Shelf Awareness for Monday, April 13, 2009

Atlantic Monthly Press: Those Opulent Days: A Mystery by Jacquie Pham

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber

Carolrhoda Lab (R): Here Goes Nothing by Emma K Ohland

Allida: Safiyyah's War by Hiba Noor Khan

Ace Books: Servant of Earth (The Shards of Magic) by Sarah Hawley


Amazon's 'De-ranking' Policy Sparks Online Ire came under Internet fire Sunday when word began to spread that the company had been "de-ranking" certain titles, especially--though not exclusively--lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender books. The disappearing sales rankings sparked a mass Twitter response, and by early evening Sunday "#amazonfail" was the top-ranked Trending Topic on the social networking site. The matter was a hot topic on Facebook as well.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that on his blog, self-published author Mark Probst had written that "mysteriously, the sales rankings disappeared from two newly-released high profile gay romance books: Transgressions by Erastes and False Colors by Alex Beecroft. Everybody was perplexed. Was it a glitch of some sort? The very next day HUNDREDS of gay and lesbian books simultaneously lost their sales rankings, including my book The Filly.'"

The Post-Intelligencer added that Advantage member services responded to Probst's inquiries by stating that "in consideration of our entire customer base, we exclude 'adult' material from appearing in some searches and best seller lists. Since these lists are generated using sales ranks, adult materials must also be excluded from that feature."

On Jacket Copy, the Los Angeles Times's book blog, Carolyn Kellogg wrote, "Amazon's policy of removing 'adult' content from its rankings seems to be both new and unevenly implemented. . . . Our research shows that these books have lost their ranking: Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs; Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1 by Michel Foucault, Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison (2005 Plume edition), Little Birds: Erotica by Anais Nin, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominque Bauby (1997 Knopf edition), Maurice by E.M. Forster (2005 W.W. Norton edition) and Becoming a Man by Paul Monette, which won the 1992 National Book Award."

Kellogg pointed out that among the books still ranked are Naked Lunch by William Burroughs, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007 Vintage International edition) and Maurice (2005 Penguin Classics edition).

"But as troubling as the unevenness of the policy of un-ranking and de-searching certain titles might be," Kellogg concluded, "it's a bit beside the point. It's the action itself that is troubling: making books harder to find, or keeping them off bestseller lists on the basis of their content can't be a good idea."

Responding to that post, Patty Smith, Amazon's director of corporate communications, told Jacket Copy that there "was a glitch with our sales rank feature that is in the process of being fixed. We're working to correct the problem as quickly as possible."

"Amazonfail and the politics of anti-corporate cyberactivism" was the headline for a Foreign Policy piece on the issue that noted, "Every time I see a group of bloggers and social media guys take on a company that has made an outright stupid decision, they usually win. Not only because they are right, but because the company usually ends up paying much higher fees in publicity services to deal with a swell of the negative publicity--all embedded in the precious Google juice--than the losses it would incur from dealing with complaints from their conservative customers, who may want to restrict the publication of certain materials."


PM Press: P Is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book by Golbarg Bashi, Illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi

Notes: More E-Readers?; Bad Parent Lit; Skylight's Class Act

In other Amazon news, the company is developing a new version of the Kindle that features a larger screen, which ought to appeal to newspaper executives and readers, the Wall Street Journal reported. The new Kindle might make its debut before the holiday shopping season. An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment to the Journal.

The item came at the end of a week in which it was rumored that Barnes & Noble is working on an e-reader. In addition, Hearst Corp. and News Corp. recently have acknowledged that they are developing e-readers.


In a front-page article today, the Wall Street Journal surveyed a new trend that might be called bad parent lit. Examples published recently or in the near future include True Mom Confessions: Real Moms Get Real by Romi Lassally, Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace by Ayelet Waldman, It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita by Heather Armstrong, Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood by Michael Lewis and a fall title that collects essays from the Bad Parent column on

Fans of the genre say that "sharing their foibles helps relieve the pressure to be a perfect parent--and pokes fun at a culture where arguments over sleep-training methods and organic baby foods rage on," the Journal wrote. "Critics say it's the latest form of oversharing online--the equivalent of posting your every move on Twitter or Facebook--and only reinforces parents' worst habits."


Here's a great story from Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif., as explained on the store's blog. The teacher of a 10th grade honors English class at Los Angeles High School wanted to include The Catcher in the Rye in the curriculum but the school did not have copies of the book and could not afford to purchase them. Contacted by 826LA, Skylight asked staff and customers to donate 25 copies--and the goal was met in one day. As manager Steve Salardino wrote on the blog, "Now, that would be a feat at any time but to know that through the struggle of these particularly hard and lean times the people that step into this store still choose to share what they have to help those in need makes me misty and proud to work here."


Obituary Note: Judith Krug, a director of the American Library Association and a founder of  Banned Books Week, died Saturday. She was 69, the Associated Press reported. Krug, who had been head of the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom since 1967, was ill for more than a year with stomach cancer.


Stephenie Meyer and a range of other YA authors were featured guests--and draws--last month at a benefit called Project Book Babe, to help out Faith Hochhalter, a former bookseller at Changing Hands, Tempe, Ariz., who helped launch many authors' careers and is fighting breast cancer, the Phoenix New Times reported.

Tickets cost $300 and included a signed copy of a book by Meyer, time to talk with the authors and a chance to obtain additional books. Among attractions during the auction: the unpublished epilogue to Forever Dawn, which went for $5,100; lunch with Meyer, which brought $6,500; and the dress Meyer wore to the New Moon prom event, which fetched $5,500.

The authors praised Hochhalter for her enthusiasm for their titles and promoting them to children, parents, other booksellers, teachers and more. As J. S. Lewis, co-author of the Grey Griffin series, said of Hochhalter, "It's her passion and love for what she does. She's a fan first, and I don't say that in a bad way. . . . It's this feeling that every morning is Christmas morning and when she gets to unwrap a new book, she gets so excited about it. She has a childlike enthusiasm that is so catching."


For all the Stephanie Plum fans who want movies to be made out of the Janet Evanovich books starring the bounty hunter, Borders has made its own 10-minute movie. And in honor of the next Plum book, Finger Lickin' Fifteen, Borders is encouraging fans to make their own Plum videos of 2 to 10 minutes, post them on YouTube and notify Borders of the URL. Borders will then share some of them with other Borders customers on its website and via the Borders Shortlist e-mail. To hunt down more information on this, click here.


Unusual book event!

Identical twins Logan and Noah Miller are promoting their film, Touching Home, and the book about it, Either You're In or You're in the Way: Two Brothers, Twelve Months, and One Filmmaking Hell-Ride to Keep a Promise to Their Father, on June 6 at 6 p.m. in AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif. (where the Giants play). On the field, "the music, art, and movie festival" called Bookstock 2009 will feature a screening of Touching Home as well as a book signing by the Miller brothers and an appearance by actor Ed Harris, star of the movie. "The cure for the recession depression" includes a beer and wine garden and food and supports the Giants Community Fund. Copies of the book ordered online or at local bookstores before pub date serve as admission for two; children are free.

The book is about how the twins decided to make the film to honor their father, who died homeless and alone in a jail cell. "Without a dime to their names nor a single meaningful contact in Hollywood--they managed to write, produce, act, and direct a feature film" in less than a year.

Either You're In or You're in the Way appears April 28 (Harper, $26.99, 9780061763144/0061763144).


Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

Vertigo Books Closing: 'Not Enough People Buy Books Here'

Sadly Vertigo Books, College Park, Md., is closing in two weeks, the store announced. In an e-mail and on the store website, owners Todd Stewart and Bridget Warren said there were many reasons for closing "but basically, not enough people buy books here.
"We have many loyal customers, just not enough of them, and our cloning experiments have not yielded satisfactory results. And way too many people (not you, but someone you know) are buying their books at Amazon. We'll spare you the inside baseball stuff about the near monopolistic force Amazon has become in the industry."

The store made the case for supporting local businesses and noted that because "one of us grew up Irish Catholic," the store is holding a wake on Saturday, April 18, beginning at 5 p.m. "Bring a dish or something to drink and join us for a free form wake and potluck . . .  If you shopped, read or worked here, we want to see you."

They asked customers and people in the industry to stay in touch via "We were never good about photographing and documenting the store's activities. If you have event calendars, photos or memorabilia to share, please send them on. A computer with archived materials was stolen last summer, so your contributions would be much appreciated."

Vertigo was founded nearly 18 years ago in Washington, D.C., and moved to College Park in 2000. The store has always specialized in literature, politics, children's and African-American literature.

The store will be missed. As the Washingon City Paper wrote in a story with the headline "This Sucks: Vertigo Books Is Closing," Vertigo had "an awesome staff, offered a great selection, and produced interesting readings each month from well-known authors and should-be-well-known authors. They championed African-American literature in particular and had close ties with the DC-area community. They defined the independent bookstore."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ron Darling Pitches His New Book

This morning on Good Morning America: Marlee Matlin, author of I'll Scream Later (Simon Spotlight, $26, 9781439102855/1439102856). She will also appear today on Access Hollywood and Larry King Live.


This morning on the Today Show: Beth Kobliner, author of Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance In Your Twenties and Thirties (Fireside, $16, 9780743264365/0743264363).


Today on Live with Regis and Kelly: Nancy O'Dell, author of Full of Life: Mom-to-Mom Tips I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I Was Pregnant (Simon Spotlight, $16.99, 9781439110256/1439110255). She's also on Fox & Friends tomorrow morning.


Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Quinn Bradlee, author of A Different Life: Growing Up Learning Disabled and Other Adventures (PublicAffairs, $24.95, 9781586481896/1586481894).


Today on Fresh Air: Michelle Goldberg, author of The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World (Penguin Press, $25.95, 9781594202087/1594202087).


Today on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Mark Bittman, author of Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating with More Than 75 Recipes (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781416575641/1416575642).


Today on Oprah: Dana Canedy, author of A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor (Crown, $25.95, 9780307395795/0307395790).


Tonight on Charlie Rose: Tony Dungy, author of Uncommon: Finding Your Path to Significance (Tyndale House, $24.99, 9781414326818/1414326815).


Tonight on Larry King Live: Tori Spelling, author of Mommywood (Simon Spotlight, $25, 9781416599104/141659910X).


Tonight on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Kristin Chenoweth, author of A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages (Touchstone, $25, 9781416580553/1416580557).


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Jim Karas, author of The 7-Day Energy Surge (Rodale Books, $26, 9781605298801/1605298808).

Also on GMA: Terry Murphy, author of Life in Rewind: The Story of a Young Courageous Man Who Persevered Over OCD and the Harvard Doctor Who Broke All the Rules to Help Him (Morrow, $24.99, 9780061561535/0061561533), will also appear.


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Donald Trump, author of Think Like a Champion: An Informal Education in Business and Life (Vanguard Press, $24.95, 9781593155308/1593155301).


Tomorrow on Live with Regis and Kelly: Kathie Lee Gifford, author of Just When I Thought I'd Dropped My Last Egg: Life and Other Calamities (Ballantine, $22, 9780345512062/0345512065). She also appears tomorrow morning on the Today Show.


Tomorrow night on Charlie Rose: Suzy Welch, author of 10-10-10: A Life-Transforming Idea (Scribner, $24, 9781416591825/1416591826). She also appears tomorrow morning on the Today Show.


Tomorrow night on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Ron Darling, author of The Complete Game: Reflections on Baseball, Pitching, and Life on the Mound (Knopf, $24.95, 9780307269843/0307269841).


Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Susie Orbach, author of Bodies: Big Ideas/Small Books (Picador, $14, 9780312427207/0312427204).


Tomorrow night on the Late Show with David Letterman: Bill Scheft, a Late Show writer and author of Everything Hurts (Simon & Schuster, $24, 9781416599340/1416599347).


Books & Authors

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next picks:


A Fortunate Age
by Joanna Smith Rakoff (Scribner, $26, 9781416590774/1416590773). "Joanna Smith Rakoff's first novel chronicles the sometimes ludicrous, maddeningly funny, and, often, moving adventures of a gifted group of twenty-something friends in New York City just after college graduation. Combining cockeyed details of development that ring true with empathy and insight, Rakoff tells the story of marriages, children, and the success (or failure) of these characters' art with a light and witty touch. A portrait of a generation, A Fortunate Age is a delight."--Jill Owens, Powell's Books, Portland, Ore.

Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption
by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton, with Erin Torneo (St. Martin's, $25.95, 9780312376536/0312376537). "A black man is accused of a terrible crime by a white woman and spends years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence. Then, the previously incarcerated man and the victim become friends, team up, and set out on a mission to rescue others falsely accused. No novel tells a story this important or heartrending. Read it!"--Deal Safrit, Literary Book Post, Salisbury, N.C.


Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories by Kevin Wilson (Harper Perennial, $13.99, 9780061579028/0061579025). "In this fantastic debut collection of stories, Kevin Wilson infuses the everyday, mundane world with a touch of magic, reexamining the familiar through a slightly warped lens. Each of Wilson's characters possesses a touch of melancholy, but each one manages to reconcile this sadness. Definitely a must-have for fans of the short story."--Christopher Chadwick, ASUN Bookstore, Reno, Nev.

For Teen Readers

The Forest of Hands and Teeth
by Carrie Ryan (Delacorte, $16.99, 9780385736817/0385736819). "With a story that alternates between gut-wrenchingly romantic and skin-crawling creepy, Ryan's novel will scare the pants off even the most seasoned horror fans, but it will also break the hardest of hearts. A brilliant start to what I hope is a long career."--Katie Glasgow, Mitchell Books, Fort Wayne, Ind.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Mandahla: A Final Arc of Sky

A Final Arc of Sky: A Memoir of Critical Care by Jennifer Culkin (Beacon Press (MA), $24.95 Hardcover, 9780807072851, April 2009)

Jennifer Culkin began her nursing career in the NICU and PICU (neonatal and pediatric intensive care units) more than 30 years ago, so she is intimately acquainted with heartbreak and death. That alone would be interesting, but she is also a marvelous writer, mixing tragedy and reflection with luminous prose. One of her first patients was a tiny girl with "an immense head, a wasted body, and the skin of a fish . . . a sacrifice for a primitive god, pinned on her slab by the sheer mass of her head. Entranced and alone behind the translucent leavings of her skin, a halo made of insect wings." When Culkin held her, "she settled in, turned toward my warmth with hers. Her own heat was so slight, like her hold on earth."
After moving to the Pacific Northwest, Culkin became an emergency flight nurse and writes compellingly of the drama inherent in this work. Describing a thrash, or a difficult flight, she says the common denominator of all thrashes is that a patient is trying to die while in the air. She describes the confinement of the helicopter interior: the patient's legs extend down into the cockpit where a copilot would sit; the nurses are wedged on either side of the patient, but out of their seatbelts, rolling around with their instruments as they struggle to keep the patient alive; bodily fluids often splash around. "After a thrash, the cabin resembled the site of a depraved murder."
She masterfully laces sky and flight into this narrative of medicine and trauma. Once, as they were about to take off, she wanted "to tell the dad I'd love his boy as much as I could. But it was already too late. The next hours would be bereft of tenderness, a matter of the process running its course." Trauma flights from the field with CPR in progress end in death most of the time: "If you could scoop a victim out of the wreck and put him directly in the OR with a trauma team standing by, you might sometimes get a save. But not with time and distance working against you, not with miles of sky, an invisible gusher somewhere deep in the interior firmament, and cells winking out by the millions in every body system." And patients are not the only deaths she encounters; she writes movingly of the deaths of colleagues, when flights are overdue and the only question is not if there are friends on it, but which ones.
A few years ago Culkin was diagnosed with MS and had to go on disability, but she is still tied to her calling. "Several times a week the sound of the [Agusta helicopter] overhead hooked me from sleep, deep in the night. It nailed me coming and going, outbound and inbound on flights to the peninsula . . . For every flashing light up there, there's a different LZ, another story, another undignified human tumble. The sky, hardboiled and helicoptered, will never let me go, not completely."
Decades after Cullkin moved from ICUs to the back of a helicopter, she thinks of a pilot who would say, at lift-off, "Four souls aboard," and muses on how fragile we are. That sense of fragility as well as resiliency and strength follow Culkin through her life as she marries, has children and cares for dying parents. We are privileged to share her passion and heartbreak as we in turn follow Culkin through the skies and the lives she limns so eloquently.--Marilyn Dahl
Shelf Talker: An eloquent and compelling memoir by a critical care and flight nurse that soars with tragedy and tenderness.


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