German book industry association, as reported by Börsenblatt. After the voting for the three-year term took place, Schmidt-Friderichs said, "Crises lead to changes and new perspectives. Before us is a great task: to shape the post-Covid book market with its many challenges. Among those challenges are, for example, the evolution of book fairs, protecting fixed book prices, strengthening copyright, having fair terms for e-lending, dealing with rising costs and supply chain disruptions as well as meeting sustainability goals. We can achieve these goals only together, in a culture of cooperation."

Other booksellers elected to the Börsenverein board included Klaus Gravemann of Bücherhaus am Münster in Neuss, who was reelected treasurer. Also, Annerose Beurich, of Stories! Die Buchhandlung in Hamburg and deputy chair since 2019, was reelected. Beruich expressed her support for fixed book prices as a guarantee for diversity and the freedom of opinion.


Ben McNally Books, Toronto, Ont., which has relied on short-term locations since discovering in 2019 that the store's lease would expire in September 2020, shared some good news recently in a tweet: 

"Dear friends, at long last we have found a new permanent home at 108 Queen St East! We don't have a move in date yet, but are aiming for the middle of Autumn. We promise to keep you updated as plans progress. We are so grateful for your continued support."


Jazzmine Breary

Jazzmine Breary has been promoted to chief operating officer of Jacaranda Books, a diverse-owned independent publisher and bookseller. She will work alongside founder Valerie Brandes in the newly created role, which, the company said, "is reflective of Brandes's ethos to not only to reward talent but to change the face of publishing’s landscape." 

Breary joined Jacaranda Books at its inception, and with her team has assisted with the publication of more than 70 titles. She also worked on the Twenty in 2020 initiative, which published 20 titles by 20 Black British writers in a single year. 

"I have been inspired by Valerie's vision and I look forward to driving practices and policies that fulfil our vision and ethos," she said.

Brandes added: "Jazzmine's understanding of and support for the vision of Jacaranda has never wavered, and more often than not has been the driving force through some of our most challenging times. Her commitment to our business, her talent for managing people and her passion for our publishing make this new role a natural progression."


Total book sales in Sweden increased by 4% in the first quarter of 2022, compared with the same period in the previous year. The European & International Booksellers Federation's Newsflash reported that in a new sector survey, bookstore economist Leif Olsson took stock of the market, "noting that pandemic impacts are continuing to subside. While the sales numbers are going up across the board, it seems that the largest bookshops are faring better than their indie counterparts. Nevertheless, it's important to note that smaller shops are seeing a drop in sales of other products, while books are remaining stable." --Robert Gray

Blackstone Publishing: Beasts of the Earth by James Wade

Stabbing in Florida Books-A-Million

This may be an awful first--and we hope it's the last instance of its kind. A man in a bookstore stabbed another man. It happened on Tuesday at about 1:45 p.m. in a Books-A-Million in Tallahassee, Fla.

According to police reports (via WCTV), a man walked into the store and stabbed the victim, who was sitting inside. Carrying the bloody knife, the man then walked back outside and was apprehended in nearby woods. He was identified as John McFarland, 41, and has been charged with attempted murder. According to police, the victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Police added that the two men did not know each other. The store closed for the rest of the day but reopened yesterday.

Several local residents expressed shock that something like this could happen in the "safe haven" of a bookstore. As Meira Valencia put it to WCTV: "Honestly I'm a little bit worried because something so ominous and dangerous happened in a place where people actually find peace."

Penn State University Press: The Seven Democratic Virtues: What You Can Do to Overcome Tribalism and Save Our Democracy by Christopher Beem

Charles Watkinson New President of the Association of University Presses

Charles Watkinson

Charles Watkinson, director of the University of Michigan Press and associate university librarian for publishing at Michigan, has become president of the Association of University Presses, succeeding 2021-2022 president Lisa Bayer, director of the University of Georgia Press. The change was made during the association's annual meeting, held in Washington, D.C., last weekend.

Other AUP board changes include:

  • Jane Bunker, director of Cornell University Press, has been named president-elect.
  • Amy Schultz, director of finance and operations at Stanford University Press, succeeds Mike W. Bieker, director of the University of Arkansas Press and assistant vice chancellor, director of operations and finance, in the university's Division of Research and Innovation, as treasurer. Bieker continues to serve the board for one more year as a member-at-large.
  • Alexandria Leonard, senior operations analyst at Princeton University Press, joins the Board as treasurer-elect.
  • Rachael Levay, editor-in-chief at the University Press of Colorado, and Wendy Queen, director of Project MUSE at Johns Hopkins University Press, began three-year terms as board members-at-large.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Mary Ziegler on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Mary Ziegler, author of Dollars for Life: The Anti-Abortion Movement and the Fall of the Republican Establishment (Yale University Press, $35, 9780300260144).

TV: East of Eden

Netflix is developing a limited series adaptation of John Steinbeck's classic novel East of Eden, with Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks, Wildlife) writing and exec producing and Florence Pugh attached to star and co-produce, Deadline reported. Anonymous Content and Endeavor Content are co-producing the series. The novel was previously adapted as a film in 1955 with Zoe Kazan's grandfather, Elia Kazan, directing for Warner Bros. 

"I fell in love with East of Eden when I first read it, in my teens," Kazan said. "Since then, adapting Steinbeck's novel--the great, sprawling, three-generational entirety of it--has been my dream. More than anything, I have wanted to give full expression to the novel's astonishing, singular antiheroine, Cathy Ames. Florence Pugh is our dream Cathy; I can't imagine a more thrilling actor to bring this character to life. Writing this limited series over the last two years has been the creative highpoint of my life. I hope that with our partners at Netflix, Anonymous Content, and Endeavor Content, we can do justice to this material--and shed new light on it for a 21st century audience."

This Weekend on Book TV: The San Antonio Book Festival

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, June 25
8 a.m. Patricia Sullivan, author of Justice Rising: Robert Kennedy's America in Black and White (‎Belknap Press, $39.95, 9780674737457). (Re-airs Saturday at 8 p.m.)

4:45 p.m. Andrew O'Shaughnessy, author of The Illimitable Freedom of the Human Mind: Thomas Jefferson's Idea of a University (‎University of Virginia Press, $34.95, 9780813946481). (Re-airs Sunday at 4:45 a.m.)

Sunday, June 26
10 a.m. Sen. Raphael Warnock, author of A Way Out of No Way: A Memoir of Truth, Transformation, and the New American Story (Penguin Press, $28, 9780593491546). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

2 p.m. to 6:25 p.m. Coverage of the San Antonio Book Festival, which took place May 21 in San Antonio, Tex. Highlights include:

  • 2 p.m. Lise Olsen, author of Code of Silence: Sexual Misconduct by Federal Judges, the Secret System That Protects Them, and the Women Who Blew the Whistle (Beacon Press, $17.95, 9780807007280).
  • 2:42 p.m. Kelly Lytle Hernandez, author of Bad Mexicans: Race, Empire, and Revolution in the Borderlands (Norton, $30, 9781324004370).
  • 3:25 p.m. Henry Cisneros, co-author of The Texas Triangle: An Emerging Power in the Global Economy (Texas A&M University Press, $35, 9781648430091).
  • 4:12 p.m. Juli Berwald, author of Life on the Rocks: Building a Future for Coral Reefs (Riverhead, $27.99, 9780593087305).
  • 4:56 p.m. Harriett D. Romo and William A. Dupont, authors of Bridging Cultures: Reflections on the Heritage Identity of the Texas-Mexico Borderlands (Texas A&M University Press, $45, 9781623499754).
  • 5:38 p.m. Will Hurd, author of American Reboot: An Idealist's Guide to Getting Big Things Done (Simon & Schuster, $27.99, 9781982160708).

6:25 p.m. Kim Wehle, author of How to Think Like a Lawyer--and Why: A Common-Sense Guide to Everyday Dilemmas (‎Harper Paperbacks, $16.99, 9780063067561).

Books & Authors

Awards: Wolfson History Winner; Miles Franklin Shortlist

Devil-Land: England Under Siege, 1588-1688 by Clare Jackson has won the £50,000 (about $61,000) 2022 Wolfson History Prize, celebrating "a work of historical non-fiction which combines excellence in research and writing with readability for a general audience." This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the prize.

Organizers said about the book: "Among foreign observers, 17th-century England was known as 'Devil-Land': a diabolical country of fallen angels, torn apart by rebellion, religious extremism and royal collapse. Clare Jackson's dazzling account of English history's most radical era tells the story of a nation in a state of near continual crisis.

"As an unmarried, childless heretic, Elizabeth I was regarded with horror by Catholic Europe, while her Stuart successors, James I and Charles I, were seen as impecunious and incompetent, unable to manage their three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. The traumatic civil wars, regicide and a republican Commonwealth were followed by the floundering rule of Charles II and James II, before William of Orange invaded and a new order was imposed.

"Devil-Land reveals England as, in many ways, a 'failed state': endemically unstable and rocked by devastating events from the Gunpowder Plot to the Great Fire of London. Catastrophe nevertheless bred creativity, and Jackson makes brilliant use of eyewitness accounts--many penned by stupefied foreigners--to dramatize her great story. Starting on the eve of the Spanish Armada in 1588 and concluding with a not-so 'Glorious Revolution' a hundred years later, Devil-Land is a spectacular reinterpretation of England's vexed and enthralling past."

Chair of judges David Cannadine called Devil-Land "a masterpiece of historical writing: a gripping book that brings to life the drama of 17th-century England, a time of rebellion, regicide and civil war. By looking at England from the perspective of European observers, Clare Jackson gives us a wider lens through which to view the period, helping us to see ourselves through the eyes of others."


The shortlist for the 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award, honoring "a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases," consists of:

The Other Half of You by Michael Mohammed Ahmad
Scary Monsters by Michelle de Kretser
Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down
One Hundred Days by Alice Pung
Grimmish by Michael Winkler

The winner, who receives A$60,000 (US$41,320), will be announced July 20.

Top Library Recommended Titles for June

LibraryReads, the nationwide library staff-picks list, offers the top 10 June titles public library staff across the country love:

Top Pick
What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher (Tor Nightfire, $19.99, 9781250830753). "A retelling of The Fall of the House of Usher, Kingfisher's latest adds the creepiest of flesh to the bare-bones tale by Poe. Complete with a scary, isolated mansion and eerie behaviors of the residents, this version not only makes perfect sense within the original narrative, but adds a depth of understanding that suddenly makes all the pieces fall into place. For fans of Mexican Gothic, The Haunting of Hill House, and The Night Stranger." --Sheri Stanley, Gulfport Library, Gulfport, Fla.

Bet on It: A Novel by Jodie Slaughter (‎St. Martin's Griffin, $16.99, 9781250821829). "Aja meets a handsome stranger while having a panic attack. Walker's not looking for a relationship, especially in his hometown, the source of his PTSD and anxiety. But Aja is beautiful, understands him, and kisses like a dream. The bingo hall setting, the senior characters, the body-positive and steamy sex scenes--so much to love in this fun, interracial romance. For fans of Talia Hibbert and Gail Honeyman." --Elizabeth Gabriel, Milwaukee Public Library, Milwaukee, Wis.

Big Girl: A Novel by Mecca Jamilah Sullivan (Liveright, $27, 9781324091417). "For eight-year-old Malaya who must attend weekly Weight Watchers meetings with her mother, enough of anything--especially food--is never enough. This beautifully written, heart-breaking, hopeful story follows Malaya as she navigates middle and high school, her family, and her burgeoning sexuality, told with compassion and honesty. For fans of Queenie and Dominicana." --Jennifer Winberry, Hunterdon County Library, Flemington, N.J.

Booked on a Feeling: A Novel by Jayci Lee (‎St. Martin's Griffin, $16.99, ‎ 9781250621146). "After experiencing a panic attack during her first trial, lawyer Lizzie Chung decides to take a leave of absence and visit her childhood friend Jack. They team up to help a struggling bookstore. It brings them closer, but will their anxieties and insecurities doom their relationship? A sweet romance that deals with some serious topics. For fans of Ten Rules for Faking It and Girl Gone Viral." --Shari Suarez, Genesee District Library, Flint, Mich.

Grace Under Fire by Julie Garwood (Berkley, $28, 9780593546291). "Romantic suspense at its best. A beautiful woman who is a talented songwriter and a great listener is at her sister-in-law's awaiting a trip to Scotland. During a brief walk around the block, her whole world changes. Of course, a handsome man helps her save the day. Loads of fast-paced fun. For fans of Catherine Coulter and Karen Robards." --Susan Willis, Chanute Public Library, Chanute, Kan.

A Lady's Guide to Fortune-Hunting: A Novel by Sophie Irwin (Pamela Dorman, $27, 9780593491348). "In Regency London, recently orphaned Kitty Talbot is intent on finding a wealthy husband who will settle the family's debts and allow her sisters to remain in their home. Kitty is nuanced and layered, a well-developed heroine amid a cast of riveting characters. This enthralling novel is a must-read for Bridgerton and Jane Austen fans." --Janet Schneider, Peninsula Public Library, Lawrence, N.Y.

The Pallbearers Club: A Novel by Paul Tremblay (Morrow, $27.99, 9780063069916). "Tremblay always knows how to tap into the deepest of emotions, and this dual-narration horror thriller is both unrelentingly creepy and filled with the bittersweet pathos of a formative, toxic, unforgettable friendship in which one participant may or may not be a vampire. For fans of Stephen Graham Jones and Samanta Schweblin." --Kate Currie, Hennepin County Library, Minneapolis, Minn.

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy: A Monk and Robot Book by Becky Chambers (‎Tor, $21.99, 9781250236234). "The second volume of this series returns to a world which is both post-apocalyptic and hopepunk, focusing on the ways that both the Monk and Robot have to deal with other people now that they've re-entered society after their travels together. For those who enjoyed The Murderbot Diaries and the more hopeful aspects of Station Eleven." --Monica Shin, Boston Public Library, Boston, Mass.

Sugar and Salt: A Novel by Susan Wiggs (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062914224). "Margot Salton, a Texas BBQ master, sets up a new restaurant in San Francisco, sharing a kitchen with Jerome's bakery. She has been running from a huge secret that eventually catches up to her. An intriguing story that addresses heavy topics of date rape and racism but is also full of hope and love. For fans of Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake and Recipe for Persuasion." --Jaime Bink, Harford County Public Library, Whiteford, Md.

Wash Day Diaries by Jamila Rowser and Robyn Smith (Chronicle, $19.95, 9781797205458). "At its core, this graphic novel is a story about four beautiful, strong black women and their friendship. Within the framework of hair wash day, we see each character dealing with her own issues, from work and relationships to mental health struggles. For readers of Another Brooklyn and Queenie." --Aryn O'Connor, Cabarrus County Library, Concord, N.C.

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:

Nuclear Family: A Novel by Joseph Han (Counterpoint, $26, 9781640094864). "This stunning debut follows a young man who, possessed by his grandfather's ghost, attempts to cross the Demilitarized Zone in North Korea. A remarkable--and at turns hilarious--story of family, grief, and intergenerational trauma." --Lindsay Lynch, Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn.

Hide by Kiersten White (Del Rey, $27, 9780593359235). "The Hunger Games meets Something Wicked This Way Comes meets Occupy Wall Street. A scathing allegory of the senselessly dangerous world we live in that will consume you, leave you in a daze and constantly checking over your shoulder." --Charlotte Martin, Mystery to Me, Madison, Wis.

The Night Always Comes: A Novel by Willy Vlautin (Harper Perennial, $16.99, 9780063035096). "The Night Always Comes is urgent. Willy Vlautin writes honestly about people who are just a step ahead of disaster, singularly defined by the challenge of earning a living wage while navigating society. A necessary writer for our times." --Christine Kelly, Sundance Bookstore, Reno, Nev.

For Ages 3 to 7
I Am Quiet: A Story for the Introvert in All of Us by Andie Powers, illus. by Betsy Petersen (Bala Kids, $16.95, 9781611809848). "I've never read a book that so beautifully captures what it's like to be an introvert. Quiet is not always shyness, but perhaps something more, something open. A gift to all children (and adults) who grapple with quietness in a loud world." --Amy Lane, Bards Alley, Vienna, Va.

For Ages 10 to 14
Wildseed Witch by Marti Dumas (Amulet, $18.99, 9781419755613). "Wildseed Witch is a captivating coming-of-age story filled with magic, technology, and the unexpected. Hasani's struggles to fit in and use magic for good are real and relatable. I loved the characters, and I hope this becomes a series!" --Lorilee Sugden, Linden Tree Children's Books, Los Altos, Calif.

For Teen Readers
Tokyo Dreaming (Tokyo Ever After #2) by Emiko Jean (Flatiron, $18.99, 9781250766632). "Tokyo Dreaming is the satisfying sequel to Tokyo Ever After. Izumi and her mother think they finally found their happily ever after, but nothing is easy when it comes to being royalty. How much of themselves are they willing to sacrifice?" --Nicole Lintemuth, Bettie's Pages, Lowell, Mich.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen (Orbit, $17.99 paperback, 448p., 9780316394215, August 23, 2022)

Megan Bannen (Soulswift) conjures up a weird and wonderful fantasy setting for a romance between two vibrant and memorable characters in her first novel for adults, the snappy, hilarious fantasy romcom The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy.

Hart Ralston, a marshal, demigod and possible immortal, is lonely, especially in the aftermath of his partner's promotion to supervisor and their subsequent falling-out. His occupation, hunting zombie-like "drudges" in the magical wilderness of Tanria, certainly doesn't lend itself to home, hearth and an active social life. His only friend is Leonard, the shop dog at Birdsall & Son Undertakers, where he frequently drops off the drudges' remains. Sadly, Leonard's owner, Mercy Birdsall, is hostile, sarcastic and unfairly attractive. Her dislike of him leaves Hart "wondering which was worse: a pretty young woman seeing him as nothing more than the offspring of a divine parent, or Merciless Mercy loathing him for the man he was." When Hart's isolation hits critical mass, he writes an anonymous letter to an imagined, unnamed friend and mails it on a whim, only to receive an anonymous, friendly response.

Devoted but exhausted daughter Mercy has kept Birdsall & Son's doors open by herself while her father slows down and the business's heir apparent, her brother Zeddie, finishes school. Abrasive, arrogant, "irritatingly sexy" men like Marshal Ralston don't make it any easier. When she receives an unsigned letter from "a friend," Mercy anonymously answers. Soon the epistolary relationship becomes a welcome escape from a new slew of problems; Zeddie has decided to go to culinary school instead of becoming an undertaker, and a rival business wants to buy out Birdsall & Son.

While Hart and Mercy trade barbs in person, their supportive connection and undeniable chemistry on paper quickly blossoms into more than friendship. Once they learn each other's identities, though, their relationship just might need an undertaker.

Bannen's from-the-heart romp through a magical, western-inspired world is packed with a fistful of romance readers' most beloved tropes. Hart and Mercy's enemies-to-lovers dynamic is deliciously snide yet steamy, and the unknown pen-pal plot device recalls the classic romcom film You've Got Mail. The worldbuilding blends newly invented gods with zombies, back-talking anthropomorphic animals and an imaginative theory explaining the purpose of the human appendix, and Bannen leaves plenty of room to expound on her creation in possible sequels. From the couple's first showdown to a hard-won happily ever after, this swoon-inducing journey is one wild and satisfying ride. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: This snappy, hilarious enemies-to-lovers romcom features a fantasy-western setting complete with gods, zombies, a handsome marshal and the beautiful undertaker who loathes him.

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