by Nidhi Chanani
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: The main character is in high school, and there is some references to sex. I’m not 100% sure if it’d put it in Middle Grade Graphic Novels, but it doesn’t feel like it fits in with the Teen Graphic Novels either. Hm.

Priyanka Das has a decent life: she and her mom live in America, and whileshe has unanswered questions about her father, or why her mother left India, she has a pretty good life. That is, until Pri’s curiosity about India gets sparked by a magical pashmina Pri finds in her mother’s suitcase. The pashmina gives Pri a glimpse of India, and she desperately wants to go. And she does, eventually. But when she gets there, it’s nothing like she expected, and yet everything she wanted.

On the one hand, this is written by an Indian, and it very much embraces the “India as amazing homeland” narrative that so often comes up in Bollywood movies. The narrative that one can find oneself in India is not a new one, and yet it still is something that resonates. It works here, primarily because it’s not a white person co-opting that (says the white person), but because Pri’s does actually need to go to India to see what it was her mother left behind. I liked that part of the story. The magical pashmina, though, didn’t do much for me. It does have a good reason to be there — it specifically helps women take charge of their lives — but it felt, well, forced. That, and Pri felt younger than she was in the book, which was a slight disconnect.

Even with those (slight) criticisms, it was a good story about family, and about how learning about your family’s past helps accept and understand your present. It was also nice to “visit” India for a bit.

A good debut novel.



replicaby Lauren Oliver
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: October 4, 2016
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s some violence, all off screen, and about a dozen f-bombs scattered throughout. It will be in the Teen section (grades 9+) of the bookstore.

Gemma has spent her whole life feeling like a freak: she’s overweight and her parents are over-protective and yet distant, all of which leads others at school to make fun of her. So, when a rock tied around a Frankenstein mask gets thrown through the window of her house, she figures it’s the school bullies picking on her again. But, she overhears her parents arguing late at night and suddenly everything takes on a new meaning: it’s not HER the mask was meant for, but her father.

See, her father was co-owner of this super pharma business, which had some dealings with Haven, a super-secret island off the coast of Florida. No one knows what they do there, but her father had enough complaints that he got out. But that got Gemma curious: what is Haven, and why all the secrecy?

All that leads Gemma to sneaking off to Florida for spring break, to get answers to figure out what is going on with her parents and why this whole Haven thing is so secretive (and somehow, important).  What she finds out will change her life forever.

In some ways, this is a fascinating novel, playing with the ideas of humanity and just how far science will go to justify the ends it wants. I’m not entirely sure it justified the two-part story, however. I read Gemma’s version first, on a whim, and by the time I got to Lyra’s I wasn’t sure how much I cared. And yet, in retrospect, it’s possibly Lyra’s story that’s more important. Imagining that replicas have thoughts and feelings, that they are individuals, is fascinating thing to think about. And yet, I felt like something was lacking. Perhaps the ending was too abrupt? Maybe I hoped for more understanding or perhaps retribution. It all felt so… tidy.

Even so, I was thoroughly engrossed by the book. I wanted to know Gemma’s (and Lyra’s, as well) story, and the horrors of what the characters were going through was enough to keep me turning pages.

The Best Man

bestmanby Richard Peck
First sentence: “Boys aren’t too interested in weddings.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Release date: September 20, 2016
Content: There’s some bullying and it’s not really action-heavy. But I’d give it to a 4th grader and up. It’ll be in the Middle Grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

Archer Magill is just trying to figure things out. As a 5th (and then 6th) grader, he’s kind of clueless. About girls, about friends, about life. And so, he’s looking for role models and he’s found three: his dad (who’s a really great dad), his grandpa (who’s pretty awesome), his Uncle Paul (who’s incredibly cool). And then, a student teacher, Mr. McLeod comes into his life.

Actually, this isn’t a book about an awesome male teacher, thank heavens. Event though there’s an awesome male teacher. No, it’s more about Life, and Figuring Things Out, and Friendship. And how other people’s lives intersect with ours. And the Chicago Cubs.  It’s a Slice of Life novel, one that is full of charming characters and a great family. And one that, refreshingly, treats a LGBT relationship as something that’s to be celebrated. No, our main character isn’t gay, it’s not a coming out book for kids. There’s no angst in this book. It’s a story where the LGBT relationship is a part of who the people are, and that’s okay.

It’s a funny, sweet, refreshingly charming novel, and I adored it.

And the Winners Are….

(Or the reason February 14th Isn’t Horrible.)

The Cybils winners are announced! Go here for all the awards, but the one I’m most invested in (though none of my three nominations that made it to the finals won…) is the Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction winner is:

And honestly, if they had picked anything else, I’d be incensed. It really was the best book we read.

And, because they turned out so awesome, here are A and K’s valentine’s boxes for their parties today.

OH! It’s also International Book Giving day! Find/buy a book to pass on to a child. I think I’m going to finally take those bags of books to our local children’s home. Seems like a much better thing to do today than to eat overpiced chocolate. (Now tomorrow, the chocolate will be discounted. I’ll eat it then.)

Happy Valentines Day!

Happy Christmas!

“And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!” 
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”  ― Andy Rooney

Happy Holidays from my blog to yours!

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.