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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?
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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.
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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!
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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.
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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.

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.

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.

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 Flynn's Long Walk Home, 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.
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By Delicia Williams
Self-published
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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Restless Books is a publisher that specializes in international books translated into English. In their own words, stories that "connect people across cultures and borders." In fall 2017, they started the imprint Yonder, to share children's books to help teach children "to place themselves in the shoes of others beyond their communities, and instill in them a lifelong curiosity about the world and their place in it."

One of their upcoming releases is the children's picture book, Daniel & Ismail. The twist? They also want to translate it into Hebrew and Arabic for a trilingual release.



You can support Restless Books in this endeavor by pledging to their Kickstarter. Rewards include books, signed books, signed prints, and original art.
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Slay by Brittney Morris was sold in a six-figure, two-book deal to Simon Pulse last week. Thus there is no book cover or even a cover copy yet.

But I had to share this Black Panther-inspired novel because it sounds amazing.

Slay is the tale of 17-year-old Kiera Johnson, a black teen game developer battling a real-life troll intent on ruining the Black Panther-inspired online role-playing card game she has created and that has become especially popular among black gamers worldwide. But when an African-American teen, Jamal Rice, is murdered during a dispute over the in-game currency (“Slay Coins”), Slay is widely disparaged in the mainstream media and elsewhere as a racist, exclusionist, and violent hub for thugs and criminals.

Read more at Publisher's Weekly.
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BlacKkKlansman is the story of Ron Stallworth, a black police officer who goes undercover to join the KKK. He does this by talking to Klan members on the phone, while fellow (white) detective Flip goes to meet with them in person.

John David Washington shines as Stallworth. He gets across the character's earnest belief in the system, which simultaneously exists with his frustration when confronted by the racists and other bad apples on the force. He's a character who is sometimes fierce and sometimes fearful, but always believable. He plays especially well off of Adam Driver, particularly in scenes where Flip confronts his own heritage as a Jewish man.

BlacKkKlansman is based on the memoir BLACK KLANSMAN by Ron Stallworth and it takes many liberties to make the story more cinematic. After all, a cop story needs shots being fired and an explosion.

I think the best change is that the movie adds women to the story. Laura Harrier plays Patrice, a militant young woman who organizes campus speaking events and marches and believes the police can never be trusted. She's based on actual women who worked with the Black Panthers and other radical groups. She's intense, but can also slow down and discuss which films and stars she likes best. On the opposite side, a woman is added to the Klan group as well, a wife whose efforts to host go unappreciated. It's an excellent portrait of how these women get wrapped up in supporting and championing a cause that sees them as second-class citizens.

BLACKkKLANSMAN - Official Trailer [HD] - In Theaters August 10 - YouTube


By turns, BlacKkKlansman is hilarious, exciting, and a punch to the gut. I was crying by the time I left the theater, due to Spike Lee's effortless connection of the events of the past to the ones of the present. He's a masterful filmmaker and he's made a movie that's both an entertaining summer comedy-thriller and a haunting piece of art. I thoroughly recommend going to see it, or renting it once it is available on video.
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