Category Archives: Children’s Fiction

The Man Who Loved Libraries by Andrew Larsen

I couldn’t resist downloading this from NetGalley. Andrew Carnegie’s life had its controversies of course with his union busting actions, but you cannot deny the legacy he left building libraries all over the world. As someone who grew up right outside of Pittsburgh, in a town named Carnegie, those libraries were places where I could dream and they formed me into who I am today. This is wonderful book for children (and adults) to learn about this great man’s work and legacy.

Texas Book Festival 2016 – Day One!

The 21st Annual Texas Book Festival was held in Austin this weekend and the line up this year did not disappoint.  Over 250 authors were available this weekend for speaking and signing.

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Set around the grounds of the Texas State Capitol, the event features tents from C-Span/Book TV, as well as for YA and Children’s authors, signings, music, and vendors of all sorts.  Several talks were also held in the rooms of the Capitol, as well as neighboring churches and hotels.

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My first stop was a reading with festival founder and former First Lady of both Texas and the US, Laura Bush, and her daughter Jenna Bush Hager.  They spoke about their love of books and education and did a very charming reading of their newest collaboration “Our Great Big Backyard’ after which they graciously signed their book for the attendees.

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Next stop was to the YA tent where I listened to some of the top YA authors in their panel called “It’s The End of The World as I Know It.”  Featuring Aaron Starmer, A.S. King, Siobhan Vivian, and Rachel Cohn, they talked about turning disaster into YA literature and how their own lives inspire their work.  I highly recommend Mr. Starmer’s book “Spontaneous” to anyone looking for an interesting take on spontaneous combustion and literally “blowing up.”

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After a quick walk to the Omni Hotel, I was extremely happy to attend a session on the great David Bowie featuring journalist Rob Sheffield and performer Thomas Dolby.  Their insights on Bowie’s career added a whole new level to his work as a musician.  I also found Mr. Dolby’s life after “She Blinded Me With Science” to be extremely compelling and definitely worth picking up his book after the lecture.

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After a delicious lunch at one of the numerous food vendors that were at the festival, I made my way back to the YA tent to hear “Twice Upon a Time,” a panel featuring Danielle Paige, Jonah Lisa Dyer, and Guadalupe Garcia McCall, three authors who have taken classic stories and given them updated and modern YA spins.  One of my favorite books this year, “The Season” written by Dyer, is an updated take on Pride & Prejudice set in the crazy world of the Texas Debutante scene.  Loved it and Ms. Dyer was a delight to speak with!

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I closed out my day at First Baptist Church and was blown away by the panel featuring Noah Hawley and Don DeLillo.  Mr. DeLillo’s writing has been highly awarded and his stories and inspirations were so entertaining.  Mr. Hawley is an accomplished writer himself and his debut novel “Before the Fall” perfectly illustrates the hyper media culture we all live in today.

If you are visiting Austin, make sure you also check out the food and nightlife scene.  The restaurants and bars in town are incredible and were a lovely way to relax after a long and busy day!

Pottermore Presents… by JK Rowling

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Just released today, JK Rowling and Pottermore offers three new short story collections based on the Wizarding World, and they do not disappoint.  All of the books take less than an hour to read and are very entertaining and informative!

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists

Gives you the backstories of the hated Dolores Umbridge, Professors Slughorn and Quirrell, as well as a history of the Ministers of Magic, Azkaban, Potions and Polyjuice and everyone’s favorite poltergeist – Peeves!!!!

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies

Again, took less than an hour to read.  Find out about the pasts of Minerva McGonagall, the beloved Remus Lupin, the less than blessed Professor Trelawney, and the previous Game Keeper Kettleburn.  Now we know why Hagrid had to take over for him…

Hogwarts An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide

This book was a lot of fun.  Once again, less than an hour to read, but you learn the history of Platform 9 3/4, the Sorting Hat, the Sword of Godric Gryffindor, as well as more of the secrets of the castle.

I am very happy to have these glimpses into some of my favorite places and people in the Wizarding World and hope that Ms. Rowling produces more of these short story collections in the future!  And at $2.99 each (they are only available electronically right now), you can’t go wrong.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child-Parts I & II by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

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 Who is the Cursed Child?

The script book has been out for three days now and frankly, I took my time with it and wanted to savor every word, not knowing if this would indeed be the last word on Harry, Hermione and Ron.  And it did not disappoint.  I want to keep this spoiler free for anyone who hasn’t had a chance to finish this book, but I can say this much:  The gang has grown up and has to deal with many adult topics: parenting, marriage, the day to day struggles of work and raising a family, all while being some of the best known wizards in their world.  While the plot is a bit convoluted and sometimes odd, it is a walk through time and nostalgia in so many different areas and the last few pages left me with tears in my eyes.  If you are a Potterhead, this book is definitely for you!

Alice and the Fly by James Rice

23588512Greg, a young man dealing with the everyday pressures of just being a teenager, also has to deal with the repercussions of schizophrenia and a severe phobia to spiders. He also has a lisp caused by a hole he bit into his own tongue during one of his “fits”. As a coping mechanism, he writes in a journal, as suggested by his English teacher. The journal entries focus on and are addressed to a girl in his school, Alice, who he has developed feelings for. Interspersed with the journal entries are interviews that a police officer is having with member of his family regarding “an incident” involving Greg. It keeps you in suspense as to what has happened to Greg for almost the entire book. In several parts of the book, the author’s prose and style made me feel as uncomfortable and out of control as Greg was feeling in these moments. It was truly remarkable how finely tuned his descriptions of Greg’s psychotic breakdowns and fits were. Truly a YA book at its best!