Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kelly Barnhill Guest Post


Kelly Barnhill Guest Post

Kelly Barnhill is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob during this fabulous month of August.  She has written a great guest post on the process of writing The Witch's Boy and how books astonish not only the reader but also the writer.  Read on.

When Books Astonish Us

There are, somewhere on earth (though I, as yet, have not seen them) finished copies of my new book The Witch’s Boy. They are sitting in boxes in a cool, dry space, biding their time before they begin to migrate into the world.

I cannot stop this process. I couldn’t even if I wanted to.

It is a strange feeling, really, this moment of quiet before the book comes out. When I can still trick myself into thinking that it still belongs to me. It doesn’t, of course. A book belongs to whoever is reading it. Everyone knows this. Everyone but writers.

I have a peculiar relationship with this book, with The Witch’s Boy, one that is very different from my previous books. I started this book several years ago while hiking through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. We were staying in historic cabins along the Skyline Drive, and as the name implies, we were up on the ridge of the mountains. Next to the sky. Any hikes we wanted to do required us to go down.

My son, who was five at the time, practically ran down the trail toward a gorgeous bridal-veil waterfall at the mouth of an extraordinary ravine. He was full of boundless energy and kinetic movement. On the way down. On the way up, it was a hard, slow slog. To keep his spirits up, I told him a story. About a boy named Ned who stole his mother’s magic to protect it from bandits. About a desperate plan and a daring escape and a wolf.

It felt real.

It felt separate from me.

It was a real story.

Later, in the dark of the cabin, in a brand new composition notebook, I began writing it down. I tracked Ned’s progress; I monitored his mood; I uncovered his story bit by bit. And what I found surprised me. I was not, as I had assumed, writing a story about an adventure. I was not writing the story my son had heard. Not anymore.

I was writing a story about grief. I was writing a story about the palpable nature of loss. I was
writing a story about survivor’s guilt. I was writing a story about fathers and daughters, and mothers and sons. The story as it unspooled onto the page was wildly different from the story I imagined I was telling when I began it on that trail with a tired little boy all those years ago.

And maybe that’s the nature of this work. Our stories sit in the quiet places of our hearts and minds and make their way forward at the earliest opportunity. If I knew at the outset that I was writing a story about grief, I might have resisted. It’s too sad, my brain would have said. It will be too hard.
This book was incredibly hard for me to write. It took a lot out of me. It nearly broke me. I nearly quit again and again and again. I’m glad I didn’t, because once again the book surprised me.

The book about grief became a book about hope. The book about loss became a book about connection. And healing. And deep joy.

Our work as writers sometimes takes us into dark places. And sad places. And tender places. But this artistic bait-and-switch is important, because it allows us, as artists, to arrive at that deeply human territory of wonder. We love, we lose, we love again. And we are astonished.

If you would like to win a copy of Kelly's book, The Witch's Boy, please enter here:  The Witch's Boy Giveaway


Sunday, August 17, 2014

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Aliens have taken up residence in the sky right above us.  No one knows what they look like or what they want.  People are hopeful for peaceful coexistence but that is not the plan.  Possession of earth comes in waves.

The 1st wave is Lights Out.  Goodbye electricity and anything battery operated.

The 2nd wave is Surf's Up.  A giant wave takes out the coasts and all the people who live there.

The 3rd wave is a Pestilence and disease spreads like wildfire.  No family is untouched.

The 4th wave is a Silencer.  A silencer is a sharpshooter who shoots to kill.

The 5th Wave is what you least expect.
It is action packed, full of courageous characters in the midst of an alien attack.  You won't know what hit you and that is just what the aliens want.

Cassie just might be the last human walking around on earth.  She trusts no one and her mission in life is to rescue her little brother, Sammie, who has been taken to the nearest army base with other children.  Her parents are dead.  Cassie has never seen an alien and has no idea what they look like.  The world is over as she knows it and she shoots to kill.  Then she meets Evan Walker and Cassie doesn't know what to think or do and life is not so black and white anymore.

When I started The 5th Wave, I didn't realize what I was getting sucked into but I was reading as fast as possible because this plot is a rollar coaster ride and I couldn't let go.   In many ways I was reminded of The Walking Dead TV series but there are no vampires, just aliens and you don't know what they look like.  It is a very interesting story when you have no idea who the enemy is.

I normally don't worry about 2nd books or movies but in this case, I will be first in line for the 2nd book, come Sept. 2014 and I will definitely be seeing the movie. OMG, if you like science fiction this alien attack will blow your mind.The characters are awesome and strong and I really feel like this series is soon going to be all the rage.  Move over, Twilight and Hunger Games and make room for The 5th Wave.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summer Reading- Had me a Blast

Summer Reading- Had me a Blast!

Today is my last day of summer vacation.  So sad :(
Tomorrow, I go back to my life of being a high school social studies teacher.

I want to tell you all about my amazing summer of reading.  I broke my foot in 3 places on May 29th and have been stuck in a boot cast ALL summer.  I am still in the boot cast!  Doctors orders were to put my foot up and stay off of it as much as possible, so I read and read and read and read.  I wrote a little too, on this blog and some short stories and poetry.  I actually took a writing class and met with my writing group on a regular basis.

At the beginning of my summer, I made a goal to read a book a day.  Pretty much this is an impossible goal for me because I'm a slow reader and I have kids and I like to do other things.  Yet, I am so happy with the results of this goal.  I have never ever read this much nor come so close to reading so many books in so many days.

I read 45 books in my 66 days of summer.  Yes!

Here's how I did it:  I read a huge variety of books.  I read graphic novels, children's books, young adult, audio books, novellas and full length novels as well.  I read several books at the same time.  I read during the day and I read different books at night and on the weekends.  I averaged around a 100 pages a day.  I did not read books over 600 pages.  Shorter books were my friends and helped my completion rate rise.

It was so much fun!!  It was nice to read books I've had on my shelf for a long time and I was  regular at my public library this summer as well.

Here is to hoping you had a blast reading this summer too.  How many books have you read?




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

War Brothers. The Graphic Novel

War Brothers. The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay
Artwork by Daniel Lafrance

War Brothers is 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 lives in Uganda and who was kidnapped from school with his classmates.

War Brothers takes you through Jacob's harrowing journey into the forest and into the indoctrination of a child soldier.  He watches his best friend succumb and kill innocent people for if he doesn't, he wouldn't be allowed to eat.  Jacob protects a boy younger than him and constantly thinks about escape and the love of his father.  He holds hope close to his heart to survive the nightmare that has become his life.

Jacob's story mirrors the story of so many children in the world today.  Kony is still out there, stealing children and making them into soldiers and needs to be stopped.  Young women kidnapped ultimately become slaves, or brides and are used for sex.  Punishments for running away or not following orders are severe and many times, death sentences.

The artwork in War Brothers is stunning.  The pages and panels vary from light pastel when things are going well for Jacob to pages that are dark and full of bold colors when Jacob is suffering.  While this is a hard book to read because of the subject matter, the artwork is compelling and well-done and contributes to the power of the story.

There are so many issues in the world that need our attention and the issue of Child Soldiers should be at the top of the list.  Child and soldier are two words that should not go together in our enlightened world.

Everyone needs to read this book!

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Witch's Boy Giveaway

The Witch's Boy Giveaway

Kelly Barnhill is the August Author in the Spotlight here on BookSnob this month and she is giving away TWO copies of her book The Witch's Boy to BookSnob followers who live in the U.S.  The Witch's Boy is being released in September and you will want to get a copy of this entertaining book which is receiving great reviews.

Here is the synopsis of the The Witch's Boy:


“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.

Contest Rules:
Fill out the form
U.S. residents only
Contest ends August 31st at midnight
Good Luck

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Outlander Fans, Get Ready!

Outlander Fans, Get Ready!

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Audio Book
33 hours and 8 minutes
Narrated by Davina Porter

Outlander is set to be a new series on Starz and the first episode airs on Saturday!!

Are you as excited as I am for this series?  I recently listened to Outlander on audio during my long commute home and it was a fun book to listen to.  Porter has an excellent Scottish accent and she makes me feel as if I'm sitting in Scotland at Castle Leoch.  Loved this listen so much I bought the next two books in the series, there are 8 to be exact, and then I discovered it was being made into a TV series.  Yes!

If you have never heard of the Outlander series, I would describe it in this way;  It is similar to Game of Thrones but Game of Thrones for women.  OK guys will like it too but women will adore it.  It is a time traveling, man mesmerizing, female empowering, kick ass story.  It is about a WWII nurse named Claire Randall who inadvertently time travels back in Scotland during the time of the Clan wars against the British Crown in the year of our Lord 1743.  She lands in the hands of Black Jack Randall and is rescued by Clan McKenzie and is trying to survive in this cruel world.

This book series and TV show is multi-genred and includes within its many talents, romance, history, science fiction, fantasy and adventure and so much more.  It's epic! Hang on for one wild ride.

My suggestion is to read the books and/or watch the series!!
Here is the link to watch the first episode on Starz for free
http://www.starz.com/originals/outlander

Here is the trailer:



Let me know if you are planning to watch the series.  I am super excited about it.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Vacationland Giveaway Winners!

Vacationland Giveaway Winners!


Sarah Stonich was the July Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob  and she is giving away 3 copies of her acclaimed novel, Vacationland to followers living in the United States or Canada.  Lucky You!

Here are the winners...

Drum roll.....please......

Angel from Pennsylvania
Amanda from Virginia
Brittany from Georgia

Congratulations Ladies.  Enjoy your new book.
I hope you love it, like I do.

Here is an excerpt from my book review of Vacationland.


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 her 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.


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:  http://kellybarnhill.wordpress.com/  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.  http://www.sarahstonich.com/home.html





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.