Shelf Awareness for Thursday, December 16, 2021

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio


Pacific Mist Bookstore Reopens in Sequim, Wash., After Seven-year Absence

Pacific Mist Bookstore, which closed in 2014, officially reopened last month at 22 W. Washington St., almost across the street from its old location. The Sequim Gazette reported that owner Vickie Maples "opened the bookstore for a test run on First Friday in November, which was a decade after buying the business from Marti McAllister Wolfe in November of 2011. Wolf ran the store for 18 years before selling it to Maples and retiring. In 2014 Maples had to close the business due to family health issues that she needed to attend to in California."

The bookstore carries titles in a variety of genres; cards, puzzles and other sidelines; local fudge and cashew brittle from WeDo Fudge; and journals, puzzles and other items made by local artist Jean Wyatt.

"People have been really supportive," Maples said. "Lots of people stopped by to give their support."

Sales associate Caitlin Knapple remembered Pacific Mist from her childhood. "It was very cozy," she said. "It had a great atmosphere. I enjoyed perusing it."

Maples noted that Knapple "comes with a lot of experience and knowledge," having worked for the the Good Book and Hart's Fine Books in Sequim, as well as the Purple Haze retail store.

"I've always loved books so anytime I'm in a bookstore I'm happy," Knapples added.

Maples also expressed a love of books since her childhood: "My father had a great love of books. He always had shelves after shelves of books which he built himself." She added that she is hoping to expand the hours after the first of the year, when a second employee will come on board

Holiday House: The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith by Tom Llewellyn; The Selkie's Daughter by Linda Crotta Brennan

Union Election to Be Held at D.C.'s Politics and Prose

Some staff members at Politics and Prose, which has three bookstores in Washington, D.C., are seeking to unionize; on Monday, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 400, filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for an election.

As reported by DCist, the organizers, saying that a majority of staff support a union, wanted owners Bradley Graham--who is also president of the American Booksellers Association--and Lissa Muscatine to recognize the union voluntarily. Last week, several of the organizers met with Graham and said that "a super majority" of employees supported the effort and had signed cards to authorize a union. But Graham and Muscatine declined to accept the union voluntarily, resulting in the UFCW formally requesting a vote that will be overseen by the NLRB.

In memos to staff, Graham and Muscatine wrote that while "we fully recognize the rights of employees to seek union representation and will certainly abide by the outcome of a formal election... a number of P&P employees don't desire a union, and we don't want to be the ones imposing an outcome on them. We think everyone's voice should count in a fair process."

On Twitter, the Politics & Prose Workers Union said that it is "a collective of employees representing many different departments within the company committed to creating a fair and equitable workplace we can all be proud of. Our decision to unionize comes from a place of both care and concern. We are concerned about the future of P&P if we continue along a path that undervalues the staff who work hard to make this bookseller a success. Too many of us are overworked due to chronic understaffing and our inability to retain employees. Even amid a deadly pandemic, in which we risk our lives to keep the store open, we have no say in policy decisions that affect our health and safety. We live in one of the most expensive cities in the country, but we lack a living wage. Promotions and pay scales are opaque and inconsistent, creating a culture of resentment and inequality instead of openness and fairness. And we have seen colleagues speak up about these concerns, only to be pushed out of the workplace. This bookstore could not run without us, and we, the workers, are tired of our concerns being ignored.

"We believe unionizing is the best way for us to address our concerns, both now and into the future. Collective bargaining provides us with the opportunity and the protection to openly voice our concerns to management, so we can collaborate together as equals to create immediate and positive change at P&P. While we have chosen to affiliate with [UFCW Local400], it is the staff of Politics & Prose that will be gaining a stronger voice and a seat at the table by unionizing.

"Politics & Prose has long been considered a progressive and inclusive bookstore, and our decision to unionize is a natural next step in the company's ongoing effort to put our shared values into practice. We're doing this for each other--for all of us to be respected, for all of us to be valued, for all of us to be in a safe environment."

In their statements, Graham and Muscatine, who bought Politics and Prose in 2011, said in part, "As co-owners, we've continued to grow the company, re-investing considerably in the business. We've added staff (and new positions like HR), expanded inventory and programs, enlarged and renovated the [flagship Connecticut Avenue] location, and established two branches. Throughout, we've focused on ensuring employees feel valued and secure in their work, and we've provided pay, benefits, and bonuses that surpass what other comparable independent booksellers typically offer. Additionally, during a pandemic that presented huge financial challenges to the business, we kept staff employed--without layoffs--even as other companies were cutting back on staff and wages."

They noted that they have been members of unions (they both worked for years at the Washington Post): "We understand firsthand how unions work and how they impact businesses. We know that unions alter workplaces--sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. For P&P in particular--a small, local independent bookstore--we believe that the introduction of a union would undermine the character and culture of a community institution and, at the same time, be unlikely to achieve the changes that unions typically promise" as well as "make our workplace more transactional, less personal, and less flexible."

Among other points, they argue that many discussions about workplace concerns, which "have led to important improvements such as rising wages, diversifying our hiring, creating new staff positions, strengthening communications, streamlining personnel processes, and expanding career development opportunities," would in the future need a union representative present.

They also wrote that "over the years, we've been able to help staff members facing serious personal medical, mental health, or family issues by providing special accommodations that enabled them to get through trying times. The presence of a union, with contractual rules and regulations, would limit our freedom to respond to the needs of individual staff members."

They encouraged staff members to talk with one another and stated that, abiding by NLRB guidelines, they will be "communicating more with all of you as issues come up. Our goal is to ensure that every P&P employee has the opportunity to consider the pros and cons of unionizing and to vote in a democratic, free, and fair election."

Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

Bookstore Sales Up 53.4% in October, Up 39.6% Year to Date

In October, bookstore sales jumped 53.4%, to $698 million, compared to October 2020, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates. Last October was the seventh full month that reflected severe measures taken in the U.S. to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, which included widespread lockdowns. By comparison to pre-pandemic times, sales this October rose 7.4% in relation to October 2019.

For the year to date, bookstore sales are up 39.6%, to $7.1 billion.

Total retail sales in October rose 14.6%, to $633.9 billion. So far this year, total retail sales have risen 19.6%, to $6.05 trillion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this unusual caution concerning the effect of Covid-19: "The Census Bureau continues to monitor response and data quality and has determined that estimates in this release meet publication standards."

Holiday Hum: Going 'Full Tilt'; 'Huge Quantities of Backlist'

At Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kan., the holiday rush started on Black Friday and "hasn't really let up," store owner Danny Caine reported. Things are going "full tilt," and the bookstore, which moved into a new location early this year, has seen big sales increases over 2020 and 2019. 

The bookstore was closed to in-store shopping last year, Caine explained, and the new space gets about twice as much foot traffic as the previous location. Holiday sales are nearly double that of 2019 so far, but "everything has doubled in the new location--foot traffic, sales." It also has ample storage space, which was something the previous store lacked. Caine and his team were able to place some "really big orders" on titles they thought were safe bets, and so far it's been "largely okay."

They've run out of copies of The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, which was a staff favorite and also features a tiny cameo by Raven Book Store, but they still have copies of big books like The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow, The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Amanda Gorman's Call Us What We Carry. Caine pointed to some titles, like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, that have blown up thanks to TikTok, which the store has been "chasing for months."

On the subject of supply-chain issues, Caine said the store set a very early shipping deadline of December 1 for web orders. The team also changed all language on the website to get the point across that "anything except the most readily available books might not be here." They're encouraging customers to stop by the store, ask about a title and its status, and if it isn't available, get suggestions for alternatives from the team. He noted that though the supply chain is worse this season, things seem a little easier simply because the store is open and they can communicate with customers face to face. Last year, almost all communication was done through the store's website or via e-mail.

Since reopening to customers, web sales have made up about 20%-25% of the store's business, compared to 100% in 2020 (save for the few short months prior to quarantine) and about 1% in 2019. Caine said he was happy with the current level, and Raven Book Store continues to do in-town deliveries and offer store pick-up. He added that he's thrilled to be in the new location, the team is doing amazing work and "knock on wood, things are going well so far."


Courtney Flynn, vice-president and manager of Trident Booksellers & Cafe in Boston, Mass., said it feels like the "holiday rush has been happening for weeks now." Things started ramping up as far back as September and it's "only accelerated from there." This season has already been one of the store's best ever, if not the best, and in light of 2020's holiday season, that "is a huge relief and surprise."

Asked how the store prepared for the holiday season given the myriad warnings about the supply chain, Flynn answered that she and her team "bulked up on titles more than ever before." The store has little in the way of storage space, so "every nook and cranny of the store is filled with boxes of overstock."

Flynn remarked that she's mostly noticed supply-chain issues in the gifts department. Lots of items that she would have reordered fell out of stock as early as September. For books, the store hasn't "felt the supply chain problems too acutely," though certain titles remain perpetually difficult to get in, like Verity by Colleen Hoover and Make Way for Ducklings in hardcover, both of which went out of stock earlier in the season.

While Trident is doing very well with frontlist titles like Taste by Stanley Tucci, Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner and The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, the season has been defined by the "huge quantities of backlist we're selling." Many of those titles have been propelled by TikTok, including Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles, Bessel van der Kolk's The Body Keeps the Score and Ling Ma's Severance, though there are many more examples. Flynn called it "amazing" to see how many younger readers are excited about books and are discovering titles and connecting to other readers through social media. --Alex Mutter

POTUS44's Reading List: Obama's Favorite Books of 2021

Former President Barack Obama shared a list of his favorite books from this year, noting: "Over the next few days, I'll share my annual list of favorite books, music, and movies. Art always sustains and nourishes the soul. But for me, music and storytelling felt especially urgent during this pandemic year--a way to connect even when we were cooped up. Since these are works I have actually listened to, watched, or read, I'm sure I've missed some worthy stuff. So if you have your own recommendations to share, I'll add them to the stack of books and movies I hope to catch up on over the holidays! I’ll start by sharing some of the books that I read this year that left a lasting impression." Obama's favorite books were:

Matrix by Lauren Groff
How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City by Andrea Elliott
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu
Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang
At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop
Land of Big Numbers by Te-Ping Chen
Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut
Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future by Elizabeth Kolbert
Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

Obituary Note: bell hooks

bell hooks

bell hooks, the renowned author, scholar, feminist and activist whose work examined race, class, gender and the ways they intersect, died on December 15 at the age of 69, the Lexington Herald reported. She died at her home in Berea, Ky., surrounded by friends and family.

Born Gloria Jean Watkins in Hopkinsville, Ky., she published more than 30 books under the pen name bell hooks. She explained in interviews that it was her great-grandmother's name, and she wrote it in lowercase letters to focus attention on her words, not herself.

Her first book was the poetry collection And There We Wept, released in 1978. In 1981 she published the hugely influential Ain't I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, which explores the impact of sexism and slavery on Black womanhood. In addition to Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center (1984), All About Love: New Visions (2000), Feminism Is for Everybody (2000) and The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love (2004), hooks wrote scholarly articles, essays and children's books. Her first children's book, Happy to Be Nappy, was illustrated by Chris Raschka and published in 1999.

She defined feminism as "a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression," USA Today wrote, and her early influences included James Baldwin, Sojourner Truth and Martin Luther King Jr. In a 2012 interview with Appalachian Heritage, hooks said of King: "He had a profound awareness that the people involved in oppressive institutions will not change from the logics and practices of domination without engagement with those who are striving for a better way."

She attended Stanford University and went on to earn a master's in English at the University of Wisconsin Madison and a doctorate in literature at the University of California Santa Cruz. She taught at Oberlin College, City College of New York and Yale University before joining the faculty of Berea College in Berea, Ky. In 2010 the school opened the bell hooks Institute, which "houses her collection of contemporary African-American art, personal artifacts and copies of her books published in other languages."

After news of her death spread Wednesday morning, authors, publishers and others in the literary world shared tributes to hooks.

"Oh my heart. bell hooks. May she rest in power. Her loss is incalculable," Roxane Gay tweeted.

Ibram X. Kendi wrote: "The passing of bell hooks hurts, deeply. At the same time, as a human being I feel so grateful she gave humanity so many gifts. Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism is one of her many classics. And All About Love changed me. Thank you, bell hooks. Rest in our love."

"We lost bell hooks. The heart breaks," wrote Pantheon and Schocken Books senior v-p and publisher Lisa Lucas.

"I want my work to be about healing," hooks said in 2018. "I am a fortunate writer because every day of my life practically I get a letter, a phone call from someone who tells me how my work has transformed their life."


Downtown Books: 'Santa Shops Here!' 

"Santa shops here! And wants to remind everyone that while the deadline for special orders has passed Piper and her team will still do everything they can to get the right book in the right hands on #christmas morning!" Downtown Books, Manteo, N.C., posted on Facebook. "We have a terrific selection of books for all ages--Xmas books, cookbooks, history, mystery, and more! Bookish candles, our exclusive #trees, buttons, stickers and plenty of single and boxed #christmascards. We won't let you down at #downtownbooks!"

Costco Picks: Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone

Alex Kanenwisher, book buyer at Costco, has selected Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon (‎Delacorte, $36, 9781101885680) as the pick for December. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, Kanenwisher writes:

"Whether fans come to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series via the books or the TV show, they're sure to rejoice over the release of a new title in the series: Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone.

"Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall were torn apart in 1746, and it took them 20 years to find each other. Now the American Revolution threatens to do the same--after they've just been reunited with their daughter and her husband. They can't help but wonder whether risking the perils of the 1700s was the safer choice for their family."

Chicago to Distribute the Grolier Club Worldwide

The University of Chicago Press and the Chicago Distribution Center have added the Grolier Club as a marketing and distribution client worldwide. As of January 1, all backlist and forthcoming titles will ship from the Chicago Distribution Center.

Founded in 1884, the Grolier Club, the country's oldest and largest society for bibliophiles and enthusiasts in the graphic arts, has published or sponsored almost 500 books and exhibition catalogues--some of them standard references in their fields--on such subjects as photography, William Blake, Mayan writing, Albrecht Dürer's alphabet book, and the "Grolier Hundred" selections in literature, science, and medicine. Many of the publications have been printed and designed by leading book artists and typographers, including Theodore Low De Vinne, D.B. Updike, Bruce Rogers, Stanley Morison, Joseph Blumenthal, the Mardersteigs, and Jerry Kelly.

Joseph D'Onofrio, director of the Chicago Distribution Center, said it was looking forward to working with the Grolier Club "to grow the reach and readership of their distinguished list."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Dana Canedy on Firing Line

PBS's Firing Line with Margaret Hoover: Dana Canedy, author of A Journal for Jordan (Crown, $17, 9780593442937), and senior v-p and publisher of Simon and Schuster.

This Weekend on Book TV: Dave Zirin on The Kaepernick Effect

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.

Saturday, December 18
8:55 a.m. W. Caleb McDaniel, author of Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America (Oxford University Press, $27.95, 9780190846992). (Re-airs Saturday at 8:55 p.m.)

10:25 a.m. D.M. Giangreco, author of The Soldier from Independence: A Military Biography of Harry Truman, Volume 1, 1906-1919 (Potomac Books, $22.95, 9781640120754). (Re-airs Saturday at 10:25 p.m.)

Sunday, December 19
8 a.m. Kirsten Powers, author of Saving Grace: Speak Your Truth, Stay Centered, and Learn to Coexist with People Who Drive You Nuts (Convergent Books, $27, 9780593238233). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m.)

9 a.m. Dave Zirin, author of The Kaepernick Effect: Taking a Knee, Changing the World (The New Press, $25.99, 9781620976753). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m.)

2 p.m. Coverage of the 42nd annual American Book Awards, recognizing "outstanding literary achievement from the entire spectrum of America's diverse literary community." (Re-airs Monday at 2 a.m.)

4:30 p.m. Naomi Schaefer Riley, author of No Way to Treat a Child: How the Foster Care System, Family Courts, and Racial Activists Are Wrecking Young Lives (Bombardier Books, $28, 9781642936575). (Re-airs Monday at 4:30 a.m.)

5:45 p.m. Alec Ross, author of The Raging 2020s: Companies, Countries, People--and the Fight for Our Future (Holt, $28.99, 9781250770929). (Re-airs Monday at 5:45 a.m.)

Books & Authors

Awards: Porchlight Business Book Shortlist

Porchlight Book Company, formerly 800-CEO-READ, has announced the shortlist for the company's 15th annual Business Book Awards. The Porchlight editorial team chose eight titles as the best in their categories and now finalists for the 2021 Porchlight Business Book of the Year. The overall winner, along with the Jack Covert Award for Contribution to the Business Book Industry recipient, will be named January 13, 2022.

Porchlight owner, president & CEO Rebecca Schwartz commented: "When we changed the name of our 35-year-old business to Porchlight Book Company and launched our new website in 2019, one of our main intentions--repeated like a mantra--was to 'keep books human.' Amidst all the rebranding and technology investing we were doing at the time, it was our way of reminding ourselves that the most important work we do is always in our relationships with others and in the service of the book. This encapsulation of our vision helps ensure that our services remain backed by our collective experience and expertise in the industry rather than by algorithms, and are consistently connected to who we are as people and the values we share. Following the leads of some of the best books of the year, seeking out the ideas they offer and finding the soul of each, the eight books on our shortlist echo this same commitment to focusing on the human element in business and economics."

This year's Torchlight Business Book of the Year finalists are:

The Leadership & Strategy Book of the Year: The Promises of Giants by John Amaechi OBE (Nicholas Brealey Publishing)
The Management & Workplace Culture Book of the Year: Anthro-Vision: A New Way to See in Business and Life by Gillian Tett (Avid Reader Press)
The Marketing & Sales Book of the Year: The Widest Net: Unlock Untapped Markets and Discover New Customers Right in Front of You by Pamela Slim (McGraw-Hill)
The Innovation & Creativity Book of the Year: Creative Acts for Curious People: How to Think, Create, and Lead in Unconventional Ways by Sarah Stein Greenberg (Stanford Speed Press)
The Personal Development & Human Behavior Book of the Year: The Wake Up: Closing the Gap Between Good Intentions and Real Change by Michelle Mijung Kim (Hachette Go)
The Current Events & Public Affairs Book of the Year: Arriving Today: From Factory to Front Door--Why Everything Has Changed About How and What We Buy by Christopher Mims (Harper Business)
The Narrative & Biography Book of the Year: Susan, Linda, Nina and Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR by Lisa Napoli (Abrams Press)
The Big Ideas & New Perspectives Book of the Year: The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee (One World)

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, December 21:

Segregated Skies: David Harris' Trailblazing Journey to Rise Above Racial Barriers by Michael Cottman (National Geographic Kids, $18.99, 9781426371974) is a middle-grade nonfiction work about David Harris, the first African American to become a commercial airline pilot.

She Persisted: Oprah Winfrey by Renée Watson, illus. by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint (Philomel, $14.99, 9780593115985) is a chapter book biography of Oprah Winfrey based on the picture book She Persisted written by Chelsea Clinton.


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:

Chouette: A Novel by Claire Oshetsky (Ecco, $24, 9780063066670). "From the beginning I was rapt, unable to look away from what is exactly the definition of awe: terrible and beautiful all at once. Absolutely one of the best reads of my year." --Chelsia Rice, Montana Book Company, Helena, Mont.

A Thing of Beauty: Travels in Mythical and Modern Greece by Peter Fiennes (Oneworld, $27.95, 9780861540617). "I really enjoyed this mashup of travel writing, musings on Greek mythology, and thoughts about climate change and its effect on our world. Fiennes drew me in with his study of Lord Byron and from there I was happy to pop in on his travels." --Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Elder Race by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor, $14.99, 9781250768728). "This smart and snappy novella stitches together a slew of tropes--technology-as-magic, traditional D&D-esque fantasy, alien anthropology--interrogating each element. A rollicking read with intriguing little nuggets of insight." --Jake Casella Brookins, City Lit Books, Chicago, Ill.

For Ages 2 to 6
Amos McGee Misses the Bus by Philip C. Stead, illus. by Erin E. Stead (Roaring Brook Press, $18.99, 9781250213228). "Amos McGee and his crew of delightful animal friends are proof that humor and levity can exist in a completely sincere and heartfelt story. With a surprise ending and Philip and Erin Stead's signature style, this is another modern classic from the dynamic duo!" --Molly Olivo, Barstons Child's Play, Washington, D.C.

For Ages 8 to 12
Playing the Cards You're Dealt by Varian Johnson (Scholastic, $16.99, 9781338348538). "Definitely lives up to The Parker Inheritance. Nicely rounded characters facing believable issues in a supportive, but not always perfect, community setting. This fills a good need--early middle grade books with smart boys learning how to be great men." --Rosie Lee-Parks, Readers' Books, Sonoma, Calif.

For Teen Readers
Black Birds in the Sky: The Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre by Brandy Colbert (Balzer + Bray, $19.99, 9780063056664). "A captivating book that not only teaches readers about the Tulsa Race Massacre but also looks at the bigger picture of what is the United States. Filled with history centered around different racial communities, the book does justice to those who did not learn certain history lessons in traditional educational institutions." --Melissa Silvester, Boogie Down Books, Bronx, N.Y.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: Count Your Lucky Stars

Count Your Lucky Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur (Avon, $15.99 paperback, 384p., 9780063000889, February 1, 2022)

Like her first two romantic comedies, Alexandria Bellefleur's Count Your Lucky Stars sparkles with humor and wit, but readers will be particularly drawn into this story by the intense yearning shown by the two main characters.

Count Your Lucky Stars opens as Olivia's boss taps her to plan a wedding for Brendon and Annie, the central couple from Hang the Moon, who are frantically searching for a new venue. Margot is a friend and business partner of the groom, and when she shows up at the first meeting between Olivia and the engaged pair, awkwardness reigns.

High school best friends, Olivia and Margot once spent an ill-fated week of romantic and sexual bliss together, but they haven't spoken since Olivia got back together with the boy who would eventually become her ex-husband. Ten years later, Margot is more than happy to pretend to her friends--couples from the first books in the series--that she and Olivia have no uncomfortable history. When a flood forces Olivia to vacate her apartment, Margot offers her spare room and Olivia moves in.

Bellefleur keeps the camera close, ramping up the tension with forced proximity. Demonstrating her skill at characterization, she tailors the speed of the romantic and physical relationships to the couple in each book and, given the history between Margot and Olivia, Count Your Lucky Stars is a bit steamier than the first two. Margot and Olivia have spent years grieving their friendship and while they both want desperately to protect their hearts, they're helpless to resist their attraction.

Bellefleur cleverly uses callbacks in a couple of places to great effect, illustrating how difficult it is for the two women to keep things casual. As Olivia finally puts distance between herself and her ex, and Margot finds her place among a group of friends that's seemingly paired up and moved on without her, they realize that life's too short not to be with the people they love. Count Your Lucky Stars has all the makings of a great rom-com: crackling banter, meddling friends, an outspoken cat and an irresistible romance. --Suzanne Krohn, librarian and freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Estranged former best friends are reunited by a wedding and end up roommates in this sexy queer contemporary romance full of banter and pining.

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