Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January-Author in the Spotlight Wrap-up and Giveaway

January-Author in the Spotlight Wrap-up and Giveaway

Between Light and Shadow Giveaway Ends tonight at Midnight!

Guess What?  It is the end of January already.  Can you believe it?   So it is time for me to wrap-up the special month of January with a treat by highlighting Minnesota author Jacob Wheeler.  Jacob is currently in the Middle East and plans to run across Palestine to raise awareness to issues in the area.

Today is the last day to enter the contest to win a copy of Between Light and Shadow.  The contest ends at midnight tonight.  The contest is open to people living in the U.S. and Canada that are current Booksnob followers.  Good Luck and as always thanks for following Booksnob!

Click here to enter:  Between Light and Shadow Contest

Please check out my review of Between Light and Shadow.  This book is entertaining and timely as it details international adoption and the personal story of a special teenage girl named Ellie.  Ellie is loved by two families from two different countries, Guatemala and the United States, and she touches the heart of all who read this book.  I highly recommend this non-fiction book, it is an intriguing story and educational too.

Between Light and Shadow Book Review

I was lucky to be able to interview Jacob.  He is one busy man.  He is a journalist for The Uptake, and is busy covering important events while getting ready for his life changing trip to Palestine.  Read his interview to learn more about Ellie who is the focus of the book and the world wide issue of international adoption.  So interesting!

Jacob Wheeler Author Interview

Jacob's guest post details the back story behind his book, Between Light and Shadow.  He talks about his experience in Guatemala and so much more. 

Jacob Wheeler Guest Post

As January comes to a close I would like to thank Jacob for being the January Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob.  He is a talented writer and I look forward to reading more interesting titles from him and working with him in the near future.  Please visit Jacob's website at http://betweenlightandshadow.com/ and support him by reading his book, Between Light and Shadow. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Where Are You Reading Challenge Update

January Update:  Where Are You Reading? Challenge 2012.

This month I have read some really good books but none of them happen to take place in the United States.  Usually one person or character from the book is from somewhere in the U. S. but the majority of the book takes place in a foreign country.  I love learning about places in the world and as a world history teacher I must be drawn to books that teach me something new about the world.

I read one book that takes place 400 years into the future and another book that didn't give the exact location.  These two books are not included.

Here are my books, review links and locations for January:
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay.  Takes place in FRANCE
Little Princes by Conor Grennan.  Takes place in NEPAL
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.  Takes place in BRAZIL
Between Light and Shadow by Jacob Wheeler.  Takes place in GUATEMALA

Check out my map on Google Maps.
View Where are you reading challenge 2012 in a larger map


Basically I am not planning to win this challenge,  I just want to see where I am reading and record the fabulous places I get to visit in my mind. 
I'm loving it!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Party in the Rec Room with Lorna Landvik

Party in the Rec Room
Presented by author, Lorna Landvik

 Last night I went to see author and comedic actor, Lorna Landvik's show, Party in the Rec Room.  It runs for the month of January in Minneapolis and yesterday was the last party for 2012.  I went with my friend Mary and it was the first time we had seen the show.

Lorna wildly enters the Rec Room with a crazy black curly wig and funky glasses, singing Ride, Sally, Ride.  She then mixes up a big blender full of margaritas and passes them out to select people in the crowd.  A great start to the party.  The music was fun as Lorna asked 3 questions of the audience, then went behind the screen to change.  Out comes a wigged persona, a new character created just for the audience.  It is a laugh out loud evening of fun. Landvik is a great improvisation actor and every show is unique tailored to the audience's instructions.

The crowd was getting wild on a skit about Michele Bachman, it was my favorite of the night.  Politics seem to be the theme of choice from the crowd.   Then Landvik suggested the audience ought to sing a song, we tried a few,  and no one could remember the words, so I shouted out You've lost that lovin' feeling.  Everyone knows that song and so we all sang the song in a moment of camaraderie.  Later she called out a question and asked the audience for their favorite TV show theme song, and my friend Mary, called out The Brady Bunch.  The crowd started singing and just couldn't stop, Landvik played along and did a great skit as Marcia's weed smokin boyfriend.

Landvik has written several books, of which my favorite is Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons.    One of her daughters attended the high school where I currently teach.  And since my name is very similar to Landvik, people frequently mistake me for the famous author.  Her name is Lorna Landvik and mine is Laura Lanik.  Pretty close. 

If you are ever in Minneapolis in January, I recommend you go to the Party in the Rec Room.  Get there early and sit near the front.  Take your favorite friend and enjoy the show!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Between Light and Shadow by Jacob Wheeler

Between Light and Shadow.  A Guatemalan Girl's Journey through Adoption by Jacob Wheeler

Between Light and Shadow is a poignant journey through Guatemala's landscape, international adoption and the effect adoption has had on its people.  The focus of the story is a beautiful 14 year old girl named Ellie who was adopted by a family from Michigan when she was seven.

Wheeler is a journalist who follows 14 year old Ellie and her family as they make the decision to reunite with Ellie's birth mother and her siblings in Guatemala.  Ellie was given up by her mother, Antonia, when she was seven years old and she has vivid memories of love and loss.  The last time she saw her brothers, they were chasing after the car she was riding in, Ellie turned to wave goodbye, tears steaming down her cheeks, not knowing if she would ever see them again.

Her adoptive parents, Judy and Bob, make a daring decision, against everyone's advice, to try and find Ellie's family. Wheeler is there to support, guide and record the process.  Wheeler is a veteran journalist who speaks fluent Spanish and lived in Guatemala for several years.  His book Between Light and Shadow evolved from a journalistic look into international adoption to a very personal story between two families, one American and one Guatemalan, who share the love on one very special girl.

Currently, adoption in Guatemala is no longer possible.  Wheeler takes a deep look at the Guatemalan adoption economy and explores all the possible aspects of a system that had good intentions and made a lot of U.S. families complete.  He delves into Guatemalan's violent and racist past to discover that extreme poverty has manipulated the adoption process.  We have all heard the horror stories of babies being sold and stolen and Wheeler investigates these claims and more. 

Ellie's personal story intrigued me.  I felt myself caught up in the story between Guatemala and the United States and between two sets of parents.  I know several people who have been adopted and several sets of parents who have adopted from the countries of Guatemala, China, Korea and Russia.  This is a story that everyone can relate to and enjoy.  You will laugh and cry and cherish the moments of Between Light and Shadow.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

State of Wonder takes you on a journey through the Amazon river basin, deep into the jungle to explore the mysteries of science and self.  The main character, Dr. Marina Singh is a scientist who lives in Minnesota and works for a pharmaceutical company.  Her work partner, Anders, went to Brazil to check on the progress of a new fertility drug being tested and produced, deep in the Amazon jungle.  He ends up dying there and Marina is notified of it in the form of a blue airmail letter.  She and her boss, Mr Fox, deliver the devastating news to Anders wife and sons with great difficulty.

Karen and Mr. Fox encourage Marina to make the journey to Brazil for their own purposes.  Marina embarks on this life changing personal journey into the unknown to meet up with her former mentor, the formidable Dr. Swenson.  She must face her fears to travel to a place that is the polar opposite of Minnesota.  She enters a zone of heat, humidity, bugs, snakes and meets a variety of unique cultures that have their own unique customs.  Marina has no instruction manual on the Amazon and its people and enters a world unto itself.

Ann Patchett is a really great writer.  She brings the reader to a place and holds their attention.  State of Wonder is a modern re-invention of Conrad's Heart of Darkness.  It is a story of polar opposites where you have frigid cold, and humid heat.  You have man crushing snakes and cannibals, combined with beautiful birds and life giving trees.  There is birth and death, dark and light, love and hate, all of which leave the reader in a State of Wonder.

This is the third book I have read by Patchett.  The first was Bel Canto, the second Truth and Beauty, both of which I highly recommend.  I really wanted to love State of Wonder but sadly, I didn't.  It is definitely a worthwhile read, with potential for great thoughts and discussion.  Some parts of the book seemed contrived to me, like how her phone disappeared twice conveniently.  Other parts of the book were amazing and I had tears in my eyes at the end.  Patchett has great multi-dimensional characters that you won't easily forgot.  My advice:  Don't listen to me, make up your own mind.
Enter the State of Wonder at your own risk, it may just be the adventure of a lifetime or a trip to hell.   It's all about perspective.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jacob Wheeler Author Interview + Giveaway

  Jacob Wheeler Author Interview + a Giveaway of his book.

Welcome Booksnob followers.  Jacob Wheeler is January's Author in the Spotlight and he agreed to answer some questions about his life, his book, Between Light and Shadow, and international adoption.
1.      Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a journalist, videographer and editor who juggles multiple jobs and digs them all. I was born in Denmark, grew up in northern Michigan, and consider about six different places “home”. I’ve been in Minnesota for almost two years, and continue to dig the lakes, all the bike paths, and these days the cross-country skiing. We moved here from Chicago because my wife Sarah is completing her Master’s in Public Health. We live in Prospect Park and nearly understand the expression “Minnesota nice”.

2.      What inspired you to write to Between Light and Shadow?
I fell in love with Guatemala while living there in 2003-05 learning Spanish at an activist language school in the mountains. I fell for the people, their customs, languages, beautiful volcanoes and lakes — and I felt that, as an empowered, middle-class American journalist, I wanted to help tell the next chapter and the painful U.S.-Guatemalan history. International adoption was a big and controversial topic when I lived there, and it was a story that I realized I could tell from the perspectives of people on both sides of the border.

3.      Can you tell us why or when you decided to become a writer? 

When did I decide I needed to breath air into my lungs to live? I can’t remember that either. It’s just always been so. I’ve always written, I’ve always communicated. I’ve always imagined myself a journalist and a world traveler, and that evolved into an editor and an author too.

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

Hah! I like to read so much that sometimes I forget to eat. Even though I also love food. I read incessantly. The news, and blogs, and Facebook feeds, and online magazines, are usually consumed with coffee. But the fleeting time to lie in bed and read a novel, now that’s special.

What books influenced me in writing Between Light and Shadow? Rigoberta Menchu’s autobiography; Daniel Wilkinson’s Silence on the Mountain; Francisco Goldman’s The Long Night of White Chickens. Russell Banks’ novels too, the way he alternates between settings and then has his characters collide in the end.

5.      How did you meet Ellie and make the decision to include her story in your book?

I met Ellie and Judy through mutual friends in northern Michigan in summer 2005. I was particularly attracted to their story because she had been abandoned and adopted at age 7, which is incredibly late in life, and she still had vivid memories of her birth village and her biological family. The three of us met, and Judy in particular was amicable to the idea of me helping retrace Ellie’s steps.

6.      Since you have visited Guatemala, can you tell people who have never been there why they should visit and why you love Guatemala? 

It’s the land of eternal spring, which ought to prompt any Minnesotan in January to buy a plane ticket. Guatemala is beautiful and raw, complex and heartbreaking, majestic and delicious. Mountainous and blessed with the most beautiful lake in the world. She’s like a novel, a tragic one sometimes, but one that doesn’t follow the hum-drum of predictable daily life up here in El Norte.

7.      How has the adoption/adopted community reacted to your book?

The community has reacted well, and many — both adoptive parents and those who have studied this issue — interpreted the book as a complex and nuanced look at a subject that should never be judged in absolutes. To be sure, I’m sure that my categorizing of Guatemalan adoption as “an industry” has turned some off, but they haven’t reached out to me and told me so. My ultimate hope is that people read this story and learn something new about childhood, parenthood, and sense of self and place.

8.      Were you adopted or do you have people in your immediate familial circle who were adopted?

Ironically, no, and I don’t have any real close friends that were adopted — at least not that I know of (except for Ellie, of course). My path to writing this book was through Guatemala, more than the subject of adoption.

9.      What is the most important lesson/idea you want readers to take away from your book?

That childhood, parenthood, and sibling relationships are an open mystery, perhaps as voluminous as an ocean. And we can’t judge what a destitute and desperate mother in a poor country like Guatemala would do based on our own skewed understanding of motherhood and love.

10.  In one sentence tell readers why they should read Between Light and Shadow?

Read Between Light and Shadow because you feel strongly that a mother should never sell her children into adoption, or because you feel strongly that she’s justified in doing whatever might be best for their survival, and I hope that the complexity of this subject erodes your ability to think in absolutes.

Thanks Jacob. 
 If you are interested in winning a copy of Jacob's book Between Light and Shadow please click the contest link:  Between Light and Shadow Contest

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Contest: The Western Lit Survival Kit

Contest:  The Western Lit Survival Kit.  An Irreverent Guide to the Classics from Homer to Faullkner by Sandra Newman.

The publishers have graciously offered to giveaway one copy of The Western Lit Survival Kit to a BookSnob follower.  Yeah!  You will love this hilarious romp through the history of western literature.

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:
A side-splitting tour that makes it a blast to read the Western literary canon, from the ancient Greeks to the Modernists.

To many, the Great Books evoke angst: the complicated Renaissance dramas we bluffed our way through in college, the dusty Everyman’s Library editions that look classy on the shelf but make us feel guilty because they’ve never been opened. On a mission to restore the West’s great works to their rightful place (they were intended to be entertaining!), Sandra Newman has produced a reading guide like no other. Beginning with Greek and Roman literature, she takes readers through hilarious detours and captivating historical tidbits on the road to Modernism. Along the way, we find parallels between Rabelais and South Park, Jane Austen and Sex and the City, Jonathan Swift and Jon Stewart, uncovering the original humor and riskiness that propelled great authors to celebrity.

Packed with pop culture gems, stories of literary hoaxes, ironic day jobs for authors, bad reviews of books that would later become classics, and more.

Contest Rules:
Leave a comment
Fill out the form
Contest Ends 1/29 at midnight
Must be a U.S. Resident

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Western Lit Survival Kit by Sandra Newman

The Western Lit Survival Kit.  An Irreverent Guide to the Classics, from Homer to Faulkner by Sandra Newman

 Have you ever read a book, touted and revered as great, and wondered what made people "back in the day" want to read a book like that, much less deem it a classic?  Year after year, high school and college English students read Western Lit and are not always sure why.  The Western Lit Survival Kit is a reading guide to the historical and entertaining reasons why a book achieved greatness and with it, a long shelf life.

You can use The Western Lit Survival Kit as a reference guide to look up interesting facts about a particular book or to look up books written in a certain time period.  Or if you are a serious bibliophile, like me, and love to read a book about books, than you can read it cover to cover for the peer enjoyment of learning the history of literature.

The Western Lit Survival Kit is a hilarious romp through time and the great moments of western literature.  I laughed out loud multiple times and have learned about some Classic books I have never heard of.  Along the way Newman tackles the boredom threshold, the fun factor and rates the importance and accessibility of the books. 

So come, take my hand and walk, I mean read, through the history of literature.  Did I mention there are swear words, zombies, a St. Lady GAGA and a trip to hell? People, wise up!  Who needs a date Friday night when you can read this book!

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Reading Buddy

Meet my Reading Buddy!

Hi Everyone, a few weeks ago, Steph from Steph the Bookworm put out a call for a reading buddy for 2012.  She wanted a friendly reading competition, reading support and friendship throughout the year.  I loved this idea so I contacted Steph and the adventure in reading has started.  Steph and I have agreed to be non-competitive reading buddies and we will reward each other with the gift of a book if we accomplish our goals at the end of 2012.  We have both agreed to try and read 100 books this year but secretly I will be happy if I make it to 80.  Every Sunday we send an update by e-mail with the number of books and titles we have read with details on how our week went.  We have had two Sunday updates so far and I love it.  Steph made up some interview questions and we both agreed to answer them and post on our blogs.  So here is my interview of Steph.

1.Can you tell me about your job?
I am a library clerk at my local library.  It is a civil service job. I work on the circulation desk and also process the new incoming books for adult services. I always find way too many new books to read at work! I am working on my Master's in Library Science and will finish in about a year. Then I will be a librarian!

2. What do you like to do when you're not reading?
I love to hang out with my dog, Dakota! I also love playing games with my friends. We love board games and Singstar! There are some TV shows I also DVR every single week and love to watch: Dexter, Glee, Revenge, Desperate Housewives... just to name a few!

3. What do you think about books being turned into movies?
I usually like the book better! I always HAVE to read the book before I see the movie, and I always make sure to tell everyone "that was a book first, did you know?!" "The Notebook" was one of the only movies I thought was as good as the book. I now have to read One For the Money since my mom loves the series and is dying to go see the movie, though she insists Katherine Heigl should NOT be Stephanie. I guess I'll find out after I read it!

4. What was your favorite book you read in 2011?
I have a few: Exposure by Therese Fowler, Things We Didn't Say by Kristina Riggle, Simply From Scratch by  Alicia Bessette, 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter, and a few others. 

5. What three books are you most excited to read this year?
The Hunger Games - gotta read it before the movie! Keepsake by Kristina Riggle because she is an amazing writer. Jessica Rules the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey because I loved the first one!

Stop by Steph's blog at http://www.stephthebookworm.blogspot.com to say HI and check her out. 
Have a great day!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jacob Wheeler Guest Post + Giveaway

Jacob Wheeler Guest Post + Giveaway

Jacob Wheeler is Booksnob's Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for January.  His guest post reveals some of the background and inspiration for writing his book Between Light and Shadow. 

Guest Post.
In 2005, while improving my Spanish at a language school in Quetzaltenango, in Guatemala’s western highlands, I found myself falling head over heels in love with that country, its mountains and lakes, its people, their languages and indigenous cultures. The writer, and activist, in me felt drawn in too by Guatemala’s narrative — that of a tragic and bloody modern history, and complicated relationship with my home, the United States.
I wanted to contribute to that story. As I was working toward a Master’s degree in Creative Nonfiction Writing through Goucher College in Baltimore, I wanted to write about Guatemala in the context of its relationship with El Norte. I thought seriously about documenting overland immigration stories — the daring and painful journeys across Mexico to sneak into the United States to work illegally. But that story was already being told.
It so happened that by the middle of last decade, international adoption from Guatemala had exploded. More than 4,000 children per year were heading to baby cribs in America — 1 percent of all children born in Guatemala in 2007 — and, as I write in my book Between Light and Shadow: A Guatemalan Girl’s Journey through Adoption, which the University of Nebraska Press published on April 1, nearly every flight leaving Guatemala City for the United States carried a joyous family with their new adoptee in tow.
Why Guatemala, and not China, Korea or former Soviet countries? Guatemala’s “notary” adoption system was unique, in that it was largely privatized, free of governmental bureaucracy, and facilitated by attorneys in the capital who took steps to ease the adoption process for American parents. The infusion of cash in the system meant shorter waits, and better care during the interim. In short, Guatemala’s adoption system was faster, more efficient, and more tailor-made than anywhere else to the needs and desires of American families.
But that process also birthed allegations of baby buying, coercion of birth mothers, even baby theft. UNICEF, some nonprofits in Guatemala, and certain players within the Guatemalan aristocracy, dragged the issue out of the crib and into the international spotlight. Before it ground to a halt in 2008, foreign adoption became one of the most heated topics of debate within that country, and one that prompted a strong opinion from just about everyone.
All this dizzying political drama, and my desire to write a book that captured people’s lives in both the United States and Guatemala — two threads woven together into one colorful huipil, or traditional Mayan dress — birthed Between Light and Shadow.
When I set out to write a book on “the journey” of Guatemalan adoption, I hoped to tell the story from both ends. I wanted to capture the words of the poor, desperate birth mother who relinquishes her child, as well as those of the American family that embraces that same boy or girl and welcomes him or her into their home, opening up a whole new world of opportunity: airplane trips, iPods, high school proms, even a college education — unfathomable to anyone wandering the dirt paths of an impoverished Guatemalan village — but also identity crises, anger and longing for their roots. In the spirit of the great odyssey, I also wanted to retell the events, both tragic and beautiful in their own right, of how these children lose a mother, a family, a home, everything they have known, and then how the doors of fortune miraculously open the day the child is whisked off to the United States.
Little did I know when I began canvassing Midwestern families who had adopted from Guatemala that I would get to accompany a teenage girl and her adoptive mother on a cataclysmic reunion in February 2006 with the woman who had relinquished her as a mature seven year old. Ellie’s return to Guatemala, equal parts beautiful and tragic, and the way she intimately bonded with her biological brothers — despite language, cultural and national barriers — taught me so much about the unbreakable bond of family.
Writing the chapter about her reunion seemed almost too weighty an undertaking, and yet I felt that Ellie’s joyous experience in lavish Antigua and humbling episode in Guatemala’s desolate southern coast could offer so much to the adoption community, and to literature about international adoption.
What do I hope that adoptees, birth families and adoptive parents take away from this book? Each of you will relate to elements of this story in your own separate way. But what I learned was that this particular adoptee, an interloper between two distinct worlds — past and present, poor and rich, familial and acquired — has something to teach us all about our own humanity.
To enter to win a copy of Between Light and Shadow click the link:  Between Light and Shadow contest
Jacob Wheeler
• Editor/Videographer,
• Glen Arbor Sun, founding editor & publisher, www.GlenArbor.com
• Author, "Between Light and Shadow: A Guatemalan Girl's Journey through Adoption" 

Thanks Jacob!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Paris is the city of love and lights and on the fateful day of July 16, 1942, it became a city of unspeakable horrors.  On July 16th, 1942, Jewish families were forcibly removed from their home by the French police.  The police came for Sarah's family in the middle of the night and Sarah made a decision that would affect generations. She locked her little brother in a cupboard in their bedroom and promised to release him when she got home.  The Jewish families were brought to the Velerdrome d'Hiver, to await transportation to a nearby camp and then many continued to Auschwitz. Sarah was not going home.

Fast forward to 2002, the 60th commemeration of the Jewish roundup.  Julia is assigned to write a news article about the roundup that most French people would rather forget.  As Julia begins investigating the past, she discovers a story that will change her life.  Sarah's story.

In this amazing duel storyline, every other chapter switches narrators from Sarah to Julia.  Half way through the book Sarah's narration ends as Julia tries to solve the mystery of what happened to Sarah.  Julia becomes consumed by Sarah's story and unraveling her husband's family secrets.

Sarah's Key is a compelling historical drama that had me riveted from the first page.  I was also consumed by Sarah's story and was hopeful for a positive outcome.  The personal tragedies that people suffer and overcome are a testament to the resilience of humanity.  Sarah's Key is haunting, compelling, emotional and mesmerizing.  I couldn't tear my eyes or my heart away from this remarkable novel.  Make sure you have a handful of tissue for the ending. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Little Princes by Conor Grennan

Little Princes.  One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal  By Conor Grennan

Little Princes is the name of the orphanage in Nepal where Conor Grennan volunteered in 2004.  Nepal was in the midst of a 10 year long civil war when Conor arrived.  Conor's intention was to stay three months and then spend a year traveling around the world.  The children and the people he met in Nepal changed his life in ways he did not expect and when he left to fulfill his lifelong dream of traveling he vowed to return to the children in a year.  He kept his promise but  Conor was out of money and the war was coming to a dramatic and dangerous conclusion.  Conor flew home to New Jersey but left his heart in Nepal.

Before Grennan returned home he met seven children whom were abandoned by a notorious child trafficker.  They were scared, starving and deprived of human touch and emotion.  All of the children were from the remote village of Humla, located in the mountains in the northeast corner of Nepal.  This part of the country was greatly affected by the civil war and many children were conscripted in the Maoist army.  Desperate parents paid people to bring their children to safety, hoping they would have a better life and an education in Kathmandu.  What the parents didn't know was that their children were being forced to beg, lived in horrible conditions, were starved, beaten, and sometimes sold into slavery. 

Conor arranged for an orphanage to take the seven children but then the war became dangerous and the people from the orphanage couldn't get the children.  They were too late, the children had disappeared.  Conor was very distressed by this news and with his friend Farid, vowed to find these children and set up a permanent home for them.  Thus Grennan begins his nonprofit organization called Next Generation Nepal.  It's mission is to set up a home for trafficked children and try to return them to their parents.

Little Princes had me smiling from the very first page.  I was laughing by page eight when Brennan talks about toilets.  If you have ever traveled you will understand that the toilets of the United States "are the Bentleys of toilets, at the cutting edge of toilet technology and comfort" while the rest of the world's toilet system is quite inadequate.  I know exactly what he means and could definitely relate to being in a country that lacked toilets or knowledge of how the sanitary system should work. Hilarious!

Little Princes is about kids, lots of them, in need of love and encouragement.  Grennan takes the sad and sometimes difficult subject of child trafficking and child slavery and paints a picture of hope for everyone. I laughed and cried and couldn't put the book down.  Little Princes is a journey into the cultural villages and rural life in Nepal where wild monkeys hang on the power lines and cut off your internet connection.  It is where the Buddhist culture meets the Hindu culture and prayer flags fly in the wind. The Nepalese tend to have the same food for dinner every night and buses never come to a complete stop.  In short, Little Princes is a glimpse into another country far away from home and into the complex childhood of children stolen from their parents. 

Little Princes made me smile.

I am an action reader and so I am going to make a small donation to Grennan's nonprofit:
Next Generation Nepal.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tortured by Caragh O'Brien

Tortured by Caragh O'Brien

Tortured is a bridge story in the Birthmarked series.  It falls between Birthmarked and Prized and explains what happened to Leon.  Do not read this book first as it will spoil the ending of Birthmarked. 
This story comes in Ebook format only and its FREE.

Tortured is told from the point of view of Leon and it details his escape and his determination to find Gaia in the wasteland.  It also explains some of Leon's family dynamics and the torture he suffered under the direction of his father.

Tortured is short at 16 pages but if you are a fan of the series it is an entertaining quick read to keep you involved in the story.  I wish more authors would do this.  Sometimes it is nice to read the story told by a different narrator with a different perspective.

Tortured will forever hold the distinction of being the first ebook I have ever read.  It was a fun way to introduce myself to the world of digital books.  Did I mention that it's free?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Between Light and Shadow Contest

Contest:  Between Light and Shadow. A Guatemalan Girl's Journey Through Adoption by Jacob Wheeler

January's Hometown Track, Minnesota Author in the Spotlight, Jacob Wheeler is giving away one copy of his nonfiction book to a Booksnob follower who lives in the United States or Canada.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
“An adoption professional once told me, ‘At its best, there is no adoption system as good as Guatemala’s. At its worst, there is none worse.’”—from the foreword by Kevin Kreutner

In Between Light and Shadow veteran journalist Jacob Wheeler puts a human face on the Guatemalan adoption industry, which has exploited, embraced, and sincerely sought to improve the lives of the Central American nation’s poorest children. Fourteen-year-old Ellie, abandoned at age seven and adopted by a middle-class family from Michigan, is at the center of this story. Wheeler re-creates the painful circumstances of Ellie’s abandonment, her adoption and Americanization, her search for her birth mother, and her joyous and haunting return to Guatemala, where she finds her teenage brothers—unleashing a bond that transcends language and national borders.

Between Light and Shadow Contest Rules:
Fill out the form
Leave a comment
Must be a Booksnob follower
U.S./Canada only (publisher rules)
Contest Ends 1/31 at midnight.
Good Luck!!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

A satisfying conclusion to The Hunger Games Trilogy, Mockingjay takes the reader on a tour of duty in the war between the Thirteen districts and the Capitol.  Katniss becomes the face of the Revolution as she tries to reconcile the evils of war on the people she loves.  Katniss inevitably becomes a pawn in a lethal battle of wills between two giant forces and her personal consequences are devastating. 

Mockingjay is full of surprises, twists and turns that leave the reader shocked and surprised.  I think this is what I like best about The Hunger Games Trilogy is that the storyline of each book leads me on a nail biting adventure I wasn't expecting.  I loved the ending of Mockgingjay and that the author kept the reader guessing until the very end.  There is no way you could predict the ending. 

This is the only trilogy I read in 2011.  I read frantically the last week of the year to complete Mockingjay before 2011 ran out.  If you haven't started this series yet, I would say it is time to jump on the bandwagon. 

Another thing I love about The Hunger Games Trilogy is that is a multi-generational series of books that appeal to a wide variety of people.  My mom and my son have read all three books as well as countless nieces, nephews, teaching colleagues and my book club.  Now the movie versions are beginning in March of 2012 and I will be lined up to see them with my son on opening night.  Forget Twilight, these books are Hot, burning hot, like Katniss, The Girl on Fire!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reading and Writing goals for 2012

Reading and Writing goals for 2012

This year I have decided to branch out and try something new.  My New Year's resolution is to join a writing group and to write at least one page a day in the novel I have begun.  I would like to blog everyday but that seems impossible with my teaching schedule, my mommy schedule, not to mention my wifely responsibilities.  Life is impossibly busy around here so I intend to post at least 15 times a month.

My reading goals include reading 76 books in 2012.  I have joined 3 reading challenges this year and even created one of my own.  I am looking forward to a great adventure in reading this year.

1.   I plan to read 12 Pulitzer Prize winning books for the Pulitzer Prize challenge that I created.  This is considered the Gold Medal level.  It has always been a goal of mine to read all of the Pulitzer Prize winners in the novel category and so this year I have decided to tackle it.  I hope some of you will join me on this challenge.

2.  I am joining the War Through the Generations challenge on World War One, The Great War.  I plan to read at the wade level which is 4-10 books.  Incidentally my grandma was born on Armistice Day in 1918. 

3.  I decided to try the What's In a Name 5 Challenge.  This one is going to be fun.  You have to try and read according to a category and the name of a book.  A creative challenge I am looking forward to.  I almost have a book done for this challenge already. 

4.  The last reading challenge I am doing is Where Are You Reading? challenge where you try a read a book that takes place in every state in the United States.  I don't really plan to change my reading habits for this but plan to track the places I read about on the google map.  I really read a lot of World Literature so it will be interesting to see the places I visited in my books. 

If you are interested in joining any of these challenges, the buttons in my sidebar link to the hosting website. 

What are your reading and writing goals?  What interesting challenges are you tackling?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Prized Contest Winners

Prized by Caragh O'Brien contest winners!

I am happy to announce the three winners of a hardcover copy of Hometown Track's Minnesota Author in the Spotlight, Caragh O'Brien's new young adult novel, Prized.

1.  Melora from West Virginia
2.  Jessica from Minnesota (http://jessicagriffith.com/)
3.  Carol from Pennslyvania

All of you have been e-mailed and the books should be mailed out shortly.

Congratulations Everyone and thanks for being a loyal Booksnob follower.

If you didn't win, you can order a copy of Caragh's book from Amazon.  It would make an excellent gift for the teenager in your life.   You can check out Caragh's website at http://www.caraghobrien.com

Monday, January 2, 2012

Best 11 books of 2011

The Best 11 Books of 2011

I am proud to say I read 75 books in 2011.  It was an eclectic mix of Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Literature, World Lit, Nonfiction, Memoir and more.  I love to read and enjoy reading across different genres.  I belong to three different book clubs, read and promote local authors, and enjoy reading from a list.  My bookshelves are currently at capacity and I just got an ereader to fill.  So choosing only 11 books to highlight for 2011 was difficult.  The following books I read in 2011, they were not necessarily published in 2011.  Each book was reviewed by me in 2011 and each book cover has a link so you can connect and purchase it off Amazon if you wish.  They are in no particular order.

1.  The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins.   These three books occupied my mind and brought me heart stopping entertainment.  I couldn't stop reading them.  I read at stoplights, in the copy room, the bathroom, and everywhere in between.  My 13 year old son has deemed them his favorites and we are both eagerly awaiting the first movie in March 2012.

2.  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  This is an amazing book about the cells of a woman named Henrietta Lacks.  All of us owe a huge debt to this woman who, unbeknownst to her, is responsible for amazing medical advances.  I seriously learned a lot from this book and recommend it often. 

3.  Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann.  I read this book while on my trip in New York City.  It is about the man who walked between the two towers on a tightrope and about New York and its people, attitudes, neighborhoods and the tragedy of 9/11.  Words cannot describe how good this book is.

4.  Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.  This story has lived on in my mind.  Sepetys got me to think about a part of World War II that I didn't know about. The Baltic States, of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, were in the middle of two evil giants (USSR and Germany) trying to conquer the innocent people there.  So powerful, moving and utterly beautiful.

5. The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine.  I read this book aloud to one of my ninth grade World Studies classes and it changed my class, from wild and crazy to a group that wanted me to read the whole hour.  This book is about a young girl sold by her father in India into sexual slavery.  It is really realistic of what is happening in India today and I highly recommend it.  We need to help these young girls escape and we must educate ourselves to help them.  This is an important story that everyone should read.

6. Roots by Alex Haley.  I think this should be required reading for every American citizen.  Roots chronicles the journey of Kunta Kinte from free man to captured slave.  Alex Haley researched his family tree and traces his roots through the stories of the people found with the pages of this African American saga.  It is about 900 pages and I spent some of my summer reading it.  It is well worth your time and energy.  Don't forget about the movie either!

7. Crazy by Han Nolan.  This is probably one of the most unique, creative books I read all year.  It is told by 5 different voices inside the head of one young man who believes he is crazy.  The reader also has a voice in the drama.  What more can I say?  It is an awesome book and you need to put in on your radar for a future read.

8. Born Under a Million Shadows by Andrea Busfield.  This book is told from the point of view of a child in Afghanistan after 9/11.  I liked the uniqueness of the story and the fact that it explores many different points of view.  Afghanistan is a complicated place with a complicated history and Busfield incorporates an understanding of the country I didn't have before I read the book.

9. Sugar Changed the World: A story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science by Marc Aronson.  Another great book that taught me about the power sugar held on the world and how it is really responsible for the massive need for African slaves.  96% of slaves were needed to produce sugar for the world.  Very interesting, informative and entertaining.  I love it when a book teaches me something and this book taught me a lot.

10. The Middle Passage: White Ships/Black Cargo by Tom Feeling.  It took the author 20 years to create the story board and artwork for this amazing book.  It is wordless but speaks volumes.  Utterly Powerful!

11. Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie.  Alexie is a great writer and if you haven't read any of his books, Reservation Blues is a good place to start.  The story is gritty, full of the blues, music, Native American mysticism, and life.  It is will make you want to sing, cry, laugh and read all of Alexie's books. 

There you have it, the top 11 of 2011. What are the best books you read in 2011? Have you read any of the books on my list?
Have a great 2012!