Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Kirsten Dierking Author Interview + Giveaways

Kirsten Dierking Author Interview + Giveaways

Kirsten is the Minnesota April Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob this month and I had a chance to ask her some questions about poetry, her writing life and her creative ideas. Read on to learn more about Kirsten Dierking and her beautiful books of poetry.

Hi Kirsten

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I went to Hamline University for my graduate degree in creative writing, but I've been writing poetry since I was a child.  Growing up I lived in Minnesota, Toronto, and Boulder, Colorado. I currently live just outside St. Paul, and I've been married for 27 years.  I run (slowly!) and finished my first half-marathon last fall (slowly!).  I have three dogs (small, medium and large).  The large dog is a Labrador mix, and she just turned sixteen and a half!

2. Why did you become an author of Poetry?

My mom read poetry to me when I was little instead of bedtime stories, so I always had poetry in my life, and I always had that rhythmic language in my life.  As a kid, I wrote poetry in school whenever I could, and sometimes I just wrote it for fun.  When I got older I did write fiction, and in fact, I went to grad school thinking I would write fiction, but once I got there, my voice kept going back to my first love, poetry.  Poetry suits the way I think in my own head the best.

3. How are poetry books compiled?

I usually write a lot of poems, on whatever diverse topics come to me, and when I have a good pile of them, I start to look at them for commonalities, to see how they might fit together as a collection.  I look for common themes, recurring imagery, things like that.

4. What is the back story behind Tether?

Tether was put together the same way.  I think of each of my books as a reflection of where my thoughts were at that time in my life.  When I wrote Tether (and I wrote it over a period of about 5
years), I was interested in the way time passes - sometimes it moves so fast, at other times you have these pockets of stillness where time seems to slow, even stop.  I wanted to capture both those things.

5. Where do you get your inspiration?

A lot of Tether was inspired by water - there are lake and river and ocean poems in this book, a lot of water imagery.  A lot of blue!  I am inspired by water, and by nature - places that allow my mind to relax so I can think.

6. Do you read?  What books or author/poets inspire you?

I am a big reader, I don't think I've ever been without a book since I learned to read - I read everything from poetry to mysteries to young adult fiction to classic literature.  See my earlier guest post for poets who I love and who inspire me.  As for fiction - I love Wuthering Heights, I also really liked the Red Rising series.  Kate Atkinson's A God in Ruins was the book that left the biggest impression on me last year - I was kind of shattered by the ending of that book.  I really like Hilary Mantel's historical novels, particularly Wolf Hall.  But I also enjoyed World War Z, a zombie apocalypse book.

7. I am intrigued by the other books you have written.  Tell us a little bit about your other books.

One Red Eye was about my experience as a rape victim when I was in college.  It was a very violent attack, I almost died, and I suffered from PTSD afterwards.  I had to write that book first, as it was, unfortunately, the dominant event in my life at that point.  I needed to get that story out of my head and onto paper, so I could move on to other things.  My second book, Northern Oracle, is more what I wanted to write, it's much more of an immersion in nature.

8. How do you carve time out of your busy day to write?  Are you a full time writer or do you have a day job? What is one of your daily writing rituals or habits?

I do have a full-time job teaching at a community college.  I used to teach part-time and write more, now that I teach full-time I do find it difficult to find time to write.  A lot of my creative energy goes into creating lesson plans and class activities.  These days I do most of my writing in the summer when I have a break.  Sometimes I just have to make myself sit down and write. Sometimes I need prompts or exercises to get me going.  Sometimes I have ideas that I've jotted down, and I’ll take those out and work on those. I get a lot of ideas when I'm out running through the woods, or around the lake - I try to remember them as I run home, and I'll write them down to work on them later.  Sometimes it takes me so long to get home, I forget the idea!

9. Usually poetry is autobiographical and personal. Is it hard to share your personal memories and experiences with the world? Why do you do it?

It was a little hard when my first book came out since it was about rape, I wasn't sure how people would react, but everyone I knew was so supportive.  I'm an introvert, and I feel like if I really want to communicate with the world, writing is a good way for me to do that.  And even though I might prefer to do it through writing, I do want to communicate, I like the idea of sharing thoughts and ideas with others, and particularly with readers, maybe because reading is one of the great pleasures in my life.

10.  In one sentence, tell readers why they should read Tether.

To pause with me, and think about our lives, and consider some lovely images -- while we let the world hurry on around us.

Thanks Kirsten!!

If you would like to win copies of Kirsten's poetry books please click the links.
Tether Giveaway
One Red Eye Giveaway

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Poem in My Post: Dedicated to Prince

Poem in My Post: Dedicated to Prince

Prince is one of the most iconic artists of my life and when I heard he died on Thursday, I was propelled down a rabbit hole of memories of my life and how Prince shaped it.  Last night I went to watch Purple Rain movie outside with thousands of people wearing purple and grieving.  It was so cool. Then we went to the Prince memorial outside of First Avenue and then we danced all night to Prince songs inside First Avenue.  When we left at 3:38 am, there was still a block long group of people waiting to get inside.  It was so surreal and awesome and sad.

Today, I knew I had to feature a poem about Prince and I read this one last year by Tanya Olson.  It was featured in the The Best American Poetry of 2015.  Enjoy!

54 Prince by Tanya Olson

There exist 54 Goldilocks planets
54 planets not too hot
54 planets not too cold
54 planets where the living
is juuuuuust right
in that particular planetary zone

54 planets like Earth
but not Earth Similar
not the same 54 planets close
but different Different
except for Prince

Assless Pants Prince
High-Heel Boots Prince
Purple Rain Prince
Paisley Park Prince
I Would Die For You Prince
Ejaculating Guitar Prince
Jehovah’s Witness Prince
Needs A New Hip Prince
Wrote Slave On His Face Prince
Took An Unpronounceable Symbol For His Name Prince
Chka Chka Chka Ahh Prince

54 planets each with a Prince
and every Prince
exactly the same
as the one we know on Earth
54 lace 54 canes
54 planets 54 Prince

These 54 Prince swallow 54 worries
The 54 worries become 54 songs
54 songs made of 54 bars 54 bars
using 54 chords 54 downbeats
where they pick up the worries
54 off-beats to lay the worries down again
54 worried skank-beat Prince
birth 54 worrisome funk-drenched songs

Once an Earth year the Prince
gather around Lake Minnetonka
When the cherry moon smiles
they thrust under their heads
Under the water the Prince sick up
the old worries Under the water
worry sacks rise empty again

It takes a worried man the Prince say
to sing a worried song
while beneath the surface of Lake Minnetonka
the perch in the shoals
and the gobies in their holes
nibble at the worries
our skimmed from the top worries
scraped from the bottom worries
spooned from the middle good enough worries
There’s worries now the fish sing
but there won’t be worries long

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Kirsten Dierking Guest Post + Giveaways

Kirsten Dierking Guest Post + Giveaways

Kirsten Dierking is the April, Minnesota Author and Poet in the spotlight here on BookSnob and she has just written a lovely post for National Poetry month on ten poems she loves.  I love this guest post and hope you do too.  What are some of your favorite poems?

For National Poetry Month, I thought I would just share ten poems I love.  I have to say, this made me want to do many lists!  (Ten Minnesota Poems I Love, Ten Animal Poems I Love, Ten Poems with Humor I Love, etc.)

1.  Raymond Carver, What the Doctor Said
That waterfall, where a moment of grace and beauty and something mystical beyond corporeal life enters this poem. The way the terrible tragedy of the news is discussed in casual language and with common courtesy - the way we mostly deal with the terrible news in life.

2. Linda Pastan, The Death of a Parent
"suddenly/there is nobody/left standing between you/ and the world"

3. Louis Jenkins, Rock Collecting
I think of the idea of this deceptively simple poem often - the burden of loving something, the freedom of few attachments.

4. John Berryman, #29 from 77 Dream Songs
The first four lines are the best description of depression (or perhaps great loss, grief or sorrow) that I have ever read.

5. Pablo Neruda, Sonnet XVII
An intense love poem about real love:  "I love you simply without problems or pride"

6. Mark Doty, New Dog
"So after I drive
to Jimi and Tony’s
in the Village and they
meet me at the door and say,
We can’t go through with it,

we can’t give up our dog"
What we love and what we have to give up in our lives - and how we find some way to bear that (dogs help).

7. Jim Moore, It Is Not The Fact That I Will Die That I Mind
That our fierce love for our own, particular world will be lost with us.

8. James Wright, A Blessing
Those last three lines - Wright's ability to convey a transcendent moment of grace in simple words - so very, very difficult to do.

9 . Lucille Clifton Homage to my Hips
Love the empowering tone of this poem, and the humor.

10. Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
The lovely moment of stillness between obligations, the being alone - but not quite (the horse is there), the sound of the harness bells in those snowy woods. That what is dark and deep is lovely.

Thanks Kirsten.

If you would like to win copies of Kirsten's poetry books click here:

Go forth and read poetry!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tether by Kirsten Dierking Giveaway

Tether by Kirsten Dierking Giveaway

Kirsten Dierking is the Minnesota Author and Poet in the spotlight here on BookSnob for the month of April.  She and her publisher, Spout Press, are giving away 2 copies of her lovely poetry book, Tether.  The poems in this volume are beautiful and the cover is truly lovely.  This is a book of poetry you could give as a gift to someone you love or cherish it for yourself.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Poetry. In her third book of poems, Kirsten Dierking explores the way our everyday desires shape themselves into the miraculous, like "antlers branched in sprays of bone against the sky." In selecting Dierking's work for a McKnight Artist Fellowship, three-time National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson wrote, "I found these slight, reticent poems tender and thoughtful. They demonstrate the virtue of withholding, showing that sometimes less is definitely more." TETHER is an exploration of fluid, unseen grace as it manifests around us, building an uncanny and potent now.

Contest Rules:
U.S. residents only
Fill out the form
Ends May 16th
Good Luck

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Poem in My Post

Poem in my Post:  The Lanyard by Billy Collins

This week I chose Billy Collins poem, The Lanyard.  I think this poem will bring a smile to your face as you think of the lanyard you made at camp and the love you have for your mother.  And as a mother it says to me that nothing compares to the love you have for your children.  I love my children so much and would do anything for them.

Billy Collins is a former Poet Laureate and probably the most popular and well known poet today.  I love him for his witty poems that make me fall in love with all the complexities of life.

Photo:  I took this photo of a colorful art sculture in San Antonio, Texas on a bike ride from one Mission church to the next.

The Lanyard by Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I , in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.

Monday, April 11, 2016

One Red Eye. Poems by Kirsten Dierking Giveaway

One Red Eye by Kirsten Dierking Giveaway

It's National Poetry Month and poet Kirsten Dierking is giving away 2 copies of her first poetry book, One Red Eye to Booksnob readers.  You are so lucky!  I'm jealous because I really want to read these poems.  Holy Cow Press, the publisher is also awesome.

Try and read one poem a day.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

"In reading these poems, we experience beauty-paradoxically-as well as come to understand the complexity of the crime, its aftermath, and the relief and joy of recovery."—Roseann Lloyd

Perhaps the first full-length work of its kind, One Red Eye is an unexpected book, an intimate story of violence and survival, rape and re-birth, told in verse. In concise, candid, and understated poems, Dierking shares the brutal truth of her own rape experience, while at the same time, demonstrating the possibility of spiritual recovery from sexual assault. This is the story of a life brought to a disasterous standstill, and the subsequent acts of common kindness that allow the author to recapture hope, and move into a changed, but salvageable future. Tough and articulate, One Red Eye defies the silence and guilt that so often surrounds the crime of rape.

I Might Have Dreamed This

For a short time after
the rape, I found I could move things. Energy birds
swarmed from my brain. With a witch's sense
of abandoned physics, I set dolls rolling.
Back and forth. Like a breathing sound. Using only my night-powered
eyes, I pushed the lamp to the dresser's edge.
I buried the mirrors in avalanches of freshly
laundered underpants. I never slept. I did all these things
lying down.

Kirsten Dierking received a bachelor's degree in International Affairs and History from the University of Colorado, and a Master's degree in Creative Writing from Hamline University. Her writing has appeared in Sing Heavenly Muse, ArtWord Quarterly, Water-Stone, and Xanadu. She lives with her husband in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This is her first published collection.

Contest rules:
Fill out the form
U.S. residents only
Contest ends 5/11 at midnight
Good Luck

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Poem in my Post

Poem in my Post

On Thursday, April 7th, I went to a writing festival at Normandale Community College and had the opportunity to listen to Reginald Dwayne Betts read his poetry.  This is the first poem he read and it had me in tears.  I hope you are touched by this man and his poetry, like I was.

His new poetry book is called Bastards of the Reagan Era.  His poems are raw, powerful and thought provoking.  They are about growing up in East LA during the war on drugs and his time in prison.  He spent 9 years in prison for stealing a car when he was 16 and his poems are going to rock your world.

Here is a link to April poetry magazine's podcast which features a discussion and reading of this poem by Betts.

When I think of Tamir Rice While Driving by Reginald Dwayne Betts

in the backseat of my car are my own sons,
still not yet Tamir’s age, already having heard
me warn them against playing with toy pistols,
though my rhetoric is always about what I don’t
like, not what I fear, because sometimes
I think of Tamir Rice & shed tears, the weeping
all another insignificance, all another way to avoid
saying what should be said: the Second Amendment
is a ruthless one, the pomp & constitutional circumstance
that says my arms should be heavy with the weight
of a pistol when forced to confront death like
this: a child, a hidden toy gun, an officer that fires
before his heart beats twice. My two young sons play
in the backseat while the video of Tamir dying
plays in my head, & for everything I do know, the thing
I don’t say is that this should not be the brick and mortar
of poetry, the moment when a black father drives
his black sons to school & the thing in the air is the death
of a black boy that the father cannot mention,
because to mention the death is to invite discussion
of taboo: if you touch my sons the crimson
that touches the concrete must belong, at some point,
to you, the police officer who justifies the echo
of the fired pistol; taboo: the thing that says that justice
is a killer’s body mangled and disrupted by bullets
because his mind would not accept the narrative
of your child’s dignity, of his right to life, of his humanity,
and the crystalline brilliance you saw when your boys first breathed;
the narrative must invite more than the children bleeding
on crisp fall days; & this is why I hate it all, the people around me,
the black people who march, the white people who cheer,
the other brown people, Latinos & Asians & all the colors of humanity
that we erase in this American dance around death, as we
are not permitted to articulate the reasons we might yearn
to see a man die; there is so much that has to disappear
for my mind not to abandon sanity: Tamir for instance, everything
about him, even as his face, really and truly reminds me
of my own, in the last photo I took before heading off
to a cell, disappears, and all I have stomach for is blood,
and there is a part of me that wishes that it would go away,
the memories, & that I could abandon all talk of making it right
& justice. But my mind is no sieve & sanity is no elixir & I am bound
to be haunted by the strength that lets Tamir’s father,
mother, kinfolk resist the temptation to turn everything
they see into a grave & make home the series of cells
that so many of my brothers already call their tomb.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Right to Bare Arms- My First Published Poem

 The Right To Bare Arms by Laura Lanik

Today, The Fem Literary Magazine published my poem The Right To Bare Arms.  This is my first published poem and it is very personal and autobiographical.  I hope you can find the time to read it, discuss it, share it and leave a comment.

I think it is pretty awesome that my poem is published today on April 5th during National Poetry Month.  I'm doing the happy dance.  Happy, Happy.

Here is the link:

Thanks so much for reading my poem.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Poem in my Post

Poem in my Post

I love National Poetry Month.  I think this is my favorite month to blog because every Sunday, I put a poem in my blog post and I get to share some of my favorite poets and poems.  I chose today's poem because it is so visual and it really makes me want to write amazing poems like this one.  I hope you will love it too.  The photo is of my niece, Stacy (the bride) and her wedding party.  I love it.  It reminds me of the last supper and the wedding party is caught in a weird moment of thought.

On the Sadness of Wedding Dresses
by James Galvin

On starless, windless nights like this
I imagine
I can hear the wedding dresses
Weeping in their closets,
Luminescent with hopeless longing,
Like hollow angels.
They know they will never be worn again.
Who wants them now,
After their one heroic day in the limelight?
Yet they glow with desire
In the darkness of closets.
A few lucky wedding dresses
Get worn by daughters—just once more,
Then back to the closet.
Most turn yellow over time,
Yellow from praying
For the moths to come
And carry them into the sky.
Where is your mother’s wedding dress,
What closet?
Where is your grandmother’s wedding dress?
What, gone?
Eventually they all disappear,
Who knows where.
Imagine a dump with a wedding dress on it.
I saw one wedding dress, hopeful at Goodwill.
But what sad story brought it there,
And what sad story will take it away?
Somewhere a closet is waiting for it.
The luckiest wedding dresses
Are those of wives
Betrayed by their husbands
A week after the wedding.
They are flung outside the double-wide,
Or the condo in Telluride,
And doused with gasoline.
They ride the candolescent flames,
Just smoke now,
Into a sky full of congratulations.

James Galvin has published seven books of poetry and two prose works. He teaches at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Announcing the April Author in the Spotlight

Announcing the April Author in the Spotlight

April is one of my favorite months because it is National Poetry Month and Autism Awareness week falls during the first week of April.  I love highlighting poetry this month.  If you don't read poetry you need to give it a try.

I'm excited to share with you that one of my poems will be published on April 5th.  This is my first published poem.  I'm also excited to feature a Minnesota Poet this month and her name is Kirsten Dierking.  We met at the Twin Cities book fair in October, 2015.  I was drawn to Kirsten because of her book covers. They are so beautiful and I think you will agree that her poems are also thought provoking and lovely.

Here are the three poetry books she has written and their synopsis from Goodreads.


Poetry. In her third book of poems, Kirsten Dierking explores the way our everyday desires shape themselves into the miraculous, like "antlers branched in sprays of bone against the sky." In selecting Dierking's work for a McKnight Artist Fellowship, three-time National Book Award finalist Marilyn Nelson wrote, "I found these slight, reticent poems tender and thoughtful. They demonstrate the virtue of withholding, showing that sometimes less is definitely more." TETHER is an exploration of fluid, unseen grace as it manifests around us, building an uncanny and potent now.

One Red Eye

Perhaps the first full-length work of its kind, One Red Eye is an unexpected book, an intimate story of violence and survival, rape and re-birth, told in verse. In concise, candid, and understated poems, Dierking shares the brutal truth of her own rape experience, while at the same time, demonstrating the possibility of spiritual recovery from sexual assault. This is the story of a life brought to a disastrous standstill, and the subsequent acts of common kindness that allow the author to recapture hope, and move into a changed, but salvageable future. Tough and articulate, One Red Eye defies the silence and guilt that so often surrounds the crime of rape.

Northern Oracle

Poetry. On Kirsten Dierking's collection of poems NORTHERN ORACLE: "Kirsten Dierking's poems often focus on the small things, the unnoticed natural world around her, 'the unknowable swimmers' in the water beneath the canoe, or the realization of the 'glorious spirit' inside a wild flower. It is this seeing that gives her poems their joy. But it is the unflinching realization that 'you love things that can't help leaving' and that, 'you can't stop/ yourself becoming/ all the white, / expressionless snow' that gives the poems their strength"--Louis Jenkins

This month you can expect a giveaway, a book review, an author interview and hopefully a guest post.

This is going to be a great month.
Go forth and read a poem.
Happy Reading!

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Best Books I Read in 2015

The Best Books I Read in 2015

OK, I know I am super late with this post.  I read 78 books last year and want to share with you my absolute favorites.  The saying says, "Better late than never" so I'm using that in my defense.
I read some really awesome books last year and many of them have passed under the radar and need some book love and attention.  I have 13 books to highlight and five were written by Minnesota authors.  The list contains five books of fiction, three non-fiction, three young adult and two kick-ass graphic novels.


The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber

Klaber has written an amazing book of historical fiction.  The characters, based on REAL people, are vibrant and leap off the page. Lucy chooses to live her life as a man named Joseph in the mid 1800's. 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.  There is also a Minnesota connection as Joseph lived in Minnesota territory.  Love this book.

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan O'Dell

Another great work of historical fiction that takes place in Mississippi before the Civil Rights Movement.  This is the story of two women, one who is white and wealthy, the other one, black and poor.  This book has been compared to The Help (which I have not read).  I have to say that this book will teach you a lot about the Civil Rights Movement and the roles and involvement of the amazing women who propelled this movement forward.  This book is definitely amazing and it is a five star read.  The author was raised in Mississippi and this book is about his experience growing up and ultimately about his mother.  O'dell currently lives in Minnesota.

The Dead Lands by Ben 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 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. I love, love, love, The Dead Lands.  I was riveted to the page and enjoyed the fantastical elements as well as the historical ones.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradahl

Eva Thorvald is such an interesting character. You get to figure out the puzzle of Eva's life.  Each chapter is a snapshot into who Eva is and how she became this amazing chef who hosts the most creative and interesting dinners in the world and people are on the waiting list for years. Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a delicious book full of wonderful food and recipes and dinner parties.  The food is Midwestern favorites, State Fair bake-offs and your mouth is going to water. Stradal's book is a well written novel about midwestern characters that grab your heart or make you want to punch them in the face.  Welcome to Minnesota nice (which really means passive-aggressive). I seriously want to go to one of Eva's dinner parties.  I wish she was real.  Maybe I will start my own cooking club.

The Tusk That Did the Damage by Tania James

The Tusk That Did the Damage takes place in India and is told from three different perspectives.  The elephant, the poacher and the filmmaker. The Tusk That Did the Damage is a page-turning, can't wait to find out what happens next, sort of book.  It is devastatingly beautiful and tragic and brilliant.  I have fallen in love with Gravedigger and the poacher and the filmmaker.  My heart aches for each of them and I wish the story didn't have to end. Unfortunately every story must come to an end and so this is my recommendation;  Read this book slowly and tell everyone you know to read it.


Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

I currently have a girl crush on Cheryl Strayed.  I read her book, Wild, became Facebook friends with her and I currently listen to her podcast, Dear Sugar.  Tiny Beautiful Things is a compilation of her best advice columns when she wrote her Dear Sugar column for the The Rumpus.  It is full of life lessons, humor, honesty and compassion.  Cheryl inspires me to live a better life and to trust my intuition.  Officially addicted to Dear Sugar.

In The Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

Listened to the audio book version of this National Book Award Winner. This is quality non-fiction and great storytelling all wrapped up in a story of the deep sea. The Whaleship Essex was stove by a Sperm Whale and sunk. Interesting tidbit: Herman Melville wrote his famous tale of Moby Dick and based it on this incident of the sinking of the Essex and the ships crew's survival at sea. An excellent book that is worth your time. And now there is a movie. Yay!

Girl in the Woods. A Memoir by Aspen Matis

Aspen survived a rape in her freshman college year and many trials and tribulations on her 2,650 mile hike across the United States. She traversed extreme temperatures, snakes, deadly thirst and hunger, a vicious rumor, romance and so much more. The Pacific Crest Trail led Aspen to believe in herself and she came to trust and love herself. Girls in the Woods is a book about self-discovery and awakenings and it is awesome. I loved it.

Young Adult

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

How it Went Down is a book that all teens need to read. A black teen in a hoodie is shot and killed by a white man who takes justice into his own hands. Told from 18 perspectives, this story chronicles the tragedy facing many neighborhoods, schools and families when teens, especially young black teenage males, are shot and killed at an alarming rate.

I have lost several male students to gang violence. One of the boys was an only child. I still think of his mother. I also had my 8th grade boyfriend accidentally shot and killed by his friend back in 1980. I am no stranger to the horror of teens dying.

Wow, just wow. This should be taught in schools and read at home by parents and teens. This is an important timely book.

A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn

This book is magical and I was drawn in my the magic of the woods and its creatures.  Marni, the main character is half dragon, half human but doesn't know it yet.  There is excellent layering of the story, beautiful imagery, and a strong, powerful female character.  I love kick-ass, amazing, smart characters.  This book needs some book love.  So get a copy and read it with your teens.  It is hug worthy and your dreams will be infused with magic if you put in under your pillow.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirls transports you into the mind of an anorexic teenager. It is frightening and amazing. This book will have you mesmerized.  You will not be able to walk away and you will probably never forget this story.  Wow.  Just Wow.

Graphic Novels

Ms. Marvel. Vol. 1. No Normal

Even though the world has us on superhero overload, this book blew me away.  It breaks the mold. Love this "shape-changing, mask wearing, sixteen-year-old Super "Moozlim" from Jersey City". A great new modern day, super cool, Superhero. I love Kamala Khan.


At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's camp for hard-core lady-types, a group of quirky girls try to earn merit badges and do their best to have a fun summer.   Here are some of their merit badges; The Naval Gauging Badge awarded for proficiency in canoeing, and of course, for successfully navigating monster-infested waters.  The Pungeon Master Badge awarded for being exceptionally pun-ny.  The Up All Night Badge awarded for staying awake all night and up out of your bed after lights out.

This graphic novel is just plain fun to read and super creative. As a mother of a Boy Scout and a Girl Scout, it is fun to read about a group of girls who encounter fantastical creatures in the woods while out earning merit badges. Loved the quirkiness, love the characters. Definitely want this comic to be made into a movie.

There you have it.  My top reads of 2015.  Thirteen awesome books.  You need to go read one of them right now.

Sending you book love.