Thursday, February 28, 2013

Go Read A Banned Book!

With Freedom to Read week well underway, people all across Canada are being reminded that, even in an entirely free country, the right to enjoy the literature of one’s choosing should never be taken for granted.

Now in its 29th year, in 2013 Freedom to Read Week runs from February 24th to March 2nd and is highlighted by events across the country. A well-designed web site holds focus for this celebration of books and reading meant to encourage “Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Interestingly, one page on the site highlights historical banning and burnings, including Ovid’s banishment from Rome in A.D., King James I of England’s censorship of Sir Walter Raleigh’s book The History of the World for “being too saucy in censuring princes,” and, in 1859, George Eliot’s novel Adam Bede was attacked as the “vile outpourings of a lewd woman’s mind,” while in 1929, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was banned in the Soviet Union because of “occultism.”

An extensive list of contemporary challenged books and magazines is just as shocking and includes Timothy Findley’s classic The Wars; Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials; Jon Stewart’s Earth: The Book; Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and all seven books in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

The Freedom to Read Week web site provides an extensive toolkit for those wanting to know more about the event or somehow get involved.


The Death of the ISBN?

It’s news to just about no one at all that digital publishing has taken a heavy toll on many aspects of traditional publishing, but here’s one we hadn’t thought of before. The Economist looks at what may be a death knell for the ISBN:
Look inside any book published since 1970 and you will find a number. But perhaps not for much longer. The International Standard Book Number (ISBN), invented in Britain in 1965, took off rapidly as an international system for classifying books, with 150 agencies (one per country, with two for bilingual Canada) now issuing the codes. Set up by retailers to ease their distribution and sales, it increasingly hampers new, small and individual publishers. Yet digital publishing is weakening its monopoly.
The full piece is here.

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This Just In… Even Tough Girls Wear Tutus by Deborah Jiang Stein

Even Tough Girls Wear Tutus: Inside the World of a Woman Born in Prison is the story of a woman whose gift for finding purpose in life drives her to help others change their lives even as she struggles to accept and overcome her own past, born heroin addicted to a mother in prison. Her story proves we’re more than the sum of our parts, and there’s always a chance for redemption. Sometimes, it takes a dive over the edge to find your center. Even Tough Girls Wear Tutus is about the courage and curiosity to create an authentic life with purpose and resilience, and what it takes to hold onto this courage.

Today author Deborah Jiang Stein tours women’s prisons to plant seeds of possibility and hope for others, little by little, fulfilling her mission to change attitudes of secrecy and shame.

“A harrowing, heartfelt glittering diamond of a memoir that shows being born in prison does not have to imprison the spirit. Gloriously alive and important.” -- Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You.

You can read more about Even Tough Girls Wear Tutus here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis. Want to see your new book included? You can see details here.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bull-Bransom Award Finalists Announced

The names of five finalists for the National Museum of Wildlife Art’s 2013 Bull-Bransom Award have been announced. The annual award honors illustrators’ unique takes on wildlife, and this year’s special five range from tiny mouse to friendly moose.

The award is presented annually by the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and is in place to recognize excellence in children’s book illustration with a focus on wildlife and nature.

“The illustrations in the five finalist books for this year’s Bull-Bransom Award are beautiful, creative, and interesting,” says Bronwyn Minton, assistant curator of art for the museum and a member of the finalist selection panel. “This award continues to highlight talented illustrators of animals and humanity’s relationship with nature.”

The winner will be announced at the museum on May 3, 2013, as part of its Celebration of Young Artists event, with the winning illustrator invited to attend. ◊

The 2013 finalists for the Bull-Bransom Award:
  • Bear Has a Story to Tell, story by Philip C. Stead, illustrations by Erin E. Stead (Roaring Book Press)
  • More, story by I.C. Springman, illustrations by Brian Lies (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • Nightsong, story by Ariel Berk, illustrations by Loren Long (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers)
  • Oh, No!, story by Candace Fleming, illustrations by Eric Rohmann (Schwartz & Wade Books)
  • This Moose Belongs to Me, story and illustrations by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel Books)

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This Just In… Lost Melody by Dolores W. Maroney

Out of sight, out of mind. That’s what Melody Ravenswood was counting on when she invented a new life for herself as Mel Harper in the small farming community of Willowbrook, Texas. She could be herself, whoever that was. Having long since lost her identity to being the only child and sole beneficiary of a legendary rock and roller, she was finally going to live the normal life she craved -- a job, a house, friends and no paparazzi.

Hank Travis is the last thing Mel needs in her new life. The local boy turned rock and roll star’s sexy, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer pursuit makes her long for a life she has only dreamed of. Before Mel can have the future she wants with Hank, she must confront her past and find the Melody she lost along the way.

You can order Lost Melody here. Visit author Dolores W. Maroney on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis. Want to see your new book included? You can see details here.


Les Misérables Author, Victor Hugo, Born on this Day in 1802

We wonder what Victor Hugo would have thought of what Hollywood has done with his best-known work, Les Misérables. The novel was published in 1865 and in 2012 was, of course, made into a long and popular movie starring Russel Crowe and Hugh Jackman and which helped Anne Hathaway tuck away an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a brief but riveting role. Victor Hugo, the author of the original work, was born on this day in 1802.

A political activist throughout most of his life, when Napoleon took power in 1851 and established an anti-parliamentary constitution, Hugo went into exile, first in Brussels then in Jersey, where he would stay until 1870.

While in exile, he wrote a great deal, including Les Misérables which, according to The Writer’s Almanac, was “hugely popular, and Hugo returned to Paris, was elected to the Senate of the new Third Republic, and when he died in 1885 at the age of 82, 2 million people showed up to his funeral, a procession through the streets of Paris.”

Hugo’s life makes for some fascinating reading and his 1829 novel, The Last Day of a Condemned Man, is said to have influenced the work of Albert Camus, Charles Dickens and Fyodor Dostoevsky.

Like his deep concern for human rights, Hugo’s work with regards to the rights of artists was both forward-thinking and far-reaching. He was a founding member of the Association Littéraire et Artistique Internationale, which ultimately led to the creation of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. Hugo notably said that “any work of art has two authors: the people who confusingly feel something, a creator who translates these feelings, and the people again who consecrate his vision of that feeling. When one of the authors dies, the rights should totally be granted back to the other, the people.”


This Just In… Betrayal by Serpent by Judith M. Kerrigan

Seven years after the death of her husband in a fiery plane crash, Anna Kinnealy believes all the trauma and struggle she and her children have endured will be ended when he is declared legally dead. But there is murderous revenge on someone’s agenda, a police investigation into their lives, and secrets slowly emerging that demand Anna dig into the past before they all become victims of greed and hatred.

Betrayal of the Serpent takes readers on a journey from Green Bay, Wisconsin, to the jungles of the Yucatan and back. Anna discovers courage she never thought she had, betrayal so painful she can only put her head down and weep, depths of rage she never knew she could feel, and two men whose love for her completely changes her life.

Author Judith M. Kerrigan is a visual artist, amateur photographer and writer. Betrayal by Serpent is her first novel and reflects considerable life experience and insight into the character and actions of people. Two more books are planned for this series, Crocodile Waters, scheduled for 2014 and The Jaguar Hunts planned for 2016. As an expressive arts therapist, Judith uses and teaches the arts to effect healing from trauma and to ease symptoms of stress. Following the dictum, “Healer, heal thyself,” she originally started writing Betrayal by Serpent to alleviate symptoms of her own secondary post-traumatic stress. It worked.

For an excerpt from the book and much more about its characters, as well as illustrations Judi created depicting The House and Mayan glyphs referred to in the text, and even more, examples of her art, photography, and poetry, go to

Visit author Judith M. Kerrigan on the web.

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis. Want to see your new book included? You can see details here.


Friday, February 22, 2013

Gorey Gets Doodled

Though it’s possible you don’t know Edward Gorey’s name, it’s much less likely that you’re unfamiliar with his style. A surrealist whose work had a strong, commercial appeal, Gorey wrote more than 100 books and illustrated many, many more. From Wikipedia:
Gorey was noted for his fondness for ballet (for many years, he religiously attended all performances of the New York City Ballet), fur coats, tennis shoes, and cats, of which he had many. All figure prominently in his work. His knowledge of literature and films was unusually extensive, and in his interviews, he named Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Francis Bacon, George Balanchine, Balthus, Louis Feuillade, Ronald Firbank, Lady Murasaki Shikibu, Robert Musil, Yasujirō Ozu, Anthony Trollope, and Johannes Vermeer as some of his favorite artists. Gorey was also an unashamed pop-culture junkie, avidly following soap operas and television comedies like Petticoat Junction and Cheers, and he had particular affection for dark genre series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Batman: The Animated Series and The X-Files; he once told an interviewer that he so enjoyed the Batman series that it was influencing the visual style of one of his upcoming books. Gorey treated TV commercials as an art form in themselves, even taping his favorites for later study. Gorey was especially fond of movies, and for a time he wrote regular reviews for the Soho Weekly under the pseudonym Wardore Edgy.
Today what would have been his 88th birthday, Google honors Gorey with one of their Doodles. You can see previous Google Doodles here.


This Just In… dr.a.g.

160 Pages of Drag Photography in a Large-Format Book.

dr.a.g. (dressed as a girl) has become a diverse form of expression that challenges, entertains and educates by pushing boundaries while embracing beauty, comedy and glamour.

The performers in this book are evidence of that diversity, captured by some of the top photographers working in the world today. The book features drag royalty such as Frank Marino, Eddie Edwards, Randy Roberts, Mr. Kenneth Blake, Chad Michaels, Elaine Lancaster, Jackie Beat, Charles Busch, Lady Bunny, Joey Arias, our amazing “Marilyn Monroe centrespread” Jimmy James, Miss Coco Peru and the legendary Jim Bailey."

You can read more about the book here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis. Want to see your new book included? You can see details here.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pi Goes PI

A nod from Oscar this coming Sunday might just push things into the stratosphere, but sales of Yann Martel’s “irrational” tale of a boy and his tiger are already not too shabby. From The Guardian:
Martel's narrator, who chooses his mathematical nickname to avoid being known as "Pissing", would undoubtedly be delighted at the news that the novel he narrates, Life of Pi, has just sold its 3,141,593rd copy for its British publisher Canongate – an extraordinary feat for a novel published only 10 years ago. Of course, given that pi is an irrational number, Life of Pi has not, in fact, sold exactly pi copies. "That's one thing I hate about my nickname, the way that number runs on forever," says Pi – though Canongate probably wouldn't be averse to the ideas of sales rolling on forever without end.
The full piece is here. January Magazine’s 2002 review of the book is here.


Dan Brown’s Inferno Gets Cover

Back in January, we told you about Dan Brown’s new book, Inferno, to be published in mid-May. Now, because everyone seems to be wanting to see it, we’re sharing the US cover. More impressive than this particular cover are the stats that have led us to thinking you might be interested:

The Da Vinci Code was published in 2003 and spent 144 weeks on The New York Times Hardcover Fiction bestseller list. According to the publisher, The Da Vinci Code is the bestselling adult hardcover of all time with 81 million copies in print worldwide. It is also one of the top ten most read books in the world along with The Bible, Harry Potter and Gone with the Wind.

But what, pray tell, is the new book about?
Inferno will see the return of The Da Vinci Code’s protagonist, symbologist Robert Langdon. The book is set in Italy and centers on the mysteries surrounding Dante’s Inferno. Inferno will be published by Doubleday simultaneously in the U.S. and Canada where it will have a first printing of four million copies. It will be published in the UK by Transworld on the same day. 
Author Brown himself comments on the material. “Although I studied Dante’s Inferno as a student,” he says, “it wasn’t until recently, while researching in Florence, that I came to appreciate the enduring influence of Dante’s work on the modern world. With this new novel, I am excited to take readers on a journey deep into this mysterious realm… a landscape of codes, symbols, and more than a few secret passageways.”
Look for the book on May 14th.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ernest Hemingway’s Seven Fiction-Writing Tips

Though he wasn’t always the best at living, one thing Papa Hemingway knew how to do was write. And though he’s known for his taut, clean prose, he wrote a lot of words to get himself there. Life Magazine sent Hemingway to Spain to do a series of articles on bullfighting. They wanted 10,000 words. Hemingway came back with about 130,000 of them. They were published in book form as Death in the Afternoon. Hemingway knew how to write. A lot.

So when Open Culture trolled through some of the vast stores of Heminwaybelia to cobble together seven fiction-writing tips from the master, we paid attention:
Hemingway never wrote a treatise on the art of writing fiction.  He did, however, leave behind a great many passages in letters, articles and books with opinions and advice on writing. Some of the best of those were assembled in 1984 by Larry W. Phillips into a book, Ernest Hemingway on Writing. We’ve selected seven of our favorite quotations from the book and placed them, along with our own commentary, on this page. We hope you will all -- writers and readers alike -- find them fascinating. 
Open Culture has included both quotes and comments, so you should definitely plan a visit in order to see where it all comes from. Meanwhile, here are the seven tips from Hemingway that they’ve put together:

1: To get started, write one true sentence.

2: Always stop for the day while you still know what will happen next.

3: Never think about the story when you’re not working.

4: When it’s time to work again, always start by reading what you’ve written so far.

5: Don’t describe an emotion -- make it.

6: Use a pencil.

7: Be brief.

The Open Culture piece is here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

New in Paperback: Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon

Last year, January Magazine contributing editor, Monica Stark, loved Melanie Gideon’s debut novel, Wife 22, out in “Reader’s Circle Editon” paperback this week from Ballantine. The Reader’s Circle Edition includes a conversation with the author and a reading group guide. When the book came out in hardcover last May, Stark wrote:
The homage to Joseph Heller in the title of Melanie Gideon’s debut novel is not an accident. “I think marriage is a sort of Catch 22,” Gideon said in a recent interview. “It’s strange how some of the little quirks and eccentricities of your mate that you found so charming in the beginning -- that may have even contributed to you falling in love with them -- 20 years later are the things that drive you absolutely crazy.”
Imagine Bridget Jones a couple of decades on and the “happily ever after” has turned into “another day of this?” and that will get you pretty close to the basic headspace in Wife 22.
As Stark pointed out, Gideon is the author of The Slippery Year: A Meditation on Happily After, so she knows this territory. Wife 22 is not high art, but it touches on the now of this moment. As PEOPLE suggested, “An LOL Instgram about love in a wired world.”

You can catch Stark’s review here. ◊


Copernicus’ Birthday Marked by Google Doodle

Scientist, mathematician, astronomer and author Nicolaus Copernicus was born on this day in 1743. Copernicus’ authorship of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), contributed greatly to scientific knowledge of the solar system.

The event is marked this year by a fantastic Google Doodle that illustrates Copernicus’ most celebrated achievement: the heliocentric theory that proved the Sun was as the center of the solar system, not Earth. This theory ended the notion that the Sun revolves around the Earth and cemented Copernicus’ position as the founder of modern astronomy.


This Just In… His Black Wings by Astrid Yrigollen

Claren Maidstone has been forced to flee her childhood home after the death of her parents and a vicious assault from a sadistic young man who intends to marry her. Claren changes her identity and finds employment as an assistant to  handsome Fredrick Lowood, a generous yet mysterious benefactor. However, she soon finds out his generosity comes at a price. Fredrick wishes for Claren to befriend his disfigured son who resides in seclusion at their estate, Westwind.

Fredrick Lowood knows what the history books do not teach: that the Grand Council built this new world of peace and beauty on hidden blood and greed. He has plotted for years to bring down the family that enslaved his own people. Suddenly, he has the last living heir in his grasp.

Etrigan Lowood rejects the world that forces him to hide. He is powerful, plagued with a terrible dark beauty: wings that carry him out only at night to watch the unwanted intruder in his home. A creature of refined instinct yet little social grace, he is strangely captivated by Claren but knows nothing of how her family's dark past is intertwined with his own. Through their blossoming friendship, Etrigan realizes he still retains his human heart and yearns for Claren’s love.

Beauty and The Beast meets Jane Eyre...”

You can order His Black Wings here and read more about the book here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis. Want to see your new book included? Ordering information is here.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Shadow Work Author Debbie Ford Dies at 57

Internationally bestselling self help author, Debbie Ford, died at home in San Diego last night after a lengthy struggle with cancer.

According to New Consciousness Review, Ford’s many books “are still considered pioneering work in the world of emotional and spiritual education.”
Considered a thought leader for her generation, Debbie burst onto the scene with her first book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, in 1998, showing the world that even loving and self-aware people have a darker side. She took readers on a journey of identifying, facing, and embracing their shadow selves. Her Shadow Process Workshop became the foundation of her work in nearly two decades to follow. She penned nine best-selling books and was working on her 10th book at the time of her death. Her books are translated into over 20 languages and have sold millions of copies.
Ford’s first book, The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, created a sensation upon publication in 1998. It was followed by Spiritual Divorce: Divorce as a Catalyst for an Extraordinary Life (2001); The Secret of the Shadow: The Power of Owning Your Story (2002); The Right Questions: Ten Essential Questions To Guide You To An Extraordinary Life (2004); The Best Year of Your Life: Dream It, Plan It, Live It (2005); Why Good People Do Bad Things: How to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy (2008); The 21-Day Consciousness Cleanse: A Breakthrough Program for Connecting Your Soul’s Deepest Purpose (2009); The Shadow Effect: Illuminating the Hidden Power of Your True Self (with Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson 2010); and Courage: Overcoming Fear and Igniting Self-Confidence (2012).

On the Debbie Ford web site today, Ford’s sister, Arielle, remembers sibling:
Debbie innovated groundbreaking work around the human shadow and grew into her role as a teacher, sharing her insightful shadow work through her many books, lectures, workshops, coaching programs, TV and radio shows, and even a movie -- helping hundreds of thousands around the world transform their pain into “their best life.” Debbie helped so many people go beyond their limited perspective of themselves and reconnect to the love, joy, and peace of their true selves.
In a 2002 interview with January Magazine, Ford told me:
My hope is that people can embrace their story. That they can understand the feelings and the beliefs and the behaviors that live inside their stories well enough that they can choose the life outside of it. That they'll go for their greatness. Knowing that there's only a choice: you can either go to your grave with your story and with your shadow beliefs that you're not going to get everything you want: you can't have it all. Or you can try stepping out into a different level of consciousness. Because they both exist at the same time: our story and the world of possibility. And at any time you can jump realities.
That interview with Ford is here.

“New York’s First True Biographer”

Last August, we posted on this page Matthew Fleagle’s wonderful two-part remembrance of Joseph Mitchell (here and here), the legendary and once prolific New Yorker writer who stopped publishing anything in 1964, yet maintained regular hours in the magazine’s Midtown offices for the next three decades.

Then, just last week, The New Yorker finally brought readers “Street Life,” the first of three promised excerpts from a never-before-published memoir Mitchell composed sometime prior to his demise in 1996, at age 87.

Finally, a new posting on the New Yorker Web site, by Erin Overbey, looks back at the journalist’s tenure with the magazine. Early in that article, Overbey recalls that
His first big piece after joining the magazine was a Reporter at Large about a former ship captain who founded a private museum in midtown called the Museum for Intelligent People. Mitchell contributed over sixty pieces, many of them Profiles and long features, to the magazine between the mid-thirties and mid-sixties. He composed city narratives exploring the lives of gypsies and saloon owners, Bowery preachers and oystermen. Editor Harold Ross sometimes referred to his pieces, which tended to defy easy classification, as “highlife lowlife” stories. A “listener of genius,” as the Times once called him, Mitchell made an art out of detailing his subjects’ magical, wandering commentary. “If you were speaking with him,” Roger Angell told me, “he was quite charming. He would listen intently, nod his head in agreement with you, and then he would say in a light North Carolina drawl, ‘Ah know it!’” The only people he didn’t care to listen to, Mitchell once remarked, were “society women, industrial leaders, distinguished authors, ministers, explorers, moving picture actors, and any actress under the age of thirty-five.” He developed a close friendship with his colleague A. J. Liebling, and they would often lunch together with S. J. Perelman and James Thurber. Beginning in the fifties, he also struck up an occasional correspondence with Ernest Hemingway, after they found common cause over their mutual indignation at the public shaming of Ingrid Bergman when she had affair with Roberto Rosselini.
Click here to enjoy the full piece.

Are we being wildly optimistic, or might all of this recent activity in the Zeitgeist have the potential to spur a mini-revival of interest in the North Carolina-born Mitchell? If so, it doesn’t come too soon. Just a decade and a half after he went to his grave, the journalist seems at risk of being forgotten, especially by younger readers. We can only hope that with the release of more excerpts from Joseph Mitchell’s previously elusive memoir, and a few more articles in prominent publications other than The New Yorker, readers will be provoked to search out his books (including Up in the Old Hotel and Joe Gould’s Secret), and the wheels on the rediscovery of this great American writer will slowly but surely start to spin.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Non-Fiction: A North Country Life by Sydney Lea

Vermont poet laureate Sydney Lea puts both his talent and his love of the sporting life front and center in A North Country Life (Skyhorse).

This is not a politically correct look at the world out of doors. Lea is a lifelong hunter and fisherman whose appreciation for outdoor life is unhampered by contemporary social mores. So imagine Bryson’s AWalk in the Woods, but overlaid with poetic language. And guns. It’s a reach. It’s a stretch. And if you’re not a PETA sympathizer, it’s a lovely book.

The essays collected in A North Country Life touch on the “Woodsmen, Waters and Wildlife’ mentioned in the subtitle. Written over a number of years, lovingly handle a lifetime relationship with the regions he includes here. Lea has taught at Dartmouth, Yale, Wesleyan and others. He founded the New England Review in 1977 and his essays, poems and stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic and others, but here he is rough and ready, passionately sharing his experiences and his relationships in language that is measured, beautiful, insightful, and sometimes quite funny.

“I remember a time when,” he writes at one point, “like many another hyper-hormonal young man, and in fact like too many anglers even now, I yearned to smack a big trout over the head on every outing.”

It is sentiments like these that seem intended to rile the PETA crew, but one gets the impression that Lea has other thing to care about. ◊

Jones Atwater is a regular contributor to January Magazine.

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This Just In… The Cull by Eric J. Gates

Amy Bree’s reckless actions result in death and her dismissal from the FBI.

A visit from a mysterious priest propels her back into the fray, as she is partnered with an ex-spy, with fearsome computer skills, and tasked to hunt down and kill the serial killer known as the Blood Sucker.

Their quarry is not what they expect: old, very old, and needs blood to survive. The body count rises… and the hunters become the hunted!

Vampires!... but with a completely new twist!

You can order The Cull here. Visit Eric J. Gates on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis. Want to see your new book included? You can see details here.


Friday, February 15, 2013

Indie Bookstores Holding the Fort

Despite increased crumbling of the big chains and ever more encroachment from electronic fronts, book sales numbers from 2012 indicate that independent bookstores continue to be the cornerstone of the industry. From Christian Science Monitor:
The overall story of 2012 for US bookstores was more up-and-down than anything. Sales numbers were higher than in 2011 for the months of April, May, June, July, October, November, and December. Numbers fell for February, March, August, and September, while they were even with 2011 sales figures in January. 
Jack McKeown, co-owner and president of Books & Books in Westhampton Beach in New York, wrote on the Publishers Weekly website that he thought booksellers should be “cautiously optimistic” about this news. 
“Let me get this straight,” he wrote. “The industry loses 12% of its brick-and-mortar shelf space with the collapse of Borders (third quarter 2011); suffers tough comps with the impact of Borders liquidation sales; and endures further encroachment from online and ebooks, and yet bookstores still managed to turn in a virtually flat performance 2012 vs. 2011? And a strong December uptick. Pretty remarkable.”
In 2012, independent bookstores reported some of their strongest sales ever for the month of December, with their numbers rising almost 8 percent for the year, also experiencing a 28 percent rise in their online sales. By contrast, Barnes & Noble saw a 10.9 percent drop in retail operations for the holiday season. The retailer plans to close about one-third of its stores over the next decade.
You can see the full piece here.


This Just In… Never by Crash Froelich

After a fairy drank the poison left for her human boy, he pleaded for the children of the world to save her. Most kids ignored him. Some sneered. None wished her well. Those spiteful acts forever changed them.

The boy used the power of his eternal childhood to save the fairy who loved him. As a result, she ceased to be a fairy and he became that creature he most despised -- an adult. For years afterward they roamed the planet as father and daughter. The former fairy’s acts of vengeance, for the “bad thing” done to her, forced them to move from place to place to avoid the consequences. In 1963, they wandered into Saint Joseph, Missouri to find friends and hope for ordinary lives. It isn't easy, however, to stay out of trouble.

The former fairy doesn’t sling pixie dust or sing duets with bluebirds. She’s more likely to cause acts of mayhem or slip you fudge made with EX-LAX.

You can order Never here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis. Want to see your new book included? You can see details here.


Young Adult: The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

Author, actor and director Adrienne Kress (Alex and the Ironic Gentleman, Timothy and the Dragon’s Gate) attacks her first young adult novel with cinematic verve. In her newest book, Kress delivers a high-spirited study of the nature of heroism at the hands of a trio of girls in a steampunk world.

The Friday Society (Dial) brings us lab assistant Cora, magician’s assistant Nellie and Michiko, the flight assistant: all three game girls who assist powerful men. They meet under mad circumstances and are united at the discovery of an unsolved murder that may have links to each of their lives. The book is period, but still entirely contemporary in tone, as one can see from the opening lines:
And then there was an explosion.
It was loud. It was bright. It was very explosion-y… 
That was the technical term for it.
So there is a lightness to The Friday Society, but never a silliness, and Kerr maintains that balance with an almost perfect zen. Kress’ starring three are charming -- competent, intelligent and anything but typical -- but Kress’ secondary characters are almost as interesting. ◊

Sienna Powers is a transplanted Calgarian who lives and works in Vancouver, B.C. She is a writer and conceptual artist.

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This Just In… Games of Adversaries by Susan Elizabeth Curnow

Yiahan rial Krais dances for his god, while in another time and another world, Commander Marcus Oregada strives to save his folk.

Bereft of families, wives and children, no loved ones live to warn them: Beware the door slammed shut to escape inhuman violence, where memories amass like cobwebs, spun by he who spilled your blood. For there will be a day of reckoning to sweep away reason and sanity. To break you and divide you, never knowing it will bind you, as it twists and rends your lives to face the destroyer of souls.

Games of Adversaries is Susan Elizabeth Curnow’s debut novel. The book takes two men from vastly different worlds through shocking twists of loss, betrayal, and torture. Reeling from pain and enmity, they must ultimately realize that no one else has the power to save themselves and their worlds.

In a way that is deeply sympathetic to prisoners of war and soldiers exposed to terrible hardship everywhere, the author speaks to the heart of the reader with truth as well as compassion.

You can order Games of Adversaries here.◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis. Want to see your new book included? You can see details here.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Fiction: The Way of the Dog by Sam Savage

From the anonymous shadow of the living room window in his crumbling mansion, an old man watches the world. Once an uncelebrated painted and a collector of art, Harold Nivenson seems to witness the changing of the world while he himself feels oddly unchanged, impacted only by his past.

The Way of the Dog (Coffee House Press) is Sam Savage’s fourth novel, after Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife, Cry of the Sloth and Glass. Like those books, The Way of the Dog is poetic in nature, both for its lovely prose, but also for the stance: searching looks at the things closest to us.

In this novel, Savage guides us through the experience of the artist looking back and coming to terms with choices that were difficult and not always “correct” yet finding a certain peace, nonetheless. Here Harold imagines a lifetime’s accumulation of index cards as a reflection of his life:
Imagine an expanse of ruins. A vast field on which are scattered thousands of bits and pieces of wood, glass, and masonry. As if a large building had been demolished theorem broken into pieces so small and shattered they cannot be identified as window, door, plank, as if the building had disintegrated, though in fact they are not the remains of any building that has ever stood in the field.
Most of Harold-by-way-of-Savage’s observations are more subtle, though no less beautiful and we accompany him as he works through a lifetime’s worth of bitterness in order to make peace with himself and his world. ◊

Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.


This Just In… A Box of Pandoras by Steve Brewer

A Box of Pandoras is a hilarious new mystery from Steve Brewer, author of the Bubba Mabry series.

When Loretta Kimball learns her favorite actor is coming to New Mexico for a film festival, she couldn’t be more excited. Loretta is the long-time president of the International Michael Girard Fan Club, and she never passes up a chance to see Mr. Girard in person.

The festival is in trendy Santa Fe, which is practically a different planet from rural New Mexico towns like Pandora, so Loretta expects a certain amount of weirdness when she and her husband attend. But she doesn’t expect murder.
When suspicion is cast upon Mr. Girard, Loretta is thrown into the midst of a media circus. She snoops around, endangering her own life while trying to uncover the killer.

“Every region claims its own resident jester-in-crime. Steve Brewer owns the Southwest.” -- National Book Award winner Pete Hautman

You can order A Box of Pandoras here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis. Want to see your new book included? You can see details here.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New in Paperback: The Book of Lost Fragrances by MJ Rose

Last year, when M.J. Rose’s The Book of Lost Fragrances first came out, January Magazine editor Linda L. Richards couldn’t say enough about it:
Rose’s work tends to speak to me in special ways, something I’ve commented on in reviews over the years. Her writing seems to rap up all of the elements of story that just delight me. There is an elegance to her voice, even when the stories she shares are at their most suspenseful.
The canvas in The Book of Lost Fragrances is epic in scope: from both contemporary and revolutionary France to Cleopatra’s Egypt to Tibet’s battle with China. Like many of Rose’s books, there is an element of the supernatural in The Book of Lost Fragrances where murder and remembrances in a French perfume company might be tied into the very mystery of reincarnation.

The heady blend of history, mystery and Rose’s trademark sensual touch have been making The Book of Lost Fragrances a popular book club pick. New in paperback this week from Atria.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

This Just In… Slipping Away by Scott William Wood

Brash and antipathetic to a fault, Detective Bobby Forsett retreats from a crumbling personal and professional world he fashioned around 26 years of dedicated police service. Seeking solace and personal redemption he finds himself pulled back by fading sentiments he’s trying to deny and vengeful forces intent on reminding him why he never should have left.

Set amid the pristine forests and mountain grandeur that surround the gem of the Pacific Northwest’s urban coastal region -- Vancouver Canada -- the story offers glimpses into noble souls whose deeds are anything but, and callous tormentors whose intentions are all that and more. Bobby relentlessly pursues justice to the literal precipice, rediscovering a commitment to past ideals and frayed emotional ties he’d considered relics of a past best forgotten.

“Taking a close look at the human condition, Wood encourages his readers to face life’s challenges head on, to remain positive in the face of adversity, to never give up on hopes and dreams, and to remember that people have the capacity to change at any stage in life.” --

You can order Slipping Away here. Visit Scott William Wood on the web here. ◊

This Just In... is a column that shares basic information on selected titles. Titles are included at the editor’s discretion and on a first come, first served basis. Want to see your new book included? You can see details here.


“Literary NAFTA” Begins This Week

Writers and readers in cold climates wanting a blast of warm air with their literature might consider heading down to the San Miguel Writers’ Conference in stunning San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Starting tomorrow until the 18th of February, more than 64 speakers including writers and agents will be talking books, writing and literature in a perfectly idyllic setting.

The conference web site includes a blurb from Tom Robbins. “If Dante had had the San Miguel experience,” says Robbins, “he may have written more about heaven and less about hell.” While this may or may not be true, Quill & Quire’s description sounds only slightly less inviting:
For the past eight years, San Miguel de Allende, an idyllic colonial town in central Mexico, has played host to the San Miguel Writers’ Conference, the only bilingual literary event in North America that focuses on Canadian, U.S., and Mexican authors.
Unlike many other festivals that cater primarily to readers, San Miguel has become a gathering place for writers to share their craft, meet with literary agents, and attend workshops and parties. Canadian writer and Kingston WritersFest artistic director Merilyn Simonds, who spends her winters in the community, calls the event “the NAFTA of literary festivals.”
The San Miguel Writers’ Conference runs from February 13th to 18th. The conference schedule is here. While you’re there, you might consider taking in the monarch butterfly tour. Information about that is included here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Crime Fiction: The Midwife’s Tale by Sam Thomas and Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent

Both of these historical mysteries focus on women with strong professional lives. But one of them works much better than the other.

Reflecting changes in society, mystery writers have expanded their venues from the days when books cast female protagonists as teachers or nurses. Now, it seems, the sky is the limit.

In The Midwife’s Tale, by Sam Thomas (Minotaur), widowed Lady Bridget Hodgson is a midwife in mid-17th-century York, England. Hers is a traditional woman’s occupation, but one that comes with obligations unheard of today. For example, midwives of that period were required by law to forcibly examine any unmarried woman if someone thought she was pregnant. And if the woman didn’t reveal the name of the father, she was subject to whipping. There’s more--and it’s not pretty. It’s clear that midwifery is a tough job, both emotionally and physically.

Bridget’s friend Esther Cooper is accused, and then quickly convicted, of poisoning her husband. However, Bridget is convinced of her innocence. Unfortunately, her attempts to free her friend bring her into conflict with the local political establishment.

Since this tale takes place during an era of civil unrest involving the conflict between the Parliament and the King of England, there is a strong historical subtext that wraps around the main, fictional yarn. We learn something of the political turmoil, but it’s done with a light hand, and it never overpowers the story.

Meanwhile, in Lady of Ashes, by Christine Trent (Kensington), we find Violet Morgan, an undertaker in Victorian-era London. She was trained by her husband in a field where women are unheard of. When she investigates a series of suspicious deaths, there is someone to stymie her at every turn. What’s more, her husband develops serious social ambitions that come between them.

My main problem with Trent’s novel is that you might mistake it for a primer on Victorian funeral practices. There’s a fine line between verisimilitude and a textbook, and Trent crosses it.

Then, late in its progression, the story starts to read like part of a romance novel. That doesn’t help.

The pleasure of a historical novel is that it lets you visit a time and place that is probably unfamiliar. You shouldn’t have to worry that there might be a quiz on the material. ◊

Roberta Alexander is an editor and mystery reviewer in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

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Monday, February 04, 2013

Dr. Seuss and His Hats

The news that Dr. Seuss was in real life a big lover of hats will probably surprise no one at all. You only have to have read a very few of his books to have gotten a sense of that: all through his work, hats play a vivid and important role. According to The New York Times they played an important role in his life, too:
He collected hundreds of them, plumed, beribboned and spiked, and kept them in a closet hidden behind a bookcase in his home in the La Jolla section of San Diego. He incorporated them into his personal paintings, his advertising work and his books. He even insisted that guests to his home don the most elaborate ones he could find. 
“Believe me, when you get a dozen people seated at a fairly formal dinner party,” his widow, Audrey, said in an interview for an 1999 educational video, “and they’ve all got on perfectly ridiculous chapeaus, the evening takes care of itself.” 
Now, as part of their efforts to keep the Seuss brand fresh in the eyes of young readers, Random House Children’s Books, his longtime publisher, and Dr. Seuss Enterprises have collaborated on an exhibit that for the first time will display some of his hats to the public.
You can see the full piece here.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Non-Fiction: Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don't, and How to Make Any Change Stick by Jeremy Dean

Making Habits, Breaking Habits (DaCapo LifeLong) is a much better book than you’re expecting. The title puts one in mind of pop psychology and change for the sake of change -- but really, nothing could be further from the truth.

Author-psychologist Jeremy Dean is interested in the way we process things and why we love the things we love. He’s the founder of the popular PsyBlog, which sees over a million readers each month. Dean launched the blog because he found there just wasn’t enough smart writing for those who liked psychological insight backed up by science with their news. Making Habits, Breaking Habits was born of a question that was perhaps too long to be answered in a single blog posting ... or even a string of them. “This book started with an apparently simple question that seemed to have a simple answer,” Dean writes. “How long does it take to form a new habit?”

There is popular wisdom on the topic, but Dean contends that it’s all wrong. (As is the 21-day answer you’ll get if you Google on the topic, which is what Dean did at first.)

And, of course, since this is a book and not a blog posting, Dean gets the luxury of examining the topic thoroughly, which is where Making Habits, Breaking Habits actually does move into self-help mode, but not with the cloying cheerfulness we’ve come to associate with many books of that ilk. Though Dean is currently working towards a doctorate in psychology, his voice is casual, friendly and smart. More importantly for a book of this nature, he knows how to break his material down and present it in a way that is not only logical, but also stays interesting and connected: quite often not the case with books of this nature.

In the end, Making Habits, Breaking Habits is an entertaining and deeply interesting book. And a huge bonus for some readers: it actually has the potential to totally change your life. ◊

David Middleton is art director and art & culture editor of January Magazine.

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Reading Chick Lit Dangerous to Your Health

Even those who find chick lit to be a guilty pleasure have never argued very much about whether or not the genre might be dangerous to your intellect. However, as it turns out, it might actually also be dangerous to your health, or so Nina Bahadur, posits for The Huffington Post:
Readers of "chick lit," beware -- the woman-targeted fiction genre might not be as harmless as it seems. Reading about a protagonist with low body-esteem could affect how you feel about your own appearance. 
New research from Virginia Tech suggests that chick-lit novels with protagonists who express negative feelings about their bodies can influence readers' weight concerns and how they perceive their own sexual attractiveness.
There’s much more of this, and it’s all here.