Shelf Awareness for Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chronicle Books: Poetry Comics by Grant Snider

Berkley Books: We Love the Nightlife by Rachel Koller Croft

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Waiting in the Wings by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, Illustrated by Eg Keller

Webtoon Unscrolled: Boyfriends. Volume Two: A Webtoon Unscrolled Graphic Novel by Refrainbow

Shadow Mountain: The Witch in the Woods: Volume 1 (Grimmworld) by Michaelbrent Collings

Hell's Hundred: Blood Like Mine by Stuart Neville

Delacorte Press: Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy


Koham Press Opens in Vallejo, Calif.

Koham Press, a small bookstore selling new and used books, has opened in Vallejo, Calif., according to the Vallejo Times-Herald.

As reported last year, the owners are Rar Farmer and her husband, Ben Rogers. Farmer is a former manager of Half Price Books in Berkeley, with seven years experience overall managing and working in bookstores.

Koham Press has said that most of its new books will come from PM Press, Black Sparrow Books and other local small presses. Eventually the store wants to publish books, too.

A grand opening celebration will be held Saturday, January 25.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Summer Romance by Annabel Monaghan

Auntie's Bookstore Closing Mall Branch

Because it was unable "to tap into that mall market," as owner Chris O'Harra said, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, Wash., is closing its three-year-old River Park Square branch, the Spokesman-Review reported.

Auntie's at the Square will shut its doors January 31. The store said, "Although the closure is disheartening, it will allow the main location to focus on its future and sustainability to ensure Spokane will continue to have an independent bookstore to call home."

The store also has an airport branch. The River Park Square's strongest category was children's books; the previous tenant in the space was the Children's Corner Bookshop.

University of Texas Press: Loose of Earth: A Memoir by Kathleen Dorothy Blackburn

Small Group of Amazon Workers Vote Down Union

A group of mechanics and technicians at the Middletown, Del., Amazon warehouse voted 21-6 against joining a union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, in what the Wall Street Journal called "the most serious U.S. organizing effort at the e-commerce giant."

Amazon commented: "With today's vote against third-party representation, our employees have made it clear that they prefer a direct connection with Amazon."

A union spokesperson said, "The workers at Amazon faced intense pressure from managers and anti-union consultants hired to suppress this organizing drive. We'll continue to work with them to pursue the collective bargaining rights they're entitled to under federal labor law."

Harper: Our Kind of Game by Johanna Copeland

Japan to Impose 'Amazon Tax' on Sales by Foreign Retailers

Japan will begin collecting taxes on online sales of downloaded content purchased from foreign companies and websites by 2015. The Japan Daily Press reported that currently "there are no taxes imposed on content purchased and downloaded from overseas servers such as and other distributors, and the government says that this situation puts local firms at an unfair disadvantage."

Although the Japanese parliament had initially pushed to make the change effective this spring, authorities cited the need for more time to sort out the details and said "the goal now is to make the taxing process effective by October 2015, when the sales tax is also scheduled to increase to 10%," the Japan Daily Press wrote.

Chronicle Books: Life Wants You Dead: A Calm, Rational, and Totally Legit Guide to Scaring Yourself Safe by Evan Waite, Illustrated by Paula Searing

Canadian Distributor Benjamin News Shutting Down

Canadian books and magazines distributor Benjamin News, which services which 7,500 retailers, is shutting down April 4, after nearly a century in business, Quillblog reported. Several companies, including Metro News, will take over distribution of English-language magazines and books in Quebec, Eastern Ontario, Sudbury and the greater Thunder Bay area.

Paul Benjamin, who will be a consultant to Metro News, joined the family business in 1973. He told CTV Montreal that "Quebec is probably the most expensive market in North America to distribute magazines and books. It has the lowest density. The sale of the printed word, especially magazines, has decreased radically."

Digital Book World: Addressing the 'Elephant in the Room'

On the second day of Digital Book World 2014, many of the morning's keynote speakers focused on one subject: Brad Stone, author of The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, led off by highlighting instances from his book that he believed would help "illuminate the way Amazon operates" and help publishers predict how Amazon may operate in the future.

Brad Stone

The launch of the original Kindle e-reader, Stone said, was the company's defining moment, and Bezos has been "running the same playbook" ever since. It took three years to develop the first Kindle, and the company's senior vice-presidents argued against the project. The Kindle's runaway success has emboldened Amazon, Stone asserted, and the company has tried to replicate that success in each new market that it's entered. He speculated that right now, "Amazon has offices working on hardware: set-top boxes, mobile phones and who knows what else."

Stone also touched on the infamous "Cheetah and Gazelle" episode, in which Bezos told his staff to pursue re-negotiations with the smallest book publishers like "a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle." As part of that, Amazon employees pulled small publishers' books from Amazon if they did not agree to new terms. Amazon also encouraged authors, especially those focused on their Amazon sales rank, to put pressure on their publishers. "It showed that Amazon really has no balance," said Stone. "Customers come first, and customers are entirely synonymous with its own self interest.

"There might be an inclination in the industry or at Digital Book World to take comfort or glee in the declining pace of change in the book business," Stone cautioned, referring to the leveling-off of e-book sales and the mixed results of Amazon's publishing efforts. "I can assure you that Bezos and his colleagues do not believe that the pace of change in any business is stagnating," he continued. "The one constant is that [Amazon] does not give up. It's fairly ruthless and self-absorbed in how it tries to disrupt existing order."

Joseph Esposito, publishing consultant and president at Processed Media, discussed Amazon's growing, often-overlooked share of the institutional book market and the difficulty of gaining insight into Amazon's business. Not only is Amazon "notoriously secretive," said Esposito, but much of the information that it releases is also intentionally misleading. When Amazon announced that e-books were outselling print books, Esposito added, the company neglected to mention that it was referring only to its own sales. Subsequent, uncritical reports from the general media also contributed to the misconceptions.

"It would lead you to believe that print books have disappeared," he said.

To find information about Amazon, Esposito polled university presses and libraries. He found that university presses had declining sales to traditional wholesalers such as Baker & Taylor and Ingram and increasing sales to Amazon, while librarians, especially those with severe budget restrictions, are turning to Amazon in greater numbers. Given that Amazon is also a customer of Baker & Taylor, the situation can be bizarre: Esposito brought up the case of a librarian who, needing a book on short notice, went to Amazon rather than Baker & Taylor, saying that B&T orders would take two weeks while Amazon orders would take two days. The rush Amazon orders, however, were drop-shipped by B&T. The implication here is that wholesalers provide higher levels of service to Amazon than to their direct customers.

In a subsequent panel on the future of Amazon and the publishing business, Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch encouraged members of the book business to stop thinking about "being under siege," and instead think about ways to innovate. The resurgence of local, independent bookstores, Cader said, offered a "glimmer of hope" to those wanting to take some of the business back from Amazon. Cader, along with Esposito and Stone, suggested that publishers and booksellers can also take advantage of Amazon having to fight hard battles on so many fronts--in essentially every market that it's entered since it established itself in the book industry.

"We ought to think about where can people who know the book business well adopt the 'Amazonian' attitude," Cader suggested. "If you put a bicycle in every independent bookstore, that could defeat octocopters."

During the same panel, Esposito advised publishers not to look to the Department of Justice or any other government agency for help against Amazon.

"My observation is that everything to do with antitrust issues seems to come down to what does it cost the customer," he reflected. "Where consumer prices are kept low, things seems to pass muster with the DoJ. I don't see any reason to see regulatory support going ahead. It seems to me that publishers can do more in this situation by being more innovative than appealing to regulatory forces."

Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC's Mad Money and author of Get Rich Carefully, also briefly reflected on Amazon during his talk on investment prospects in the publishing business.

"If Amazon would report earnings, I believe their stock would go down," said Cramer. "They've never been constrained by the need to make money." --Alex Mutter

Obituary Note: Juan Gelman

Argentine Poet Juan Gelman, "who denounced the country's 'dirty war' of the '70s and '80s," died Tuesday, NPR reported. Author of more than 20 collections of poetry and a prominent journalist, Gelman won the Cervantes Prize in 2007. He fled Argentina shortly before a military dictatorship took power in a 1976 coup d'état.


Image of the Day: Dan Stevens's Iliad and Odyssey

Recently, Macmillan Audio produced audios of the Robert Fitzgerald translations of Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey, narrated by dishy Dan Stevens, late of Downton Abbey (and sorely missed). Though they're meant be used as educational tools, the titles will be available in unabridged CD format for trade sales in August. Esther Bochner, senior publicist at Macmillan Audio, said, "He's really doing such a fantastic job--his pronunciations and tone really make the stories so much easier to understand." (A boon for teachers and students everywhere.) This audio clip confirms what she says--Stevens's reading is smooth, comprehensible, enjoyable. I for one am ready to re-embrace the classics. --Marilyn Dahl

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Gabriel Sherman on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: Gabriel Sherman, author of The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News--and Divided a Country (Random House, $28, 9780812992854).


Tomorrow on Dr. Oz: Rebecca Rosen, co-author of Awaken the Spirit Within: 10 Steps to Ignite Your Life and Fulfill Your Divine Purpose (Harmony, $25, 9780770437510).

TV: Turn Trailer

AMC has released a full-length trailer for its new series Turn, based on the book Washington's Spies: The Story of America's First Spy Ring by Alexander Rose. Indiewire reported that the pilot's trailer, directed by Rupert Wyatt, "makes the show seem more The Patriot and less History Channel special, i.e., less stuffy than the logline suggested." Turn premieres April 6.

This Weekend on Book TV: Robert Gates

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Friday, January 17
6:30 p.m. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, author of Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War (Knopf, $35, 9780307959478), is interviewed live on C-Span by Chris Mondics of the Philadelphia Inquirer. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m and Monday at 1:45 p.m.)

Saturday, January 18
12 p.m. Book TV visits Chattanooga, Tenn., to interview several of the city's authors and tour its literary sites. (Re-airs Sunday at 10:45 a.m.)

5 p.m. Glenn Reynolds, author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself (Encounter Books , $21.50, 9781594037108). (Re-airs Monday at 2 a.m.)

7 p.m. Robin West, author of Teaching Law: Justice, Politics, and the Demands of Professionalism (Cambridge University Press, $32.99, 9781107678194). (Re-airs Sunday at 1 p.m. and Monday at 1 a.m.)

9 p.m. Nicholas Griffin, author of Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World (Scribner, $26, 9781451642773), at Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla. (Re-airs Tuesday at 2 a.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. Zaheer Ali interviews Nicholas Johnson, author of Negroes and the Gun: The Black Tradition of Arms (Prometheus Books, $19.95, 9781616148393). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Viewer Call-in with Peter Baker, author of Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney (Scribner, $26, 9781451642773). (Re-airs Monday at 5 p.m.)

Sunday, January 19
7 p.m. Larry Doyle, author of In Bed with Wall Street: The Conspiracy Crippling Our Global Economy (Palgrave Macmillan, $26, 9781137278722).

7:45 p.m. Will Swift, author of Pat and Dick: The Nixons, an Intimate Portrait of a Marriage (Threshold Editions, $30, 9781451676945). (Re-airs Monday at 4 p.m. and January 21 at 6 a.m.)

Books & Authors

Awards: National Jewish Book; Hatchet Job of the Year

The winners of the Jewish Book Council's 2013 National Jewish Book Awards have been announced. The Everett Family Foundation Jewish Book of the Year Award was given to Yossi Klein Halevi for Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation (HarperCollins). Other winners and runners-up in several categories can be seen here. The winners will be honored on March 5 in New York City.


Eight finalists have been named for The Omnivore's Hatchet Job of the Year award, which was established to honor "the writer of the angriest, funniest, most trenchant book review of the past twelve months." The winner, who will be announced February 11, takes home a year's supply of potted shrimp, courtesy of the Fish Society.

WI9 Buzz Books Part III: Kids & YA

Among the many childrens/YA titles and authors  booksellers are looking forward to at Winter Institute next week is a debut novel, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, who happens to teach middle school in the host city of Seattle.

Judy Hobbs, the children's book buyer at Third Place Books in Seattle and Lake Forest Park, described The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender (Candlewick, March) as a lyrical, multi-generational tale of magical realism that lives up to the comparison to Joanne Harris's Chocolat. "It's one of those books that's hard to talk about," said Hobbs. Born with wings, Ava Lavender leaves her isolated household at 16 to find where she might fit in the larger world--confusing and mesmerizing people along the way. Bookseller buzz for Ava Lavender has spread far beyond Seattle.

"I'm simply over the moon about it," said Valerie Koehler from Blue Willow Books in Houston. "It's not a straightforward teen book," she said. "It's a highly stylized kind of writing that is so grown up."

Many booksellers have been riding the metaphorical band bus since they first heard about Len Vlahos's (former COO of the ABA and now BISG executive director) punk rocker tale, The Scar Boys (Egmont). At WI9 they'll have the chance to congratulate Vlahos in person for his rave review in the New York Times Book Review this week.

Speaking of industry-insiders-turned-authors, in April, HarperCollins is publishing Tease, a debut by Amanda Maciel, an executive editor at Scholastic. Inspired by a true event, Tease is told from the point of view of a teenage girl facing criminal charges after a girl she bullied commits suicide. Maciel, who was a bookseller back in her hometown of Omaha (at the now-closed Combs & Combs), said having the chance to talk with booksellers about Tease at WI9 is "really a dream come true."

Donna Bray, co-publisher of the Balzer & Bray imprint that is publishing Tease, described the debut as "truly remarkable." While the subject might be uncomfortable to read about, the book is never grim, she assured. "The voice is riveting and the alternating flashback chapters provide incredible suspense," Bray said. "I really hope this will open up discussion with teens and adults."

YA books often navigate that delicate line between edgy and educational; some early readers think Andrew Smith's new novel, Grasshopper Jungle (Penguin, Feb.), falls into that category. Robert McDonald at the Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, Ill., said he loved Grasshopper Jungle so much that he read the galley twice.

"It's teen boys talking about and doing what teen boys talk about and do," said McDonald, explaining that the narrator wants to have sex with his girlfriend but is also trying to figure out the sexual feelings he has for his male best friend (who definitely has sexual feelings for him). Oh, and then there's the part where the best friends accidentally bring about the end of the world with a plague that turns humans into giant insects. "The voice is just so much fun, but really touching, too," said McDonald. "You really root for this kid--he's just such a goofball. It's so imaginative and so unlike anything I have ever read."

James Klise won an American Library Association's Stonewall Award for Love Drugged, and his new novel, The Art of Secrets (April), is one of the hottest books going into Winter Institute; as several booksellers observed, it also solidifies Algonquin's Young Readers imprint's place in the YA/children's world in just its second year.

"I read every title on their first list," said Suzanna Hermans, co-owner of Oblong Books & Music, in Millerton and Rhinebeck, N.Y. In The Art of Secrets, Klise--a Chicago school librarian--uses alternating points of view (students, teachers, parents) to tell how a high school community grapples with an apparent hate crime and its aftermath.

Also on Hermans's buzz list is We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (Random House, May), a new novel from the author of the NBA-nominated and Printz Award winner The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. Lockhart's new book might sound almost too quiet, feared Hermans, since it focuses on a group of cousins in an affluent family who go to a beach house every summer. "But there's a great narrator, thrilling twists and turns, with a shocker at the end," she added, predicting it could be another award winner.

Geoffrey Jennings at Rainy Day Books in Kansas City sees a winner in The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski (FSG, March). Rutkoski, author of the magical, fantastical middle grade Kronos Chronicles series, is launching a new series with The Winner's Curse, which might skew a bit older, but still contains the element of impossible romance that has delighted Rutkoski's readers since her debut, The Cabinet of Wonders. In The Winner's Curse, a 17-year-old general's daughter, unhappy with the options of joining the military or getting married, buys a slave she believes is a kindred spirit--only to find he has secrets of his own.

Although his book isn't out until July, many booksellers are looking forward to meeting Chris Weitz, the director, producer and screenwriter who has brought beloved books like About a Boy, The Golden Compass and one of the Twilight novels to the silver screen. Weitz will be at WI9 to talk about his debut YA novel, The Young World (Little, Brown), in which teens take over New York City after an illness wipes out the adult population.

And lest anyone think the dystopian thing is over, Michael Link from Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Ohio and Kentucky declared Joelle Charbonneau's Graduation Day--book three of the Testing series--a gotta-grab galley. "Our children's booksellers can't get enough of that series."

When it comes to books for younger readers, bestselling author Marissa Moss's Creston Books imprint has been getting lots of buzz since it launched at BookExpo. Moss is making her first appearance at Winter Institute as a combined publisher/author: her new novel, Blood Diaries, is on Creston's spring list. In Blood Diaries, the author of the Amelia's Notebooks series and 50 other children's books (with five million sold) brings her adept storytelling and wit to the subject of a teenage vampire named Edgar.

Suzanna Hermans noted that Sourcebooks has "really stepped up their game" with its children's publishing program. Two Sourcebooks authors to be featured at WI9 are Marianne Richmond, with a new Blankie picture book called I'll Never Let You Go (March), and Carol Weston, with a new middle-grade diary-style novel, Ava and Pip (March), about an aspiring writer. Weston writes a monthly column in Girl's Life.

As many booksellers know, a new Jennifer Donnelly book is an event--whether she's writing for adults or kids--and with Deep Blue (Disney, May), about mermaids who protect the world, Donnelly launches a new children's series. "We loved Revolution," said the Book Stall's McDonald. "We sold hundreds and hundreds of copies."

And last but certainly not least, as the first YA author to be named one of the National Book Foundation's Top Five Under 35, John Corey Whaley's attendance at WI9 is greatly anticipated. His new book, Noggin (S&S, April), has an incredible premise: it's told from the point of view of a diseased teenage boy whose head was frozen and then attached to a new, healthy body; he returns to life five years later, after all of his friends have graduated from high school. "Hilarious, madcap and crazy," are the words Hermans used for Noggin, which she said she could easily hand to kids who like Libba Bray's Going Bovine.

While the ABA is hosting its first Children's Institute in San Antonio in April, ABC children's group manager Matthew Zoni confirmed that the new event dedicated to children's programming would not replace the children's and YA parts of the Winter Institute. "ABC Group will continue to offer a slate of children's educational programming at Winter Institute, contributing to a healthy and lively mix for both adult and children's booksellers," Zoni said.

See you all in Seattle! --Bridget Kinsella

WI9 Buzz Books Part 1: Top Picks and Debuts in Fiction is here; Part II: Nonfiction & Indie Pubs is here.

The True Story of Winnie(-the-Pooh)

Here's a fun teaser in anticipation of A.A. Milne's birthday this Saturday: a picture book biography of the real Winnie, the bear that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh.

Illustrator Sophie Blackall, who was recently at the London Zoo to research the beloved cub, spoke to us by phone from the wilds of the Western Catskills. The project (tentatively called Finding Winnie and slated for fall 2015) came from editor Susan Rich at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. "The story is, as Susan described it, one of those stories you're surprised you don't already know," Blackall said. Author Lindsay Mattick is the great-granddaughter of Lt. Harry Colebourn, a veterinarian and soldier with the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps. "It's the telling of the story of this remarkable bear," said Blackall, "told in the author's voice to her son."

Sophie Blackall with author Lindsay Mattick and the original Winnie-the-Pooh at the New York Public Library's "The ABC of It" exhibit.

Colebourn joined up during World War I to care for the horses, leaving behind his veterinary practice in Winnipeg. He took the train with a lot of other soldiers, and it stopped at White River Station. On the platform was a trapper with a bear cub. "He was smitten with the bear cub," Blackall said of Colebourn, who gave the trapper a $20 bill in exchange for the bear. "It was a wild whim of a gesture. His colonel was horrified and said, 'What are you doing with this dangerous creature?' " Colebourn tamed the "dangerous creature," the cub won them over, and they called him Winnie (short for Colebourn's Winnipeg). Winnie sailed with them to England, and stayed with the soldiers as they trained in Salisbury Plain, but Colebourn realized he couldn't take a Canadian black bear into trench warfare in France. So he left her at the London Zoo, and visited her after the war.

"She was an absolute favorite at the London Zoo," Blackall said, "and he decided to leave her there." Christopher Robin, A.A. Milne's son, befriended the bear. Milne was friendly with one of the zookeepers, and they got to feed Winnie spoonfuls of condensed milk, according to Blackall, who enjoyed "rummaging around" in the Zoo's archives. "The librarian asked, 'Would you like to see the daily occurrences?' " Blackall reported in a British accent (she is Australian herself). "He brought out these massive leatherbound ledgers, handwritten by the zookeepers in fountain pen." They recorded everything on that day, from the weather to the number of visitors to the amount taken at the ticket gate, and the arrivals and departures of the animals. "This list of animals is so lyrical and beautiful," said Blackall. "I could look up the day that Winnie was donated. It said, 'dank and foggy.' They were repainting the carousel and fixing a saddle on the elephant."

She wandered around the zoo and saw where Christopher Robin would have climbed the stairs. "They have a statue for Winnie, and for Harry, which is very nice," she said, "and another statue of the bear and Christopher Robin." Blackall is in the very early stages of the project now, but predicts, "It's gonna be an absolute joy--this cub with all the soldiers in uniform, the ships and horses." Blackall admits, "I was besotted with A.A. Milne and Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin as a child, and it's never diminished." --Jennifer M. Brown

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

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

The Purity of Vengeance: A Department Q Novel by Jussi Adler-Olsen, translated by Martin Aitken (Dutton, $26.95, 9780525954019). "Since his involvement in an incident in which a detective was killed and another paralyzed, Detective Carl Morck of Copenhagen's Department Q has been assigned to a basement office to work on cold cases. Among a backlog of cases, his assistants discover a series of mysterious disappearances that occurred almost 15 years earlier, all within the same few days. The coincidence intrigues Morck, and two characters, still living, seem to be the common denominator: Nete Hermansen, victimized in her youth, and Curt Wad, a right-wing master of the Purity Party. Adler-Olsen delivers a fast-paced narrative that will keep readers turning the pages until the satisfying conclusion." --Mary Fran Buckley, Eight Cousins, Falmouth, Mass.

Rosarito Beach: An Agent Kay Hamilton Novel by M.A. Lawson (Blue Rider Press, $26.95, 9780399165733). "Once readers delve into this first book of a new series by the author of the popular Joe DeMarco novels, they will immediately be drawn into the world of Kay Hamilton, rugged DEA agent and obstinate, independent loner. Up against a tough drug lord in Mexico, Hamilton is able to hold her own until her own daughter is taken hostage. Then it demands all of Hamilton's ingenuity and guts to find her daughter and set her free. Just how far will a mother go to save her child? I want the next Kay Hamilton soon, Mr. Lawson!" --Linda Bond, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, Wash.

The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles: A Novel by Katherine Pancol, translated by William Rodarmor and Helen Dickinson (Penguin, $16, 9780143121558). "Treat yourself to this delightful French tale--with a bit of bawdiness--of family, friendship, and quirky misdirection. Readers are transported from high society Paris to medieval academia to a Kenyan crocodile farm. It is easy to see why Pancol is a bestselling author whose books have been translated into 30 languages!" --Sally Van Wert, MacDonald Book Shop, Estes Park, Colo.

For Ages 4 to 8
Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little, Brown, $18, 9780316209175). "This is the beautiful story of a young boy who loves his father and relies on him to be a strong presence in his life. When his father stops 'knock knocking' on his door, the boy waits and wonders why his father is absent, ever hopeful for his return. Knock Knock honors the relationship of a father and his child and teaches children how to be the person who would make a father proud. A great book to give to anyone who is dealing with the loss of a parent." --Brandi Stewart, Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, Ariz.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: This Dark Road to Mercy

This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash (Morrow, $25.99 hardcover, 9780062088253 , January 28, 2014)

In his debut novel, A Land More Kind than Home, Wiley Cash, a native of North Carolina, wrote about the South as only one who knows it can. This Dark Road to Mercy revisits the same geography and puts Cash's storytelling genius to work with different people, equally snake-bit (this time metaphorically).

As in A Land More Kind than Home, the narrative in This Dark Road to Mercy is told in three alternating voices: 12-year-old Easter; her court-appointed guardian, Brady; and Pruitt, a man carrying a vendetta that has festered for years.

When their mother dies of an overdose, Easter and her six-year-old sister, Ruby, are consigned to the foster care system in Gastonia, N.C. Just as they are settling in, Wade--who previously had waived his legal rights as their father--comes in the night and spirits them away.

Brady is the guardian appointed to check in on the girls as they make their way through foster care. He takes his job very seriously because he is, lamentably, all but estranged from his own daughter. Both Brady and Wade have things to atone for, which puts them sometimes on a collision course and sometimes almost on the same side.

While Brady is looking for Wade and the girls, he unexpectedly turns up a story about Wade finding a stash of stolen money. It's a great vignette: while preparing drywall for painting, he tears it down because it isn't perfect and cash comes exploding into the room--literally. He grabs what he can, fills a duffel bag and sets out to get his kids, trying to keep them as safe as possible. Wade is not a bad man at heart; he just makes mistakes that attract the attention of the law and put him in harm's way--as when Pruitt sets off in pursuit of Wade seeking revenge for past wrongs, as well as a big payday from the "owner" of that stolen cash.

Baseball is a subtext in the novel: Wade and Pruitt are ex-minor leaguers, and the story takes place in the summer of 1998, when Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire battled to break Roger Maris's home run record. Cash pulls all the threads together as his characters converge on Busch Stadium in St. Louis for an exciting climax where even McGwire has a role to play. The story doesn't end there, though, and Cash leaves the reader hopeful that present good intention might override past errors in judgment. --Valerie Ryan

Shelf Talker: Wiley Cash beats the "sophomore curse" in this heartfelt story about family, the effort to right past wrongs and the hope of outrunning the past.

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