Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tor Books: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Amulet Books: The Stitchers (Fright Watch #1) by Lorien Lawrence

Kensington: Celebrate Cozy Mysteries - Request a Free Cozy Club Starter Kit!

University of Illinois Press: Unlikely Angel: The Songs of Dolly Parton by Lydia R. Hamessley

Algonquin Young Readers: Skunk and Badger (Skunk and Badger 1) by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Andrews McMeel Publishing: How to Draw a Reindeer and Other Christmas Creatures with Simple Shapes in 5 Steps by Lulu Mayo

Houghton Mifflin: No Place for Monsters by Kory Merritt


Image of the Day: Off the Ice

Last Friday, eight-time Olympic champion skater Apolo Anton Ohno swept into Chester County Book & Music Company, West Chester, Pa., where more than 500 fans (mostly young women) bought copies of his new book, Zero Regrets: Be Greater Than Yesterday (Atria).

University of California Press: Law and Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers by Jacqueline D Lipton

Notes: Amazon Slipping on Free Shipping? stock fell 3.4% yesterday "on concerns that offers of free shipping by Wal-Mart Stores and other retailers could challenge the online giant's results," according to Reuters, which quoted BGC Partners analyst Colin Gillis: "It's going to be a fight for revenue that could impact profitability."

"How can Wal-Mart management be happy for Amazon to have the label of 'the Wal-Mart of the Web'?" asked Gillis.

Another analyst speculated that part of Amazon's drop of 7.1% since last Wednesday could be profit taking after the company hit a 52-week high of $173.37 per share.


We bet this is a place most authors and publishers have yet to be reviewed: the Daily Racing Form, which on Thursday ran the full Washington Post review of Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (McPherson & Co.). The book was officially published yesterday--and tomorrow may win the National Book Award for fiction.


Quill & Quire unveiled the cover for the new edition of The Sentimentalists to be published by Douglas & McIntyre--now with a dash of color and, of course, the Giller seal.


The Christian Science Monitor warned its readers: "here come the lists, earlier than ever this year.... Halloween hadn't even ended this year before Christmas decorations made their appearance. Not even that progressive holiday creep-back, though, prepared me to see lists of the year's best books start coming through in early November, with no apologies to those few unfortunate authors with books scheduled for release in the final sixth of the year."

Considering the early list debuts, the Monitor also offered a relevant question: "What's on your list of 'The Best Books of the First Five-Sixths of 2010'?"


"They were betterer times, they were worserer times." In the wake of reports that parts of George W. Bush's Decision Points may have been plagiarized, the Borowitz Report's Twitter followers had suggestions for "the best plagiarized first line for the book."


Flavorwire featured 10 Contemporary Books That Challenged White, Male Literary Dominance.


The word "Refudiate," which gained viral notoriety via Sarah Palin's Twitter account, is the New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2010 Word of the Year, though the Oxford University Press hastened to note that "there are no definite plans to include 'refudiate' in the NOAD, the OED, or any of our other dictionaries."


In the year 2000, the top word according to an annual survey of the English language by the Global Language Monitor--which tracks uses of language around the world--was "Chad," the top phrase was "" and the top name was "W (Dubya)."

How times--and words--have changed in a decade. For 2010, "Spillcam" (which "instantly beamed the immensity of the Gulf Spill around the world to the dismay of environmentalists, BP's PR staff and the President") was the top word ("refudiate" was in fourth place); "Anger and Rage" (as in the media "characterizations of the U.S. electorate") was the top phrase; and Hu (President Hu Jintao of China) was the top name. 


As part of its 75th anniversary celebration in 2011, New Directions will introduce a "redesign" of its colophon (at right). Rodrigo Corral, creative director at large for New Directions, commissioned the redesign from draftsman Felix Sockwell, who "evolved the original drawing."


Publishers Group West has begun providing digital distribution services through Constellation for both Entrepreneur Press and Naval Institute Press, its first two digital-only distribution clients.

Launched in 2008, Constellation offers digital asset management, digital marketing tools, digital printing, e-book sales and distribution and online sampling.


KidsBuzz for the Week of 07.13.20

Sales: General Sales Up; Bookstore Sales Off

September bookstore sales fell 7.1%, to $1.5 billion, compared to September 2009, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the year to date, total bookstore sales have slipped 2.6%, to $12.3 billion.

August bookstore sales fell 6.5%, to $2.288 billion.

Total retail sales in September rose 7.7%, to $355.5 billion, compared to the same period a year ago. For the year, total retail sales were up 6.2%, to $3,221 billion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.


General consumer retail sales in October totaled $373.1 billion, rising 1.2% compared to September and 7.3% compared to October 2009, according to the Commerce Department. The sales lift, higher than expected, was attributed in part to higher sales of cars, car parts and gasoline. Still, with those categories excluded, sales were up 0.4%, and retail sales are at their highest level since August 2008. The figures provide "a glimmer of hope that consumer spending [is] set to improve in the fourth quarter," the New York Times wrote.

Sales estimates for August and September were also raised. The Wall Street Journal commented: "This string of stronger retail reports--together with signs that businesses continue to restock shelves in anticipation of more robust sales going forward--are stirring hopes for a good holiday shopping season."

Other strong categories were clothing and building material while weak categories included furniture, appliances and department store goods, "suggesting that some consumers were still hesitating before buying discretionary items," the Times said.

University of California Press: Smoke But No Fire: Convicting the Innocent of Crimes That Never Happened by Jessica S. Henry

Hastings: New Book Sales Fall; Used, Value Climb

Total revenues at Hastings Entertainment in the third quarter ended October 31 were $112.284 million, down just $53,000 from the same quarter last year. The net loss during the quarter was $3.1 million, a slight improvement on the net loss of $3.4 million in the same period a year ago. Total revenues at stores open at least a year rose 1.3%.

Sales of books at stores open at least a year fell 6.2%, which included a 9.3% drop in the sale of new books and a 7.8% jump in the sale of used and value books. John H. Marmaduke, CEO and chairman, said e-book readers are "impacting new book sales, but we have positioned ourselves to soften this impact through offering a variety of used and value books at price points that resonate well with our customers. In addition, our multimedia store model allows us to adapt to changes in consumer preference."

The expanded new and used comics category "continues to show strong results," Marmaduke added. He also expressed some optimism about sales at the end of the year, saying, "With the election behind us and the economy creating job growth, we anticipate consumer confidence will improve in the fourth quarter. Additionally, with the closing of many competitors, we feel our focus on store execution and service will turn many first time customers into loyal customers."


Atheneum Books for Young Readers: Tune It Out by Jamie Summer

Jerry Stroud Remembered

Jerry Stroud, former head of the rep group Fuji Associates, died on Sunday in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was 72. There are no plans for a memorial service at this time.

Running Press co-founder Buz Teacher wrote: "What a sad day. I have so many wonderful memories of Jerry, who was an extremely generous man. Jerry was with us when we published our first book in 1972, and Running Press would not have been the same company without his mentoring and great support. Most of all he was fun to be with. And oh those bright Missoni sweaters! We had so many wonderful dinners together. I am very proud to have known him."

Chris Kerr of Parson Weems wrote: "I met Jerry at Seminary Coop Bookstore in Chicago in 1983. I had just launched the U.S. office of Basil Blackwell Publishers and was slowly making my rounds of key booksellers. Jerry invited himself along to my lunch with Jack Cella and then proceeded to kidnap the conversation with a story about selling Eastern Airlines an in-flight book for kids. When I got home, there was a kind bread-and-butter note waiting for me.

"I thought he was pretty fabulous and counted his friendship as key in my professional life. Wherever my checkered employment history took me, there was a congratulatory note from Jerry. When he retired, he sent me the contents of a file he had kept of all of our notes; I was amazed. When I launched Parson Weems 13 years ago, Jerry was among the first to congratulate my partner Colwyn Krussman and me. We met for drinks in Chicago; he left us on a street corner where he was picked up by a former professional ball player he was counseling on his new career as an exercise guru. As with most things Jerry, it was a notable, stylish exit. I lost track of him when he moved from North Michigan Avenue. His friends were guarded about his condition and whereabouts. I know he was loved and protected by his loved ones. He was one of the great ones."


G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
The War of the Poor
by Éric Vuillard
trans. by Mark Polizzotti

Éric Vuillard's The War of the Poor, in translation from the original French, is a brief, lyrical work of history that captures the emotional force of Thomas Müntzer's theological ideas and their violent manifestation in the German Peasants' War (1524-1525). Judith Gurewich, editor and publisher of Other Press, says, "Éric is more eager to pick up moments of anxiety and change from the past as a way to make us think of the present than to focus on the past alone." War of the Poor is as much about "the art of revolt even at very high cost" as it is "the limits of those who claim to be revolutionary." Rage at hypocrisy and inequality are at the core of Vuillard's passionate, beautifully written book, echoing from the 16th century into the present. --Hank Stephenson

(Other Press, $17.99 hardcover, 9781635420081, October 20, 2020)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Ian Frazier on Colbert

Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Reza Aslan, author of Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East (Norton, $35, 9780393065855/0393065855).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Mark Bittman, author of The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781439120231/1439120234).


Tomorrow on the Alan Colmes Show: Pat Cooper, author of Pat Cooper How Dare You Say How Dare Me! (Square One, $24.95, 9780757003639/075700363X).


Tomorrow on NPR's Fresh Air: Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer (Scribner, $30, 9781439107959/1439107955).


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Laura Hillenbrand, author of Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption (Random House, $27, 9781400064168/1400064163).


Tomorrow on NPR's Marketplace Morning Report: Steve Rattner, author of Overhaul: An Insider's Account of the Obama Administration's Emergency Rescue of the Auto Industry (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9780547443218/0547443218).


Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Rainn Wilson, author of SoulPancake: Chew on Life's Big Questions (Hyperion, $19.99, 9781401310332/1401310338).

Also on Tavis Smiley: Mark Halperin, co-author of Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime (Harper Perennial, $16.99, 9780061733642/0061733644).


Tomorrow night on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Buddy Valastro, author of Cake Boss: Stories and Recipes from Mia Famiglia (Free Press, $25.99, 9781439183519/1439183511).


Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Jay-Z, author of Decoded (Spiegel & Grau, $35, 9781400068920/1400068924).


Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Ian Frazier, author of Travels in Siberia (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30, 9780374278724/0374278725).


Tomorrow night on Conan: Russell Brand, author of My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-Up (It Books, $14.99, 9780061857805/0061857807).


Movies: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Lionsgate has chosen Mike White (Year of the Dog) to direct Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which will be adapted from Seth Grahame-Smith's mash-up novel. reported that David O. Russell "stepped out but left behind a script that had filmmakers salivating for the job. White got the formal offer on November 5."


Books & Authors

Awards: Impac Dublin Literary Award Long List

All 162 books on the Impac Dublin Literary Award's long list as well as the nominating libraries can be viewed here. The short list for the €100,000 (about US$139,000) prize will be announced in April.


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, November 23:

An Object of Beauty: A Novel by Steve Martin (Grand Central, $26.99, 9780446573641/0446573647) follows a young Manhattan art dealer through the beginning of the 21st century.

Colonel Roosevelt by Edmund Morris (Random House, $35, 9780375504877/0375504877) chronicles the adventures of Teddy Roosevelt after his presidency and his return to politics.

America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag
by Sarah Palin (Harper, $25.99, 9780062064707/0062064703) contains Palin's thoughts on American virtues.

The Athena Project
by Brad Thor (Atria, $26.99, 9781439192955/1439192952) is a thriller about an elite all-female counter-terrorism unit.

Night Whispers
by Erin Hunter (HarperCollins, $16.99, 9780061555152/0061555150) is book three in the feline fantasy Warriors: Omen of the Stars series.


Debra Ginsberg: The Neighbors Are Watching

Classic westerns like High Noon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance begin with the arrival of a mysterious stranger in a seemingly quiet 19th-century town, and from that moment on, nothing will ever be the same again. Debra Ginsberg works a satisfyingly modern variation on that classic plotline in her new novel The Neighbors Are Watching (Crown, $23.99, 9780307463869/0307463869, November 16, 2010). Ginsberg's mysterious stranger is Diana Jones, a pregnant teenager. The calendar reads July 2007 when Diana first enters Fuller Court, a sleepy (but neat) cul-de-sac in San Diego: she does not ride into town but shows up on foot (no boots, just funky flip-flops) with a battered suitcase and a whole lot of attitude. Just as in those classic movies, it's hot and vaguely desolate, although the once-Wild West setting has been replaced with tract house suburbs, freeways and manicured lawns where there used to be scrub brush.

Thrown out of her single mother's home in Las Vegas, Diana has come in search of the father she has never met. Her father, Joe, is now married and his wife, Allison, is blissfully unaware that he has a daughter. Diana's arrival sets off a tense confrontation between Joe and Allison that threatens their once-solid relationship. The other residents of Fuller Court will form their own opinions of Diana as her presence and circumstances register. The novel, told in interior monologues that rotate from the perspective of one neighbor to another, brings each of the residents of Fuller Court up close and personal. There are no gunfights (although tensions rise to levels that would bring out the guns in some other ZIP codes), but the key precipitating event-- the autumn 2007 wildfire started during the dreaded and devastating annual Santa Ana windstorms--sends various borderline hysterics over the edge.

By way of the briefest of personal introductions, Debra Ginsberg has been a regular book reviewer for Shelf Awareness since September 2007. We always appreciate her astute, lively and authoritative reviews. Her previous novel The Grift, published in 2008, was named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times and was selected for the T. Jefferson Parker Mystery Award by the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association in 2009. She has also published three volumes of memoirs (Waiting: The True Confessions of a Waitress, Raising Blaze and About My Sisters) in addition to the novel Blind Submission.

In the midst of the other demands connected with promoting a new book, Debra took time to respond to some of the questions that sprung to the mind of her fellow Shelf Awareness reviewer John McFarland after he read (and loved) The Neighbors Are Watching.

Diana's arrival proves to be a lightning rod event for all the residents of Fuller Court, not just for her father and his wife. You delineate her relationships with each household in such distinct detail that she seems to change from one environment to another. How did you come to see Diana as such a chameleon?

I've always been fascinated by the Rashomon effect--the ways in which different people can perceive the same event (or person, in this case) in entirely different ways. There is only the briefest glimpse inside Diana's head at the very beginning of the novel and then it's all about how others see her in relation to themselves. Is she really a chameleon? Or is it just that the people around her believe what they want to believe about her? My intention from the start was for Diana to remain a puzzle--and for the reader to figure out who is the "real" Diana.

You show that the neighbors may be watching, but they see a partial view: they then connect the dots to create a story to explain the situation to their satisfaction, reflecting perhaps their own circumstances as much as anything else. What inspired you to adopt such a rich and complex approach to tell this story?

In all of my novels (and in the memoirs, to some extent), I've explored the line between truth and fiction, reality and illusion. I'm convinced that there is no such thing as an objective reality, yet we all must carry on as if there is. This is what all the neighbors on Fuller Court are doing; they are all very much players in their own movies. It was fascinating for me to be able to combine all of these different fictional realities and then ask the reader to figure out which, if any, is the true one.

Round-robin monologues take us deep into the minds of each of the residents and build our sympathy/empathy for characters to whom we might not have warmed otherwise. I am thinking particularly of Dorothy Werner, the tightly controlled nosy neighbor, who became deeply affecting to me as I read her monologues. Did you feel a similar sense of surprise as you gave your characters the stage to make their case?

Absolutely! In fact, this novel began, for me, with Joe (who had never bothered to tell his wife that he'd fathered a child 17 years earlier). I wanted to understand what went on his head. How did he rationalize never having any contact with his daughter? How did he justify never telling his wife? And then I wondered, what if his chicken came home to roost--what would he do, how would he respond? I tried very hard to build personalities and situations around these characters that were unfamiliar to me so that I could crawl inside their heads and understand them. It seems a cliché, but so often we dislike what we don't understand because we fear "otherness." Once there is understanding, there is also empathy because as humans we are all much more alike than not. If readers come away with some of that empathy/understanding of these characters then I've done my job.

On Fuller Court, households have one child or teenager in residence, if any. In each of those households, the relationship between parents and their child underscores the aspirations and anxieties of the adults. Do you feel that the children in this book, aside from their individual plights as the only child of these specific parents, represent a different family experience from the one that those of us with siblings experienced?

I do, although I didn't think about this at all while I was writing the novel. It was really a matter of convenience rather than design that the children here ended up being singletons. I have four siblings, and we're all very close. But my son is an only child, so perhaps subconsciously I was worrying about the burden of parental expectations and anxieties on children with no siblings.

The devastating fire that came out of the Santa Ana winds of 2007 is a precipitating event in your novel. I understand you lived close to the evacuation zone during that time. How did it affect you personally?

I didn't live near the evacuation zone, I was in it, along with half a million other San Diego residents. The fire was just massive and the sky was literally raining ash. We packed up the photo albums, the laptops and the trinkets and the entire family convened at my parents' house to wait it out. It was surreal and, of course, incredibly stressful. Just like the holidays, but with fire! We do have a fire season every year and they've been getting worse, but this was something nobody had ever seen before. Not surprisingly, I guess, I did become much closer with my own neighbors after this event. We shared evacuation stories as we hosed the ash off our driveways and marveled at the fire. And now we all look out for each other.

You worked as a waitress for many years to finance your writing vocation. Did you develop a specific way of seeing people through that experience? Could you spot the good tippers?

I think waiting tables prepared me very well for my writing career. Writers must do much more than write now--we need to be very socially networked animals, branding ourselves and promoting ourselves wherever and whenever possible. The trouble is writers spend all day alone inside their own heads which does not make them the most socially adept people. I spent 20 years trying to convince people to like me so that they'd tip me--excellent prep for trying to get people to "like" me on Facebook.

You have published both fiction and nonfiction. Do you feel like a different writer when working in a different genre? Do you wear different outfits? What are you, for example, wearing for this e-mail interview?

My style is similar for both my fiction and nonfiction; conversational and concerned with telling the story. I find writing memoir (and nonfiction in general) easier than writing fiction simply because the structure is already there, the story already exists, and the end has already been determined. With fiction, on the other hand, everything has to be created out of whole cloth. In some ways this is very freeing (one cannot as easily dictate the outcomes in one's own life, after all), but it is certainly more difficult. But because writing is writing is writing for me I do not change outfits depending on genre--I can always be found in some variation of the jeans/black top combo.

Is there a question that you have always wanted to be asked but have not been asked in an interview?

Honestly, "What are you wearing?" is it!

Have you ever been tempted to turn the tables on one of your interviewers and ask that rude, prying person a certain question? If so, what is that?

What are you wearing?

Do you want me to answer that?

Yes, please.

Interviewer Answers Interviewee's Request: I am wearing stylish (that is, clean) black jeans and the official Shelf Awareness T-shirt to show I mean business.

You are on record as an admirer of the works of Stephen King, Toni Morrison and Joseph Conrad. If you were inscribing a copy of The Neighbors Are Watching for them, what would you write to each on the flyleaf?

Because each of these incredible authors has been an inspiration and, often, a reason for me to keep writing, I'd have just one thing to say to all of them: Thank you.



Book Review

Book Review: Stuck Rubber Baby

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse (Vertigo, $24.99 Hardcover, 9781401227135, June 2010)

Before Persepolis, before Fun Home, there was Stuck Rubber Baby. After 15 years, Vertigo's handsome hardcover reissue of Howard Cruse's classic is truly cause for rejoicing. Long before "graphic novel" became a genre, with only Art Spiegelman's Maus as a precedent, this book was a historic quantum leap in illustrated autobiography. These aren't cartoons in an animal parable, these are highly individualized, error-prone human beings, both black and white, in a sophisticated, fully orchestrated, memoir-style novel. In a stroke, Cruse practically invented the genre that would be amplified by Marjane Satrapi and Alison Bechdel into the realistic graphic novel, in which cartoonists tell the story they know best--their own.

Cruse's tale takes place in the '60s in a city modeled on Birmingham, Ala., called Clayfield, where closeted Toland Polk becomes involved in the civil rights movement.

The novel unfolds in flashback, as a mature, bearded Toland recounts what happened to him just after college. He's talking to us, but hovering in the background is another man, a male friend who seems to know Toland very well. As Toland tells his story, he's no college hero, more acted upon than acting, present at the demonstrations because of the straight girl activist he's courting, seduced by Les, propositioned by Sammy, manipulated by the police, perpetually helpless and confused and guilt-stricken. He's swept into his first demonstration, his first gay bar, his first racist bomb, his first homophobic violence and, of course, the moral dilemma of the "stuck rubber baby." We watch Toland forced to grow up and take a stand.

With slightly more text than most graphic novels today, intensely illustrated but with smaller panels, Cruse creates an illusion of blocks of words floating in front of pictures that seem to open out behind them into another world teeming with strokes and shadows. His pictures are so technically delicious, the shading and cross-hatching so painstakingly executed, you can't help but want the pages blown up to triple their size, just to admire their staggering detail.

The characters are unforgettable: Sammy Noone, the flaming in-your-face gay activist; Anna Dellyne, one-time blues singer now married to a preacher; Mabel the elderly church pianist, with a brick in her purse for police dog attacks; and the Reverend Harland Pepper, who doesn't hesitate to walk into a crowded gay bar to tell his son that three black choir children have been killed in a hate bombing.

With superb plot architecture, as this startlingly dramatic, wrenchingly sad flashback fades into the last few chapters set in the 1990s, Cruse pops a last big surprise and lets the story's simple, haunting conclusion tell itself.--Nick DiMartino

Shelf Talker: Reissue of a classic graphic novel, with unforgettable characters and story set during the civil rights movement--homophobia, racism and coming out, with evocative artwork.



G.P. Putnam's Sons BFYR: Hey, Who Made This Mess? by Primo Gallanosa
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