Friday, October 31, 2014

October Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up + Giveaway

October Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up + Giveaway

Happy Halloween Everyone!!  October has been a wonderful and busy month.  We are painting the basement walls, getting new carpet and furniture downstairs.  My teaching schedule is still overwhelming (3 preps) and I'm planning a trip with students to Peru, so I am working hard, with little time to read because basically I'm exhausted at the end of the day.

This month I read 6 books.
1 Children's book
1 Audio book
1 poetry book
3 novels.

Join me in saying goodbye to October's Author in the Spotlight, Alison McGhee.  She is author extraordinaire who has written a variety of books in different genres for all age groups.  Her latest book Star Bright, A Christmas Story is adorable and endearing.

Enter quick to win a copy of Star Bright.  The contest ends tonight at midnight
Star Bright Giveaway

Please check out my book review of Star Bright, A Christmas Story.
Star Bright is a delightful, endearing children's book full of love and joy and the beauty of God's earth.  McGhee has written a wonderful story for the wee babes and preschoolers and for their parents and grandparents who are sure to love the meaningful text and beautiful illustrations.

Star Bright Book Review

Check out the Author Interview with Alison McGhee.
I asked her some questions about her writing life, favorite authors and the artwork in her books.  Find out which children's authors are her favorite and how she juggles all her books.

Alison McGhee Author Interview

Please check out the Guest Post by Alison.
She has written a guest post on her "Tiny House" in Vermont where she writes and uses her time to get creative.  This is really interesting to me as I have never heard of the Tiny House movement.  Super cool!

Alison McGhee Guest Post

I've really enjoyed working with Alison McGhee this month and reading her lovely children's book, Star Bright.  I'm looking forward to reading some of her fiction and young adult novels in the near future.  I hope you all will check out her website and read her book to the little ones in your life.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Star Bright, A Christmas Story by Alison McGhee

Star Bright.  A Christmas Story by Alison McGhee
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

  All of Heaven is a flutter with the celebration of the Christ child's birth and everyone has a wonderful gift to share.  The newest angel wants to give a special gift too but she is not sure what, so she searches Heaven and Earth to find it.  She finds the perfect gift for all to enjoy.

Star Bright is a delightful, endearing children's book full of love and joy and the beauty of God's earth.  McGhee has written a wonderful story for the wee babes and preschoolers and for their parents and grandparents who are sure to love the meaningful text and beautiful illustrations.  

I adore the artwork in Star Bright.  The colors are vibrant with purples and blues and the paintings make me feel warm and loved.  I read this aloud to my teenagers, they loved it.  The story is timeless and everyone can relate to finding the perfect gift for the love of a baby who changes the world.

This is a huggable book and will be much loved by children everywhere.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alison McGhee Author Interview + Giveaway

Alison McGhee Author Interview + Giveaway

Alison is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for the month of October and she has written a delightful and endearing children's book called Star Bright, A Christmas Story.  I asked her some questions about her writing life, favorite authors and the artwork in her books. Read on to find out more about Alison McGhee.

1.  Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m tall. My favorite color is green. My favorite part of an Oreo is the top crème-less chocolate cookie. Every morning I read three poems before I do anything else. I have a dog named Petey and a cat named Hobbes. I walk fast. A fun night might include sitting at the bar for dinner and playing cards while waiting for the food to arrive.

2. What inspired you to write Star Bright, A Christmas Story?
My editor asked me if I would be interested in writing a Christmas story. I had never considered writing one before and it took me years and years to come up with the right idea. I must’ve written eighteen entirely different stories before this one finally came shimmering up.

3. You have written a variety of books in all age categories.  How do you carve time out of your day to write?  Do you have several writing projects going at the same time?

I usually am working on a novel, which is a loooooong-term affair. If I get an idea for a picture book, or am struck by lightning with an idea for some other kind of book, I’ll take time away from the novel and try to get a good draft down. But there’s always a novel simmering away in the background. I don’t really have to carve time out because writing is my work. (That’s kind of a lie, though, because even though writing is my work, I still have to force myself to sit down every day and begin.)

4.  I love the artwork in Star Bright.  Did you get to pick the illustrator or does the publisher?
How much of the artistic vision belongs to the author and how much belongs to the artist?

Peter H. Reynolds is an amazing artist, isn’t he? The elegant simplicity of his work inspires me. This is our third collaboration together. We began with Someday, moved on to Little Boy, and now here we are with Star Bright. The publisher is traditionally the one to select the illustrator but I have been very lucky and usually have input on the decision. Who has the artistic vision? I’d say that in all my picture books, it’s been a mutual collaboration between me and the artist every step of the way. I stand in awe of their artistry. It’s a delight and a surprise to see how they interpret the words.

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

Love to read and always have. That’s why I became a writer. . . I never had a Plan B. In most photos of me as a kid there’s a book lying open and face-down in the background. It made me sad that I wasn’t allowed to read at the dinner table. I’m influenced by so many writers it’s impossible to pick only a few, but I will say that poetry, which I love with all my soul, is the form that most often stuns, inspires and cracks open my heart.

6.  Can you recommend one book that you believe is a must read and tell us why?

I have been sitting here for half an hour making list after list, but I cannot narrow it down to one. My apologies. I bow my head in sorrow. (FAIL) (SAD FACE)

7.  Who is your favorite Children’s book author?

Old school: I’m a huge fan of William Steig, Maurice Sendak, Judith Viorst, Bevery Cleary.
Contemporary: huge fan of M.T. Anderson, Kathi Appelt, Chris Raschka, Taeeun Yoo, Marcus Zusak. (Again I sit here with sorrowfully bowed head. . . too many to mention.)

8.  Tell us in one sentence why we should read, Star Bright, A Christmas Story.

When I began writing Star Bright I spent time each morning thinking about all the specific, personal ways that the people I love bring light into the world, and by the time I was finished writing it, the book itself seemed to be full of light and love.

Thanks Alison!

If you would like to win a copy of Star Bright please enter here:  Star Bright Giveaway

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian by Andy Weir

On a mission to Mars, six astronauts were assigned to Ares 3 for 30 days.  On the 6th day or sol, a storm interrupted their mission and they had to abort.  Running for the transport Mark Watney is hit by debris and left behind because his crew believed he was dead. He should be dead but he is not.  He is very much alive and all alone on the planet Mars.

The Martian is Mark Watney's survival log and NASA's attempt to get Mark home to earth.

Mark Watney is pretty much screwed.  There is not enough food to last so it is a very real possibility that Mark will starve.  Rescue opportunities are limited since his crew and the entire world think he is dead.  Water is scarce, oxygen is well, non-existent on Mars so he is hoping his equipment doesn't fail.  Luckily Mark is a botanist and an engineer so he has some skills to fall back on for survival.

Mark Watney is a cool character.  He taught me survival skills, ingenuity, botany, chemistry, engineering, technology, space speak and so much more.  This is a character to admire and he is like the Energizer Bunny, so full of energy and ingenuity that the reader is constantly kept on the edge waiting to see if Mark will survive the latest turn of events.  Quite simply, The Martian is a page turning thrill ride in outer space.  I have never read anything like it.  It was like Gravity meets Apollo 13.

Have you ever read a book you couldn't wait to share with your friends?  The Martian is this type of book.  I could not put The Martian down.  It was all I thought about for a week straight and I verbally praised it up and down.  My 16 year old son, (who hates to read by the way) read the first page and was hooked, so he plans to read it for FUN!  He never reads for fun.  Many of the teachers I work with want to read it and I know my retired mother will also love it because it has something for everyone in it.

Did I mention they are making a movie?

This book is seriously super awesome!  It easily made my top ten favorite reads of 2014.
I give it 5 starts and all ten fingers pointed straight to Mars.  I can't wait to see what Andy Weir is writing next.

Disclosure:  I received The Martian from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Alison McGhee Guest Post + Giveaway

Alison McGhee Guest Post + Giveaway

Alison McGhee is the October Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob's Blog and she has written a guest post on her "Tiny House" in Vermont where she writes and uses her time to get creative.  This is really interesting to me as I have never heard of the Tiny House movement.  Super cool!

Guest Post

I'm writing this guest blog from the kitchen of a Tiny House in Vermont, where I live part-time. "Tiny House" is in caps because living in micro-houses has become something of a movement these days, wherein a conscious decision is made to (mightily) pare down one's belongings and move into a 100-500 square foot house, sometimes on wheels, sometimes not.

I'm not really a Tiny Houser, because I still have a regular-sized house in Minneapolis. But this tiny house on a hill in Vermont is one that friends and I have built over many years, little by little. The original, 200 square foot cabin (one room with a sleeping loft) was a kit I bought off eBay and lived in (no plumbing, an outhouse) until just recently, when we milled some trees from the land and doubled the size. Now there's a sink and a shower and a camping toilet, and we're done.

What does this tiny house have to do with writing? For me, a whole lot. Since I was a child, writing has been a way to translate the experience of living into art, or, if not art, something that transcends the actual experience of living.

There is so much suffering in the world. And there is also so much wonder and wildness and curiosity. When I was little I felt as if I couldn't hold all that emotion inside - I had to turn it into something outside of myself as a way of both absorbing and filtering life. I still feel that way. Maybe
most artists do, whatever the form they choose for their art.

So, back to the tiny house. A small space with fewer things means fewer hours spent cleaning and maintaining and earning the money to support that space and those things and more time to experience life and the translation of it into art. This isn't a new idea --hello, monks and nuns and zen seekers-- but in mid-life, which is where I am, there is nothing more precious than time.

My friend Julie said once that "writing is my only church." Yes.

Thanks Alison!

If you would like to win a copy of Alison McGhee's new book Star Bright, A Christmas Story, please click here:  Star Bright Giveaway

Friday, October 17, 2014

Dangerous Goods. Poems by Sean Hill

Dangerous Goods. Poems by Sean Hill

Before you even open Dangerous Goods by Sean Hill,  you know you will be embarking on a journey through the world of poetry as the cover evokes the travels you will take. You can tell by the title that some of this journey may be dangerous.  You will have to think, embrace the experience and send postcards home. You will travel to interesting places in your mind and heart when you read Dangerous Goods.

Come travel to Minnesota, Houston, Liberia, Ghana. Several of the poems within Dangerous Goods contain Postcards or snapshots of daily life in history and on slave ships enduring the Middle Passage.  Hill takes you on a meditation through history, travel, love and nature.  You must ruminate on these poems as they get into the depth of your bones and stir your heart.

Hill's poems are edgy, raw and beautiful, evoking time and place. These poems are diverse, striking a balance between Race, North and South, love and loss.  His poems are a reflection on life and how time, place and history plays a role in your life.

I'm going to include a poem postcard here for you to admire, found on pg 81.

Postcard With Blood Stain

I've been carrying around this postcard for days,
dear heart; now, I finally get to write you.
Today I admired the local architecture-

spires, arches, stained-glass windows.
Speaking of which, don't mind the stain
-paper cut from this postcard.  I know

it sounds unlikely.  Beaches here are lovely.
It was actually a machete.  Didn't need stitches,
Tried my hand at cutting open a coconut like

the natives.  Well, in fact, while touring
a plantation I helped a local woman
give birth. Didn't want to make myself

out to be a hero. I have to confess.
I lot involved with the menses
of a woman I met at this great locals' bar.

Don't know why I said that.
Was something mundane, a razor nick.
Well. actually, in a flare-up of civil unrest

a stray bullet winged me.
I'm okay; didn't want you to worry.
Take this postcard and add it to your
papier-mache'.  Or is it papier colle'?

*Disclosure:  I received this book from Milkweed editions in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Twin Cities Book Festival 2014

Twin Cities Book Festival 2014

Saturday was the annual Book Festival here in the Twin Cities, sponsored by Rain Taxi.  Every year the event gets better and better.  This year was the best so far in the 5 years I have attended.

I arrived at the State Fairgrounds at 10:10.  I had just a little bit of time to walk around and check out the vendors before I went to see Ann Hood and Laird Hunt speak about their new books.

Laird Hunt spoke first about his novel Neverhome.  It took him 15 years to write this story about a woman who fights in the Civil War.  He was inspired by this book by Sarah Wakeman; An Uncommon Soldier: The Civil War Letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, Alias Pvt. Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers, 1862-1864

Then Ann Hood spoke about her book, The Italian Wife and growing up in a
large Italian-American family with an outhouse in the backyard and the only coal stove in her neighborhood.  She grew up with hardly any books in the house but her family was rich with stories.  It took Ann 15 years to write her novel The Italian Wife.

Next I ran, literally hurried over to the author hub to meet Allen Eskens because I am super excited to read his new book The Life We Bury.  I signed him up to be an author "featured"on Booksnob next year!

Next I met up with my reading and bookish friend, Pamela, and she gave me two recently released books that look spectacular.  One is by Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain (my daughter's favorite book) called A Sudden Light.  It is a ghost story and I LOVE ghost stories.

The other book Pamela gave me is The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp.  This is the first I have heard of this book but it looks like it will be a fun and entertaining read.

For the next hour, I walked the floor and visited with authors and publishers and picked up a few more books.  I met Matt Rasmussen, author of an award winning book of poetry called Black Aperture and got a copy of his book to review.

I also picked up a advanced copy of Bloodrealms by Aurora Whittet and a copy of Festival of Crime, Nineteen Tales of Murder and Suspense by Twin Cities Sisters in Crime by Nodin Press.

Then I went to the Teen Tent where I heard authors Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson speak.  It was standing room only.  The authors were personable and talked about all kinds of teen related things.  I bought a copy of Perkins book, Anna and the French Kiss and waited in line 45 minutes for her to sign it for my daughter!  By this time my foot (formerly broken foot) was in major pain from standing too long.

I really, really, really wanted to hear Andrea Cremer and Marie Lu speak but I couldn't stand anymore.  So I missed this event in the Teen Tent but I did spend a few minutes talking with Andrea Cremer.  She's awesome.

At 2:45, I literally ran back to the author hub to meet Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky.  I quickly snapped this awesome picture of her and then I was off to sit down and listen to some more author presentations.

Stephan Eirik Clark, author of Sweetness #9, and Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members, spoke together.  They had us laughing out loud as they read parts of their books.  Both of their books are getting rave reviews.

Next up, were two graphic novelists and comic artists, Anders Nilsen and Zak Sally.  They had a great presentation on their latest project called Conversation Gardening.  Really interesting talk.  I love graphic novels and can't wait to read some of their work.

I ended my day with my friend Barbara, at 4:30 at the author hub, talking to Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon.

Phew!  Busy, Wonderful, Fun, Amazing day talking to awesome authors!
Thanks Rain Taxi!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Star Bright Giveaway

Star Bright Giveaway

Alison McGhee is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on BookSnob in the month of October and she is giving away 2 copies of her new Children's Book Star Bright, A Christmas Story to followers who live in the United States.  Star Bright will be a wonderful edition to your Holiday book collection and would make a lovely gift for the child in your life.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

This perfectly angelic and perfectly charming Christmas story offers a creative twist on the classic tale of the nativity, from the #1 New York Times bestselling creators of Someday.

The angels are aflutter: a baby is soon to be born! One small angel can tell this baby is especially special by the way the other angels are dashing and fussing about. And holy moly, are their presents extraordinary. The little angel wants to give a present too, but, what could she possibly offer that is as worthy as the others gifts?

At a loss for original ideas, she peeks over the side of her platform and spies something going on in the desert, a caravan of kings on camels, lost in the dark. And suddenly she knows she most do something, and does the only thing she can. Because the greatest gift of all? It can't be wrapped. It can't be bought. It can only be selflessly, joyfully given. And it ends up being the perfect gift for that little baby, the shiniest gift at all.

Contest Rules:
Fill out the form
U.S. residents only
Ends Oct 31st at midnight
Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Cartographer of No Man's Land Giveaway Winners!

The Cartographer of No Man's Land Giveaway Winners!

P.S. Duffy was the September Author in the Spotlight here on BookSnob and she, along with her publisher W.W. Norton, are giving away 3 copies to readers who live in the United States.

The Cartographer of No Man's Land has been selected as one of 6 finalists for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in fiction.

And the winners are.........

Michele L
Esperanza from Michigan
Anne B. from New Mexico

Sorry if you didn't win.  You can find copies of the book at bookstores.

Here is a excerpt of my book review:
2014 marks the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War 1 and I am trying to read and learn as much about World War 1 as I can.  I'm so glad I found P.S. Duffy's novel as she has created a memorable story, with a cast of creative characters that will linger in my mind for a long time.
The Cartographer of No Man's Land is a novel about WWI but it also a novel of peace and the anti-war movement.  It is full of love, longing and loss and it is sure to touch your heart as it did mine.  It is a beautiful, powerful story.

Monday, October 6, 2014

September Author in the September Wrap-Up + Giveaway

September Author in the September Wrap-Up + Giveaway.

September was a very slow reading month for me.  I went from reading a book a day in the summer to only finishing 4 books in September. Life is busy when your a teacher and a mom to two teenagers.  What can I say?  The month passed in a blur of craziness.  My kids are in 8th grade and 10th grade now.  I took off my cast and am finally walking on two feet but am still in pain and undergoing physical therapy for my left foot. Recovery is so slow.

Join me as I say goodbye to Minnesota author, P.S. Duffy.  The best book I read in September was The Cartographer of No Man's Land by P.S. Duffy, September's Author in the Spotlight.  Lucky for you, P.S. Duffy is giving away 3 copies of her book to U.S. followers.  Go enter quick, it ends today at midnight.

The Cartographer of No Man's Land Giveaway

Read my book review of this thoughtful, wonderful novel about World War I.  Told in alternating chapters, The Cartographer of No Man's Land captures the voices of Angus and Simon Peter, as father and son, an ocean apart.  The novel also captures the emotional intensity of war and the horror that surrounds it as well as the emotional divide it creates in the people who fight and their loved ones back home.

Check out the author interview with P.S. Duffy.  I decided to ask her some questions about her book, her writing life and the books she loves and recommends.  Read on to learn more about P.S. Duffy and her novel,  The Cartographer of No Man's Land.

Check out the guest post written by P.S. Duffy.  She has written a wonderful guest post on the power of story and the connections between readers and writers. Knowledge is power.
Read on.

I've really enjoyed featuring P.S. Duffy and her awesome book on BookSnob.  I'm count myself as lucky to have found this Minnesota author and her book while surfing the net.  I sincerely hope we have the chance to meet in person one day.  P.S. Duffy is a gifted writer and a wonderful, generous person.  I hope you will all check out her website and read her book.