Monday, July 28, 2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

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

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

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

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







 

High Summer Read-A-Thon Wrap-Up.

High Summer Read-A-Thon Wrap-Up.

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

So here are my goals and what I accomplished.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book #4 Flight by Sherman Alexie (audio book)

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


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

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

Book #6 Vacationland by Sarah Stonich

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

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

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

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



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sarah Stonich Author Interview + Giveaway

Sarah Stonich Author Interview + Giveaway

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

Hi Sarah,


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Thanks!

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




Friday, July 25, 2014

The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence


The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence

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

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

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

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




Thursday, July 24, 2014

Update on High Summer Read-A-Thon

                                                   Update on High Summer Read-a-Thon

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

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

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

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

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

Book #2 The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

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

Book # 3 The Lady and the Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier

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

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

How is your progress?
What are you reading?




Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sarah Stonich Guest Post + Giveaway

Sarah Stonich Guest Post + Giveaway

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


'Clubbing'

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







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?