Sunday, June 30, 2013

June Author in the Spotlight Wrap-up + Giveaway

June Author in the Spotlight Wrap-up + Giveaway

A Million Heavens Giveaway Ends at Midnight tonight.  Hurry and enter.

It is a beautiful day in Minnesota as June, my favorite month, is coming to a close.  I  finished the school year and turned another year older on the 24th.  I attended three weddings and danced the night away with my kids.  I also read a bunch of great books this month including A Million Heavens by June's Minnesota Author in the Spotlight, John Brandon.

Today is the last day to win a copy of A Million Heavens.  Enter the giveaway here:  A Million Heavens Giveaway

Next check out my book review of A Million Heavens.  It is set in New Mexico where is explores place, people and the connections we have with each other and the environment.  A Million Heavens is full of multiple perspectives, with a little love, arson, music and revenge thrown in.

A Million Heavens Book Review

Then check out my author interview of John Brandon.  John Brandon teacher at Hamline University (where I got my Master's degree).  Find out what books inspire him and how he became a writer.  Find out the backstory behind his book A Million Heavens and what are the issues he feels are integral to his book.

John Brandon Author Interview

It has been a pleasure to work with John Brandon this month and I would like to thank him for being June Minnesota Author in the Spotlight.  I met John Brandon at the Twin Cities Book Festival in October.  I saw his book A Million Heavens first and was drawn to the unique cover.  Then when I discovered he taught at my Alma Mater, Hamline University, I knew I had to read his book and I am so glad I did.

Goodbye Google Reader, Hello Bloglovin'

Follow on Bloglovin  Goodbye Google Reader, Hello Bloglovin'

Hi Everyone,

I want you to know that since Google Reader is sadly being discontinued TOMORROW, I have joined Bloglovin.  It is a great way to follow all your favorite blogs and it will quickly and easily transfer all your blogs in your google reader to Bloglovin' in one simple step.

I signed up yesterday and it is great.  It looks, feels and reads very similar to a Google reader.
Here is the link to sign up and transfer your blogs over.
You can even get an app for your phone.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Million Heavens by John Brandon

A Million Heavens by John Brandon

New Mexico.  Small towns.  Desert.  Connections.
Every Wednesday there is a vigil for Soren outside in the parking lot.

The Wolf
Is a loner. He makes his nightly rounds around town.  He observes the people and listens.  He is mysterious, always hiding and waiting in the background.

Soren's Father
My son lies in a coma.  The doctors don't know why.  He is perfectly healthy.  I took him to his first piano lesson that fateful day.  The piano teacher said he sat down and played.  He played an amazing original piece that last 15 seconds and then fainted.  I wonder if he will wake up?  I haven't been able to leave the hospital room.  I am confused and confined.

I attend the weekly vigils for that boy.  I'm a college student and I used to be a member of a band until the songwriter died.  His name was Reggie.  God, I miss Reggie.  I live with my mother who sits in a wheelchair all day and watches TV.  She cares more about her chickens than she cares about me.  My life is out of control.  I hate my job,  I am mad at the world and I want someone to suffer.

I died in a car accident.  I am stuck in the afterlife and I am not sure what to do.  I was a great songwriter and my band was successful.  I think I fell in love with the guitarist, Cecilia.  I am not sure what I am supposed to do here in Heaven.

I attend the weekly vigils with my boyfriend Arn.  I lied and told him I was in my 27 but I am really 33.  I recently got divorced and moved to New Mexico to get a new perspective.  California is just too overwhelming right now.  I'm trying to get pregnant but Arn doesn't know.  He is an easy going guy and nothing seems to bother him.  He loves bacon and our whole condo smells like it.  From the terrace I have a good view of the desert.

The Gas Station Owner
I work all day, every day including the weekends at my gas station.  I usually close at 9pm and head out back to drink a few whiskeys by myself while looking into the desert.  I've always been afraid of that damn desert.  Maybe I should get out there and challenge the desert to a duel.

Mayor Cabrera
Oh yes, I am the mayor of this broken down town, Lofte and hotel manager of the Javelina.  Tourists used to visit here but now the town is dying.  I only rent out, one to two hotel rooms a night.  It is kinda pathetic.  Since my wife died, I quit talking to her family.  I am in love with a professional woman who I visit once a month.  I need to make some changes in my life and make things right.

One State.  A group of people.  A wolf.  Connected by a place. Connected by an event.

BookSnob (me)
A Million Heavens is a novel of place, people and the connections they make.  It is intriguing and interesting how Brandon takes a group of seemingly average, unconnected people and darn it, makes you care about what happens to them in the end.  The characters are complex, the writing style is unique and the story is dark with rays of light shining through. A Million Heavens is full of multiple perspectives, with a little love, arson, music and revenge thrown in.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton Giveaway

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton Giveaway

TLC book tours and the publisher of The Execution of Noa P. Singleton have teemed up to offer Booksnob readers a free hardcover copy.  Yay!  This giveaway is open to residents in U.S./Canada  residents.  I recently reviewed this book and loved it.  It is a page turner.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

An unforgettable and unpredictable debut novel of guilt, punishment, and the stories we tell ourselves to survive

      Noa P. Singleton never spoke a word in her own defense throughout a brief trial that ended with a jury finding her guilty of first-degree murder. Ten years later, having accepted her fate, she sits on death row in a maximum-security penitentiary, just six months away from her execution date.
Seemingly out of the blue, she is visited by Marlene Dixon, a high-powered Philadelphia attorney who is also the mother of the woman Noa was imprisoned for killing. Marlene tells Noa that she has changed her mind about the death penalty and Noa’s sentence, and will do everything in her considerable power to convince the governor to commute the sentence to life in prison, in return for the one thing Noa is unwilling to trade: her story.
      Marlene desperately wants Noa to reveal the events that led to her daughter’s death – events that Noa has never shared with a soul. With death looming, Marlene believes that Noa may finally give her the answers she needs, though Noa is far from convinced that Marlene deserves the salvation she alone can deliver. Inextricably linked by murder but with very different goals, Noa and Marlene wrestle with the sentences life itself can impose while they confront the best and worst of what makes us human in this haunting tale of love, anguish, and deception.

Must be a resident of U.S. or Canada
Ends 7/13 at midnight
Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

John Brandon Author Interview + Giveaway

June Contest John Brandon Author Interview +Giveaway

 John Brandon is the June Author in the Spotlight on Booksnob this month and he has an written an excellent book called A Million Heavens that takes place in New Mexico.  Read on to learn the back story of his books and to find out where he currently teaches.  He also has some really great authors on his list of favorites. 

1.  Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida, where my family still lives.  I went to college at UF, and since then I’ve lived all over the country, in about a dozen different states.  I did an MFA at Washington University in St. Louis and then spent several years working in factories and warehouses before my first book, Arkansas, was published.  After Arkansas, I was awarded the Grisham Fellowship down at Ole Miss and then the Tickner Fellowship at Gilman School, in Baltimore.  Now I teach at Hamline University in St. Paul, permanently I hope.

  1. What is the inspiration behind your story “A Million Heavens”?
I always start with setting, and this novel was no different.  My wife and I lived in New Mexico several years ago and I always knew I’d use the place as a setting.  There was something mysterious and open about it.  I sat on it for a year or two and then started thinking about what I could do with the desert.  I knew this was my chance to involve magic and the mystical.  I knew I wanted to have a lot of characters all blowing around in the desert wind, some of them strongly connected, some barely connected at all.  Having a wolf character occurred to me.  I hadn’t written decent characters, good people, so that was new too.  Well, they’re decent compared to my previous characters, anyway.

  1.  Usually an author puts some of his own life experiences in the book.  Did you do that?  Do you have anything in common with your characters?
Some of Reggie’s childhood memories are my own, and some of Arn’s work experiences.  That’s probably about it.  Oh, and I had that job Cecelia has, where you go around and fix the A/V equipment.  I was as bad at it as she is.

  1. Why did you decide to become a writer?
This month's featured author is:The first time I wrote a story, as a sophomore in college, I knew it felt different than anything else I’d tried.  I found myself taking it seriously.  I’d been pretty good at sports as a kid, but I didn’t really care about it.  I wasn’t competitive like you’re supposed to be.  I was terrible at math and science, and not even particularly good at writing academic papers.  And then here was this thing I seemed to care about a lot, and I seemed pretty good at it.  In high school it didn’t occur to me that I could be a writer, but Gainesville had a bunch of them.  I figured if they could do it, maybe I could too.  

  1. Do you like to read?  What are some of your favorite books and authors?
Some of my favorites:  Tom Drury, Joy Williams, Padgett Powell, Barry Hannah, Charles Portis, Lewis Nordan, Mary Robison, Alice Munro.  I could name a lot more.  Denis Johnson.  Lorrie Moore.

  1. What are some of the issues that you feel are integral to your book?
Well, my idea while I was writing it was to make the narrative ride mimic real life.  So sometimes wild things happen and sometimes nothing happens.  Sometimes characters are strongly connected and sometimes they’re not connected at all.  Some endings are cornily happy and some are sad and some are sort of neutral or don’t feel much like endings at all.  I didn’t want each character to announce in their first sentence what their purpose in the book would be.  I didn’t want them to say, I’m so-and-so and John Brandon will be using me to fill the roll of, you know, whatever.  I wanted the characters to feel sort of found, and then as you go you see how their stories intersect or speak to each other.  Or how they don’t.  I wanted it to be a novel that didn’t read like a novel.

  1. What is the most important lesson/idea you want readers to take away from A Million Heavens?
No particular lesson.  I just want them to feel like they’ve been immersed in a world they’ve never been in before, that I’ve given them a thorough experience of my vision of the desert.

  1. I love the cover art on your book.  Did you get to choose the book title A Million Heavens and the cover art? 
My editor Eli Horowitz had a lot of say about the cover.  There are usually a few discussions at the beginning of the cover-art process that I’m privy to, during which they let me give input if I have any.  Usually I’m pretty eager to just hand it over to them and see what they come up with.  The same artist did all three of my covers, this guy Keith Shore.  I can take credit for one idea, but it isn’t on a cover.  In my novel Citrus County, on the page that says Part 1 there’s a spider, then on the page that says Part 2 the spider has moved down the page, then part 3 he’s moved even farther.  That was my idea.

As far as the title, my suggestion was The Dry Measures.  It got voted down, maybe because it was a little punny.  A Million Heavens comes from the book, something Cecelia says.  Eli picked it out and said it sounded like a title.
Minnesota Author Spotlight 
  1. How do you carve time out of your busy day to write?
It’s not easy.  I’m more a crack-of-dawn type than a midnight-oil type.  I get up early and sneak out of the house before the kids are awake.  Summers and Christmas Break are important, of course.  There’s no such thing as a weekend for me.  Whatever day I can write, I write.  I don’t treat Sunday any differently than Tuesday.  I’ll write on Christmas. 

  1. Tell us about your first and second books?
The first was Arkansas, which is a weird literary crime novel.  The second was Citrus County, which is a weird literary kidnapping novel.

  1. Are you currently working on a fourth novel?  Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I have an idea for a novel set back in Civil War times, but I’ve been too intimidated to start it.  This summer I’m fixing up short stories for a collection that will come out early next summer.

  1. Tell us in one sentence why we should read A Million Heavens?
Oh, I’m not much of a salesman.  If you like something different, something that finds its own way, you’ll probably like it.

Thanks John!!

If you would like to win a copy of A Million Heavens please enter here:  A Million Heavens Giveaway


Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver

Noa committed a capital crime and is sitting on death row in Pennsylvania. She has six months left until execution day.  She is out of appeals and has resigned herself to her fate.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the victim's mother, a lawyer, has formed MAD, Mothers Against Death, and has had a change of heart in Noa's case and wants to plead for Clemency.  Oliver is the lawyer working with Marlene Dixon trying to come up with any additional evidence in the case.  Noa is skeptical of Marlene's change in attitude "at the last minute" and doesn't believe she wants to help her at all but has some other motive.

Noa holds the secret of Sarah's death and refuses to tell anyone about it, including her defense.  During her trial, she withheld her testimony and didn't give her lawyers any significant help.  She talked her estranged father out of testifying on her behalf.  She has no friends, receives no visitors and is contemplating her last words and the events leading up to the fateful day, 10 years prior.

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton is a page turning thriller.  I finished it in 3 days.  Whatever side of
the Capital Punishment issue you favor, this book will have you thinking and re-thinking the American justice system.  Silver does an excellent job of detailing death row in a female maximum security prison and looking at the justice system from the eyes of the accused and convicted.  Silver does an excellent job of establishing doubt.

I thought this novel was smart, gritty, and so utterly believable that when you get to the ending you might want to scream.  The characters are complex, especially Noa and you know someone is not telling the truth.  Yet everyone's idea of truth and perspective is different and Silver knows how to play with perspective.

Final verdict:  I loved it.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Game for Swallows by Zeina Abirached

A Game for Swallows.  To Die, To Leave, To Return by Zeina Abirached

Zeina was born during the Lebanon Civil War in 1981.  The Civil War lasted from 1975-1990 and it divided the city of Beirut into East and West with the Christians living on the East side and the Muslims on the West side of the demarcation line.

In a Game for Swallows Zeina writes and draws about one particularly memorable day when she was little and living in an apartment near the demarcation line.  The streets were lined with metal barrels, with walls of sandbags and cinder blocks to act as shields from sniper bullets.  Zeina's parents regularly traveled the dangerous streets to visit her grandmother who lived a few blocks away.

Zeina, with her parents and little brother lived in a apartment in East Beirut.  The only room they used in the apartment was the foyer because it was the safest place.  They slept there, ate there and entertained other apartment dwellers there.  There is a taxi driver, a newly married couple with a pregnant wife waiting for their papers to emigrate to Canada, the old nanny, and a whole host of other interesting apartment dwellers.  Many of whom had suffered losses of family members and property.

A Game for Swallows is told in stark black and white artwork.  Each detail is so fine as the story is told minute by minute, hour by hour.  The facial expressions change in increments as Abirached captures wartime.  The reader learns what it is like to live in a war zone from a child's perspective.  No where to play, fearful for your family and scared of loud noises.  Living life in a tiny space called home that is filled with love and support from everyone in their apartment building.

I am always looking for graphic novels that have historical significance and take place in far away places.  I devoured A Game for Swallows and send out a cry to authors and artists for more book like this.  A Game for Swallows was so beautiful, realistic and ominous all at the same time.  I hope I never live in a place where war is a part of my daily life and I sincerely hope we find a cure for war so no one has to live the way Zeina Abirached has lived.

Right now there are 60 countries experiencing conflict.  Right now there are children in an apartment foyer hiding from sniper bullets, fearful for their parents.  

Let's find a cure for war.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

A data processor is part of an experiment.  He learns to separate his brain so that the right hemisphere doesn't know what the left hemisphere is doing. Told in alternating chapters the reader is along for a mind blowing experience.  Seriously.

Right Brain-
He enters a elevator in a cold office building in Tokyo.  He walks down a long hallway behind a pleasantly plump 17 year old in pink attire who voice is turned off.  Good thing he knows how to read lips.  He puts on galoshes, goggles and rain gear and enters a dark place with a loud waterfall and is warned to watch out for Inklings.  The bizarre professor meets him halfway and takes him to his office. He notices there are a lot of paperclips on the professors desk. The professor asks him to shuffle data and to be careful because "other" people want to steal this information.

Left brain-
He enters a place known as the End of the World.  Once you enter you can never leave.  The only way to enter the end of the world is to have your shadow cut off and removed.  Shadows are not allowed inside the walled city.  Reluctantly, he agrees to leave is shadow at the gate and enter the city.  Here he sees a herd of beautiful unicorns that enter the city at daybreak and leave at nightfall.  He becomes a dream reader and everyday visits the library where there are no books, only unicorn skulls.  He reads the skulls with the help of the librarian, who he is starting to fall in love with.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is a futuristic thriller with elements of American film culture, set to a Bob Dylan soundtrack.  It's like reading a book loaded with film noir. There are some amazing scenes that read like an action film, where the culture of the West meets the culture of the East.  Some scenes reminded me of The Goonies and Raider's of the Lost Ark and others reminded me of an episode of X-files.

When I started reading this book for book club, I was dreading it.  The cover sucks and is dull, I thought the book would be too and as I kept turning the pages faster and faster, I was left thinking, this book is awesome.  It is so deep and meaningful and the cover doesn't do this book justice.  Hard-boiled wonderland and the End of the World wins the award for the best named book in my world.
The characters are unique, entertaining and a little exaggerated.  You never learn the name of the narrator, or anyone else for that matter.  Their realities are all distorted, and they hide from the "real" world in their own ways.  My favorite character was the shadow.  It is so a creative idea to think of your shadow as a separate being with feelings and a mind of his own.  A shadow trying to save you from yourself.

Murakami is a genius and this book is highly inventive.  I was blown away by the author's creativity.  Hard-boiled wonderland is an instant classic and demands to be talked about and taken apart and examined.  This book doesn't fit neatly into a category.  It is a wild adventure through the two hemispheres of your brain.  It will fire you up, confuse you, leave you stunned and then have you begging for more, more, more.

I am kowtowing to Huruki Murakami.

Distorted reality anyone?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist.  10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

This little book is full of fabulous ideas on how to jump start your creativity.  Austin Kleon is an artist and in this book he shares ideas on how to live a creative life. Kleon gives advice on how to look at the world as an artist.  The first chapter starts with telling you to steal like an artist.  What does this really mean?  It means nothing is original anymore.  "All creative work builds on what came before." pg 7.  At first this thought made me uncomfortable and I realized it is because I am a teacher and hate when students cheat or copy.  Yet Austin Kleon gives "stealing" and "copying" a whole new meaning.  He says you should create a swipe file and put good ideas inside of it.  "there's only stuff worth stealing, and stuff that's not worth stealing.  Everything is up for grabs." pg. 6

"We learn by copying." pg.33  Every person learns by imitation and my mother always said, that the ultimate compliment is to have someone copy you.  Copying is not the same as plagiarism.  Copying according to Kleon is trying to figure out how something works.  "First you have to figure out who to copy.  Second, you have to figure out what to copy." "Who to copy is easy.  You copy your heroes." Pg. 35  By the end of the process you learn who you are and see things through a different lens.  Your own work then becomes influenced by your heroes.

Steal like an Artist is full of great artwork and inspiration and Kleon is right, no one ever told me these 10 things about being creative.  Kleon really makes you look at the world differently.  Yet he also gives practical advice that is worth hearing more than once, like don't quit your day job, stay of debt and marry well.I read this book one chapter at a time.  I could have easily devoured the book in one sitting but I wanted to savor it and let the lessons live in my brain for awhile so they could work their magic on me.

After reading Steal like an Artist, I am looking at the world differently with a creative edge.  I have already made small changes in my life and am making time in my day to be creative.  I plan to reread Steal Like an Artist often.

Check out this Ted Talk I found by Austin Kleon where he talks about the 10 Things No One Told You about Being Creative.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Free Audio Books from SYNC

Free Audio Books from SYNC

OMG I am so excited.  I found this website called SYNC audio books that is giving away two free audio books a week ALL SUMMER!  Each week you can download one Young Adult book paired with one Classic book.  The new week downloads begin on Thursdays.

Here is the line-up or schedule for the rest of the summer.

June 20 – June 26, 2013
Once by Morris Gleitzman, read by Morris Gleitzman (Bolinda Audio)
Letter From Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr., read by Dion Graham (christianaudio)

June 27 – July 3, 2013
Rotters by Daniel Kraus, read by Kirby Heyborne (Listening Library)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, read by Jim Weiss (Listening Library)

July 4 – July 10, 2013
Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford, read by Nick Podehl (Brilliance Audio)
She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith, read by a Full Cast (L.A. Theatre Works)

July 11 – July 17, 2013
The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann, read by Peter Altschuler (HarperAudio)
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, read by Simon Vance (Tantor Audio)

July 18 – July 24, 2013
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, read by Erin Moon (Recorded Books)
Hamlet by William Shakespeare, read by a Full Cast (L.A. Theatre Works)

July 25 – July 31, 2013
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen, read by Charlie McWade (Scholastic Audiobooks)
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, read by Steve West (Blackstone Audio)

Aug 1 – Aug 7, 2013
Death Cloud by Andrew Lane, read by Dan Weyman (Macmillan Audio)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Ralph Cosham (Blackstone Audio)

Aug 8 – Aug 14, 2013
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, read by Katherine Kellgren (Brilliance Audio)
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, read by Miriam Margolyes (Bolinda Audio)

Aug 15 – Aug 21, 2013
Sold by Patricia McCormick, read by Justine Eyre (Tantor Audio)
Let Me Stand Alone by Rachel Corrie, read by Tavia Gilbert (Blackstone Audio)

Don't miss out on this.
Go to

The books are easy to download on your computer, Ipad or phone with the Overdrive Media file or app.

I only wish I had found this website sooner.  OK, I am off to fold clothes with my new audio book playing in my ears.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dear Teacher/Love Teacher

Dear Teacher/Love Teacher

Dear Teacher, You change the world one sticky note, one scrap of paper, one note card and one heart at a time!  You are awesome! Love, Teacher

Dear Teacher is a new blog that I read everyday because it inspires me to be a better teacher and person.  Dear Teacher is on a two week break and she asked me to write a guest post or be her "Substitute teacher" on her blog for a day.  Today is the day!  I am so excited and thrilled to be a part of this amazing blog if only for a day and it is my first writing experience as a guest poster.

My guest post is on ways to chill, relax and rejuvenate over the summer so you can go back to school refreshed and ready to be a awesome teacher.  I know you are wondering if I included reading on this post and the answer is, Of Course, I did.  Go check out some of the books on my summer reading list.

Please go read my guest post and check out the amazing Dear Teacher blog at

Let me know what you think.
Oh and please pass this on to all the teachers you know out there that need a little pick me up.
Have a wonderful, awesome, thoughtful, super, relaxing day!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Steve Jobs: Genius by Design by Jason Quinn

Steve Jobs: Genius by Design by Jason Quinn and illustrated by Amit Tayal

Steve Jobs was adopted in 1955 by Paul and Clara Jobs.  He grew up in California an inquisitive child, full of energy and willfulness.  He was stubborn and knew what he wanted out of life and let no one stop him.  Steve had a lot of creative energy and friends and family who believed in his ideas.  He could have taken many wrongs turns and ended up a penniless hippie, but his strong will to persevere won out.

Steve's friend, Woz, created the first personal computer and Steve was the brains behind the business.  They ended up starting the Apple company together in Steve's parent's garage.  Steve always demanded perfection and he was a bit hot headed.  As Apple grew some people refused to work with him.  He was technically fired from the company he created.  So he decided he would create another company called NEXT and he would compete with Apple. NEXT and Apple became huge rivals.  Steve's NEXT company owned Pixar and created the first computer animated move called TOY STORY.

Steve knew he was going to change the world and so he did.  He didn't do it alone, he had help along the way and he knew how to lean on his friends for support.  This graphic novel biography of Steve Jobs was very informative and interesting.  I learned a lot about the type of man Steve was and the creative genius he brought to his projects.  When I started reading this book I had no idea who Steve was or what he accomplished besides the basics of being an Apple CEO.

The Artwork is very well-done.  The size of the book is equal to the size of an Ipad and it even looks like an Ipad.  Inside the artwork is done simply with black and soft colors.  Each panel is surrounded in black.  Steve is captured perfectly in every decade of his life.

Steve Jobs is not presented as the god of technology, he is presented as human in the book.  This biography details each decade of Steve's life including the high and low points of his life, including some of the mistakes he made, presented in the book.

You know it is really interesting to learn about a product or a companies history when you are a person who has used this type of product for awhile.  As a owner of an Ipod, an Ipad, an Iphone and a Mac computer, this was really cool for me to read about.  We are definitely a Apple product using family and knowing the history behind this company is valuable to me.  I never thought I would read a book about Steve Jobs and like it but that is what happened.  Now I am passing the book onto my son and then my daughter because I know they will like it to.

Steve Jobs thought differently and I wanted to include his words in this post.  He created the Think Differently campaign for Apple in the 1990's so below you can hear Steve narrate a commercial in the campaign.  It is very moving and makes me want to get out there and let my creativity flow.

Steve Jobs thank you for your creations.  You have made the world a better place.

"Here's to the crazy ones.
The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes.
The ones who see things differently.
They're not fond of rules.
And they have no respect for the status quo.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.
About the only thing you can't do is ignore them.
Because they change things.
They push the human race forward.
And while some may see them as the crazy ones,
we see genius.
Because the people who are crazy enough
to think they can change the world...
are the ones who do."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Buzz. A Memoir by Katherine Ellison

Buzz.  A Year of Paying Attention.  A Memoir by Katherine Ellison

Katherine Ellison has ADHD and so does her oldest son, Buzz.  She is married and extremely busy, disorganized and frazzled like most ADHD moms, me included.  Buzz is 12 and is seemingly out of control.  He has no friends, he tells his mom he hates her, he constantly picks fights with his younger brother Max.  Katherine wonders where she went wrong and how she is going to survive motherhood, as Buzz moves through junior high and high school.  So she makes a plan to pay attention to paying attention for a whole year.

Katherine with her son Buzz in tow, set out to investigate ideas and solutions that will help them to reconnect and find a way to be less angry, less distracted and more in tune to their brains and how they operate.  In Buzz, A Year of Paying Attention, Ellison investigates medicine, meditation, brain scans, Neurofeedback and more.  She drives and flies with her son to many different locations to learn all they can about ADHD.  ADHD is a work in progress.  It doesn't effect any one person in exactly the same way and so what works for one person, may or may not work for another.  It is important to explore ALL your options.

As a mother who has ADD and two kids with ADHD, I found this book to be extremely valuable.  Ellison and I have a lot in common and it was helpful for me to read that some of what she goes through is just as horrible as what I go through.  Ellison made me feel validated and that it is OK to be a work in progress as a parent.

For years, I have been against medicating my kids.  I worry and as Ellison points out, a lot of parents worry about medicating their kids.  It is not a decision to take lightly. That being said, my husband has been pushing to medicate our kids.  After reading Ellison's book, I am willing to give it a try with limitations.  So we will probably take the step when school starts in the fall with a two week trial.

I wish that insurance covered more than just medication for ADHD.  I continue to dream about a day when kids go to a school that is active, where kids can control their own learning and not remain seated in a desk all day.  Where educators facilitate and not have to give test after test or can choose to do something creative over reading the paragraph and answering the questions.  Schools should be a place where all kids can succeed, not just the "good" kids.

Ellison's book is great for parents of kids with ADHD.  Please read it.  She tries a lot of different methods and solutions (some are very expensive) so we don't have to.  She rules out what doesn't work and shares all the information available in her research in the pages of Buzz.  As a parent I found it vey valuable and of course it is helping me on my own parenting journey.

My advice and Katherine Ellison's advice is to keep trying.  Never give up on your kids.
So I will continue to search for what is best for my kids and continue to read books about ADHD.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Arn Chorn-Pond is eleven years old when the Khmer Rouge soldiers roll into his Cambodian town.  They have won the revolution and have plans to make the entire country equal.  They start by evacuating Arn's city saying the Americans plan to bomb it.  They march everyone out of the city for days, with little food and water.  People begin falling down and dying of dehydration and bullet wounds.  "In just one day people can get use to seeing dead body." pg. 22

When Arn and his family arrive in the countryside first they are stripped of their clothes and everyone must wear the same set of black pajamas.  Then their hair is cut short, including the girls.  Next they take away their possessions, saying that all belongs to Angka (the ruling body of the Khmer Rouge), every pot, pan, bowl and spoon.  Then they take away their names.  Everyone must be addressed by Comrade.  "Now all of us, we live as equal, no rich, no poor." pg 31  Then they separate the families.  Children are removed from their parents, men are separated from women.  Angka is their family now.  Everyday they are made to work in the fields to produce rice as their rations of food become less and less.

Arn is exposed to death every day and the only thing that keeps him alive is the music he plays for the soldiers and the friendships he’s made.  Eventually Vietnam invades Cambodia and Arn is thrown into the role of child soldier.

At the beginning of Never Fall Down, it is hard to read about the violence and atrocities being committed in the Cambodian genocide.  Towards the middle, the violence lessens as Arn makes his journey out of the work camp.  For some people this book will be hard to read, the violence too much to bear.  If Arn can live it, the least I can do is read it.  It is important as a reader to read the stories of those who have lived through extraordinary circumstances and to give weight and meaning to what they endured, experienced and lived through.  Sometimes the most difficult stories are the ones that inspire us, encourage us and make us aware of what happens around the world.

This is the third book I have read by Patricia McCormick and I eagerly awaited it’s release.  McCormick is a writer who tells a difficult story with grace and ease.  She educates her readers about issues that are central to problems going on in the world today.  Never Fall Down educates us about the history of Cambodia and teaches us that we must never give up hope that if we fall down, someone, somewhere will help.  We must always be willing to help those in need and to keep hope alive.

Never Fall Down is based on the REAL LIFE of Arn Chorn-Pond.
Here is Patricia McCormick and Arn Chorn-Pond in a short video clip about the book and Cambodia.

You can find more information about Arn and the amazing life he has led since 1979 at his website

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Book Club: The Year of the Gadfly

Book Club:  The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller

Beginning on May 28th (I know I'm a little late) and running through July 10th, debut author Jennifer Miller will participate in a special virtual book club on, a website for women who love to read. Miller will interact with site visitors and chat about her debut novel, The Year of the Gadfly, and she will conclude the club with a special live online chat on July 10th at 6:00 p.m. ET.

Those interested in taking part in the book club can do so by visiting the Shelf Pleasure forum and following the “Summer 2013 Book Club” conversation thread found on their home page. Readers can also participate in the live chat with Miller at the conclusion of the book club on July 10th at 6:00 p.m. ET by RSVPing here.

I met Jennifer at the Twin Cities book fair in October, 2012 and she is bright, bubbly and full of energy and bright ideas.  She sells her books at a novelade stand that she created and gives out free cookies to those who buy a book.  For this book club through ShelfPleasure, she plans to visit 100 book clubs in
30 days so hurry and go sign up.

I thought you would want to know.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Million Heavens Giveaway

A Million Heavens by John Brandon Giveaway

John Brandon is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for the month of June and he is giving away around 5 copies of his novel, A Million Heavens to Booksnob readers.  I love the cover of this book and I'm not sure how to accurately describe the feel of the book.   A Million Heavens has a cloth-bound cover and there is no dust jacket, making this hard cover book unique.  This giveaway is open to residents of the United States and will end the last day of June.  Good Luck.

Here is the synopsis from Good Reads:

On the top floor of a small hospital, an unlikely piano prodigy lies in a coma, attended to by his gruff, helpless father. Outside the clinic, a motley vigil assembles beneath a reluctant New Mexico winter—strangers in search of answers, a brush with the mystical, or just an escape. To some the boy is a novelty, to others a religion. Just beyond this ragtag circle roams a disconsolate wolf on his nightly rounds, protecting and threatening, learning too much. And above them all, a would-be angel sits captive in a holding cell of the afterlife, finishing the work he began on earth, writing the songs that could free him. This unlikely assortment—a small-town mayor, a vengeful guitarist, all the unseen desert lives—unites to weave a persistently hopeful story of improbable communion.


Open to U.S. residents only
Ends 6/30 at midnight
Good Luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, June 7, 2013

This Isn't Normal Giveaway Winners!

This Isn't Normal Giveaway Winners!!

School is out for the summer!  OK, I had a busy, busy, busy last week but it is done and I am ready for summer and reading.  This was a difficult school year for many reasons and it was also the anniversary of my 20th year as a teacher.  I can't believe I have been teaching this long already.  WOW.

Back to books.  M.R.Tain and his publisher are generously giving away 5 copies of the book This Isn't Normal to Booksnob followers.  I am excited to announcing the winners of this entertaining, time travel, young adult novel.  So without further adieu, here are the winners.  Drum roll please....

Bea from the Philippines
Zemira from Bosnia and Herzegovina
Kristia from Cyprus
January from Canada
Jean from

Congrats everyone.  Enjoy your new book.

Here is excerpt from my book review.
Tain does an excellent job of taking a typical teenage girl and transforming her into a thoughtful, Christian young woman.  Tain captures the year of 1965 and the whole experience of Karla's time travel is very believable.  Tain creates a snapshot of two different years 1965 and 2005, existing 40 years apart and juxtaposes the two different time frames extremely well.  It was quite fascinating.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Announcing the June Author in the Spotlight

Announcing the June Author in the Spotlight

Happy June to everyone who has been waiting for the summer months to arrive.  June is my favorite month of the year.  School ends and I turn another year older.

I have three more days left of the school year, tons of papers still to grade, a classroom room to clean and pack and I am looking forward to some down time.  I'm invited to three weddings this month and I plan to start my summer by relaxing at the beach and jumping on my trampoline, if it ever warms up that is.  I also plan to read A LOT.  One of the books I plan to read is A Million Heavens by John Brandon, June's Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob.

John Brandon has written three books.
A Million Heavens (synopsis from Goodreads):

On the top floor of a small hospital, an unlikely piano prodigy lies in a coma, attended to by his gruff,
helpless father. Outside the clinic, a motley vigil assembles beneath a reluctant New Mexico winter—strangers in search of answers, a brush with the mystical, or just an escape. To some the boy is a novelty, to others a religion. Just beyond this ragtag circle roams a disconsolate wolf on his nightly rounds, protecting and threatening, learning too much. And above them all, a would-be angel sits captive in a holding cell of the afterlife, finishing the work he began on earth, writing the songs that could free him. This unlikely assortment—a small-town mayor, a vengeful guitarist, all the unseen desert lives—unites to weave a persistently hopeful story of improbable communion.

Citrus County (Synopsis from Goodreads):

There shouldn’t be a Citrus County. Teenage romance should be difficult, but not this difficult. Boys like Toby should cause trouble but not this much. The moon should glow gently over children safe in their beds. Uncles in their rockers should be kind. Teachers should guide and inspire. Manatees should laze and palm trees sway and snakes keep to their shady spots under the azalea thickets. The air shouldn’t smell like a swamp. The stars should twinkle. Shelby should be her own hero, the first hero of Citrus County. She should rescue her sister from underground, rescue Toby from his life. Her destiny should be a hero’s destiny.

Arkansas (Synopsis from Goodreads):

Arkansas is a biting first novel full of wet T-shirt contests, illicit drugs,
and cross-country road trips. There are the days: the dappled grounds, the aimless yardwork, the hours in the booth giving directions to families in SUVs. And then there are the nights: crisscrossing the South with illicit goods, the shifty deals in dingy trailers, the vague orders from a boss they've never met. Before Kyle and Swin can recognize how close to paradise they are in this neglected state park in southern Arkansas, the lazy peace is shattered with a shot. Night blends into day. Dead bodies. Crooked superiors. Suspicious associates. It's on-the-job training, with no time for slow learning, bad judgment, or foul luck.

This month at Booksnob you can expect a contest, author interview, book reviews and so much more.  Stick around because June is going to be a great month on Booksnob.  So get busy and start reading!
Happy June!