Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 27, 2011

Harper Voyager: Dragon Rider (Soulbound Saga #1) by Taran Matharu

Albatros Media: Words about Where: Let's Learn Prepositions by Magda Gargulakova, illustrated by Marie Urbankova

Blackstone Publishing: Ordinary Bear by C.B. Bernard

St. Martin's Griffin: One Last Shot by Betty Cayouette

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Page Street YA: The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray by Christine Calella

Editors' Note

Memorial Day Weekend

Because of the holiday--and for some post-BEA R&R--we will take Monday off and see you all again on Tuesday. Enjoy the long weekend!


HarperOne: Be a Revolution: How Everyday People Are Fighting Oppression and Changing the World--And How You Can, Too by Ijeoma Oluo


Notes: Bulk of Whitcoulls Stores Sold

Most of the Whitcoulls and Borders stores in New Zealand that were part of the bankrupt REDGroup Retail chain are being sold to Project Mark, a company that is owned by James Pascoe Group, controlled by Anne and David Norman, the New Zealand Heraldreported.

The Normans plan to keep open "a majority" of the 57 Whitcoulls and five Borders stores. (They did not buy three closed, earthquake-damaged Whitcoulls in Christchurch as well as three other Whitcoulls. Ten Whitcoulls airport stores and eight Bennetts stores at universities were already sold.)

The Normans have an estimated worth of NZ$400 million (about US$320 million), and their companies include department, jewelry and homeware stores. They have a reputation for "looking after their stores," as the Herald put it. Booksellers New Zealand CEO Lincoln Gould told the paper that he believes the new owners will grow their involvement with the industry.


Net sales at Books-A-Million in the first quarter ended April 30 fell 11.1% to $104 million, and the net loss was $3.5 million compared to a net gain of $2 million in the first quarter last year. Sales at stores open at least a year fell 13.2% in the quarter.

BAM chairman, president and CEO Clyde B. Anderson said that the results "reflect a very challenging retail calendar, the growing effect of e-book penetration and, at the end of the quarter, the effects of the devastating tornado outbreak that hit our region. Bargain books, electronics, media and gift businesses continue to grow."


The South Carolina Senate adjourned late Wednesday without voting on a proposal to give Amazon a five-year sales tax collection exemption, the State reported. The House had passed its version of the bill last week (Shelf Awareness, May 19, 2011).

"There are some people here who don't want this at all," said Senator Nikki Setzler. "It's going to be a long, difficult fight."

Opponents of the measure attempted to stall it, though "the changes they wanted were defeated by margins of more than 2-to-1. The lopsided losses indicate supporters could be in a position to muscle the package through before the end of legislative work in a week," the State wrote, adding that Senate approval would return the measure to the House "for acceptance of minor changes."

Paul Misener, Amazon's v-p for public policy, was also at the State House "to try to hammer out finishing touches on the deal," according to the State.


Amazon released its list of the Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities in America, which was compiled from data for book, magazine and newspaper sales in both print and Kindle format since January 1, 2011, on a per capita basis in cities with more than 100,000 residents. Amazon's Top 20 Most Well-Read Cities are:

  1. Cambridge, Mass.                     
  2. Alexandria, Va.                                   
  3. Berkeley, Calif.
  4. Ann Arbor, Mich.                 .                     
  5. Boulder, Colo.
  6. Miami
  7. Salt Lake City
  8. Gainesville, Fla.     
  9. Seattle
  10. Arlington, Va.
  11. Knoxville, Tenn.
  12. Orlando, Fla.
  13. Pittsburgh                                    
  14. Washington, D.C.                
  15. Bellevue, Wash.
  16. Columbia, S.C.                    
  17. St. Louis, Mo.                                    
  18. Cincinnati                                    
  19. Portland, Ore.                                    
  20. Atlanta                                    .

Amazon noted that Cambridge also topped the list of cities that ordered the most nonfiction books; Boulder residents ordered the most books in the Cooking, Food & Wine category; and Alexandria bought the most children's books.


Linda Steadman told the Roanoke Times that her store's name, Too Many Books, is particularly appropriate now that she "is moving her shop and its more than 60,000 books, some rare and aging, one block down Grandin Road.... At 2,400 square feet, the bookstore's new location is about two-thirds the size of the old space. Steadman said she donated several thousand books to charity to make room." She hopes to finish moving the bookstore's stock by the end of May and plans an early June opening.


The Book Store, Des Moines, Iowa, will celebrate its 50th anniversary this summer, having "managed to beat a number of obstacles: a change in the makeup of businesses and traffic downtown, a tough economy and possibly its most difficult challenge--technology," the Register reported.

Owner John Heitzman said his bookshop has stayed true to its initial mission to offer "excellent service and to make customers feel appreciated."


In its profile of the Book Stall in Norman, the Oklahoma Daily noted that it learned about what the bookstore had to offer "not because I am snoopy reporter... because a friendly employee, Susan Townley, met me at the door, greeted me and offered to show me around the store. That has never happened to me at a large chain bookstore."


And so it begins. USA Today featured its guide to summer reads, noting that "whether you prefer hardcovers, paperbacks or downloading to your e-reader, we've got you covered with the hottest new titles of the season."


A point of clarification about remarks made by M.J. Rose, thriller writer, founder of Author Buzz and co-founder of, at the Evergreen Marketing panel on Tuesday.

"The industry talks to itself a lot when it does marketing" Rose said. "Readers don't care if a book is new--they care it's good. They have a whole different trajectory of how they discover books." Rose's company empowers authors and stresses the importance of engaging readers not waiting for readers to find them.


This explains why we keep missing our subway stop: a study proves that being engrossed in a good book can block the ability to hear.


Book trailer of the day: Breath of Angel by Karyn Henley (Waterbrook/Random House), her debut YA novel.


Harpervia: Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj

BEA Bytes and Bits


To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the For Dummies series, Deborah Wiley, chairman of the Wiley Foundation, Steve Smith, president and CEO of Wiley, and the Dummies Man rang the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.

photo courtesy


Fans began lining up almost an hour early for Eoin Colfer's signing at the Overlook booth. Harlan Coban, who provided a blurb for the cover of Plugged--Colfer's first adult thriller--stopped by to say hello, and gave Eoin a copy of his new YA book, Shelter. Charlaine Harris came by to grab a copy, too.




Skateboarding legend/author Tony Hawk visited BEA to promote his new series of action sports graphic novels for kids, Tony Hawk's 900 Revolution (Stone Arch Books/Capstone). Here he signs a copy for Bookswim's Nick Ruffilo.





Author Diana Abu-Jaber is flanked by her agent Joy Harris and Norton senior editor Alane Salierno Mason after she signed copies of her forthcoming Birds of Paradise for a long line of fans.




The well-attended "Middle-Grade Buzz Fantasy Authors" panel featured authors Lisa McMann (The Unwanteds, S&S Children's), Matthew Kirby (Icefall, Scholastic) and N.D. (Nate) Wilson (The Dragon's Tooth, Random), moderated by Ron Hogan, SF reviewer for Shelf Awareness. Asked about the impetus for her new book, McMann said school budget cuts where she lives made her feel kids were being punished; that idea expanded into a world where children are sentenced to death for being creative. Kirby's inspiration came in a dream of frightened children trapped in a fortress, which became what Hogan called "a wonderfully claustrophobic setting." Wilson explained that as a child, "reading Tolkien and Narnia made me despondent about my life. I wanted to write fantasy that inspired kids to sail, to run faster, to learn."


John Evans, meet John Evans! After years of causing confusion at times among people in the book world, two great booksellers with the same name met at BEA: John Evans, co-owner of DIESEL bookstores in Oakland and Brentwood, Calif. (l.), and John Evans, owner of Lemuria Books, Jackson, Miss.


How do you keep the crowds around for the last hour of BEA? Schedule Jane Fonda for the final Insight Stage Signature Event on Thursday afternoon. An SRO crowd gathered to hear Fonda discuss her new book, Prime Time: Love, Health, Sex, Fitness, Friendship, Spirit--Making the Most of All of Your Life (Random House, August).



And once again we say farewell to BEA and the Javits Center. Next year's show dates are June 5-7, 2012. We'll see you there!


BEA: Book & Author Breakfast, Day 3

Thursday's book and author breakfast was hosted by Jim Lehrer and featured Roger Ebert, Anne Enright and Erik Larson, with a special video appearance by Ellen DeGeneres. Before introducing the other guests, Lehrer talked about his upcoming book, Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain (Random House, September). He also wowed the audience with an "act for book tours" he originally developed when his novel White Widow was published. Since a bus driver was his protagonist in that book, Lehrer had decided "to prove my authenticity" as a former bus station ticket agent by loudly replicating one of his old boarding calls, beginning with "May I have your attention, please. This is the last call for...," followed by a litany of destinations.

In a video, DeGeneres asked booksellers for help promoting her upcoming book Seriously... I'm Kidding (Grand Central, October), helpfully suggesting: "If you have any of those Oprah's Book Club stickers left, slap one of those on there, too."

Chaz Ebert read sections of her husband's upcoming memoir Life Itself (Grand Central, September), with Roger--who lost his voice to thyroid cancer--commenting occasionally through his remarkable voice synthesizer. Chaz also noted that they almost didn't make it to New York because of weather delays in the Midwest. While waiting at the airport, another passenger asked Ebert if he thought the brutal weather supported Harold Camping's end of the world pronouncements. Ebert wouldn't even consider the possibility, insisting: "No, I have to go to the BookExpo breakfast tomorrow!"

Anne Enright, who won the 2007 Man Booker Prize for The Gathering, began her talk about a new memoir, Forgotten Waltz (Norton, October), by saying, "It's lovely to be in America where the readers have been so kind to me." She recalled that for her, becoming a writer was inevitable: "I think it was something that people like me did in Dublin. It was an arranged marriage."

Erik Larson offered insights regarding his book In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin (Crown), and expressed his deep appreciation for libraries: "I'm a great fan of libraries. I like to think of myself as the Indiana Jones of libraries, rappelling down to the 900 levels of the Dewey Decimal system." He also shared advice he said he often gives to writing students: "Read voraciously and promiscuously."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: SEAL Team Six

This morning on Imus in the Morning: Howard Wasdin, author of SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper (St. Martin's Press, $26.99, 9780312699451).


Sunday on CBS' Sunday Morning: Charles Leerhsen, author of Blood and Smoke: A True Tale of Mystery, Mayhem and the Birth of the Indy 500 (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781439149041).


Monday morning on the Today Show: Mina Samuels, author of Run Like a Girl: How Strong Women Make Happy Lives (Seal Press. $16.95, 9781580053457).


Monday on a repeat of NPR's Diane Rehm Show: John Prendergast and Michael Mattocks, authors of Unlikely Brothers: Our Story of Adventure, Loss, and Redemption (Crown, $24, 9780307464842).


Movies: The Descendants Trailer

Fox Searchlight has released a trailer for the Alexander Payne-directed film The Descendants, adapted from a novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings and starring with George Clooney. "As is usually the case with Payne's movies, it looks like a lotta complicated fun," wrote.

Books & Authors

Awards: Kafka Prize; George Washington

John Banville won the Franz Kafka prize, given by the Kafka Society to an international author whose work is "exceptional for its artistic quality" and "addresses readers regardless of their origin, nationality or culture, just like the work of Franz Kafka."

Banville said he was "proud and pleased and honored" by the news, according to the Guardian, which called the Kafka Prize "a literary award with an uncanny ability of predicting future Nobel laureates." It has been won by Elfriede Jelinek and Harold Pinter.


Pauline Maier's Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 won the $50,000 George Washington Book Prize, which "honors what judges deem the year's best book about America's founding era," the Associated Press (via the Washington Post) reported.


Book Brahmin: J.L. Powers

J.L. Powers holds master's degrees in African History from State University of New York-Albany and Stanford and won a Fulbright scholarship to study Zulu in South Africa. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and teaches writing at Skyline Community College. In her second YA novel, This Thing Called the Future (Cinco Puntos Press/Consortium, May 2011), she explores a contemporary shantytown in modern South Africa, mixing romance, tribal wisdom and witchcraft through the eyes of 14-year-old Khosi.

On your nightstand now:

Several pairs of dirty socks, a battery-operated baby monitor and a teensy-tiny flashlight for reading late at night when my husband is sleeping. But I'm sure what you really want to know about is the stack of books I'm dipping into at the moment:

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson; The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman; Last Breath: Cautionary Tales from the Limits of Human Endurance by Peter Stark; Hunting in Harlem: A Novel by Mat Johnson; Las Vegas Noir, edited by Jarret Keene and Todd James Pierce; Curing Their Ills: Colonial Power and African Illness by Megan Vaughan; Murder in Vein: A Fang-in-Cheek Mystery by Sue Ann Jaffarian; The Covenant by James Michener.

Favorite book when you were a child:

My all-time favorite book was Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I discovered that book when I was 11, the year I started to write seriously, and throughout my teens, I wrote many novels that paid homage to that book and bore similar titles like Haley of Hollybrook Farm or Janet of Juniper Lane Mansion.

Your top five authors:

I get all hot and bothered for books by Benjamin Alire Saenz. From the continent of Africa, I love both Alexandra Fuller and Chinua Achebe. I still adore the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. And right now, a fan of Joe Meno.

Book you've faked reading:

When I was in first grade, I "participated" in a read-a-thon for Multiple Sclerosis. I forgot to read any books and panicked at the last minute. I went to the bookshelves and added a ton of titles. My mother kept saying, "Really? Are you sure you read INSERT ABSURD TITLE FOR 6-YEAR-OLD TO READ HERE (example: Henry Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body)?" The crazy thing is that my mother, who can't tell a lie to save her life, signed off on it! I contributed enough money to the MS fund to earn a little prize, some little Christmas ornament thingy. For years to come, it reminded me of the lie I told in service to sick people.

Book you are an evangelist for:

Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz. I've read it 15 times, I swear, and I always cry in the exact same spot. Hands down, that is my favorite all-time novel, and my favorite young adult novel to boot. It deals with timeless issues that are just as salient in the late '60s, when the book is set, as they are now.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Sadly, I have never bought a book for the cover. I have to confess, I never notice covers, not if they are at least semi-decent. I only notice bad covers. I could probably list the titles of a few books I have NOT bought because of the cover, but I won't.

Book that changed your life:

When I was nine, I read Tramp for the Lord by Corrie ten Boom, in which a demon-possessed man disrupts a church service she's leading, and the church deacons cast demons out of him. I come from a very religious family and my family's belief system underscored the reality of demons and their ability to possess a human soul. So reading that tore a big deep dark hole in my imagination and all the monsters came pouring forth. For probably two years, I was sweat-soaking-skin terrified that Satan was coming to get me as soon as night fell. At some point, I found a solution to the fear. I would hold on--barely--until my parents went to bed. Then I would huddle in the hallway or my closet, reading books that let me escape my reality, until I was so exhausted that I could finally sleep, usually around 2 or 3 in the morning. So it was one book that scared me to pieces but it was also a whole ton of books that saved me from going over the brink. That is probably why I'm a writer today.

Favorite line from a book:

I've always been fond of a mysterious line from L.M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon: "No one with a thousand ancestors is free." There are a lot of profound implications and truths in that statement.

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

God: A Biography by Jack Miles. I love the way he humanizes the God of the Old Testament, revealing him as always one step behind humans, scratching his head, and wondering, "How the hell do I respond to that?" whenever humans figure out some new way to misbehave.


Book Review

Book Review: Ten Thousand Saints

Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson (Ecco, $26.99 hardcover, 9780062021021, June 7, 2011)

The setting of this debut novel is Manhattan's Lower East Side in the late '80s--that pivotal time just before gentrification, when derelict buildings were occupied by drug dealers, immigrants and runaways. Every character in this tale is somehow flawed, but we keep pulling for them, hoping that they will sort themselves out, instead of endlessly chasing whatever a drug or cult experience has promised.

Jude Keffy-Horn is the unlikely hero/protagonist who, despite a possible diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and indifferent parenting, might just emerge a whole person. Living in Vermont, he and his best friend, Teddy, are druggie adolescents. They come by it honestly. Jude's father, Les, is a drug dealer in New York, and his mother, with whom he lives, makes her living as a glass blower, primarily bongs. These hippie prototypes adopted Jude and then had their own daughter, Prudence. Teddy's father, an East Indian, left a long time ago and his mother splits just as the story opens. 

Jude and Teddy smoke pot, huff and do whatever it takes to maintain a constant high. On Jude's 16th birthday, they hook up with Eliza, who is the daughter of Les's new girlfriend. Eliza comes to Vermont to meet Jude and Prudence because Les "is the best thing that ever happened" to her mother. Before she boards the train back to New York a mere six hours later, Teddy is dead from cocaine that she gave him and she is pregnant by him.

Enter Johnny, Teddy's 18-year-old half-brother--he marries Eliza so that he can raise Teddy's child because he loved him so much, even though he hadn't seen him for months. The problem is that Johnny is in the closet, except for his boyfriend Rooster, who evidently doesn't count since Johnny and Rooster, and very soon Jude and Eliza, are all members of "straight-edge," a cult movement that eschews meat, sex and drugs. What they are really about is hardcore punk.

Jude and Eliza join Johnny in New York, as do a few of Jude's friends. They form a band, of course, and go on tour. How this all happens is mysterious, even to the author. It just does. Then, the story goes south. Johnny decides to find Teddy's father--a momentary plot point that's moved quickly off the page. There is endless backing and forthing between Vermont and Manhattan, while Jude tries to dodge a guy whose stash he stole. There is violence, punk rock--but no drugs and no meat. The sex thing is a different story.

Henderson has certainly captured the dynamic of a generation of kids trying to overcome the legacy of whacked-out parents, terminal permissiveness and no rudder. Some of them are actually likable.--Valerie Ryan

Shelf Talker: Evoking the East Village scene in the 1980s, this debut novel captures the coming-of-age experience. Following the death of a teenage boy, three mourners try to make their way in the world, with precious little help from the adults in their lives.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: My Official BEA 2011 Key Word Is 'Reimagine'

It's the easiest trick in the book to leave BEA each year filled with bright-eyed confidence. This trade show has always been an incubator for optimism, however short-lived it might be once we all return from Oz to the less colorful realities of our day-to-day book business grind.

Was this year's BEA a little different? My answer is a qualified yes. What I found unusual and encouraging was the general, if wisely guarded, sense of optimism so many people brought with them to Oz.

This was particularly apparent in casual, off-the-record conversations I had with indie booksellers and indie publishers. A recurring theme was the modest success they've experienced during the past couple of years as they adapt to the changing marketplace. Instead of curling up in a ball, they are actively searching for new methods and strategies to move forward, even as they hold on to many of the irresistible aspects of the book world that seduced them into this crazy business in the first place.

Over the past two decades when I attended this show, I often emerged from the experience with a key word floating in my otherwise foggy post-show brain. This word would manifest itself gradually, and represented an overall sense of my experience that particular year. Sometimes the word was not a good one.

This year my BEA key word is "reimagine." The first clue that it would join the pantheon came early, though I didn't know it at the time. One of the first events I attended during ABA's Day of Education was a panel titled "Reimagining Your Store," moderated by ABA's Len Vlahos and featuring panelists Chuck Robinson, co-owner of Village Books, Bellingham, Wash., and Jonah Zimiles, owner of Words bookstore, Maplewood, N.J.

Vlahos began by acknowledging the unsettled times we are experiencing in this industry, but also observed that these challenges are helping to reframe a primary question: "What is a bookstore?" And, more specifically, they have inspired many booksellers to "re-imagine your space" and adapt.

"We are constantly reimagining right now," said Robinson. Village Books has 10,000 square feet to fill. The ongoing challenge is how best to utilize floor space wisely, showcasing a more tightly disciplined book inventory without fostering "empty shelf" syndrome in his customers' perception.

He cited as examples of this strategy his ongoing and profitable consignment deal with publisher Chelsea Green, as well as the creation of a dedicated space to display the shop's Espresso Book Machine ("You can walk all around the machine."), surrounded by bookshelves featuring titles Village Books has published.

Robinson's reimagined floor space also includes a more recent partnership with a local indie Apple computer dealer that built an attractive kiosk within the bookstore. The retailer staffs it "like a genius bar at Apple" and they demonstrate devices like the iPad or iPod Touch while--not coincidentally--showing customers how they can conveniently order e-books through... the Village Books website. "It allows us to get into a little bit more of a conversation with people, too, and the Apple dealer still thinks it's a good crossover," said Robinson.

Zimiles offered what might be considered the reimagining mission statement: "Each of us really needs to be very flexible going forward and nimble in our ability to address changing trends. A shrinking market may in fact be a terrific opportunity for us, the little guys."

If reimagining had only been the title of a panel on the first day of the show, it would never have had a shot at becoming my BEA 2011 key word. But I kept hearing it again and again this week, often cleverly disguised behind similes and metaphors, yet clear and unmistakeable nevertheless.

Reimagine everything.

At one of the Insight Stage events, Bloomsbury's George Gibson noted that the editing process has been called a "form of creative destruction," which sounded like reimagining to me. He was speaking with one of his authors, Dava Sobel, whose new book (A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos) is about a man who, it might be said (by me, at least), reimagined the universe. We have an easier task. Although the book business may seem as complicated as heliocentric cosmology sometimes, I can say with a measure of confidence that it is not.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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