State of the TBR Pile: November 2015

It’s already the second Sunday in November, and I’m looking out my window at the leaves slowly falling from the trees. I’m near the end of a super busy two months at work (which included binge-reading Ally Carter’s first Embassy Row book — I haven’t gotten an ARC of the second to read yet– because of a special, exclusive deal we have to offer pre-signed books of hers at work), I’ve got Cybils reading I should be doing, and the girls are running in about 30 million different directions. What I want to be doing as the weather turns cooler is curl up in a chair with a cup of hot something, and read.

I did get the chance to hang out with Ally Condie, Jandy Nelson, and Meg Wolitzer last week. Three very delightful ladies, and I thoroughly enjoyed talking to each one. And they put on a fantastic event.



As for the TBR pile, here’s what I’m currently working from:

IMG_4188Need, by Joelle Charbonneau
Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
Hunters of Chaos, by Crystal Velasquez
Jack, by Liesl Shurtliff
Lilliput, by Sam Gayton
Mars Evacuees, by Sophia McDougall
Castle Hangnail, by Ursula Vernon

What’s on your TBR pile?

October 2015 Wrap Up

It’s been another busy month here at my house; I’ve decided that fall is definitely a hopping time for children’s events. So many authors, so little time. As an aside, I did get to spend a delightful day with John Flanagan


and got to meet Jacqueline Woodson.


And I migrated my blog from Blogger to WordPress. There was a bit of a head-scratching moment when I thought it didn’t go right, but that cleared up (no idea what happened; I suppose I did something right?) and now I’m super happy with my new blog. If you’re reading this on a feed reader or email, stop by and check it out.

Oh! And we did manage to carve pumpkins as well.


It really has been busy.


As for my favorite book this month? I liked a lot of them, but I think this is the one that I loved the hardest

martainThe Martain

It was SO good. I haven’t seen the movie yet. Need to though.

As for the rest…


Audio book: Big MagicBig Magic (audio)

e9abc-stevejobsSteve Jobs (audio)

Graphic NovelhonorgirlHonor Girl


annievansinderenThe Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen

hiredgirlThe Hired Girl

porcupineoftruthThe Porcupine of Truth

Middle Grade:

milospeckMilo Speck, Accidental Agent

oddsofgettingevenThe Odds of Getting Even

jinxsfireJinx’s Magic

fearsomecreaturesFearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods


Adult Fiction

prayersforsalePrayers for Sale

What was your favorite read this month?

The Porcupine of Truth

by Bill Konigsburg
First sentence: “The Billings Zoo has no animals.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s a lot of swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It’s in the Teen (grades 9+) section of the bookstore.

Carson Smith has drawn the short stick for the summer: he’s stuck in Billings, Montana with his mom. They’ve moved back to take care of his dying, alcoholic father whom Carson hasn’t seen in 14 years. It’s not exactly the Ideal Summer at all.

Then Carson, completely by chance, meets Aisha and strikes up a friendship. No romance here: Aisha’s a lesbian who has been kicked out of the house by her super religious dad. She’s having a winner of a summer too, so she moves in with Carson and his parents. Everything is shaping out to be a complete Win until Carson and Aisha start nosing through boxes in the basement and uncover some clues to Carson’s grandfather’s disappearance back in the early 1980s. One thing leads to another and soon Carson and Aisha are on a road trip to find Carson’s grandfather.

This was a hard book for me to read, as a religious person. Mostly because Carson and Aisha are incredibly hostile — for good reason, I think — toward organized religion. I can understand why: too often people hide behind Religion, using it to justify their prejudices and to promote hate. But not everyone does, and I was made uncomfortable by the broad strokes: all people who are “religious” are bigots.

Thankfully, there is growth with these characters, and I appreciated that. I appreciated that, overall, Konigsberg treated everything thoughtfully and carefeull. Which meant that no one was truly black and white and that both Carson and Aisha learned things along the way.

There’s a lot to think about in this book, and I do think it’s a story, with all its broken people and hurtful relationships, that needs to be told. I just wish religion and religious people came off better.

A quick aside: Konigsberg stopped by the store as part of his Porcupines for Trevor tour. While it wasn’t super well-attended, we got a small crowd and we sat in a circle talking about religion and the LGBTQ community. It was a very interesting (and civil) discussion, one that I was glad we had.

Also: we took a selfie. He was very kind, and very, very tired.

7 Memorable Author Events

Stephen King was in Wichita Friday night. It was a huge deal (thankfully, I was tucked away in a back corner and didn’t have to deal with the angry people) for which thousands (literally) of people turned out. Was it a great event? For a lot of people, yes. For me? Not so much. We were talking on the way to the event about which authors we’d individually REALLY like to see, ones that we’d go to great lengths to see. Which got me thinking about some of the best author presentations I’ve seen in the past 5 years or so. (As a side note: I really didn’t go see authors before then. A lot of it was little kids, but some of it was I just wasn’t involved that way. That part of my reading experience has changed dramatically with a job at the bookstore.)

I’m defining “best” in an entirely personal way. For me, it’s something I can still remember, even years later,as a fun and rewarding experience.

Eoin Colfer: I’ve never been a big fan of his Artemis Fowl books, but he was coming to the store, and I was curious. I’m SO glad he went; he was hilarious. And entertaining. And completely knew how to work his crowd.

Rick Riordan: Before Stephen King, this was the biggest event I’d been to; it was impressive how many fans were in the room. I wish I had gone to see him before he got really huge because I would have liked to chat with him, or get a picture with him, but this was the way the cards fell. Even so, Riordan knows his crowd, knows how to give a great presentation, and had all of us eating out of the palm of his hand. So, it was okay.

Gabrielle Zevin: I think this one sticks with me mostly because I had seen Kristopher Jansma the night before and he was awful. But, she was lovely. She was interesting, she was funny, she had good things to say, and she interacted with the audience in a way that made us feel welcome and a part of the experience. She was so wonderfully gracious afterward, as well.

And a few author meets through KidlitCon:

Scott Westerfeld (2011) was amazing. His presentation (which I saw twice that year, interestingly enough) was fantastic, he was delightful and kind to all of us (I remember standing in a circle chatting with him and a few other people and thinking to myself, “I’M TALKING WITH SCOTT WESTERFELD!! THIS CAN’T BE REAL!”). I would love to go to another event of his again.

Maggie Stiefvater (2010): Okay, so I didn’t actually take time to meet her, mostly because I was shy and intimidated. BUT, her talk was influential enough that I actually took the time to pick up her books. And became a fan. I’d love a chance to see her again, so I could chat with her and get a picture with her.

Maureen Johnson (2012): Her presentation at KidlitCon was…. weird. But I’m counting this because I made such a fool of myself in front of her at the Austin Teen BookFest in 2011 and I completely (almost) redeemed myself. A group of us stayed after to chat with her and Robin Wasserman and it was a LOT of fun. She’s very much like her online personality: weird, deadpan, and very very funny.  And yes, if I ever got a chance to see her again, I’d go.

Mitali Perkins (2014): I didn’t get a picture with Mitali, either, though I did talk to her after her presentation. (I don’t know why I asked. Doh!) I think the main thing about these presentations is that I like people to be organized, and informative about themselves and their writing, and to draw the crowd in. Mitali did all of that and then some. She was gracious and funny and a delight to listen to.

So who are some authors I’d still like to see? Shannon Hale, beyond her floating head, of course. John Green would be a trip and a half. Megan Whalen Turner. Holly Black. Sarah Beth Durst. Anne Ursu. Jonathan Stroud.

Who have you seen that you’ve loved and/or who would you like to see?

In Which I Drive 7 Hours for An Author

First, some background. I discovered The Lightning Thief on a shelf in my library in Macomb, Illinois. The cover was Awful…

(Even Rick thought it was awful.)

but I gave it a chance, and fell in love. I passed it to M, who adored it, as well. Over the next eight years, I would have another daughter, bringing the total up to 4, and we continued to buy (and love) Rick’s books. All of us. (Yes, we even got Hubby on the bandwagon.) And Rick became more and more popular.

Then, we finally got old enough to start thinking about going to author events. And #1 on the list of authors we would ALL love to see was J. K. Rowling. But we knew we’d never see her, so the real #1 was Rick. We know we should have seen him 7 years ago before he got HUGE, but that wasn’t in the cards. So we waited for him to come relatively close. We did think about going down to see him in Austin last year, but the timing wasn’t right, so we didn’t make it.

But THIS year, he came to St. Louis (only 7 hours instead of  9) and it happened to be on a weekend night, on a week when the girls had a small fall break. THIS WAS IT. And I bought the tickets, made the arrangements, and we were off.

(Hubby didn’t come; he went to Texas for a conference instead.)

The day of the event, we spent a good 5 hours at the St. Louis Zoo in the morning and then went swimming at the hotel in the afternoon. This is important because A, who is the BIGGEST fan of them all, ended up with a huge headache from dehydration, but still insisted on going to the event. (When I asked her the next day if it was worth it, even with the headache, she said, “HECK YEAH.”)

A remembered her Annabeth hat, but forgot her Camp Half Blood shirt,
so we made a quick trip to Target and found a purple shirt to make Camp Jupiter. 

It was at the St. Louis County Library, and we got there a half hour before the doors opened. The line was already halfway around the building. So we waited.

Wrong fandom, but we thought it was awesome anyway.

Once we got in, there was more waiting, but we had two copies of the books. They were snagged by A and C.

Look! A signed book!
We weren’t the only ones reading.

Eventually, the waiting ended, and the program began! Rick Riordan was a TON of fun. His teaching background comes out in presentations; he knows his fans and exactly what to say. From references to Twitter and Tumblr, shipping and “Everyone’s favorite character…. Octavian! Oh, wait. LEO!” He basically told his path to becoming Rick Riordan Successful Author, and even though I knew most of it already, it was still highly entertaining.

The best picture I took.

Rick took this one. We’re about a third of the way back,
all the way on the left. No, you can’t see us.

Then, at the very end, he did a really brief Q&A. I was smart enough to know that this part was truly unique, and turned on the camera to record. I missed the first question which was, “Rick, why are you so sassy?”

And then it was over. Too soon, I might add. I think we all thought we could have stayed there all night, but the hour was fabulous.

K won a Camp Jupiter shirt, which I didn’t take a picture of, and we made it back to our hotel, exhausted, but thoroughly happy. There are very few people (I’m not related to, anyway) I’ll travel any distance to, but I’m definitely glad I managed to get the girls to this one.

Marissa Meyer Author Event

I look like a dork.

Marissa Meyer was in the store last night, and it was a lot of fun. I dragged one of my girls (C, on the far right) and she brought one of her friends (who keeps winning stuff whenever she comes to these things), and we had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Mostly because Marissa is adorable. She talked about how Cinder came to be published (she was super lucky!), was really good about not divulging spoilers, told some pretty awesome fairy tales, and was just a lot of fun.

I hope we can get her back for her next book; I’d definitely go see her again!

10 Things About The Austin Teen Book Fest

1. I say to myself “Texas isn’t that far”, and it isn’t. Well, DALLAS isn’t. Austin, on the other hand, is 9 hours of nothing away. Even so, it was worth the 18 hours in the car for the 36 hours seeing friends and authors.

2. Even though Scott Westerfeld’s keynote speech was pretty much the same as at KidLitCon, it was still worth hearing again. (“And there was outrage on the internet!”) He’s a funny, interesting person who gives a grand presentations and worth hearing speak as many times as possible.

3. Steampunk costumes are REALLY cool. Want.

4. Though Maureen Johnson doesn’t speak very much, when she does, it’s hilarious. She’s also a bit of a rabble-rouser. Not that we minded at all.

5. She sold her book to us by saying, “If I was going to write about ghosts, I want them to do something AWESOME. Like kill people.” (At which point, M turns to me and says, “I want to read her book now.”)

(Okay, that’s a really bad picture of both M and Maureen. Sorry; it’s the only one I took…)

6. I didn’t know who Jonathan Mayberry was. Now I do. (And interestingly enough, his book won the YA Science Fiction/Fantasy Cybils award last year.)

7. I kind of felt bad for all the local authors who were surrounded by more “famous” ones. They didn’t have any lines during the author signing, while Scott Westerfeld’s was halfway across the building. Also, it would have been nice to have more time to be personable with the authors. I know I’m spoiled by KidLitCon, but I wanted to meet David Levithan and Jackson Pearce (I had to be satisfied with snapping a picture from afar) but there wasn’t time to stand in their lines as well. I would have loved it if the authors could have milled more, and been able to chat with the masses.

8. Speaking of logistics: it could have been better. They had three different panels all going on at the same time in one large, echo-y room, which made it hard to hear what the authors were saying. At one point, Maureen said, “My head is going to explode from all the noise.” I agree.

9. Nerdfighters are everywhere! I kind of knew this, but it was brought home at the book fest. I saw a young woman walking around with a hijab and a Pizza John shirt; the girl I stood behind in line for Stephanie Perkins had a DFTBA shirt (her sister has a “This Machine Pwns Noobs” one). I mentioned her shirt, and we had an instant connection: we chatted the time away about nerdfightaria, John and Hank, books, vlogs and the coolness of being there with all the other geeky people. I loved it.

10. The best part of going to this festival was seeing friends — like Amanda of Ramblings and her husband, Jason; and Varian Johnson (can I count him as a friend if he remembered me and gave me a hug? I think so… even if I forgot to get a picture with him.) — and meeting the authors. I wish there was more time to do the latter, but I did actually hold a conversation with Maureen (in which I thanked her for her twitter feed, and probably made a fool of myself) and Stephanie Perkins. That made it all worth while, I think.

Will I go again? I don’t know. But at the very least, I can say I’ve done the whole book festival thing now. And had a good time doing it.