Friday, June 19, 2015

Amazing Book Friends, I NEED your Help.

I Need Help from My Amazing Book Friends.

Hey Everyone, I need your help.  I'm taking nine amazing high school students to Peru on Monday.  We are all so excited and scared at the same time.  I have been trying to raise money to help defray the costs of this expensive, amazing, life changing experience for my students but have fallen very short of my goal.  At this point we are at 17 percent.  I am praying that we can reach at least 50 percent by Sunday.  Here is why.

My teaching partner and I have written several grants this year and as a result are able to take five economically disadvantage students on this trip for a low cost.  This is the first time on a airplane for these high school students and the first time out of the country.  They all come from single parent homes that have multiple children.  Four of these students are Native American.  This GoFundMe campaign is to help pay for tips ($111.00 per student) and lunch, which is not included in the cost.  We also want some money to take them to cultural activities and to give them a authentic experience so they don't have to constantly worry about money and if they can afford to do this or that activity.

Here is the link for the Go Fund Me, I set up 6 months ago.
If you like what I do here on BookSnob and if I have helped you in any way with a book recommendation or a book review, can you please tip me by adding 5 or 10 dollars to this fund?. I have not earned any money while writing this blog.  Can you please spare some money to help these students out? $5.00 would cover lunch for one student.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you!!!
I plan to post a Peru literary travel reading list when I return.
Please share this post and spread the word. THANK YOU!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

I have fallen in love with a new author and his name is Benjamin Percy.  He has written this awesome book about the Lewis and Clark expedition that has been re-imagined, 150 years into the future in a post-apocalyptic America.

The Dead Lands is a place that exists outside the wall that surrounds St. Louis.  There are giant spiders that feed on criminals, and creatures morphed by the nuclear fallout.  There is disease and famine and a lack of water and resources.  People are forbidden to travel outside the wall unless you are one of the guard.  Mina Clark is one of the guard who longs to leave St. Louis and find a better place.  A place with fresh water and green grass and opportunities for a better life.

Inside the wall, St. Louis is called The Sanctuary.  The Sanctuary is stifled and repressed by Lewis Meriweather's former friend Thomas, whom is a selfish leader who indulges himself at the expense of his people. Lewis is the museum curator and keeper of knowledge.  He is odd and people tend to leave him alone.  Some think he has magical powers.

One day, a strange young girl named Gawea approaches the wall on horseback.  She has a unique appearance, with tanned skin and large dark pupils.  The guards on the wall are afraid and shoot at her and she is gravely injured.  She carries a secret message for Lewis.  Clark tries to protect her and plans to save her from impending death, because Thomas wants her hung in public as an example of the dangers outside of the wall.

Lewis and Clark with Gawea as their guide escape The Sanctuary and head West into the unknown.

The Dead Lands is a history teacher's dream, an odyssey of history and culture of a new America.  I kept comparing what happened in the 1800's to the futuristic America portrayed in the pages of The Dead Lands.  And it works.  The journey of Lewis and Clark is a quest of epic proportions that will keep you turning the pages late into the night.

Like all great Odyssey stories there are monsters to fight and weather storms to battle and beautiful, dangerous women to lead the party astray.  There is slavery and violence and environmental concerns and mutant creatures and people eating polar bears, oh my.  I love Odyssey stories or stories of the hero's journey.  I love, love, love, The Dead Lands.  I was riveted to the page and enjoyed the fantastical elements as well as the historical ones.

Percy has created a cast of creative characters that parallel history for a modern era. I loved that Clark is a woman and Lewis has magical powers.  I loved all the characters, they are flawed and lovable. Reading this book was so much fun for me.  If you know your history there are secret messages and historical tidbits in The Dead Lands for you to uncover.

Dare to enter The Dead Lands and travel on the wild side with Lewis and Clark.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Free Audio Books!

Free Audio Books!

June is Audio Book month and you can find lots of free audio books on the internet if you know where to look.

My favorite place to get free audiobooks is Audio Book Sync.
They give away two free audiobooks a week all summer.  All you need to do is download the Overdrive app on your phone or tablet and download the audiobook.

Here is the website:

This is the list of free book titles.  Two per week until Aug 13th.

June 11 – June 17: The Living by Matt de la Pena, narrated by Henry Leyva (Brilliance Audio ) and The Perfect Storm: A True Story Of Men Against The Sea by Sebastian Junger, narrated by Richard Davidson (Recorded Books, Inc.)

June 18 – June 24: Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, narrated by Sasha Pick (Bolinda Publishing) and Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies & Alison Leslie Gold, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat (Oasis Audio)

June 25 – July 1: Monster by Walter Dean Myers, narrated by a Full Cast; Afterword read by the author (Listening Library) and Lord of The Flies written and narrated by William Golding (Listening Library)

July 2 – July 8: Echoes Of An Angel by Aquanetta Gordon with Chris Macias, narrated by Robin Miles (christianaudio) and Budda Boy by Kathe Koja, narrated by Spencer Murphy & The Full Cast Family (Full Cast Audio)

July 9 – July 15: The Explorers Club by Nell Benjamin, performed by Jack Cutmore-Scott, Carson Elrod, David Furr, John Getz, Martin Jarvis, David Krumholtz, Lorenzo Pisoni, Jennifer Westfeldt & Matthew Wolf (L.A. Theatre Works) and Around The World In Eighty Days by Jules Verne, narrated by Michael Prichard (Tantor Audio)

July 16 – July 22: Crows & Cards by Joseph Helgerson, narrated by MacLeod Andrews (Brilliance Audio) and THE Adventures Of Huckelberry Finn by Mark Twain, narrated by Robin Field (Mission

July 23 – July 29: March by Geraldine Brooks, narrated by Richard Easton (Penguin Audio) and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, narrated by Kate Reading (Listening Library)

July 30 – August 5: Courage Has No Color: The True Story Of The Triple Nickles by Tanya Lee Stone, narrated by J.D. Jackson (Brilliance Audio) and John Ball's In The Heat Of The Night Adapted by Matt Pelfrey, performed by  Ryan Vincent Anderson, Michael Hammond, Kalen Harriman, Travis Johns, James Morrison, Darren Richardson & Tom Virtue (L.A. Theatre Works)

August 6 – August 13: Under A War-Torn Sky by L.M. Elliott, narrated by Elizabeth Wiley (Tantor Audio) and The Old Brown Suitcase by Lillian Boraks-Nemetz narrated by Sofia Newman (Post Hypnotic Press)

Another place to look for Free Audiobooks is  They are giving one free audio book per day in the month of June.

Here is the website:

Click on Free Book of the Day.  Download and listen.  Enjoy!

Have you listened to any great Audio Books Lately?  Let me know.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Benjamin Percy Author Interview

Benjamin Percy Author Interview

Benjamin Percy is the May/June, Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob.  I got the chance to ask him some questions about books, the writing life, and of course his latest book (which I love), The Dead Lands.
Read on.

Hi Benjamin,

1.   Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m a novelist, comics writer, and screenwriter. I grew up in Oregon—and the Pacific Northwest is a stage for much of my fiction—but married into the Midwest. The Dead Lands—a post-apocalyptic reimagining of the Lewis and Clark saga—is my fifth book. I taught for many years, but now I’m at the keyboard full-time. I write the Green Arrow series for DC Comics. I have a crime show—called Black Gold, set in the North Dakota oil fields—in development with Starz. I also write regularly for Esquire, where I’m a contributing editor.

2. What inspired you to write The Dead Lands?

I grew up in the shadow of Lewis and Clark. Visiting Fort Clatsop. Attending the bicentennial. Reading their journals. I always wanted to write about them—and originally I thought I might attempt to recreate their passage, joined along the way by different friends and family members, and crank out a nonfiction book about modern-day adventure. A publisher made a bid on his, alongside my novel Red Moon. But then I sat down with my wife and we figured out the logistics and cost and time away from home, and she said, very reasonably, “That ain’t happening.” So I decided to make some stuff up instead!

I considered a historical novel, but that’s been done many times, and done well. The post-apocalyptic angle felt fresh and exciting to me. An infant nation, trying to rebuild itself, with untold wonders and horrors awaiting the expedition and different forces vying for control of the country? That’s not so far off from what actually happened, but it’s a new angle that makes their journey relevant and perilous once more.

3. 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?

I spend my nights dreaming and my days dreaming with my eyes open. I have a wildly overactive mind. Many fine short stories and novels are thinly veiled memoir, but that doesn’t interest me. If I write about myself, it always feels like a failure of the imagination. Most of the pleasure I take in writing comes from invention, drawing characters and narratives out of the ether.

With that said, there are always glimmers here and there drawn from life. Maybe an image—a barn burning, a tornado unfurling from the sky, a whale cresting near a boat—was inspired by something I actually saw. Or maybe a character has the knock knees of a neighbor, the voice of my grandfather, and the beard of my college roommate, but there’s always a healthy serving of imagination ladled over the top.

4.   How many books have you written? Can you tell us why you decided to become a writer?

I’ve published three novels and two books of short stories. I have a craft book—called Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction—coming out in 2016 with Graywolf Press. And another novel—called The Dark Net, which I’m describing as The Exorcist meets The Matrix—coming out in 2017 with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

I’ve always been a narrative junkie. Comics, novels, movies, TV shows—I gobbled up everything as a kid and continue to now. And that obsession has always been balanced: I’m as interested in the emotional impact of a story as I am its architecture and devices.

5.  What advice do you give to new writers?

Read your brains out and write your brains out. Malcolm Gladwell talks about how it takes 10,000 hours to even begin to master any trade—that’s absolutely true of writing. There are no prodigies in the field. The more you read, the more you write, the more you live and travel and work different jobs and love and hate different people (and and and), the better you get.

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

I read every night. I try to vary my literary diet as much as possible so as not to fall into an aesthetic rut. But some of my favorite authors include Flannery O’Connor, Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Kate Atkinson, Donna Tartt, Peter Straub, Daniel Woodrell, Neil Gaiman.

7. How do you carve time out of your busy day to read and write?

I used to have an insane schedule. I would teach all day. Then brew a pot of coffee at 11 PM. Write until 3 or 5 AM. Wake up at nine to begin prepping and grading. Obviously this wasn’t sustainable, but I grinded away for several years in this fashion, securing better teaching jobs with lesser loads. And finally I was able to quit teaching and the writing took over completely.

Now I sit down at 7, write until 3:30. After that, I’m a dad and husband. Eight hours a day—sometimes two more in the evening if I’m under deadline—just like any job, except that I’m playing with my imaginary friends all day, which is pretty cool (and weird).

8. What are some of the issues in The Dead Lands that you hope your readers will interpret as integral to the story?

I could rant about this for some time. How about two quick take-aways, since people are reading this on the Internet and probably want to hurry up and leave this interview to go rearrange their Netflix queue.
First, look at the way I managed the structure. It’s a quest story, sure. And I love quest stories. But the problem is, they’re so often episodic. Huck and Jim go down the river, get off the raft, hijinks ensue. They get back on the raft, go down the river, get off the raft, hijinks ensue. There’s not a strong sense of causality. I combatted this in a number of ways. One was to blend the quest with another type of story I admire very much: the fishbowl scenario. So I’m cutting back and forth—between the expedition and post-apocalyptic St. Louis—usually at moments of great emotional or physical peril (to enhance suspense).

Second, we’re inundated with apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives. Maybe there’s a reason for that. California is drying up, knuckling upon itself like a date. A bomb goes off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Ebola rips its way through Sierra Leone. People are rioting in the streets of Ferguson and Baltimore. Russia invades Ukraine and dangerously eyes up its neighbors. In these environmentally, culturally, politically dangerous times, the end of the world has never been more popular because the end of the world has never seemed more probable. And though my novel takes place in the future, there are parallels to the contemporary world’s problems.

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

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman, the comic series collected into an omnibus that reads like an epic novel. It’s one of the greatest feats of imagination I’ve ever encountered.

10. In one sentence tell readers why they should read The Dead Lands?

Because if you don’t, you will be cursed; a crow will flap to an open window and croak out, “Seven days,” at the end of which time you will die horribly.

Thanks Benjamin.

You can find Benjamin Percy on his website at

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Time for Summer Reading-What to Read Next

Time for Summer Reading and What to Read Next

The Last day of school is tomorrow and then I have to work on Monday to finish grades, clean my classroom and interview for a new Social Studies teacher. Then it is time for summer reading.  OMG, I cannot wait.

On May 9th, I presented a list of what to read next at the YA Lit conference in Minnesota.  I wasn't sure what to expect but there were over 100 people there for my 45 minute session.  I wanted to post my list right away on BooksSnob but I have been busy with the end of the school year and a trip to Berlin.  So now I am going to publish my list of what to read next.  Finally.

The first book I talked about was How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon.  This is the best YA book I have read so far this year and I believe it will make my top ten reads of 2015.  So good.

I haven't read all the books on this list but many I have.  The ones I haven't read are getting rave reviews.

Here is a list of all the titles I handed out after my book talk session that is contained in the Google slide presentation.

2014 - 2015 Young Adult Titles (some adult titles thrown in)

*How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon
X. A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
*Eden West by Pete Hautman
*The Inventor’s Secret by Andrea Cremer
*Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
*The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tamia James
Ms. Marvel, No Normal by Alphona Wilson
Lumberjanes Vol 1 by Noelle Stephenson and Grace Ellis
Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee
Mosquitoland. A Novel by David Arnold
Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
None of the Above by I.W. Gregario
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith
Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles
Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Ghettoside. A True story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy
I will Always Write Back.  How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin
*The Martian by Andy Weir
*The 5Th Wave by Rick Yancey
The Last Leaving Falling by Sarah Benwell
Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani
Audacity by Melanie Crowder
The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Hold Tight, Don’t Let go. A novel of Haiti by Laura Rose Wagner
We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

*Books I have read and recommend.

Which books have you read?
What books do you recommend for summer reading?