Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Simon & Schuster: The Lightning Bottles by Marissa Stapley

Minotaur Books: The Dark Wives: A Vera Stanhope Novel (Vera Stanhope #11) by Ann Cleeves

Soho Crime: Exposure (A Rita Todacheene Novel) by Ramona Emerson

Wednesday Books: When Haru Was Here by Dustin Thao

Tommy Nelson: Up Toward the Light by Granger Smith, Illustrated by Laura Watkins

Tor Nightfire: Devils Kill Devils by Johnny Compton


Lauren Groff Opening The Lynx in Gainesville, Fla., Next Year

Next spring, author Lauren Groff and her husband, Clay Kallman, plan to open The Lynx in downtown Gainesville, Fla. The 2,300-square-foot store will sell new books for all ages, with an emphasis on Florida's literary history and, especially, books currently banned in the state. 

"We have such a rich and varied literary history that no one knows about," said Groff, and now that Florida's "authoritarian government has education in a choke hold," there is an acute need to promote and celebrate the work of LGBTQI authors as well as Black, brown, and indigenous authors. Through the bookstore, she and Kallman want to help those ideas "take flight" at a time when many in the state are trying actively to suppress them.

Clay Kallman and Lauren Groff

Groff noted that some of the Florida authors she plans to highlight, such as Zora Neale Hurston, also happen to be among the most banned and challenged writers in the state. Hurston's work will be found alongside that of other Florida authors such as Edwidge Danticat, Jeff VanderMeer, Karen Russell, Kelly Link, Laura van den Berg, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and many more. Groff also pointed to a "really strong community" of local authors, including David Leavitt and Amy Hempel, to name just two.

Elaborating on what she envisions for the bookstore, Groff said the models include other Southern indies like Square Books in Oxford, Miss., and Books & Books in South Florida, and when it comes to events and community outreach, she wants the Lynx to be "involved with everything."

Groff has already spoken with the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce about creating a One Gainesville, One Read program, which is something the city, home of the University of Florida, has never had before. She's excited about the possibility of bringing the community together around a single book and fostering a discussion of ideas that "may be uncomfortable" to some community members. Getting books "in the hands of people who need them the most" will also be a major part of the store's community mission.

Asked about her day-to-day role with the bookstore, Groff described her husband as "the businessman," while she intends her role to be a bit like Ann Patchett's at Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn. She added, laughing: "Everyone's vision is to be Ann Patchett." (Besides Patchett, other authors who own or co-own bookstores include Louise Erdrich, Jeff Kinney, Judy Blume, Emma Straub, Kelly Link, Alex George, Jenny Lawson, and George R.R. Martin, among others.)

Groff and Kallman are currently searching for a general manager as well as other operational roles for the bookstore. For the first year or so of the bookstore's life, Groff continued, she expects to do "a lot of the heavy lifting," but as the Lynx finds its footing and the team grows, she wants the store's employees to become the "majority voice."

To that end, she and Kallman will institute a profit-sharing model so that all of the employees will have a stake in the financial success of the business. They want to hire booksellers who are really able to "think of the store as their own," and in a time of "increasing corporatization" amid an "authoritarian environment," it was important to them for there to be "as many strong voices for the masses as possible."

The Lynx has been a long time coming for Groff and Kallman; they've been talking about opening a bookstore since moving to Gainesville roughly 18 years ago, and for about a dozen years they've been actively searching for a space. For Kallman, it is especially significant, as his family owned and operated the Florida Bookstore in Gainesville from the early 1930s until the 1990s. He has "such fond memories" of growing up around and working in the bookstore, Groff said.

One of the reasons the search took so long, she explained, is because "from the beginning we wanted to buy our own space." That "posed some big problems," as there simply weren't that many spaces in downtown Gainesville to buy. At the same time, Gainesville has changed dramatically over the years, with the town's "center of gravity"  shifting.

They did not really consider renting until they found the perfect space with "absolutely perfect landlords." At 601 South Main St., the Lynx will be part of a development called South Main Station, a cluster of buildings that also includes a recording studio, a brewery, a concert venue, and restaurants. The landlord is also building an outdoor gathering space that will allow the Lynx to host large events, from big author talks to even weddings.

South Main Station is home to a Thursday farmers market and is very close to Depot Park, which opened about four years ago and was created out of a Superfund site. "The city put a lot of time, energy, money, and thought into developing that area," Groff remarked.

Though she and her husband found the 601 South Main St. space in September, they kept the news "pretty secret" until the lease was signed. The community's initial reaction has been fantastic, and Groff and Kallman have already gotten some "great g.m. candidates." In January they plan to launch an Indiegogo campaign to help them get the store across the finish line. It's all been "wild and exciting," said Groff. --Alex Mutter

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AAP Sales: Flat in September; Up 0.8% Year to Date

Total net book sales in September in the U.S. were flat, at $1.4 billion, compared to September 2022, representing sales of 1,225 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers. For the first nine months of the year, total net book sales are up 0.8%, to $9.4 billion.

In September, trade revenue fell 0.4%, to $905.9 million, dragged down by lower sales of adult trade paperbacks, mass market titles, and e-books. By contrast, sales of children's/YA titles were all up compared to September 2022.

During September, trade hardcover revenue rose 7.2%, to $379.2 million, paperbacks fell 4.9%, to $299.1 million, mass market plummeted 39.5%, to $11.3 million, and special bindings rose 11.8%, to $27.1 million.

Sales by category in September 2023 compared to September 2022:

Graphic Universe (Tm): Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit by Josh Hicks

Monstera's Books Coming to Overland Park, Kan.

Monstera's Books will open next March in the old Wyldewood Cellars building at 7930 Floyd St. in downtown Overland Park, Kan. The Kansas City Star reported that the decision to feature both books and plants in the shop came from owners Kate and Justin Wieners being avid readers, along with Kate Wieners's love of plants because they are "a vibe."

The shop will sell primarily new books, with a selection of used and vintage titles collected from antique stores and estate sales. The shelves will also be filled with leafy houseplants, like the monstera. They decided to name their store after the plant when Justin Wiener said that "Monstera" sounded like the name of an old lady who owns a bookstore, the Star wrote.

Currently working to get the store open while holding full-time jobs, they began dreaming of opening a bookshop after Kate Wiener started looking for a way to transition out of her current field.

"I was like, 'I've been doing sales a long time. I love books. Is this a thing?' " she said, adding that the more bookstores, the better. "My stance, and I tell my husband all the time, is: The world needs more books.... I love that there's something for everyone in a book. You can find whatever it is you want or need."

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Penguin Random House Buys Hay House

Penguin Random House has bought Hay House, the self-help, mind-body-spirit, and health and wellness publisher. Hay House will retain its editorial and publishing independence, the companies said, and CEO Reid Tracy will continue to run Hay House. No changes are planned for Hay House's Carlsbad, Calif., New York, and London offices, or management and employees. Hay House is distributed by Penguin Random House Publisher Services.

Hay House was founded in 1984 by Louise Hay, who was a leader of the modern self-help movement and author of You Can Heal Your Life, which has sold more than 50 million copies. Hay House publishes more than 100 titles a year and has a backlist of more than 1,500 titles from authors and teachers such as Dr. Mindy Pelz, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Iyanla Vanzant, Suze Orman, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Jerry and Esther Hicks, David Hawkins, Gabrielle Bernstein, Colette Baron-Reid, Rebecca Campbell, Kyle Gray, Lewis Howes, Jim Kwik, Brendon Burchard, Dan Sullivan, Chris Wark, and Anthony William. Besides its book publishing program, Hay House offers online courses, virtual events, as well as the You Can Heal Your Life podcast and audio content app Empower You.

Reid Tracy said, "I am excited to remain at the helm of Hay House in partnership with our incredible team of employees with the added support and resources of Penguin Random House who have been an essential partner through PRHPS for many years. It is wonderful that we will keep our independence and pursue our main mission which is to help people around the world to improve their lives."

PRH CEO Nihar Malaviya said, "As we deepen our relationship with Hay House, we are thrilled to support the company's growth and explore the areas of opportunity in their publishing services. Hay House is one of the most recognized health, wellness, and self-help brands in the world, and we look forward to working with Reid and his team on expanding upon their innovative and diverse product offerings."

Jennifer Finney Boylan Named PEN America President

Jennifer Finney Boylan

Author and LGBTQ rights advocate Jennifer Finney Boylan has been elected as president of PEN America. She assumed the presidency at the December 11 board meeting, succeeding Ayad Akhtar, who remains on the board of trustees as v-p. Boylan has served as a v-p of the board and been a board member since 2018, the last two years on the executive committee. A q&a about her involvement with PEN America is available here.

Boylan has written 18 books, including the bestselling memoirs She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders (2003) and I'm Looking Through You (2008), focused on her life experience as a trans woman. Her next book, coming in early 2025, examines the differences between men and women as she has lived them. Most recently, she and Jodi Picoult co-authored the bestselling novel Mad Honey, about a teen's trial for murder.

"Jenny is a trailblazer, an empathetic and original voice and a fierce advocate for free expression everywhere," said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. "She is uniquely positioned to champion and promote free inquiry and the freedom to read and write, which is under profound attack both in the U.S. and around the world. We believe her leadership and willingness to face controversy and challenges head on are critical at this moment."

Boylan commented: "Nothing opens hearts and minds as quickly as powerful stories. And that's why there are people even now trying to silence voices, by banning books, shouting down opposing viewpoints, legislating what can be taught and studied in classrooms and imposing strictures on who can tell which stories. All these efforts to silence and repress are evidence of the power for change in narrative. I'm most passionate about having everyone's stories heard, told, and published because that is the way to evolve our culture and allow all people to realize their potential."

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
Becoming Little Shell:
Returning Home to the Landless
Indians of Montana
by Chris La Tray
GLOW: Milkweed Editions: Becoming Little Shell: Returning Home to the Landless Indians of Montana by Chris La Tray

Growing up in the 1970s, Montana Poet Laureate Chris La Tray was dimly aware of his paternal Chippewa ancestry--but his father had always rejected Indigenous identity. A series of funerals prompted him to delve into his family's history and, ultimately, to enroll in the Little Shell Tribe and join its successful campaign for federal recognition. Alternating past and present, La Tray weaves his personal experience with the wider history of Métis peoples. His book is also a love letter to Indigenous literature and Montana's natural landscapes. Daniel Slager, publisher and CEO at Milkweed Editions, noting the "beautiful flowering of writing" from Indigenous communities, was delighted to publish this "singular" work that "braids Chris's story with the history of his people, all in his inimitable voice, which is both fierce and tender." --Rebecca Foster

(Milkweed Editions, $28 hardcover, 9781571313980, 
August 20, 2024)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Image of the Day: DiCamillo at Big Hill Books

Author Kate DiCamillo charmed customers at Big Hill Books, Minneapolis, Minn., last weekend when she read the prologue of her newest book, Mercy Watson Is Missing! (Candlewick). It was her first visit to Big Hill Books, one of the Twin Cities' newest independent bookstores, and she promised the crowd she'd be back. Pictured: (from left) employees Sarah Waller, Julia Fratzke, Sam Boman, owner Beth Thompson, Kate DiCamillo, employee Carol Rosenbaum, volunteer Kristin Nilsen, employee Jake Shoemaker.

Bookish Holiday Decorating: Let's Play Books

Let's Play Books Bookstore, Emmaus, Pa., shared photos on Facebook of the shop's holiday decorating efforts, helped along by a special bookseller (but not some others): "The pooch is helping with the decorating, the cats, are not. Did you sign up for Personal Shopping--we are here to help! It starts tomorrow with the fabulous Ms. Lucy."

Chalkboard: Greenlight Bookstore

"Cozy up to a good book" was the seasonal message recently on the sidewalk chalkboard sign in front of Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y. Owner Jessica Stockton Bagnulo said, "Our staff have been having so much fun with our holiday chalkboards and window displays this year I just had to share!"  

Reading Group Choices' Most Popular November Books

The two most popular titles at Reading Group Choices in November were The Last Supper Club: A Waiter's Requiem by Matthew Batt (University of Minnesota Press) and We All Want Impossible Things: A Novel by Catherine Newman (Harper Perennial).

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Christian Wiman on Fresh Air

NPR's Here & Now: Klancy Miller, author of For the Culture: Phenomenal Black Women and Femmes in Food: Interviews, Inspiration, and Recipes (Harvest, $40, 9780358581277).

Fresh Air: Christian Wiman, author of Zero at the Bone: Fifty Entries Against Despair (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30, 9780374603458).

TV: Palm Royale

First look photos have been released for Palm Royale, loosely based on Juliet McDaniel's novel Mr. and Mrs. American Pie. Deadline reported that the Palm Beach-set comedy series will premiere March 20 on Apple TV+. Kristen Wiig "leads the stellar ensemble cast," which includes Laura Dern, Allison Janney, Ricky Martin, Josh Lucas, Leslie Bibb, Amber Chardae Robinson, Mindy Cohn, Julia Duffy, and Kaia Gerber. Bruce Dern and Carol Burnett will guest star. 

Palm Royale is produced by Apple Studios. The project is written, executive produced and showrun by Abe Sylvia for Aunt Sylvia's Moving Picture Company, executive produced by Laura Dern  and Jayme Lemons for Jaywalker Pictures, Wiig, Katie O'Connell Marsh, Tate Taylor and John Norris for Wyolah Films, Sharr White, and Sheri Holman and Boat Rocker and Rock Shaink Jr. The series is directed by Taylor, Sylvia, Claire Scanlon, and Stephanie Laing. 

Books & Authors

Awards: Graywolf Press African Fiction Winner

Kenya Kiprop Kimutai won the Graywolf Press African Fiction Prize, given to a first novel manuscript by an African author primarily residing in Africa, for The Freedom of Birds. The winner, who was chosen by judge Tsitsi Dangarembga and Graywolf editors, will receive a $12,000 advance and publication by Graywolf Press.

Dangarembga called the winning manuscript "epic in scope and intimate in detail," adding: "The Freedom of Birds is a compassionate and beautiful novel about a family coping with its history and the harsh environment of a rural Kenyan community not often narrated in the country's literature. I am stunned by Kiprop Kimutai's bravery and restraint." 

Graywolf publisher Carmen Giménez said, "We couldn't be more excited to publish Kiprop Kimutai's wonderfully sensitive novel. The African Fiction Prize has become integral to Graywolf Press, and we're so proud to be the publisher of the incredible books that have come to us through the prize." 

Kimutai added: "I admire and applaud Graywolf Press for publishing global literatures, most notably Binyavanga's memoir, One Day I Will Write About This Place, which showed me how a Kenyan experience could matter on the page. I am excited to be awarded the 2023 African Fiction Prize, not only for myself, but also because another Kenyan story, another Kenyan perspective, will now have the chance to be published and read by the rest of the world. Thank you so much Tsitsi Dangarembga and the editors at Graywolf Press for honoring my work."

Reading with... Lex Croucher

photo: Hannah Croucher

Lex Croucher grew up in Surrey, England, reading a lot of books and making friends with strangers on the Internet, and now lives in London with an elderly cat. With a background in social media for NGOs, Croucher now writes historical-ish rom coms for adults (Reputation; Infamous; Trouble) and, with their YA fiction debut, Gwen and Art Are Not in Love (Wednesday Books; November 28), also writes historical fantasy rom coms for teenagers.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

A betrothed princess and lord are queer enemies-to-allies who navigate friendship, crushes, and court intrigue during the summer tournament at Camelot.

On your nightstand now:

On my to-read pile I've got Scythe by Neal Shusterman and The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri. On the recently-read-but-not-put-away pile, Broken Hearts and Zombie Parts by William Hussey and The Dos and Donuts of Love by Adiba Jaigirdar, both of which were read in preparation for events with the authors. For some reason I've also got a framed postcard of a painting of an egg with legs. The egg also has a knife sticking out of it. A friend of ours gave us that, already framed, and we thought it was so weird we have it in pride of place next to our bed.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was a big fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler). I think quite a lot of the books I was really into were darkly funny; I see less of that now in children's fiction, which is a real shame. When I was a little older, I became absolutely obsessed with Louise Rennison's Georgia Nicolson series. I've revisited them recently as an adult and there's some quite mean-spirited humor in them--lots of punching down--but something about them so perfectly captured the delirious, hysterical experience of being a 14-year-old at the time. I went to an all-girls school which I think just heightened the nonsense.

Your top five authors:

Tamsyn Muir, Zadie Smith, Casey McQuiston, Katherine Arden, Donna Tartt.

Book you've faked reading:

Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. That's probably quite high up there on most people's lists. My dad once sat down and timed me reading a chapter of War and Peace because I was bragging about how fast I could read. Let me tell you, nothing slows you down like a bit of War and Peace. I never finished it. I loved the BBC limited series, though. I know that doesn't count.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Tamsyn Muir's Gideon the Ninth and the rest of The Locked Tomb series. Those books are precisely my jam. They're so deeply funny, but they also enjoy punching you in the heart repeatedly. The first book, Gideon, is about necromancers and their bodyguards solving a murder mystery in a haunted castle.

Book you've bought for the cover:

A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske. What a cover! What a book! It's a hot, funny Edwardian magical romance, and the cover is so perfect. In fact, it's part of a trilogy, and I'd probably buy them all for their covers, so I'm lucky that what's inside is just as good.

Book you hid from your parents:

I was lucky enough that I didn't really have to hide any books from my parents. I do specifically remember reading Forever... by Judy Blume quite young and being absolutely scandalized by the contents. I think that one might have been hidden at the back of my bookshelf to prevent parental discovery.

Book that changed your life:

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. The section about realising bisexuality--especially as the protagonist, Alex, is in his early 20s when he's processing those thoughts and feelings--was truly life-changing for me.

Favorite line from a book:

"I love you. I'm glad I exist."

From the poem "The Orange" by Wendy Cope. Can't even write it down without weeping! It hits harder if you read the whole poem, which I recommend to everyone always.

Five books you'll never part with:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt; On Beauty by Zadie Smith; Persuasion by Jane Austen; The Once and Future King by T.H. White; and my battered old copy of Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning, which was one of my first YA novels and was a staple for me as a teenager in a band.

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

Am I allowed to answer Gideon the Ninth for basically all these questions? Because it's Gideon the Ninth.

Book Review

YA Review: Lunar New Year Love Story

Lunar New Year Love Story by Gene Luen Yang, illus. by LeUyen Pham (First Second, $17.99 paperback, 352p., ages 12-up, 9781250908261, January 9, 2024)

This touching and entertaining YA graphic novel follows an endearing Vietnamese American teen who desperately seeks true love despite her family's history of tragic romances.

High school junior Valentina Trãn once adored Valentine's Day--so much so that she imagined a cherubic cupid "Saint V" was her guide. When Val learns that her mother didn't die years ago as her father claimed, but left him, Val disavows the holiday that brought her parents together. Saint V transforms into the specter of the man he really was and promises to guard Val still. The girl will give him her heart in a year if she fails to find true love--something that eluded every one of her ancestors.

When Val sparks a connection with a boy in a lion dance costume, she is determined to make the ensuing relationship with Chinese American Leslie succeed. She joins his lion dancing group, but even as Val and Les go on dates and lion dancing becomes Val's "everything," Les doesn't see Val as his girlfriend. Although Val and Jae (fellow lion dancer and Leslie's Korean and Chinese American cousin) had an awkward start to their friendship, it's Jae, not Leslie, who is open, supportive, and immediately in sync with her when they perform. Though Jae has feelings for Val, he won't pursue Val romantically after Les admits he is interested after all. Time is almost up on her bargain with Saint V, and though Val doesn't want to give up on true love with Les, she isn't sure she's found someone worthy of her heart.

Lunar New Year Love Story is a buoying tale about being open to the pain of love from Gene Luen Yang, who received an Eisner and Printz award for American Born Chinese. Val's journey to find love parallels a careful nurturing of frayed familial ties with her father, who lied to "protect" her, and with her previously estranged grandma, a firecracker of a woman who likes Jesus, poker, and dishing out both indulgent meals and hilariously savage perspectives. Caldecott Honoree LeUyen Pham (Outside, Inside) brings remarkable depth to Yang's heartfelt story through her digital illustrations. Pham's blush-toned palette allows more brightly hued moments to hold the eye longer and becomes ominous with a switch to swirling grey and black for Saint V's scenes. Throughout, beautiful spreads evoke the flouncing effects of the intricate costumes. Yang and Pham together equate the lion dance to love in this charmingly sweet comic. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

Shelf Talker: The Vietnamese teen in this romantic and hilarious graphic novel believes her family is cursed with bad luck in love, and must give her heart away if she does not find true love within a year.

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