Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Magers and Quinn Present Emily St. John Mandel and Heather A. Slomski

Magers and Quinn Present Emily St. John Mandel and Heather A. Slomski

I attended my first literary event in three months yesterday at Magers and Quinn in Minneapolis.  I broke my foot in May and was physically limited all summer but now I'm getting my strength back and heading out to meet authors and attend literary events around town.  Yes.

Last night at Magers and Quinn, I ran into author and friend, Peter Geye, who wrote, Safe from the Sea and The Lighthouse Road. Both books are awesome, by the way.  Peter Geye introduced both authors last night.

First up was Heather A. Slomski, whose new book of short stories, The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons was the winner of the 2014 Iowa Short Fiction Award.  Heather is from Minnesota and attended graduate school with Peter Geye.  I plan to feature Heather on BookSnob later this year.  I'm looking forward to reading this collection of stories.

Next Peter Geye introduced Emily St. John Mandel.  Her book Station Eleven is getting tons of praise and is the talk of the book world lately.  I was one of 3 people in the audience who has NOT read the book yet.  Everyone there was gushing about it.  Peter was an early reader and editor of Station Eleven.  Emily read from her book and there was a short Q & A with both authors.  Fun Fact:  Emily used to be a professional dancer.

It was great to hang out with friend Pamela and browse the bookshelves.  My other option would have been the Ed Sheeran concert at the Target center.  Emily, Heather, Peter and Magers and Quinn rock my world and I made the right choice.  Although I think it would have been totally cool if they broke out in a dance and sang a tune.

In the picture.  Heather is on the left, Emily is on the right and I'm the lucky reader in the middle.  Their books are on the table.

Add these books to your reading list.
Seriously.




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Cartographer of No Man's Land Giveaway

The Cartographer of No Man's Land Giveaway

P.S. Duffy is the September Author in the Spotlight here on BookSnob and she, along with her publisher W.W. Norton, are giving away 3 copies to readers who live in the United States.

The Cartographer of No Man's Land has been selected as one of 6 finalists for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in fiction. Here’s the website and press release. Last year’s winner, Adam Johnson, also won the Pulitzer prize.  Here are links for the prize and book finalists.
http://daytonliterarypeaceprize.org/

http://daytonliterarypeaceprize.org/2014-finalists-press_release.htm


Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:


From a village in Nova Scotia to the trenches of France, P. S. Duffy s astonishing debut showcases a rare talent emerging in midlife. When his beloved brother-in-law goes missing at the front in 1916, Angus defies his pacifist upbringing to join the war and find him. Assured a position as a cartographer in London, he is instead sent directly into battle. Meanwhile, at home, his son Simon Peter must navigate escalating hostility in a town torn by grief. Selected as both a Barnes & Noble Discover pick and one of the American Bookseller Association s Debut Dozen, The Cartographer of No Man s Land offers a soulful portrayal of World War I and the lives that were forever changed by it, both on the battlefield and at home."

Contest Rules:

Fill out the form
U.S. residents only
Contest ends September 30st at midnight
Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, September 8, 2014

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar

Two women meet once a week for an hour.  One woman, Lakshmi, tried to commit suicide, feeling desperate and hopeless as a woman confined in a loveless marriage.  The other woman, Maggie, is Lakshmi's therapist and treats her unconventionally, blurring the lines between professionalism and her personal life.    These two women forge a friendship based on one hour a week.

Maggie and Lakshmi's lives converge even as they travel different paths in life.  Lakshmi's is an immigrant from India and Maggie is an African American married to an Indian from Calcutta.  They have many things in common, both of their mother's died when they were teenagers.  Their families live far away and are out of their reach.  They have both done things they regret.  Told in alternating chapters, each woman's voice is heard loud and clear.

The Story Hour is such a good novel.  Umrigar has crafted a novel of friendship that blurs the lines of race and class.  The Story Hour is about love and marriage and forgiveness and transcendence.  It is a universal story that every reader will be able to relate to and I applaud the creative storyline.   Umrigar covers some tough stuff with the pages of The Story
Hour, like suicide, loneliness, immigration, race, class, abuse, death, grief and so much more.

This is the second novel I have read by Umrigar.  For me, this book is better than The Space Between Us.  I felt The Story Hour was compelling and interesting.  I liked the counselor, patient storyline and I liked that Lakshmi's story was told in broken English and Maggie's story reflected her conflict in treating Lakshmi unconventionally.  While the story is sad and hard to read at times, it is hopeful and ultimately an excellent novel that I will share and recommend to friends.

I will leave you with my favorite quote.
"That how you build me, Maggie.  Hour by hour. Story by story. Day by day.  That how you give me my whole lifes."  Pg 316.



Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Witch's Boy Giveaway Winners!

The Witch's Boy Giveaway Winners!

Kelly Barnhill was the August Author in the Spotlight here on BookSnob.  Kelly along with her publisher, Algonquin YR, are giving away two copies of her soon to be released book, The Witch's Boy.

The two lucky winners are...
Drum roll, please........

Anne B. from New Mexico
Catherine E. fromm Connecticut

Congratulations Ladies!  You will enjoy this book.

For those of you who didn't win this book, you can purchase the book in bookstores on September 16th.  You can also pre-order.

Here is an excerpt from my book review:

I love the images that Barnhill provokes with her writing.  My mind was busy painting with Barnhill's words and my heart was beating in time with the story and it was magic.  Magic for me is when the writer, the story and the reader connect.  Like when the fairy tale world collides with the real world and there is a flash of lightning.  The Witch's Boy will get in your bones and leave its writing on your skin and you will experience how trees move, and stones speak, and you will hear the wolf howl and feel the magic breathe.

The Witch's Boy is creative and endearing and a sweet, wonderful story.   It will make you want to hug your friends and hold onto to your family.





Saturday, September 6, 2014

August Author in the Spotlight Wrap Up + Giveaway

August Author in the Spotlight Wrap Up + Giveaway

The Giveaway ends for The Witch's Boy ends tonight at midnight.  Enter quick, so you don't miss this sweet, endearing story.

August is over and done and the good news is that I got out of my boot on August 30th.  I am walking super slow but I'm walking again and I'm so happy to be rid of the boot. School started for me and I am teaching 3 preps this semester.  It is a heavy teaching load but I really like my students and the classes I am teaching this year.
August was a good month.  My reading decreased mainly because I'm back to work.  I'm so tired at the end of the night, so instead of reading 2-3 hours a day, I'm reading about 30 minutes to an hour a day.  Teaching is physically exhausting.

I'm sad to say goodbye to this month's author Kelly Barnhill.  Although, I'm sure to see her around town or at her alma mater South High.  Her newest book, The Witch's Boy will be released in just 10 days!

Enter to win a copy of The Witch's Boy here:  The Witch's Boy Giveaway

Check out my book review of The Witch's Boy.  Barnhill has written a magical story about grief, friendship, adventure and survival that every kid (and kids at heart) will enjoy.  I was enchanted by Ned and his story and when he met the wolf in the woods, I knew that this story was special.  I love wolves.  The characters are well developed, the plot is layered and the story is wonderfully told.


Next check out the author interview with Kelly.  Learn more about what writers influence Kelly and where she got the story idea for The Witch's Boy and so much more. 


Please read Kelly's Guest Post.  It is totally awesome.  She has written a great guest post on the process of writing The Witch's Boy and how books astonish not only the reader but also the writer.  This is one of my favorite guest posts.


I've really enjoyed featuring Kelly and her books on BookSnob.  Kelly is a gifted writer and a wonderful, generous person.  I hope you will all check out her website and read one of her books.  She will transport you to a magical place.  http://www.kellybarnhill.com/










Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill

The Witch's Boy by Kelly Barnhill

Ned and his twin brother live by the river and they decide to build a raft to take them to the sea.  When the raft sinks, the father of the boys races into the river to rescue them, but he can only save one child and he saves the wrong boy.  His mother is a witch and she uses magic to save Ned's life.  Magic always comes with a price and Ned pays for it by losing his ability to communicate well.

Aine's mother has recently died.  Her final words were "the wrong boy will save you".  After they have lost everything, Aine's father moves them into the forest, a place of mystery and intrigue.  Her father begins to wear a magic eye around his neck and it changes him. He becomes the Bandit King and raids villages and steals from others as Aine struggles to keep her family and life as she knows it intact.  One thing Aine knows for sure is that magic is evil and she wants nothing to do with it.

When Ned and Aine meet, sparks fly.  Ned has magic written all over his body and Aine wants to lead him far away so her father can't find him.  The two become fast friends and embark on a life altering journey.

Barnhill has written a magical story about grief, friendship, adventure and survival that every kid (and kids at heart) will enjoy.  I was enchanted by Ned and his story and when he met the wolf in the woods, I knew that this story was special.  I love wolves.  The characters are well developed, the plot is layered and the story is wonderfully told.

I love the images that Barnhill provokes with her writing.  My mind was busy painting with Barnhill's words and my heart was beating in time with the story and it was magic.  Magic for me is when the writer, the story and the reader connect.  Like when the fairy tale world collides with the real world and there is a flash of lightning.  The Witch's Boy will get in your bones and leave its writing on your skin and you will experience how trees move, and stones speak, and you will hear the wolf howl and feel the magic breathe.

The Witch's Boy is creative and endearing and a sweet, wonderful story.   It will make you want to hug your friends and hold onto to your family.

P.S. Can someone call Disney for me?  I have a great idea for a movie.





Monday, September 1, 2014

September Author in the Spotlight

September Author in the Spotlight

Welcome to the first day of September.  Fall is upon us and my own kids start school tomorrow, entering 8th and 10th grade.  The summer always goes by so fast and we are sad to see it go. Bye Summer.  I have a heavy teaching load this year with 3 preps.  I'm teaching AP U.S. history and an elective as well as a PSEO class on campus.  Can anyone say Busy?  Even though I'm so busy, I still make time to read. I'm really excited for you to meet this month's Author in the Spotlight.  Say hello to P.S. Duffy.

P.S. Duffy was born in China, grew up in the U.S., and spent over thirty summers sailing in Nova Scotia where her ancestors settled in the 1750s and where much of her novel takes place. She has a degree in history from Concordia University in Montreal and a PhD from the University of Minnesota.  Following a 25 year career in neurologically based communication disorders, she now balances writing in the neurosciences for Mayo Clinic with creative writing and is the author of a graduate textbook on right brain damage, a memoir of her family’s time in China, essays, and flash fiction.

Her debut novel, "The Cartographer of No Man's Land" (W.W. Norton, 2013), is set in Nova Scotia and the Western Front during the First World War. Published in in the U.S., Canada, Taiwan, Great Britain, and soon to be published in Israel, it was a 2013 Library Reads and Barnes and Noble Discover New Writers selection.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

From a village in Nova Scotia to the trenches of France, P. S. Duffy s astonishing debut showcases a rare talent emerging in midlife. When his beloved brother-in-law goes missing at the front in 1916, Angus defies his pacifist upbringing to join the war and find him. Assured a position as a cartographer in London, he is instead sent directly into battle. Meanwhile, at home, his son Simon Peter must navigate escalating hostility in a town torn by grief. Selected as both a Barnes & Noble Discover pick and one of the American Bookseller Association s Debut Dozen, The Cartographer of No Man s Land offers a soulful portrayal of World War I and the lives that were forever changed by it, both on the battlefield and at home."

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


Friday, August 29, 2014

Kelly Barnhill Author Interview + Giveaway

Kelly Barnhill Author Interview + Giveaway

Kelly Barnhill is the August Author in the Spotlight here on BookSnob and she has graciously agreed to answer some questions about her writing life and her new book, The Witch's Boy.  Kelly graduated from South High, where I currently teach at and her daughter is currently walking the same hallways.  The Witch's Boy hits bookstores on September 16th.  Read on to learn more about what writers influence Kelly and where she got the story idea for The Witch's Boy.

Hi Kelly,



1.  Tell us a little bit about yourself?

Well, it's easier to say what I used to be. I am a former teacher, a former bartender, a former park ranger, a former wildand firefighter, a former receptionist, a former activist, a former waitress and a former barrista. Currently, I raise kids, write books and teach classes about writing books. It's not a bad life, actually.

I am also a former student at South High School in Minneapolis (and a current parent of a South student) and a former Minneapolis Public Schools employee.  

2. What inspired you to write The Witch’s Boy?

I started The Witch's Boy while walking through a deep, dark wood. This is true. I was on a hike with my family in Shenandoah National Park. The trail was long, and somewhat arduous, and my son was small and tired and didn't want to hike one more step. So I told him a story - about a boy who steals his mother's magic in order to protect it from bandits. By the time we got to the end of the hike, I was pretty sure there was something to this boy's story. Turns out I was right.

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

I became a writer because I had no other marketable skills. This is mostly true. When I started teaching, it was during a time of near constant lay-off threats. I knew teachers who were five and six years into their careers who were still getting pink slips in the spring. I had small kids at the time, and wasn't particularly keen to switch buildings every year. I had already been writing short stories and poetry - and had published a few here and there - but it wasn't anything to live on. So I started writing nonfiction for children. I'd never written for children before that, but I realized that I was built for it. I love kids. I love how they think. I love how they are continually in the process of re-making the world.

4. Usually an author puts some of his own life experiences in the book.  Did you do that?

Yes and no. When I write, I'm not really thinking about me. I'm not thinking about anything except for the story. And yet. Aspects of my life manage to make their way into the book. Or things that I think about. Or people that I love. It happens.

5. Do you have anything in common with your characters?

I have things in common with all of my characters. I am prickly like Aine. I am mournful like Ned. I am a caretaker like Sister Witch. I am obsessive like the Bandit King. I sometimes fail as a parent like the woodsman. I am secretly a sassy old lady like the Queen. I am all of them.

6. Do you like to read?  What authors or books influence you?
I read all the time. I am influenced by Louise Erdrich and Roald Dahl and E. Nesbitt and Joan Aiken and L. Frank Baum.

7. 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?

I work a series of odd jobs. I write most days. Some days I teach. Some days I volunteer. I'm also a busy mom, and have a household to run.

8. What is the most important lesson/idea you want readers to take away from your book, The Witch’s Boy?

We all experience grief. It is a necessary part of our experience as human beings. Everything that we know, everything that we hope for, everything and everyone that we love will one day slip away. And that's all right. Grief is a necessary component of love. And yet, strangely, grief is not insurmountable. We grieve, and yet we still love. We lose everything, and yet everything still matters. Our love matters. Our lives matter. We matter.

9. Tell us in one sentence why we should read:  The Witch’s Boy.

Actually, if you want to read The Witch's Boy, that's up to you. Just read something. Stories outlive us, they uplift us, they bind us together. They matter more than we do.

Thanks Kelly!

If you would like to win a copy of Kelly's new book, The Witch's Boy please click here:
The Witch's Boy



Sunday, August 24, 2014

In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters


In the Shadow of Blackbirds takes place in 1918. 1918 is a momentous year.  It is the last year of World War I, and the Spanish Influenza is killing more people worldwide than the war. People are living in grief and no family is untouched by death. Spiritualism is all the rage because people want evidence their loved ones are on the other side and that there is a reason for all the madness.

The main character is named Mary Shelley Black after the author of Frankenstein. She is 16 and doesn't believe in ghosts or spirits until her true love joins the war and ends up dying.  Her boyfriend's brother, Julius, is a spirit photographer and Mary doesn't trust him.  She knows something is not right and that Stephen is haunted by blackbirds because his spirit visits her in the night.

This is a awesome, page turning ghost story and historical novel about WWI and the flu epidemic. It is a very enjoyable and totally creepy at the same time.  Winters does an excellent job of portraying this historical period.

While I was reading this, I kept thinking about my grandparents who were babies in 1918.  Their parents (my great-grandparents) must of been worried about them getting sick from the flu.  I am so glad we have never had a health crisis of this magnitude since then.  The widespread panic and health crisis is well written as is the descriptions faced by soldiers during the war and after.  Winters presents the social issues of 1918 in a way that you will never forget.  As a history teacher, I thought the history presented in the book was excellent and since I also enjoy a good ghost story, the two mixed together was just plain fun to read.





Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kelly Barnhill Guest Post


Kelly Barnhill Guest Post

Kelly Barnhill is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob during this fabulous month of August.  She has written a great guest post on the process of writing The Witch's Boy and how books astonish not only the reader but also the writer.  Read on.

When Books Astonish Us

There are, somewhere on earth (though I, as yet, have not seen them) finished copies of my new book The Witch’s Boy. They are sitting in boxes in a cool, dry space, biding their time before they begin to migrate into the world.

I cannot stop this process. I couldn’t even if I wanted to.

It is a strange feeling, really, this moment of quiet before the book comes out. When I can still trick myself into thinking that it still belongs to me. It doesn’t, of course. A book belongs to whoever is reading it. Everyone knows this. Everyone but writers.

I have a peculiar relationship with this book, with The Witch’s Boy, one that is very different from my previous books. I started this book several years ago while hiking through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. We were staying in historic cabins along the Skyline Drive, and as the name implies, we were up on the ridge of the mountains. Next to the sky. Any hikes we wanted to do required us to go down.

My son, who was five at the time, practically ran down the trail toward a gorgeous bridal-veil waterfall at the mouth of an extraordinary ravine. He was full of boundless energy and kinetic movement. On the way down. On the way up, it was a hard, slow slog. To keep his spirits up, I told him a story. About a boy named Ned who stole his mother’s magic to protect it from bandits. About a desperate plan and a daring escape and a wolf.

It felt real.

It felt separate from me.

It was a real story.

Later, in the dark of the cabin, in a brand new composition notebook, I began writing it down. I tracked Ned’s progress; I monitored his mood; I uncovered his story bit by bit. And what I found surprised me. I was not, as I had assumed, writing a story about an adventure. I was not writing the story my son had heard. Not anymore.

I was writing a story about grief. I was writing a story about the palpable nature of loss. I was
writing a story about survivor’s guilt. I was writing a story about fathers and daughters, and mothers and sons. The story as it unspooled onto the page was wildly different from the story I imagined I was telling when I began it on that trail with a tired little boy all those years ago.

And maybe that’s the nature of this work. Our stories sit in the quiet places of our hearts and minds and make their way forward at the earliest opportunity. If I knew at the outset that I was writing a story about grief, I might have resisted. It’s too sad, my brain would have said. It will be too hard.
This book was incredibly hard for me to write. It took a lot out of me. It nearly broke me. I nearly quit again and again and again. I’m glad I didn’t, because once again the book surprised me.

The book about grief became a book about hope. The book about loss became a book about connection. And healing. And deep joy.

Our work as writers sometimes takes us into dark places. And sad places. And tender places. But this artistic bait-and-switch is important, because it allows us, as artists, to arrive at that deeply human territory of wonder. We love, we lose, we love again. And we are astonished.

If you would like to win a copy of Kelly's book, The Witch's Boy, please enter here:  The Witch's Boy Giveaway