Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Hmong Boy's Story Contest Ends Today!

A Hmong Boy's Story Contest - Last Day to Enter!

April is coming to an end.  I would like to highlight Hometown Track Minnesota Author in the Spotlight, Yakao Yang.

Today is the last day to enter the contest to win one of five personalized copies of A Hmong Boy's Story.  The contest ends at midnight tonight.  The contest is open internationally and is available to all Booksnob followers.  Good Luck and as always thanks for following Booksnob!

Click here to enter: A Hmong Boy's Story

Please check out my book review of A Hmong Boy's Story.  This is an true story of perseverance during The Vietnam War, told from the Hmong perspective.  You will learn a lot about Hmong culture and their way of life.

A Hmong Boy's Story Book Review

You can check out my author interview with Yakao Yang as well.  This is a man who values education and strives very hard to achieve.  His love of family and his dedication to the Hmong way of life shows in his book and in his interview.

Yakao Yang Author Interview

I really enjoyed working with Yakao.  I would like to thank Yakao for being April's Minnesota Author in the Spotlight.  Please support this emerging author by reading his book, A Hmong Boy's Story and checking out his website at

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Yakao Yang Author Interview

Yakao Yang Author Interview

Yakao Yang is the April Hometown Track Minnesota Author in the Spotlight this month and I pleased to share this interview with you.  If you would like to win a copy of his book A Hmong Boy's Story please enter HERE

1. Tell us little bit about yourself
      I was a poor class Hmong boy that the majority Laotian called the " Mountaineer tribe boy" from the high elevation of the country. Lack of opportunities I fought very hard in education by surviving         many phases and obstacles, I became a young grade teacher at age 13 then a young professor in the French-Lao education system.

2.  What inspired you to write A Hmong Boy's Story?
      It was my desire since I was A little boy that I wanted the whole world to feel the pains that I contributed for my education which was not available to anyone during that period of time.

3.  Education is a strong theme running through your book, why is education so important to you?
      In a poor country and new born, opportunities were zero, only education could make money in many sectors of the government. So, only education could make a happy life.

4.  Is it hard to write a book  in a language other than your native tongue?
      Yes, it is so hard and very difficult for me who didn't know the basic of English and never spent an hour even a minute in school learning English while coming to this country.

5.  Do you have any advice for first time Authors?
      Yes, be patient and follow your dream. Writing a book is a dream but it is a hard work without a fight patiently.

6. Is A Hmong Boy's Story true to the best of your knowledge?
     Yes it is, from the best of my writing and I love it. it is well written from the bottom of my heart that could never be regret.

7. What are the lessons you want to impart to your readers?
     Without a good education with high achievement there are no good jobs too. To do that you had to have a goal combine with your parents goals too

8. Have you been back to Laos to visit?
     No, and never, it is painful to see the country!

9. Are there still refugee camps located in Laos and Thailand? are Hmong still waiting to come to America?
     Yes, refugee camps still existed in Thailand not in Laos which was the mother land. Hmong from both countries always wanted to come to to US to escape big threat because they were victims of
     fighting with the US/CIA during the spreading Vietnam war in Laos.

10. In one sentence, please tell us why we should read A Hmong Boy"s Story?
      Combined with good advices, funny, sad and emotional parts. It is good to know the Hmong people and its culture and ways of life, why are they In the US.

Thanks Yakao!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Sandalwood Tree

The Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

Namaste.  India brings to mind, exotic spices, bright colors, crowded places, curry laden food, and varied religions.  India is a rich mixture of cultures containing a very complex history. The Sandalwood Tree brings the reader to India in 1947 when Gandhi is leading the quest to see the British Raj ousted from the land and the Partition of India is taking place.  There are Muslim refugees migrating to the new Islamic Pakistan and the Hindu  refugees are being forced to move south into what will remain India.

The Sandalwood Tree that grows in South India is a threatened species found near the mountainous areas. Evie and Martin live outside of Simla, a mountian village, in a small bungalow and they have a sandalwood tree in their front yard.  Evie finds a loose brick in her kitchen and uncovers a few hidden letters written by Felicia Chadwick and Adele Winfield from 100 years earlier.  Thus begins of story of the tree that binds together the lives of these people and mirrors the threatened way of life in India in 1947 as well as the threats from 1857.

Newmark has taught me so much about India and has made me want to visit there.  I love how she brought alive the culture and all the different religions combined with the privileged British class and the movement of Gandhi's new India developing.  The dual storyline was invigorating and powerful, I couldn't wait to find out what happened in both time periods. 

My recommendation is to go get a henna tattoo, a cup of chai tea (yum) and pick up The Sandalwood Tree.  This book will transport you to India where your senses will go wild, your heart will beat loudly and a monkey will steal your sunglasses.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Hmong Boy's Story

A Hmong Boy's Story by Yakao Yang

During the Vietnam War, the Hmong people helped the United States fight the Vietnamese communist regime.  As you know the U.S. did not win the war and only prolonged the inevitable advance of communism.  The Vietnamese were very cruel to the Hmong people who fought against them and as a result many Hmong people entered refugee camps and tried to find a way to live the rest of their lives here in the United States.  Today, their are still Hmong waiting in Refugee camps in Thailand.

A Hmong Boy's Story chronicles the life of a young boy growing up during this conflict of political powers.   This is Yakao Yang's memoir which details the racism and prejudice he faced as a Hmong boy trying to get an education (when education wasn't valued by Hmong people).  He had to attend school where at times he was the only Hmong child in the classroom.  He made friends, learned as much as he could and overcame many obstacles.

What I enjoyed most was learning about the Hmong culture and history, from their lifestyle in the mountains, their courting and marriage rituals, to life in the refugee camps and the migration of the people from place to place.  I really learned a lot and feel I know the history and culture of my Hmong students better.  Every year I attend Hmong New Year at my kids school and participate in the ball toss and the traditional New Year's feast.  I feel that I truly understand the surnames and the rituals behind the Hmong New Year. 

Yang's memoir is very detailed and hard to read at times because English is not his native language. Yet, it is very readable and entertaining for those willing to persevere.  I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about the Hmong culture.  I think he has created a unique memoir and his family would be very proud of all he accomplished in his life.  Yakao is a man who values education and loves his family and it shows in his book.  Thank you Yakao Yang for sharing your personal story.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


godless by Pete Hautman

In the beginning god creates water and water is the substance that sustains all life.

On the first day, Jason Bock gets clocked and lands flat on his back staring up The Water Tower also known as The Ten Legged One.   Jason has an epiphany and invents a new religion called The Chutengodians based on the most important element on earth.  Water.

On the second day, Jason recruits followers and begins to customize his new religion.  He creates a list of commandments which include honoring the sabbath every Tuesday.

On the third day, Jason must figure out a way to climb the tower, to worship and be close to his god.  Except not everyone can climb the tower, some of his followers are afraid.

On the fourth day, the new religion begins to take a life form all its own.  Everything is spiraling out of Jason's control.

On the fifth day, Jason is grounded for the whole summer and his assignment is to read a lot of religious texts his father picked out.  Brainwashing??

On the sixth day, Jason is in fear of losing his followers and his religion.  Will water baptize him in hope or drown him in fear?

On the seventh day, well, I am not going to tell you what happens on the seventh day as you must read the book to experience the religious phenomenon.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Minnesota Book Awards 2011

Minnesota Book Awards 2011

The Minnesota Book Awards were presented on Saturday, April 16th, 2011 to a sold out crowd.
I would love to say I was in attendance but I was not.  Next year, I hope to attend and read some of the book finalists before I get there.

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

Fiction Category  
By:  John Reimringer
I can't wait to read Vestments.  Milkweed Press sent me a copy to review.  So be on the lookout for my book review.

Genre Fiction Category
The Tale of Halcyon Crane: A Novel
By:  Wendy Webb
A ghost story that is sure to cause you to lose sleep.  Another book I am looking forward to reading.

Young Adult Category
Blank Confession
By: Pete Hautman
I love Pete Hautman.  I have read several of his books and recommend them to students on a regular basis.

Poetry Category
Find the Girl
By:  Lightsey Darst
This poetry collection looks really intriguing.  Love the cover art!

Reader's Choice Category
News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist
By:  Laurie Hertzel
I met Laurie in January at the Loft Literary Center.  She is the current Books Editor at Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Memoir and Creative Non-fiction category
Carrier: Untangling the Danger in My DNA
By:  Bonnie J. Rough
Check this one out.  It would be so hard to know you have a genetic condition that you could pass on to your children.  This looks powerful.

General Non-Fiction category.
The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition
By:  Michael Nordskog and Aaron W. Hautala
Really great photography in this book.  What person doesn't love a sauna?

Children's Literature category
My Heart Is Like a Zoo
By:  Michael Hall
Animals that are cut out in the shapes of hearts.  Any child would love this book.

Minnesota category
North Country: The Making of Minnesota
By:  Mary Lethert Wingerd

The title says it all. 

Congratulations to all the authors who won and to all the finalists.
Read Minnesota!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Friday Follow

Friday Follow

It's Friday, It's Friday as Rebecca Black would sing, so let's celebrate.
I just signed myself up for adult summer camp.  It is called Camp Read-A-Lot and it is for teachers and librarians.  I am super excited for summer to begin!

The question this week is Do I have anyone to discuss books with?  Tell us about him/her?

Basically I am huge book nerd and discuss books with anyone who will listen and converse with me.  Mainly that would be my students because they are forced to be in my class every day. 

Leave a comment as I would love to stop by your blog this weekend.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Let the Great World Spin

Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann

Whenever I take a trip somewhere in the world, I want to choose a book to take along on my journey that will introduce me to the place, the people, their culture and history.  During spring break I took several high school students and my son to New York City for four, fun filled days.  Let The Great World Spin is the book I chose to accompany me on my journey through The Big Apple.

On August 7th, 1974, Phillipe Petit strung a tightrope across the Twin Towers and danced between the towers in mid air.  The eyes of New York looked up and saw an unbelievable spectacle.  The world, it seemed, was spinning out of control in 1974.  President Nixon resigns on August 8th, Gerald Ford is sworn in on August 9th, and Vietnam War enters its final year.  

McCann captures the stories of ordinary and extraordinary individuals with precision in Let The Great World Spin.  His novel spans all levels of society in 1974 in historical context and interconnects the characters with Petit's daring tightrope walk above New York City.  McCann's characters are so interesting that I found myself thinking of them while I was walking around the city.  Many of the character's in this amazing story had to walk the line on their own tightrope.  Many fell off, some died, others cried and survived but the challenges we are human beings face on a daily basis sums up to putting your faith in what you do and hoping it all works out.  Let The Great World Spin encompasses New York City today and how it appeared yesterday and includes all the grit and glamour associated with it.  This book totally wowed me it is  "The collision point of stories." page. 325.

My son mentioned a T-shirt he saw someone wearing in New York City on day 3 of our trip, the T-shirt said and I quote "New York Fuckin' City", and within the hour, I read a passage in Let The Great World Spin that actually quotes this exact same T-shirt and showed my son. "As if it were the only place that ever existed and the only one that ever would." Page247.  New York City was showing its arrogance and we learned it through the connection of a book and a T-shirt.  Strange how real life connections happen and weirder still that New Yorkers are wearing the same saying on their T-shirts since 1974.

Visiting the former site of the Twin Towers was surreal and watching my son learn of the experience by reading aloud the account of the tragedy was emotional.  Reading this book while in New York City made me understand the significance of Petit's tightrope walk and how it bridged a world and brought hope to the people of New York City during a time of turmoil.  Truly this book is an amazing work of art and deserves the National Book Award.

Watch Man on Wire, a documentary on Petit's walk for more information on how Petit arranges this amazing event.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Butterfly Key Contest Winners!

The Butterfly Key Contest Winners!

Happy Spring!
I am proud to announce the three lucky winners of THE BUTTERFLY KEY by Andrew Neudecker.

Siobhan from

Lisa from

Maureen from Tampa Bay, Florida

Congratulations Ladies!

If you didn't win you can order a copy here and Andrew is offering a special this month of April on his ebook in honor of the birth of his son and his 10th wedding anniversary.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Hmong Boy's Story Contest

A Hmong Boy's Story Contest

Hometown Track Author in the Spotlight, Yakao Yang, has generously offered to giveaway and personalize 5 copies of his book A HMONG BOY"S SPORY to lucky followers of BookSnob's Blog.  This contest is open internationally to everyone who follows Booksnob.  The Contest will end on April 30th at midnight, central time.

Here is the book synopsis from Goodreads:

A Hmong Boy s Story One of the universal truths about the human race is the desire to have a better life for their children. Yakao Yang in his just released book A Hmong Boy s Story takes us back to the mountains in Laos where he struggled to get an education with the support and encouragement of his parents. The backdrop of this story is a country at war and the Hmong people constantly moving from place to place to find a safe place to live. Yang is able to weave the Hmong traditions, folk tales and everyday life of the people into the story of his struggle to get an education. His commitment and focus allow him to eventually graduate with a baccalaureate degree with a year of training in France. Upon the fall of the country to the Communists, the family entered the refugee camps in Thailand and finally came to America. Yang gives an insight that no other Hmong person can, since education was not considered important at the time. It is that education that opens our window to the past.

Contest Rules.
1.  Fill out the Form
2.  Be a Follower of BookSnob
3.  Leave a comment.
4.  Enter by April 30th, 2011
5.  Open Internationally.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Hometown Track- MN Author Spotlight #9

Hometown Track- MN Author Spotlight #9

 I would like to announce the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight.  Yakao Yang is the Hometown Track MN Author for the month of April.  Mr. Yang wrote a memoir of his life growing up in Laos before the"war" broke out.  He then travels as a refugee to Thailand and makes the journey here to America and finally settles in Minnesota. 

This month you can expect a contest, a book review, an author interview and hopefully a guest post by Yakao Yang.  This book A HMONG BOY"S STORY promises to be a unique reading experience in which you will learn about the Hmong culture. 

You can visit Yakao Yang's website at