Thursday, October 31, 2013

October Author in the Spotlight Wrap-up + Giveaway

October Author in the Spotlight Wrap-up + Giveaway

Sugarhouse Giveaway ends Tonight at midnight.  So hurry up and enter.

Happy Halloween!  Tonight was a cold and rainy night trick or treating.  The kids have collected about 7 pounds of candy.  Wow.  Can you say cavities?  This month was memorable as I attended the Twin Cities book festival, went on a vacation to Madeline Island, then went on a reading retreat with amazing women from The Women's Press and I've read so many great books this month, including this months read called Sugarhouse by Matt Batt.

If you would like to win a copy of Sugarhouse please enter here:  Sugarhouse giveaway.

Please check out my book review of Sugarhouse.  Matt tells the story of his fixer upper with humor and style.  Batt is witty and insightful, with a little of bit of He-man thrown in (insert a Tim Allen grunt).  He includes the everyday family drama of his life, which I found pretty interesting, as his grandpa is quite the wild man.

Sugarhouse Book Review

Check out the author interview with Matthew Batt.  Get your home improvement advice here.  Read this fun interview and you will learn the backstory behind Sugarhouse, Turning the Neighborhood Crack House into Our Home Sweet Home.  You will also learn about other great Minnesota writers and so much more.

Matthew Batt Author Interview

Check out Matt Batt Guest Post.  He has written a guest post on how he started writing his memoir, Sugarhouse, and he shares what he was going on in his life at the time he bought his house.   It is fascinating to me, how someone begins to write a book and how the first sentence meets the page.  Matt talks in his guest post about the art of writing.

Matthew Batt Guest Post

It has been a pleasure to work with Matthew Batt this month and I would like to thank him for being the October Minnesota Author in the Spotlight.  I met Matthew Batt at the Twin Cities Book Festival a year ago in October, 2012.  I love reading memoirs and Matt's book is really interesting but I am pretty sure I won't be remodeling my house anytime soon.  I'm so glad I was able to feature Matt on BookSnob.  Please check out Matt's website at

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sugarhouse by Matt Batt

Sugarhouse; Turning the Neighborhood Crack House Our Home Sweet Home by Matt Batt

Matt and Jenae live in Salt Lake City and need to buy a house fast because the lease for their apartment is up.  They have lost 2 bids already and are losing faith, when fate intervenes. Matt luckily drives by a house newly listed on the market.  It is a great street, a perfect location, everything about it seems perfect until they walk in the front door.  The smell is atrocious, who knows what is on the carpet and there is aluminum foil on the windows.  It is the neighborhoods former crack house.

Matt and Jenae buy the house and have a ton of home improvements to do in just one month.  Matt is not a handy guy, he is a writer who isn't good at much else but he signs up for some classes, makes some mistakes and eventually, with the help of his wife, fixes up the house.

Matt tells the story of his fixer upper with humor and style.  Batt is witty and insightful, with a little of bit of He-man thrown in (insert a Tim Allen grunt).  He includes the everyday family drama of his life, which I found pretty interesting, as his grandpa is quite the wild man.  In fact, I really enjoyed reading about his mom and grandparents, it added a lot of the story.

Sugarhouse is a entertaining book for those already in the home improvement stage of their lives but it is also a cautionary tale for those thinking about buying a dilapidated former crack house.  Beware or Be Brave!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Matt Batt Author Interview + Giveaway

Matt Batt Author Interview + Giveaway

Matt Batt is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Book Snob during the frightful month of October.  Read this fun interview and you learn the backstory behind Sugarhouse, Turning the Neighborhood Crack House into Our Home Sweet Home.  You will also learn about other great Minnesota writers and get some home improvement advice.

Hi Matt,

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born in Denver but spend most of my childhood in suburban Milwaukee. Since then I bounced around from Boston to Columbus, Ohio, to Madison, Wisconsin, to Salt Lake City, Utah, to Nacogdoches—that’s right—Nacogdoches, Texas, and then finally to St. Paul. The life of a grad student cum writer cum university instructor type tends to mean lots of time on the highway. Bad on the pocketbook, but good for material. There’s just no better way to get to know the world than to live in it.

2. What inspired you to write to Sugarhouse?

A deadline. Not the kind that comes from some fancy-pants publishing house either. When I started Sugarhouse I was just another grad student with no clue what I was going to write about and a deadline to turn something in for class. My wife and I had thought buying and fixing up a purported crack house was going to be a piece of cake—we even had a whole month to do so before we had to move in. Piece. Of. Cake. It ended up taking months and months and months, of course. In the meantime, school started back up and I stupidly volunteered to turn something in. I never in my life imagined that I would end up writing about home renovation or whatnot, but it’s the kind of thing that you can’t do halfway or phone in. It’s all or nothing. Tends to make for some pretty tense stuff. Which, of course, is something to write about.

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

What follows is not false modesty: when I was a kid, I pretty much sucked at everything. Sports. School. Band. I even sucked at band. College felt much the same way to begin with. I thought I was going to be a doctor, then I took biology and chemistry and failed one and managed to eke out a D- (yep—a passing grade but still) in the other. Then I found myself in a creative writing class and wrote this hopelessly earnest story about a kid and his would-be girlfriend going to Door County for a vacation and, well, the story is a real tragedy for the kid, but as far as the workshop goes, it didn’t suck. The feedback of my classmates and my teacher—CJ Hribal! Bless you!—was really positive. I can safely say I’ll never know what it feels like to throw or catch a touchdown pass, but with the warmth and support of readers like that, I could care less.

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

Everything. Poetry. Drama. Fiction. Nonfiction. Graphic novels. But the thing that gives me the most satisfaction is to read the work of my friends’ books in manuscript form as it finds its way toward print. I’m also super proud to be living and writing in a state with such a robust writing scene. I mean seriously? It’s embarrassing how many great writers are just falling all over themselves here. Peter Geye. Benjamin Percy. Frank Bures. Leslie Adrienne Miller. Kristin Naca. Matt Mauch. Louise Erdrich. Sarah Stonich. I’m leaving out three times as many as I’m mentioning—not on purpose!—there’s just so many!—Dylan Hicks. Scott Wrobel. Seriously? What a wealth. When I grew up, I didn’t know/think there were any living writers in the Midwest. It gives me such joy to know that there are so many great—and living!—writers all around us.

5. How do carve out time in your day to write when you are busy teaching college and have a child under 5 at home?  Are you writing another book?  Can you tell us a little bit about it?

In fits and starts. When I’m being diligent, I try the old Graham Greene 500 word a day method—but that’s not very many words if you’re trying to get in any kind of groove. This summer I was blessed—and I don’t mean that metaphorically—it felt like a literal blessing—and was granted a writer-in-residence position with the Aspen (Colorado) Writers’ Foundation. For the whole month of July, I cranked out at least 5,000 words a day on a novel I’m working on about a bunch of punk kids in Milwaukee circa 1985 who have a bad run-in with some skinheads. I was able to do in that month what would have taken me otherwise in “real life” at least three or four years. I pray everyone is so fortunate at least once in his/her life.

6. Have your students read your book?  What is their reaction to having a published author as a Creative Writing teacher?

For the most part, I’m guessing no. And I don’t blame them a bit. Every now and then someone will mention having read my book, and it’ll be like our little secret. There are few things as flattering as someone reading a whole book you’ve written. I mean, these days we’re lucky if we can get people to read to the end of a Facebook post. And my students’ time is so fought over. When one of them finds his/her way to my book and actually reads it, there is no greater compliment.

7. Why or when did you move to Minnesota and was it hard to leave your renovated home in Salt Lake City?

Actually, having done most of the work ourselves on our SLC home, I was terrified EVERY SINGLE MINUTE WE LIVED THERE that it would collapse and I would be responsible for my/our/its demise. Salt Lake City, of course, is situated right on top of a very active fault line (hence the mountains), and it was only a matter of time.

8. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who just bought their first house and has plans to renovate?

Check the terms of the contract to see if you can’t still get out of it. If so, run like hell. If no, well, don’t watch a lot of HGTV. That’ll just depress you. Choose projects that are manageable in terms of time and space. Don’t do like we did, for instance, and refinish all the floors at once (leaving you with literally no place to stand for over a week). Focus and localize the damage/renovation. More importantly, listen to whomever you’re doing this nutty thing with. Remember that every single thing you do to a house you’re fixing up is connected to you and your relationship. In the same way, remember that there is no such thing as a small detail. That shower curtain? That carpet? Those drawer pulls? They might seem like little things, but the whole house is attached to all of them. Act accordingly.

9. What is the most important lesson/idea you want readers to take away from your book, Sugarhouse?

Whatever you and your sweetie are talking about when talking about fixing up your home, remember it’s never literal. That is, it’s always a metaphor for yourselves and your relationship.

11.  In one sentence tell readers why they should read Sugarhouse?

One word: schadenfreude.

Thanks Matt!!

If you would like to win a copy of Sugarhouse click here:  Sugarhouse giveaway

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pieces of White Shell by Terry Tempest Williams

Pieces of White Shell.  A Journey to Navajoland by Terry Tempest Williams.

Terry Tempest Williams is a fierce environmentalist and is doing her best to educate readers about the connection between the people, the animals and the land.  Pieces of a White Shell delves into Terry's life as a teacher on the Navajo reservation in Utah and makes connections between Navajo culture, legend and history and Terry's own life and spiritual culture as a Mormon.

"I offer you a sampling of the Navajo voice, of my own voice and the voice of the land that moves us.  We are told a story and then we tell our own.  Each of us harbors a homeland.  The stories that are rooted there push themselves up like native grasses and crack the sidewalk." pg. 8

Pieces of a White Shell begins with Terry working as a collector as she shakes her pouch open on her desk, she wonders what stories the items she has collected tell.  Each item she collected is the name of the chapter and shapes the stories you find there.  Rocks, Sands, Seed, Turquoise, Obsidian, Coral, Pieces of a White Shell, Yucca, Feathers, Coyote Fue, Bone, Deerskin, Wool, the Storyteller and Corn Pollen.

"To tell a story you must travel inward." pg.  129

Beautiful artwork accompanies and illustrates one aspect of each chapter.  There are 13 stories or essays that meld together, told with simplicity and spirituality.  Pieces of White Shell is a testament to the beauty and harmony of the land.  It is full of the old, oral tradition stories of the Navajo people. If you love story and if you love mother earth, you will love this book.

What items do you find in nature and save in a special place?  What stories do they tell?
I collect the feathers in found in my yard and the deer antlers left in spring.  I hold rocks in my pockets and gaze at the them as the reside on my dresser.  We are all collectors of nature and stories.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Matt Batt Guest Post + Giveaway

Matt Batt Guest Post + Giveaway

Matt Batt is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Book Snob during the frightful month of October.  He has written a guest post on how he started writing his memoir, Sugarhouse, and he shares what he was going on in his life at the time he bought his house.   It is fascinating to me, how someone begins to write a book and how the first sentence meets the page.  Matt talks in his guest post about the art  of writing.

So without further adieu I would like to welcome Matt to BookSnob.  Please read on.

Matt Batt's Guest Post

Work on my book, Sugarhouse, a memoir about renovating a crack house and my life along with it, began very modestly—almost accidentally. I was a graduate student at the University of Utah, studying creative writing and English, and was enrolled in a creative nonfiction class with Robin Hemley at the same time my wife and I were fixing up this house we had bought. The place was a real disaster. I mean, it was a former crack house. I suppose I don’t need to say much more than that. Our home-owning and rehabilitating experience was, suffice it to say, zero. We couldn’t change a light bulb without having to consult our landlord or an electrician or both, and all of a sudden, there we were with this house hanging over our head. We knew it was going to take a lot of work, but we had a whole month, I thought blithely, before school was starting up again. All we had to do was all of the floors, walls, countertops, cabinets, shore up the foundation, replace the heating and air conditioning system, and paint. In a month.

Well, as any home owner or DIYer would testify, nothing went according to plan. School started back up and being the eager beaver that I had always been, I signed up to turn in something to Hemley’s class for everyone to read or “workshop” as we call it, and in what seemed like an instant the deadline was upon me and I had no idea whatsoever to write about. My grandmother had died just a few months prior, but you don’t have to be a very avid reader of essays to realize that well over half of them are about, in fact, the death of a grandmother. But, it had really leveled me emotionally and had been a hugely motivating factor in why we bought the house, and so I wondered if there was a way I could write about it, but, as Emily Dickinson says of the truth, write it slant.

I didn’t know what that meant, but I was literally twenty hours away from the deadline and I didn’t have any choice but to, as Guy de Maupassant says, get black on white. Write. So, I sat down at my desk and shoved aside the scraps of wood, paint samples, and power tools that had been littered upon every surface of our new home and thought, Well, I suppose I could write about this.

Just the day before I had attended a massively demoralizing and emasculating hardwood floor refinishing workshop at one of those big box home improvement stores, and before I overthought it, started there. Unbeknownst to me, what ended up being the first line of my essay was a riff off of a Billy Joel song, “The Piano Man.” “It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday,” I wrote, and from there I was off to the races, writing for, what seemed to me for the duration of the experience, my life.

I know it sounds hyperbolic and over-the-top, but that’s how it felt. We were so over our heads in home improvement bafflement and the grief and confusion of my grandmother’s death, writing a book ended up being the only way I could make sense of it all.

I don’t recommend that necessarily as a writing or research strategy, but at the same time, I find very few things as motivating as 1. A deadline, and 2. Being truly flummoxed. I think we can all sense it when a writer is being self-indulgent or trying to show off how smart he is. For me, anyway, the worst thing I can think about when I start something is what it means or where it’s going to end. It’s not an efficient strategy, but it is one that at least allows me to preserve that pure essayistic spirit of endeavoring. That is, after all, what the word “essay” means. It’s not a proof or a boast or an argument or a speech. It’s an endeavor. An attempt. A try.

Most of the book I wrote in spurts, and I tried as best I could to crank out each chapter in as close to one or two sittings as possible so as to preserve the continuity of voice and pacing and all around urgency. Some chapters cooperated with that, others not so much. But I found interestingly that the ones I worked the hardest at were often the ones that didn’t end up making the cut. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t tons of revision involved. Far from it. I think all told I went through the entire manuscript about 25 times after I reached the end the first time. But what I loved about the project and what I believe I have come to love about writing books is that each one is a universe unto itself. Henry James called novels—but I think all books answer to this—those “baggy monsters.” There’s something so intimidating about them, but also wonderfully appealing about getting to create and then, most importantly, trying to figure out how to teach and train something with a hundred thousand moving parts.

Thanks Matt!

If you would like to win a copy of Matt's book Sugarhouse please enter here:  Sugarhouse Giveaway

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Joe is a 13 year old native boy who lives on a North Dakota reservation with his mother and father.  His father, Bazil, is a tribal judge and his mother, Geraldine, works for the reservation, registering Indians new to the tribe.  One day, a day like any other, Joe's mother gets a call and leaves to retrieve a file.  She is late returning home and so Joe and his father go looking for her.  They find her on the road, driving home.  They return home to find her sitting in her car, her hands rigid on the steering wheel and shaking.  When they open the car door, they see blood and vomit and they know immediately that they must get her to the hospital quickly.

Joe's world has been turned upside down.  His mother has been irrevocably wounded and she retreats into the sanctuary of her bedroom leaving Joe to deal with his anger and emotions on his own.  He has so many questions and desperately wants to help his mother and have his life go back to normal, the way it was before the crime was committed.  He remembers his mother smelled of gasoline when they found her in the car, Why?  He listens, he asks questions and then Joe and his three closest friends begin to piece together the crime.  They figure out the crime was committed at the Round House near the lake.  They find clues left behind by investigators and make plans to find out where exactly the crime took place.  Joe is going to make sure the man responsible for hurting his mother pays for his crime.

Life on a Indian reservation in North Dakota is hard and made harder by the fact that criminals who commit a crime on reservation land will likely walk away without being punished for the crime.  According to an news article by the Atlantic written by SIERRA CRANE-MURDOCH on FEB 22 2013, it states;
"In 1978, the Supreme Court case Oliphant v. Suquamish stripped tribes of the right to arrest and prosecute non-Indians who commit crimes on Indian land. If both victim and perpetrator are non-Indian, a county or state officer must make the arrest. If the perpetrator is non-Indian and the victim an enrolled member, only a federally certified agent has that right. If the opposite is true, a tribal officer can make the arrest, but the case still goes to federal court."
It is a jurisdiction nightmare and Louise Erdrich does an excellent job of communicating what this means to a victim and a victims family on the rez.  WOW.  Erdrich and her book The Round House deserve the National Book Award and my hope is that many people read this book and put pressure on Washington to give the Indian Nations the power to prosecute non-Indians who commit a crime
on reservation lands.  To think that perpetrators of crimes like rape and murder go free is horribly upsetting and just plain WRONG.
You can read the article from the Atlantic here:

Louise Erdrich is one of my favorite authors and reading her books are like coming home for a family reunion and visiting with long lost relatives.  Erdrich is an excellent storyteller and weaves an intricate spider web of interwoven stories that connects through layers of time and place.  Erdrich always teaches me something and I look forward to each new book that she writes as I know it will add the story of the characters I have grown to love throughout time.  The fiction works of Louise Erdrich all center around a reservation in North Dakota and the characters are a part of a family and sometimes the characters from past novels find their way into the current novel.  You never know what relative will visit or drop by to add to the story.  I love it.  All the novels are connected yet you can read them in any order because each book is its own unique and well written entity.

The Round House is fast becoming one of my favorite books of the year as Erdrich's characters have stolen my heart.  The Round House is a powerful novel full of tragedy and comedy and life's most meaningful lessons.  Erdrich has written another memorable story with characters that will live on in your memory for a long time to come.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

This Close by Jessica Francis Kane

This Close; Stories by Jessica Francis Kane

Every Saturday I read a short story.  I have spent the last few months reading a story a week out of This Close.  There are twelve short stories, told with a bit of heartache and tenderness.  Some of the stories are connected and others stand alone.  Kane's stories are snapshots that bring you up close and personal as the reader looks into the windows of people's lives.

We come this close to happiness, love and death on a daily basis.  The stories of This Close are the chance meetings, close calls, wrong turns, small choices made that change the course of your day and the  vivid moments of a life lived.  This Close is about the parts of the story you may not recall because you are too close to it.  Time gives you perspective and so does Jessica Francis Kane in her collection of stories.

One of the more memorable stories for me is called American Lawn; of a lady who lets an immigrant make a garden out of her back yard.  They forge an awkward friendship.  Another storyline that touched me is the story of Maryanne and her son, Mike.  These two characters stories intersect and collide and they are in more than one story.  Double Take is about Mike's college roommate, Ben who takes a road trip when he can't shake his misery after Mike's death.  Ben drives across the country to visit Maryanne.

I have a new found appreciation for short stories and short story writers.  The art of the short story is hard to master and Kane is a master.  This Close is a collection of short stories about family, connections, love, death and the day to day routines of a living a life.  This Close definitely has a story you can connect to.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette was adopted by a set of very religious pentecostal parents who lived in North England.  Her mother adopted her so she could grow up to become a missionary and donate her life to God.  Jeanette was only allowed to read one book, she could recite Bible verses and sing many songs unto the Lord.  They went to church everyday and Jeanette grew up loving the Lord and evangelizing.

Jeanette's mother was abusive, locking her out of the house and beating her for her own good.  She frequently said that God lead her to the wrong crib.  As Jeanette grows up alienated in school because of her religious fervor, she begins to realize that she is different.  Her religion sets her apart but more than that, Jeanette realizes she was attracted to the same sex.

This semi-autobiographical, coming of age, novel was written in 1985, when the author was 24 years old.  Winterson writes that the true story is too painful to recount and much worse than this fictional retelling.  Each chapter is named after a book of the Bible, starting with Genesis and ending with Ruth.  Oranges is an amazing book and an incredibly fast read.  I took it on vacation with me and I read it in two days.

I was drawn in by Jeanette's story and her Biblical mother.  Her mother and her religious fervor reminded me a lot of my strict Baptist grandmother.  My grandmother was so religious that she refused to attend her own sons wedding because he married a Catholic girl.  My grandmother never hit me but I was afraid of her for a long time and felt like the outsider in the family.  In many ways my experience mirrored Jeanette's.

The characters in Oranges are well-developed and Jeanette is the unorthodox heroine of her own story. Parts of the novel are quirky and some parts are awful and I admit I was intrigued when poor Jeanette was being exorcised of the devil.  I found myself hoping the main character would find compassion and love from someone in the church.  This book left an indelible mark on my soul and I don't think I will ever forget it.

“Everyone who tells a story tells it differently, just to remind us that everybody sees it differently. Some people say there are true things to be found, some people say all kinds of things can be proved. I don't believe them. The only thing for certain is how complicated it all is, like string full of knots. It's all there but hard to find the beginning and impossible to fathom the end. The best you can do is admire the cat's cradle, and maybe knot it up a bit more.”

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit won the Whitbread Prize for first fiction and was made into a film by the BBC in 1990.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Twin Cities Book Festival

Twin Cities Book Festival

The Twin Cities annual Book Festival was held on Saturday, October 12th, 2013 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.  It started out as a beautiful Fall day.  There were hundreds of venders, that included publishers, authors, creative writing institutions, a children's pavillon, booksellers and more.  There was a used book sale, a literary lounge, book signings, music, brain games and lots of panels and author speaking events.  Oh my gosh, so much to do and so little time.  I only had 4 hours this year to get my fill of the book festival.  How dare people schedule other events on the day of the Book Festival.  What are they thinking?

I met lots of authors, including some notable YA authors.   Authors are my rock stars and I was super excited to meet these amazing authors.

S.A. Bodeen- YA author of The Compound, Fallout, The Raft and The Gardener

Geoff Herbach -YA author of Stupid Fast, Nothing Special and I'm With Stupid

Swati Avasthi- YA author of Split and Chasing Shadows

Kevin Cannon - Graphic novelist- Author of Far Arden and Crater XV

Marlon James -author of The Book of Night Women and John Crow's Devil

Alison McGhee- Author of Shadow Baby and 20 other books, including Children and YA novels.

Delia Ephron- Author of Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog and 9 other books plus screenplays.
(Delia spoke in depth about her family and her life.  She is an excellent speaker, very funny and endearing.)  Oh and I had my picture taken with her.  See below.

These are the books I came home with:
Crater XV by Kevin Cannon
The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen
Guantanamo Boy (A signed copy) by Anna Perera
Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (The third book in the Chaos Walking Series)

And 3 books of Poetry
Salt Heart by Kate Hallett Dayton
Earth's Appetite by Margaret Hasse
The Heart of All This Is:  Reflections on Home- Edited by Jim Perlman

My bag was HEAVY!

That's not all, I got an email from Graywolf Press today (I love this press because they publish awesome books) and they are sending me a copy of On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman.  Yay, I am doing the happy dance.

Plus I met a fellow Minnesota Book Blogger named Kim and her blog is Sophisticated Dorkiness
I love meeting new people and I don't know many other MN book bloggers.  Check out her blog.

All in all I had a great day and I can't wait for next year's festival.  Thanks Rain Taxi for setting up such a great event, year after year, you rock.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

February 11, 1910.  On cold, snowy day Ursula Todd is born with the umbilical cord around her neck.  She dies.  Darkness fell.

February 11, 1910 Ursula Todd is born on a cold, snowy day and begins her life again, when the doctor cuts the umbilical cord around her neck with a scissors, just in time.

So marks the days of Ursula Todd's life, because as she grows, she also dies and then begins her life anew. The story always brings you back to February 11, 1910.  Ursula is born into middle class English family.  Her father is a banker and they live in the countryside, in a modest home with a cook and a housekeeper.  She has 3 siblings and grew up in the shadow of World War 1.  Life after Life is about Ursula's time living before, during and after, World War II.

"No point in thinking, she said briskly, you just have to get on with your life.  We only have one after all, we should try and do our best.  We can never get it right, but we must try."

"What if we had a chance to do it again and again, Teddy said, until we finally get it right?  Wouldn't that be wonderful?" pg. 446

Ursula does get the chance to live her life, again and again, although she doesn't know it.  She has a vague sense of deja' vu or that something is different about her but really she is just living her life as best as she can.

Life after Life is a unique and unusual story because the main character keeps dying and being re-born and the details of the story continually change.  As a reader, you need to keep track of the details as the story builds to a climatic conclusion.  Let me just say, there are a lot of details in this book of 500 pages.  The story is told in fragments and jumps throughout time and history and it is up to the reader to figure what is happening and how it connects to the bigger premise of the book.

I read this book in three formats, first as a library ebook, then as an audio book and I finished it in a print edition.  I would not recommend the audio book as I felt it was much harder to know where you were in time and space and to connect the dots of the story, because in the print and electronic editions there are many line or text breaks and you can't really tell that in audio format.

Overall I liked the story and was intrigued by it.  Atkinson experimented with  style, time and space.  I felt it was a lot like the Groundhog Day movie in some ways (idea mostly) but yet completely different.  Ursula is a great character and the most developed.  Some parts of the story had me on the edge of my seat and other times, I was not interested at all.

This is the first book I have read by Atkinson and I really want to read more of her books.  I think Life After Life explores fascinating questions about life.   I would really like to do things over sometimes and I wonder what life would be like if I made different choices.  Choices that you make affect others and it is interesting to ponder how your life would be different.

Life After Life is an intellectual read so you must prepare yourself to think deeply.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sugarhouse Giveaway

Sugarhouse Giveaway

Matt Batt is the October Author in the Spotlight here on Book Snob and he is giving away three copies of his book, Sugarhouse, Turning the Neighborhood Crack House into Our Home Sweet Home to Book Snob followers who live in the U.S.  Yay!

Here is the Synopsis from GoodReads:
An improbably funny account of how the purchase and restoration of a disaster of a fixer-upper saves a young marriage

When a season of ludicrous loss tests the mettle of their marriage, Matthew Batt and his wife decide not to call it quits. They set their sights instead on the purchase of a dilapidated house in the Sugarhouse section of Salt Lake City. With no homesteading experience and a full-blown quarter-life crisis on their hands, these perpetual grad students/waiters/nonprofiteers decide to seek salvation through renovation, and do all they can to turn a former crack house into a home. Dizzy with despair, doubt, and the side effects of using the rough equivalent of napalm to detoxify their house, they enter into full-fledged adulthood with power tools in hand.

Heartfelt and joyous, Sugarhouse is the story of how one couple conquers adversity and creates an addition to their family, as well as their home.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Crossing by Jim Murphy

The Crossing. How George Washington Saved the American Revolution by Jim Murphy
The Crossing is a 80 page children's book that highlights the early battles of the American Revolution when George Washington is chosen to command the Continental army in 1775.  Washington had some military experience but the Continental army did not and they were facing a well-trained, large British army.  The British invasion begins in New York and the Continental army faced lost battles and men who deserted.  As Washington's army decreased in size and he lost or retreated from battle, he was becoming increasingly worried that he might not be able to train the army to defeat the British.

The decisive battle that turned the tide of the war, in favor of the Continental army took place after Washington crossed the Delaware river in the middle of the night.  The Crossing is an excellent historical retelling of the beginning of the American Revolution.  It is full of maps, pictures, and even gives a description of the famous painting on the cover by Emmanuel Gottlieb Leutze.

If you want to know the true story of the beginning of the American Revolution told in eloquent, simplified text you need to check out The Crossing.  The American army was truly the underdog in this war with the British and it makes you understand the significant odds that Washington was up against.  The Crossing contains an extensive travel guide to sites of the Revolution, an index, a timeline and a list of books to continue to feed your inquisitive mind.  I found the book to be informative and fascinating.  Of course, as a history teacher I am a bit biased.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Unbearable Book Club Giveaway Winners!

The Unbearable Book Club Giveaway Winners!

I'm back from a mini Fall vacation on Madeline Island on Lake Superior.  The weather was gloomy but I brought a stack of books and covered up with a warm blanket and read.  It was heavenly.

Hometown Track, Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for September, Julie Schumacher is giving away 2 copies of her young adult book, The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls, to Book Snob followers who live in the U.S and Canada.  I am excited to announce the winners of this creatively written, unconventional book club book.  And the winners are...

Carrie from In the Hammock Blog
Jeanne from Alabama.

Congratulations Ladies.  Enjoy your new book!

Here is an excerpt from my book review:

I love the creativity that Julie Schumacher incorporates in her novel The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls.  The characters are interesting, the plot is stimulating and I felt like an honorary member of the book club.  Each chapter begins with a Vocabulary term from AP Literature and the whole book is Adrienne's summer essay that she turns in, in the Fall.  I really liked how the book was set up and formatted.

Monday, October 7, 2013

BlogFest Contest Winner!

Blog Fest Contest Winner!

Geez, sorry I am so behind on announcing my contest winners.
I went on vacation last week with my family to Madeline Island (one of the Apostle Islands on Lake Superior) and so I was just busy getting my lessons done, packing, and planning my trip.  Plus the hubby had a birthday last week so had to bake a cake, shop and wrap gifts.  Wow, it is hard work to be a wife and mother in this world.

So now I am finally announcing the winner of a 12 dollar Amazon gift card.
So congratulations to ......

Mary K of Dark Thoughts Blog

She is the winner of the Amazon Gift Card.
Yay, Mary.  Enjoy.

I will leave you with a picture of my trip to Madeline Island.  The weather was HORRIBLE.  Rainy, windy, cold and miserable.  Gale force winds, white caps on the lake and so we mostly stayed indoors.  We had one day that it didn't rain on us but it was gloomy and cold. Yet Lake Superior is so beautiful and it was fun to watch the big waves come in and the leaves are just beginning to change.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Help for the Haunted by John Searles

Help for the Haunted by John Searles

Sylvie's parents have an unusual profession, they help people who belief they are haunted by demons.  They are devoutly religious people and have two daughters, one who they believe is "good" and the other one.  Sylvie is the "good" one. One night her parents receive a call in the middle of night to meet their oldest daughter Rose at a church in town.  They wake Sylvie, drive to the church in the middle of a snowstorm and go inside.  When they don't come out, Sylvie goes inside to discover them dead on the alter, murdered and she's the only witness.

Sylvie is not sure who she saw in the church or who killed her parents, and as her life unravels, she thinks back upon her family life to discover within her what her mother already knew.

"You know the truth already. What I will say is this: each of us is born into this life with a light inside of us. Some, like yours, burn brighter than others. You don't see that yet, but I do. What's most important is to never let that light go out, because when you do, it means you've lost yourself to the darkness. It means you've lost your hope. And hope is what makes this world a beautiful place."

Help for the Haunted is a page turning, scary, hide under the covers, don't go in the basement kind of novel.  OK, it wasn't that scary but it definitely gave me some eerie, creepy, scary feelings about dolls, basements and ghosts.  I think John Searles could have named the book, The Light in the Basement or Don't go in the Basement, OK?

The novel is told in alternating chapters as Sylvie tries to unravel the mystery of who killed her parents juxtaposed with events that happened in her childhood and the people her parents tried to help.  Help for the Haunted is a unique, paranormal mystery.  It is also a coming of age story.  I tend not to like traditional mysteries and Help for the Haunted is not a traditional mystery.  Searles reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock.

I love a book where I can't figure out whodunit and John Searles kept me guessing right up to the end.  I swear, I didn't see the ending coming and that rarely happens to me.

Help for the Haunted is the perfect read for a haunted October.
Just don't answer the phone if it rings in the middle of the night.
It could be one of John Searles characters calling.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Announcing the October Author in the Spotlight

Announcing the October Author in the Spotlight

Happy October Everyone.
It is a beautiful day here in Minnesota.

I have a busy month planned for October.  I am traveling to Madeline Island, located in Wisconsin on Lake Superior.  I have never been there and am looking forward to exploring this enchanting place.  The Twin Cities Book Festival is this month and tons of authors will be there.  I can't wait, as it is one of my favorite local, literary events.  I am also attending a reading retreat with the Women's Press at the end of the month and so I have a ton of books to read this month, including  Sugarhouse by the October Author in the Spotlight, Matt Batt.

Here is the Synopsis from GoodReads:
An improbably funny account of how the purchase and restoration of a disaster of a fixer-upper saves a young marriage

When a season of ludicrous loss tests the mettle of their marriage, Matthew Batt and his wife decide not to call it quits. They set their sights instead on the purchase of a dilapidated house in the Sugarhouse section of Salt Lake City. With no homesteading experience and a full-blown quarter-life crisis on their hands, these perpetual grad students/waiters/nonprofiteers decide to seek salvation through renovation, and do all they can to turn a former crack house into a home. Dizzy with despair, doubt, and the side effects of using the rough equivalent of napalm to detoxify their house, they enter into full-fledged adulthood with power tools in hand.

Heartfelt and joyous, Sugarhouse is the story of how one couple conquers adversity and creates an addition to their family, as well as their home.

This month you can expect a book review, a contest, a guest post and an author interview.  It is going to be a great month here on BookSnob.

Have a wonderful month of October. 
Check back often.