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!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Art of the Novella

The Art of the Novella

Novella's are a shorter than a novel but longer than a short story and fall somewhere in between.  The can be anywhere from 80 pages to a little over 200 pages with a little variation.  Some of my favorite books are novellas like Awakening by Kate Chopin.

This summer, with my goal to read a book a day for the whole summer, I have been devouring novellas.  I want to highlight three of them that are short, but not to short, and really, truly, respectfully, wonderful.

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley
BookADay:  Day 28, Book #21

This little novella is a gem. It was written in 1917 (hard to believe, I know) and I loved every sweet word. It is about Helen, a homemaker who has baked over 6000 loaves of bread in her lifetime and has impulsively decided to buy a traveling bookshop called Parnassus and have a little adventure. Helen while on her great adventure, finds herself and the purpose of her life on the open road, selling books to farmers. LOVED IT.
I even bought the second novella by Christopher Morley called The Haunted Bookshop and I can't wait to read it.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
BookADay:  Day 25, Book #19

Stayed up way past my bedtime to finish this amazing grown-up bedtime story. I felt like a little kid huddled under the covers with my flashlight, turning pages as quick as I could with trepidation, afraid of the monster at the end of the book. Loved the fantastical, creative elements so much that I feel like I want to begin the story again tonight. This a book you can read and re-read and enjoy immensely each time.  Phenomenal!  I think I might  have to own this book.

We, the Animals by Justin Torres
BookADay:  Day 23, Book #18

Whoa, I am not sure how to feel about this book The writing is sparse but exquisite and powerful. I love the writing!! Each word is perfectly placed and the effect is WOW.  The storyline is not linear and so it is sometimes confusing. It is about 3 boys who are half white and half Puerto Rican who are born of teenage parents and who are wild, like animals. The parents marriage is wild and out of control. There is a abuse but there is also fun and lots of love and comraderie among the brothers.  Finally there is a shocking ending .  It really is beautifully written and I heard it is semi-autobiographical.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Graphic Novel Craze

Graphic Novel Craze

I am reading a TON of graphic novels this summer.  I am crazy for graphic novels.  What is not to love? There is graphic artwork, a kaleidoscope of colors or stark black and white.  They are usually quick reads for me and full of powerful story lines.

The Exile by Diana Gabaldon
Day 21, Book #17

I love the Outlander book series, soon to made into a TV series by Starz. This graphic novel tells Jamie's side of the story and is about one third of the original Outlander novel. It was a little hard to get into and some of the drawings were a little over the top, with Claire especially. I had a hard time in spots deciphering what was happening in the graphics/text and figuring out who was who and I read the Outlander book, so I already knew the story.   I still enjoyed it this graphic novel but not as much as I thought I would.

Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
Day 26, Book #20

Great drawings in this graphic novel of a home schooled teen and her first year of public high school. Enjoyable storyline. Maggie lives with three brothers and her dad and makes a friend named Lucy. Lucy has a fascination with ghosts and Maggie happens to have one who keeps following her around.  This is a great story about making friends and fitting in and going through the changes of growing up.  Appropriate for middle school and would appeal to girls as well as boys.

The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
Day 34, Book #25

I really liked this graphic novel about four high school girls named Jane who start a secret club where they go out and art bomb or create art in public spaces. Each Jane excels in a different area of school but none of them are popular.  The main Jane is a thinking, feeling, wonderful young woman who wants to make a positive change in the world.  This is a decent graphic novel without sex and swearing and one I am happy to share with my 13 yr old daughter.

What graphic novels are you crazy about?

Sunday, July 13, 2014

4 Great Summer Reads for the Whole Family

4 Great Summer Reads for the Whole Family

It's the  middle of summer and it is time to talk about some of the great books out there to enjoy during summer.  To me, a summer read is a book you read during the summer, not something necessarily light and fluffy. I like to read a variety of books and none of the books featured here are of the light and fluffy variety.

So here are 4 books I've read recently to spice up your summer days.  Each book will appeal to a different age group in your family.

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
BookADay:  Day 17, Book #14

Await Your Reply was chosen as a book for my book club.  I have never read anything by Dan Chaon and was not sure what to expect but this book blew me away.  Await Your Reply is a page turner and opens with a young man getting his hand cut off.  There are three different story lines that interconnect.  Each story line is compelling with interesting characters and it is fun to try and figure out how they are all related.  So good.

A Wreath for Emmitt Till by Marilyn Nelson
BookADay:  Day 14, Book #13

This little book packs a powerful punch of poetry on the death and legacy of Emmett Till. It is a told in a series of fifteen interlocking sonnets. The artwork combined with the beautiful poems about the painful subject of lynching is something to behold. This is a Printz honor book and a Coretta Scott King honor book.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd
BookADay:  Day 19, Book #15

I love Patrick Ness.  All of his books are so creative.  A Monster Calls is a story Ness adapted from a story idea that author, Siobhan Dowd had before she died.  It won so many awards, I can't even count how many.  It is beautiful story about a boy and his nightmare that has come to life in the form of a Yew tree outside his window. The illustrations are stunning.  A Monster Calls made me cry and touched my heart. So poignant.  I loved it.

Diego Rivera: An Artist for the People by Susan Goldman Rubin
BookADay:  Day 20, Book #16

Diego Rivera is an artist for the people. He created art on murals for the working class and for people who were illiterate. He wanted to teach the world the history of Mexico. This is a short but detailed biography of Diego Rivera and how he became a admired artist. This is a good introductory book for kids and adults who want a quick history of who Diego Rivera is and why his artwork is important.  Some of his artwork is included in the book.

How do you define summer reading?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Short Story Collections

Short Story Collections

For the past year or so, I have been reading a short story or two per week.  This summer, I am taking a short story online writing class at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis and writing my own short stories, which is really fun.  I just handed in my first 10 page short story and I'm excited to see what my classmates think of it.

I want to share with you some of the really good short story collections I have read so far this year.  I have read 3 collections so far in 2014

Open Secrets by Alice Munro
I just finished Open Secrets by Alice Munro and today is Alice's birthday.  Open Secrets contains eight short stories.  Alice Munro is a master storyteller. I've had this book sitting on my shelf for far to long and I picked it up because I having been invested in reading short stories this year and I'm so glad I did. Munro's stories are like looking in the window of someone's house as you drive by and listening to their conversations at the dinner table. Munro lets you eavesdrop on the lives of others and it is a great experience. Her stories mainly focus on Canadian women and their experiences. Many of the stories are quite memorable.

Incendiary Girls by Kodi Scheer

Incendiary Girls is a collection of short stories that are unforgettable and non-traditional. Many of the stories have the thread of medicine running through them as well as some magical or fantastical elements. Sometimes the stories are disturbing yet for every story I was intrigued and wanted to find out where the author was leading me and how the story would end.  Scheer does an excellent job juxtaposing reality with fantasy and having her patients (I mean stories) exhibit fundamental psychological symptoms of the creative variety. She is a great storyteller.  Loved it.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2000.  This collection of short stories is powerful and many stories explore the immigrant experience as well as feature people with Indian heritage as the main characters.  Here you learn what it is like to be a stranger in a new land or a traveler to your own country.  I read this one awhile ago but I still remember most of the stories because they were vivid and memorable.  Very powerful exploration of human relationships.

What short stories are you reading?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

March by John Lewis

March.  Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin.  Art by Nate Powell

March is a powerful graphic novel on the early life of Civil and Human Rights Activist and current Georgian congressman, John Lewis. This memoir begins with John's childhood growing up on a farm in rural, Alabama.  His job was to tend to the chickens.  He wanted to be a preacher and the chickens were his first congregation.  Right away he started to protest the treatment of his chickens and as they became food for dinner, he refused to eat.

John Lewis grew up to be very influential in the Civil Rights Movement.  He meets Martin Luther King Jr. and that experience changes his life.  He joins and participates in non-violent protest and social action in Nashville, Tennessee.  Like many activists of this time, John Lewis gets arrested but change happens and he is a big part of it.

The artwork in this book is amazing.  I've included one of my favorite drawings from the book in this post but there are many beautiful, gut-wrenching drawings of the Civil Rights Movement.  The art is done in stark black and white and it is moving.  I felt transported to another place in time and was enveloped in the story because of the beauty and expression contained in the graphic artwork.

Looking forward to the next volume.  Hope I don't have to wait to long.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Vacationland Giveaway!

Vacationland Giveaway!

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

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

On a lake in northernmost Minnesota, you might find Naledi Lodge—only two cabins still standing, its pathways now trodden mostly by memories. And there you might meet Meg, or the ghost of the girl she was, growing up under her grandfather’s care in a world apart and a lifetime ago. Now an artist, Meg paints images “reflected across the mirrors of memory and water,” much as the linked stories of Vacationland cast shimmering spells across distance and time.

Those whose paths have crossed at Naledi inhabit Vacationland: a man from nearby Hatchet Inlet who knew Meg back when, a Sarajevo refugee sponsored by two parishes who can’t afford “their own refugee,” aged sisters traveling to fulfill a fateful pact once made at the resort, a philandering ad man, a lonely Ojibwe stonemason, and a haiku-spouting girl rescued from a bog.

Sarah Stonich, whose work has been described as “unexpected and moving” by the Chicago Tribune and “a well-paced feast” by the Los Angeles Times, weaves these tales of love and loss, heartbreak and redemption into a rich novel of interconnected and disjointed lives. Vacationland is a moving portrait of a place—at once timeless and of the moment, composed of conflicting dreams and shared experience—and of the woman bound to it by legacy and sometimes longing, but not necessarily by choice.

To Enter:
Please Fill out the form
Must be 13 or over
U.S./ Canada residents only
Ends July 31st at midnight.

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Guy In Real Life Giveaway Winners!

Guy In Real Life Giveaway Winners!

Steve Brezenoff was the June Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob's blog last month and he is giving away 3 copies of his new young adult novel, Guy In Real Life. Yahoo!!

Drum roll please.........And the winners are:

Marci from Oklahoma
Emma from Washington
Lauren from Florida

Congratulations Ladies and enjoy your new book!

If you didn't win a copy you can one buy one at your local independent bookstore or at Barnes and Noble or Amazon.

Here is an excerpt from my book review of Guy In Real Life:

Two very different teens from two different socio economic backgrounds tell their story in alternating chapters.  The gaming world is also represented with chapters interspersed throughout the book.  Guy In Real Life is not your typical love story and it is going to be hard for readers to fit Guy In Real Life into a box or a set category or genre because it is unique and genre bending. There's a little bit of mystery, fantasy, GLBTQ, romance and more.