Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 27, 2023

IDW Publishing: Arca by Van Jensen, illustrated by Jesse Lonergan

First Second: Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam by Thien Pham

Harvest Publications: The Dinner Party Project: A No-Stress Guide to Food with Friends by Natasha Feldman

Wednesday Books: Guardians of Dawn: Zhara (Guardians of Dawn #1) by S. Jae-Jones

Soho Crime: A Disappearance in Fiji by Nilima Rao

Shadow Mountain: Graysen Foxx and the Treasure of Principal Redbeard (Graysen Foxx, School Treasure Hunter) by J. Scott Savage


MacIntosh Books + Paper Opens Temporary Location in Fort Myers, Fla.

Macintosh Books at Bell Tower

MacIntosh Books + Paper, a more than 60-year-old bookstore that was displaced from Sanibel Island, Fla., by Hurricane Ian, opened in a temporary location in nearby Fort Myers last month, Fort Myers Florida Weekly reported.

Owner Rebecca Binkowski, who purchased the bookstore in 2017, has signed a six-month lease for the temporary location in the Bell Tower mall in Fort Myers. The store opened in mid-December, in time for the holidays.

Binkowski told the Weekly, "Fort Myers has given us a warm welcome. We've seen some of our regular customers from the island, many who are living in Fort Myers now. And we've met some new customers who live in Fort Myers, who are excited to see new things happening at Bell Tower."

MacIntosh Books has begun hosting author events again, with a luncheon and book signing with John Gibbs, author of Rail Splitter, planned for next month. In March, the store will host Annabel Monaghan, author of Nora Goes Off Script.

Binkowski noted that she is "committed to going back to the island" eventually, but doesn't have a clear idea of when that will happen. She's considered keeping the Fort Myers store open as a second location, but ultimately is "waiting for more information, like so many people, to see what makes sense."

During Hurricane Ian the store was swamped by about 3-4 feet of water, despite being built six feet off the ground, and "nothing in our store was salvageable." In the hurricane's aftermath they were supported by authors Mary Kay Andrews, Kristin Harmel, Patti Callahan Henry and Kristy Woodson Harvey, who called on listeners of their podcast Friends & Fiction to order books from Florida indies affected by Hurricane Ian. Binkowski also launched a GoFundMe campaign that has raised nearly $15,000.

"I want the community to know we're not going away," Binkowski said. The bookstore was one of the first 10 businesses to open on Sanibel Island and has been around for 63 years. "We've weathered other storms, the oil spill, the blue-green algae and a pandemic. We're not going to let Ian stop us. We're stronger than this storm."

Blackstone Publishing: The Trap by Catherine Ryan Howard

Annabelle's Book Club L.A. Opens Physical Store

Annabelle's Book Club L.A., a middle-grade and YA-focused bookstore that made its debut as a pop-up and online store, has opened a bricks-and-mortar storefront in Los Angeles, Calif., the Los Angeles Business Journal reported.

Located at 12200 Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, the bookshop opened its doors to customers just after Thanksgiving. Owner Annabelle Chang, who is 16 years old, carries a selection of young people's literature and gifts that aims to "spark imagination, inspire human connection and bring joy to people of all ages."

She told the Journal that the store has "been busy so far," and she loves "seeing people come in and be excited." The neighborhood is full of families, and she enjoys "seeing kids run to the middle-grade section and get excited about books that I love."

Chang, an avid reader and the daughter of Legally Blonde author Amanda Brown, explained that the bookstore grew out of a book recommendation blog she started early on in the pandemic. "Through my blog, I started to interview a lot of young adult authors and bookstore owners and I realized that even though young adult is a hugely popular genre, most bookstores only have a small section of them."

That realization led her to start an online store and pop-up shop, with appearances at events like the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Those efforts met with success, and Chang chose to take the plunge and find a bricks-and-mortar space. She added: "It's been a really fun, definitely difficult, but very rewarding project."

GLOW: Avid Reader Press: Little Monsters by Adrienne Brodeur

The Nature of Reading Bookshop Coming to Madison, N.J.

The Nature of Reading in progress.

The Nature of Reading Bookshop, an online and pop-up store with a focus on seasonal reads and books about climate change, will open a bricks-and-mortar location in Madison, N.J., early this year, reported.

Store owner Hailey Brock has found a space at 22 Main St. in Madison and will soon launch a crowdfunding campaign to help her get the bookstore open. The store will carry both fiction and nonfiction titles addressing climate change, along with seasonal reads, which Brock described as books that make the reader appreciate the natural world and feel "connected and in tune with the cycles that surround us."

The bookshop made its debut as an online store on Earth Day 2022, and Brock has held pop-up appearances at events such as the Morris Winter Market in Morris Township, N.J. Brock grew up in nearby Chatham, N.J., and, starting in high school, worked at the Chatham Bookseller during academic breaks. She went to school in the U.K. and after returning to N.J. in 2020 managed Chatham Bookseller for around 18 months. With the Nature of Reading Bookshop, she found a way to pursue her bookish interests while also fulfilling her desire to serve the environment and turn her climate fears into action.

"Owning a bookstore always seemed like a distant dream," Brock told Patch, "but I realized I already had the experiences, ideas and passion to start my own shop, and so I sidestepped the fear and got started."

While an official opening date has not been set, Brock expects to have the shop open within the next six to eight weeks.


Sacramento's East Village Bookshop Looking for Buyer or Business Partner

The owner of East Village Bookshop in Sacramento, Calif., is looking for someone to either buy the bookstore entirely or become partners.

In a Facebook post earlier this week, owner Sabrina Nishijima explained that the bookstore is "at a crossroads" due to a variety of challenges including logistical issues and low foot traffic. Running the bookstore has become "no longer sustainable for our family," and Nishijima is hoping to find a business partner or buyer who is "equally passionate about creating a community-centric bookstore for our neighborhood."

"Unfortunately, in the event we cannot find a path forward, we will be closing the bookstore in the spring," Nishijima continued.

"We are ever so grateful to all of the wonderful readers and neighbors we’ve met along the way who have shared their lives and stories with us," Nishijima said. "It has been a joy creating this space for you."

The bookstore will remain open for now, with hours reduced to 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Obituary Note: Paul La Farge

Paul La Farge

Paul La Farge, "whose well-regarded novels played audaciously with history and narrative technique as they explored how the past can affect the present," died January 18, the New York Times reported. He was 52. 

"With each novel he would set out, and then it would become clear to him that he had set what seemed like an impossible formal challenge for himself," said his wife, Sarah Stern, artistic director of the Vineyard Theater in Manhattan, "but he would keep on, wrestling forward and sideways and backwards, and eventually the story and its form would be inextricable in a way that was awe-inspiring and yet felt inevitable."

Author Gary Shteyngart tweeted: "Paul La Farge, one of my dearest friends, really more like a brother, has passed away. For those who have yet to read his books, perhaps start with The Night Ocean. He was as generous and witty with his prose as he was with his friends. Those who knew him truly loved him."

Shteyngart told the Times noted that a "reader opening one of his books is gently lowered into a bath of perfect temperature, as ideas, revelations, universes float by. But he was by no means a cold novelist of ideas. His books are inhabited by some of the most real and conflicted and lost people to have walked through 21st-century prose."

La Farge's books include The Artist of the Missing (1999), Haussmann: Or the Distinction (2001), The Facts of Winter (2005), Luminous Airplanes (2011) and, most recently, The Night Ocean (2017).

La Farge taught at Bennington College, Bard College and other institutions, including Columbia University, where the writer Rivka Galchen took several of his courses. "He was the most influential teacher I had," she said. "He had a way of seeing affinities the rest of us missed.... As his students, we pretty universally thought of him as maximally intelligent, maximally gentle, and also funny."

City Lights Books, San Francisco, Calif., tweeted: "Saddened to see news of the passing of Paul La Farge. He played with history and narrative techniques whether writing about 19th-century France or H.P. Lovecraft."

McSweeney's is publishing tributes to La Farge, beginning with this one from author Andrew Sean Greer: "My favorite memory of Paul is when we were all very young, and he lived in San Francisco in an apartment of artistic friends they called Paraffin House. I forget why--a sign they stole somewhere? It was the kind of generous, joyous bohemian life I'd come to San Francisco to find. And Paul brought me into it. His intelligence and talent were evident to the world, but his kindness is what everyone will remember."


Bookseller Cat Weather Update: Samwise at Twelve Points Book Company

"Samwise and I have discussed it at length, but he decided we're not opening the Book Company today," Twelve Points Book Company, Terre Haute, Ind., posted on Facebook. "He has a good point; stay home if you can, read, work a puzzle, stay off the road and make it easier on emergency services."

Personnel Changes at Melville House

Maya Bradford has been promoted to director of publicity and marketing at Melville House. Bradford was formerly publicity director and joined the company in 2021 after 10 years at Abrams Books.

Media and Movies

Movies: Caste

Ava DuVernay's film adaptation of Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson's Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents has added Niecy Nash-Betts, Jon Bernthal, Vera Farmiga, Nick Offerman, Jasmine Cephas Jones and Connie Nielsen to the cast. They join Aunjanue Ellis, who has the lead role on the project. 

DuVernay is writing and directing the movie, as well as producing alongside Paul Garnes. Caste has been filming for several weeks in Savannah, Ga., and will move on to shoot in Germany and India later this year.

On Stage: Room the Musical

Tony Award-winner Adrienne Warren (Tina: The Tina Turner Musical) will star in Emma Donoghue's Room at Broadway's James Earl Jones Theatre, with performances beginning April 3 and opening night set for April 17. The limited engagement runs through September 17, Playbill reported.

Room was previously adapted into a film in 2015, with Donoghue also writing that iteration. The stage production features songs and music by Cora Bisset--who directs after staging the 2017 world premiere at Theatre Royal Stratford East in London--and Kathryn Joseph. Set and costume design are by Lily Arnold, and projection design by Andrzej Goulding. Additional casting and creative team members are to be announced.

"I am truly honored for the opportunity to return to Broadway in a project unlike anything I've done before," said Warren. "There were many reasons I wanted to join this team in telling this story, but most importantly, I wanted to share this beautifully human bond between a mother and her son. This is for all the little Jacks out there determined to hold on to their sense of joy and wonder and all the Mas out there doing their absolute best to live, love, and protect through it all."

Books & Authors

Awards: National Jewish Book Winners; Dylan Thomas Longlist

The winners of the Jewish Book Council's 72nd National Jewish Book Awards have been announced. The Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award was given to Koshersoul by Michael W. Twitty (Amistad Books). Signal Fires by Dani Shapiro (Knopf) won the JJ Greenberg Memorial Award in Fiction. Cooking alla Giudia by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta (Artisan Books) won the Jane and Stuart Weitzman Family Award for Food Writing & Cookbooks.

The Berru Award for Poetry in Memory of Ruth and Bernie Weinflash went to Today in a Taxi by Sean Singer (Tupelo Press). Let There Be Light: The Real Story of Her Creation by Liana Finck (Penguin Press) won the Visual Arts award. The American Jewish Studies award went to American Shtetl: The Making of Kiryas Joel, a Hasidic Village in Upstate New York by Nomi M. Stolzenberg and David N. Myers (Princeton University Press).

Other winners and finalists in several categories can be seen here. The winners will be honored on March 1 in New York City.


The longlist has been released for the £20,000 (about $24,740) Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize, honoring "the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama." A shortlist will be unveiled March 23 and the winner named May 11, prior to International Dylan Thomas Day on May 14. See the full longlist here.

"With authors hailing from the U.K., Ireland, Nigeria, Kenya, Somalia, Lebanon and Australia, this year's longlist of 12 features an even split of debut and established names, with African diaspora and female voices dominating the longlist," the organizers said. "Through themes of coming of age, adversity and love, this year's longlist comprises eight novels, two poetry collections and two short story collections."

Reading with... Kathryn Ma

photo: Andria Lo

Kathryn Ma began publishing fiction in her 40s after leaving her law practice to learn how to write the kinds of books she loved to read. Her first book, All that Work and Still No Boys, won the Iowa Short Fiction Award. Her debut novel, The Year She Left Us, was a New York Times Editors' Choice and an NPR "great read" of the year. Her third book, The Chinese Groove (Counterpoint, January 24, 2023), is a novel that follows a young man in search of his destiny.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

A young Chinese adventurer arrives in San Francisco, upending his American relatives' grief-stricken lives. Funny, fresh, full of unexpected plot twists--first page to last.

On your nightstand now:

A stack of plays by American playwrights who inspire me: The Great Leap, Cambodian Rock Band and King of the Yees by Lauren Yee; Straight White Men by Young Jean Lee; and Caught by Christopher Chen. I like to read plays after I see them, and sometimes I read more by the same playwright to get a sense of the body of work. I'm reading for themes and the nervy turn that takes the action in unexpected directions. For the "great leap" that can break a work wide open.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I recently rediscovered Chinese Tales of Folklore by S.Y. Lu Mar (Criterion Books, 1964). When I cracked it open, the stories tumbled out like keepsakes tipped from a shoebox of treasures. At the heart of my new novel, The Chinese Groove, is the legend of the Peach Blossom Forest, which my mother learned as a child. When I was growing up, reading folktales and legends gave me a glimpse into my immigrant parents' history and culture. The stories featured every kind of character from wise emperors to wayfaring young people, and they were often funny, too. The ancients were smart. They knew their audience and worked the gig well. That's why the stories still keep us entertained.

Your top five authors:

Austen, Dickens, Chekhov, Wharton, Shakespeare. Whether I'm seeking or despairing, they never let me down.

Book you've faked reading:

I haven't finished Moby-Dick. My daughter gave me a beautiful Arion Press edition. I opened it just now and ran my hand over the page. The type is gorgeous. I've got to lash myself to the mast and try again.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Boy in the Field by Margot Livesey. A novel of danger, unerring honesty and tender intimacy.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Radiant Fugitives, a novel by Nawaaz Ahmed. I didn't know the book or the author when I picked it up from the new fiction table at a local bookshop. I was captivated by the energy and contradictions of the images, which communicate beauty and light but also blood and disturbance. The back cover, with its repeated but altered motif, totally sold me. I bought the book and dove in, later realizing that I'd read about the novel in the New Yorker, which highlighted how this complex family story intertwines the personal and political. With such a strong cover, one might worry that the book inside can't deliver what the cover art promises. Jaya Miceli's jacket design and Ahmed's writing combine to make a beautiful, insightful book.

Book you hid from your parents:

Fanny Hill. I plucked it from the family bookcase. I didn't have to hide it. I just had to put it back exactly where I found it.

Book that changed your life:

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis, originally the sixth book in the seven-book Chronicles of Narnia. I was blown away as a kid when I realized it was a prequel. That was my first inkling that an author has total control over plot, structure, time and all the rest. You can write the novel however you see it, hear it and feel it, as long as you make it good.

Favorite line from a book:

"Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life." --Grace Paley, "A Conversation with My Father"

Five books you'll never part with:

The Bungalow by Lynn Freed; The Candy House by Jennifer Egan; Embassy Wife by Katie Crouch; Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui; Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile; Forbidden City by Vanessa Hua.

I have to name six and could name many more. In addition to being wonderful books, they were all written by authors who are mothers. To write a book while raising children takes more adjustments, compromises and bargains (with others and with oneself) per minute than there are petals on a daisy. Bouquets to these writers and all the mothers out there, writing.

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

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. It's a very strange novel. It's also one of the most moving books I've ever read. My previous novel, The Year She Left Us, includes a scene in a steep hillside cemetery, nothing like the bardo that Saunders describes, but I was interested, as he was, in evoking the universality of grief and mourning. I know that rereading Saunders's portrayal of Lincoln at his young son's grave would bring me greater understanding of the book's form and substance, but the shock of reading it for the first time is something I can't repeat and will long remember.

Book you learned about at Shelf Awareness:

The Flamingo, a children's book by Guojing. There are a lot of kids in my life of different ages and interests, and I rely on recommendations to help me choose books for them. This book, which has very few words, is described as a "visual feast." I can't wait to give this away and enjoy it with a young reader. Thanks for the recommendation!

Book Review

Review: Muckross Abbey and Other Stories

Muckross Abbey and Other Stories by Sabina Murray (Grove Press, $18 paperback, 256p., 9780802157485, March 21, 2023)

Filipina American novelist Sabina Murray (The Human Zoo) offers 10 gothic-inspired literary gems in the collection Muckross Abbey and Other Stories. In "The Long Story," a stranded traveler spends the night in a cottage haunted by an artist who sacrificed himself to be a conduit for his art. But the ghosts of the past in Murray's stories aren't always so far from home: in "Harm," a young man who recently learned the truth of his parentage is drawn to a mysterious woman in the woods behind his house. Meanwhile, the new resident in "Apartment 4D" can't escape the eerie mother and daughter who live next door, nor can she shake the feeling that something isn't quite right about their relationship. In the titular "Muckross Abbey," a young woman reluctantly becomes involved in the investigation into the mysterious disappearance of her college friend Simone, only to discover that only she can see the truth of what really happened.

All of Murray's stories succeed in capturing the skin-prickling, shiver-inducing atmosphere of the best gothic tales. Never beholden to gore or cheap thrills, each story is a puzzle box of gradual dread, keeping readers paralyzed with evocative, clear-eyed prose. In "The Long Story," the simplicity of the host's oral recounting of her son's tale keeps both readers and the protagonist enthralled. In "Muckross Abbey," the almost noir-esque sense of mystery holds readers' rapt attention. A far cry from the hard-boiled detective, the story's narrator nevertheless finds herself putting together the pieces of a larger picture she wasn't even aware she knew. And, ultimately, her and Simone's troubled past provides contrasting insight into Simone's assumed role as a femme fatale.

Murray consistently conjures genre tropes, only to subvert them in the service of more emotionally chilling revelations. While the supernatural is often involved--at least implicitly, if not explicitly--in each story's conclusion, it is the devastating interpersonal truths these stories deliver that are truly disturbing. In the collection's final story, "The Flowers, the Birds, the Trees," the tight-knit bonds of childhood female friendships are revealed to be not the romantic ideals of youth but toxic binds that prove impossible to slip. Often unearthing the terror of the relationships that we cannot escape, the stories in Muckross Abbey will leave readers wondering what it is they, too, cannot bear to face. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Shelf Talker: In 10 atmospherically rich and haunting stories, Muckross Abbey offers satisfying chills and unsettling emotional revelations.

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