Shelf Awareness for Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thank You Booksellers For Making Our Award-Winning Books a Success!

St. Martin's Press: Remain in Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Tina by Chris Franz

Walker Books: The Good Hawk (Shadow Skye, Book One) by Joseph Elliott

Tor Books: Deal with the Devil: A Mercenary Librarians Novel by Kit Rocha


Notes: Downtown Tempe Shift; Men's Wrapping Dream

IndieBound in action?

The closing of the Borders Bookstore in downtown Tempe, Ariz. (Shelf Awareness, December 15, 2008) may offer an opportunity to revive independent retailing on Mill Avenue. According to the Arizona Republic, "Tempeans realized the extinction of most of downtown's independent businesses did not happen overnight. It took place in small, barely noticeable steps until something once vibrant has disappeared.

"In the case of Mill Avenue, many were left scratching their heads, wondering where the soulful sounds of independent music and merchants of downtown Tempe went. . . . Locally-owned Changing Hands Bookstore and its eclectic mix of used and new books and monthly book clubs also moved off of Mill when the owner could no longer afford the skyrocketing rent that often comes with a shift to corporate business."

Vic Linoff, who owned Those Were the Days bookstore on Mill Avenue for 35 years before it closed in August, told the paper "he would like to see another independent bookstore take the Borders' space after it leaves in January."

Tempe mayor Hugh Hallman expressed optimism about the area's future: "I'm actually rather delighted that we're finally moving on away from the chain stores that got a hold of Mill Avenue. It was Borders that chased Changing Hands off of Mill."


For booksellers buried in giftwrapping hell, here's an alternative from, which offers its CrapWrap service to "husbands and boyfriends who don't want their wives and girlfriends to know that they bought their gifts online instead of taking the time to go out shopping in the real world," according to Boing Boing.

The blog Nothing to Do with Arbroath noted that "Kevin Smith, 29, is proud to be the worst wrapper at the company's London warehouse. He said: 'I am rubbish. We're not given any instructions. I'm just asked to make a hash of it using lots of brown tape and making sure there are rips and untidy folds.'"


"I don't like the phrase of coffee-table books," Michael Fox, owner of Joseph Fox Bookshop, Philadelphia, Pa., told the Inquirer. "We never use the word because I find it a bit demeaning. It suggests that their only purpose is to sit on a coffee table and look good."

But the Inquirer, in offering its recommendations, suggested that, "whatever you call them, bookstores are full of these big, glossy tomes during the holiday shopping season. The best of the best do more than just showcase pictures."


The Guardian showcased Jeff Vandermeer's 60 in 60 blog as its site of the week, doffing a literary hat to the fantasy author's quest "to read one of Penguin's Great Ideas titles a day, for sixty days" and post his reaction every day.


USA Today picked "8 books to help rekindle the Hanukkah spirit."


"Dog (and cat) lovers pant for these holiday books," and the Dallas Morning News was happy to help them out with a few recommendations.


Christopher Johns has been promoted to sales and marketing director at Tuttle Publishing. He joined the company in 2004 as specialty key accounts manager and marketing manager. Before that, he spent seven years at Harry N. Abrams, first as manager of special markets and then as director of special markets.


Effective immediately, Midpoint Trade Books is representing the Music Sales Group exclusively to independent booksellers in the Southeast and Midwest, airports and regional wholesalers. Music Sales Group owns many international catalogues and has grown over the years by acquiring various publishers, now available through the company's U.S. arm in North America, including Bosworth & Co., Chester Music, Novello & Company, Wilhelm Hansen and Unión Musical Ediciones (UME). The group also manages more than 200,000 music copyrights.

Under its Omnibus Press imprint, the Music Sales Group offers more than 3,000 titles covering all aspects of music instruction--for all instruments--and many titles include CDs and DVDs.

Founded in 1996 by Eric Kampmann, Gail Kump and Chris Bell, Midpoint Trade Books represents nearly 200 publishers from the U.S., U.K., Canada and Australia.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

Tweet Me that You Love Me: An Author-Indie Valentine

What began as a 140-character message from author Mitali Perkins on Twitter four days ago has blossomed into a New England Children's Booksellers Advisory Council-New England Independent Booksellers Association initiative between 40 authors and illustrators and 13 bookstores (so far) called Kids ♥ Authors Day, which will be celebrated on Saturday, February 14, from 10 a.m. to noon as a Valentine for authors, artists, booksellers and children.

"IDEA," Perkins tweeted last Sunday. "Indies partner with authors for a 'give a signed book' day, all Kid/YA authors in area show up at stores to sign one afternoon."

Perkins, whose YA novel Secret Keeper is due from Delacorte in January, told Shelf Awareness she was feeling discouraged by all the bad news in the industry lately and wanted to do something positive. "I have to remember my original mission statement, which is about connecting young readers to great stories," she said. "And I thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to gather around community bookstores?' As someone who's not a big name, I know what the local bookstores do for my books. I did that little Twitter post, and we started brainstorming."

Sarah Retgger, marketing coordinator at the American Booksellers Association and part-time bookseller, and author A.C. Gaughen were the chief brainstormers with Perkins. Once they came up with the idea of a Valentine's Day event and matching local authors with local bookstores, Perkins approached NECBA. "One nice thing about hard economic times is that it makes people reflect upon the importance of community," said NECBA co-chair Kenny Brechner of Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers, Farmington, Me. "This event is an appropriate and meaningful vehicle for strengthening our community of New England authors and independent booksellers."

Facebook also played a role in this 21st-century love story: many of the authors who will be participating learned about the event via the Kids ♥ Authors Day Facebook event page--among them Ellen Wittlinger, author of Love and Lies, Rachel Cohn, author of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, and Nancy Werlin, author of Impossible. Deborah Sloan of Deborah Sloan and Company, who will be promoting the events locally and regionally, also connected with the group via Facebook. Aimee McLear at Chapters Bookstore, Pittsfield, Mass., designed the website's logo. For a complete list of author/illustrator and bookstore participants, visit  

New England booksellers who'd like to participate in the Valentine's Day event should e-mail by January 15 and include a link to the store's website and the e-mail of a contact person. Stores will be matched with authors/illustrators in January and will receive a poster to help promote the event.--Jennifer M. Brown



Running Press: Thank You! Now on Instagram!

Running Press Sweet on M/M Romantic Fiction

Running Press is launching a new m/m historical romance line that features gay romantic fiction written primarily by and for straight women, which the publisher called a growing market--however unlikely it may seem. The books feature plots "ripe with forbidden love, exotic locations and sensual leading men." Because the books are modeled on romance novels, not gay erotica, they are geared toward the romance sections of bookstores, not the erotica sections.

The first two titles, to be published next April, are Transgressions by Erastes and False Colors by Alex Beecroft. Two other titles are scheduled for fall 2009.

The publisher said that "initially the phenomenon of women reading gay male romances flourished in the anonymity of the Internet, where fans could have instant access to a spirited, diverse and ever-growing community. LiveJournal, an online journaling community, has over 300 communities for M/M romance interests. Online review sites such as Dear Author, Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels and Speak Its Name champion all romances regardless of pairings.

"The success of 2005's Brokeback Mountain demonstrated the lure of the subject for a female audience. The average movie aimed at a gay audience nets about $5 million. Brokeback Mountain netted over $120 million, in part due to word-of-mouth from straight women. ABC's hit Brothers and Sisters and CBS's As the World Turns prove that gay male relationships are becoming a drama staple."


BINC: Double Your Donation with PRH

Image of the Day: Ho Ho Ho

On Tuesday, Ed Butchart, author of More Pages from the Red Suit Diaries: A Real-Life Santa Shares Hopes, Dreams, and Childlike Faith (Revell, $15.99, 9780800719043/0800719042), spread some Christmas cheer on Dr. Phil. Mrs. Claus joined in. Santa Ed will be on Familynet's Everyday with Marcus and Lisa tomorrow.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: A Tender Thing by Emily Neuberger

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid, a Christmas Tale

Tonight on the Charlie Rose Show: Calvin Trillin, author of Deciding the Next Decider: The 2008 Presidential Race in Rhyme (Random House, $14, 9781400068289/1400068282).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Rick Warren, author of The Purpose of Christmas (Howard Books, $17.99, 9781416559009/1416559000). He will also appear tomorrow on Dateline NBC.


Tomorrow on Live with Regis and Kelly: Alan Alda, author of Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself (Random House, $15, 9780812977523/0812977521).


Tomorrow on NPR's Latino USA: Xavier Garza, whose re-imagining of The Night Before Christmas is Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid (Cinco Puntos Press, $17.95, 9781933693248/193369324X).


Tomorrow night on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln (Simon & Schuster, $21, 9780743270755/0743270754).


This Weekend on Book TV: A Passion for Mars

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 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 20

8 a.m. Book TV visits Brooklyn, N.Y., birthplace and home of David Levine, to learn more about the work of this legendary artist whose pen-and-ink presidential caricatures have recently been collected in American Presidents (Fantagraphics, $19.99, 9781606991305/1606991302). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m., Sunday, December 28, at 11 a.m. and Sunday, January 4, at 8:15 p.m.)

2:45 p.m. For an event hosted by the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt., Andrew Chaikin, author of A Passion for Mars: Intrepid Explorers of the Red Planet (Abrams, $35, 9780810972742/0810972743), talks about the history of Mars exploration from the end of the 19th century to the present. (Re-airs Thursday, January 1, at 4 p.m. and Friday, January 2, at 4 a.m.)
7 p.m. Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers: The Story of Success (Little, Brown, $27.99, 9780316017923/0316017922), examines the underpinnings of success and argues that it is far more complicated than commonly understood.

10 p.m. After Words. Robert Remini interviews David Reynolds, author of Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson (Harper, $29.95 9780060826567/0060826568), who examines the early years of capitalism and urbanization as well as the cultural and political changes in the U.S. during this period. (Re-airs Sunday at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m., and Sunday, December 28, at 12 p.m.)

Sunday, December 21

2 a.m. Reb Bradley, author of Born Liberal, Raised Right (WND Books, $25.95, 9781935071006/1935071009), offers a mix of politics and child rearing, asserting that parents need to teach self-control and self-discipline. (Re-airs Sunday at 7 p.m., Monday at 6 a.m., Saturday, December 27, at 9 p.m. and Sunday, December 28, at 7 a.m.)
1 p.m. Richard Rosenbaum, author of No Room for Democracy: The Triumph of Ego over Common Sense (Rit Press, $17.95, 9781933360324/1933360321), reflects on his life and public service career, including his relationship with former New York Governor and Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m. and Monday at 7 a.m.)


Books & Authors

Children's Book Review: The Fetch

The Fetch: A Supernatural Romance by Laura Whitcomb (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17, 9780618891313/0618891315, 384 pp., ages 12-up, February 2009)

Whitcomb builds on the themes of her A Certain Slant of Light, but with even greater complexity in this novel about a fetch named Calder, whose job it is to take newly liberated souls from their death beds and escort them through the Death Door. "The Fetch holds the only Key." There is a supernatural romance here, too, but nothing as tantalizing as in her first novel. The story unspools as more of a mystery about the rules that govern the afterlife. As a fetch, Calder can be called to any place or time on earth; his duty is to stand detached at the scene as a body's spirit decides whether to live or die. If the spirit chooses death, the fetch escorts it along the Aisle of Unearthing. Calder, who died at age 19, has been a fetch for 330 years. But one day in 1904, he sees a reddish-golden-haired woman in a white gown tending a dying child and makes two faux pas: (1) he intervenes; he wishes for the child to live, for the woman's sake; (2) he falls in love with the woman in the white gown. Calder is summoned to this same circle of intimates three times, and on the third time, he breaks his Vows to occupy the body of a man who knows the woman in the white gown.
The intricacies of the afterlife would be complex enough for one novel, but Whitcomb then adds another layer: the man whose body Calder inhabits belongs to Grigori Rasputin--the enigmatic figure of history, sometimes called mystic, sometimes traitor--who was confidante to the last Tsarina of Russia (Alexandra, wife to Tsar Nicholas II) in the early 1900s. The woman in white is Alexandra herself. In horror, the fetch realizes, "He had broken his Vows for a fantasy." The author has some fun with the historic legends of Rasputin's many near-death experiences (Calder, being already dead, cannot die), but this subplot detracts from the compelling premise of the fetch's role and transgression, and the inner workings of the afterlife. Whitcomb imagines an Aisle of Unearthing with sites such as the Gallery (where one views one's mistakes in life), the Garden (in which one sees how one improved the world) and the Cell (where one frees oneself), each of which appears differently to the soul who views them. The author probes into spiritual themes without excluding anyone--instead of God, there is a Captain who ferries the souls from the Aisle of Unearthing across the Great River. Teens will appreciate most how Whitcomb ties the symbolism of the woman in the white gown back to Calder's own mortal childhood. If readers can stick with the plot's historical meanderings, they will find a rewarding ending.--Jennifer M. Brown


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Outrunning the Grinch

Since I haven't fired up my bookstore website-seeing tour bus for a while, I decided to take a brief, pre-Christmas virtual flyover, just to see what sort of holiday promotional decorations booksellers were displaying online to put folks in the seasonal buying spirit.

Inspiration for this trip came from an editorial cartoon I saw Tuesday that depicted Santa trying desperately to stay just ahead of the looming maw of the biggest Grinch of all time, otherwise known as our mega-Scrooged economy. Forget the magic reindeer. We may need to go warp speed to outrun this beast.

As the countdown to Christmas Eve--the busiest shopping day of the year for many bookstores--continues apace, I've noticed a distinct uptick in the volume of promotional e-mails offering last-minute shopping incentives, including coupons, discounts, special events and more.

As Tiny Tim might have said, "Constant Contact bless us, every one."

E-mail is potential instant retail gratification, I suppose, but I'm also curious about bookstore websites, which have begun to seem oddly stolid and archaic in our age of texts and Tweets. Where are you? What are you doing now? These are the questions of our time, or at least of our moment.

Call me nostalgic. I miss the good old virtual holidays of, well, last year.

Speaking of nostalgia, I recently found an advertisement placed by the American Booksellers Association in the December, 1947 issue of Harper's magazine. Here's the text:

A New Free Service Offered by America's Foremost Booksellers
Give-A-Book Certificate
"The Gift That Can't Be Wrong!"
Here is how you can give a gift to anyone, anywhere--and be sure it will be right! Just send GIVE-A-BOOK CERTIFICATES, which your friends can exchange for just the books they really want!
GIVE-A-BOOK CERTIFICATES are on sale--and can be redeemed--at the book and department stores throughout America which display the ABA emblem shown here. Take advantage of this service today!

Hyperventilating italics and exclamation marks aside, this 60-year-old ad made me realize how often we still rely on traditional slogans and phrases. So I went looking for a few bookstore websites that might shake things up a just bit.

And I found some.  

In addition to promoting its gift cards ("One size fits all!), Idlewild Books, New York, N.Y., suggests customized gift packs for the traveling reader: "Know where you're going, or looking for a gift for a traveler? Let us put together a custom-made Destination Kit of guides, novels and more! You tell us where you're going, your interests or travel style, and what you like to read and let us do the work!"

The Booksmith Holiday Catalog, which is showcased on the home page of the San Francisco, Calif., shop's website, offers "independently selected & thoughtfully curated" staff recommendations. "Our booksellers have spent months agonizing over the process of selecting only 70 out of 200,000 new books published this year for inclusion in this catalogue. The result is a carefully curated selection spanning a range of reading interests and prices."

The Booksmith's staff has also mastered the art of the six-word book review: "In the age of information overload, we believe in 'less is more.' That's all we have to say."

"Season's Readings!" are featured in Joseph-Beth Booksellers' "Holiday Store," which complements "hand selected top books for this holiday season" with a more personal online handselling option: "Looking for something but can't find it? Need a suggestion for that tough-to-please friend or family member? Just let us know by filling out the form at the end of your transaction and we'll locate it for you."

Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., highlights staff picks from its holiday catalogue, offering discounts on selected titles. Best of all, Powell's is sponsoring a contest that customers can enter by submitting their favorite words. The prize? A 20-volume set of the Oxford English Dictionary, natch. If you scan through the nearly 700 entries sent thus far, you'll notice an energetic engagement with the task at hand, a wide-ranging vocabulary and a curious recurrence of the word "defenestrate" (see Nabokov, Vladimir).

So, I did see some good website stuff, and I probably missed your good website stuff, but my wide-ranging whirlwind tour was a little disappointing, I must admit. Maybe I've become, rather than outrun, the virtual Grinch; or maybe I'm still waiting for a visit--an e-mail? a text? a Tweet?--from those Dickensian Christmas ghosts.

'Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the Web, not a creature (or not many) was stirring, not even a wireless mouse.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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