Friday, January 31, 2014

January Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up + Giveway

January Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up + Giveway.

The giveaway for The Fallout ends at midnight tonight!!  Hurry and Enter!  Find the link below.

It is time to say Goodbye to the coldest January of my entire life.  We had 5 days of school off this month due to extreme cold.  It was crazy cold here in Minnesota.  I traveled to New York City this month and had a blast with a group of teachers from around the United States.  My dog got super sick when I returned and went to the vet four times in 1 week.  He is finally feeling better.

Join me in saying goodbye to January's Author in the Spotlight, S.A. Bodeen.

If you would like to win a copy of The Fallout by S. A. Bodeen, please enter here:  The Fallout Giveaway

Please check out my book review of The Compound.  Bodeen has written a thriller that slowly unfolds to reveal a shocking situation in The Compound.  The Compound is a compelling and intriguing page turner.  Once I started reading The Compound I couldn't stop and devoured it in just 2 days.  The Compound is a book that will make you fall in love with its characters and then slowly cause you to question their trustworthiness and question all you know.

The Compound Book Review

Please check out my book review of The Fallout.  The Fallout is a riveting conclusion to The Compound.  The story line begins right where The Compound left off.  The Fallout is the story of a very rich family whose patriarch thinks he can do anything because he has money and is privileged.  The plot is fast moving and full of twists and turns and plenty of What?! and No!?* and OMG!

The Fallout Book Review

Please read the author interview with S. A. Bodeen.  I posed a few questions about her Young Adult books, The Compound and The Fallout.  I just found out that we graduated from the same college with the same degree in secondary education.  S.A. Bodeen shares the back story behind her books, tells about how she became a writer, shares information about her new book and more.

S.A. Bodeen Author Interview

Please read S.A. Bodeen's Guest Post.  She has written a guest post about why writers need to hear the word no.

S.A. Bodeen Guest Post

It has been my pleasure to work with S.A. Bodeen this month and I would like to thank her for being the January Minnesota Author in the Spotlight.  I met Stephanie at the Twin Cities Book Festival in October and I was interested in all the great young adult books she has written.  I'm looking forward to reading a lot more entertaining books from S.A. Bodeen.  I'm so glad I was able to feature S.A. Bodeen on my BookSnob.  Check out her books at her websites; or

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Fallout by S.A. Bodeen

The Fallout by S.A. Bodeen

Eli and his family have just gotten out of The Compound where they lived for six years, thinking the world had suffered a nuclear attack.  Eli's father, one of the richest men on earth, tricked the family into a experiment they didn't know they were a part of.  The father didn't make it out alive.  Now they just want to forget and live normal lives.

Eli feels like a freak and is having trouble trusting people.  He feels like he is paranoid yet he has caught people following them.  His twin brother, Eddy, just wants to have fun and his sister, Lexie is crying all the time.  The family is slowly falling apart and their multi-million dollar company is being run by their insane father's trusted man, Phil.  Yikes.

The Fallout is a riveting conclusion to The Compound.  The story line begins right where The Compound left off.  The Fallout is the story of a very rich family whose patriarch thinks he can do anything because he has money and is privileged.  The plot is fast moving and full of twists and turns and plenty of What?! and No!?* and OMG!  It is story that takes you on a wild rollar coaster ride.  Buckle up, cross your fingers and wear your helmet.  Oh and seriously Don't Trust Anyone!  You never know what characters you can trust and I love that!

This is a great book series for Middle and High schoolers.  A quick paced, plot driven story that will  shock them a bit and get them thinking.  Great for boys!!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

S.A. Bodeen Author Interview + Giveaway

S.A. Bodeen Author Interview + Giveaway

S.A. Bodeen is the January Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob and so I posed a few questions about her Young Adult books, The Compound and The Fallout.  I just found out that we graduated from the same college with the same degree in secondary education.  S.A. Bodeen shares the back story behind her books, tells about how she became a writer and more.  Read on to find out more.

Hi Stephanie,

1.  Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, graduated from UW-River Falls with a degree in secondary education, and was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania. I started trying to get published in the 90’s, when I was a stay-at-home mom in Fergus Falls, MN. My first picture book, Elizabeti’s Doll, was inspired by my Peace Corps experience and won the Minnesota Book Award in 1999.

  1. What inspired you to write The Compound and The Fallout? I grew up during a period of serious nuclear proliferation, and nuclear war was one of my childhood fears. I was always fascinated by books and movies about the topic, and decided to write my own story about it.

   3.  Can you tell us why or when you decided to become a writer?  I always wrote when I was young, loved making up stories. In 8th grade I won a creative writing contest with a sci-fi story, and that kind of gave me the itch to be a writer. I really didn’t start it seriously until I was thirty.

4. Usually an author puts some of his own life experiences in the book.  Did you do that?  The only novel that has a bit from my life is The Raft. We spent a few years living out on Midway Island, and had to take a tiny plane out there, often over nothing but dark and water below. For The Raft, I put my main character on that flight to Midway and crashed it halfway there. The setting for that book is completely from my memory of that time.

  1.  Do you have anything in common with your characters? Other than some hobbies or small things, not really.

  1.  Tell us a little bit about the other books you have written. I mentioned The Raft already, and my other YA novel is The Gardener, which is a bit more science fiction than The Compound. In July, the first book of my middle grade series Shipwreck Island comes out. And then in 2015, my next YA novel, The Detour, will come out. That one is about a best-selling teenage author who goes missing.

  1.  Do you like to read?  What authors or books influence you? I love to read. Would rather do that than anything else, which has always gotten me into trouble. Stephen King was a big influence, love his non-fiction book On Writing.

  1. How do you carve time out of your day to write?  Are you a full time writer or do you have a day job? Other than school visits or speaking at conferences, I am at home writing. My kids are both in college, so I have no problem making the time to write.

  1. Do Fallout shelters or compounds really exist in our world to protect us from nuclear chemicals? Yes, in varying forms. I researched them for both books, and there are definitely people who’ve gone to the trouble of making them. Take a look at Doomsday Preppers and you’ll see what I mean.

  1. Why do you write under the initials of S. A. instead of using your full first name? When they did the first cover, they thought it was very sinister, but the feminine name on the front detracted from that. So we went with my initials instead.

  1.  In one sentence tell readers why they should read your books, The Compound and The Fallout? They are page-turners that will keep you wondering what happens next…

Thanks Stephanie.

If you would like to win a copy of The Fallout please enter here:  The Fallout Giveaway

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Star for Mrs. Blake Giveaway

A Star for Mrs. Blake Giveaway

Want to win a copy of this wonderful book?
April Smith, along with Knopf, her publisher and TLC book tours are generously giving away one copy of A Star for Mrs. Blake to a Booksnob follower who lives in the United States.

Here is a link to my book review:  A Star for Mrs. Blake

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

An emotionally charged, brilliantly realized novel set in the 1930s about five American women-Gold Star Mothers-who travel to France to visit the graves of their World War I soldier sons: a pilgrimage that will change their lives in unforeseeable and indelible ways.

The women meet for the first time just before their journey begins: Katie, an Irish maid from Dorchester, Massachusetts; Minnie, wife of an immigrant Russian Jewish chicken farmer; Bobbie, a wealthy Boston socialite; Wilhelmina, a former tennis star in precarious mental health; and Cora Blake, a single mother and librarian from coastal Maine. In Paris, Cora meets a journalist whose drug habit helps him hide from his own wartime fate-facial wounds so grievous he's forced to wear a metal mask. This man will change Cora's life in wholly unexpected ways. And when the women finally travel to Verdun to visit the battlegrounds where their sons fought as well as the cemeteries where they are buried, shocking events-a death, a scandal, a secret revealed-will guarantee that Cora's life and those of her traveling companions will become inextricably intertwined. Only now will they be able to emerge from their grief and return home to their loved ones. This is a timeless story set against a footnote of history: little known but unforgettable.

Contest Rules:
Fill out the form
U.S. residents only
Ends 2/12 at midnight
Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

2014 marks the 100 year anniversary of World War I.  In 1917-18, the Americans entered the war, toward the end, to support the allies and defeat the Germans.  116, 516 American soldiers were killed and paid the ultimate sacrifice.  30, 000 soldiers were buried overseas in American cemeteries.  In 1929, the U.S. Congress voted to send U. S. mothers overseas to visit their sons' graves in France.  6,693 mothers made the trip.

A Star for Mrs. Blake takes on a little known piece of history and brings it to life.  Cora Blake is from a small fishing town in Maine and her only son, Sam lost his life during WWI.  In February 1931, Cora receives a letter from the U.S. Government inviting her on a trip to France to visit the grave of her son, buried near Verdun.

Five women join Cora's group, known as Party A, and they travel together by ship to Paris, bonded by the loss of their sons. Each woman harbors their own secret pain as they journey to see the final resting place in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery.  They are accompanied by an Army nurse, named Lily and Lieutenant  Thomas Hammond.  Once they reach France, their pilgrimage is anything but ordinary.

April Smith has created a beautiful, heartfelt novel that will make you question war and its inevitable consequences.  The characters are sweet and compelling and will make you keep turning the pages.  The shadow of a future war is upon them as they tour a country still re-building itself.  Smith has written a well rounded novel of the horrors of WWI without actually writing a novel about WWI.  A Star for Mrs. Blake takes place between the World Wars and in my opinion is extremely well written and is a reminder and a cautionary tale for mothers everywhere.

A Star for Mrs. Blake moved me to tears.  Tears for the boys we have lost and for the mothers who miss them.

S.A. Bodeen Guest Post + GIveaway

S. A. Bodeen Guest Post + Giveaway

S.A. Bodeen is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on BookSnob for the coldest January in history (that I can remember).  Good grief we have had school canceled 4 days this month due to frigid temps.  Needless to say, I am getting a lot of reading and writing in this month.  S. A. Bodeen recently moved to the area and has written a guest post about why writers need to hear the word no.

S. A. Bodeen's Guest Post

Writers Need to Hear NO

If I had to come up with the question I am most asked, it would have to be “What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a writer?” I think we’ve all heard about every answer possible to this one:  “Write a lot. Find someone to look at your work that you trust. Read a lot.” But I’m about to offer a new piece of advice, one that actually came to mind while watching American Idol the other night. (Yes, after NOT watching last year, I’m giving it another try this year. Don’t judge.)
At the end of the audition show, after a few people—singers convinced they were chocked with talent—showed us that they were not as gifted as they thought, Keith Urban did a brief confessional. He said that, too often, aspiring singers surrounded themselves by people who told them YES ,which did nothing to help them grow. In effect, he said that aspiring singers needed to find themselves someone who would tell them NO.
And I agree, because it totally applies to writing. When did I start working harder on my novel writing? When my agent sent me a box of four novels I had sent him, along with a letter saying, in
effect, NO. Sure, I then quit for half a year, because being told NO is hard to hear. But that word also got me to think about why my writing wasn’t working. So when I started writing again, I knew I needed to work harder on getting better. If my agent had said YES to those novels—which, BTW, sucked BIG TIME, and will never be published—I would not be a published novelist today. His negative responses to my work, along with all those rejection letters I got over the years, are the reasons there are novels out there with my name on them. I think writers must hear NO before they can truly believe when someone tells them YES.

S. A. Bodeen's latest novel is The Fallout.  The Fallout is the riveting sequel to The Compound.  If you would like to win a copy of The Fallout please enter here:  The Fallout Giveaway

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Compound by S. A. Bodeen

The Compound by S. A. Bodeen

The world suffers a nuclear attack and Eli and his family are rushed into The Compound late one night, leaving behind Eli's twin brother Eddy and his grandma.  Eli's father happens to be one of the richest men on earth and has created The Compound as a safe place for his family of 6 to live safely underground for 15 years.  He has thought of everything, an abundance of food, clothing supply through the years, all their favorite things in their own replica underground bedroom.

They have been living underground for six years and boredom, and despair are setting in.  Eli's father is acting strange, everyone wants out, their food supply is dwindling and their father has begun experimenting with a different food source known as the supplements.  Eli wonders if things are OK in the world now and if they could safely leave.  Except here is no internet, or phone and they are locked in by a special code.

Bodeen has written a thriller that slowly unfolds to reveal a shocking situation in The Compound.  The Compound is a compelling and intriguing page turner.  Once I started reading The Compound I couldn't stop and devoured it in just 2 days.  The Compound is a book that will make you fall in love with its characters and then slowly cause you to question their trustworthiness and question all you know.

The Compound is thought provoking.  It made me really think about what I would do in a nuclear situation. Obviously I don't have a underground compound but I also don't have a plan for a disaster of huge proportions like this.  This is probably because I'm not paranoid but I'm also skeptical that something like a nuclear attack would ever happen.  Maybe I'm just in denial.  This is scary to think about.  Do you have plans for a nuclear attack?

Bodeen does a great job of creating suspense.  I can't wait to read the sequel!  The Fallout, here I come.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
Audio Book Review
Narrated by Erik Singer & Randy Pausch
4 hrs and 39 mins

Randy Pausch was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon when he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.  He was married with 3 children and was looking forward to a long life of watching his children grow up.  As he neared the end of his fight with cancer, Randy decided to give his "last lecture" at Carnegie Mellon on "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams".

The Last Lecture series is a right of passage for professors who imagine the end of their life and the lessons they want to impart to a large audience, except for Randy didn't need to imagine coming to the end of his life.  He was already there.

These are Randy's childhood dreams:
*Being in zero gravity
*Playing in the NFL
*Authoring an article in the World Book Encyclopedia
*Being Captain Kirk
*Winning stuffed animals
*Being a Disney Imagineer

The Last Lecture is not about dying although it does figure into the book.  The Last Lecture is about truly living and following your dreams.  Randy's lecture is heart-warming and inspirational.  As a teacher, I learned some things to try in my classroom.  Randy really had me thinking a lot about my life and how to live it to the fullest degree and actually achieve my own childhood dreams.

This was a fabulous audio book.  I loved it.  The Last Lecture is meant to be auditory and listened to as a speech (or a lecture). The narrator was great and I felt like I was sitting in the audience at Carnegie Mellon.  You will laugh and you will cry and you will walk away from this book a better person for having listened to it.  I think I may need to listen to this every year.

The only difference I can see between the book and the audio version is that the book contains pictures of Randy with his family.

Randy Pausch died on July 25th, 2008.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lit Collective: An Online Reading Retreat

Lit Collective: An Online Reading Retreat

In October every year I attend a reading retreat and read several books around a theme and then get together with a group of wise women from across the country to discuss these books in person.  It is an amazing experience.

One day I was talking online with some of my blogging friends Michelle from The True Book Addict and Heather from Between the Covers and mentioned my retreat.  They wanted to create one that is similar and we decided that we should have a online reading retreat around a theme and talk about these books and the theme on our blogs for a month.  We wanted to open this experience up to other bloggers and readers and thus The Lit Collective was born.  

You are invited to join us this March 2014 as we read 5 books around the theme of WWI.  It is the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of World War One this year.  

Here are the books we will be reading and discussing:
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
The Gendarme by Mark Mustian
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm by Juliet Nicolson

Here is where you can sign up to be an official member of the group on GoodReads:

I hope you will join us.
I am looking forward to this online reading retreat and discussing these books with all of you.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas is a uniquely written book.  It tells the stories of six individuals in different time periods from the 1850 to far into the future.  Each story is loosely connected to the others and each story has an element of it that survives for another to find.  It is probably the most unique and original book I have ever read.  The stories of the novel end abruptly and reach a crescendo in the middle of the book and then the individual stories are finished in reverse order.  Ending the book with the same of the same individual whose story started Cloud Atlas.  It's kind of hard to explain so I hope it makes sense.

David Mitchell plays around in Cloud Atlas with style and genre as well as with the language and characters.  This may frustrate some readers but its effect is dazzling and interesting.  The movie of Cloud Atlas enhanced the book for me and I was able to make more connections.  Cloud Atlas is a literary puzzle and you the reader must put it together in your mind.

I've had Cloud Atlas sitting on my shelf for about 9 years because I bought it when it came out in paperback.  I finally made the attempt to read and finish this unique and puzzling book this winter.  I read this book slowly in big chunks and took several 2 week breaks from it.  I'm not sure there is a right or wrong way to read this book because it is not super easy to read.  There are different dialects and language that cause you to pause and read slower.  I found the text challenging but well worth the time and effort I put into it.

Cloud Atlas is a literary tour de force!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Earth's Appetite by Margaret Hasse

Earth's Appetite. Poems by Margaret Hasse

I love poetry and have recently found myself in the mood to read it more often and even write it myself from time to time.  In October, I met Margaret Hasse and her publisher Mr. Nodin at the Twin Cities Book Festival, when they handed me a copy of Earth's Appetite to review.  Little did I know, that Earth's Appetite would draw me in and leave me hungry for more poetry.  So I joined a poetry challenge for 2014.

Earth's Appetite is full of words that connect to create a poetry palate full of imagery.  Poems in Earth's Appetite are showcased in three categories; Wayward, Household and Fortune.  In each category I found many poems to love.   Many of these poems celebrate the mundane of everyday life and make you think deeply about the tasks and treasures that invade our time.

My favorite poems include, Some of Fortune's Facts, Shouting from the Rooftop, Just Yesterday and Mason Jar of Odds and Ends (I think I have several of these in my home).  As I page through my book, re-reading poems, I find that I can relate to many of these poems and they bring forth many of my memories of my kids growing up, my own high school days, my grandma dying of cancer or my dog at home alone, wondering what he does all day.  Hasse writes about the stages of our lives with style and beauty.

Earth's Appetite is a wonderful book of poetry.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Laurie Halse Anderson Speaks in St. Paul

Laurie Halse Anderson Speaks in St. Paul

Carrie Mesrobian, author of the new YA book, Sex and Violence, introduced Laurie Halse Anderson today at the Harriet Island Pavillon in St. Paul.  Carrie is a creative writing teacher at the Loft Literary center.

Laurie Halse Anderson's vibrant personality showed as she spoke to a crowded room about her books.  Speak is her most famous book and it is the 15 year anniversary of its publication this year.  A bad dream changed everything for Laurie.  She has had recurring nightmares all her life.  One night she woke up and wrote down the bad dream and it became part of her book, Speak.

When Laurie grew up she had a hard time learning how to read.  She hated English class in high school, even though she was reading everything in the school library and was stealing her favorite books.  She got through high school English class with the help of Cliff Notes.

Laurie's newest book The Impossible Knife of Memory is based on her father who has PTSD.  Laurie described her father and his memories to us and became a little emotional and several of us in the audience got choked up.  Laurie's dad was 18 years old when he enlisted in WWII as it was nearing the end of the war.  He was sent to Dachau concentration camp as it was liberated and part of his job as soldier was to bury the dead.  He never forgot this horrible experience and after the war became a pastor.  When Laurie was in middle school, his PTSD was raging and he was self-medicating.  In their home there was never any discussion of what happened to him during the war.  She stated that as he ages, he is becoming more and more forgetful but he never forgets his war experience.  At age 87, he still wakes up screaming.

Here are some books and authors that Laurie recommended to the audience;
The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Longbourn by Jo Baker
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
On Writing by Stephen King
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
John Green,
Sarah Dessen,
William Faulkner
James Joyce.

I had 7 of my books signed today by Laurie.  I have now 8 of her books signed and on my "trophy" bookshelf.

On a side note:  Laurie told us about her bookish tattoo located on the underside of wrist.  It is the first word from the book Beowulf.

I am so glad I went to see Laurie Halse Anderson today.  It is so great to learn about an author and be inspired by them.

Thanks Laurie!!

P.S. Laurie, I want you to know we have a lot in common, maybe that is why I love your books.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Planet Taco Giveaway Winner!

Planet Taco Giveaway Winner!

Jeffrey M. Pilcher was the December Author in the Spotlight here on Book Snob and he is giving away one copy of his book, Planet Taco. A Global History of Mexican Food to a Book Snob follower.  I am excited to announce the winner is....

Marie from Michigan

Congratulations Marie.  I sincerely hope you enjoy your new book!
It will make you hungry.

Here is an excerpt from my book review:

Planet Taco is a great book for those willing to put in the time and a great name for a future Mexican restaurant.  I can guarentee that you will learn a lot from reading this book.  The writing style is intellectual and studious and some people will feel like they are reading a textbook on Mexican food.  If you can put in the time to read Planet Taco, it is worth it.  This book would make an excellent companion for those traveling to Mexico for a vacation.

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Fallout by S. A. Bodeen Giveaway

Fallout by S. A. Bodeen Giveaway

S. A. Bodeen is the Minnesota author in the spotlight here on BookSnob for the frigid cold month of January.  We have had two two days of school canceled because of extreme cold temperatures. It was crazy cold! Today it feels like a heat wave at 30 degrees.

S.A. Bodeen is giving away one copy of her book The Fallout to a BookSnob follower from the United States.  The Fallout is the sequel to The Compound.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

The Fallout by S. A. Bodeen

In this long-awaited sequel to The Compound, Eli and his family can run but they can't hide.

After barely escaping from the compound where Eli’s dad kept his family for six years, they’re learning to acclimate to “normal” life—whatever that is for them. It seems like the entire world wants to know what happened to this high profile family.

Slowly they begin to make their way back into the world, but Eli can’t escape the creeping feeling that they’re being watched everywhere they go. But by who?

Eli’s anxiety is heightened as unnerving information continually surfaces about Eli’s dad’s company. Not to mention the sketchy new friend his twin brother Eddy has. Nothing seems to be “normal” anymore. New people are entering their lives—but who can Eli and his family trust?

Contest Rules:
Fill out the Rafflecopter form.
Open to U.S. residents only
Ends 1/31 at Midnight.
Good Luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Lying Awake by Mark Salzman

Lying Awake by Mark Salzman
Audio Book Review
Narrated by Linda Stephens
4 hours and 22 minutes

Sister John of the Cross has been having visions from God.  She is a spiritual leader and writer in her cloister community in Los Angeles and has been living in this monastery for a long time.  Along with her visions she is starting to have horrible, paralyzingly painful headaches.  Mother Emmanuel encourages her to seek medical treatment after she passes out during prayer.  The doctor finds something in her brain causing her headaches and wants to do surgery.  Sister John isn't sure what to do and is worried that she will lose her spiritual gifts.

I listened to this as an audio even though I own a copy of the book.  I am disappointed I didn't read the book because the audio was hard to follow and kept jumping back and forth throughout time.  Novels told in multiple time periods aren't good choices for audio books for me.  The storyline is intriguing and interesting but I was lost in a couple of places.  The narrator was OK .  When paging through the actual hardcover copy, I noticed chapter titles and illustrations that would enhance the reading experience.

Lying Awake really gives you an insight into the monastic life of a nun.
My verdict; read it.  Don't listen to it.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Reading Goals and Challenges for 2014

Reading Goals and Challenges for 2014

Today the weather in Minnesota is so cold the Governor canceled school for the entire state.  School districts have already canceled school for tomorrow because of the frigid temperatures.  So I get two extra days to work out, read, watch movies, clean, grade papers and write or blog.  So happy to just hang out with my kids.  Sometimes it is nice just to stay home in your warm house and curl up with a good book.

I have made a couple of reading goals or challenges for this year.
1.  My number one goal is to read all of the books I received as gifts for the holidays.  This includes 6 books; The Ghost Bride, Doctor Zhivago, Wonder, Fangirl, Everybody Sees the Ants and The Gendarme.
2.  My second goal is to listen to more books on audio.  I started listening to audio books in 2013 for the first time while I clean, cook and drive and I love it!!  Listening to a book has changed my reading experience.  I have found that a great narrator enhances a book.  I listened to 12 audio books last year and want to read more.  So I am looking forward to an audio book challenge.  I plan to read  15 to 20 audio books this year and this is the Socially Awkward level according to the challenge.  Stop by and Sign up at

3.  My third reading goal is to read more electronic books.  I have a lot of Ebooks piled up on my kindle and nook apps and I need to get started reading them.  I prefer a REAL book but ebooks are cheaper and take up less space in my house so I want to start reading them more.  Last year I read ONE Ebook.  So this year I am going to try and read 5 more than last year and that means I will read 6 Ebooks or at least pass the Floppy Disk level which is 5 books according to the challenge.
Stop by and Sign up at

4.  I am participating for the 3rd time in the What's in a Name Challenge.  This year it is hosted by The Worm Hole.  Here are the categories:  Choose a title of a book that fits in the category and read it.

A reference to time (Eleven Minutes, Before Ever After)
A position of royalty (The People’s Queen, The Last Empress, The Curse Of The Pharaoh)
A number written in letters (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, A Tale Of Two Cities)
A forename or names (Rebecca, Eleanor & Park, The Unfinished Work Of Elizabeth D.)
A type or element of weather (Gone With The Wind, Red Earth Pouring Rain)

5.  I would like to read more poetry books this year and so I am joining a poetry challenge.  Last year I read two books of poetry.  Original Fire by Louise Erdrich and Earth's Appetite by Margaret Hasse and I loved them both.  So this year I am going to try and double the number of poetry books I read in 2013 and read 4 in 2014.  You can sign up for this challenge here:

6.  I want to continue reading a short story every week in 2014.  So I am challenging myself to read 3 short story collections.  I read one short story book in 2013 called This Close by Jessica Francis Kane and it was awesome.  I couldn't find a specific blogger challenge to sign up for so it is something I will keep track of.

7.  Lastly, I want to continue to plug away and continue reading the Pulitzer Prize fiction winners.  I did not read one book from this list last year and I am disappointed in myself.  UGH.  So I need to read at least 2 or 3 Pulitzers this year.  I have read 18 total out of the 90 or so novels that have won the prize.

Wish me luck!!

What challenges are you entering??

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The Best Books of 2013

The Best Book of 2013!

I read 83 books in 2014 and I met my goal.  Yahoo.
49 of the books I read were written by women and 34 of the books I read were written by men. I've never kept track of the difference between male and female authors so I find the statistics interesting.

The books I have chosen for this list are my favorites reads of the year.  It is always hard to choose the top ten books of a given year because I have read and enjoyed so many of them.  But alas here is my own personal attempt to come up with a top ten book list of the best books of 2013.

Young Adult

1.  The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - If you haven't read this yet all I can say is: What are you waiting for??  It is extraordinary.

2.  Ask the Passengers by A. S. King- This was the best book I read over of the summer.  Fabulous.
I am looking forward to reading more of her books.

3.  Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell - Every Minnesotan teen should read this book to tell adults (who like to ban books) that you can choose what to read on your own and if you censor perfectly wonderful books, we will read them anyways.

Honorable Mention in this category goes to:

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick - Based on the true story of a child soldier in the caught in the middle of Cambodian genocide and Civil War.

Adult Fiction

1.  The Round House by Louise Erdrich - Hands down the best fiction book I read last year.  Wow!  It won the National Book Award.  Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite authors and this book just blew me away.

2.  The History of Love by Nicole Krauss - Loved it.  It was creative and beautiful and the ending surprised the heck out of me.  Well written.

3.  The White Queen by Philippa Gregory - Another one of my favorite authors.  The White Queen is Elizabeth Queen of York and her story absolutely fascinates me.  I also watched the Starz mini-series of the same title and was immersed in the world of the famed, Cousin's War for half of the year.

Honorable Mention in this category goes to:

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya - I loved the characters in this novel, especially Ultima and the narrator, Antonio.  So good.

Narrative Non-Fiction

This is the first time in a long time that I have included several titles of non-fiction on my list.

1.  When Women Were Birds.  Fifty-Four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams - The first book I have ever read by Williams and it is a good one.  This book gave me a lot to think about and I have a lot of tags marking the important passages.  I won't be borrowing this one to anyone but I will be giving them as gifts.  A great book for mothers and daughters.

2. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon -
This book was a life changer for me.  It made me look at the world in a completely different way and has inspired my creativity and my writing.  Love this book.  I plan to re-read it this year.

3.  Why Be Happy When You Can be Normal by Jeanette Winterson - To appreciate this book you really need to read Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson first.  Why Be Happy is her memoir and it is deeply personal and introspective.  It was a revelation to me and I had much in common with Winterson.

4.  This Is The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett -  I love Ann Patchett and really enjoyed this collection of her essays new and old.  It gave me an insight into the writing life and give you a whole lot of information on a multitude of topics to think on.

Honorable Mention in this category goes to:

A Choice of Weapons by Gordon Park - This was the Minneapolis One Read book for 2013 and it was a text I used in my senior social issues course called VOICES.  This book is well-written and is the memoir of the first African American photographer hired by Life magazine.  Check out his photography!

There you have it.
So tell me, what books made your best of the year list??