Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 21, 2009

Tor Books: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

Amulet Books: The Stitchers (Fright Watch #1) by Lorien Lawrence

Kensington: Celebrate Cozy Mysteries - Request a Free Cozy Club Starter Kit!

University of Illinois Press: Unlikely Angel: The Songs of Dolly Parton by Lydia R. Hamessley

Algonquin Young Readers: Skunk and Badger (Skunk and Badger 1) by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Andrews McMeel Publishing: How to Draw a Reindeer and Other Christmas Creatures with Simple Shapes in 5 Steps by Lulu Mayo

Houghton Mifflin: No Place for Monsters by Kory Merritt


Books-A-Million Second Quarter: Comps Fall 4.9%

At Books-A-Million, net sales during the quarter ended August 1 dropped 0.7% to $122.4 million and net income was $1.5 million compared to $645,000 in the same period last year. Sales at stores open at least a year fell 4.9%.

In a statement, chairman and CEO Clyde B. Anderson commented: "The sales environment remained challenging during the quarter, and our results reflected the difficult comparison to last year's release of Stephanie Meyer's blockbuster Breaking Dawn. Nonetheless, we achieved significant improvement in earnings as a result of continued discipline in the management of our business."


In other BAM news:

  • Clyde B. Anderson, chairman and CEO, is adding the duties of president.
  • Douglas Markham has been promoted to the newly created position of executive v-p, chief administrative officer in charge of finance, warehouse operations, information technology and human resources. He has been CFO since 2006 and secretary since 2008, except for January to July this year, when he was active duty in the military. Before joining BAM, he worked at Saks Inc. for more than 10 years, part of that time as senior v-p, controller.
  • Brian W. White has been named CFO, a position he filled most of this year on an interim basis. He joined the company in 2007 as v-p, controller. Earlier he worked for Lafarge North America's Ready Mix division and for Saks, Inc.
  • Terrance G. Finley has been promoted to executive v-p, chief merchandising officer, responsible for store operations and continuing his responsibilities as president, Books-A-Million Merchandising Group. He has worked for BAM since 1994.


University of California Press: Law and Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers by Jacqueline D Lipton

Notes: B&N Update; Sarah Burningham Founds Little Bird

More on Barnes & Noble, which announced second quarter results yesterday:

Earnings were better than expected by analysts, but some of them remained unimpressed. According to Reuters, Standard & Poor analyst Michael Souers "kept his $16 price target and 'strong sell' recommendation on the shares." Souers wrote: "Facing long-term challenges such as a secular decline in adult readership levels as well as an increasing shift toward eBooks, we think shares are overvalued." B&N shares fell 3.3% to $20.26 on an up day on Wall Street.

Earnings were "aided by lower distribution costs, fewer markdowns and better sales of higher-margin bargain and gift items," Reuters said.

Inventories are down $108 million or 8% from a year ago, according to "The company had $158 million in cash and no borrowings at quarter end or throughout the quarter. Last year at this time, the company had $97 million of net borrowings. This represents a $255 million improvement in the company's net cash position year-over-year at the end of Q2."

Fewer shoppers visited B&N stores and spent slightly less on their purchases.

The company will update its full-year earnings forecast around October 1, after the purchase of Barnes & Noble College closes.

A full transcript of B&N executives' conference call with analysts is available at Seeking Alpha.


Book theme song of the day: Entertainment Weekly featured Frank Portman's theme song for his new novel, Andromeda Klein. Portman, author of King Dork and member of the punk band, the Mr. T Experience, "is incorporating a big musical element into [Andromeda Klein's] August 25 launch." He recorded two tracks to help promote the book, including 'Andromeda Klein,' which he calls 'a theme song' for the title character.


NPR's Morning Edition featured Nancy Pearl's recommendations for "Mysteries You Might Have Missed Along the Way."


The Guardian reported that a collection of unpublished letters from members of the Bloomsbury Group is expected to fetch up to £80,000 (US$132,100). The letters will be sold by Gorringes Auctioneers in Lewes, East Sussex, September 3.


In Malaysia, reading is threatened by disinterest and pricing. reported that "Malaysians only read two books a year (based on the 2005 National Library study), and increasing readership in the country continues to be an uphill battle. The reading habit, or the lack of it, has been partly blamed time and again on the high prices of both imported and local books."


Sarah Burningham, associate director of marketing at HarperStudio, is leaving her position to pursue her own writing--she is the author of How to Raise Your Parents and Boyology--as well as to launch Little Bird, a boutique publicity and marketing firm. She has already begun building a clientele. For more information, go to


Effective September 8, Jessica Wiener is joining HarperStudio as marketing director. She is currently marketing director at Hyperion and Voice.


KidsBuzz for the Week of 07.13.20

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
The War of the Poor
by Éric Vuillard
trans. by Mark Polizzotti

Éric Vuillard's The War of the Poor, in translation from the original French, is a brief, lyrical work of history that captures the emotional force of Thomas Müntzer's theological ideas and their violent manifestation in the German Peasants' War (1524-1525). Judith Gurewich, editor and publisher of Other Press, says, "Éric is more eager to pick up moments of anxiety and change from the past as a way to make us think of the present than to focus on the past alone." War of the Poor is as much about "the art of revolt even at very high cost" as it is "the limits of those who claim to be revolutionary." Rage at hypocrisy and inequality are at the core of Vuillard's passionate, beautifully written book, echoing from the 16th century into the present. --Hank Stephenson

(Other Press, $17.99 hardcover, 9781635420081, October 20, 2020)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Media and Movies

Media Heat: We Are Americans

On Saturday on All Things Considered: William Perez, author of We Are Americans: Undocumented Students Pursuing the American Dream (Stylus Publishing, $22.50, 9781579223762/1579223761).


University of California Press: Smoke But No Fire: Convicting the Innocent of Crimes That Never Happened by Jessica S. Henry

Television: Enid Blyton Biopic

Helena Bonham Carter will play English children's author Enid Blyton, author of Noddy, The Famous Five and The Secret Seven, in a BBC biopic. Variety reported that "Enid, made by Carnival Films, part of NBC Universal, is among the tentpole shows of upscale web BBC4's fall and winter season."


Atheneum Books for Young Readers: Tune It Out by Jamie Summer

Movies: Venomous

The rights to Christopher Krovatin's young adult novel, Venomous, have been acquired by 72 Productions, "which plans to adapt the book into a film as well as a comic book through Dark Horse Comics," according to Variety. The property is being renamed Deadlocke.


Books & Authors

Book Brahmin: Michael Rubens

Michael Rubens is a television writer and producer whose credits include Oxygen, the Travel Channel, CNN and Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where he was a field producer. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. His first novel, The Sheriff of Yrnameer, was published by Pantheon Books this month.

On your nightstand now:

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead and Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi. We have a two-year-old daughter.

Favorite book when you were a child:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. My mother read to my sister and me. It was the first time I remember being really transported by a book.

Your top five authors:

I love hearing people's top picks for books, movies, ice cream, what have you, and I absolutely hate answering that sort of question. I always feel vaguely embarrassed, as if what I read isn't sophisticated enough. I therefore refuse to respond.

All right, fine: Elmore Leonard, Ursula Le Guin, Woody Allen, David Foster Wallace (for his essays), Fritz Leiber, Robert B. Parker . . .

Sorry. I guess that's six. And some aren't novelists. And if you asked me again in five minutes, I might change my mind. But there it is.

Oh, and Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, naturally, with Pratchett as a very recent discovery and addition.

Have I cheated the exercise enough?

Book you've faked reading:

Pretty much every major selection from the canon of great literature. I'm constantly appalled by how unread I am and by my instinctive reflex to dissemble about it.

In my defense, I have read all seven volumes of Proust's In Search of Lost Time.

No. No, that's not true at all.

Book you're an evangelist for:

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace. I just enjoy his essays so much.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Thud by Terry Pratchett. I somehow made it through most of my life being totally unaware of his work, and one day when I was in the midst of writing Yrnameer, I spotted Thud in the bookstore and bought it. Reading it was intensely depressing. It was like being someone who wanted to be a trumpet player who then stumbled across a Wynton Marsalis CD. I stopped writing for about a month.

Book that changed your life:

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin. I think it's the first book I read that made me want to be a writer.

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

A Wizard of Earthsea.

Book Review

Book Review: Blame

With Blame, Michelle Huneven follows her critically acclaimed Round Rock and Jamesland with another beautifully written and finely textured novel that charts the intricacies of guilt, redemption and human nature. Along the way, Huneven offers several multilayered characters, an engrossing plot full of unexpected turns and insights into the nature of morality and truth.

The story begins in 1980, when Patsy MacLemoore, a young, brilliant and alcoholic history professor, is helping her dashing boyfriend Brice take care of his pre-teen niece, Joey, a task that mostly involves Patsy filling the girl with booze and pills and giving her an inept ear-piercing. A year later, Patsy wakes up in jail to discover that she has hit and killed two Jehovah's Witnesses, a mother and daughter, while driving in a drunken blackout. Patsy, who remembers nothing, pleads guilty and is given a two-year sentence in prison. There, Patsy joins AA and begins what will be a decades-long relationship with the husband and father of her victims, which includes sending money to put the man's son through school. Patsy continues to walk the straight and narrow after her release; never touching alcohol again, reuniting with Brice (as a friend this time, since Brice has subsequently come out as gay), devoting herself to charity work, including the care of AIDS patients, and ultimately marrying an older, wealthy man who has long been a pillar of the AA community.

From her incarceration--perhaps the most brilliantly written and observed scenes in a novel full of them--through the next 20 years of her life, Patsy searches for a way to atone for the crimes that haunt her every day. She sheds the life, personality and spirit that defined her before the accident and recreates herself as a "good" person, one who little resembles the good-time girl she had been. So when the now 30something Joey, with whom Patsy has remained friends, arrives with some shocking new information about what really happened on the night of the accident, Patsy's world is shaken to its core and she is forced to reevaluate her identity and values.

Huneven is an extraordinary writer and this is a novel full of quiet surprises with a narrative so smooth and exquisitely crafted that it transcends the act of reading and becomes experiential. The kind of nuance, thoughtfulness and detail that Huneven brings to her characters, story and Southern California setting is so rare and worth savoring. Blame lingers in the imagination long after its final page.--Debra Ginsberg

Shelf Talker
:  A brilliantly written and deeply engrossing novel about the effects of guilt and the quest for goodness.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Playing the Hunch

Hanging from my key ring is a small pewter book. Raymond Chandler's name is printed on the front cover, along with a classic chalk outline of a body. There's a quotation on the back: "Play the hunch."

The line is from Farewell, My Lovely: "Play the hunch. Play the hunch and get stung. In a little while you wake up with a mouthful of hunches. You can't order a cup of coffee without shutting your eyes and stabbing at the menu. Play the hunch." As Philip Marlowe would tell you in a second--assuming he even gave you the time of day--a hunch ain't no guarantee.

It's complicated. Check the dictionary. You'll find that hunch is "a feeling or guess based on intuition rather than known facts." I think it's more than that. Knowledge, experience and observation all play as big a role as intuition. A good hunch is a highly educated guess, a guess that's earned a Master's degree in rolling the dice.

Two great examples of playing the hunch were introduced this week. If you missed them, I'll clue you in here. I'm not saying they represent the future of publishing. Maybe they do; maybe they don't. Probably, in some small way, they do. And I'm not saying they came into being without planning and foresight. Playing the hunch is all about anticipation, reaction and adaptation--the simplicity and effectiveness, the energy and occasional messiness, of an idea in process.

ABA's IndieBound launched a beta version of Ask Indies, using its network of great booksellers to field questions on anything book-related from, well, anywhere: "Ask Indie Booksellers on Twitter anything you want to know! The #AskIndies hashtag and a link to your book will be added for you automatically."

As Paige Poe, IndieBound's outreach liaison, observed, "Ask Indies really came from booksellers who were looking for ways to use social networks to connect with readers, and make those ways new and interesting. So many booksellers are on Twitter, more of them every day, and Twitter's immediacy fit the idea perfectly. It allows indie booksellers to publicly display exactly what makes them such great curators: their knowledge and expertise. And hopefully it's fun for everyone involved." Poe offers details about the program in Bookselling This Week.

This week's other notable debut was tied to the release of Joseph Finder's novel Vanished. He fielded readers' questions Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during one-hour sessions of a Twitter Book Tour. The Book Studio's Bethanne Patrick (@thebookmaven, though moderating as @bkpchats) skillfully directed the virtual traffic. She also noted that she is already planning more such events. Finder's discussions are archived under the hashtag #josephfinder.

Adjustments were made after the first session to better facilitate the discussion--a new Twitter account, @thrillers, was created for the author so his regular @JoeFinder followers wouldn't be caught in the rapids of a Twitter Tour conversation stream. React and adapt. During the second session, Finder mentioned that "Facebook and Twitter have helped the launch of Vanished significantly."

What did they talk about on the Twitter Book Tour? Even within 140-character limitations, the questions covered a full range of topics. Here's a sampling, edited into traditional Q&A form:

@MLx: Do you prefer the level of engagement through social networking or at a signing?
@thrillers: I prefer signings in one sense because I like meeting people. But signings I usually get less than a minute to connect w/people, whereas social networking--well, you guys know.

@rng888: I read that you spent part of your childhood in the Philippines. Did that influence your writing?
@thrillers: Yes, spent part of childhood in Philippines. I think total immersion in other cultures made me more open to other languages and ways of life and more fascinated by them.

@Sidney_Williams: What is your plan of attack when you're editing?
@thrillers: My editing plan of attack? I first let it get "cold" and then read it as "innocently" as I can but I start macro first--big stuff. And then refine language/characterization, etc.

Bottom line? I really enjoyed watching these social networking seeds find some air and light this week. Books were sold, which is always a good thing. Neither of the ideas will singlehandedly save the industry, yet each in its own way took a chance and put a new spin on the possibilities.

It's August, as good a time of year as any to play a hunch. "The hunch I had was as vague as the heat waves that danced above the sidewalk," Marlowe says. Play it anyway.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


G.P. Putnam's Sons BFYR: Hey, Who Made This Mess? by Primo Gallanosa
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