October 12, 2018

Prime Book Box Kids?

At the beginning of October, I was browsing Amazon and saw a banner ad for a program I hadn't heard of before: Prime Book Box Kids. I instantly clicked.

Amazon has tried to move into the subscription box marked before; most notably, with the Prime Sweets Box. Books seem like a more natural fit for Amazon.

Now I did try the Prime Sweets Box a few times. However, it had one huge drawback: you couldn't list any preferences or choose your sweets in any way. As I currently have braces, this meant a quarter to a third of each box I received I had to give away due to nuts, caramel, or other foods I'm not supposed to eat.

Amazon seems to have learned for Prime Book Box Kids. First, none of the books in your box will be ones you've previously purchased on Amazon. Second, you'll have a number of alternate choices to choose from if you aren't interested or already own one of the choices in your box. That freedom to make sure you get what you want is a nice bonus. I do like my subscription boxes a surprise, but not too much of a surprise.

You can also adjust the frequency to every 1-, 2-, or 3-months and you can skip boxes. Both are good options for further flexibility. (More is listed in the FAQ.)

The price is a little rich for my blood. Each box is $22.99 (including shipping) and includes two hardcover books (for the older age ranges) or four board books (for the babies). Amazon promises each will be at least 35% off list price and no more expensive than it would be on the site. So it is a deal, but personally, I prefer paperbacks, and not just for the price point. Especially for children's books, where they can go through a large quantity. $11.50 isn't bad for one book, but it's more than a paperback.

I do think it is a good idea, and bet a lot of families will love it. It might make a good gift during the Christmas season.

Are any of you subscribed to a book box?

October 10, 2018

Recommended: As a Person, I’d Love to Stop Separating Children from Their Families, but, as a Pied Piper, I Can’t

I don't often get political on this blog. It's not that I don't have thoughts on politics; it is that it isn't what I made this blog for, and I often feel that if I address one thing on here, then I have to address all the things.

But I don't. This blog is what I make of it.

So today I am recommending a bit of political satire that appeared in The New Yorker. Because I enjoyed it. Because it has a fairy-tale theme that suits this blog.

I may recommend similar pieces in the future. I may not. But today, I am recommending this one.

"As a Person, I’d Love to Stop Separating Children from Their Families, but, as a Pied Piper, I Can’t" by Matt Doyle

It’s not like I can change the law.

Look, I’m not happy about having to do this. Try, for a second, to ignore that I was dancing while I coaxed all the children away from their parents. That wasn’t performative cruelty, it was more like law enforcement, performed.

October 7, 2018

Small Beer Press Sale!

Get in Trouble The MacArthur Genius Grants were announced on Thursday, and one of the winners was Kelly Link! Let me tell you, I am very curious about what project she is using the grant to complete.

I reviewed her latest short story collection, Get In Trouble, back in March 2015. That collection went on to become a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Link is not only a decorated author, however; she's also a publisher. Link co-founded and co-runs Small Beer Press, which publishes some of the biggest names in literary science fiction.

To celebrate Link's achievement, Small Beer Press announced a week-long sale, everything 50% off. So hurry over and look at what's available before the sale ends!  

YA novels on sale include In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan (a loving send-up of portal fantasy novels with a gay romance), The Poison Eaters and Other Stories by Holly Black (which contains the original version of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and some stories that tie into her Tithe series), and Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace (a journey to the underworld that didn't quite work for me.

You can find works by major female SFF writers like Joan Aiken and Ursula K. LeGuin, as well as others you might not have heard of. Small Beer Press publishes a diverse range of voices, including award winners, authors in translation, and reprints of classics.

Take a look around the sale. I guarantee you'll find some fantastic reads. Plus, free media mail shipping within the US!

October 6, 2018

Cybils 2018 Nominations are Open!

You still have time to nominate for the 2018 Cybils! Nominations don't close until October 15th.

What are the Cybils, you ask? They're children's and YA book awards juried by bloggers. Nominated books are judged by both literary merit and appeal to their audience. Categories include contemporary/historical, speculative fiction, and graphic novels for several age levels, poetry, and book apps.

I've been a first- and second-round judge for the Cybils, and both were incredibly rewarding experiences. Everyone involved believes in getting the best books into the hands of kids.

You can find more information in the rules and FAQ.

You can find a link to nominations on this page.

October 4, 2018

Too Many Events in the Bookstores!

One of the great things about living in a big city with several independent bookstores is the frequent book events. I've gotten to see so many of my favorite authors speak, and it always leaves me with a deeper understanding and appreciation of their work.

Tonight, there are three amazing events going on around Houston.

Two Dark Reigns Blue Willow Bookshop is hosting the Epic Reads Meet Up with Elana K. Arnold, Kendare Blake, Anna Godbersen, Mackenzi Lee, and Claire Legrand. The Epic Reads events are always great fun, with giveaways and swag. HarperCollins and Team Epic Reads know how to throw a party! I'd especially love to see Kendare Blake.

The Hollow of Fear Murder by the Book is hosting two women who have written in multiple genres. Melissa Lenhardt's new novel Heresy is about an all-women gang in the Wild West; how cool is that? Sherry Thomas, one of my long-time favorites, is there with the newest novel in her Lady Sherlock series, The Hollow of Fear.

Beautiful Country Burn Again Brazos Bookstore is hosting Ben Fountain, the author of Beautiful Country Burn Again. This is not a novel but a work of reportage. (His previous work, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, was a novel and turned into an Ang Lee movie.)

So which of these events will I choose to go to? Ben Fountain at Brazos Bookstore. It's not just that he has an incredible faculty with words, but also that he was one of my past writing teachers. A number of the tricks I use in my fiction, I learned from him.

Thankfully, Murder by the Book is just up the street from Brazos Bookstore, and that event starts 30 minutes earlier. Maybe I can swing by and see part of Lenhardt and Thomas's appearance.

October 2, 2018

Review: The Grimm Files: How to Bake a Murder Cake

By Delicia Williams
Purchased copy

I love fairy tales. I love zines. How could I resist the two combined in one clever package? Delicia Williams' The Grimm Files series (there are three so far) are covered using cut-down manila folders, stamped CLASSIFIED. The inside cover notes the crime catalogued within. It really gives them the presence of police file, and is more effective than if they just had a self cover. The 8-page comic inside recounts a fairy-tale crime in verse.

The first page

"How to Bake a Murder Cake" tackles Hansel and Gretel. In this retelling, the witch is the one with something to fear from these hungry children. The rhymes are sometimes strained, but the illustrations are excellent. The pages get blacker as danger looms, and the expressions on Hansel and Gretel's faces are quite frightening. There's also a wonderful bit of spot red drawn in to give extra impact to the horrid ending. There's something terrifying about the illustrations, especially when combined with the loopy lettering.

Williams also works as a penciller, and I plan to look up some of her other work. Notably, she inked and pencilled a story in the Wayward Sisters anthology, which has a foreword from one of my favorite comics artists, Faith Erin Hicks.


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