Tuesday, May 31, 2011
May - Author in the Spotlight Wrap-up.
May is coming to an end. I would like to highlight Hometown Track Minnesota Author in the Spotlight, Brian Duren.
Today is the last day to enter the contest to win one of three personalized copies of Whiteout. The contest ends at midnight tonight. The contest is open internationally and is available to all Booksnob followers. Good Luck and as always thanks for following Booksnob!
Click here to enter: Whiteout Contest
Please check out my book review of Whiteout. This is an fast paced story that will keep you guessing until the end of the book. Full of mystery, secrets, snowstorms and love letters. Highly enjoyable.
Whiteout Book Review
Brian Duren Author Interview
Luckily Brian wrote a guest post for Booksnob readers and here you can learn what other readers want to know: Brian tells how he got the idea to write Whiteout. I think all Minnesotans have experienced a Whiteout before. If you haven't, you definitely need to read his book.
Brian Duren Guest Post
I really enjoyed working with author, Brian Duren. I would like to thank Brian for being May's Minnesota Author in the Spotlight. Please support this emerging author by reading his book, Whiteout and checking out his website at www.brianduren.com
Monday, May 30, 2011
Brian Duren Author Interview
Welcome Brian, Hometown Track Minnesota Author in the Spotlight.
Booksnob followers, I really enjoyed Whiteout as it kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat. I know some of these questions parallel Brian's guest post, but I really wanted the inside story behind the story.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
When I was growing up in Minnesota, I was unusually curious about the world and explored it through traveling and reading (a form of travel through the imagination to other times, other places, and above all other people). When I was a very young boy, seven or eight years old, I would sit on an embankment just off St. Clair Avenue, watch trains go by, and dream about where they were going. When I was a teenager and an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, I would hitch a ride, drive, or hop a plane to places like Denver, New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Berkeley, Yosemite National Park, Taos, the mountains of New Mexico. At one point, I had to drop out of undergraduate school because I was broke; I worked as a waiter, earned enough money to buy a one-way ticket on a cargo ship from New York to Southampton, England, and left the United States, not knowing if or when I would return. I fell in love with Paris, immersed myself in French literature, and later earned a doctorate in French literature at the University of Paris. Traveling as a way of exploring the world has played a huge role in creating the person I am today.
2. What inspired you to write Whiteout?
In my first career I was a professor of French and Comparative Literature. One of my research and teaching interests was literature and psychoanalysis. (This interest goes all the way back to my senior year in high school.) One could say that psychoanalysts focus on the consequences of dysfunctional families. Paul’s family is a hypothetical, dysfunctional family, and I am exploring the political dynamics of Paul’s family and the damage those dynamics have wreaked on all the members. And how did I get interested in psychoanalysis? In part by watching what children go through on their way to becoming adults.
3. I totally love the Boundary Waters as the setting for your book. Why did you decide to set your book in the area of the Boundary Waters?
As I mentioned in my guest post, I used to bring my three sons to the Boundary Waters for vacations and I fell in love with that area of Minnesota. The wilderness, with its silence and isolation, is a great setting for a story.
4. Can you explain the Boundary Waters Canoe Area to non-Minnesotans?
Over a million acres of wilderness in northern Minnesota, along the U.S.-Canadian border, made up largely of lakes, rivers, streams, and about 400,000 acres of old-growth forest.
Spirit Lake is fictional. Two different lakes inspired the description of Spirit Lake: a lake in the BWCA and another (that has a black hole like the one in the book) in the Chippewa National Forest.
6.What are the lessons you want to impart to your readers?
I want to provide a window for my readers, a mirror through which the book will lead them back into themselves, take them on a voyage, and bring them to a new place.
7.Do you like to read? What authors or books influence you?
I love to read. When I was a young boy and a teenager, I loved the feeling of getting so immersed in a book that I did not want it to end. When I was about twelve, a film adaptation of War and Peace came to St. Paul. I didn’t get to see the movie, but I read the book and fell in love with it. Later, in high school, I read everything I could get my hands on by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. The summer following my graduation from high school, I visited McCosh’s Bookstore in Dinkytown, discovered Dostoyevsky, and by my nineteenth birthday I had read everything by him that had been translated into English. When I was nineteen I read Proust, and years later I wrote a dissertation on In Search of Lost Time. I have read a lot since my teenage years and been influenced by many writers, but the authors I loved when I was young still have a special place in my heart and mind.
8.Usually an author puts some of his own life experiences in the book. Did you do that? Do you have anything in common with your characters?
The descriptions of the lodge and resort in the book are inspired by a lodge and resort in the BWCA (although I made a lot of changes as I wrote). Paul’s home in Paris is modeled after the apartment in Paris in which I lived for two years and three months. And there are a lot of details about characters that come from my life and people I have known. I feel a real bond with all of my characters. One of the great things about reading is that you can experience the world through the eyes, the heart, and the mind of another person. But for that to happen, the writer needs to have already accomplished all of that.
9.I really liked the historical and geographical backdrop for Whiteout. Why did you choose to place it in history where you did?
I’ve already talked about the geographical backdrop. As for the historical context, I felt the moment in history when people were knocking down the walls of the former Soviet Union would form an interesting context for the period in Paul’s life, when he was knocking down so many walls. What one finds on the other side of the wall is not always pretty.
10.I would characterize this book as multi-genre. How would you characterize it?
I think “multi-genre” is a good description. I usually describe “Whiteout” as a book of literary fiction that draws on conventions of the mystery, the thriller, and epistolary fiction to narrate Paul’s quest.
11.This is your first book. Can you tell us why you decided to become a writer?
When I was in my early twenties, I wanted to be a poet. I showed some poems to John Berryman, who liked my work and encouraged me to send some poems to Henry Rago, editor of Poetry, with his recommendation. But eventually I understood that without money I didn’t have much chance of survival, so I took the academic route. Many years later I started writing late at night and on weekends, and eventually left teaching, became an administrator, and then retired. I wrote the first few drafts of Whiteout while working as an administrator. If I had been born twenty years later, when MFA programs were springing up all over the country, I would have done an MFA in creative writing. I am a big supporter of institutions that nurture the creativity of young people and help them find a way to survive while becoming writers, artists, musicians, composers, etc.
12. In one sentence, tell us why we should read WHITEOUT?
Based on what some of my readers have told me, I think Whiteout is capable of providing readers with a window, a mirror through which the book will lead them back into themselves, take them on a voyage, and bring them to a new place.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
This book is about a well known time in history but about a virtually unknown event that has been hidden and covered up for over 60 years. Lithuania disappeared from the world map in 1941 and didn't reappear until 1990. Lithuania during World War II was situated between two evil giants vying for world domination and Lithuania's people became one of the pawns in their brutal game of war.
In the middle of the night, Soviet secret police arrest Lina and her family and proceed to confiscate their home and belongings. They are deported to Siberia to the gulags (work camps). Their journey of many weeks was in train cars labeled Thieves and Prostitutes. Many children, educators, and librarians were arrested and it is shocking how brutally these people were treated. Lina's journey takes her to a camp in the Arctic circle. Maps are included in the book so you can visualize the perilous length and the distance the family was forced to travel.
Sepetys has created an amazing story of resilient and courageous people. These people suffered through illness, heartache, pain, loss and degradation. Yet, the Lithuanian people and the characters in the book did not lose hope. This is a story that needed to be told and deserves to be read.
Lina, the main character, is a 15 year old, who is a excellent artist. She favors artist Edvard Munch, whose most famous painting is called The Scream. She is connected to her father through her art and her art reflects the shades of gray in her life. Their is little color in a world where you are forced into labor for committing no crime, where people you love suffer and die. Sometimes, you might get an extra bite of bread or a small act of kindness to lighten your load.
Do you want to know what lies Between Shades of Gray? You definitely need to read the book to find out.
Saturday, May 28, 2011
I participated with three blog posts in the first three days of Armchair BEA and a participated for a short amount of time in the evening twitter party. That was fun as I have never been in a tweet chat or twitter party before. Loved it!
I won a prize, a book called The Violin of Auschwitz and I am looking forward to reading it. As a history teacher and music lover it is right up my alley.
My favorite part of the week was finding Laurie from Action Readers and joining the Ning. You can join too. I really like the idea of reading a book and than creating an action to change the world around that book. To join, leave me a comment with your e-mail and I can invite you. You could also stop by Laurie's blog and join at http://www.whatsheread.blogspot.com
The winner of my contest is Danah! She is the winner of a Lorna Landvik Book Bag.
Welcome to my new followers.
It has been a fun week and I can't wait till next year.
Friday, May 27, 2011
It's cold outside and the snow is falling fast, you can't see much beyond your window pane as the wind howls and the snow blocks out the daylight. Night is coming and the temperature is dropping, while the snow threatens to erase the landscape. Brrrr.
Spring is the perfect time to read WHITEOUT on the deck with no threat of snow in sight for months.
Paul returns home to Minnesota after his mother dies. He has always felt disconnected from his family and has recurring bad dreams. His father died in a Whiteout when Paul was three. When Paul finds out that his family was once very happy, he sets out on a personal quest to find out the truth about the parents he never really knew. What he finds buried deep in the past will haunt you.
Paul finds the love letters between his parents before they were married and reading them is voyeuristic. I think it was one of my favorite parts of the novel. I felt like I was reading over the character's shoulder and I couldn't get through the letters fast enough.
WHITEOUT is a multi-genre book. It is a mystery, love story, and literary thriller that will keep you guessing till the very end. The novel has a great geographic and historical backdrop, taking place during the 1930's through the 1980's. WHITEOUT travels from Paris to the northern woods of Minnesota where it mainly takes place in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Duren evokes the physical landscape of northern Minnesota with stark reality.
I always say; the best way to travel is in your armchair while you read a good book. So let WHITEOUT take you to the BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area) where you will be able to stay dry and warm by the fire.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Brian Duren Guest Post
I am delighted that Laura chose me as the Hometown Author for May and offered me the opportunity to write a guest post.
I’ve learned from the Q&A’s following my readings of Whiteout that readers are very curious about authors and the process of writing.
One of the questions that I have frequently received is, Where did you get the story? Whiteout started with a description of snow. One morning, several years ago, I was sitting in my study, looking out on the backyard at huge drifts of snow. We’d had a blizzard during the night, and the storm had completely transformed the yard into a field of glistening white forms. I was so moved by what I saw that I wrote a description. Over subsequent months and years, I went back to that description, rewriting it and transforming it into the setting for a story.
The setting brings up another question: Is Whiteout autobiographical? The story is not, but the setting definitely comes from my experience. I have three sons who are thirty-one, nineteen, and sixteen. When the boys were young, or much younger, I used to take them north to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness to stay in a cabin on a lake or to go camping in the wilderness. I got to know this area of Minnesota very well, developed a strong attachment to it, and decided to set my story--and the snow--there.
(You have probably noticed that all of the awards that Whiteout has garnered are related somehow to the setting. One of the great pleasures of writing fiction is that the writer can experience a second time something that he has already loved.)
As I developed the setting, I decided I wanted a blizzard to somehow be at the center of the story. I had an image of a human figure emerging from, or disappearing into, a whiteout. (Jay Monroe, who designed the book cover, recreated the image that I had in mind.) Somehow the story would be about a man on a quest to find the truth about his past and his identity. The story only became clear through the process of writing.
I love E. L. Doctorow’s comment that writing a novel is “like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” When I recall that line, my mind automatically substitutes the blizzard in Whiteout for “night.” I find that one of the great pleasures of writing fiction is moving forward into a world that doesn’t exist until the writer creates it. There is no road map, no plan, just whatever comes from writing.
I hope you enjoy reading Whiteout and that you will visit my website (www.brianduren.com) to learn more about my work and to stay in touch with me.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Today is blogger interviews but I elected not to participate because my son turns 13 today and I was worried I wouldn't have the time to dedicate to creating great questions and/or the time to answer them. One birthday party down, rite of passage quest written, and one party left to go plus 8 bags of projects to grade before June 8th. Yikes.
The alternate idea for today is to highlight some of my favorite blogs. I hate to play favorites and do that because each blog and blogger is so unique and special. So instead, I created an animoto video highlighting all the books I have read and reviewed in 2011. It was quick, easy and fun to create so I hope you enjoy it as it has been a fun reading year. It is a little over a minute long and I plan to add to it as the year progresses.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
I have a great giveaway for Armchair BEA participants.
I have one book bag to give away that has a picture of Minnesota author, Lorna Landvik on one side and the Pen Pals author lecture series logo on the other side. A great bag to carry books to and from the library and great way to stash all your Armchair BEA books of 2011.
Here are some pictures of the bag.
Contest is open internationally and will end Friday, May 27th at midnight.
Good Luck everyone.
Please fill out the form with your name and e-mail address below and please leave a comment.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Who are you, and how do you Armchair?
I frankly feel like crying since I checked my post and noticed that none of it is there except the picture. Where did it go? Well here is my re-write of my post from this morning. Can anyone say DO-OVER?
Welcome to my little corner of the world in Saint Paul, Minnesota. My name is Laura and I am a Booksnob. I have been blogging since February, 2010 and I love it, although I never seem to have a lot of time to do it. This is an eclectic book blog as I love to read and review just about all genres. I am a high school Social Studies teacher and am about as busy as you can be raising two kids, one of whom turns 13 on Wednesday.
I will probably never go to BEA as it is held at the end of the school year, which is not an ideal time when you have tons of papers to grade and lessons to plan and a classroom to pack up in the next couple of weeks but I am thrilled to be participating in Armchair BEA.
I am excited to meet new bloggers and followers and I am looking forward to learning about the new books being released for summer and fall.
My favorite book of all time is Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
What is yours?
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Ishmael Beah was born in Sierra Leone in 1980 and by 1992 his country was involved in a civil war no one quite understands. At age 12 Ishmael finds himself homeless and hopelessly searching for his family with a group of boys. At 13 he is "found" by the government army and becomes a soldier. He is handed his gun, given some drugs, and sent out to kill the rebels. He is a survivor and this is his powerful story.
Ishmael suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome and this memoir details some of the most harrowing events a child should never have to witness nor take part in. During the time of Sierra Leone's civil war, the country turns upside down. Children are no longer trusted or cared for, they are feared and become drug addicted prized soldiers used by the government. Families are scattered, atrocities are committed and everyone is scared.
Unfortunately children around the world are made into soldiers, and some as young as seven try to hold up guns that weigh more than they do. Young girls that are soldiers frequently endure rape. Governments recruit, resort to abduction, use children as slaves while getting them addicted to drugs and brainwashing them. This is a world wide problem that exists in many countries. According to the dust cover flap on my book it states that there are more than fifty violent conflicts going on worldwide, and it is estimated that there are some 30,000 child soldiers.
I read this book aloud to one of my world studies classes and as a class we learned a lot. Many of my students had never heard of Sierra Leone and now are knowledgeable about their recent history and the social issue of child soldiers. As a read aloud, the book moved slowly but that gave us time to journey with Ismael and connect with him. Several of my students commented on how they really liked this book.
Here are two websites that I used to help me teach this book which would be beneficial to any reader wanting to learn more. www.alongwaygone.com This is the author website which has great video footage of Ishmael talking about his book. Also www.child-soldiers.com will present the facts and some solutions and way for people to get involved and active in the issue of preventing children from becoming soldiers.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
In the North American futurist nation of Panem, lies the Capitol and the twelve districts that surround it. The Capitol sponsors The Hunger Games and every district must submit two players to fight in the games, as punishment for a past uprising. Each district must supply one girl and one boy between the ages of twelve and eighteen and they are called tributes. The 24 tributes are then held in an arena to fight to the death on Live TV. The last tribute standing wins The Hunger Games.
District Twelve contestants are Katniss and Peeta. They are whisked away from their families and face a certain future of death. Their only hope is Haymitch, a drunkard who won the games years ago and is to be their mentor.
This is a heart stopping, wild ride of a novel that you won't be able to put down. It is Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Running Man [Blu-ray]
meets today's reality TV shows, like Survivor, and then add in the Gladiator games from the Roman Colosseum in Ancient Rome. In fact, the Colosseum was used for the same purposes as the Arena in The Hunger Games. The Colosseum held re-enactment battles, executions, animal hunts, and gladiatorial contests that were fought to the death. The Hunger Games is what could happen if our need for entertainment proceeds our consciousness of civility.
The Hunger Games is a book that has young adult and adult readers talking. The Hunger Games bridges the age gap between readers and has parents and teens or teachers and teens excitedly talking about it. I will be passing my copy onto my 12 year old son and my 14 year old niece just borrowed me her copy of Catching Fire (book #2 of the trilogy) and students and I talked in depth about the book and the people being cast in the film this week. It is fun to share books with other excited readers and this book, excites people.
If you haven't read this book yet, now is the time to jump on the band wagon and read it. The film is being cast and set to be released in the Spring of 2012.
Friday, May 13, 2011
Thank goodness blogger is back up and running. I was starting to worry and all because I am a fishing widow this weekend and I wanted to do some writing.
Here are the Friday Questions:
Q. The Blogger Apocalypse made me a little emotional. What is the most emotional scene in a book that you have read lately?
A. Most emotional scene I read was in The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine.
I am reading this book aloud to my 6th hour class and there is a part where a 10 year old girl had her virginity sold to the highest bidder and reading her rape aloud to the class was very difficult and really emotional for me.
Q: Are you going to Book Expo America (BEA) and/or the Book Blogger Convention (BBC) this year?
A. No, I wish I was but since it is held at the end of May, it is nearly impossible for me to ever attend at the end of a school year. Graduation is on June 2nd this year and I just can't leave when there is grading and teaching still to be done. Maybe some day they will change the date to late June and I can go. A girl can dream. Are you a teacher? Do you see teacher/book bloggers in attendance at BEA or BBC?
I am participating in Armchair BEA and am excited for that.
Have a great weekend!!
Posted by Laura BookSnob at 5:05 PM
Monday, May 9, 2011
It's Spring and do you know what that means? It's time to read a book about Baseball, the time honored, all American sport.
Ruby is a teenager in New York City in the 1920's. She lived through the Flu epidemic that killed thousands of people in 1918, including most of her family. She survived by killing squirrels in the park with a baseball and using her long pitching arm.
Ruby throws the fastest pitch in town and to feed her family she becomes a Coney Island sideshow where she meets Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and other notables of the time. Eventually Diamond Ruby signs with a minor league baseball team and leads her team in strikeouts. Fame comes at a stiff price because everyone wants what Ruby has and so she becomes a target for the mob, rum runners and crooked cops. This nail biter of a book will keep you on the edge of your seat.
"Diamond Ruby is the exciting tale of a forgotten piece of of baseball's heritage, a girl who could throw with the best of them." From the back cover.
Wallace has hit a home run with Diamond Ruby. It is a historical novel of New York, the roaring 1920's, the flu epidemic, immigration, the rise of crime, women's rights, the house that Babe built and of course baseball. Ruby is one strong woman you don't want to mess with and you will be rooting for Ruby's team and family throughout the entire book.
Diamond Ruby is in a league of her own.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Hometown Track Minnesota Author in the Spotlight, Brian Duren, is graciously offered to give away and personalize three copies of his award winning book, WHITEOUT. All Booksnob followers are eligible to win and the contest will end on May 31st at midnight.
Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
Living comfortably in Paris with his French lover, Claire, Paul believes he has left his past behind. But when the phone rings in the middle of the night, and a voice he hasn't heard in years tells him his mother is dying and begs him to come home, the nightmares begin. Reluctantly Paul returns for the funeral to the small town and the isolated lodge in northern Minnesota where he grew up. During the following days he discovers things that contradict his understanding of his past and he sets out to find the truth. His quest draws him back among the dead, and he hears the voices of his parents talking of dreams, desires, and loss. Inexorably their story leads him to ask the questions-the very question his family has always wanted to prevent him from asking: What really did happen in that whiteout thirty-five years ago?
Please Fill out Form:
Open Internationally until May 31st.
Please leave comment.
Must be a Booksnob Follower
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
The publisher is offering each TLC tour host one copy of the book to give away as part of the tour (US/Canada only). So I am happy to host the contest here for followers of Booksnob. This is a great, entertaining book for those who love a play on words. The contest will end in two weeks on May 18th at midnight.
Please check out my book review here:
The Pun Also Rises Book Review
Here is the synopsis from Goodreads.
A former word pun champion's funny, erudite, and provocative exploration of puns, the people who make them, and this derided wordplay's remarkable impact on history.
The pun is commonly dismissed as the lowest form of wit, and punsters are often unpopular for their obsessive wordplay. But such attitudes are relatively recent developments. In The Pun Also Rises, John Pollack-a former World Pun Champion and presidential speechwriter for Bill Clinton-explains why such wordplay is significant: It both revolutionized language and played a pivotal role in making the modern world possible. Skillfully weaving together stories and evidence from history, brain science, pop culture, literature, anthropology, and humor, The Pun Also Rises is an authoritative yet playful exploration of a practice that is common, in one form or another, to virtually every language on earth.
At once entertaining and educational, this engaging book answers fundamental questions: Just what is a pun, and why do people make them? How did punning impact the development of human language, and how did that drive creativity and progress? And why, after centuries of decline, does the pun still matter?
Rules of the Contest
Fill out the Form.
Must be a Book Snob Follower
Must be a resident of U. S or Canada
Leave a Comment with your favorite pun.
Contest Ends on May 18th at Midnight
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
All Puns are not created equal. So says the amazing former world champion punster who won the pun-offs held in Austin, Texas in 1995. A pun is essentially a play on words. There are many different types of puns as Pollack explains and most people begin using puns as children.
Puns are everywhere. After I started reading this book, puns started stalking me. I heard them in songs, saw them in TV sitcoms, read them in the newspapers and on billboards. I've fallen into the art of punning and I couldn't get up. Punning takes a certain amount of skill and knowledge as Pollack points out. Your brain actually switches hemispheres to find the play on words. Not everyone gets it and some even get mad and condemn the pun as a low form of humor. I for one appreciate a good pun. I laughed heartily while reading this book and even stroked my ego with intelligent wordplay.
Holy Shiite, Punning has been around for as long as we have had the spoken word. Language began in the Middle East and culturally diffused throughout the world and the pun hitched a ride from one location to the next. Puns can be found in every language, in every sacred text and just about anywhere you look. This book is a lot of fun for the curious mind and language lovers.
What is your favorite pun?
One of mine is:
When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Happy May Day! I am really excited about this month's Hometown Track Minnesota Author in the Spotlight. Drum roll please.....
I would like to introduce Brian Duren, author of Whiteout. Whiteout is a Finalist of the Indie Excellence Book Awards as well as Reader Views and Reviewers Choice Award in 2010. This book should definitely be on your book reading radar.
If you would like to check out Brian website you can find it at www.brianduren.com