Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, May 1, 2024


Flatiron Books: The Courting of Bristol Keats: [Limited Stenciled Edge Edition] by Mary E Pearson

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker

Doubleday Books: Death at the Sign of the Rook: A Jackson Brodie Book by Kate Atkinson

Groundwood Books: Who We Are in Real Life by Victoria Koops

Agate Bolden: 54 Miles by Leonard Pitts Jr.

News

Amazon: First-Quarter Sales Jump 12.5%; Net Income Tops $10 Billion

Net sales at Amazon in the first quarter ended March 31 rose 12.5%, to $143.3 billion, and net income more than tripled, to $10.4 billion from $3.2 billion. The results were higher than expected by analysts, which led the company's stock to rise 2%, to about $179 a share, in after-hours trading. For the year, Amazon stock has risen almost 17%.

In the quarter, North America segment sales increased 12%, to $86.3 billion; international sales increased 10%, to $31.9 billion (or up 11% when the effect of the strong dollar is excluded); and sales of Amazon Web Services, which includes AI, increased 17%, to $25 billion.

Observers focused on several major components of Amazon's business. These include AWS, the cloud-computing division that includes Amazon's AI operations, which it is investing in heavily, seeking to catch up to and match AI rivals Microsoft and Meta, among others. In addition, Amazon's retail operations continue to grow, aided by an emphasis on same- or next-day delivery in ever more markets. Advertising, too, has become a major contributor to growth, particularly now that ads run in Prime video streaming.

The New York Times said the results showed Amazon "continued to wring efficiencies out of its retail business and recharge growth in its cloud computing operations."

And the Wall Street Journal noted Amazon's record sales for the period "as the AI boom powered growth in its cloud-computing unit, helping shake off last year's post-pandemic slump."

Amazon president and CEO Andy Jassy called the first quarter results "a good start to the year... The combination of companies renewing their infrastructure modernization efforts and the appeal of AWS's AI capabilities is reaccelerating AWS's growth rate (now at a $100 billion annual revenue run rate); our stores business continues to expand selection, provide everyday low prices, and accelerate delivery speed (setting another record on speed for Prime customers in Q1) while lowering our cost to serve; and, our advertising efforts continue to benefit from the growth of our stores and Prime Video businesses."

Amazon predicted that net sales in the second quarter will grow 7%-11%, to between $144 billion and $149 billion.


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The Lynx Bookstore, Gainesville, Fla., Hosts Grand Opening 

The Lynx bookstore, a general-interest shop that emphasizes banned books, BIPOC authors, LGBTQ+ authors, and Florida authors, hosted a grand opening and ribbon-cutting on Sunday, April 28, at 601 South Main Street in Gainesville, Fla. The all-day celebration included music, author presentations, and more.  

In December, Groff told Shelf Awareness that she and her husband, Clay Kallman, with whom she owns the store, were inspired not only to promote Florida's "rich and varied literary history," but also to push back against the state's "authoritarian government" by highlighting and celebrating the work of LGBTQ authors as well as Black, brown, and indigenous authors. Groff pointed out that sometimes these groups overlap--Zora Neale Hurston, for example, is a Florida author who also happens to be one of the most banned and challenged writers in the state.

Groff and Kallman have lived in Gainesville for about 18 years and have wanted to open a bookstore of their own for about a dozen years. Kallman grew up in Gainesville, and his family owned and operated the Florida Bookstore from the 1930s until the 1990s. The couple spent years looking for the right spot, and finally found it in September of last year.

In a recent interview with Teen Vogue, Groff said, "When we moved to Gainesville, there were a bunch of independent bookstores, and they all sort of faded away. I thought we could do a different model, an events-driven model. I'd been dreaming about it for a long time until I got so fed up with the book bans that are happening here and the fact that people I care about very deeply don't feel safe in my state, because the state is institutionalizing bigotry and hatred. I want to react against this dissemination of hate and overpower it with sheer love, which I know sounds really utopian, but I'm a writer of novels. There's nothing more utopian than that.

"What we're doing is an act of love. I am not reacting against Republicans, I'm pushing back with an open heart and saying everyone is welcome in my store, and we are going to celebrate voices that are important and diverse."


Applications Open for Macmillan Professional Development Scholarship

Applications are open for the Macmillan Booksellers Professional Development Scholarship, a partnership between the Book Industry Charitable Foundation and Macmillan Publishers that provides grants of $500 to help booksellers from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds attend their region's independent booksellers association fall trade show.

Tim Greco, Macmillan's executive v-p, sales, said, "We're excited to continue our collaboration with Binc for the professional development scholarship. By investing in the growth of these booksellers, Binc is building a future for the book industry that is as diverse and vibrant as our communities."

"Underrepresented booksellers have access to a wider range of opportunities for professional development and growth within the book industry thanks to our partners," said Pam French, Binc's executive director. "Binc is honored to work with Macmillan Publishers and the independent bookseller associations to increase access."

The $500 scholarships will cover the cost of travel, lodging, and meals for attending a regional fall trade show. Applicants must answer three short essay questions, and a panel from Macmillan and the Binc program committee will choose eight winners, one from each region.

Qualifications and the application can be found here.


International Update: BA Names New President; U.K. Adults Reading YA Fiction

Fleur Sinclair, owner of Sevenoaks Bookshop has been named president of the Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland, succeeding Hazel Broadfoot of Village Books, Dulwich, as her term ends. Sinclair, who has been v-p of the BA since 2020, will be supported in her new role by new v-p Mairi Oliver of Lighthouse--Edinburgh's Radical Bookshop, while Debbie James of Kibworth Books continues in the role of v-p. Sinclair and Oliver assumed their new positions effective April 30, with terms lasting two years.

Fleur Sinclair

"I'm feeling both privileged and slightly daunted to be taking over BA president," said Sinclair, adding that Broadfoot "brought so much experience and wisdom to the role, all delivered with enviable calm and poise. But I am so very happy to be a part of the bookselling tribe, and I intend in my tenure to do all I can to help all booksellers maintain our valuable positions and show off all we do and are capable of--whether that's to soon-to-be customers, would-love-to-be-booksellers, publishers or politicians. Exciting times!"
 
Describing Sinclair a "vivacious, creative, collegiate, thoughtful and compassionate bookseller," BA managing director Meryl Halls said, "Fleur will be a fantastic successor to Hazel. We have been incredibly lucky to have such a pool of bookselling talent working with us at the BA over many years, and I know that Fleur will pick up on all the priorities Hazel has worked on in her fearless and authoritative presidency, as well as adding her own particular vision and perspective. We are deeply grateful to Hazel for her dedication during her supportive, calm and wise tenure--it's been a pleasure working with her and we shall miss her counsel."
 
Oliver commented: 'It's a real honor to be invited to become BA vice president. The last few years on the advisory council have offered such a huge insight into the tireless workings of the BA and the experiences of booksellers at the coal face of an ever changing industry. Having seen Fleur Sinclair and Debbie James lead on so many conversations around inclusivity, sustainability, creativity and collaboration in the book trade I couldn't be more excited to support them as v-p and hopefully bring to the table some fresh perspectives both as Scottish bookseller and as a bookshop member of the Alliance of Radical Booksellers."

---
 
A new study has shown that 74% of YA readers in the U.K. are adults, and 28% over the age of 28, the Guardian reported. According to the research, which was commissioned by HarperCollins UK in collaboration with Nielsen Book, this is due to behavioral changes described as "emerging adulthood": young people growing up more slowly and delaying "adult" life. The feelings of instability and "in-betweenness" this can cause has led to young adults seeking solace in young adult fiction--and for some these books remain a source of comfort as they grow older.

The report also indicated that the association between reading for pleasure and wellbeing is reflected in the growing popularity of YA books, "with readers of all ages increasingly turning to YA as a source of comfort, nostalgia and self-care."

In addition, 29% of 14- to 25-year-olds "strongly think of themselves as a reader," with many choosing to build an identity around books online, on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. Of the young people surveyed who answered "very true" to the statement "I think of myself as a reader," 40% described themselves as "very happy." In contrast, 21% of those who did not think of themselves as readers described themselves as "very happy."

Alison David, consumer insight director at HarperCollins UK, said the research "suggests wellbeing comes from more than the act of reading (relaxation, escapism, the content itself). The psychology of being a reader is enormously powerful."

Although most of the young people surveyed said they recognized and experienced the benefits of reading, the research showed that only 16% of 14-25-year-olds read daily or nearly every day for pleasure. Boys between the ages of 14 and 17 were more likely to be disengaged from reading, with 38% saying they rarely or never read for pleasure. More than half of both boys (55%) and girls (63%) said they had too much schoolwork to read books for fun.

Cally Poplak, managing director of HarperCollins U.K. Children's Books and Farshore, noted that while it is "really encouraging" to see that young people have a positive attitude towards books, "the vast majority of young people are not reading every day.... How do we tackle this contradiction that today's young people, who are already being referred to as the 'anxious generation,' know reading is good for them, but still aren't picking up books?" --Robert Gray


Obituary Note: C.J. Sansom

C.J. Sansom

British author Christopher John Sansom, author of the Shardlake series of crime novels under the pen name C.J. Sansom, died April 27, the Bookseller reported. He was 71. Sansom was awarded the Crime Writers' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger Award in 2022 for his outstanding contribution to the genre.

Maria Rejt, his long-time editor and publisher, said: "An intensely private person, Chris wished from the very start only to be published quietly and without fanfare. But he always took immense pleasure in the public's enthusiastic responses to his novels and worked tirelessly on each book, never wanting to disappoint a single reader.

"He was working on his new Shardlake novel, Ratcliff, when he died but his worsening health made progress painfully slow: his meticulous historical research and his writing were always so important to him. I shall miss him hugely, not only as a wonderfully talented writer who gave joy to millions, but as a dear friend of enormous compassion and integrity."

His agent, Antony Topping, commented: "Chris did not seek the limelight, preferring to be known through his novels, and so in comparison with his fame and reputation relatively few people were lucky enough to know the person behind the work. He had an immense, far-reaching and deeply humane intelligence. His fans can see this in the novels but he applied it equally in his everyday dealings with friends, in his politics and his charitable acts.... He had a loathing of injustice of any kind and a special contempt for bullies."

Sansom was one of Britain's bestselling historical novelists, known in particular for his mystery novels featuring barrister Matthew Shardlake, set in Tudor England, the Guardian reported. He died just days before Shardlake, the TV adaptation of his debut novel, Dissolution, starring Arthur Hughes and Sean Bean, would be released on Hulu.

The first book in his Shardlake series, Dissolution (2003) was an immediate bestseller and nominated in two categories for the 2003 Crime Writers' Association Dagger awards. Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter called it "extraordinarily impressive." Six more Shardlake novels were published, with more than three million copies now in print, making it one of the most successful crime series of all time, the Guardian noted. His final published novel was Tombland.

"The problem with history--and the further back you go, the truer this is--is that there are all sorts of gaps," Sansom told the Guardian in 2010. "With Tudor times, information is sparse: things have single or contradictory sources. But where there are established facts, I do everything I can to insert the story around them."

Boyd Tonkin wrote in the Guardian: "A good man in trying times, his Shardlake became a firm friend to countless admirers. Erudite but approachable, his creator spoke engagingly about his work in a voice that bore soft traces of an Edinburgh upbringing. Above all, the one-time solicitor ceased never to explore the meaning of justice--or to tell timeless truths about power and its victims."


Notes

Image of the Day: Allentown's The End Hosts Launch for The Jinn Daughter

The launch event for Rania Hanna's debut novel, The Jinn Daughter (Hoopoe/The American University in Cairo Press) was held at The End Bookstore in Allentown, Pa. Hanna appeared with Hannah Nicole Maehrer, author of Assistant to the Villain.


Book Series Trailer of the Day: The Kids in Mrs. Z's Class

The Kids in Mrs. Z's Class, a new chapter-book series that will feature 18 books written by 18 authors, each about a different member of the 18 students in one third-grade class (Algonquin Young Readers). The first two titles, being published simultaneously and both illustrated by Kat Fajardo, are Emma McKenna, Full Out by Kate Messner and Rohan Murthy Has a Plan by Rajani LaRocca.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Erik Larson on Fresh Air

Today:
Morning Joe: John Green, author of Turtles All the Way Down (Penguin Books, $14.99, 9780525555377).

Fresh Air: Erik Larson, author of The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War (Crown, $35, 9780385348744).

Tomorrow:
Good Morning America: Jess Damuck, author of Health Nut: A Feel-Good Cookbook (Abrams, $35, 9781419770371).

Also on GMA: Carley Fortune, author of This Summer Will Be Different (Berkley, $29, 9780593638897).

Morning Joe: Emmanuel Acho and Noa Tishby, authors of Uncomfortable Conversations with a Jew (Simon Element, $27.99, 9781668057858).

Jennifer Hudson Show: Mahalia Hines, author of Tomorrow's Children: How to Raise Children to Stay Human in a High-Tech Society (Balboa Press, $15.99, 9798765250235).

Drew Barrymore Show: Valerie Bertinelli, author of Indulge: Delicious and Decadent Dishes to Enjoy and Share (Harvest, $35, 9780063244726).


Stage to Film: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Cate Blanchett's Dirty Films has acquired the film rights to the Sydney Theatre Company's adaptation of Oscar Wilde's classic The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is currently wrapping up its run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in London's West End, Deadline reported. Sarah Snook (Succession) just won an Olivier Award for best actress for her work in the production.

Dirty Films partner Andrew Upton is working with Kip Williams, who adapted and directs the play, on a film treatment "based on the technically dazzling one woman show, which sees its protagonist play 26 roles," Deadline added. The part was first performed by Eryn Jean Norvill in sell-out runs across Australia, and the play may land on Broadway in early 2025. 

Co-producers on the film will be Rachel Gardner and Jo Porter of Australian company Curio Pictures. No casting news has been released yet.



Books & Authors

Awards: Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel Longlist

An 18-title longlist has been released for this year's Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, which celebrates "excellence, originality and the very best in crime fiction" by U.K. and Irish authors. The prize is run by Harrogate International Festivals and sponsored by T&R Theakston Ltd, in partnership with WH Smith and the Daily Express

A shortlist will be announced June 13, with the winner revealed July 18 on the opening night of Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival. The winner receives £3,000 (about $3,765) and an engraved oak beer cask, hand-carved by one of Britain's last coopers from Theakston's Brewery in Masham. Check out the complete longlist here


Reading with... Camille Aubray

photo: Umberto Marcenaro

Camille Aubray is the author of Cooking for Picasso and The Godmothers. Her new novel is The Girl from the Grand Hotel (Blackstone Publishing), a historical novel that brings readers into the glamorous world of the 1939 Cannes Film Festival and the deadly atmosphere of Europe on the brink of war. Aubray was an Edward F. Albee Foundation Fellowship winner, a writer-in-residence at the Karolyi Foundation in the South of France, and a finalist at the Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference, and she has written television dramas. Aubray's novels were chosen for the "best books" lists by People, Newsweek, BuzzFeed, Parade, the Boston Globe, Cosmopolitan, Fodor's Travels, Veranda, the Indie Next List for Reading Groups, and Amazon's Celebrity Picks.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

The Girl from the Grand Hotel is about the 1939 first (and doomed) Cannes Film Festival. Hollywood movie stars, the French Riviera, and Nazi spies!

Favorite book when you were a child:

When I was a little girl, the library allowed children to take out four books a week. And I did, every week! I loved everything, except the books that adults thought kids would like. If I had to pick just one, I think it would be a book that looked as if it had been in the library forever--Eleanor Farjeon's delightfully subversive Poems for Children. I think it had a yellow cover.

Your top five authors:

Colette, F. Scott Fitzgerald, George Orwell, Raymond Chandler, Evelyn Waugh. I often prefer the lesser-known fiction of these authors. For instance, with Orwell, it's not 1984 that I favor, but the wickedly funny Coming Up for Air. My mentor, Margaret Atwood, is another example of my adoration for the earlier works of my favorite authors, because I loved Bodily Harm and Cat's Eye. And I appreciate Anita Brookner's novels for her unapologetic, acerbic, solitary outsider point of view. Okay, so I did seven authors, can't help it.

Book you've faked reading:

I have never pretended to read a book! I don't think books are there for us to impress our friends. Books are my friends. I wouldn't fake that I knew one of them if I didn't.

Books you're an evangelist for:

Balzac's heartbreaking Eugénie Grandet, which Henry James admired and which, I believe, inspired him to write Washington Square. The wise Babette's Feast and Other Anecdotes of Destiny by Isak Dinesen. And Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons, which is truly that--magnificent. James Joyce's Dubliners is superb. Charlotte Brontë's Villette made me cry, not because of the ending but because of a touching metaphorical passage about a dormouse with an icicle in its heart.

Books you've bought for the cover:

As a girl I was fascinated by the Nancy Drew covers, with their whispering statues and secret staircases. I was also attracted by A.A. Milne's When We Were Very Young, whose cover and illustrations were very whimsical.

Book you hid from your parents:

I can tell you about a book I should have hidden from my parents. I can't remember the title, but it was about a woman who falls in love with a pirate, and I got it cheap at a church book sale. My mother spied it, read the book jacket and confiscated it before I could read it! Now why would a church sell a book like that? I don't think they did much sorting. But the book vanished, so I can't tell you how it turned out.

Book that changed your life:

Little Women made me want to go up into the attic and write and then mail my stories off to magazines, which I did, at age 11! But the short story "Bernice Bobs Her Hair" was liberating because F. Scott Fitzgerald made a joke about Little Women; apparently he, too, was a fan of the book but he also realized that girls needed to be freed from the social tyranny of always having to be kind and "good."

And speaking of liberation, I read Gone with the Wind at an impressionable age and was delighted to find a "selfish" heroine who didn't care about being "nice"; but when you think of it, Scarlett O'Hara wasn't really selfish because she financially supported her entire family, and Ashley's, too! Give the girl a break.

But probably the most liberating book I read was a collection of Colette's short stories, because of her earthy sympathy for the entire human race.

Favorite line from a book:

"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy--they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made." --The Great Gatsby

Five books you'll never part with:

If you could see all the books I've got in my house--everywhere--you'd know how impossible it is to pick five. But these I read over and over: Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Colette's Earthly Paradise, and earlier editions of Irma Rombauer's Joy of Cooking.

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

My husband, J. Hamilton Ray, wrote an utterly delightful book for children called Squirrels on Skis. I realize that I am partial, but every time I read it, I feel like it's the first time.

Books you read while you are writing a novel:

Usually it's all nonfiction, for research. For my new novel, The Girl from the Grand Hotel, it was an eclectic mix, of French history especially of the Côte d'Azur, Hollywood biographies, film history, World War II history, cookbooks and menus, fashion, film posters, and--very important--the newspapers and magazines of the time period. I also listened to songs of that era, and, of course, I watched lots and lots of movies!


Book Review

Children's Review: The Island Before No

The Island Before No by Christina Uss, illus. by Hudson Christie (Tundra Books, $18.99 hardcover, 56p., ages 3-7, 9780735272415, July 16, 2024)

The Island Before No cleverly, comically, and with plenty of aplomb relates the story of how a huddle of overly agreeable walruses deals with the challenge of a contrary new Kid who arrives on their island, neatly demonstrating how "YES [can] work as a great partner to NO."

On this island full of walruses, "every simple question had just one simple answer: yes!" According to the walrus narrator, yes worked beautifully when questions pertained to staying up late or eating cake; it was "not so great when someone asked you to wear an itchy shirt or get a haircut." But "yes" is the answer these walruses know, so they went with it. Until the Kid shows up. The Kid parks his boat in the middle of the Walrus Ball court and, when asked to move, responds with something new: "NO!"

NO wasn't "shaped like YES, but somehow it was still an answer." NO is "heavy like a bookcase, solid as a boulder." And NO allows the Kid to take all the donuts from Café Donutto. When the narrator wishes to share, the Kid says NO ("the best word in the world!") and instead calls for a piggyback ride. The poor walrus answers, predictably, "yes." Ensuing requests come quickly and are all answered with the familiar yes. When the fed-up walrus begs, "Would you stop using my toothbrush to paint the cat?" the Kid, of course, says NO.

The Kid invites friends who all borrow toothbrushes. Donut supplies begin to run low. Finally, the frustrated walruses decide they need to employ the "big new word" themselves. Their first NOs are "squishy like sponges." But, with practice, the narrator manages to squeeze out a small NO. Even though it's not big or heavy, it works! Now, armed with a whole wheelbarrow full of NOs to go with their yeses, the pod sets about saving their island.

Christina Uss (The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle) delivers a chucklesome narrative that follows a clear, concise arc, one she expertly punches up with plenty of fun linguistic devices. The story is allowed to unfold in 56 generous pages, giving debut book illustrator Hudson Christie ample room to contribute enthusiastic, appealing visuals. Christie's clay and paper dioramas bring a solid, 3-D heft to the art and some spreads--which are illustration only, even the text ("yes" or "NO") rendered in the artist's Claymation style--help both pace and emphasize plot points. This splendid cautionary tale comes in the most kid-friendly of packages! --Lynn Becker, reviewer, blogger, and children's book author

Shelf Talker: The Island Before No cleverly and comically relates the story of how a huddle of overly agreeable walruses learns the value of partnering "yes" with "NO."


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