Saturday, December 31, 2011

December- Author in the Spotlight Wrap-up + Giveaway.

December- Author in the Spotlight Wrap-up + Giveaway.

PRIZED Giveaway ends tonight at Midnight!!

December is coming to an end and so is the year of 2011.   So it is time for me to wrap-up the special month of December with a treat by highlighting Minnesota author Caragh O'Brien and her young adult novels.

Today is the last day to enter the contest to win a copy of Prized.  The contest ends at midnight tonight.  The contest is open to people living in the U.S. that are current Booksnob followers.  Good Luck and as always thanks for following Booksnob!

Click here to enter:  Prized Contest

Please check out my book reviews of Birthmarked and Prized below.  They are the beginning of a young adult dystopian trilogy and the third novel Promised is set to be released in the fall of 2012.  I heartily enjoyed living in the inventive, alternative world that O'Brien creates.  The lead character is Gaia, a strong, 16 year old midwife who faces many trials and tribulations in the unequal societies she lives in.  I highly recommend these two books and am excited to add them to my classroom bookshelf for my students to borrow.

Birthmarked Book Review
Prized Book Review

I was also lucky to be able to interview Caragh.  Caragh grew up in St. Paul and eventually became a high school English teacher.  She has since quit her teaching job to keep up with her writing schedule.  Caragh currently lives in Connecticut with her immediate family.  Check out the interview for more specific information on her books.

Caragh O'Brien Author Interview

As December comes to a close I would like to thank Caragh for being the December Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob.  She is a talented writer and I look forward to reading her next book, Promised and working with her in the near future.  Please visit Caragh's website at and support her by reading one of her books. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pulitzer Prize Challenge 2012

Hey Everyone, Happy New Year.  In 2012 I am hosting The Pulitzer Prize Challenge for the first time. There are several genres of books that have won the Pulitzer dating back as far as 1917 and as long as I can remember I have been wanting to read ALL the books in the fiction category.  Although I do like to read some of the winners from other categories as well. I never seem to advance far in my goal because there are so many great books out there, so to encourage and challenge myself to reach this goal, I decided to host the challenge.  I hope you will join me.
Below are the categories or genres with a link to the list of winners.
Biography or Autobiography
General Nonfiction

There will be 3 levels to attain.i
Gold Medal:  Read 12 Pulitzer Prize winning books from any genre equaling 1 book per month.
Silver Medal:  Read 6 Pulitzer Prize winning books from any genre. This equals 1 book every other month.
Bronze Medal:  Read 4 Pulitzer Prize winning books from any genre.  This equals 1 book per season or quarter.
I am hoping to achieve the Gold Medal level.

Rules:  Anyone can participate, you do not need to have a blog.
Create an intro post, choose your Medal level and sign up.
To join in, sign up with Mr. Linky below.  If you aren't a blogger, just add a comment.  You may also twitter and facebook about the challenge.
To use Mr. Linky: put your name or your blog's name in the top box and the URL (web address) of your blog in the bottom box. If you don't have a blog, use your Twitter account, your Facebook page or simply mention your intent to join the challenge in the comments.

I have created a new page on my blog where you can add your book review in Mr. Linky or comments on your progress on the challenge. 

You are free to join this challenge at any time in 2012.  If you sign up for this challenge in January you are eligible to win a 15 dollar gift certificate to Amazon.  

Thanks for participating!!
End of the year prize:  You will be eligible to win a prize for a 15 dollar gift certificate to amazon for all who complete the challenge by 12/31. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Prized by Caragh O'Brien

Prized by Caragh O'Brien

Gaia Stone, carrying her baby sister in her arms, leaves the only home she knows to search for a better life.  Weeks later, Gaia and Maya are found by a rider from Sylum, near death in the Wasteland.  They are taken to Sylum, a society ruled by a minority of women who outnumber the men, three to one.  Upon arriving Gaia is forced to give up Maya permanently and made to submit to the strict lifestyle of Sylum where kissing is a crime punishable by a week in prison.  No one ever leaves Sylum and those who do, die trying. 

Gaia meets a master of wills in the Matrarc, female ruler of Sylum.  The Matrarc, is a blind mother of seven, who cares deeply for her people and will not see her rules broken and since Gaia lives life by her own rules, these two butt heads.   The Matrarc seeks to break Gaia's power in a strategic battle of wills.

This dystopian trilogy is unique because the first two books place the reader in two entirely different societies.  This first society in Birthmarked, is The Enclave near the unlake Superior and the second society in Prized is Sylum, across the wasteland near the dead forest.  The two societies are vastly different while only 100 kilometers apart.  One society is controlled by men, technology and the lack of water and where infertility rates are high, the other society is ruled by women, with little technology, a abundance of water and addictive qualities.

Prized is a contest of wills, a game of survival of the fittest where no man really wins and women reign as queens.  Sylum is a matriarchal society where names, traditions and property pass to the next generation through the mother.  Gaia will fight, with the help of the men she loves and admires, to change laws and help men get the right to vote.  Prized endures as a story worthy of your time and imagination. 

Prized will take you on a creative, imaginative journey to another time and place where members of two societies meet and change.  To enter into a alternative world through a good book is a entertaining way to spend your day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Caragh O'Brien Author Interview + Giveaway

Caragh O'Brien Author Interview
Hey Booksnob followers, December's author in the spotlight is Caragh O'Brien and I am happy to feature an interview with her about her Young Adult Trilogy.  The first book is Birthmarked, the second is Prized and the third book Promised will be released in the fall of 2012.  If you are interested in reading a copy of Prized from this fabulous Minnesota author, read on.

1.      Tell us a little bit about yourself.
First, Laura, let me say how pleased I am to be invited by.  You’re so kind to feature my novels this month.
My life is simple.  I grew up in St. Paul back before the Mall of America, and spent summers with my family at our lake place up north.  After attending the Visitation and SPA/SS, I went east for college and graduate school.  My husband and I started a family, and we’ve lived in a small town in Connecticut for seventeen years now.  I recently resigned from teaching high school English to write full-time, so I spend most of my days on my couch, working.  I’m now in the last stages of revising the third book in the Birthmarked trilogy.

2.      What inspired you to write to a Young Adult trilogy?
My aim was to write the best story I could, and since Birthmarked was about a 16-year-old midwife, that put it squarely in the young adult category.  It has crossed over to adults since then, too.  I began to think of the story as a trilogy only after my publisher offered me a three-book contract.  That was a happy shock.

3.       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?
It’s rare for me to draw consciously and directly from my own experiences for my fiction, but my ideas must be based in me somehow.  I think we have many common, human emotions, so if for example my character is feeling impulsive or lonely, I draw from that inside myself.  Gaia from Birthmarked and Prized is much stronger and braver than I ever was, but I’m trying to be more like her.

4.      Can you tell us why or when you decided to become a writer? 
Writing has helped me think through ideas clearly since I was a seventh grader and began keeping a journal, so I’ve been writing most of my life.  I decided to write as my job last year when I realized I could no longer teach full-time and also meet my deadlines for the Birthmarked trilogy. 

5.      Do you like to read?  What authors or books influence you in the writing of the Birthmarked trilogy?
I enjoy reading, and lately I’m reading quite a few young adult dystopian novels, some by friends of mine, like Hall’s Away, DeStefano’s Wither, and Johnson’s Possession.  I’ve been influenced by Rand’s Anthem, Miller’s The Crucible, Meyer’s Twilight, and Collins’s The Trouble with Poetry.

6.      When is the third book in the series set to be released?  Can you give us a little hint or preview of what it is about?
The third novel, Promised, is due out in the fall of 2012. It’s hard to describe a book without spoilers, but I can say it’s clearly set up by events at the end of Prized, so it shouldn’t be a total surprise to readers.

7.      In one sentence tell readers why they should read the Birthmarked series.
If readers would like to try a fast-paced, twisted adventure story about a teen midwife who has to turn over a quota of babies each month to authorities inside the wall, they might like Birthmarked.
Thanks again, Laura, for having me by.  I hope you and your blog followers have a lovely time in the New Year.

If you are interested in winning a copy of Prized, enter by clicking the link:  Prized Contest

Thanks Caragh!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien

Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien

One of the best things about science fiction is the reader gets to enter into a alternative world created just for them.  You know you have left your current state of mind when you start adapting words or phrases into your everyday vocabulary or dreaming of a time and place you can visit only while lost in a good book.  The best stories transport you and let you forget your current reality for awhile. 

Birthmarked transported me to a place called Wharfton located outside of the walled fortress called the Enclave.  The year is around A.D. 2400 and water is scarce.  Un-lake Superior is near and dried up like the wombs of many of the infertile women within the Enclave.  On the outside of the wall, lives Gaia Stone, a sixteen year old midwife whose duty is to advance the first 3 babies of the month to be adopted by the privileged families within The Enclave. 

Gaia's life begins to unravel when her parents are arrested by the very community they serve.  Gaia learns they are sentenced to death and bravely sneaks inside the wall to try and save them.  Gaia witnesses an execution of a pregnant mother and does the only thing she can, she saves the baby.  Soon Gaia is arrested but she is not your typical girl, she has a scar on her face.  The scar at once marks Gaia as an outsider as well as a fugitive but Gaia is strong, resourceful, hopeful and a smart young woman.  What ensues is a roller coaster adventure story full of twists and turns and an amazing young heroine who stands up for her parents and what she believes in.

Birthmarked touches on economic and environmental issues as well as problems of infertility and hemophilia that result from a society that closes its doors.  The wall of the Enclave reminds me of the type of walls we self-impose on ourselves as well as the walls who purpose is to keep people in their place, like the Berlin Wall.  Birthmarked is reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Masister and Mabrother, you have provided a great service to The Enclave.  We are now raising the quota to five babies a month.

I wonder, is it time to rebel? 
Looking forward to the second book in the series PRIZED.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Report. A Novel by Jessica Francis Kane

The Report.  A Novel by Jessica Francis Kane

In 1943, a horrible accident takes place in a London air-raid shelter.  No bombs fell the night of March 3, when 173 people died in a deadly crush in Bethnal Green.  The accident leaves a grieving community in the midst of wartime without any answers and lots of questions.  If there were no bombs, how did 173 people die in an air-raid shelter?

One person makes a misstep or a temporary fault in judgement on that fateful night and the ramifications cause the community to demand a investigation.  The Report is the fictional investigation into the possible details of the accident.

 Kane uses the actual report written by Laurence Dunne in 1943 and writes a novel that probes the tragedy with style and grace.  The Report is told in two interconnecting story lines, one takes place 30 years after the accident, where a film maker who was a child in the tragedy, interviews the aging Laurie Dunn.  The other is of The Report being written and interviews with survivors being conducted so Dunn can piece together the small events that led to the culminating tragedy and release his findings to the community. 

The Report draws the reader in with intensity and keeps the reader involved throughout the story.   The investigation and interviews with the survivors are well done and intriguing.  The changes within the Bethnal Green community are reflected in the lives of the survivors as the story unfolds leading the reader to think about how our personal tragedies change us.

Look closely at the cover of the book.  Both the front and back covers show pictures of people underground in the air-raid Tube station shelter.  I love the cover and the details about the shelter in The Report.  The story of the book is fascinating on so many different levels.
The Report is published by a local Minnesota press called Graywolf Press.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Germ Warfare edited by Lupi McGinty

Germ Warfare edited by Lupi McGinty
 An Anthology of Comics for Germs and Their Generous Human Hosts.

Germs are so disgusting they make us all sick.  Literally.  The best way to combat germs this season is to read Germ Warfare and laugh your way to health.  This Anthology, edited by Lupi McGinty, contains 12 different comics by Minnesota writers including two by Lupi herself.  Some of them are laugh-out funny, a couple of them were just OK and others I thought were pure genius.

The first comic starts the war, with germs trying to infiltrate a human host and the humans fighting back with anti-bacterial napalm.  Which leads us to another comedic war during The Great Penicillin where many germs lost their lives.  Eventually the good bacteria are being destroyed by humans because of their fear of germs.  I loved the comic where the parents have to sterilize  everything to keep their baby safe and you see them sinking into the madness of germaphobia.  The war concludes with the building of a germ town on its deceased human host.

The artwork and comedic styles are creative and fun and all related to the common theme of the war between germs and humans.  This is a theme everyone can relate to because we have all been sick or tried in some way to avoid being sick.  Germ Warfare is appropriate for comic readers of all ages.

My advice is to arm yourself with tissue, cough medicine, anti-bacterial napalm, vitamins and whatever else you can think of to stay well.  Don't forget to wash your hands before you touch any germ infested surfaces and then pick up a copy of Germ Warfare.  You are armed and ready to read!

Monday, December 12, 2011

What's in a Name Challenge

What's in a Name Challenge

I see lots of Book Bloggers participate in this challenge and so I thought this year, is my year, to join the fun.  It is the 5th year of the challenge but the first year I am joining in and I am super excited.  I looked at the categories and then on my book shelves and found lots of possibilities.  I think now I am totally obsessing about filling my categories and am trying to find a creepy crawly book on my shelf and it is totally in hiding.  Feel free to leave book suggestions.

If you are interested the challenge is run by Beth at 

Here are the categories:
Between January 1 and December 31, 2012, read one book in each of the following categories:
  1. A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title: Black Hills, Purgatory Ridge, Emily of Deep Valley
  2. A book with something you'd see in the sky in the title: Moon Called, Seeing Stars, Cloud Atlas
  3. A book with a creepy crawly in the title: Little Bee, Spider Bones, The Witches of Worm
  4. A book with a type of house in the title: The Glass Castle, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Ape House
  5. A book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title: Sarah's Key, The Scarlet Letter, Devlin Diary
  6. A book with a something you'd find on a calendar in the title: Day of the Jackal, Elegy for April, Freaky Friday, Year of Magical Thinking
The book titles are just suggestions, you can read whatever book you want to fit the category.

Other Things to Know

  • Books may be any form (audio, print, e-book).
  • Books may overlap other challenges.
  • Books may not overlap categories; you need a different book for each category.
  • Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed but encouraged.
  • You do not have to make a list of books before hand.
  • You do not have to read through the categories in any particular order.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Contest: The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

Contest: The Personal History of Rachel Dupree by Ann Weisgarber

Yesterday, I reviewed The Personal History of Rachel Dupree and the publisher has graciously offered, through TLC book tours, to give away one copy of Ann Weisgarber's book to a lucky Booksnob follower.

You can check out my review here:  The Personal History of Rachel Dupree Book Review

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
An award-winning novel with incredible heart, about life on the prairie as it's rarely been seen

When Rachel, hired help in a Chicago boardinghouse, falls in love with Isaac, the boardinghouse owner's son, he makes her a bargain: he'll marry her, but only if she gives up her 160 acres from the Homestead Act so he can double his share. She agrees, and together they stake their claim in the forebodingly beautiful South Dakota Badlands.

Fourteen years later, in the summer of 1917, the cattle are bellowing with thirst. It hasn't rained in months, and supplies have dwindled. Pregnant, and struggling to feed her family, Rachel is isolated by more than just geography. She is determined to give her surviving children the life they deserve, but she knows that her husband, a fiercely proud former Buffalo Soldier, will never leave his ranch: black families are rare in the West, and land means a measure of equality with the white man. Somehow Rachel must find the strength to do what is right-for herself, and for her children.

Reminiscent of The Color Purple as well as the frontier novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Willa Cather, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree opens a window on the little-known history of African American homesteaders and gives voice to an extraordinary heroine who embodies the spirit that built America.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Personal History of Rachel Dupree by Ann Weisgarber

The Personal History of Rachel Dupree by Ann Weisgarber

Let me introduce you to Rachel Dupree.  Rachel is living in Chicago, working as a cook in a boarding house.  She is a strong minded African American woman who knows what she wants.  She refuses to marry a slaughter house man with no future and instead sets her sights on Issac, the son of her employer.  Issac is a buffalo soldier who has big dreams ranching in South Dakota.  Rachel and Issac make a bargain.  He agrees to marry her and live together for one year, and she agrees to give up her 160 acres share from The Homestead Act.

The story is set in the harsh landscape of South Dakota badlands during a severe summer drought during the year of 1917.  Rachel is pregnant with her seventh child.  Many African Americans became homesteaders but it is a story often not told and rarely heard of.  Rachel and her family faced hardships like any other homesteaders of the time but they also suffered greatly from the racism of the time.  They lived in a sod house, had little or no neighbors and struggled day to day with the challenges of owning large tracks of land.  If you lived on your land for 5 years, you paid for it with your hardships.

The History of Rachel Dupree is a predictable, easy read.  The parts I was most drawn to were the parts where Rachel is starting to piece together the realities of her life and is discovering that she unhappy with what she sees.  Throughout the book she wrestles with a life-changing decision and I found myself rooting for her to stand up for herself. The frontier reeks havoc on the heartiest of souls and Rachel has many regrets.  The ending of the book is bittersweet and will have you on your toes cheering for this woman and her bravery.  Then you will find yourself hoping there is going to be a

So Ms. Weisgarber, will there be a sequel?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Prized by Caragh O'Brien Contest

Prized by Caragh O'Brien Contest

Hometown Track, Minnesota Author in the Spotlight, Caragh O'Brien and her publisher, Roaring Brook Press are giving away THREE hardcover copies of Prized to Booksnob followers.  Prized is the long awaited second book in the Birthmarked trilogy. 

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime. In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole?

Prized Contest Rules:
Fill out the form
Leave a comment
Must be a Booksnob follower
Must be a U.S. resident (publisher rules)
Contest Ends 12/31 at midnight.
Good Luck!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2012 Reading Challenges

2012 Reading Challenges

I have been giving some serious thought to what kind of reading I want to do in 2012 and the types of books I want to challenge myself to read more of. 

My personal reading challenge this year will be to read 12 Pulitzer prize winning novels, one Pulitzer book a month.  It has been a goal of mine to read all of these books for awhile now and every year they add a new winner and I find myself not able to keep up.  Maybe I will create a button and add a page to my blog in case other bloggers and readers want to join me.  What do you think?  Would you consider this as a reading goal in 2012?  Please let me know if you are interested.

I am also going to join Sheila from Book Journey for her Where Are You Reading? challenge.  This entails trying to read books that take place in each of all the 50 states.  You set up a map in google maps and pinpoint your books location.  You also upload a picture of the book to picassa web albums.  Since I only read about 75 books a year, 50 states may be hard to complete.  I am not planning to alter my reading plans but am curious to see what my reading map looks like at the end of 2012.  It must be the map loving, geography teacher part of me that is so excited for this interesting challenge. 

So far that is my plan for 2012.   I am still debating with myself on whether or not to add other reading challenges to my plate. 

Looking forward to reading in the New Year.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fatal Incident Contest Winners

Fatal Incident Contest Winners

I am happy to announce the three winners of a hardcover copy of Hometown Track's Minnesota Author in the Spotlight, Jim Proebstle's new novel, Fatal Incident.

1.  Lexi from Apple Valley, MN
2.  Danielle from Alexandria, VA
3.  Chris from Princeton, MN

All of you have been e-mailed and the books should be mailed out shortly.

Congratulations Everyone and thanks for being a loyal Booksnob follower.

If you didn't win, you can order a copy of Jim's book from Amazon.  It would make an excellent gift for the man - reader in your life.  You can check out Jim's website at

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December-Hometown Track Minnesota Author in the Spotlight.

December Hometown Track Minnesota Author in the Spotlight.

I discovered December's author this summer when I went to Camp Read-a-Lot and one of the participants had read her book and was raving about it.  She passed the book around and I noticed the author was from St. Paul and so I took a chance and e-mailed her and thankfully she replied.

Without further adieu, December's author is....Caragh O'Brien.  Caragh is a  well-known, young adult author as well as a high school English teacher.  I am thrilled she agreed to be the featured author this month on Booksnob.

Caragh O'Brien has written two novels, Birthmarked and Prized with the third novel on its way.   Here is the synopsis from Goodreads for each of her books.


In the Enclave, your scars set you apart, and the newly born will change the future.

Sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone and her mother faithfully deliver their quota of three infants every month. But when Gaia's mother is brutally taken away by the very people she serves, Gaia must question whether the Enclave deserves such loyalty. A stunning adventure brought to life by a memorable heroine, this dystopian debut will have readers racing all the way to the dramatic finish.


Striking out into the wasteland with nothing but her baby sister, a handful of supplies, and a rumor to guide her, sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone survives only to be captured by the people of Sylum, a dystopian society where women rule the men who drastically outnumber them, and a kiss is a crime.  In order to see her sister again, Gaia must submit to their strict social code, but how can she deny her sense of justice, her curiosity, and everything in her heart that makes her whole?

This month you can expect an author interview with Caragh O'Brien,  a contest to win a hardcover copy of Prized and a book review of Birthmarked and Prized.  

December in Minnesota is cold and the snow has decided to stay, so it such a great time to curl up by the fire with a good book.  I guess any time of year is a good time to curl up with a good book so I hope you will check out Caragh O'Brien's website and her books at and add them to your To Be Read list.   Have a great month!