Friday, September 30, 2016

Author interview with Renny deGroot author of "After Paris"

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After Paris by Renny deGroot

Publication Date: July 8, 2016
Paperback & eBook; 364 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

From Shortlisted Author of the 2015 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, Renny deGroot comes a new Historical Fiction.
Liesbeth Zwart forges her identity with courage and aptitude while nursing in France during WW1. As Liesbeth Bos, she feels that identity melting away; the skills she needed as a nurse in Paris are of little use to her as a wife and mother in post-war Netherlands.
As she grapples to adjust to her new reality, she is confronted with a shocking discovery that sends her fleeing with her young daughter to start a new life in Canada. The New World forces Liesbeth to reassess her own life and beliefs, but will it be enough to save her fractured family?

Amazon (Kindle) | Amazon (Paperback) | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

About the Author

Renny deGroot is a first generation Canadian of Dutch parents. She is a published poet, song lyricist and novelist. Her debut novel, Family Business, was shortlisted in the Literary Fiction category, for the 2015 Emerging Writer Prize. She studied English Literature at Trent University.
Her strong Dutch roots continue to influence her while the love of her Canadian homeland with its beauty and freedom, flavors all that she does.
Renny lives in rural Ontario, Canada with her Great Pyrenees and Chocolate Lab.
For more information, please visit Renny deGroot’s website. You can also find her on Facebook.

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Hi Renny-
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions!
-I know that I’ve often wondered why World War II has so many books (fiction and nonfiction) written about it with WWI having a comparatively smaller catalogue. What made you focus on a WWI story?
It was a time that changed the world forever – like 9/11 has in our lifetime. I wanted to use that massive event to look at how it could change an individual. There are many amazing books that look at the emotional impact the war horrors had on the damaged soldier (my favourite being Mrs. Dalloway), but I wanted to look at how the individual’s role in society changed; the role of women especially changed and I wanted to look at that.
I chose the specific setting of a hospital in Le Pré Catelen in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris to open the novel because I have a one-hundred-year old photo album of that place taken during the war years and I found it inspiring.
-In your research for this book, did you come across anything that really surprised you?
The innovation in medical practices surprised me. The proverb: “Necessity is the mother of invention” really showed up in the advances that were made to address surgery and post-op infections. I found the medical diaries (those of nurses and doctors) and journals from the war fascinating.
Looking at the role of women in post-war Netherlands also surprised me – since the Netherlands had been neutral during WW1, women didn’t step into the jobs of men, as they did in England, France, etc. This meant that the change for women in Dutch society was quite different than in those countries who fought in the war.
- Do you see some of your own personality/attributes in Lisbeth?
There will always be a little of oneself in a character, but generally speaking I think Liesbeth is a little more lost than I ever recall being.
- Tell me about your writing process. Do you write at a certain time of day everyday or just when the creative moments hit you? Music in the background or quiet?
I am a morning person, so I like to write early in the day. I don’t write every day, but I think every day and that is a huge part of the creative process. I live in the country and love nothing more than taking the dogs for a hike through the woods and during that time I will have imaginary conversations or see my people taking certain actions – so that when I get back to the writing, I know where I want to go. I need classical music playing in the background.
-What’s up next for you?
I am starting to map out my next book which will take place in Ireland. There are so many stories to tell from that country, as it’s a place of great history, beauty and character.

Thank you to Library Educated for giving me this opportunity to talk about my book After Paris.!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Banned Books Week - Book Review "The Fighting Ground" by Avi

For the occasion of Banned Books Week I decided to pull a book that I didn't know off of banned books list and give it a read. Because being subversive through reading is a favorite activity of mine. My mistake was I didn't follow up and see why this book had been banned, but I have my own suppositions which I will get to. The book I picked was "The Fighting Ground" by Avi. If the name Avi sounds familiar to you, maybe you also read "The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle" as a young person in school. I know I did! Anyway, back to the matter at hand....

This book is set in a 24 hour period and instead of having chapters with numbers and/or titles they are times. Which helps you keep the 24 hour in perspective, April 3 1778.

Our main character is Jonathon. His dad and his father have both fought the British and he is eager for his chance to fight. Though his father, still battling a leg injury incurred while he fought, tells him he can't (even though he thinks he's a grown man at 13.) The bells in town ring, which means there's important news and Jonathon goes to the pub to see what is happening. There's British soldiers coming for their town, and they have to defend it. 
He borrows a musket from the pub owner and marches off with a few other men from town, under the order of a mysterious Colonel on a horse.

You know how sometimes the worst thing that can happen to you is that you get exactly what you want? That's what happens to Jonathon.

He experiences war and terror and indecision and panic and all of the things that come with war. It is not the romanticized thing that he had in his head. It is terrifying and loud and there's nothing romantic or wonderful about it. The book does a great job of conveying Jonathon's panic and the whole thing feels really claustrophobic.

I'd assume that it got banned somewhere because of the violence. And dead people. But I think banning this book does a disservice to  kids. With "shoot 'em up" games and violent movies kids can probably get detached from the true violence and personal cost of warfare. 

Let the kids read it. Let the adults read it. Read it.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Banned Books Week Puzzle!

You guys. It's Banned Books Week.
I always find myself doing fun little games for my BBW posts, and this year I made a cryptogram!
See if you can puzzle out the important message that I'm sending you. (It's not "be sure to drink your Ovaltine", just a heads up!) Your hint is that the word "reading" pops up alot!

Anyone else celebrating Banned Books Week on your blog?

6       19       20           17           11          

__ E A __ I __ __ I __ __ O I __ __ O __ __ A __ __ !
9 19 6 23 20 26 18 20 10 10 17 20 5 25 17 9 7 6 26 7

__ E A __ __ O O __ __ __ __ A __ __ O U __ O __ E
9 19 6 23 14 17 17 24 10 7 21 6 7 2 17 11 22 17 3 19

__ U __ A __ __ O __ E A __ __ O O __ __ __ __ A __
14 11 7 6 22 10 17 9 19 6 23 14 17 17 24 10 7 21 6 7

__ __ A __ __ E __ __ E __ O U A __ __ __ O __ __ I __ E __
4 21 6 22 22 19 26 18 19 2 17 11 6 26 23 4 17 26 10 20 23 19 9

A __ E __ __ E __ __ __ E __ __ I __ E !
6 26 19 8 25 19 9 10 25 19 4 7 20 3 19

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bookish thoughts: "Underground Airlines" by Ben Winters

I was excited about this book coming out because I loved Ben's Last Policeman trilogy and was able to meet him at an author's signing in a now-defunct local mystery bookstore. He was friendly and nerdy and played the ukulele and UA was just in it's infancy at the time.

However, I nearly missed the controversy associated with this book, but got clued in late in the game. If YOU missed it, I will sum up. But first, a summary (thanks Amazon!): 

It is the present-day, and the world is as we know it: smartphones, social networking and Happy Meals. Save for one thing: the Civil War never occurred.

A gifted young black man calling himself Victor has struck a bargain with federal law enforcement, working as a bounty hunter for the US Marshall Service. He's got plenty of work. In this version of America, slavery continues in four states called "the Hard Four." On the trail of a runaway known as Jackdaw, Victor arrives in Indianapolis knowing that something isn't right--with the case file, with his work, and with the country itself.

A mystery to himself, Victor suppresses his memories of his childhood on a plantation, and works to infiltrate the local cell of a abolitionist movement called the Underground Airlines. Tracking Jackdaw through the back rooms of churches, empty parking garages, hotels, and medical offices, Victor believes he's hot on the trail. But his strange, increasingly uncanny pursuit is complicated by a boss who won't reveal the extraordinary stakes of Jackdaw's case, as well as by a heartbreaking young woman and her child who may be Victor's salvation. Victor himself may be the biggest obstacle of all--though his true self remains buried, it threatens to surface.

Victor believes himself to be a good man doing bad work, unwilling to give up the freedom he has worked so hard to earn. But in pursuing Jackdaw, Victor discovers secrets at the core of the country's arrangement with the Hard Four, secrets the government will preserve at any cost.

There was kind of a told fold controversy:

1) Ben's a white guy and he was writing a book with (as yah may have guessed from the summary) really strong themes about racism and slavery.

2) Others were angry because Ben was being praised for his weaving together of racial issues and science fiction. Several black writers have been doing this for a long time, with less recognition.

Obviously there are a lot of raw feelings in the states right now with the racial unrest that we are experiencing.

There's a lot of feelings going around and I don't want to start unnecessary fights on the internet that don't solve anything.

Basically, if you read the book and it makes you think long and hard about the history and the future of this country and you have good, respectful conversations with your fellow humans about what you have learned I don't think it matters about who wrote this book. Then, after you finish UA, go pick up an Octavia Butler and appreciate the people who tilled the road before.



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

MPLS/St Paul Reccomendations

Recently my sister moved to St Paul Minnesota and a couple of weekends ago I got the chance to spend the weekend with her and our dear friend Corrie who was in town for a conference. We spent the weekend eating, drinking and shopping and I thought I'd share a couple of places with you in case you ever found yourself in that neck of the woods. Or, even better, find Julianne over at Outlandish Lit and ask her! 

Best Nom Nom Noms

 We had a tasty brunch at a place called The Buttered Tin. I had breakfast tacos which were delicious and a little spicy! It's a popular spot so you might need to wait, but our wait was only 15 minutes. There is a delicious looking bakery if you want a takeaway snack!

We had ANOTHER tasty brunch at a a place called the Dark Horse Bar and Eatery. They had a great little patio area and the service was great. I had waffles with goat cheese, bacon and green onions, which gave me the sweet and the savory I wanted in all one waffle.

We hit up a happy hour for dinner at the Mall of America at a place called Tucci Benucch. Sangria and toasted ravioli and bruschetta and mozzarella and yuuuuuuum. 


The Mall of America is obviously a WHOLE thing, but if you want to shop until your feet turn into bloody stumps you can do it here.

Magers & Quinn is delicious wonderful indie bookstore that I could have spent hours and hours in. Go spend a bunch of money and say hi to Julianne!

 21 best ridiculous Minnesota memes - Page 4 | City Pages:

Friday, September 16, 2016

Book review: "The Caretaker of Lorne Fields" by David Zeltserman

If you like creepy books without certain resolution , well boy howdy do I have a book for you!

Jack Durkin spends his whole day saving the world, at least that's what he spends. To the passerby he spends the whole day, every day, weeding the same field. Jack spends his days preventing the horrible Aukowie from rising up and destroying the world. It's a familial job, passed down from oldest son to oldest son going back almost 300 years. It used to be a job that people respected, and treated the Durkin's with deference and kindness. Now people are cynical, and whisper that those Durkins have lost their minds. And on top of that Jack has a cranky wife, an oldest son who wants nothing to do with the field, and a younger son who wants to be the caretaker but can't be because the contract, signed by his ancestors and the town, says it has to be the oldest son.

A horrifying incident changes the public view of Jack from a harmless weirdo to a person who is dangerous and delusional. Jack's allies are few and far between as he tries to prove that is work is important and can't be disturbed.

I wasn't sure if I was #TeamDurkin or #TeamSkepticalTownsfolk because after each incident my position changed. If you read this, let me know where you land. I don't think we're supposed to have a solid answer but I'm curious as to people's interpretations.

I give this book a solid 3.5 stars for being short, inventive, a little heart tuggy, and a little scary all wrapped into one!


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Book review: "The Wolf Road" by Beth Lewis

Elka, our narrator could kill me and skin me pretty deftly I think. After "the Big Stupid" (which we never get a full account on but seems to be some kind of nuclear/global war) she and her nana live alone in a cabin in the woods. But after a dangerous storm lands Elka far from everything she knows she meets the Trapper, who takes her in and teaches her everything she needs to know about  living in the forest and being a skilled hunter. He never let's her go with him on big hunts for things like elk, and he's not exactly parental and warm but he's taught her a lot and took her in when she was in need of shelter. So they're a weird little family....until Elka is in town one day and is confronted with a lady boss officer of the law who tells her that the Trapper may not be all who she thinks he Elka makes a run for it, with almost nothing to her name but her wits, skill and a really good knife.

Elka is not met with kindness from all as she tries to make her way to the town where she thinks that her parents, who she hasn't seen since she was a baby, set out for to make their fortunes on what sounds like a post apocalyptic gold rush. The whole time she can basically feel the Trapper's breath on her neck. She does meet a few allies on the way, one has four legs and fur, and the other is a person who ends up saving her life more than once.

There is danger, adventure, terrible creepy people, good hearted nice people, the scariest sounding thunderstorms I've ever heard of (maybe nuclear war disrupted our weather patterns or something?), death defying escapes, and people locked in crates. I wouldn't read this book while camping. Nope nope nope.

I give this book a 3.2 out of 5. It was entertaining and a fast read, even if it wasn't ever breaking new ground. My only criticism was that a lot of the time I forgot that it was supposed to be post-apocalyptic because it didn't really play into the story TOO much. It could have just been the normal 1880s most of the time. Either way, not a big criticism.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review

Friday, September 9, 2016

Book Review: "One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway" by Asne Seierstad

This book was on my TBR for a long time but I didn't ever pick it up due to the page length. You really have to plan when you're going to read those 500+ page books, you know? I finally made time for it, and I'm kicking myself for taking so long to open it up. 

Just as a reminder, in 2011 Anders Breivik detonated a bomb in downtown Oslo (killing 8) and then took guns to a island where a group of teenagers were at a camp and killed 69 teenagers. (Everytime I re-read the numbers it makes me queasy). I remember this attack, maybe more than others, because we have good family friends who were in Norway when this happened and they had been in Oslo the day before. Luckily we were able to reach them on faceook and found out that they were ok.
This book chronicles the life of Breivik and those of his victims, and then later the crimes themselves. The descriptions of the lives of everyone involved made for a really interesting look into the lives of people who live in Norway. Like (this is over simplifying) Breivik's mother said she felt too overwhelmed to care for him and so the government provided a family to watch him on the weekends for a short time. I was like whaaaaat is that all about? And how Norway has struggled to become an integrated, multicultural place. Not a rare struggle.

This book wasn't a feel good book. It was detailed and unflinching. You heard about the exact moments that these young people lost their lives. Where the bullets entered their brains. What they were holding in their hands when they dies. If they were near their friends. Sometimes their last words. However, I felt like the explicitness of the story kept it from being cheapened or glossed over. It showed the horror of the acts that were committed.

The whole book made me feel uneasy and sickly but there was one particular part that made me feel like someone punched me in the stomach. After the massacre had stopped and the survivors had been evacuated to the mainland the police and medical examiners began to cover all of the bodies with sheets. In the darkness and stillness of the coming night you could hear the cellphones ringing from the pockets and the clutched hands of the bodies under the sheets. The desperate phone calls to children from parents that wouldn't be answered. Ugh. 

I'm not going to rate this book because how can you rate a book about the worst days of so many people's lives. Be assured that this book is worth reading.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Book Review: "In Praise of Profanity" by Michael Adams

This book really didn't need to be a whole book. Though it was a pretty short book I felt like it might have been better in a different format, maybe a series of web articles? Though it felt like it carried on a little longer than it probably needed to, and got a little folded over on top of itself sometimes there were some interesting points:

-What's the difference between something being obscene or profane?

- Who decides what words are worse than others? (Like, you can say "ass" on tv but maybe not "shit"?)

- Words that used to be insults that now people have "reclaimed" - n*gga, bitch, and f*g.

One thing that I thought was interesting that the book kinda brings up but then I stewed on it a little more was how many different contexts we can use the same word. For example, "shit".

My team just scored a touchdown - "Shit yeah!" (Celebratory)

Becky borrowed my favorite sweater without asking and I just found out - "What the shit, Becky?!" (Angry)

When Becky finds out that I know she has my favorite sweater - "Oh Shit" (Scared). YOU SHOULD BE BECKY, I LOVE THAT SWEATER.

And, of course the sentence you would say after wolfing down too much movie theater popcorn in one sitting - "I'm going to have the shits" (Verb...technically a predictive verb if that was a real thing.)

So, short book, fast read, kinda redundant but I learned a couple of swear words in different languages so not a complete loss. 2.5 stars.


Friday, September 2, 2016

First Friday Four - 4 Favorite Alcoholic Beverages

On the first Friday of every month I'm going to make a fun and nonsensical list on a random topic. Here is this months!

So many of these drinks have either lime or mint that the post should be called Hooray Lime and Mint! 

1. Moscow Mules

Come for cute copper mug, stay for the delicious drink. Another wonderful thing about this drink is that you probably have most of the ingredients in your house already! (And if you have ginger beer you are way more prepared then me!)

 2. Caipirinhas

When I think of caipirinias I think of being on the beach in Mexico with my sister Quinn, our friend Corrie, an increasingly bad sunburn, and several books. This drinks is light and refreshing and goes down eaaaaaasy.

Brazilian caipirinha cocktails

3. Sangria

Oh sangria. There is a variety of you for every season. And you always contain fruit, which makes you healthy! Duh! More please! Also, I feel like this is a drink where recipes are just suggestions, almost anything you throw in will make it delicious!

Build your best #sangria with this #DIY guide. Perfect for sipping in your backyard.:

4. Mojitos

My first real,lasting alcoholic love. Mint and bubbles and if I'm really lucky, a stick of sugar can with which to stir and then gnaw on later. This is also a great choice if you want a tropical tasting drink but don't want something pastel or neon colored with little umbrellas!

The Best Mojitos, I like mine sweet so more simple and I like my mint extra muddled so I really break the mint leaves up!: