Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Blackstone Publishing: An Honorable Assassin (Nick Mason Novels #3) by Steve Hamilton

Clarion Books: The Man Who Didn't Like Animals by Deborah Underwood, Illlustrated by LeUyen Pham

Holiday House: Bye Forever, I Guess by Jodi Meadows and Team Canteen 1: Rocky Road by Amalie Jahn

Wednesday Books: Dust by Alison Stine

Running Press Kids: The Junior Witch's Handbook, The Junior Astrologer's Handbook, and The Junior Tarot Reader's Handbook by Nikki Van De Car

Scholastic Press: Ruin Road by Lamar Giles


Publisher Leaves Cleis Press and Viva Editions

Citing "irreconcilable differences of vision with the new ownership," Brenda Knight, publisher of Cleis Press and publisher and founder of Viva Editions, has left Cleis and Viva. At the same time, the remaining original Cleis Press staff--managing editor Kara Wuest and production coordinator Robin Miller--also resigned.

Brenda Knight

Knight was named publisher in 2013. Before that, she had been associate publisher of Viva Editions and had been hired in 2008 by Cleis Press founders Felice Newman and Frederique Delacoste. She earlier worked at Conari Press and HarperCollins.

Last year, Start Publishing, a division of Start Media that "specializes in the publishing and marketing of e-books," bought Cleis Press and Viva Editions from Newman and Delacoste. Start has bought several e-book publishers, including Night Shade Books, and has some 2,700 titles in its catalogue.

Knight, who may be contacted at, commented: "I am just author-centric, thus I'm starting an author-centered marketing consultancy." Among her first clients are members of the band Blink 182. "The authors of Cleis Press and Viva Editions are rock stars, too, and I will always be grateful to them."

Help a Bookseller, Change a Life: Give today to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation!

WH Smith Outlets Opening at Australia's Sydney Airport

U.K. bookstore chain WH Smith will open six outlets at Australia's Sydney airport, Stationery News reported, adding that last year, the company's travel stores "were the highest performing area of its business, with profits up 11% to more than $150 million.

"This is a real evolution from the traditional 'books and news' operations and introduces a reinvigorated range of must-have travel product essentials, that make every journey easier in a convenient one-stop shop," said Glyn Williams, Sydney airport general manager of retail. "WH Smith is one of the world's largest and most successful retail operators of travel essentials and we are looking forward to a successful partnership across the six locations in the T1 terminal."

David Young Retiring; Changes at Orion, Little, Brown U.K.

Effective at the end of the year, David Young is stepping down as CEO of the Orion Publishing Group and deputy CEO of Hachette U.K. and is retiring from publishing. He started his career in the U.K. at Thorsons in 1970 and was managing director of HarperCollins Trade Division U.K. and CEO of Time Warner Book Group U.K. before moving to New York in 2005 to become CEO of what soon became the Hachette Book Group. In 2013, he moved back to the U.K. to take his current positions.

David Young

"I consider myself a lucky man to have spent 45 years in this wonderful business of ours," Young said. "I've been able to play a part in some truly exciting deals, publications and events as well as some profound changes across that time, and to work alongside some great, great people. When Time Warner Book Group was put on sale two days after I relocated to New York City to run it, I thought that luck might be out. I couldn't possibly have guessed then that its sale to Hachette Livre would lead to what has undoubtedly been the very best, most challenging and most satisfying 10 of those 45 years. Working with Arnaud [Nourry, Hachette Livre chairman and CEO] and Tim [Hely Hutchinson, group CEO of Hachette U.K.] has been a privilege, and a pleasure. My colleagues at Orion are a brilliant group of people, and I wish them, as well as my colleagues across all the Hachette Livre companies, the best of good fortune in the years ahead. I shall miss you all."


In related news from the U.K., some of which had been announced earlier:

Malcolm Edwards is stepping down as deputy CEO and publisher of Orion at the end of this year and is becoming chair of Gollancz and consultant publisher at Orion on January 1.

Effective January 1, David Shelley has been appointed CEO of the Orion Publishing Group. He will also be CEO of Little, Brown Book Group, effective July 1. He is currently deputy CEO of Little, Brown.

Effective near the end of the year, Katie Espiner has been appointed managing director of the Orion Publishing Group. She is currently publisher of the Borough Press and HarperFiction.

Effective January 1, Jon Wood is becoming publisher of the Orion Publishing Group. He is currently deputy group publisher and managing director of fiction for Orion.

Lisa Milton is leaving as managing director of Orion General after Katie Espiner joins the company and will be a consultant to the company for a time.

Effective January 1, Charlie King will be managing director of Little, Brown. He is currently group marketing, publicity and creative director of Little, Brown.

Effective July 1, Ursula Mackenzie becomes chair of Little, Brown Book Group.

Learn More about Shelf Awareness for Readers at BEA

Shelf Awareness staff will be in the ABA Member Lounge (Room 214) throughout BookExpo America to meet with booksellers to discuss the bookstore edition of Shelf Awareness for Readers.

This program offers booksellers a free newsletter for their customers with all the content from Shelf Awareness for Readers, including book reviews, author interviews, etc., as well as customization options.

The bookstore edition is cobranded with the store's logo, has links to its site and replies to its e-mail address. It also features "buy" buttons next to each book review that link directly to the book on the store's e-commerce site. Customization allows events and readings to be prominently presented, and booksellers can write the lead article and place a linkable ad.

Shelf Awareness staff will be available in the ABA Lounge at the following times:

Wednesday, May 27: 2-4 p.m.
Thursday, May 28: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Friday, May 29: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

Although booksellers are welcome to stop by any time during the consultation hours, an appointment is recommended. Demonstrations can also be scheduled outside of consultation hours with advance notice. Please contact Christopher Priest at or 206-274-8144 to schedule an appointment.

#BEA15 Buzz Books: Fiction

With BookExpo America just over a week away, independent booksellers from around the country are looking forward to converging on the Javits Center in New York City to learn more about this year's bumper crop of new books. To get an idea of what the summer and fall have in store for book lovers, Shelf Awareness has reached out to publishers and booksellers to compile this list of buzz books. Today's installment, fiction, features a host of debut authors as well as a few returning favorites (installments on nonfiction, YA and middle grade, and children and early readers will run over the next few days).

Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg is one of the year's most hotly anticipated books. The novel, about a community struggling to put itself back together in the wake of an horrific accident, is due out on September 8 from new Simon & Schuster imprint Scout Press. Clegg, a literary agent in New York, has written two bestselling memoirs--Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man and Ninety Days--but this is his debut novel (and Scout's debut title). Anna Micklin, the self-publishing coordinator at University Book Store in Seattle, Wash., called Clegg a "sensitive and insightful author," who "brings his characters to life in this heartbreaking novel about family tragedy and remaking yourself." Sarah Bagby, the owner of Watermark Books in Wichita, Kan., said it was a "very layered, carefully scaffolded novel" about what we do when at our most desperate and "the beautiful grace we find in community."

Another big debut, also from Scout Press, is Ruth Ware's thriller In a Dark, Dark Wood, in which a reclusive English crime writer is invited to spend a weekend at a glass house deep in the countryside by a friend she hasn't heard from in years. She wakes up two days later in a hospital bed, with no memory of the previous 48 hours, and must work to uncover the truth about what happened. In a Dark, Dark Wood will be featured on an Editor's Buzz Panel at BEA, and Courtney Flynn, the bookstore manager at Trident Booksellers & Cafe in Boston, Mass., reported that her colleagues have loved it. It'll be in stores August 28.

Garth Risk Hallberg made headlines in 2013 when Knopf acquired the rights to his debut, City on Fire, for close to $2 million. The sprawling, 944-page novel, about a group of disparate characters brought together by a shooting in New York's Central Park and the blackout of July 13, 1977, is slated for release on October 13 with an announced first printing of 200,000 copies. As one might imagine, expectations are high. The book will be featured on an Editor's Buzz Panel next week, and Christine Onorati, the owner of WORD Bookstores in Jersey City, N.J., and Brooklyn, N.Y., said that her booksellers have hailed it as a rich, experimental debut novel. Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books and Books in Coral Gables, Fla., reported that the book has received "a lot of wonderful reads" from his staff, and Watermark's Sarah Bagby found it to be an "exciting, wonderful first novel about New York City in the 1970s" with broad appeal.

J. Ryan Stradal's Kitchens of the Great Midwest, coming July 28 from Pamela Dorman Books, is another hotly anticipated debut. The story centers on Eva Thorvald, who is raised by her father, Lars, after her mother leaves when she's just a baby. From a young age, Eva inherits her father's love of food, and it is that love, paired with an impeccable palate, that guides Eva as she grows and becomes more and more involved with the ingredients and flavors native to Minnesota. At turns humorous and poignant, each chapter of Kitchens of the Great Midwest focuses on a different dish and character as Eva's culinary journey is recounted. Christine Onorati of WORD Bookstore said it was one of her staff's favorite reads for the summer, and Valerie Koehler, the owner of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Tex., was "very excited" about it.

Rounding out today's selection of debut novels is Sloane Crosley's The Clasp (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), due out on October 6. Crosley is the author of two bestselling collections of essays: I Was Told There'd Be Cake and How Did You Get This Number. The Clasp, her first foray into fiction, focuses on three college friends--Kezia, Nathaniel and Victor--who are reunited at a wedding. The trio quickly relapses into something of a love triangle, and, amidst all the wedding celebrations, Victor learns of a priceless necklace that disappeared during World War II. The three friends set out on an adventure across the United States and France to find the missing jewelry. "It's sort of a contemporary novel of manners," said Sarah Bagby. "It's very entertaining. The characters are funny, the dialogue is very crisp and clean. It's kind of a caper."

New Books from Returning Favorites
First on the list of new books from returning favorites is Jonathan Franzen's Purity. Set for release on September 1 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Franzen's latest opus tells the story of a young woman named Purity Tyler, who goes by the nickname Pip. Saddled with debt from student loans and with a strained relationship with her only family, Pip falls in with a group of traveling German activists. She follows them to South America for an internship with an enigmatic organization called the Sunlight Project, where she finds herself inexorably drawn to the group's founder, Andreas Wolf. As the relationship between Andreas and Pip intensifies, Pip is led closer and closer to danger. Franzen will appear at BEA on May 27 for a conversation with Salon's Laura Miller, and FSG will do an ARC giveaway at its booth. Sarah Bagby is excited for a more plot-driven story from Franzen, and Mark LaFramboise, the head buyer at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., named it as one of his most anticipated reads for the fall.

For fans of speculative fiction, N.K. Jemisin's newest novel, The Fifth Season, is out from Orbit on August 4. The first in a planned trilogy called the Broken Earth, The Fifth Season begins with a woman named Essun discovering that her husband has murdered their son and kidnapped their daughter. As she sets out to track down and rescue her daughter, the mighty Sanze empire is crumbling and the world itself may be coming to an end. Jemisin's past work includes the Inheritance trilogy and the Dreamblood series, and she's been nominated for multiple Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. Said WORD's Christine Onorati: "Our staff loves it."

Both Christine Onorati and Sarah Bagby picked Lauren Groff's Fates and Furies (Riverhead) as an exciting upcoming release. Groff's previous work includes The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia, both New York Times bestsellers. Her newest work, scheduled to hit stores on September 15, traces the marriage of Lotto and Mathilde over 24 years. As the novel progresses, the reader comes to understand that beneath the marriage's glamorous exterior are many complicated secrets. "It's a really good one," enthused Bagby. "The way she uses language, and what it says about art and life and marriage, is just mesmerizing." --Alex Mutter


Image of the Day: Rafting and Reading

Kevin Guy, co-owner of Avid Reader Bookshop in Brisbane, Australia, recently spent 16 days paddling the Colorado River and hiking the Grand Canyon with Canyon Expeditions, which carries with them one of the world's smallest lending libraries. An old ammunition box holds 13 well-thumbed books covering natural history and memoirs of the canyon. Canyon Expeditions guides encourage everyone to read for five minutes a day and most days' adventures start with an inspirational reading from one of the books. Guy commented: "Great reading initiative in an amazing landscape."

Foyles New Store Wins Architectural Awards

Congratulations to Foyles, whose new flagship store on Charing Cross Road in London was at the center of several local architectural awards, according to bdonline. The architectural firm Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands was named RIBA London Architect of the Year for its work on the store. Judges said: "The project is a triumphant resurrection of a stuffy and declining bookstore into a dynamic literary emporium that transforms bookshopping for Londoners."

Foyles also won for RIBA Client of the Year. The judges cited "the strong relationship forged between designer and client."

And the store won one of the organization's "architecture excellence" awards.

Tokyo Bookstore 'Made Me Fall Back in Love with Print'

In an essay for Gone, author Tom Downey recounted his visit to the flagship Tokyo store of multimedia chain Tsutaya, which "felt like a testament to the continued power and relevance of the written word --a place where browsing, reading and buying books and magazines was a popular and pleasurable experience....

"It's not just that Tsutaya feels more upscale than other bookstores. It's that it celebrates words and books, and the people who read and write them, in a thoughtful, seductive, and ultra-contemporary way.... The longer I spent roaming the stacks, the more I became convinced that this store holds the key to understanding that deeper connection. I also felt like I was falling back in love with the printed word myself, which came as something of a shock --I'm a self-confessed, early-adopting, SIM card-swapping travel geek, currently on my seventh Kindle. This was not a nostalgic, Luddite moment, but a response to five specific principles that became increasingly clear to me as I wandered, browsed, read and reflected."

Downey's five takeaways from his Tsutaya experience:

  1. Writing and reading are fundamentally physical activities.
  2. Human beings make pretty powerful information sources, too.
  3. Print combines words and images in a uniquely powerful way.
  4. Sometimes, wandering beats being directed.
  5. Printed books help to make you who you are.

Personnel Changes at Rodale, Scribner, Bookmasters

Effective June 15, Gail Gonzales is joining Rodale as v-p, associate publisher, trade books. Most recently, she was director of integrated marketing at Simon & Schuster and earlier was marketing and publicity director at Hay House.


Ashley Gilliam has been promoted to online marketing manager at Scribner. She was previously Scribner's publishing manager.


Michael DeMonico has been named CBA sales manager of Bookmasters. He was formerly national sales manager at Franciscan Media and has held a variety of sales and marketing positions in the Christian publishing and music industries. He will manage efforts to attract new Christian publishing clients, as well as sell Bookmasters' publishers' titles into the CBA channel.

Book Trailer of the Day: Pretty Baby

Pretty Baby, a new thriller by Mary Kubica (Mira). Kubica, also author of The Good Girl, will be signing at the Mira booth (#2909) at BookExpo America and BookCon on Thursday, May 28, at 3:30 p.m., Friday, May 29, at 10:30 a.m., and Sunday, May 31, at 10 a.m.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to #BEA15: Top 10 Places to Dine and Drink

BookExpo America can be a whirlwind of networking and meetings. So where should an intrepid traveler go post-show for dinners and drinks with newfound friends? DK Eyewitness Travel Guides shares 10 favorite eating and meeting places in New York City.

High Line
An easy walk from the Javits Center, this elevated-train-track-turned-stylish-park offers a hungry visitor ample options along its scenic pathways. As you stroll south along the High Line, you'll be tempted by Blue Bottle Coffee's single-origin drip, La Newyorkina's frozen paleta treats, empanadas from La Sonrisa, Mexican street food from The Taco Truck and more. See if you can save room for drinks at Terroir at the Porch (15th Street) or coastal Italian fare at Santina, located at the southernmost entrance to the park.

Chelsea Market
Near the High Line and several high-profile restaurants, foodies of all types flock to the mouth-watering Chelsea Market (75 9th Avenue), located in a complex that fills an entire city block. From organic soups and farm-fresh dairy products to spicy Thai curries, treats from Morocco, and freshly-caught seafood, almost anything edible and delicious can be found here.

Plunge Bar & Lounge
Enjoy superb views of the New York skyline and the Hudson River from Plunge Bar & Lounge (18 9th Avenue), a rooftop bar at the trendy Gansevoort Hotel, in the Meatpacking District. Although it's on the expensive side--expect a cocktail to set you back $15--watching the sun set in a 360-degree panorama on a warm spring night can't be beat.

The Red Cat
This much-loved restaurant in Chelsea serves first-rate American-inspired fare. The Red Cat (227 10th Avenue) offers diners, as Frank Bruni of the New York Times once opined, "that rare split-the-difference place that has sophisticated food but not a whiff of arrogance." Before dining, whip up your appetite with a stroll through the neighborhood's galleries. Check Chelsea Gallery Map for locations, hours and current openings.

Corner Bistro
Giant, juicy burgers in the heart of the West Village make Corner Bistro (331 West 4th Street) a popular destination for locals, especially during the late-night hours. Make the inevitable wait for a table or barstool feel less lengthy with a cheap pint of McSorley's Ale, pulled from the taps in the dim, tavern atmosphere just as it has been for more than 50 years.

Village Vanguard
Since 1935 this basement club has featured a "who's who" of jazz, including pianist George Cables, who performs over BEA weekend. Catch his early set (8:30 p.m.) Friday–Sunday, or make this legendary New York institution your after-dinner destination with the 10:30 performance. The Village Vanguard (178 Seventh Ave. South) enforces a "no chatting during sets" policy, perfect for unwinding after a long noisy day. Admission is $30 per set, plus a one-drink minimum.

Momofuku Ssäm Bar
Culinary wunderkind David Chang brings serious humor (and lots of pork products) to this inventive corner spot. At the always-crowded Momofuku Ssäm Bar (207 2nd Avenue), the steamed pork buns are legendary, and one can always count on some unusual seafood and market vegetables to appear. Go early to try to snag a seat, or cross 13th Street to the restaurant's sister bakery Milk Bar for a sweet snack.

Don't Tell Mama
There's no telling who will be at spot in the Theater District--singers, comics, or magicians. At Don't Tell Mama (343 W 46th Street) there are no big names, and abilities range from amateur to destined-for-stardom. Sometimes, even the waiters get into the act. The focus on fun, however, is guaranteed, and nearly everyone can find something to love here, whether at the piano bar, restaurant or in the two cabaret rooms.

At this sprawling emporium of all things edible and Italian, there are multiple dining options, from quick takeaway counters to sit-down gourmet eateries. Each of the seven restaurants in Eataly (200 Fifth Avenue) is located in the market area, where you'll find its main ingredients: find meaty mains near the butcher, vegetarian options at the produce section, pizza near the bakery and so on. When you've had your fill of the market selections, head upstairs to Birreria NYC, a rooftop restaurant brewing its own cask ales.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Roof Garden Café and Martini Bar
Have a drink or just admire the prime views of Central Park, the city towers, and beyond at The Metropolitan Museum of Art Roof Garden Café and Martini Bar (1000 Fifth Avenue), open until 8:15 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. A small café menu of salads, sandwiches, and sweets are matched by cocktails and mocktails like Ancho-Chile Limeade, cold-brewed iced coffee, house-made sangria. Admission to the museum is suggested donation and a wander through the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts galleries will take you to the elevator for roof access.

For more ideas on things to do in New York City, check out DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Top 10 New York City.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bill Kreutzmann's Conan Gig

This morning on the Today Show: Brittany Gibbons, author of Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin...Every Inch of It (Dey Street, $24.99, 9780062343031). She will also be on Dr. Oz and Entertainment Tonight.


Tomorrow on Diane Rehm: Clare B. Dunkle and Elena Dunkle, authors of Elena Vanishing: A Memoir (Chronicle, $17.99, 9781452121512).


Tomorrow night on Conan: Bill Kreutzmann, author of Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead (St. Martin's Press, $27.99, 9781250033796).

TV: Black Gun, Silver Star

HBO has put in development an untitled miniseries project based on Art T. Burton's biography Black Gun, Silver Star: The Life and Legend of Frontier Marshal Bass Reeves," reported. The project, written by John Sayles, is from Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary's Revelations Entertainment and Grey's Anatomy co-star James Pickens, Jr.

Morgan and McCreary "had been trying to bring Reeves' story to the screen for more than two decades, after first being introduced to it in 1993 by Neil Travis, editor of Morgan's directorial debut, Bopha!" wrote.

"I always wanted to do my own Western that was going to be it," Freeman recalled. "This is a black man in America's legendary Western history who has been totally overlooked. Any chance I get to revisit historical moments of our country is important to me."

Nikki Finke Launching

Nikki Finke

"The ousted founder of Deadline Hollywood, infamous entertainment journalist Nikki Finke, has found a new way to inject her no holds barred take on the industry and to instill fear in those in it with a new show business fiction website called," Business Insider reported.

Finke will launch her new site, showcasing fiction by "Hollywood movie and TV writers, executives, journalists, critics and authors," in June, with readers being charged $1 for each post and writers paid from the proceeds. In her announcement, Finke wrote that her website "will present short stories, novellas and novel excerpts written by Hollywood insiders like myself. After 30 years as a journalist, I'm now going to expose the hard truths and gritty reality of showbiz through creative writing. In fiction, I can be more honest than just sticking to facts. The stories which I and others write won't depict any actual Hollywood person or event. But they will marry artifice with verisimilitude into original content creation."

Books & Authors

Awards: Chautauqua; Ondaatje; Miles Franklin; SCBWI

The Chautauqua Institution announced that Phil Klay's Redeployment (Penguin) won this year's Chautauqua Prize, which "celebrates a book of fiction or literary/narrative nonfiction that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and honors the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts." Klay receives $7,500 and all travel and expenses for a one-week summer residency at Chautauqua, the not-for-profit educational and cultural center in southwestern New York state.


Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood by Justin Marozzi has won the £10,000 (about $15,540) Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, which honors "a book of the highest literary merit--fiction, nonfiction or poetry--evoking the spirit of a place."

Quoted in the Bookseller, Judge Tash Aw called Baghdad "at once a grand historical narrative and a personal homage to a beloved city. The weight of Marozzi's scholarship is interlaced with a storyteller's instinct for all that is intimate, unusual and moving, and the result is a book that is a constant revelation, peeling back the layers of this fascinating city on every page. Beautiful and disquieting, it is a truly monumental achievement."


The shortlist for the 2015 Miles Franklin Literary Award, honoring a novel "of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian life in any of its phases," was announced at the Australian Booksellers Association conference in Melbourne yesterday:
Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett (Penguin Books Australia)
The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna (Allen & Unwin)
The Golden Age by Joan London (Random House Australia)
After Darkness by Christine Piper (Allen & Unwin)
Tree Palace by Craig Sherborne (Text Publishing)


The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators announced winners of the 2015 Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards for 15 regional divisions. The prizes are a regional complement to SCBWI's annual Golden Kite Awards. The Crystal Kites are chosen by other children's book writers and illustrators. This year's Crystal Kite regional division winners are:

Atlantic: Pandemic by Yvonne Ventresca
Australia/N.Z.: Hello From Nowhere by Karen Blair, written by Raewyn Caisley
California/Hawaii: Bombs Over Bikini: The World's First Nuclear Disaster by Connie Goldsmith
Canada: Bog by Karen Krossing
International Other: A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Mid-South: Faking Normal by Courtney Stevens; Hurricane Boy by Laura Roach Dragon
Middle East/India/Asia: Petu Pumpkin: Tooth Troubles by Arundhati Venkatesh
Midwest: I am Cow, Hear Me Moo by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Gus Gordon
New England: Feathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah Brannen
New York: Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) are Saving the World by Nancy Castaldo
Southeast: Just a Drop of Water by Kerry Cerra, illustrated by Katy Betz
Southwest: All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
Texas/Oklahoma: Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj
U.K./Ireland: The Year of the Rat by Claire Furniss
West: Be a Change Maker: How to Start Something that Matters by Laurie Ann Thompson          

Book Review

Review: The Sage of Waterloo

The Sage of Waterloo by Leona Francombe (W.W. Norton, $22.95 hardcover, 9780393246919, June 1, 2015)

In a debut filled with history and whimsy, Leona Francombe retells the Battle of Waterloo through the lore and bedtime stories of a modern-day family living on the battle site at Hougoumont Farm. This clan is set apart from most historians by one notable factor--they are rabbits.

Unlike most of his twitchy-nosed relatives in the Hougoumont hutch, William has white fur. Despite his different appearance, William never feels out of place among the other rabbits. Like them, he loves to hear stories from his wise grandmother, Old Lavender, matriarch of the warren, who acts as repository for the rabbits' knowledge of the great battle. She divides her time between silent contemplation, seeming to exist between the physical world and a spirit realm the others cannot join, and reminding her progeny of details from the long-ago battle. She tells the grander segments as rewards for good behavior, as entertainment and bedtime stories. The more frightening tidbits make for cautionary tales and even the occasional punishment. While her Waterloo retellings are for the entire hutch, William is her special protégé, and she encourages him to stretch his senses toward the echoes of the past and the ghosts of war. Despite her close relationship with her grandson, Old Lavender retains an air of mystery for William, and not only because of the cryptic nature of some of her teachings. Rumor has it that the grande dame once escaped Hougoumont for a time, and her long-ago adventure may hold the key to secrets about William himself.

While Francombe's choice of protagonist leads to comparisons with Richard Adams's Watership Down, she spends far less time dwelling on the inner lives of lagomorphs than she does bringing Wellington and Napoleon to life. In her imagining of domestic animal culture, "Those who stayed and survived passed the experience on through collective memory, right down through the generations until the present day." Detailing troop movements or a ball that ends in panicked evacuation, Francombe uses Old Lavender as a mouthpiece to raise the specters of the bloody Hougoumont skirmish that preceded Waterloo proper. According to the venerable rabbit, "Nature never truly recovers from human cataclysms." Although the narrative occasionally veers into territory as charming as that of a children's story, such as William's friendship with a magpie, Francombe never loses the thread of examining the profound impact of Waterloo. She also does not miss the opportunity to point out how blithely humans sip coffee on the ground where thousands once died in bloody combat. Part historical chronicle, part adventure story, Francombe's unconventional debut hops along in crowd-pleasing fashion. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: Francombe's debut features the Battle of Waterloo as narrated by a rabbit living on the farm where the deciding conflict occurred.

The Bestsellers

Top Book Club Picks in April

The following were the most popular book club books during April based on votes from more than 120,000 book club readers from more than 39,000 book clubs registered at

1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
3. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
4. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison
5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
6. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
7. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
8. The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
9. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
10. Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Rising stars:

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
The Martian by Andy Weir

[Many thanks to!]

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