Shelf Awareness for Monday, May 22, 2023

Chronicle Books: Stella & Marigold by Annie Barrows, Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Poisoned Pen Press: The Boyfriend by Frieda McFadden

St. Martin's Press: Disney High: The Untold Story of the Rise and Fall of Disney Channel's Tween Empire

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

Graphix: 39 Clues: One False Note (39 Clues Graphic Novel #2) by Gordon Korman, Illustrated by Hannah Templer

Quotation of the Day

Indie Bookstores: 'I Know that the People Who Work There Are Our Family'

"Independent booksellers are the people on the ground, like librarians, who are getting the books into the hands of the readers. I think part of the reason that so many independent bookstores are thriving right now is because they have a very strong connection to their local community. They know who their customers are, who the readers are, who the kids are. They know the teachers, and the librarians, and everyone in town. My time as an independent bookseller put me in that position on the ground, connecting the reader with the book, seeing what would happen when the right book got into the right hand. 

"That connection with independent bookstores is very, very strong in me and I always feel at home when I go into any independent bookstore. I'm really thrilled that I am able to visit so many as I'm heading out on this tour. Most of them I have been to many times before, but there are so many new independent bookstores that I'm visiting as well. No matter how big the store is, or no matter where it's located, I always feel right at home and I know that the people who work there are our family."

--Brian Selznick, whose book Big Tree (Scholastic) is the #1 May/June 2023 Kids' Indie Next List pick, in a q&a with Bookselling This Week

Peachtree: The Littlest Yak: Home Is Where the Herd Is by Lu Fraser, Illustrated by Kate Hindley


Clio's Bookshop Coming to Oakland, Calif.

Clio's Bookshop, a new and used bookstore with a bar and cafe, is in the works in Oakland, Calif., Oaklandside reported.

Owner Timothy Don, who helped found the Oakland Book Festival and is also the art editor of the journal Lapham's Quarterly, hopes to have the bookstore open by September or October. He envisions the store as a "cabinet of curiosities," with the inventory arranged by time period, starting with prehistory and going toward the present. It will function as a "timeline of culture," with everything from philosophy and science to fiction and design represented.

Don hopes to carry about 10,000 books eventually, and he told Oaklandside that the only genres not represented will be cookbooks and self-help. He's building the inventory with the help of a team that includes journalists, writers, artists, philosophers, historians, and scientists, and he wants it all to be "rigorous, but not elitist."

The bookshop will reside in a 1,900-square-foot space on the basement level of a building at the corner of Perkins and Grand Avenue in Oakland's Adams Point neighborhood. The store will be ADA accessible and feature a bar, booths and high-top tables for eating and drinking. There will be cocktails named after writers, small plates for customers to share, and coffee available in the mornings.

Clio's will have a dedicated events space, where Don hopes to host authors, philosophers, and poets. The building has a sidewalk space across from Lakeside Park, and he'd like to use that for outdoor tables and games.

Getting the space ready to open, Don explained, has been a challenge. Last year a fire engine crashed into the building and ruptured a water main, causing the basement level to flood. "It was a real setback, both temporally and spiritually. Thank God we weren't open."

Despite the struggles, the work continues, and Don expects the renovations to be finished by August in advance of a fall opening. Though the space does not yet have food or beverage options, Clio's has hosted three author talks already--the word-of-mouth events were "well attended" and the "crowds were enthusiastic."

B&N in Highland Village, Tex., to Reopen in November

A Barnes & Noble store in Highland Village, Tex., which will close in its current location in the Shops at Highland Village next month, is slated to reopen in the fall in a new space about a half mile away, the Cross Timbers Gazette reported.

B&N announced earlier this month that the store would be relocating, but without a lease finalized did not say where. The new space is in Flower Mound, Tex., and will feature B&N's updated store design and layout. It previously housed a Pier 1 store.

Hardie Grant Launching Bright Light Children's Imprint in U.S.

Australian publisher Hardie Grant is launching its children's book imprint Bright Light in North America. Bright Light will publish 15-20 titles a year in the U.S., starting with a debut list of eight picture books for fall 2023. The imprint is led by publishing director Marisa Pintado, publisher Chren Byng, and art director Pooja Desai.

Bright Light was founded in 2021, when the world was in lockdown. Kate Brown, managing director of Hardie Grant Children's Publishing, commented, "As publishers for children, we take our role of amplifying experiences and issues very seriously. We created Bright Light to shine a light on parts of our community who are underrepresented or not represented at all in kids' books. We want every child in the classroom to see themselves--their family, their culture, and their values--cast in a positive light in the books that they're reading. We also want to push boundaries and start important conversations about matters that affect the next generation. The world is a diverse place, and this generation of kids and parents expect to be able to explore it through the stories they read together. We are proud to add these stories to the conversation, and to bring the imprint to the kids and their grown-ups in North America."

The debut list consists of From My Head to My Toes, Come Over to My House, Posey Pearl Is a Curious Girl, Bees Are Our Friends, The Kindness Club, Welcome Little One, Remarkable Remy, and All the Love in the World.


Stephen King

Earlier this month, Hardie Grant announced that Stephen King will become managing director of Hardie Grant Publishing U.K. and U.S., effective July 1. King will oversee the growth of Hardie Grant Publishing U.S., including the Hardie Grant Books North America imprint, which launches this fall under the leadership of publisher Jenny Wapner and marketing & publicity director Lorraine Woodcheke.

Obituary Note: Martin Amis

Martin Amis

Martin Amis, "whose caustic, erudite and bleakly comic novels redefined British fiction in the 1980s and '90s with their sharp appraisal of tabloid culture and consumer excess, and whose private life made him tabloid fodder himself," died May 19, the New York Times reported. He was 73.

Amis published 15 novels, a well-regarded memoir (Experience, in 2000), works of nonfiction, and collections of essays and short stories. He is best known for his London trilogy of novels: Money: A Suicide Note (1985), London Fields (1990), and The Information (1995). Amis's most recent book was the "novelized autobiography" Inside Story (2020), which was shortlisted for the National Book Critics' Circle award for fiction.

Amis's fame "built to a crescendo in the mid-1990s. One 'scandal,' as chronicled in English tabloids like the Daily Mail, followed the next," the Times noted, adding that in 1994, he dropped his longtime agent, Pat Kavanagh, for the rival agent Andrew Wylie, "whom the British press nicknamed 'the Jackal,' and a larger advance on a novel. The amount Mr. Amis wanted, a reported $794,500 (about $1.6 million today), was deemed unseemly." The same year, Amis made headlines after leaving his first wife, writer and journalist Antonia Phillips, for writer Isabel Fonseca; and for details about some expensive dental work, "although he saw it as an acute medical necessity."

Ultimately, however, it was about the writing. Amis's 1984 novel Money was named by Robert McCrum in the Guardian as among the 100 best novels written in English. McCrum called it a "zeitgeist book that remains one of the dominant novels of the 1980s.... The thrill of Money, which is turbo-charged with savage humor from first to last page, is Amis's prodigal delight in contemporary Anglo-American vernacular."

Amis published his first novel, the Somerset Maugham Award-winning The Rachel Papers (1973), while working as an editorial assistant at the Times Literary Supplement, the Guardian reported. His darkly comic Dead Babies was published the following year. He worked as the literary editor of the New Statesman between 1977 and 1979, during which time he published his third novel, Success.

Amis was often compared with his Booker Prize-winning father, Kingsley Amis. Though Martin Amis made the 1991 Booker shortlist for Time's Arrow and was longlisted in 2003 for Yellow Dog, he never won. He once told BBC Radio 4 he wished he had put "greater distance" between himself and his father, with the "Amis franchise" becoming "something of a burden." He eventually wrote about his father's death in his memoir, Experience (2000)

In a statement, his publisher, Vintage Books, said: "For 40 years Martin Amis bestrode the world of U.K. publishing: first by defining what it meant to be a literary wunderkind by releasing his first novel at just 24; influencing a generation of prose stylists; and often summing up entire eras with his books, perhaps most notably with his classic novel, Money.... He was always unfailingly warm, kind and generous to those fortunate enough to work closely with him."

Michal Shavit, his U.K. editor, commented: "It's hard to imagine a world without Martin Amis in it. He was the king--a stylist extraordinaire, super cool, a brilliantly witty, erudite and fearless writer, and a truly wonderful man. He has been so important and formative for so many readers and writers over the last half-century. Every time he published a new book it was an event."

His former U.K. editor, Dan Franklin, added: "For so many people of my generation, Martin Amis was the one: the coolest, funniest, most quotable, most beautiful writer in the British literary firmament.... He was fearless in his opinions (although curiously naive about the furor those opinions would provoke in the British press). He wrote inimitable prose and some of the funniest novels you will ever read."

In a tribute, author Geoff Dyer wrote, "I suspect it's difficult for anyone under the age of... what? 30? 40?--to comprehend the thrall Martin Amis exerted on writers now in their 50s or above. One might have to insert a qualifying 'male' here. Or go the other way, stop generalizing and say how thoroughly he had me in his thrall throughout the 1980s and '90s. There were writers I admired more but he was more fun to read than all of them put together. I sat there aghast at his transformative impact on language.... Every page of his writing--in any form--was steeped in his consciousness and I was besotted by that consciousness in all its forms. I think that's why there was such a personality cult around Amis in a way that there could never be a cult of Julian Barnes or A.S. Byatt. Amis was Mick Jagger in literary form."


Image of the Day: Abraham Verghese, Then and Now

Author Abraham Verghese shared a story about a dedicated reader who came to see him at Davis-Kidd in Knoxville, Tenn., 30 years ago, and who visited him again at a recent event for his new novel, The Covenant of Water (Grove), hosted by the Georgia Center for the Book, with book sales handled by Little Shop of Stories.

Verghese tweeted: "Jenny was a school kid when she came to my reading in Knoxville; she said she waited two hours in line with her dad to see me--that was many moons ago. Now, 30 or so years later, she shows up in Atlanta after having driven two hours! Where did my hair go?"

Cool Idea of the Day: This Time Tomorrow All Over NYC

Love. Death. Gray's Papaya. Author and bookseller Emma Straub.

To celebrate the paperback release of Straub's novel This Time Tomorrow (Riverhead Books), wheatpasted posters were put up all over New York City.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Zion Clark on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel

Good Morning America: Ruth E. Carter, author of The Art of Ruth E. Carter: Costuming Black History and the Afrofuture, from Do the Right Thing to Black Panther (Chronicle, $40, 9781797203065).

Today Show: Elise Loehnen, author of On Our Best Behavior: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to Be Good (The Dial Press, $28, 9780593243039).

Tamron Hall: R.K. Russell, author of The Yards Between Us: A Memoir of Life, Love and Football (Andscape Books, $26.99, 9781368081368).

CBS Mornings: Elise Hu, author of Flawless: Lessons in Looks and Culture from the K-Beauty Capital (Dutton, $28.49, 9780593184189).

Today Show: Brittany Snow and Jaspre Guest, authors of September Letters: Finding Strength and Connection in Sharing Our Stories (Harper, $27.99, 9780063242227).

HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel: Zion Clark, co-author of Work with What You Got: A Memoir (Candlewick, $18.99, 9781536224214).

Movies: The Salt Path

Gillian Anderson and Jason Isaacs will star in the film adaptation of Raynor Winn's 2018 memoir, The Salt Path. Deadline reported that Tony and Olivier award-winning theater artist Marianne Elliott is making her screen-directing debut on the project, which is "about a couple who lose their home and days later discover the husband has been diagnosed with a terminal illness as they embark on a yearlong coastal trek."

Anderson (The Crown, Sex Education) and Isaacs (Mass, The Death of Stalin) will portray Raynor and her husband, Moth.

Elliott has directed War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, as well as seminal revivals of Angels In America, Company and Death of a Salesman in London and on Broadway. 

In 2020, Elliott was in New York opening an acclaimed revival of Stephen Sondheim's Company when the pandemic shuttered theaters. "I came back from America and I thought, 'Oh, my God is theater ever going to get back?' " she recalled, adding that she wondered if it was "the time for me to grab the opportunity to try and direct a film." Walking in London provided the inspiration: "I remembered this book about, well, walking."

Books & Authors

Awards: Arabic Fiction Winner

The Water Diviner by Zahran Alqasmi (Rashm) has won the $50,000 2023 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, which includes funding for a translation into English and is sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre.

Zahran Alqasmi is an Omani poet and novelist. He has published three other novels--Mountain of the Horseradish Tree (2013), The Sniper (2014), and Hunger for Honey (2017)--as well as 10 poetry collections, Biography of the Stone 1 (short story collection, 2009), and Biography of the Stone 2 (non-fiction, 2011). He is the first Omani winner in the prize's history.

Chair of judges Mohammed Achaari said that the winning title "explores a new subject in modern fiction: water and its impact on the natural environment and the lives of human beings in hostile regions. Blurring the boundaries of reality and myth, the novel's precise structure and sensitive poetic language are the conduit for compelling characters like the water diviner, who plays an essential role in people's lives, yet simultaneously inspires their fear and revulsion. The Water Diviner transports us to the world, little known in the Arabic novel, of the riverbeds and the aflaj (water channels) of Oman, showing how natural forces influence the relationship between individuals, environment and culture."

Set in an Omani village, The Water Diviner tells the story of water diviner Salem bin Abdullah, employed by the community to find and track springs hidden deep within the earth. At its center is the aflaj, the irrigation system which is inextricably linked to village life in Oman, and has become the inspiration of many stories and legends. Alqasmi explores both the life-giving qualities of water and its potential to bring peril and death through scarcity or flooding. Salem's life has been marked by a profound connection with water: his mother drowned, and his father was buried when the roof of one of the water channels--aflaj--collapsed. Through his vocation, the diviner himself ends up imprisoned in a water channel, battling for his life. In its Arabic meaning, a "narrator" is someone who literally "waters" people and satisfies their thirst.

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
The Quiet Tenant: A Novel by Clémence Michallon (Knopf, $28, 9780593534649). "The entire town feels sorry for Aidan Thomas when his wife dies. But the mysterious woman staying in the house Aidan shares with his teenage daughter has seen a very different side of him... and knows her every move has life-or-death stakes. A great pick for thriller fans looking for a page-turner with strong female protagonists." --Mara Bandy Fass, Champaign (Ill.) Public Library

All the Sinners Bleed: A Novel by S.A. Cosby (‎Flatiron, $27.99, 9781250831910). "As a Black sheriff in rural Virginia, Titus Crown is caught in political turmoil while a pedophile mass murderer runs amok. A brilliant perfectionist and former FBI agent, Titus ran for office to change things for the better, but can anything honestly change?" --Jill Minor, Washington County (Va.) Public Library

The Brightest Star: A Novel by Gail Tsukiyama (HarperVia, $32, 9780063213753). "This moving historical novel spotlights Chinese-American icon Anna May Wong, a talented and ambitious actress caught in a film industry that denied her the roles she was born to play, even as she was expected to teach white actresses how to 'act Chinese.' " --Kimberly McGee, Lake Travis Community Library

A Crown of Ivy and Glass by Claire Legrand (Sourcebooks Casablanca, $25.99, 9781728231990). "Gemma is the only person in her powerful family not to possess magic; in fact, she's physically sickened by it. But when a dashing man tells her of a demonic curse, Gemma engages in a quest to find her tormentor. This is a sweeping, romantic fantasy with the promise of more to come." --Mary Lovell, Seymour Public Library, Auburn, N.Y.

The First Ladies by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray (‎Berkley, $28, ‎ 9780593440285). "An illuminating read about the unlikely friendship between Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune as both overcame obstacles pursuing equal rights during the Great Depression/World War II and formed a close relationship through their personal struggles." --Debbie Lease, Hillsdale (N.J.) Public Library

A Most Agreeable Murder: A Novel by Julia Seales (Random House, $27, 9780593449981). "Beatrice has had enough of Regency societal rules about what is proper and loves true crime and Lord Huxley. When Huxley's former assistant shows up in her village, Beatrice immediately dislikes him. When another guest to the village is murdered, Beatrice helps the vile man solve the case. Much laughter is had on the way to personal freedom and autonomy." --Michelle Ogden, Crawfordsville (Ind.) District Public Library

The Rachel Incident: A Novel by Caroline O'Donoghue (Knopf, $28, 9780593535707). "Rachel and James meet while working at a bookshop in Cork and decide to hold a book release event for Rachel's professor. Ten years later, a pregnant Rachel reflects on this time in her life and how it led her to where she is now. Capturing university life where friendships are strong, emotions are deep, and money is tight, this is a wonderful novel." --Tara McGuinness, Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Public Library

Same Time Next Summer by Annabel Monaghan (Putnam, $17, 9780593544969). "Sam and Wyatt have met up every summer since they were young and fall deeply in love. Even at their young age they know this love is forever. This starts out as a basic romance novel, but when something terrible happens to our two lovers, the writing changes, becoming more compelling and more nuanced." --Judy G. Sebastian, Eastham (Mass.) Public Library

The Seven Year Slip by Ashley Poston (Berkley, $17, 9780593336502). "Suspend disbelief, forget logic, and don't ask questions, just go with the love in this romance set in a magical apartment. Clementine and Iwan fall in love and then lose each other in a seven-year time slip. Their lives are filled with good friends and family and eventually a happy ending." --JR Ring, Baltimore County (Md.) Public Library

The Whispers: A Novel by Ashley Audrain (Pamela Dorman, $28, 9781984881694). "After a picnic where everyone hears the host losing her temper towards her son, that same boy is admitted to the hospital with a life-threatening injury. Told from multiple perspectives, revealing a bit more with every chapter, this story centers around deception, envy, and despair, leaving readers rushing towards the climactic conclusion." --K.C. Davis, Fairfield Woods (Conn.) Branch Library

Book Review

Review: A Thread of Violence: A Story of Truth, Invention, and Murder

A Thread of Violence: A Story of Truth, Invention, and Murder by Mark O'Connell (Doubleday, $29 hardcover, 304p., 9780385547628, June 27, 2023)

There's a universal human fascination with the criminal mind, but opportunities to apprehend it aren't plentiful. That's what makes Irish journalist Mark O'Connell's A Thread of Violence, an intimate glimpse inside the psyche of an actual yet improbable murderer, so engrossing.

Over the course of a few weeks in the summer of 1982, 37-year-old Malcolm Macarthur, debonair heir to a large country estate in County Meath, savagely bludgeoned to death Dublin nurse Bridie Gargan, in the act of stealing her car; killed Donal Dunne with a shotgun he ostensibly intended to purchase from the young farmer; and botched an armed robbery from a onetime acquaintance. Macarthur's one-man crime wave was part of his desperate plan--the product of what he calls "a kind of lucid insanity"--to right his sinking financial ship, after he had squandered his share of the proceeds from the sale of his family's rural homestead.

O'Connell (Notes from an Apocalypse) had been fascinated with Macarthur's bizarre story ever since he learned, as a child, that the killer had been apprehended in an apartment in the same suburban Dublin complex where his grandparents lived. O'Connell even wrote his Ph.D. thesis at Trinity College on the works of famed Irish writer John Banville, whose novel The Book of Evidence features a protagonist based on Macarthur and his crimes.

After a handful of chance encounters on the streets of Dublin--where Macarthur lived openly, following his release from prison in 2012--O'Connell decided he wanted to write about a man he admits "compelled me like a haunting." He finally worked up the courage to introduce himself, and for roughly the next year engaged someone he came to think of as a "character from a novel manifested in the physical world" in wide-ranging conversations.

In these interviews, O'Connell probes deeply into Macarthur's childhood, searching for the roots of his willingness to resort to violence rather than some conventional strategy--like looking for the job he had always disdained--to extricate himself from his financial distress. Above all, O'Connell hoped to extract a sincere expression of remorse for what the killer blandly insisted on calling the "criminal episode" in what he saw as his otherwise blameless life.

O'Connell is a patient, thorough interlocutor, especially in conversations where his predominant feeling was frustration with Macarthur's rationalizations and evasions. The insights O'Connell offers into his own emotions are also revealing, especially at moments when he's unsettled by some correspondences he perceives between Macarthur's life experience and his own. There's nothing to suggest he fears being driven to murder, but this story reveals the chilling ease with which one man crossed that line. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Mark O'Connell pursues a difficult search for the truth in the story of notorious Irish gentleman killer Malcolm Macarthur.

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