Monday, January 26, 2015

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber

Meet Lucy Ann Lobdell.  The world doesn't really know who she is yet and but she is poised to take the world by storm.  This is a fictionalized true story about a woman who chooses to live life on her terms .

Lucy Ann Lobdell has a daughter and is not making enough money to support her.  She doesn't want to re-marry and work for free the rest of her life and her future prospects look dim. It is 1855 and women have little or no rights, stuck in their positions, second to men.  Lucy makes a bold decision one day.  She wear her brothers old britches, cuts off her hair and decides to head out the door as a man looking for work. She changes her name to Joseph Lobdell.

She grew up in New York, moved to Pennsylvania as Joseph and then to Minnesota before it became a state.  Trouble seemed to follow Joseph. All she wanted was to live her life in peace and raise horses and maybe hope that someone would love her.  Yet most people did not accept her for who she was, a person way ahead of her time.

Klaber has written an amazing book of historical fiction.  The characters, based on real people, are vibrant and leap off the page.  There is a fiery passion in Lucy to live an authentic life in a man's world and Klaber portrays her struggles and the worlds reaction to Lucy with precision and respect. Quite simply, Klaber has written a page turner.  This novel is truly unforgettable.

I loved this book and I predict it will be one of the best books I read in 2015.
I cannot stop thinking about Joseph and her courageous life and I'm telling everyone I know to read it.

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell will be released on Feb 17, 2015.  Pre-order it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

National Readathon Day is January 24th, 2015

                    National Readathon Day is January 24th, 2015

Tomorrow is the first National Readathon Day!

The plan is to get the whole Nation reading from Noon to 4 pm.

I'm so excited to have four hours of uninterrupted reading time on a Saturday afternoon.  I never read on a Saturday afternoon.  So this is a welcome pleasure.

Have you decided what you are going to read?

I am reading The Life We Bury by Allen Eskins

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe's life is ever the same.

Iverson is a dying Vietnam veteran--and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.

As Joe writes about Carl's life, especially Carl's valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Joe, along with his skeptical female neighbor, throws himself into uncovering the truth, but he is hamstrung in his efforts by having to deal with his dangerously dysfunctional mother, the guilt of leaving his autistic brother vulnerable, and a haunting childhood memory. 

Thread by thread, Joe unravels the tapestry of Carl’s conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it’s too late to escape the fallout?

So tell me, what you are going to read?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Favorite Books of 2014

My Favorite Books of 2014

I had a great reading year in 2014.  I read a total of 112 books!
Listed below are the books I hug and love and hold dear to my heart.

Adult Fiction
1.  The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

This was the first book I read in 2014 and I loved it all year.  The Ghost Bride takes place in colonial Malaya in 1893.  Li Lan is 18, beautiful and the daughter of a bankrupt opium addict.  She has zero marriage prospects until her father is approached by the wealthy Lim family with a proposal. A proposal to marry their dead son and to become his ghost bride.
This book is AWESOME!

2. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Don't read the back cover of this book or any reviews.  Just start reading it and by about page 75 you will be jolted out of your reading consciousness and be completely beside yourself.  My book club read this and we spent the ENTIRE two hours discussing this book.

3.  Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley

This little novella is a gem. It was written in 1917 (hard to believe, I know) and I loved every sweet word. It is about Helen, a homemaker who has baked over 6000 loaves of bread in her lifetime and has impulsively decided to buy a traveling bookshop called Parnassus and have a little adventure. Helen while on her great adventure, finds herself and the purpose of her life on the open road, selling books to farmers. LOVED IT.
4.  Vacationland by Sarah Stonich

Stonich will dazzle you with her storytelling skills. As a reader you will discover that Stonich is a great writer that is descriptive and crafts her sentences with precision. Each word seems carefully chosen and placed. Sarah Stonich deserves a prize for Vacationland to hang on her wall with the deer antlers because this book is stunning.
I laughed and I cried and discovered I don't want to go home, I want to live in Vacationland forever.

5. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Based on the Grimke sisters who risked, life, love and family to travel around the world teaching about Abolition and women's rights in the 1830's.   Hetty (Sarah's slave when she was a child) also has a strong voice in the novel as each of the women come to take control of their lives. POWERFUL!

6. The Martian by Andy Weir

This book is seriously super awesome! It easily made my top favorite reads of 2014.
I give it 5 stars with all ten of my fingers pointed straight to Mars. Mark Watney is a cool character. He taught me survival skills, ingenuity, botany, chemistry, engineering, technology, space speak and so much more. This is a character to admire and he is like the Energizer Bunny, so full of energy and ingenuity that the reader is constantly kept on the edge waiting to see if Mark will survive the latest turn of events. Quite simply, The Martian is a page turning thrill ride in outer space. I have never read anything like it.

Audio Books
I listened to 15 audio books this year and many, many podcasts.
My favorite audio books of 2014

1.  On Writing by Stephen King

Loved this memoir on the craft of writing. Stephen King narrates the audiobook version and it was supercool to hear him read his own book. On Writing chronicles how King came up with many of the story ideas for his iconic books as well as great writing advice for anyone who wants to enter the field. Even if you don't want to be a writer, anyone who likes King's books would benefit from this memoir. I thought the writing advice was valuable even though he wrote this book 14 years ago now.

2.  Rotters by Daniel Kraus

This audio book was creepy and dark and darn good.  The narrator has amazing skills and was able to transform the landscape of my drive home with stories of grave robbing and school yard bullies.

3.  Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I love this book. I listened on audio and couldn't wait to get in my car to listen or clean the house with my head phones on. This is a great book about love, grief, motherhood, spirit and elephants. I loved learning about the elephants and I listened on audio to The Elephant Whisperer this year as well and Picoult references this book in Leaving Time. I enjoyed so many aspects of this book. Well written and narrated by multiple narrators. I'm gushing and raving. This may be my favorite Picoult book.

I read 4 Ebooks in 2014 and many others I started reading as an Ebook but finished in paper.  Ultimately paper books are my first choice.  I love real, physical books. So, out of the four I read completely on my Ipad or phone, I chose this one as my favorite.

My favorite Ebook of 2014

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Burial Rites is based on the story of Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person executed in Iceland.  This book captures the sad, misunderstood story of Agnes and the harsh landscape of Iceland.  Historical fiction at its finest.  Highly recommend.

Graphic Novels

I read 20 Graphic novels in 2014.  I Love Graphic Novels.
My two favorites of 2014

1.  March. Book One by John Lewis

March is a powerful graphic novel on the early life of Civil and Human Rights Activist and current Georgian congressman, John Lewis. This memoir begins with John's childhood growing up on a farm in rural, Alabama. His job was to tend to the chickens. He wanted to be a preacher and the chickens were his first congregation. Right away he started to protest the treatment of his chickens and as they became food for dinner, he refused to eat.

2.  My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf

Backderf grew up with Jeffrey Dahmer and was his friend.  This book describes their high school years and Dahmer's descent into madness.  Wonderfully drawn and told, it gives you a lot to think about, like what if a teacher or another adult in Dahmer's life noticed his troubled life and reached out and helped him.  Would history have been different?

Young Adult

I love YA and I'm not sure how many YA novels I read in 2014 but it was not enough, that is for sure.  Here are my favorites of 2014.

1.  The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey

The 1st wave is Lights Out. Goodbye electricity and anything battery operated.
The 2nd wave is Surf's Up. A giant wave takes out the coasts and all the people who live there.
The 3rd wave is a Pestilence and disease spreads like wildfire. No family is untouched.
The 4th wave is a Silencer. A silencer is a sharpshooter who shoots to kill.
The 5th Wave is what you least expect.
It is action packed, full of courageous characters in the midst of an alien attack. You won't know what hit you and that is just what the aliens want.

2.  Brooklyn, Burning by Steve Brezenoff

The story is narrated by Kid whose gender is undefined, in fact for both Kid and Scout, you don't know whether they are boy or girl, gay or straight. Brooklyn, Burning is written without pronouns for the main characters. It is an interesting way to read a novel and I loved it. I love how Brezenoff experiments with gender and makes a statement about love and transcendance. At its heart Brooklyn, Burning is a love story. Yet this love story makes you think about gender stereotypes and how teens and people define themselves.

3.  If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

I devoured this book in one sitting.  I just loved everything about it.  I loved the language and writing style Murdoch uses, I loved the characters, the setting (the Hundred-Acres Wood), the love story, the survivor story.  I was just sucked into the story and could not let go of the book.  I cried, I smiled, and I cringed.  I even tweeted the author.  I felt such a communion with these characters and their story.  It was healing for me.

Quote:  “I answer her with my silence, understanding the full power of it for the first time. Words are weapons. Weapons are powerful. So are unsaid words. So are unused weapons.”

4. Split by Swati Avasthi

The storyline of Split is unique because many stories deal with abuse but not many deal with what happens after you get out. Split starts the day Jace gets out. Split is a page turning, nail biting, amazing first novel. It is raw and edgy and gripping to the very last page.

5.  The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In the Shadow of Blackbirds takes place in 1918.  1918 is a momentous year, it is the last year of World War I, and the Spanish Influenza is killing more people worldwide than the war.  People are living in grief and no family is untouched by the war or the flu epidemic.  Spiritualism and having a seance is all the rage because people want evidence their loved ones are on the other side and that their is a reason for all the madness.
The main character is named Mary Shelley Black after the author of Frankenstein.  She is 16 and doesn't believe in ghosts or spirits until her true love joins the war and ends up dying.
This is a awesome, page turning ghost story and historical novel about WWI and the flu epidemic.
Very enjoyable and creepy at the same time.

There it is. All my favorites in one place.  What were your favorites from 2014?  Have you read any of the books on my favorites list yet??  Give one of them a try.

Happy Reading.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons Winners!

The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons Giveaway Winners!

Heather Slomski along with her publisher, University of Iowa press is giving away three copies of her award winning book of short stories, The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons.
And the three lucky winners are ......

Holly from
Brittany from Georgia
Katie from Michigan

Congrats Ladies

I hope you love your new books!

Here is an excerpt from my book review of The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons:

Heather is a wonderful writer and she mesmerizes the reader with her beautiful imagery and prose.  Each story is unique and unpredictable and they leave the reader hungry for life and love and for more stories.  Many of the stories are grounded in reality and characters must face loss, grief or regret but some of the stories take you into a sphere you may not recognize, hidden somewhere in a different mental state or space where heartbreak lives.  Each story is addictive like food and wine.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

52 Goals for 2015

52 Goals for 2015

I was inspired to create this long list of writing/reading goals with a few personal improvement ones thrown in for good measure, by Brooke Warner's post on Huffington on 52 goals/ideas for writers.  I borrowed some of the items off her list but many are just mine. Feel free to borrow.  You can see her post here:
Brooke Warner's post

There are 52 goals for 52 weeks in the year.  

1.  Submit at least one piece of writing for publication.
2.  Get a part time job teaching college in the Fall (1 class)
3.  Take a writing class.
4.  Join and set up a profile
5.  Set aside at least 1 hour of time every week to write.  Get up early on a weekend day and head to the coffee shop.
6.  Go to the Loft Young Adult Writer’s Conference again this year.
7.  Apply for a writers residency retreat and go.
8.  Participate in Camp Nanowrimo this summer.
9.  Subscribe to a writer’s magazine
10. Learn to meditate to decrease stress
11.Try the 500 word a day challenge for a month (summer)
12. Continue my book blog but limit myself to 5-10 posts a month, use the extra time for working on novel.
13. Go see a counselor to work on being a better human being
14.  Map a book you love. It will teach you a lot to outline a book you've read more than once to see how another author thinks about structure, scenes, and narrative arc.
15. Write and publish an e-book. These can be as short as 25 or 30 pages (single stories or essays) and they can get your work on the map.
16. Enter a writing contest
17. Map out a timeline for your book, or for your next book. Consider when would be a reasonable publication date for your book and write it down. Post it somewhere where you can see it to hold that date as a goal.
18. Find and print pictures of my characters.  Make a poster board or put in writing notebook.
19. Do a literary pilgrimage to see a site where a favorite author lived or wrote about-Kansas & Missouri to visit homes of Laura Ingalls Wilder
20.  Take part 2 of Laura Ingalls Wilder online class offered by Missouri University in April.
21.  Read a book on Writing.
22.  Read a short story every Saturday.
23.  Read a poem a day
24.  Pay off my medical bills.
25.  Revise some of my writing
26  Try to write at least one sentence a day on my novel!
27.  Find a writing routine that works and stick with it.
28.  Find a writing workspace in my home or a coffee shop
29.  Make a playlist called “writing music” and write to it.
30.  Use the journal in my purse to write down my ideas.
31.  Finish Iowa online fiction writing class- MOOC.
32.  Start writing in a journal again- daily, 1 sentence a day at least.
33.  Story map my book
34.  Find my old outline and book in word that disappeared on this computer- put in a help desk ticket- use Geek squad
35.  Create a Google doc with all my story ideas
36.  Continue collecting news articles on my book topic.  Put in writing notebook.
37.  Create a new writer’s notebook for 2015 and make a collage for the cover.  (the pictures in this post are from my 2014 writer's notebook)
38.  Back up my blog posts on Evernote
39.  Read 90 books in 2015
40.  Lose 10 pounds
41. Eat lots of good dark chocolate and drink more tea.
42.  Do Yoga to gain balance and strength
43.  ?Print blog posts and put in writer’s notebook?
44.  Be Brave and post some of my writing on Shewrites or Wattpad
45.  Make time to read other peoples work and comment on Shewrites and Wattpad
46.  Add new people to my writing group.
47.  Create a vision board for your book. This is different than a book cover concept. It's a collage of images and/or words that inspire you, and that can keep you motivated and disciplined with your writing goals.
48.  Participate in First National Readathon Day on January 24th
49.  Set up and participate in Postal Mailbox book club on Goodreads
50. Make a list of your top 10 favorite books in your own genre and reread two of them.
51.  Instead of buying books, read more books from my bookshelves and then give them away to share my love of reading with others.
52.  Create Japanese and England themed weekends for my kids to immerse ourselves in another culture.
53.  Travel to Peru.

Mantra: Love thyself, hug thyself, forgive thyself.
Happy 2015!

What are your goals?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

December Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up + Giveaway

December Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up + Giveaway

December is over and the New Year has arrived and it's my last two days of winter break.  I'm starting to experience teacher stress at the thought of going back to work.  My son is at Robotics and I'm sitting at Caribou coffee making goals for the New Year and working on my writing.  

It is time to say goodbye to Heather Slomski and her beautiful book of short stories, The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons.  I met Heather Slomski when I went to a reading to hear Emily St. John Mandel read from her book, Station Eleven, at the Magers and Quinn bookstore in Minneapolis. Heather was there to do a reading from her short story collection and to my surprise, I learned she was from Minnesota.  After she read her story, I knew I wanted to feature her and her new book on BookSnob.

Today is the last day to enter to win a copy of The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons.

Enter here:  The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons Giveaway

Please check out my book review of The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons.  Heather is a wonderful writer and she mesmerizes the reader with her beautiful imagery and prose.  Each story is unique and unpredictable and they leave the reader hungry for life and love and for more stories.  Many of the stories are grounded in reality and characters must face loss, grief or regret but some of the stories take you into a sphere you may not recognize, hidden somewhere in a different mental state or space where heartbreak lives.  Each story is addictive like food and wine.

Next, check out the Author Interview with Heather Slomski. I asked her some important questions about her book, the Iowa short fiction prize, her favorite short story and a book she thinks everyone should read.  

Please read Heather's Guest Post on Weather.  In Minnesota, weather plays an important part of our everyday lives.  Heather has written a guest post on how the weather influences her writing and is portrayed in her stories.  As I look out the window,  it is cold and getting colder. Next week we will have below zero temps for the high.  Weather definitely affects my mood and influences authors and stories. 

Do you read short stories?  I love short stories and try to read one short story every Saturday.   

I've really enjoyed working with Heather this month and look forward to reading her future writing. Please check out her book The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons and read more short stories this year.  You can visit Heather at her website:

Happy Reading Everyone!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Heather A Slomski Author Interview + Giveaway

Heather A Slomski Author Interview + Giveaway

Heather Slomski is the December Author in the Spotlight here on BookSnob for the month of December and asked her some important questions about her book, the Iowa short fiction prize and more.  Read on.

Hi Heather,

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your book The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons.

I earned my M.F.A. from Western Michigan University, where I studied with Jaimy Gordon and Stuart Dybek. Afterwards, I held the Axton Fellowship in Fiction, a two-year position at the University of Louisville. I’m currently teaching writing at Concordia College and living in Moorhead with my husband and our son, who just turned two. The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons, which won the 2014 Iowa Short Fiction Award, is my first book.

2. Please explain how the Iowa Short Fiction contest works?

Writers send their short story collection manuscripts into The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and then the Workshop chooses finalists out of the slush pile and passes them along to the judge (there’s a different judge each year), who chooses the winner. There are actually two different prizes: The Iowa Short Fiction Award and The John Simmons Short Fiction Award.

3. You won the Iowa Short Fiction Award for your book, The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons.  Can you describe your initial reaction when you won the prize and part of the process of publishing
your collection of short stories?

I got a phone call last January afternoon from the director of the University of Iowa Press, Jim McCoy, who told me the news. I was stunned, as for some reason I thought that I had already received a rejection. (My record-keeping has gotten a bit worse since having a child.) After that joyous phone call, I had about ten days to make any light changes that I wanted to make before sending in my final copy to the press, who then forwarded it to their copyeditor. After the copyeditor went through the manuscript, he sent his suggested changes to me, which I was able to accept or reject. Then the copyedited manuscript was sent to the designer and sent back to me for one last look before publication. I’m very happy with how the book turned out, and I think the press did a beautiful job with the cover.

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

I knew since I was very young that I wanted to be a writer. I began writing stories in grade school and never stopped.

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

Aside from writing and spending time with my family, reading is the most fulfilling thing I do. I’m sure that I am influenced or inspired in some way by all good writing that I read, but I’ll mention here a handful of writers who come immediately to mind: Angela Carter, Anne Carson, Bruno Schulz, Stuart Dybek, Italo Calvino, and Steven Milhauser.

6. Who is your favorite short story writer and do you have a favorite short story you can share with us?

It’s too difficult to choose one favorite short story writer, but I can easily mention two of my favorite short stories: “Pet Milk” by Stuart Dybek and “Father’s Last Escape” by Bruno Schulz.

7.  Name one book that you believe is a must read and tell us why?

The book I think of lately when I am asked this question is Anne Carson’s NOX. I reread this book recently, and it is still very much on my mind. A hybrid work—part poetry, part translation, part memoir, part collage—which Carson calls an epitaph, the book comes in a box and is a replica of a notebook that Carson filled when grieving for her brother, who died unexpectedly in Copenhagen. The book begins with a poem by the Latin poet Catullus—a poem in which Catullus laments the death of his own brother—and then Carson translates the poem, one word per lefthand page. On the righthand pages she includes bits of narrative about her brother. The translating of the poem is both an act, which is carried out over the course of the book, and a metaphor for Carson’s endeavor to understand her brother and to make some kind of sense out of his mysterious life. It’s a beautiful book, sad and staggering. A book to read very slowly, and more than once.

8. Are you writing a novel right now and can you tell us a little bit about it?

The novel on which I am currently working takes place in contemporary Krakow and is loosely based on my paternal grandparents’ forty-year marriage. Prior to beginning this novel, I was fortunate to receive two grants—a Minnesota State Artist Initiative Grant and a Minnesota Emerging Writers’ Grant—which allowed me six weeks of research in Krakow and also compensated time to begin writing. The novel blends together the research I did in Krakow with a bit of family history and a great deal of imagination.

9. How do you carve time out of your busy day to write?

I get up at 5:00 a.m. and either make coffee in my kitchen or sneak out to a coffee shop. I get a couple hours of work in before my husband and toddler wake up at about 7:30. Some mornings I have a babysitter for a couple additional hours, and other mornings I teach. I also write when my son is napping. This January, however, my son is starting preschool, which will open up some more time.

10. Tell us in one sentence why we should read:  The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons.

I think that most readers will relate to the heartache, absurdity, and the intermittent bits of happiness that the characters in this book encounter.

Thanks Heather.

If you would like to win a copy of Heather's book, The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons, please click here:  The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons Giveaway

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My First Book of the Year 2015

My First Book of the Year 2015

Happy New Year Everyone!!

I thought long and hard about what book I should read on the first day of the year and I chose Neverhome by Laird Hunt.  I met Laird in October and the Twin Cities Book Festival and heard him speak about his book and the women who disguised themselves as men and fought in the Civil War.  I LOVE historical fiction and so this is my pick and I can't wait to immerse myself in this book.

I received this book as a Christmas gift from my husband and kids.  I plan to read all my gift books this year.  I don't want them languishing on my shelves for evermore.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

An extraordinary novel about a wife who disguises herself as a man and goes off to fight in the Civil War.

She calls herself Ash, but that's not her real name. She is a farmer's faithful wife, but she has left her husband to don the uniform of a Union soldier in the Civil War. Neverhome tells the harrowing story of Ash Thompson during the battle for the South. Through bloodshed and hysteria and heartbreak, she becomes a hero, a folk legend, a madwoman and a traitor to the American cause.

Laird Hunt's dazzling new novel throws a light on the adventurous women who chose to fight instead of stay behind. It is also a mystery story: why did Ash leave and her husband stay? Why can she not return? What will she have to go through to make it back home?

In gorgeous prose, Hunt's rebellious young heroine fights her way through history, and back home to her husband, and finally into our hearts.

Sheila over at BookJouney is holding an event regarding the first book of the year.  She has created a book collage and a linky for everyone to hop around and see who is reading what.  

What is the first book you are reading this year?