Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan

The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan

Death is a part of life.  Everything that lives will suffer a death. The Hummingbird is a book about death but most importantly it is a book about the human experience, about our life which is full of war and peace and the mistakes we make and the apologies we give.

There are three intertwined stories within The Hummingbird. Nurse Birch is a hospice nurse whose current patient is a retired history professor named Barclay Reed.  His area of expertise is the the Pacific campaign of WWII and he has written a book that remains unpublished about a little known incident that takes place in Oregon during the war.

As he lay dying of kidney cancer, Barclay asks Deborah Birch to read to him from his book, The Sword, and to decide if it true or not.  So the end of every chapter contains part of The Sword.

When Deb leaves work she returns home to her husband, Michael who is a three tour Iraqi veteran, dealing with PTSD and some serious anger and depression issues.  He hasn't touched her physically since he's been home and she is worried sick about him and the state of their marriage.

The Hummingbird is a emotional, thought provoking and beautiful novel.  I was reminded of the thoughtful work hospice nurses and workers do to help our loved ones pass into death and help us grieve our loss in a beautiful, loving way. Death can be beautiful, with a room full of loved ones surrounding the bed, singing and laughing, holding hands with their dying relative.  But not everyone
gets a beautiful death.

I frequently thought of my grandparents while reading this and was reminded of their impact on my life.  My grandfather was stationed in Oregon before he was sent to England to join the Europe campaign during WWII.  My grandmothers were both amazing influences in my life.  I miss them all so much.

The Hummingbird will make you think deeply about the world we live in, the wars we engage in, the stories that are built or erased by intention or human error.  You will rejoice in being alive, hope for a beautiful death and cry for the loss of your loved ones.  The Hummingbird will make your heart flutter with hope.

The Hummingbird teaches us that every human life is valuable and we all have a powerful story to tell.  We just need someone to listen and understand.

Disclaimer:  I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matts

Girl in the Woods by Aspen Matts

In 2008, Aspen started her first year of college in a state far away from her home.  On the second day of college, she was raped. Rape is a major issue on college campuses.  Aspen reported the rape and there was a hearing.  The outcome typical and disappointing.  Aspen spiraled into a depression. She felt lost, unsupported, vulnerable and so much more.

In her depression and gloom, Aspen read John Muir's book Travels in Alaska about the Pacific Crest Trail.  Muir kept calling her name and inviting her to trek the entire trail, 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada.  So that is what she did, she dropped out of college, enlisted the help of her parents and set off to walk in the woods for 6 months.

Aspen needed to heal and learn how to trust men and she was hoping that solitude and the long hike would make her stronger, would lead her to believe in herself and would set her on the path to her future.

This is the third memoir I have read about backpacking a trail in the United States.  I have read A Walk in the Woods and Cheryl Strayed's Wild and now Girl in the Woods.  I am a backpacker myself and have traversed the Superior Hiking Trail.  I am drawn to these types of books because I sometimes feel the call of the wild and the pull of the woods.  I would love to hike an entire trail but fear and age holds me back.  I admire Aspen Matis and Cheryl Strayed for hiking alone for miles and working through their "shit" on the Pacific Crest Trail.  

The woods is a healing force in Girl in the Woods.  This book had me turning pages as fast as I could. While reading Girl in the Woods,  the book kept invading my thoughts as I thought about the experiences of my high school students and Aspen's experience of being raped in college. The epidemic of rape on college campuses really disturbs me.

Aspen survived a rape and many trials and tribulations on her 2,650 mile hike across the United States.  She traversed extreme temperatures, snakes, deadly thirst and hunger, a vicious rumor, romance and so much more.  The Pacific Crest Trail led Aspen to believe in herself and she came to trust and love herself.  Girls in the Woods is a book about self-discovery and awakenings and it is awesome.  I loved it.

Did I mention there are full color photos inside and wonderful quotes or drawings that begin each chapter?

I am putting Girl in the Woods on my senior Non-Fiction reading list.  I wonder which lucky person will choose to read it.


Disclosure:  I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Shadow Behind the Stars Giveaway Winners!

The Shadow Behind the Stars Giveaway Winners!

Rebecca Hahn was the August Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob last month and she, along with her publisher, Atheneum Books is giving away 2 copies of her just released, Young Adult novel, The Shadow Behind the Stars.  Yay!
And the winners are...

Julia H from Minnesota
Elisa H from California

Congratulations Winners!!
Enjoy your new book.

Here is an excerpt from my book review:

I am a fiber artist so I really enjoyed the spinning and weaving and needle work in the book. My fingers were itching to create.  The story itself moves quickly and has some surprises and twists and turns to keep the pages turning.  Full of elements of philosophy, the Shadow Behind the Stars is a creative retelling of an old classic story.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

August Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up

August Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up

August came and went by so fast for me. I went back to teaching high school and this is the start of my 21st year in Minneapolis.  My daughter and I took a short trip to Door County, Wisconsin for a Girls only weekend.  It was so awesome.  My son got his first job working at the State Fair.  I submitted three of my poems to a Literary Magazine for a poetry contest.  My first time sharing my writing with a wider audience.  I also read 8 books this month.

One of my favorite books this month was The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn, who is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for August.

Below are some highlights of Rebecca's Author feature for August.

There was a giveaway of The Shadow Behind the Stars and we have two winners.
Click this link to find out more about the winners.
The Shadow Behind the Stars Giveaway

Check out the book review of The Shadow Behind the Stars.  I enjoyed the heck out of this book and hope my review reflects that.  The story itself moves quickly and has some surprises and twists and turns to keep the pages turning.  Full of elements of philosophy, the Shadow Behind the Stars is a creative retelling of an old classic story.

Next check out the author interview with Rebecca Hahn.  I had a chance to ask her some questions about her newest book, The Shadow Behind the Stars, which was released on September 2nd.  I also asked about fiber art, her favorite YA authors and Greek Myths and so much more.

Don't forget to read the guest post by Rebecca.  She has written a guest post on the "other" books, the books she didn't actually write.  She thought she was writing a trilogy and it didn't happen.  Read this to find out why and to gain some insight into the some of the characters in her book, The Shadow Behind the Stars.

I am currently reading Rebecca's first book, A Creature of Moonlight and loving it as well.  I really enjoy Rebecca's writing style and I am so glad I met her at the YA Lit Fest in May and hope I can work with her in the future.  I hope you get a chance to read Rebecca's books and visit her
at her website:

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Shadow Behind the Stars

The Shadow Behind the Stars by Rebecca Hahn

Chloe is the youngest of the Three Fates.  Chloe spins the wool and gives it to her sister Serena, who measures the yarn.  Serena holds the yarn to the appropriate length of a life, and the oldest sister, Xinot, takes her shears out of her pocket and cuts it. Together they hold the fate of the world in their hands.

Chloe is the narrator of The Shadow Behind the Stars and the book begins like this:

"THIS IS A STORY ABOUT THE END OF THE WORLD.  It is a lesson for you, mortal, so listen well to my words.  Shiver and become them.  When you sleep, dream of them.  When you blink, see us sisters spinning, measuring, slicing in the darkness behind your lids. Know us. Fear us. Heed my warning, mortal: Stay far away from us."

From the first page, I knew I would like this book and love the writing style.  I love it when a narrator speaks to me personally and I adore retellings of Greek Myths.
When a young woman arrives to their secluded island just barely beyond girlhood, with a tale of unspeakable tragedy, Serena takes notice and spins a spell to lesson her pain.  Chloe immediately recognizes that Aglaia is a threat to their way of life and they should not be sharing a meal or living with a mortal. Chloe has plans to get rid of Aglaia by drowning her in the lake but cannot go through with it, as each day they took the boat out, Chloe learns a little more of Aglaia's story and comes to care for her well being.  Aglaia has a destiny and the Three Fates are wrapped up in the threads of it.

I am a fiber artist so I really enjoyed the spinning and weaving and needle work in the book. My fingers were itching to create.  The story itself moves quickly and has some surprises and twists and turns to keep the pages turning.  Full of elements of philosophy, the Shadow Behind the Stars is a creative retelling of an old classic story.

Here is one of my favorite quotes:
"Oh, you mortals, with your desperate prayers, with your terrible fates. You all want something from us--you all think there must be an easier way, a shortcut through the harder parts of life. There is no shortcut. There never is anything we can give you. You must live the life you have; it's all any of us can do."

So dear mortal, I wonder how long is your thread?
How many books will you read in your life time?

It is entirely possible that by reading this review the Three Fates are whispering in your ear and telling you to read this book and to look for The Shadow Behind the Stars.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Rebecca Hahn Author Interview + GIveaway

Rebecca Hahn Author Interview + Giveaway

Rebecca Hahn is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob for the month of August.  I had a chance to ask her some questions about her newest book, The Shadow Behind the Stars, which will be released on September 2nd.  I also asked about fiber art, her favorite YA authors and Greek Myths.  Read on.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I grew up in Iowa and went to college in Minnesota. I worked in New York City for a few years as an editorial assistant at a children’s book publisher before coming back to the Midwest. I live in Minneapolis, and I read lots of books. I’ve always loved fantasy; I’ve always loved children’s books. One of my pet peeves is anyone belittling either fantasy or children’s books—as if imagination is worthless, as if children aren’t fully human.

2. What inspired you to write The Shadow Behind the Stars?

The Shadow Behind the Stars began with an image of a girl standing by the edge of the sea, the wind blowing through her hair. When I started writing in her voice, I realized that she was the youngest of the three Greek Fates, who spin, measure, and slice the threads of all human lives. I liked the idea of writing in the voice of one of the Fates. Lots of stories are told from a hero’s perspective. The Fates are the on periphery of stories, forming lives and watching them, but not directly involved. I thought that was a unique sort of perspective.

3. Usually an author puts some of his own life experiences in the book.  Did you do that?  Do you have anything in common with your characters?

Yes. I am a Greek goddess and I have lived forever.

The setting comes from my love for the ocean. I would like to visit the Fates’ island and stand with Chloe (the youngest Fate) beside the waves. I share her joy in nature, as well as her tendency to keep most of her thoughts to herself.

4.   How many books have you written? Can you tell us why you decided to become a writer?

This is my second published book. I’ve always been drawn to writing. I wrote lots of poetry when I was younger, and after I graduated from college I started more seriously trying to write novels. I write because it makes me happy. I like thinking and I like beautiful things. Writing is an art, so it is concerned with beauty, and novels take thoughts and structure them into meaning.

5.    Do you like to read?  What authors or books influence you?

Yes, I like to read. I have been influenced by several young adult and adult fantasy writers, including Robin McKinley, Patricia A. McKillip, Juliet Marillier, Mary Renault, and Charles de Lint. I love finding books that surprise me in some way. Urusla K. Le Guin’s books are genius.

6. Name one Young Adult book that you believe is a must read for everyone and tell us why?

I don’t know of one book that everybody should read. Everyone has different tastes and everyone is looking for something slightly different in their stories. So my recommendation would definitely depend on the person. To a random person who was interested in fantasy, I’d suggest checking out Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen Thief series.

7. Are you a fiber artist?  Do you spin, crochet, knit or do other needle arts?

I actually don’t! I know how to crochet and knit, but I haven’t spent much time developing those
skills, and I don’t remember the last project I made. I have friends who are very good at needle arts, though, and I think it is magical how a sweater or a hat can come out of one long piece of thread.

8. Are you working on a new book?  Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I’m afraid I don’t have any details to share right now!

9. What are some of your favorite myths?

I like the Greek story of Atalanta. She’s faster and better at hunting than any of the male warriors. Even though she’s eventually tricked into marrying one of them, I like that she challenges the men at their own games and beats (and infuriates) them.

10. In one sentence tell readers why they should read The Shadow Behind the Stars?

It’s concerned with questions of fate, Greek mythology, and unusual perspectives—if you are interested in those things, this might be a good book for you.

Thanks Rebecca.

Thank you!

If you would like to win a copy of The Shadow Behind the Stars please enter here:  The Shadow Behind the Stars Giveaway

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Books, Women and The Atomic Bomb

Books, Women and The Atomic Bomb

Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of the poetry collection, The Robot Scientist's Daughter grew up in Oak Ridge Tennessee, near the nuclear facility that created the Atomic bomb.  The poetry in her book reflects her experience growing up in 1970's with a hazardous nuclear plant in her backyard.  In fact, her father was a scientist at the plant. Jeannine's poetry is environmental with a science fiction/fantasy twist.  The Robot Scientist's Daughter is creative and gives the reader a lot to think about and discuss.  So many issues are covered within the pages of this book.  Some of these poems pack a powerful dose of reality and some will scare the pants off of you.

Here is a few lines from one of my favorite poems.

Phosphorous Girl (page 57)

is the shadow in white dust you left behind.

I imagine she either went off with a jazz musician 

or followed her dream of veterinary school
somewhere in the Midwest. She dresses in discarded 
prom dresses and dances around to the Psychedelic Furs.

White phosphate hidden in her bones, she ignites
the paper caps in cap guns and snaps her fingers 
like she's striking a match.

I love this poem.  Gailey is such a master at crafting a striking, visual poem.

Shortly after I finished reading The Robot Scientist's Daughter, I heard about The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan.  I think pairing these books for a book club or discussion would be great.  I haven't read The Girls of Atomic City yet but I'm going too.

Here is the synopsis of The Girls from Atomic City from Goodreads:

The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history.

The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project’s secret cities, it didn’t appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships—and a surplus of handsome
scientists and Army men!

But against this vibrant wartime backdrop, a darker story was unfolding. The penalty for talking about their work—even the most innocuous details—was job loss and eviction. One woman was recruited to spy on her coworkers. They all knew something big was happening at Oak Ridge, but few could piece together the true nature of their work until the bomb "Little Boy" was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, and the secret was out. The shocking revelation: the residents of Oak Ridge were enriching uranium for the atomic bomb.

Though the young women originally believed they would leave Oak Ridge after the war, many met husbands there, made lifelong friends, and still call the seventy-year-old town home. The reverberations from their work there—work they didn’t fully understand at the time—are still being felt today. In The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan traces the astonishing story of these unsung WWII workers through interviews with dozens of surviving women and other Oak Ridge residents. Like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this is history and science made fresh and vibrant—a beautifully told, deeply researched story that unfolds in a suspenseful and exciting way. (less)

There you have it.  These two books go together like Mac and Cheese.
Have an awesome reading day.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Lucky Us Giveaway Winner!

Lucky Us Giveaway Winner!

I just finished reading Lucky Us by Amy Bloom and it is a very unique story and an entertaining read.  I think it would make a great book club choice because it demands to be talked about. Since I have an extra copy, I thought I would give it to one of my blog readers.  And the lucky winner of Lucky Us is......

Melinda O from the blog West Metro Mommy Reads
You should check out her book blog.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

"My father's wife died. My mother said we should drive down to his place and see what might be in it for us."

Brilliantly written, deeply moving, fantastically funny, Lucky Us introduces us to Eva and Iris. Disappointed by their families, Iris, the hopeful star, and Eva, the sidekick, journey across 1940s America in search of fame and fortune. Iris's ambitions take them from small-town Ohio to an unexpected and sensuous Hollywood, across the America of Reinvention in a stolen station wagon, to the jazz clubs and golden mansions of Long Island.

With their friends in high and low places, Iris and Eva stumble and shine through a landscape of big dreams, scandals, betrayals, and war. Filled with gorgeous writing, memorable characters, and surprising events, Lucky Us is a thrilling and resonant novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, the creation of a family, and the pleasures and inevitable perils of family life. From Brooklyn's beauty parlors to London's West End, a group of unforgettable people love, lie, cheat, and survive in this story of our fragile, absurd, heroic species.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Rebecca Hahn Guest Post + Giveaway

Rebecca Hahn Guest Post

Rebecca Hahn is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob for the lovely month of August and she has written a guest post on the "other" books, the books she didn't actually write.  She thought she was writing a trilogy and it didn't happen.  Read on to find out why and to gain some insight into the some of the characters in her book, The Shadow Behind the Stars.

One Book out of Three: Structuring The Shadow Behind the Stars

It’s a common trope in fantasy for the main characters to be fighting to keep the world from ending (see Buffy the Vampire Slayer, all the seasons, for example). As I was writing my latest book, The Shadow Behind the Stars, I started to wonder what would happen if the main character, the one you were supposed to sympathize with, was the person who had the power and the motive to end the world.

The Shadow Behind the Stars is narrated by Chloe, the youngest of the three Greek Fates. For quite a while, I was sure that I was writing a trilogy: each of the three books would be narrated by a different sister Fate. The story would build toward the end of the world, and rather than fighting against the destruction of everything, the sisters would themselves become the apocalyptic threat—and nobody else would be powerful enough to stop them.

I did go so far as to write bits and pieces of the last two books, in the middle-aged sister Serena’s and eldest sister Xinot’s voices. Some of those bits I ended up using in The Shadow Behind the Stars after transferring them into Chloe’s voice. But some never did become part of the story, and I thought I’d give you just a taste of what I ended up throwing out here. This is a bit from Serena’s story, in her voice:

I watched the children playing. They were mine, though they didn’t know it. I could see it shining whenever I looked at them, the bright potential. They were as unformed as dunes of sand, blowing, shifting from one shape to another. Oh, how I loved them.

And here’s a bit from the unwritten third book, in eldest sister Xinot’s voice:

I am something different. I am closer to the heart of what we do. I am farther from mortal everyday life, and I am less concerned with time or causation. The world will turn. What must be, will be. We spin at the center of it all, and the little things we choose can make no more difference than the smallest of eddies in a great rolling sea.

After deciding that Serena’s and Xinto’s stories weren’t compelling enough to merit their own books, I next tried writing a sequel from the perspective of a young mortal boy and girl who become involved with the Fates, a star-crossed lovers sort of story:

My name is Philomena. When I was seven, I stopped the Fates along the road and asked them for a prophecy.
Yes, those Fates. I know their names now, but I’m not sure I should tell you. They’re quite secretive about things like that. They didn’t tell me their names when I stopped them that first time. That was the second time, when they came to my bedroom window and asked me to help them steal a goat.

In the end, though, there was no second or third book, as the epic storyline about the end of the world got moved up into The Shadow Behind the Stars. I think it works better that way—the thematic and the character arcs are fuller and stronger—and if I ever do write another book about Chloe and her sisters, I’ll need to move into a brand new storyline with new ideas . . . which would probably be much more interesting to write (and read) anyway!

Thanks Rebecca

If you would like to win a copy of Rebecca's book The Shadow behind the Stars, please click here:

Friday, August 14, 2015

Bluefish and Lizard Radio Giveaway Winners!

Bluefish and Lizard Radio Giveaway Winners!

Pat Schmatz was the July Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob.  Pat and her publisher, Candlewick Press are giving away a copy of Bluefish and Lizard Radio to three lucky winners!
These two books are hidden gems and you will totally love them.
And the winners are........

Ann from Texas
Alisha from Pennsylvania
Susan from New Mexico

Congratulations Ladies.  You will love these books.

Here are excerpts from my reviews

Lizard Radio:  Lizard Radio is creative and intriguing.  I promise you haven't read anything like it.  The author sucks you in and holds tight as you devour the story.  You will fall in love with the characters, Lizard, Rasta, Sully, and Nona.  Lizard Radio is riveting and I think you're really going to like it.

Do yourself a favor and immerse yourself in a creative futuristic culture that is thought provoking.

Bluefish:  Bluefish really touched my heart and made me happy to be a teacher and a reader and proud to share my love of both with others.  The best books always teach you about yourself and
have a way of breaking open your protective barriers.  Bluefish did that for me.

Bluefish is a poignant book that will move your spirit and give you hope.

You can find Pat Schmatz at