Shelf Awareness for Monday, May 6, 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.


Tacoma's Grit City Books Celebrates Grand Opening 

Grit City Books, which began as an online bookstore last fall, celebrated the grand opening on Saturday of its new physical storefront at 3116 Sixth Ave. in Tacoma, Wash. Co-founders Jeff Hanway, Kegan Hanway, and Kaitlin Chandler want their store to be "a bookworm's dream--a mecca for curious minds."

Opening day at Grit City

After the grand opening, Grit City Books posted on Facebook: "Wow. Just... WOW. Yesterday was an incredible day that we will never forget! We started the morning with a line wrapping around the block, @thecollectionbakery sold out TWICE, @civicroasters sold out, @thecleo_nova and @castinglovespell danced and read (the kiddos LOVED it) and we got to finally meet some of you in person. 

"To say we are grateful is an understatement. The love we felt yesterday was immeasurable. (I'm pretty sure we cried multiple times). We will be back Tuesday with new releases and hopefully some fully stocked shelves! Tacoma, we love you. We are so excited for our future."

Earlier, Chandler had told the News Tribune: "We are incredibly excited to get to share this labor of love that we've been working so hard on. Every corner of the store has been thought through, every item we sell other than books was handpicked, every design choice we made was to create a warm and welcoming space." 

Grit City Books traces its genesis back to the thick of the pandemic. Kegan Hanway had previously told said "the idea of this bookstore grew out of our navigating Covid and lockdowns and the realities of working in a corporate environment... that reevaluation that I think a lot of us went through during Covid... that there was other stuff we could be doing that might have more value to us, to our community." 

Chandler noted the co-owners want to create an inclusive space, particularly for the LGBTQ+ community. Grit City Books will host monthly (and family friendly) drag story time, book-release events, author signings, and more.

The shop seeks to offer convenience, "but with the heart of a small neighborhood bookstore," and to foster deeper connections within the community, she added. "There is a renaissance happening where folks (especially Millennials) are hyper aware of where their hard-earned dollars are going and they'd rather spend their money with a local small business rather than a giant corporation. Tacoma, and Sixth Avenue specifically, support small businesses with an enthusiasm that makes it difficult for corporations to exist here." 

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New Hampshire Book Festival Making Debut in October

The inaugural New Hampshire Book Festival will take place in Concord, N.H., October 4-5.

The two-day event will see Concord's Main St. closed to vehicles between Gibson's Bookstore, which is the festival's official bookselling partner, and the Capitol Center for the Arts. There will be author panels, interviews, book signings, and more, with a full slate of programming for both children and adults.

Author Emilie Christie Burack, who co-founded the book festival with fellow author Sarah McCraw Crow, described the event as a "big street fair" that will be free and open to the public. In addition to the author programming, there will be food trucks, live music, and a bookselling tent.

The keynote author for the children's program will be Kate DiCamillo, while Jean Hanff Korelitz is the adult keynote. The children's side will include events featuring everything from picture book authors and illustrators to YA authors, and the adult side will include panels pertaining to literary fiction, nonfiction, horror, romance, and more. The full schedule of author events will be announced in the coming weeks.

A major focus of the book festival, Burack noted, will be getting under-resourced kids to the children's keynote. That includes underwriting tickets as well as some of the transportation to the event, and each child who attends will get a free copy of DiCamillo's The Hotel Balzaar (illustrated by Júlia Sardà), which will be published by Candlewick October 1.

Prior to the establishment of the New Hampshire Book Festival, Burack said, New Hampshire was the only New England state without a statewide book festival to call its own. It was something that people wanted, but for a long time "no one had the bandwidth." Last year, however, Burack and Crow decided "we're gonna do it. Over the ensuing months they created the New Hampshire Book Festival nonprofit, put together a "fantastic board," and built partnerships with a variety of organizations.

Asked how people have responded to their plans, Burack reported that she and Craw have been "stunned by the enthusiasm." The city of Concord "jumped in to support it," as have a number of entities such as NH Humanities and New Hampshire Public Radio. People are "pretty thrilled this is coming to New Hampshire."

Looking forward, the plan is to build an annual event where authors and readers can come together to "celebrate literacy, community, and conversation." And, Burack added, "talk about some good things."

Amanda Close Leaving PRH at End of June

Amanda Close, senior v-p, children's sales and strategic marketing development, at Penguin Random House, is stepping down at the end of June to spend more time with her family and to devote more energy to her own creative projects. Close joined Bertelsmann in 2001, moved to Random House in 2003, and has had leadership positions in sales, operations, digital development, and corporate marketing.

In an announcement to staff, chief revenue officer Jaci Updike praised Close for, in part, "a track record driving teams through innovation and change: initiating our first direct-to-consumer initiative (which then grew into our current corporate marketing team); founding and nurturing the first cross-divisional marketing task force to explore what scale meant in the context of our industry; negotiating early e-book partnerships; and exploring how to get the most value out of commerce and marketing partners. The list of experiments, tools, and programs that she and her teams have incubated is far-reaching: marketing technology, Facebook labs, social commerce, and gifting, Brightly (our online children's program), consumer data collection and usage, and demand-driven publishing, to name just a few...

"You won't be surprised to know that I tried hard to talk Amanda into staying. She has been a crucial go-to adviser for me over many years, and I will very much miss her brilliant insights, her unfailing good humor--and the way she makes all of us just a little happier for having her in the room."

Obituary Note: Joel Conarroe

Joel Conarroe, a "celebrated arts administrator and professor who headed the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for nearly two decades and served as a friend and confidante to a pride of literary lions, including his close friend Philip Roth," died May 5, the New York Times reported. He was 89.

A central figure in the world of letters for decades, Conarroe served stints as executive director of the Modern Language Association and the president of PEN American Center, as well as chairman of the National Book Award fiction jury, the Pulitzer Prize fiction jury, and other posts.

He was best known for his work with the Guggenheim Foundation from 1985 to 2003, where he was only the third president in the history of the organization. Current foundation president Edward Hirsch said, "He was attuned to changing cultural mores--the twists and turns in dozens of academic and artistic fields--while dealing with the financial challenges and working to raise the amount of fellowships so that people could do their own work." 

Author Robert Caro, who served with Conarroe on the Guggenheim board, recalled his air of authority: "I had never seen meetings, sometimes with long, complicated agendas, run with such graciousness, and yet firmness. As I got a close-up of Joel in his professional life, I marveled again and again at the unchanging integrity with which he made decisions, and not just at the Guggenheim but on the many, many committees that award literary prizes."

Conarroe was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania for nearly two decades, including eight years as a professor in the English department, rising to department chair. He spent two years in the 1980s as the dean of Penn's School of Arts & Sciences.

His contributions to literature "stretched beyond the accomplishments listed on his curriculum vitae," the Times wrote, adding: "Known to be gregarious, courtly and wickedly funny, he often threw parties studded with literary stars like Mr. Caro and Calvin Trillin at the Century club in Manhattan. And he frequently presided over de facto literary salons at restaurants in the West Village, where he lived on West 11th Street amid towering stacks of books with his two cats."

"Joel was the hub of the New York literary wheel," author and longtime friend Patricia Volk said. "He brought people together, fixed them up, and it always took. He knew exactly who would like who."

Perhaps none of his friendships "were as close--or as complicated--as his half-century-long tenure as a defender and confidant of Roth," the Times noted. Conarroe provided the author with "valued feedback on manuscripts for his novels, watched baseball games and shared gossip with him, and accompanied him to parties and awards dinners."

As a writer, Conarroe published analyses of the poetry of William Carlos Williams and John Berryman and edited multiple poetry anthologies, including Six American Poets, a 1993 survey of works by Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and others. The anthology found unlikely fame when Joseph Brodsky, then the nation's poet laureate, spearheaded a program to include a copy alongside the Gideons Bible in thousands of hotel and motel rooms around the country.

"I told Joel that it was the most stolen book in the history of publishing," Volk recalled. 


#FreeComicBookDay: 'Absolutely Epic and Fun!'

Saturday was Free Comic Book Day, with participating retailers across the country and around the world giving away comics and customers cosplaying for the occasion. Here's a sampling of fun posts from several participating stores:

Bell, Book & Comic, Dayton, Ohio: "It's here!!! Free Comic Book Day 2024!!! And it's May The 4th Be With you Day!! Come on down and get your free books and save on all our wonderful deals. Plus visit with all our guest artists!!!!"

Secret World Books, Highland Park, Ill.: "As we set up our #maythe4thbewithyou offerings this #freecomicbookday, Gayle couldn't help but display her sister on the original Star Wars Play-Doh box!"
Betty's Books, Webster Groves, Mo.: "IT'S FREE COMIC BOOK DAY... and... LOTTIE'S BIRTHDAY!!! A big day for BB's… Don't miss out on the fun!!"

Forbidden Planet, Leicester, U.K.: "A selection of some of the fantastic cosplayers who popped in yesterday."

Dr. No's Comics, Marietta, Ga.: "Bring the whole squad!... Free Comic Book Day had Begun!!! Pop by for free comics all day & fun. Tag us with your haul."

Heroes & Fantasies, San Antonio, Tex.: "Celebrate May the Fourth and Free Comic Book Day with us!!"

Infinite Realities: Comics, Games & More, Tulsa, Okla.: "Y'all, FREE COMIC BOOK DAY at Infinite Realities is LIT!"

That's Entertainment, Worcester, Mass.: "Free Comic Book Day is underway!! Stop in today, May 4th! We will be giving away free comics all day 11am to 7pm, while supplies last. Our costume contest and guest comic creators and artists will be here from 11am to 5pm!"

At Dr. No's Comics

Double Header, Inc., Pine Bluff, Ark.: "Free Comic Book Day is still going. We have plenty of free comics for the whole family!" 

Collectors Corner, Parkville, Md.: "Thank you to everyone that came out for #freecomicbookday2024 at Collectors Corner Parkville HQ... and to all of our loyal and super supportive customers we love all of you equally, especially all of you that make us your escape from the daily dregs of life, the hamster wheel, the machine... don't let it grind you down!"

Comic Odyssey, Quezon City, the Philippines: "We're still on an FCBD high... yesterday was absolutely epic and fun!!! We just want to express how grateful we are to everyone who celebrated with us at this once-a-year event, from fans to creators, cosplayers, and to people who just happened to pass by. THANK YOU!"

Image of the Day: Surprise Proposal at BookPeople Event

During BookPeople's offsite event at the Central Presbyterian Church in Austin, Tex., for Lauren Roberts's novella Powerful (S&S Books for Young Readers), cheers erupted in the signing line at a surprise proposal. She said YES!

Personnel Changes at Holt

Caitlin Mulrooney-Lyski has been promoted to v-p, associate publisher of Henry Holt.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Zoë Schlanger on Fresh Air

CBS Mornings: Tom Selleck, co-author of You Never Know: A Memoir (Dey Street, $29.99, 9780062945761). He will also appear on Live with Kelly and Mark.

Also on CBS Mornings: Governor Kristi Noem, author of No Going Back: The Truth on What's Wrong with Politics and How We Move America Forward (Center Street, $30, 9781546008163).

Today Show: Bonnie Hammer, author of 15 Lies Women Are Told at Work: …And the Truth We Need to Succeed (Simon Element, $28.99, 9781668027615).

Also on Today: Cleo Wade, author of May You Love and Be Loved: Wishes for Your Life (Feiwel & Friends, $18.99, 9781250873958).

Fresh Air: Zoë Schlanger, author of The Light Eaters: How the Unseen World of Plant Intelligence Offers a New Understanding of Life on Earth (Harper, $29.99, 9780063073852).

The View: Jen Psaki, author of Say More: Lessons from Work, the White House, and the World (Scribner, $28.99, 9781668019856).

Kelly Clarkson Show: John Green, author of Turtles All the Way Down (Penguin Books, $14.99, 9780525555377).

Good Morning America: Luis A. Miranda Jr., author of Relentless: My Story of the Latino Spirit That Is Transforming America (Hachette Books, $30, 9780306833229).

Also on GMA: Whoopi Goldberg, author of Bits and Pieces: My Mother, My Brother, and Me (Blackstone, $28.99, 9798200920235).

Today Show: Craig Melvin, author of I'm Proud of You (Quill Tree Books, $19.99, 9780063206137). He will also appear on the Kelly Clarkson Show.

Also on Today: Alina Grabowski, author of Women and Children First: A Novel (Zando, $28, 9781638930785).

Tamron Hall: Emily Oster, author of The Unexpected: Navigating Pregnancy During and After Complications (Penguin Press, $28, 9780593652770).

The View: Tiffany Haddish, author of I Curse You with Joy (Diversion Books, $28.99, 9781635769531). She will also appear on the Today Show and the Late Show With Stephen Colbert.

Movies: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

Academy Award winner Siân Heder is adapting Gabrielle Zevin's bestselling 2022 novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow for the big screen, IndieWire reported. The film will be written by Mark Bomback, who wrote the script based on a draft by Zevin, with the author serving as an executive producer on the Paramount Pictures release. Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, and Isaac Klausner will produce the adaptation via their Temple Hill production company (Turtles All the Way Down).

Heder has written and directed for series including Orange Is the New Black, GLOW, and Little America. Her film directorial debut was Tallulah, followed by Coda, which received both best picture and best adapted screenplay Oscars, as well as Troy Kotsur's best supporting actor win. 

Books & Authors

Awards: Stella Winner; Walter Scott Historical Fiction Shortlist

Praiseworthy by Alexis Wright has won the A$60,000 (about US$39,600) Stella Prize, honoring the best writing by Australian women. (The novel was published by New Directions in the U.S. in February.)

Organizers said, "Fierce and gloriously funny, Praiseworthy is a genre-defiant epic of climate catastrophe proportions. Part manifesto, part indictment, Alexis Wright's real-life frustration at the indignities of the Anthropocene stalk the pages of this, her fourth novel.

"That frustration is embodied by a methane-like haze over the once-tidy town of Praiseworthy. The haze catalyses the quest of protagonist Cause Man Steel. His search for a platinum donkey, muse for a donkey-transport business, is part of a farcical get-rich-quick scheme to capitalise on the new era of heat. Cause seeks deliverance for himself and his people to the blue-sky country of economic freedom.

"Praiseworthy belies its elegy-like form to stand firm in the author's Waanyi worldview and remind us that this is not the end times for that or any Country. Instead it asks, which way my people? Which way humanity?"

A member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria, Wright is the first person to win the Stella Prize twice. In 2018, she won for Tracker, a collective memoir of Aboriginal leader Tracker Tilmouth. She has also written the novels Carpentaria (winner of the Miles Franklin Award in 2007), Plains of Promise, and The Swan Book and the nonfiction works Take Power and Grog War.


The shortlist has been selected for the £25,000 (about $31,400) Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, which "celebrates quality, innovation and ambition of writing," and is open to books first published in the previous year in the U.K., Ireland, or the Commonwealth. The majority of the story must have taken place at least 60 years ago. The winner will be announced June 13. For more about the shortlisted titles, click here.

The shortlist:
The New Life by Tom Crewe
Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hosein
My Father's House by Joseph O'Connor
In the Upper Country by Kai Thomas
Absolutely and Forever by Rose Tremain
The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng

Book Review

Review: Midnight Rooms

Midnight Rooms by Donyae Coles (Amistad, $28 hardcover, 336p., 9780063228092, July 2, 2024)

Donyae Coles offers readers a fairy tale--of both the romantic and horrific variety--in Midnight Rooms, a chilling and fantastical work of historical fiction.

Orphaned at a young age, 26-year-old Orabella has long been in the care of her aunt and uncle, a wealthy Bristol family whose status in society is not enough to land their mixed-race niece an offer of marriage. Until one day, when a stranger appears and asks for her hand--an opportunity her uncle sees as an end to his gambling debts. Despite her reservations--she does not know this man, nor anything of his family--she sees no real choice but to accept. "What she wanted from her situation was secondary to the fact that it was her situation." Orabella is rapidly pulled out of her current life and into a new one, wed to the strange Mr. Elias Blakersby and off to his family's estate in the countryside within a day.

Up to this point, Midnight Rooms reads a bit like a work of historical romance: orphaned girl finds refuge in the arms of a kind stranger and sets out for a new life of happily-ever-after. But upon their arrival at the estate, Orabella discovers that her happy ending may not be so happy after all. "Korringhill Manor towered with an obvious prestige but lacked all pretense of leisure, of joy. Not a place that people lived in, instead it had the feel of a place that people couldn't leave." Her first impression of the place proves true across the following pages of Coles's gripping novel. Thrust into a lavish world, Orabella is plied with honey wine and wakes from dreams that feel impossibly real. She's surrounded by relatives of questionable humanity and never allowed to be alone except when locked in her bedroom each night.

In Midnight Rooms, Coles turns the typical fairy tale upside down and inside out and back again. The novel shifts to something like a fever dream, as Orabella's visions of her life in the manor dissolve inside what seems to be a "court of fairies and monsters." Therein lies the confusion of Midnight Rooms, and in it, a dark mystery unravelling across its pages--what is Orabella's imagination, and what is real? What is a memory and what is a dream? What can be believed? With vivid and gory detail, Midnight Rooms is a genre-spanning work of history and horror, fantasy and fairy tale, that pulses with a dark energy from start to unsettling finish. --Kerry McHugh, freelance writer

Shelf Talker: A genre-spanning work of historical fiction and horror imagines a fairy tale romance turned nightmarish terror as a young bride tries to understand the family she's married into.

The Bestsellers Bestsellers in April

The bestselling audiobooks at independent bookstores during April:

1. Funny Story by Emily Henry (Penguin Random House Audio)
2. Just for the Summer by Abby Jimenez (Hachette Audio)
3. The Women by Kristin Hannah (Macmillan Audio)
4. James by Percival Everett (Penguin Random House Audio)
5. Circe by Madeline Miller (Hachette Audio)
6. The Berry Pickers by Amanda Peters (Recorded Books)
7. The Familiar by Leigh Bardugo (Macmillan Audio)
8. Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera (Macmillan Audio)
9. Tom Lake by Ann Patchett (HarperAudio)
10. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (HarperAudio)

1. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Tantor Media)
2. The Age of Magical Overthinking by Amanda Montell (Simon & Schuster Audio)
3. Sociopath by Patric Gagne (Simon & Schuster Audio)
4. The Anxious Generation by Jonathan Haidt (Penguin Random House Audio)
5. Disfigured by Amanda Leduc (Coach House Books)
6. Little Weirds by Jenny Slate (Hachette Audio)
7. I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy (Simon & Schuster Audio)
8. The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (HighBridge)
9. The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery (HighBridge)
10. ADHD for Smart Ass Women by Tracy Otsuka (HarperAudio)

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