Friday, August 1, 2014

Announcing August Author in the Spotlight

Announcing August Author in the Spotlight

Happy August Everyone!!  August is always bittersweet to me.  I love it for many reasons but I dread it because it means back to school and work for me and the kids.  I love school but then again I don't.  I love my free time.  This month I am looking forward to getting out of my boot cast and wearing shoes.  A simple goal but one that hasn't happened since May 29th.  I'm also going to spend my remaining free time at the lake with my kids and reading and writing and planning lessons for the upcoming school year.

The author being highlighted this month is Kelly Barnhill.  She is actually a graduate of South High (where I teach) and her daughter is a high school student there this year.  Like mother, like daughter.  Kelly has written some amazing middle grade adventure and fantasy books that I know you are going to love.

Here are the synopsis according to Goodreads:

The Witch's Boy: To be released Sept. 16, 2014

“A lightning bolt erupted from the cloud and aimed directly at Ned’s heart. He couldn’t cry out. He couldn’t even move. He could just feel the magic sink into his skin and spread itself over every inch of him, bubbling and slithering and cutting deep, until he didn’t know where the magic stopped and he began.”

When Ned and his identical twin brother tumble from their raft into a raging, bewitched river, only Ned survives. Villagers are convinced the wrong boy lived. Sure enough, Ned grows up weak and slow, and stays as much as possible within the safe boundaries of his family’s cottage and yard. But when a Bandit King comes to steal the magic that Ned’s mother, a witch, is meant to protect, it's Ned who safeguards the magic and summons the strength to protect his family and community.

In the meantime, in another kingdom across the forest that borders Ned’s village lives Áine, the resourceful and pragmatic daughter of the Bandit King. She is haunted by her mother’s last words to her: “The wrong boy will save your life and you will save his.” But when Áine and Ned’s paths cross, can they trust each other long enough to make their way through the treacherous woods and stop the war about to boil over?

With a deft hand, acclaimed author Kelly Barnhill takes classic fairy tale elements--speaking stones, a friendly wolf, and a spoiled young king--and weaves them into a richly detailed narrative that explores good and evil, love and hate, magic, and the power of friendship.

Iron Hearted Violet:

The end of their world begins with a story.
This one.

In most fairy tales, princesses are beautiful, dragons are terrifying, and stories are harmless. This isn’t most fairy tales.

Princess Violet is plain, reckless, and quite possibly too clever for her own good. Particularly when it comes to telling stories. One day she and her best friend, Demetrius, stumble upon a hidden room and find a peculiar book. A forbidden book. It tells a story of an evil being—called the Nybbas—imprisoned in their world. The story cannot be true—not really. But then the whispers start. Violet and Demetrius, along with an ancient, scarred dragon, may hold the key to the Nybbas’s triumph . . . or its demise. It all depends on how they tell the story. After all, stories make their own rules.

Iron Hearted Violet is a story of a princess unlike any other. It is a story of the last dragon in existence, deathly afraid of its own reflection. Above all, it is a story about the power of stories, our belief in them, and how one enchanted tale changed the course of an entire kingdom.

The Mostly True Story of Jack:

Enter a world where magic bubbles just below the surface. . . .

When Jack is sent to Hazelwood, Iowa, to live with his strange aunt and uncle, he expects a summer of boredom. Little does he know that the people of Hazelwood have been waiting for him for quite a long time.

When he arrives, three astonishing things happen: First, he makes friends -- not imaginary friends but actual friends. Second, he is beaten up by the town bully; the bullies at home always ignored him. Third, the richest man in town begins to plot Jack's imminent, and hopefully painful, demise. It's up to Jack to figure out why suddenly everyone cares so much about him. Back home he was practically, well, invisible.

The Mostly True Story of Jack is an eerie tale of magic, friendship, and sacrifice. It's about things broken and things put back together. Above all, it's about finding a place to belong.

In this fine month of August you can expect a book review, a contest, an author interview and a guest post.  You can find Kelly on her website and blog and also on twitter.  Visit her website at:  Follow Kelly on twitter at @kellybarnhill

Have a great reading month!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

July Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up + Giveaway

July Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up + Giveaway

The Giveaway for Vacationland ends tonight at midnight! Enter quick because you definitely want to read this book.

July has seen better days for me.  I had another rough month but reading wise, I kicked ass.  I had an MRI on July 8th on my "sprained foot" that was not getting better.  Turns out it is fractured in 3 places.  Huh, no wonder it still hurts.  So I had to go back on crutches-not fun.  Then I got a lovely (insert sarcasm) letter from the IRS and then last week my car broke down in the middle of a busy intersection.  Arrghhh!
It has been a bad money month and my foot is not better.  And to top it off I go back to work in TWO weeks.  Nooooo.

July has been a great reading month for me, for what else can I do with no money and a broken foot and a car in the shop.  I feel like writing a blues song.  Anyways, I read 23 books this month which is AMAZING!  And one of the best books I read this month was Vacationland by Sarah Stonich, July's author in the spotlight.

Enter to win a copy of Vacationland here:  Vacationland Giveaway

Check out my book review of Vacationland.  In the heat of summer people escape to a northern Minnesota resort, on the Canadian border known as Naledi.  The Naledi resort is a central character in Vacationland and it is a place you will visit again and again.  Each story in Vacationland intersects and connects to create a novel with depth, humor and wit.  This book is stunning and will stay with you for a long time.

Vacationland Book Review

Check out the author interview with Sarah.   I asked her some questions about her books, her life and her writing habits.  Sarah is a great writer whose books will dazzle you.

Sarah Stonich Author Interview

Please read Sarah's Guest post on the importance of Book Clubs.  Are you in a Book Club?  I am and love my experiences talking about books.  Sarah's book Vacationland is the perfect summer read and an excellent choice for your book club.  Sarah has written a guest post and highlights the importance of book clubs and on reading and reviewing what you read.

Sarah Stonich Guest Post

I met Sarah through an author named Peter Geye.  He highly recommends all of Sarah's books.  I have another friend, Pamela, who works for Magers and Quinn, a used bookstore in Minneapolis, who also raves about Sarah's books.  I am so glad I listened to them and was able to feature Sarah and her books.  She is truly a gifted writer.  Please support Sarah by visiting her website and reading her books.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Vacationland by Sarah Stonich

Vacationland by Sarah Stonich

In the heat of summer people escape to a northern Minnesota resort, on the Canadian border known as Naledi.  The Naledi resort is a central character in Vacationland and it is a place you will visit again and again.  Each story in Vacationland intersects and connects to create a novel with depth, humor and wit.

The owner of the Naledi resort is an old Czech man named Vac Machutova and he raises his son there and then after his son dies in a plane crash, he raises his granddaughter Meg there as well.  Meg is present in all of the stories in some way and she is integral to Vacationland.  There are 15 short stories that stand alone but interconnect with Meg leading you on your tour of Naledi through the years.

Reading Vacationland, I felt like a visitor at the resort.  I knew people by name, who was dating whom, and some of life's tragedies and triumphs.  I felt I knew the lake, the land and the landscape, the storms, the bog, the snowdrifts, the wind and even the night sky.  Vacationland brought me to a place that felt so close to my heart that I want to return there.  I think I need a sequel.  I don't think I can let go.

Stonich will dazzle you with her storytelling skills. As a reader you will discover that Stonich is a great writer that is descriptive and crafts her sentences with precision.  Each word seems carefully chosen and placed.  Sarah Stonich deserves a prize for Vacationland to hang on her wall with the deer antlers because this book is stunning.

I laughed and I cried and discovered I don't want to go home, I want to live in Vacationland forever.

Monday, July 28, 2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Once upon a time there was a story about four teens who meet every summer on their grandfather's private island to run wild and free.  Three are cousins and one is not.  Three are white and one is not.  A relationship develops.  Grandfather does not approve.  They are called The Liars.

Once upon a time, Cadence is the heir to a wealthy family.  She has an image to uphold.  She must not let anything bother her.  She must be strong.  She must stand up for her mother.  She must agree to things she doesn't believe in.  She is tired of her family fighting over money.  She is tired and gets migraines.  She takes pills.  She can't remember how she hit her head.  She wonders why no one tells the truth.

Page turning, mysterious, multi-layered, fascinating, powerful, creative. Couldn't tear my eyes away for long and before I knew the book was done and I was in OMG land.  This is a gothic tale that is reminiscent of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.  We Were Liars is atmospheric and is a great read for summer.

I swear, I am telling the truth for I cannot tell a lie.


High Summer Read-A-Thon Wrap-Up.

High Summer Read-A-Thon Wrap-Up.

Sadness:  The Read-a-Thon is over.  But I'm happy to say I accomplished most of my goals.  Friday was my worst day for reading because my car broke down in the middle of a busy intersection and I was stuck sitting on the side of the road with my dog and a broken foot.  Sad to say, I am still without my car, which I call The Bullet.  The bullet is at the dealership waiting to be fixed and I may not have it all week!  I hate being confined.

So here are my goals and what I accomplished.

Goal #1.  Read a book a day.  This means I will read one book a day for the entire readathon or read seven total books finished.

I did this.  I read and/or finished 7 books during the readathon.  Yes.  Below is the list of books I finished.

Book #1 War Brothers. The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay and artwork by Daniel Lafrance
Book #2 The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
Book #3 The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier

See my post about these books with mini-reviews here:  Readathon update post

Book #4 Flight by Sherman Alexie (audio book)
Book #5 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Book #6 Vacationland by Sarah Stonich
Book #7 Eight Dolphins of Katrina by Janet Wyman Coleman.  Illustrations by Yan Nascimbene

Goal #2.  I have 2 books that I am in the middle of and want to finish this week.  Vacationland by Sarah Stonich and The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier.  Both books are super good and I can't wait to find out what happens.

Finished both of these.  See above for books finished and below for mini-reviews.

Goal #3.  Writing.  I know this is a readathon and not a writeathon but I want to write at least an hour every day this week and I think I will use this readathon as a way to do that.  Writing includes blogging for me but I also want to work on my short stories and young adult novel.  So much writing to do and so little time.

I did not really accomplish this goal.  I spent most of my free time reading.  It is so much easier to read than to write and yep, I'm a procrastinator.

Book #4 Flight by Sherman Alexie (audio book)

Listened to this on audio. This about a homeless, parentless Native American teen who has bounced from foster home to foster home and is on the wrong side of the law. As he commits a crime, he is taken on a flight into other bodies in other times and places. Sort of time travel. He is being put into situations and people relevant to his life situation. It has a hopeful ending but boy, was it hard to listen to.

Book #5 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

Love this book. The book and the movie are pretty similar and if you've never read The Chronicles of Narnia, hop to it because you are missing out.  I love to be transported to Narnia, I only wish it was real so I could travel there and be queen like Lucy and Susan.

Book #6 Vacationland by Sarah Stonich

This book is stunning and Stonich is a master storyteller.  Her words and sentences are so descriptive and picturesque and evoke time and place so well. Through out the whole book, I kept envisioning myself at Vacationland.   I just didn't want it to end.  So good.

Book #7  Eight Dolphins of Katrina by Janet Wyman Coleman.  Illustrations by Yan Nascimbene

This children's book tells the fate of 8 dolphins housed in the Oceanarium in Mississippi on the coast during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. There is also a section towards the end of the book, called Man's best friend which tells of the evolution of dolphins as well as how they are credited with saving lives. Eight Dolphins of Katrina ends with a scrapbook full of pictures with a timeline of events. I had no idea that 8 dolphins were swept into the gulf by a tidal wave during the hurricane and needed rescuing until I read this book. I think children would really be interested in this book

Ahhh, I love reading and I love readathons.  Don't you?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sarah Stonich Author Interview + Giveaway

Sarah Stonich Author Interview + Giveaway

Sarah Stonich is the July Author in the Spotlight here on BookSnob this month and I asked her some questions about her books, her life and her writing habits.  Read on to find out more about this great Minnesota writer.

Hi Sarah,

1.  Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm a dog lover, a hiker and once upon a time I aspired to be visual artist, which may be why I so often write characters that are - I also give them occupations that interest me, so in that way I'm living vicariously through my books. I'm a closet homebody, sleep nine hours a night and dislike rushing for anything. My guilty pleasure is thrift store shopping. My biggest pet peeve is the archaic tradition of women giving up their names when marrying. When I think of this, or of the conservative far right, I find cooking is very therapeutic. In my dream life I would swim every day.

2.  What inspired you to write Vacationland?
I wanted to write a story in which place was a central character, which Naledi very much is. I wanted the challenge of writing how one place would be perceived and reacted to through various perspectives spanning different times. There are fifteen characters in as many stories, with the central character of Meg always at the readers side, ready to introduce you to the next in line.

3.  Tell us a little bit about how Vacationland is formatted. Why did you decide to structure Vacationland this way?
Each story has a title that was originally just working titles to  reminders me which story was which - but then it turns out that's what the story was about, so they stuck. I loved the idea of building stories around the seasonal rhythms of a resort. And vacations are such book-ended periods of time, they neatly encapsulate memories that for many of us are very distinct.

4.  Is Vacationland based on a real resort in Minnesota?
It's based on all of them, yet Naledi is very much it's own place - when I picture it, it's nowhere I've ever been. In some ways, this book is a love letter to all those old Mom and Pop places that are dying out.

  5.  Can you tell us why or when you decided to become a writer?
It was never a goal or conscious decision, I was steered to it in a very organic way. I had a job where I read a lot of manuscripts - not all of them good. I remember one day thinking, 'Maybe I could write something that I might enjoy reading. So I gave it a shot.

6. Usually an author puts some of her own life experiences in the book.  Did you do that?
Some, not much in Vacationland other than where I am from. My memoir 'Shelter' was very difficult to write because I was the character. Best for the writer to get out of their own way and realize that just because something happens to them, it doesn't make it interesting. And of those experiences that are, they would probably need to be so spun away from reality as to be unrecognizable in order to work or be believable. The writers I admire most are observers

7.  Do you have anything in common with your characters?
Interests, mostly - we often share views of the world -  I can certainly empathize with many of them. And since I'm spending a year or two with them, they need to be interesting enough to hold my attention, even those I don't necessarily like.

8. Tell us a little bit about the other books you have written.
My one and only bestseller, 'These Granite Islands' was translated into seven languages - it tells the story of a 99 year old milliner telling her son the 'real' story of the summer of 1936, when her life in rural MN was upended with the arrival of a woman who opened a portal to the rest of the world, books, fashion, excitement, and misery. My next novel, 'The Ice Chorus', was a better book, but had horrid cover, so sales tanked - thankfully that book’s been re-issued wearing a better jacket. My memoir 'Shelter' was inspired after becoming a newly single mother and dragging my urban, tech-addicted thirteen year old to an off-the-grid wilderness to build a cabin smaller than Thoreau’s. I also write under two aliases: my chick lit persona is AVAV FINCH and I've just begun writing as a MAN (!) crime novelist LEN LEHANA.

9.  Do you like to read?  What authors or books influence you?
I read mostly authors from Commonwealth countries - I love the Irish for their love of language; Canadian stories for their earnestness; Brits and Scots for their biting intelligence. I review books, and for the most part they are foreign titles.  I get heat for not reading much American fiction, but what I love most about reading is being transported, and for me, the farther away the better.

10.  How do you carve time out of your busy day to write?  Are you a full time writer or do you have a day job?  
Writing is my primary occupation, though to pay the bills I work as a part time editor and write advertising copy. It's a cobbled together life. I make time for writing by making it a priority - other parts of my life might suffer, like a fitness routine or much leisure. In case you are thinking of becoming a writer - a warning - there are no weekends off.

11.  Tell readers in one sentence why they should read Vacationland.
The way the stories are woven together make them interactive for the reader - you discover the connections between characters and connect history to present until the stories all click for you as a whole - plus, who doesn't want to spend a week at a resort?


If you would like to win a copy of Vacationland enter here:  Vacationland Giveaway

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

Alex Woods is a unique teenage protagonist. He is struck in the head by a meteorite when he is 10 years old and that makes him exceptional. He suffers seizures as a result and has a scar on his forehead like Harry Potter. He really has no friends except for an old pot smoking, Vietnam vet named Isaac Peterson. The form a unique friendship and it is this relationship that changes Alex Woods.

Alex has a mother who is a fortune teller, a set of bullies who follow him around and taunt him, and a cat named Lucy.  Alex is obsessed with astronomy, science and books.  He is one extraordinary individual who is under appreciated by his peers.  The only one who appreciates Alex, besides his mother, is Isaac Peterson.

Mr. Peterson has a wonderful library and every book written by Kurt Vonnegut.   Alex decides he wants to read every one of these books with Isaac and so he starts a Kurt Vonnegut book club called The Secular Church of Kurt Vonnegut. They only read Kurt Vonnegut books and the club lasts 14 months.  Lovers of Kurt Vonnegut should definitely read this book.  I have only read 1 Vonnegut book, so even if you don't love his books you will still enjoy this story.

This is a wonderful story about a creative kid, who is sick and bullied for being different, but can do extraordinary things because the people around him, namely Isaac, believe in him and trust him.  Alex Woods feels like the universe is against him, especially since it knocked him on the head with a meteorite.  Be careful universe, Alex Woods just might break your heart and defy you.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Update on High Summer Read-A-Thon

                                                   Update on High Summer Read-a-Thon

So far my reading progress has been very good.  My writing has taken a back seat to my reading and I kinda wanted to get more writing done but Oh well.

So far I have read 3 books and am on track for reading 7 books during this read-a-thon.

Here are the 3 books I have read and a short review of each.

Book #1 War Brothers. The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay and artwork by Daniel Lafrance

I read War Brothers on Monday 7-21.  Wow. This book has left me speechless. The artwork= Amazing! The story based on true events about Kony and the LRA (Lords Resistance Army) and the kidnapping of children to conscript into their army of child soldiers. Told from the perspective of a child named Jacob, who was kidnapped from school with his classmates. Everyone needs to read this book!

Book #2 The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

I read The Bookshop on Tuesday 7-22.  A novella of 10 chapters about a woman who opens a book shop in England near the North Sea. She opens her bookshop in an old haunted house near the sea. Another woman in town, who is connected in higher places wants Florence to turn the old house into an art center and Florence refuses. This is her downfall as this woman is vindictive and controlling and will not rest until she has her way. This novel is not about a quaint English town, it is a book about small town life in England, tradition and manners, and about daring to be different.

Book # 3 The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier

I finished The Lady and the Unicorn on Wednesday, 7-23.  This wonderfully imagined novel is based on a set of 6 tapestries called The Lady and the Unicorn. They were made sometime in the 15th century probably in Brussels for a French Aristocrat. Chevalier creates a story imagining who the supposed artist and weavers are and creates a great story about the tapestries. It is interesting to learn about tapestry making and life and love in the 15th century. I really enjoyed this novel. Included in the pages of the book are 6 images of the colorful tapestries. Each tapestry represents one of the 5 senses and the 6th, incidentally my favorite one, is called My Soul Desire.

I'm currently reading Vacationland by Sarah Stonich and loving every word.  I'm also reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.  Both of these I will finish by the end of the readathon.

How is your progress?
What are you reading?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sarah Stonich Guest Post + Giveaway

Sarah Stonich Guest Post + Giveaway

Sarah Stonich is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for the month of July, here on BookSnob's Blog.   Her latest book Vacationland is the perfect summer read and an excellent choice for your book club.  Sarah has written a guest post on the importance of book clubs and on reading and reviewing what you read.


I’m often asked to visit book clubs, and since it’s among my favorite of the ‘writerly’ activities I try to make time for whenever possible. Over the years I’ve realized that a personal visit can earn a loyal readership, plus, they’re fun – groups have grown increasingly inventive, often borrowing a theme from the book. During the launch of my first novel These Granite Islands, one group hosted a fancy hat dinner, another canoed to a picnic on an island. Recently, one resourceful group opened their event up to a wider net of friends until they needed a large public venue in which to host it. For Vacationland my publisher agreed to print beer coasters (there’s always beer at resorts) a group in Stillwater picked up on that theme and are hosting their event in a brewery and opening it up to the public (Lift Bridge Brewery, July 30th 7pm – c’mon down if you’re in the area – they’ve even arranged for a food truck!)

Only recently – after four books, has it occurred to me what power book groups can exercise in helping spread the word beyond their own group, even to point of making a book a bestseller. Reading a book honors the author. Buying the book is a concrete support of the writer, but I understand we can’t all afford to buy the books we want.

Some authors ask for a fee to visit book groups. While I consider this bad form, my Gran would spin in her grave - I mean, they are basically hosting a party for me, I would never expect to be paid. Still, there is something much more valuable than gas money that be very much more welcome in return for my visit: Your thoughts and opinions, that members consider taking a few minutes to rate or review my book in an online book community like Shelfari, GoodReads, or LibraryThing. Customer ratings on retailers like Barnes & Noble or Amazon are very helpful. (Channel your opinions through the goliaths, but please support local independent booksellers whenever possible, next to libraries they are, to borrow a phrase from the hot Benedict Cumberbatch’s on BBCs ‘Sherlock’, our Mind Palaces.) All this rating business helps nudge a book up in those algorithms, ala ‘If you liked Olive Kitteredge, you’ll love Vacationland’. A review can be as brief as a sentence or long as a sermon. Besides the priceless online exposure, I have come to rely on reviews to let me know how I’m doing, so honesty is key – only the stars I deserve, please. If you love a book, rate it, if you really love it, support the writer and post a review. Buying it is nice, too, of course.

I’ve often been asked when I first felt like a ‘real’ writer. You’d think it would be opening the actual printed galley, or seeing a translation of it in a store window (in Milan, no less!) but I can clearly remember when genuinely, finally I felt like a writer: when a woman wrote to say she’d related to the plight of a character going through some of the same difficulties as herself. I’d spoken to her and she thanked me for writing my book. Thanked me. I understood then that what I’d done for her was what books had done for me all my life – they’d just…been there. No one is completely alone with a book in their hands.

Thanks, BookSnob, for helping get the word about Vacationland out there!

If you would like to win a copy of Sarah's book, Vacationland, please enter here:  Vacationland Giveaway

Visit Sarah's website here:

Monday, July 21, 2014

High Summer Read-A-Thon

High Summer Read-A-Thon
July 21 through July 27

I love read-a-thons and this High Summer Read-a-Thon  hosted by Michelle from the True Book Addict blog, is one of my favorites.  I participate every year.  You can still participate by going to the Seasons Reading blog to sign up.

I tend to read a lot and enjoy the time I spend outdoors reading with my dog and my kids.  This year, I have a broken foot which means I am pretty limited in what I can do, so I have been reading and writing a lot.  For this read-a-thon I have several goals.

Goal #1.  Read a book a day.  This means I will read one book a day for the entire readathon or read seven total books finished.

Goal #2.  I have 2 books that I am in the middle of and want to finish this week.  Vacationland by Sarah Stonich and The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier.  Both books are super good and I can't wait to find out what happens.

Goal #3.  Writing.  I know this is a readathon and not a writeathon but I want to write at least an hour every day this week and I think I will use this readathon as a way to do that.  Writing includes blogging for me but I also want to work on my short stories and young adult novel.  So much writing to do and so little time.

I will do a mid-week check in and let you know if I'm on track.  Until then, Happy Reading to you!