Saturday, October 10, 2015

Amazon Opening a Bricks and Mortar Store? Plus Dumplin' by Julie Murphy, The Weight of Feathers by AnaMarie McLemore and Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

From the reporters at Shelf Awareness comes this distant early warning that Amazon may be opening a real bookstore in the U Village, where there once was a gloriously spacious and busy Barnes and Noble. 

Is Amazon opening a bookstore in Seattle's University Village?

For several years, U-Village, which is home to a huge Apple store and a Microsoft store, has been the rumored location of an Amazon retail operation, particularly since Barnes & Noble closed
46,000-square-foot store in the upscale shopping mall in the University District at the end of 2011. Some of the strongest speculation came in 2012, after B&N, Books-A-Million and Indigo said they would not carry Amazon Publishing titles. At the time, Good E-Reader called a possible U-Village Amazon store "a test to gauge the market and see if a chain of stores would be profitable. They intend on going with the small boutique route with the main emphasis on books from their growing line of Amazon Exclusives and selling their e-readers and tablets."

Now Shelf Awareness has learned that work is underway on a newly vacant spot in U-Village formerly occupied by Blue C Sushi, a storefront that, according to city work permits, will be occupied by a retailer named "Ann Bookstore." A source who works at U-Village said that the management has been unusually secretive about the new tenant and that it's rumored the site will house a bookstore. A management office employee who was asked when the Amazon bookstore would open said only that she didn't know the date. Also, the most likely local indie candidates to open such a store--University Book Store, Elliott Bay Book Company and Third Place Books--have all said they are not opening a store in U-Village.

In addition, Shelf Awareness has learned that the online retailer has
approached booksellers at independent stores in the Seattle area and
conducted interviews but didn't tell much about the jobs it was seeking to fill. (All potential hires signed very restrictive nondisclosure
agreements.) Amazon has recruited at least one relatively new bookseller for the "new initiative." The job pays $18 an hour, well above the typical pay scale for an entry-level bookseller. Amazon has also interviewed more experienced booksellers.

So the U-Village store is a major departure for Amazon: its first real
bricks-and-mortar venture, in a shopping center with other high-tech
retailers, featuring its own books and related products. It's also a way
to ensure that Amazon Publishing titles finally get onto at least one
bookstore's shelves.

I know this isn't specifically about books, but this series is such a joy that I think even old Arthur Conan Doyle would have loved it! I know that I am in great anticipation of this new season, which takes place in 19th Century England.
TV: SherlockTrailer>A new PBS trailer "provides some clues about Sherlock's
long-anticipated and well-guarded one-off special set in Victorian
times," reported. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman "trade in their modern trappings for a ghostly trip in the wayback machine to the 19th century, complete with deerstalker cap (for Holmes) and handlebar mustache (for Watson). The Sherlock special will also be released in theaters, but no PBS premiere date has been announced.

Rebel Mechanics is the first book in a delicious new YA Steampunk series that posits what would happen if the American colonies had never broken free from the British, due to the Brits having cornered the market on magic? Here's the blurb:It's 1888, and seventeen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family--but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister--but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family's life. She soon realizes she's uniquely positioned to advance the cause--but to do so, she'll have to reveal her own dangerous secret. I became a fan of Verity, the protagonist, fairly quickly because she had what is usually so lacking in young female heroines of the past, common sense. She didn't immediately go haring off with the rebels just because one of their number was attractive and paid attention to her. She questions what is happening with the rebels and the magisters every step of the way, and she realizes that whatever she does for either side could lose her that which is most important to her, her job and her independence. She also reacts appropriately when she realizes that the rebels have been lying to her and manipulating/using her for their own ends. Again, she keeps a clear head and thinks it through. She still believes in the cause of a free America, even if she can't have a relationship with the handsome rebel mechanic Alec. Personally, I think that she and her employer are a better match anyway, but that's to be seen in future books by this wonderful author. The prose is bright and crisp, the plot steam-powered on all pistons and the characters beautifully rendered. I'd give this novel an A, and recommend it to anyone who enjoys a rousing good Steampunk tale well told.

The Weight of Feathers by Ana Marie McLemore was not at all what I had assumed it would be after reading a review about it. This is a kind of re-telling of Romeo and Juliet, except the families are French and Spanish, and each are traveling performers of the old-fashioned variety, the kind who used to travel from town to town with shows every year and use the landscape of the town and the forests and streams as their theater. Here's the blurb from Publisher's Weekly:Like all Paloma girls, Lace was born with small escalas decorating her body, “a sprinkling of scales off a pale fish, a gift from the river goddess Apanchanej.” Life revolves around performing as sirenas in her itinerant family’s popular mermaid show, a tourist attraction rivaled only by that of their nemesis family, the Corbeaus, who have feathers instead of scales, and dance high in the trees. Superstition and a generations-old feud fuel hatred between the talented families, and when Cluck, a Corbeau, saves Lace during a chemical rainstorm caused by a nearby adhesive manufacturing plant, he unwittingly dooms Lace’s future with her family. McLemore’s prose is ethereal and beguiling, the third-person narration inflected with Spanish and French words and phrases that reflect the non-magical aspects of the Paloma and Corbeau heritage. The enchanting setup and the forbidden romance that blooms between these two outcasts will quickly draw readers in, along with the steady unspooling of the families’ history and mutual suspicions in this promising first novel.Like the Night Circus, which it has been compared to, there's magic and romance and gorgeous prose woven throughout this beautiful tale. The plot has as many twists and turns as a river, and yet the riveting characters and the luxurious prose kept me turning pages until I'd read the book in one sitting. Though I of course know what happens to most Romeo and Juliet stories, I was still so beguiled by this unique retelling that I was breathless by the final act, because I feared for Lace and Cluck's lives.The only minor quibble that I didn't understand or like about the book was Cluck's refusal to stand up to his "brother" Dax, who physically abused him every day. Why he never fought back and allowed this monster to break his bones was just beyond me. I sincerely hoped that someone would kill Dax by the end of the book, but what was better was that neither Cluck nor Lace died in the end, like Romeo and Juliet. Both families had cruel parents and relatives that seemed to delight in causing pain for others, which made me ill. Yet the beauty of the love between Lace and Cluck/Luc somehow transcended their painful pasts. I'd give this novel an A, and recommend it to those who loved the Night Circus and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy seemed like a novel that I would love from the outset, because it's about a fat teenager who enters a beauty pageant because she feels it's the right thing to do, to represent girls who don't look like cheerleaders or models. But though I was prepared to love Willadean and her sassy strength, I was disappointed by her inability to let herself be loved. Here's the blurb: 
For fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell comes this powerful novel with the most fearless heroine—self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson—from Julie Murphy, the acclaimed author of Side Effects May Vary. With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.
Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . .  until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.  
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all. Though I liked that Will was able to stand up to her mother in regards to her weight and consistently refuse to diet or exercise just to become a "regular" pageant contestant, I kept wondering where that defiance and confidence went every time she tried to have a relationship with the hot basketball player Bo Larson. She kept going on and on about how she was comfortable in her own body and wasn't going to change it, but then whenever Bo touched her, she'd freak out and act like she hated herself and wanted to run and hide for fear of being shunned or made fun of if anyone saw her as Bo's girlfriend. It just didn't add up. She was brave and strong one minute and weak and cowardly the next. Bizarre. I know what it is like to be a fat teenager and be made fun of every single day of junior high and high school, and I don't recall it being that easy to just tell the jerks to shove off when they started in on you or a friend. I didn't really have larger sized friends who would stand up for me as Will does, though, and while my group of drama nerd friends were kind to me, most were afraid of being bullied for being seen as supportive of me. Perhaps things have changed since the 70s, though, and I imagine Texas and Iowa don't have a lot in common, either. Still, there were just more than a few parts of this novel that didn't ring quite true to me. I'd give it a B, for that reason, and though the prose was decent and the plot a bit wiggly but not slow, I'd recommend it to Southern gals who might enjoy a YA novel about learning to be yourself and love the skin you're in.


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