Thursday, January 31, 2013

January Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up + Giveaway

January Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up + Giveaway

Lies Beneath Giveaway Ends at midnight tonight!!  Enter quick!

The weather is super cold here in January with below zero temps.  It is the perfect time to read and snuggle by the fireplace.  So if you haven't read Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown, now is the perfect time.  I was down and out with a sinus infection and fever that kept me in bed and I spent my relaxation time reading Lies Beneath.  It was great!

Today is the last day to win a copy of Lies Beneath here:  Lies Beneath Giveaway

Please check out my book review of Lies Beneath.  Lies Beneath is the first novel in a trilogy and I am looking forward to the next two books.  Brown is a talented writer who crafts a imaginative story.  Brown includes Victorian poetry and Native American legends of mermaids. Seriously who can resist mermaids in Lake Superior.  These are not your sweet singing merfolk, these are murderous revenge seeking mermaids.  So much fun to read.

Lies Beneath Book Review

Please check out Anne Greenwood Brown's guest post.  She has written a thoughtful post on what makes a hero.  She talks about how she formed her main character Calder White with the qualities of what a hero means to her.  Very interesting.

Anne Greenwood Brown Guest Post

Please check out the author interview with Anne.  She has three children and she works full time and yet she finds time to write and visit schools.  Find out how she carves time out of her busy day to write. See which author influences her and the back story to her book Lies Beneath.  Plus learn about the second and third books in the trilogy.

Anne Greenwood Brown Author Interview

It has been a pleasure to work with Anne this month and I would like to thank her for being January's Minnesota Author in the Spotlight.  I met Anne at the Twin Cities Book Festival in October and she agreed to be the featured author and to come and speak at the high school I teach at.  You can find more information about Anne and her book at her website:
Check out the book trailer for Lies Beneath below.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown

Deep in Lake Superior are hidden places where mermaids and mermen lurk in wait for unsuspecting humans to become their prey.  Calder White is part of a family of mermaid assassins who are bent on revenge.  They are desperately seeking Jason Hancock because they blame his father for not fulfilling a promise to their mother, which ultimately kills her.  For that, they want Jason Hancock dead.  Mermaids always keep their promises and they uphold humans to the same standards.

The Hancock family moves to Bayfield, Wisconsin to live on Lake Superior and the White family has a plan to lure Jason to his surefire death by drowning.  Except nothing goes according to plan, especially when Calder begins to fall in love with Hancock's daughter Lily.  Lily begins to suspect something is amiss and Calder is willing to risk his life for her.

A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him for her own,
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown.
-William Butler Yeats

Anne Greenwood Brown has created an inventive tale that includes mystery, romance and intrigue.  What is unique about Lies Beneath is that the narrator is male when so many of the young adult voices are female.  Brown includes Victorian poetry and Native American legends of mermaids.  Lies Beneath is a sensory experience.  You can sense the cold water of Lake Superior, smell the intoxicating scent of the beautiful mermaids as they hypnotize and enamor their prey.  

This is my first Merfolk novel and I was pleasantly surprised.  Who knew mermaids could be so interesting?  The Victorian poetry is what really grabbed me and the storyline kept me reading.  The characters are unique, creative and fun.  Lily has a tattoo that says "No coward soul is mine", which is the first line in a Emily Bronte poem.  I love it when characters are literary.  Lies Beneath is first novel in a trilogy and I am looking forward to the next two books.  Brown is a talented writer who crafts a imaginative story.  

Mermaids in Lake Superior, oh my! 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Long Ago, in a place far from here, four families are swept up in the Game of Thrones, vying for power.  There is a wall in the north where men take the oath of the black, to protect the kingdom from the Others and the children of the forest.  Winter is returning to a land that has known summer for ten years and the kingdom is swinging out of balance.  Trust no one because you don't know who is your friend or enemy and all is fair when you play the game of thrones.

The dragons have been dead for over a hundred years, and the people who ruled alongside them decimated, except for two young heirs, who pine for retribution.  The current King, Robert Baratheon is a unhappy, heavy drinking womanizer with bratty kids.  His wife hates him and wants him dethroned or dead.  The Hand of the King is Ned Stark of Winterfall.  Ned has a lovely family consisting of a wife, four sons, one a bastard, and two daughters.  Stark's eldest daughter is betrothed to the King's heir to the throne.  The Stark coat of arms is a gray Direwolf on a ice white field.  A Game of Thrones opens with the Stark children finding a family of Direwolf pups, near their home of Winterfell, one for each child.

A Game of Thrones is an epic fantasy that is full of adventure, creative characters, sword fighting, romance, mystery and so much more.  I loved the inclusion of dragon lore, the fantastical creations of animals and human like creatures.  A Game of Thrones has a medieval feel with jousting, sword-fighting and good old fashioned beheadings.  The castles are full of hidden nooks and creepy crannies and halls that echo with voices of conspiracy.  Oh, it is so much fun to read on a dark winter night.

My favorite characters are Ned Stark, his daughter Arya Stark, Tyrion Lannister, the dwarf and the dragon princess, Daenerys.  I also loved the direwolves, especially Ghost.  Of course Martin kills off one of my favorite characters and I am still in shock about it.  How could he kill off one of the best characters?  The are plenty of characters you love to hate and hate to love and many who fight for their story to be told.  I cannot wait to continue reading this amazing saga.

There are plots and counterplots, a conspiracy, crazy lords and ladies, sibling rivalry and a storyline that is sure to keep you reading and thinking and wondering, what in the heck is going to happen next.  A Game of Thrones is unique, powerful, fun and I can see why fantasy readers LOVE IT!  I'm so glad I was introduced to this series.  I'm ready to read more and then watch the HBO series.  I'm bubbling with excitement.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Anne Greenwood Brown Author Interview + Giveaway

           Anne Greenwood Brown Author Interview + Giveaway

      Anne is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob this month and she has written an entertaining Young Adult book about murderous mermaids that live in Lake Superior.  Read on to learn more about Anne and her book, Lies Beneath.

      Hi Anne,
     1.  Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

        Well, I am a native Minnesotan and a graduate of Stillwater High School. I was an English teacher before deciding to go to law school, and I love YA fiction.

2.        What is the inspiration behind your story “Lies Beneath?”

        The story originated with a dream. I was writing a contemporary story set on Lake Superior. The main character was a ferry boat driver, and I kept having a reoccurring dream that he was diving off the ferry into the lake. No normal person would do that, but the dreams wouldn’t stop. Then in one dream he dove and burst out with this amazing tail! I put the contemporary story aside and started writing Lies Beneath that same morning.

3.        Usually an author puts some of her own life experiences in the book.  Did you do that?  Do you have anything in common with your characters?

         I love Victorian poetry, but the main thing in the novel that comes from my personal experience is the lake. I grew up sailing on Lake Superior and stopping at the various islands. The lake is extremely deep and extremely clear, so I would lean over the rail, hoping something amazing would swim by.

4.        Why did you decide to become a writer? 

         I don’t know if I ever “decided” to become a writer. I always just wrote. I was writing stories when I was five. My dad would 
publish them on his office copier and I’d try to sell them in my neighborhood for a dime.

5.        I know you have 3 children and work full time so how do you 
find time to write during your busy day? 

        Yep, it’s tough. I don’t do much of anything else (like vacuuming). 
I tend to write on the weekends when I’m feeling more rested and 
creative.  I edit on weeknights because I still have enough brain left 
over after a work day to edit. I’m also part of a critique group, and that helps me be more efficient with the re-writing process.

6.        Lies Beneath is the beginning of a trilogy.  Can you tell us a little bit about 2nd and 3rd books in the series? 

         Sure. Book #2, Deep Betrayal, comes out March 12th. It is a continuation of the story but told from Lily Hancock’s point of view. It’s a bit of a murder mystery. Book #3, Promise Bound, comes out spring 2014. It’s told from Calder and Lily’s alternating points of view. Things get pretty messy . . . but the ending is hopeful.

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

        I love to read, but I go in spurts where I’ll read a ton for a month, then nothing for a couple months, then I dive back in. I’ve been influenced by Maggie Stiefvater.

8.        There is some beautiful poetry in Lies Beneath. Who is your favorite poet? 

         My favorite is Robert Frost, but the Victorians as a group have always been faves. Somehow they manage to be preoccupied with death without being downers.

      9.        What draws you to Lake Superior and why did you decide to use it as the back drop for Lies Beneath?  

        I love how ancient it is, and how cold, and deep, and . . . did I say cold? It’s a beautiful place, but it can also be super scary. The saying: “Lake Superior doesn’t give up it’s dead,” gave me a lot of inspiration.

     10.    Is there any truth to the Native American legends in your book regarding mermaids and Lake Superior? 

        A little. Most of that comes from the character of Jack Pettit, and he mixes up a lot of different things. There is a Lake Superior Manitou that the native people believed was the spirit of the lake, and the Passamaquoddy legend (which is from the northeast) is true.

11.    Tell us in one sentence why we should read Lies Beneath? 

        Lies Beneath takes a different approach than most YA novels in that it has a male point of view, the love story is not particularly tidy, and the mermaids are murderous, rather than girly.

Thanks Anne for taking the time to answer these questions.

If you would like to win a copy of Anne's book, Lies Beneath, please enter here:  Lies Beneath Giveaway

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix by J.K.Rowling

Harry Potter and the order of the Phoenix by J.K.Rowling

Harry Potter is in his fifth year at Hogwarts and this is the year of the dreaded OWLS (Ordinary Wizarding Level) examinations.  Everyone is worried they won't pass because there is a new professor in town, named Umbridge, who has decreed they cannot practice spells by orders of the Ministry of Magic.  Harry's been kicked off the Quidditch team and been forced to write, in blood, that he will not tell lies about You Know Who.

He keeps having weird dreams about a door at the end of a hall, Dumbledore won't talk to him and You Know Who keeps invading his mind.  Harry is sure he is going crazy.  Ron and Hermione are prefects,  Hagrid has been missing for months and life is topsy turvy at Hogwarts.  Umbridge and the Ministry refuse to believe that You Know Who is back and they are upsetting the status quo.  Harry has to learn to guard his mind while he teaches his friends the spells required to protect themselves and pass their OWLS.

Rowling has created another exciting adventure in the Order of the Phoenix.  The ending is fabulous as Rowling is now preparing her readers for the end of the series and the ultimate battle between Harry and Voldemort.  I enjoyed the addition of new characters like Luna Lovegood and Gawp.

For the past five years, I have read aloud one Harry Potter book a year to my kids.  After we read the book, we watch the movie together.  The Order of the Phoenix is a very long book at over 800 pages and it actually took me a full year to read it aloud.  To speed it up a bit in the middle, we rented the audiobook from the library and listened to parts of it as the audio version reads faster than I do.  I think the movie of the The Order of the Phoenix is not as good as the others.  My husband didn't read the book and he thought the movie was terrible.  Unfortunately, 800 plus pages stripped down to a two hour movie, missed a lot of important details.

So here is to starting book 6 and to hours of enjoyment while reading with my kids.  Thanks J.K. Rowling for creating a fascinating, imaginative story that all of us can enjoy.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cuba My Revolution

Cuba.  My Revolution by Inverna Lockpez & Dean Haspiel with Jose Villarrubia

Cuba, My Revolution opens on New Year's Eve, 1958.  Sonya is 17 years old and a supporter of Fidel Castro.  Batista is the current president of Cuba and the people feel betrayed by him.  Batista was supported by the Americans, he suspended the constitution, censored the media and was known for having his opponents tortured by the secret police.  In 1959, Batista flees Cuba in the middle of night and Fidel Castro comes to power.

Sonya immediately decides to become a doctor to support Castro and to put off her dream of being an artist.  She is in love with the revolution and the idea of change.  She hopes for justice, equality and a new era for Cuba.  What she gets is long hours at the hospital with dwindling supplies.  Then Sonya volunteers to work the front line of the war.  Here she becomes a victim to Castro's suspicions as she is arrested for helping a dying man, who was an enemy of the state.  Only her father can save her.

Sonya is a true revolutionary and you get a sense of her strong dedication to the cause she believes in.  Her friends and family leave Cuba as their rights dwindle and Sonya refuses to be swayed.  Sonya's transformation from a young, naive girl to a women, changed by politics, is poignant and memorable.  Sonya's story is based on Inverna's Lockpez's life and it teaches you about Cuba's history and people.

Dean Haspiel has drawn a work of graphic art that captures the heart of Cuba, it's people and the revolution that sparked hope and ended in dissolution.  Some of the art contains nudity and torture.  The whole book is drawn in black, white and red.  Red stands out against the background of black and white.  It's vivid, stark, powerful and unforgettable.

Cuba, My Revolution is a graphic novel that will help you to view the Cuban revolution from multiple perspectives.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Anne Greenwood Brown Guest Post + Giveaway

Anne Greenwood Brown Guest Post + Giveaway

Anne Greenwood Brown is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob this month and she has written a thoughtful post on what makes a hero.  Read on to learn more about Anne and her book Lies Beneath and her main character, Calder.
Welcome Anne!

What Makes a Hero?

When I first sat down to write LIES BENEATH, I struggled with the question of who my “hero” really was. Heroes have always been tough for me to write. I’m not sure why exactly, but it may be because I’ve never known one--at least, not in the traditional, save the universe kind of way. I finally decided that, for me, what’s most heroic is a quiet willingness to be self-sacrificing. Because if that’s the standard, isn’t that something we can all strive for?

When I think about my favorite literary heroes, I see self-sacrifice everywhere I look. Darcy sacrifices societal expectations for love in Pride & Prejudice. Katniss sacrifices her own safety for her sister’s in The Hunger Games. Harry Potter sacrifices his life for his friends’ lives.

This penchant for martyrdom is all well and good, but come on. None of us are 100% saintly, are we?  If we create a hero who is all about self-giving, don’t we end up with someone who’s just too good to believe, and maybe even too good to love?

One way to create hero characters who are more realistic and believable is to give them not just great virtue, but also a serious vice. Take a good hard look at yourself. What is the one thing that you wish you could change? What is the one thing you’re most embarrassed about? What’s your biggest sin? Giving your hero a flaw makes him/her not only more believable, but also more relatable to readers and--ultimately--more lovable. Think about it. Darcy is a snob. Katniss is aloof. Harry is reckless (and sometimes a little self-righteous, if you ask me).

In my novel, LIES BENEATH, the main character Calder White is an incredibly good looking sea creature who preys on unsuspecting humans. He certainly isn’t a hero in the traditional sense, and he doesn’t come in at the last second to rescue the damsel in distress. What he does do is set aside his own goals and desires for the sake of someone else’s happiness. Only when he does that does he shed the monster and become a man.

And my the test of a true hero.

Thanks Anne!
If you are interested in winning a copy of Anne's book Lies Beneath, enter here:  Lies Beneath Giveaway

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Easy Sexy Raw by Carol Alt

Easy Sexy Raw.  130 Raw Food Recipes, Tools, and Tips to Make You Feel Gorgeous and Satisfied by Carol Alt

I am a health nut and am obsessed with eating real, healthy food although I cheat once in awhile.    I always take my vitamins and try to exercise every now and then.  I am going through menopause and have discovered that I have to eat healthy or I won't feel good.  I will have horrible headaches, sleepless nights and a host of other symptoms.  In my quest to be healthier, I picked up Carol Alt's book Easy Sexy Raw.  I tend to feel the best when eating raw.

My biggest challenge to eating raw is that I tend to avoid green foods.  It's like a little phobia I have that holds me back.  What I have going for me is that I have a shake every day of fresh fruits.  So Carol Alt's book helped me make my diet a lot greener and healthier.  Every day I add a cup or two of spinach or leafy greens to my shake as well as a scoop of Spirulina or Green Vibrance.  This makes it super green.  At first I started with only one spinach leaf and when I couldn't tell the difference I added more.  So my shake gradually turned greener and now I am not grossed out by the color anymore (other people are, by the way).

Alt sets up her book to teach people all about food and what Raw really means.  She starts the book with a great introduction which explains how she decided to go on a raw food diet.  Guess what, you can eat a lot more than just salad and carrots.  Plus you don't need to go 100 percent raw, even 70 percent raw is good.  I decided to go raw for two meals a day and eat a regular cooked dinner with my family everyday.

The first chapter was the most valuable for me.  It's called Uncooked 101:  What you need to know to go raw.  This taught me so much about raw food.  Raw doesn't necessarily mean cold, it means not cooked over 115 degrees.  So get yourself a good kitchen thermometer to test your food.  Alt also introduced me to different gadgets, like Yonanas (this makes ice cream out of frozen bananas and other fruit, I love it!), a Dehydrator, a sprouter, a high speed blender ( I have the nutri-bullet and it's awesome) and more.  She even provides a A to Z shopping list which I found invaluable.

I also liked the recipes provided, there are about 130, but most of all I liked the little suggestions and the changes they brought to my life.  Did you know there are raw milk cheeses?  I didn't but I found some raw milk cheese at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's and my whole family loves them.  Never going back to regular cheese.

So if you want to make a change in your life, feel better, eat greener and gain some energy, give Carol Alt's book a try.  Raw really is easy!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan.  Art by Niko Henrichon

Pride of Baghdad is a stunning visual masterpiece about a pride of lions caught in the middle of a war.  Pride of Baghdad is based on a true story.  In 2003, four lions escaped their zoo enclosure when it was bombed by Americans during the Iraq war.  They were free to roam the city but they soon became lost, confused and surrounded by fighting.  The four lions struggled to survive on the bombed out streets during the war and ultimately become victims to fear and violence.

The artwork of Henrichon is hauntingly beautiful while the story is told from the perspective of four different lions,  three of them whom remember what freedom was like.  The experiences of the lions in Pride are a unique snapshot of what it is like to live in a country at war and mirror the experiences of those living in Baghdad.

Pride is a graphic novel that provides a unique expression of war and culture.  I have never read a book quite like this before.  I was drawn to Pride by the cover art and just couldn't stop reading.  The story and the artwork are both compelling.  Pride is political, anti-war and full of the evils of humanity but it is also full of the love of family and freedom.

Pair Pride of Baghdad with The Zookeeper's wife by Diane Ackerman for a great discussion in a book club, classroom or for multiple perspectives of what happens to zoo animals during war time.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Lies Beneath Giveaway

Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown Giveaway

Anne Greenwood Brown is the author in the spotlight here on Booksnob for the month of January.  She has agreed to give away 3 copies of her book, Lies Beneath to Booksnob followers who live in the United States.  Her 2nd book, Deep Betrayal will be released in March.

Here is the synopsis of Lies Beneath from GoodReads:

The lore of mermaids and mermen is real! As Gretchen McNeil, author of Possess, says, "Riveting! A cold-blooded tale of secrets, revenge, and forbidden love that will leave you terrified to go in the water."

Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans and absorb their positive energy. Usually, they select their victims at random, but this time around, the underwater clan chooses its target for a reason: revenge. They want to kill Jason Hancock, the man they blame for their mother's death.

It's going to take a concerted effort to lure the aquaphobic Hancock onto the water. Calder's job is to gain Hancock's trust by getting close to his family. Relying on his irresistible good looks and charm, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter Lily. Easy enough, but Calder screws everything up by falling in love--just as Lily starts to suspect there's more to the monster-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined, and just as the mermaids threaten to take matters into their own hands, forcing Calder to choose between them and the girl he loves.

One thing's for sure: whatever Calder decides, the outcome won't be pretty.

U.S. entrants only
Ends Jan 31 at midnight.
Good Luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 7, 2013

Reading Challenges for 2013

Reading Challenges for 2013.

Challenge #1.  Finish the Series
I decided to add a new challenge to my reading life.  The Finish the Series Challenge is for those of us who read book one or two in a series and then never get around to finishing it.  So I decided that if I finish at least one of the series this year I would be overjoyed.

I can't tell you how many series I start and never finish.  Ugh, I am a classic offender.  The series I most want to finish this year is River of Time Series by Lisa T. Bergren.

I am going to continue with all the challenges I did last year.  I notice that when I do a challenge I tend to be more conscious of what I read and tend to continue to pick up that type of book more often.

Challenge #2:  Pulitzer Prize
I am going to continue to read Pulitzer Prize winning novels.  I read six last year and I hope to accomplish at least that many prize winners this year.  It is harder than you think to stick to a prescribed reading list.  I am not going to create a new button.
I primarily read off the fiction and novel list but am open to non-fiction as well.  I have read about 18 books out of 85 so far on the fiction and novel list.    Wish me luck

Challenge #3:  War through the Generations

This year War through the generations is challenging readers to read books about the American Revolution.  I joined this challenge at the "dip" level and pledged to read 1-3 books about the American Revolution.  This is one challenge I am kinda worried about.  I don't have a lot of books on my shelves that take place during the revolution.  So if you have any ideas or books you love from this time period, please let me know.  This is my 2nd year participating in this challenge.

Challenge #4:  What's in a Name Challenge 6
What's in a Name challenge is so creative and fun.  I love looking for books titles that fit the theme.  It is hard and challenging for sure and I love to see what everyone places in each category.  This year the categories are:
1.  A book with up or down (or equivalent) in the title: Deep down True, The Girl Below, The Diva Digs up the Dirt
2.  A book with something you'd find in your kitchen in the title: Loose Lips Sink Ships, The Knife of Never Letting Go, Breadcrumbs
3.  A book with a party or celebration in the title: A Feast for Crows, A Wedding in Haiti, Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness
4.  A book with fire (or equivalent) in the title: Burning for Revenge, Fireworks over Toccoa, Catching Fire
5.  A book with an emotion in the title: Baltimore Blues, Say You're Sorry, Dreams of Joy
6.  A book with lost or found (or equivalent) in the title: The Book of Lost Fragrances, The World We Found, A Discovery of Witches

Challenge #5:  Where are you Reading?

This is a fun challenge where you keep track of where your books take place on a google map.  The challenge is to read one book from all 50 states and other countries are worth extra points.  I had so much fun last year tracking where I was reading and all the places I traveled to in my mind. I read books that took place in 5 Continents, 19 countries and 28 states.  Most of the books I read took place in Minnesota, no surprise there.

I am going to try and read consciously and choose books purposefully.

Who am I kidding?  Books choose me and I am not in control of what I read!

GoodReads:  I challenged myself to read 83 books this year which is one book more than I read in 2012.

What are your reading challenges??

Here is to a great reading year.  Cheers!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Fall to Grace Giveaway Winners

Fall to Grace Giveaway Winners!

Kerry Casey is giving away 5 copies of his book Fall to Grace to Booksnob readers and followers.  I am excited to announced the five winners are:

Ricki from MO
Marjorie from Ontario
Lisa from Michigan
Dana from New York

Congratulations Ladies!!  I hope you enjoy your new book!

Here is an excerpt from my book review of Fall to Grace:

Fall to Grace is full of entertaining characters that will make you thank God for the wonderful life you have.  There is an alcoholic priest, a beautiful widowed mother, a chain smoking overweight cop and a blind monsignor as well as two teenage boys that are almost too good to be true.  All combine to create a wonderful, heartfelt story that is sure to keep you turning the pages.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Best Books of 2012

Best Books of 2012!

In 2012, I read 82 books.  Yahoo!!  Here are the top 12 books I read in 2012.

1.  Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award in 2012 it is by far the best book I read last year.  It deserves to be read in high school and college classrooms all across the U.S.
Book Review:  Salvage the Bones

2.  Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an amazing memoir.  Ayaan has created a engaging memoir that takes you in the house and heart of a Muslim woman and her radical change that leads her to deny Islam's control of her life and become an Infidel.
Book review:  Infidel

3.  Looking for Alaska by John Green is a intelligent, brilliant novel for teens and adults alike.  It is a coming of age novel that is unique, daring and downright enjoyable to read.   From the first page to the last word, this book will have you quickly turning pages and savoring the unique moments.  I need to read more by this author.
Book Review:  Looking for Alaska

4.  Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier is a timeless Gothic masterpiece.  From the first famous sentence, "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.", to its last, Rebecca is unforgettable.  A book to read again and again.
Book Review:  Rebecca

5.  The Orchard by Theresa Weir is a powerful page-turning memoir.  From the very first page I was hooked and could not put the book down.  The Orchard is shocking, raw and true, and I will never look at another apple in the same way again.  I think every American should read this book.  Weir is a great writer.
Book Review:  The Orchard

6.  The Sandcastle Grils by Chris Bohjalian is difficult to read at times as the author doesn't hold back the horror of genocide during World War I.  Bohjalian's book is a necessary introduction to "The Slaughter you know next to nothing about." (The Armenian Genocide) His characters are human, flawed, and believable.  The book is timely as the hundred year anniversary of the genocide approaches in April, 2015.
Book Review:  The Sandcastle Girls

7.  Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver is mesmerizing and detailed and oh sooooo good.  The writing is exquisite, a electric mix of words blended together to form sentences that create a visual picture that is stunning.  Kingsolver captures the reader from the first page and holds their attention rapt until the reader flies on to their next book.  For a word lover, like me, Flight Behavior is just plain delectable.
Book Review:  Flight Behavior

8. Little Princes by Conor Grennan 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.
Book Review:  Little Princes

9.  Feed by M.T. Anderson is so good thatI can't stop thinking about this book.  It is like Feed is literally stuck in my head and everywhere I look I see people connecting to their hand held devices, their personal feeds.  The characters are not particularly likeable, except for Violet, and the futuristic teen speak is frustrating at times but Feed gets under your skin and into your brain and makes you think.
Book Review:  Feed

10.  Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland.  Vreeland has a gift for capturing the details of an era and the creativity of women whom history has hidden under the shadows of men.  Vreeland is a gifted storyteller who inspires and teaches her readers to love art and value women's history and our hard fought human rights.  The right to work, the right to vote, the right to create beautiful art and the right to be remembered in history.
Book Review:  Clara and Mr. Tiffany

11.  The Healing by Jonathon ODell.  Odell has created a novel that encompasses the power of healing, women and story.  He extensively researched African American midwives and listened to the oral histories of hundreds of slaves.  Odell has created a vibrant, memorable cast of characters, rich in the African American tradition.  As a white male writing from the black female point of view, he has created a believable, authentic historical novel.  
Book Review:  The Healing

12.  Wild by Cheryl Strayed is a memorable memoir that spoke to me on a deep level.  As a backpacker and hiker myself I related to the trials and tribulations of the trail.  Sore and blistered feet, a pack to heavy to carry, full of the things you think you will need.  Dry packaged food and the search for the water, the fear of bears, silence and wondering if your following the right trail.  The beauty of the wilderness, the extreme temperatures, reading in your tent and the satisfaction of conquering the trail against the physical odds.  Strayed captures it all in the pages of Wild.
Book Review:  Wild

Honorable Mention:  The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield is a page-turner that will keep the reader up late into the night.  You will feel love for the characters, anxiety at what is foreshadowed, joy for poetic justice and heartbreak at the evils all of us must endure, in a world that is not fair.  Clear a spot on your bookshelf because this book is a keeper.
Book Review:  The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

What are the best books you read last year??