Also published on this date: Monday, January 6, 2020: Maximum Shelf: The Second Home

Shelf Awareness for Monday, January 6, 2020

William Morrow & Company: Polostan: Volume One of Bomb Light by Neal Stephenson

Shadow Mountain: The Legend of the Last Library by Frank L Cole

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Elements of Marie Curie: How the Glow of Radium Lit a Path for Women in Science by Dava Sobel

Ace Books: Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science by Kate McKinnon

Annick Press: Bog Myrtle by Sid Sharp

Minotaur Books: Betrayal at Blackthorn Park: A Mystery (Evelyne Redfern #2) by Julia Kelly

Quotation of the Day

'Something Spiritual Happens'

"I like to imagine two people who might judge each other just on the way they look, but one person is holding a book the other one loves. They start talking, and something spiritual happens.

"That's my goal, to create that encounter."

--Alsace Walentine, owner of Tombolo Books, St. Petersburg, Fla., in a Tampa Bay Times article recounting how she came to open the store


Running Press Kids: Your Magical Life: A Young Witch's Guide to Becoming Happy, Confident, and Powerful by Amanda Lovelace


Asbury Park's words! Turning Co-op

Words! bookstore in Asbury Park, N.J., is adopting a co-op model and plans to relaunch this spring under the name Asbury Book Cooperative, reported.

"We see the transition to a community-owned cooperative as an opportunity for people to step up, and join efforts in keeping this unique and precious community resource alive and helping it to thrive, financially and otherwise," words! manager Liza Minno Bloom said, adding that about 10% of funds have been raised thus far. "We see the transition to a cooperative as a way to 'put a ring on it' if you will. Our community wants the bookstore to be a community space and the community-owned co-op model allows that to happen."

The Asbury Book Cooperative is offering annual memberships for $25 to $200, and the bookstore is also seeking larger donors to help underwrite the costs of transition, Bloom said. The goal is to raise $100,000 to cover the costs by May. The bookstore has about 100 members and anticipates gaining 300 more by the launch date.

Locals and regular customers have been overwhelmingly supportive, Bloom said. "People have seen towns that have lost bookstores because of the ubiquity of online shopping and they realize that when you lose a bookstore, you lose so much more than a retail space. People are adamant about keeping a bookstore in Asbury Park; they are very protective of it, so this is an opportunity for them to do so."

Bloom told News12 that even though the store's profits have been affected by the success of larger online bookstores, customers have been adamant about keeping words! in the city. "We just really saw this as the opportune moment to make the transition and make the change and as soon as we announced it and put it out there in the world, our community really, really jumped on it," Minno noted.

Kat Balitsos, who just moved to the area, observed: "Something about going to a bookstore always just feels like home. I really liked the staff, they just seem--they're so personable and nice. They always remember you, which is why I like local bookstores."

When she discovered the business was going to be a co-op, she wanted to become a member: "It just seemed like how I'd want to spend my money that I'm spending on books anyway.... People want like that community spot where you can buy your own books and get recommendations and talk about books and that personalness that you don't get from an online bookseller."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: William by Mason Coile

Let's Play Books Launching Lehigh Valley Book Festival

Let's Play Books in Emmaus, Pa., is partnering with the Bethlehem Area Public Library to launch the inaugural Lehigh Valley Book Festival, scheduled for the last weekend in March. 

The bulk of the festival's programming will take place on Saturday, March 28, at the Bethlehem Area Public Library. From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., readers will have the chance to attend author panels and meet a variety of writers and illustrators. Events will cater to children, teens and adults.

Along with the Saturday events, there will be an Authors' and Illustrators' Reception on Friday night and separate speaker programs held on Sunday at Let's Play Books and Art Quest/Steel Stacks in Bethlehem, Pa. A writers' conference, entitled Diverse Communities and the Writer's Voice, will lead into the weekend.

A full schedule of events will be available in February.

Books-A-Million in Owensboro, Ky., Closing

The Books-A-Million location in Owensboro, Ky., will close sometime this month, the Messenger-Inquirer reported.

The Owensboro BAM has been in operation since 1996, when it moved into a space that had previously housed a Walmart. At the time, there was also a Waldenbooks in town, but since 2004 BAM has been the only new bookstore in town. Following the closure, the area will still have several used bookstores, including a 2nd & Charles location, which is owned by Books-A-Million.

James Rearden, the Owensboro BAM manager, told the Messenger-Inquirer that he hasn't learned exactly when the store will close, but everything must be returned to the company by the end of the month. Rearden called the news "devastating," adding that he's "been coming to this store since I was a teenager."

Mango Publishing Acquires Yellow Pear Press

Mango Publishing, Miami, Fla., has acquired Yellow Pear Press, which was founded in 2015 by Lisa McGuinness in San Francisco, Calif. Yellow Pear focuses on lifestyle and regional books as well as notecards and journals. Its Bonhomie Press imprint specializes in fiction and memoir.

McGuinness will join the Mango staff. Mango plans to publish about three Yellow Pear Press books each season, beginning this fall.

Mango CEO Chris McKenney said that McGuinness's "talent for crafting beautiful books shows in all her Yellow Pear Press titles and we're honored to be able to welcome her onto the Mango team."

Obituary Notes: Judy Doyle; Neal Webb

Judy Doyle, co-founder and longtime co-head of Curbstone Press, died on December 26. She was 73.

Doyle and her late husband, Sandy Taylor, founded Curbstone in 1975 in Willimantic, Conn., with the mission of publishing poets and authors from Central America, South America and Europe whose work touched on political and social issues. Their books have won many awards and were recognized widely.

In 2008, Curbstone Press joined Northwestern University Press and became the Curbstone Books imprint. Northwestern University Press continues to publish two to four Curbstone books a year that support social uplift and equity across cultures and continents.

Doyle carried on the work of Curbstone through "Poetry in the Park," bringing socially engaged poetry to Willimantic and the surrounding communities. A celebration of Doyle's life will be held on Saturday, April 25, at 1 p.m. at Julia de Burgos Park at Poet's Corner at Jackson St. and Terry Ave. Donations in her memory can be made to Curbstone Foundation, 24 Bebbington Rd., Ashford, Conn. 06278.


Neal Webb
, director of marketing for Ingram Book Company during the 1980s and 1990s, died on December 27. He was 63.

Webb, who retired from Ramsey Solutions in 2013, was well-known for his sense of humor and larger-than-life persona. He was beloved by colleagues at Ingram as well as by booksellers across the country. He was a key person in helping to supply and keep indies healthy during a tumultuous time.


Cool Idea of the Day: Everyone-Gets-a-Book Birthday

Posted on Facebook by Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich.: "On Christmas Eve, a customer brought her family to the bookstore, and everyone bought books. 'Today is my birthday,' she said, 'And all I wanted was to go to the bookstore and for everyone to get a book. It's the best birthday present. I think I'll make it an annual tradition.' "

Personnel Changes at Bloomsbury Children's Books

Alexa Higbee will join Bloomsbury Children's Books as publicist, effective January 8. She was previously associate publicist at Holiday House.

Media and Movies

Bookish Winners at the Golden Globes

Book-to-screen adaptations collected some prestigious hardware at last night's Golden Globe Awards. Winning productions that started as books or have book connections included:

Chernobyl, based on many sources, including Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich: Best limited series or TV movie; Stellan Skarsgård (supporting actor in a series, limited series or motion picture made for TV)

The Loudest Voice, based on the book The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News--and Divided a Country by Gabriel Sherman: Russell Crowe (actor in a limited series or motion picture made for TV)

Fosse/Verdon, based in part on Sam Wasson's book Fosse: Michelle Williams (actress in a limited series or motion picture made for TV)

Judy, adapted from the play End of the Rainbow by Peter Quilter: Renée Zellweger (actress in a motion picture--drama)

Joker, based on D.C. Comics characters: Joaquin Phoenix (actor in a motion picture--drama); Hildur Guðnadóttir (original score, motion picture)

Media Heat: Suzanne Somers on Today

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Jennifer Ashton, author of The Self-Care Solution: A Year of Becoming Happier, Healthier, and Fitter--One Month at a Time (Morrow, $26.99, 9780062885425).

Tamron Hall: Peter Walsh, author of Let It Go: Downsizing Your Way to a Richer, Happier Life (Rodale, $15.99, 9780593135891).

Today Show: Martha Stewart, author of Martha Stewart's Organizing: The Manual for Bringing Order to Your Life, Home & Routines (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9781328508256).

Also on Today: Suzanne Somers, author of A New Way to Age: The Most Cutting-Edge Advances in Antiaging (Gallery, $28, 9781982110949).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Michael Greger, author of How Not to Diet: The Groundbreaking Science of Healthy, Permanent Weight Loss (Flatiron, $32.50, 9781250199225).

Kelly Clarkson Show: Jenna Dewan, author of Gracefully You: Finding Beauty and Balance in the Everyday (Gallery, $29.99, 9781501191510).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Rachel Maddow, author of Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth (Crown, $30, 9780525575474).

Books & Authors

SIBA's Winter Okra Picks

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance has announced its Winter Okra Picks, chosen by the region's indie booksellers each season as the upcoming Southern titles they are most looking forward to handselling:

Hill Women by Cassie Chambers (Ballantine Books)
Overground Railroad by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome (Holiday House)
Wilmington's Lie by David Zucchino (Atlantic Monthly Press)
Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain (St. Martin's)
Just Like a Mama by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (Denene Millner Books/S&S Books for Young Readers)
Remembrance by Rita Woods (Forge)
The Third Rainbow Girl by Emma Copley Eisenberg (Hachette)
My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland (Tin House Books)
Race Against Time by Jerry Mitchell (S&S)
The Boatman's Daughter by Andy Davidson (MCD x FSG Originals)
Bells for Eli by Susan Beckham Zurenda (Mercer University Press)
The Last Taxi Driver by Lee Durkee (Tin House Books)
A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler (St. Martin's Press)

Book Review

Review: Vera Violet

Vera Violet by Melissa Anne Peterson (Counterpoint, $16.95 paperback, 256p., 9781640092327, February 4, 2020)

Melissa Anne Peterson makes her fiction debut with the dark and explosive Vera Violet. The novel's namesake character hails from a rural and hardscrabble small-town named David in rainy Washington State. The narrative follows Vera as she flees to St. Louis and tries to establish a new life working in an urban school. Her life in David is revealed in flashbacks. The narrative slowly circles a series of harrowing crimes and a cast of scrappy, small-town characters, including Vera's love, Jimmy James Blood. The characters get involved in the crystal meth trade with devastating consequences. Readers looking for a neat and uplifting resolution will not find it in Vera Violet.

Peterson, who grew up in rural Washington, writes visceral and darkly poetic prose. She first entices readers with a reference to a lurid crime and a kind of neo-noir appeal: dark, foreboding landscapes, a rusty white Ford and a .40 caliber handgun. What Vera is fleeing from isn't just an isolated crime, but rather an entire way of life. Peterson builds a mythology around the town's founding, the unscrupulous logging and the exploitation of labor. Ghosts haunt the Douglas fir forests. Kids grow up in trailers, far away from Seattle's hip and wealthy elite. David represents intergenerational poverty, "white trash" but also poor minority migrants who've come to find work. Peterson's characters--Vera, Jimmy James and others--are imbued with a fighting spirit, knowing the odds are stacked against them. "My life would be difficult. I was a fighter. And I was born for it," Vera says. There are literal fights throughout, playground scuffles, but also greater struggles against the system, against cops, prison, the wealthy tourists who buy drugs from the gritty residents of David but somehow keep them in a place of inferiority.

Vera contrasts small-town life with her new life in St. Louis. Rather than being an ideal refuge, Vera finds the city rife with poverty and inequality but structured differently than that of her hometown. In the city, she notices economic stratification along lines of race and other factors. In this way, Peterson builds a class consciousness between poor rural whites and disenfranchised people of color living in urban areas. The novel offers no easy solutions but rather delves into the psychology of poverty and the vicious cycles that come with trying to survive. There's no preaching. Instead, Peterson brings life to a host of memorable characters whose struggles are seared into readers' brains.

Vera Violet announces the arrival of a new writer who is comfortable with her craft and knows how to relay a story in vivid and affecting detail. Vera Violet packs a powerful punch. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset

Shelf Talker: This dark and gritty debut novel focuses on a group of small-town youths who battle against rural poverty.

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