Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February Author in the Spotlight Wrap-up + Giveaway

February - Author in the Spotlight Wrap-up + Giveaway

Kara, Lost Giveaway Ends tonight at midnight!

Guess What?  It is the end of February already.  Can you believe it?   It is time for me to wrap-up the  month of February book love by highlighting Minnesota author, Susan Niz.

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

Click here to enter:  Kara, Lost Contest 

Please check out my review of Kara, Lost.  Kara is a runaway teenager fending for herself on the streets of Minneapolis.  The story is based on the author's real life experience as a runaway in the 1990's.  It is a gritty, raw look at life on the streets. 

Kara, Lost Book Review

Be sure to check out the interview with Susan Niz.  She talks about how she finds time to write with a young daughter.  She also talks about her favorite authors and how she was inspired to write Kara, Lost.  She also has some great advice for teenagers going through tough times at home or on the streets.

Susan Niz Author Interview

Susan took time out her busy day to write a guest post.  It is titled "Finding Your Voice as a Writer" and offers great advice to aspiring writers. 

Susan Niz Guest Post

As February comes to a close I would like to thank Susan for being the February Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob.  She is a talented writer and I look forward to reading more interesting titles from her and working with her in the near future.  Please visit Susan's Niz's blog and website here. and support her by reading her book, Kara, Lost. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Where Are You Reading Challenge Update

February Update:  Where are you Reading Challenge?  Challenge 2012

February is "I Love to Read" month and so I was very busy helping to bring authors to the South High to speak and promote life long reading.  It was fun and rewarding.  Regarding my reading progress, I actually read some books that take place in the United States this month.  Yeah!

I've read 5 books this month so far and have traveled far and wide.
Here are my books, review links and locations for February:
1.  Tinkers by Paul Harding.  Takes place mainly in New England.
2.  Entwined by Heather Dixon.  This is a fairy tale and takes place in a fictional location.  I labeled it Utah because the author lives there.
3.  Kara, Lost by Susan Niz.  Takes place in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
4.  The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy.  Takes place in Germany and Texas.  I used Germany because I felt the majority of the book focused around the events that take place in Germany.
5.  A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.  Goodness this book covers 14 different states and if I could use all 14 of them I would be almost half way done with the challenge.  Instead, I chose the state New Hampshire because the Appalachian Trail runs though it and that is where the author lives.

Check out my map on Google Maps.
View Where are you reading challenge 2012 in a larger map

So far I have traveled to four continents, four states and six countries.  I can't wait to see where my reading adventures take me in March. 
Where are you reading?

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

At age 44, Bill Bryson decided he wanted to hike the entire Appalachian Trail.  The Appalachian Trail spans fourteen states and some 2200 miles.  Bill is a first time backpacker who needs to get set up with equipment, check out maps and make a plan.  Hiking this distance takes time, preparation and skill.  Bryson is inexperienced and has no idea how to survive in the wilderness.  He spells out his goals, (to see a rare salamander) and his fears, (getting eaten by a bear) and sets off on the trail in Georgia with his friend Katz.

Katz, is Bill's over weight, out of shape, friend from 20 years ago, who agrees to hike the first part of the trail.  This "walk" will be a good way to invigorate their long lost friendship.  Georgia happens to be experiencing a record cold Spring as the two walk north to Maine.  The two survive by their wits, eating noodles, snickers, and slim jims.  They meet some interesting and annoying people along the way as they hike through snow, fog, rain, heat and humidity carrying everything they need on their backs.

A Walk in the Woods is a hilarious romp through the Appalachian wilderness.  Bryson details the history and geography of the trail.  He talks about landmarks, National Parks, the park service and describes the joys of a bed, warm showers, clean clothes and good food after the stress and hard work of back packing. 

I loved this book and could really relate to it as I am a backpacker.  I have only backpacked on The Superior Hiking Trail in Northern Minnesota which follows the ridge line of Lake Superior.  It is about 286 miles and I personally have backpacked about 60 miles of it.  It is so beautiful.  Last summer, I turned 44 and I took my 13 year old son and introduced him to the joys of hiking on the trail.  He loved it!   After reading A Walk in the Woods, I am seriously thinking I need to backpack a part of the Appalachian Trail.  It sounds so amazing and beautiful. 

A Walk in the Woods is a great way to participate in a journey into nature from your comfy chair.  I felt like I was right there with Bill and Katz as they experienced the trail for the first time and then became veteran backpackers.  A Walk in the Woods is a journey worth taking and one that will have you laughing all the way to your front porch swing.  Happy Hiking and Reading!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Susan Niz Guest Post + Giveaway

Susan Niz Guest Post + Giveaway

Welcome to Susan Niz, February Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob.  

Finding your voice as a writer
Susan Niz

We are often told that drawing from personal experiences is the way to create writing that is authentic and meaningful.  “Write what you know.”  But many writers successfully create imaginary worlds or write from a point of view that is drastically different from what they have lived.  I propose that we should write what our instinct tells us to write, we should write without a preset idea of what we envision for the final product, and we should let the journey of the writing process take us where it may.  When developing voice as a writer, the idea of ‘final product’ is secondary to the process itself.

For me personally, writing is, at times, a process driven by underlying psychological forces.  I am working through past traumatic experiences, creating ‘scripts’ with different outcomes, or reliving moments that need to be revisited in order to be resolved.  When writers talk about ‘the pen taking over,’ I believe this is the subconscious taking control and doing what it feels it needs to do. We can make sense of an outer, interpersonal world as well as the intrapersonal relationship we have with our sense of self and our past.  Perhaps this is why writing can be so emotionally painful at times, and also so gratifying.  For others, writing may be less personal, a journey of creative spirit not so closely tied to one’s own history.

Whatever drives you to want to write, let the process be natural.  Make attempts with different genres, different forms—whether traditional or experimental.  We can try to imitate other authors.  What comes of this is an appreciation for the voice of another writer as well as the development of our own voice.  But when it comes to creating our own, original work, let the voice guiding you be strong.  Believe in it.  It is yours.  Emerson said, “Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.”  You may be amazed where you can go and what you can create if you release yourself from your own expectations.

Write what you need to write.  Create a world you’ve never seen before, transport yourself to a different time period, or just a younger you.  Just write and trust yourself.  Revision and final product?  That’s a different story.  Voice is like the melody behind the narrative, the soundtrack we can’t live without.

Thanks Susan!

If you are interested in winning a copy of Susan's book Kara, Lost please click on the link:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Susan Niz Author Interview + Giveaway

   Susan Niz Author Interview + Giveaway
     Welcome Booksnob followers.  Susan Niz is February's Author in the Spotlight and she agreed to answer some questions about her life and her book, Kara, Lost.  Welcome Susan!

1.       Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I live in Eagan and my favorite thing about it is being near parks where I can go for nature walks.  I love the peace and quiet.  I enjoy being close to nature, while still close enough to civilization that I can get a latté!  My favorite meal ever is curried mock duck with steamed vegetables and white rice.  My guilty pleasure is a certain reality TV series and I will break out dancing with my daughter anywhere that music is playing.

2.     What inspired you to write to Kara, Lost?

I was still haunted by my experiences of running away as a teenager.  It was a life-changing decision at critical, formative time of my life.  I wanted to make sense of that course of events.
3.     Can you tell us why or when you decided to become a writer? 
   I’ve been drawn to writing for as long as I can remember.  When I was three, I would    staple together scrap paper, scribble on the cover, and call it a book.  In school, I loved writing stories.  It was in second grade when I declared that I would publish a book someday.

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

My book has many of my own experiences in it, but it is definitely fiction.

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

Of course!  My favorite books are ones that have a strong, intimate, narrative voice—like when you feel like the story is being whispered in your ear by a friend.  Wally Lamb and Frank McCourt are favorites.  Earlier, I really enjoyed Tom Robbins and Barbara Kingsolver.  I also like Alexander McCall Smith and David Housewright. Recently, I’ve been reading more young adult and Sara Zarr and Julie Schumacher are a couple favorites in that genre.

6.     How do carve out time in your day to write?  Are you writing another book?

It’s difficult.  Before my daughter, I would just write all weekend.  But now, I have to do it very early in the morning, late at night, or catch an hour here and there.  I am writing another book.  It’s a more traditional YA novel about a fifteen-year-old named Chelly who is struggling with her parents’ divorce, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and behind the wheel practice.  She gets better through exposure therapy, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy.

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

I hope that Kara, Lost is open to multiple interpretations and that it doesn’t aim to teach a lesson.  That being said, I really want readers to feel what Kara feels on her journey without judgment of what came before or after.  I have come to realize that my book does not fit neatly into the YA genre and therefore needs to be read with an open mind.

8.     Do you have any advice you would like to offer teenagers who are struggling at home or on the streets?

Be open to help.  Going outside the system and isolating yourself makes life extremely difficult and is also very dangerous.  Be brave and find strength within yourself to make decisions that will not be self-destructive.

9.     In one sentence tell readers why they should read Kara, Lost?

You should read Kara, Lost because Kara is complex, flawed, human, resourceful, well intentioned, and messes up a lot and you can go along with her on her journey rather than ever having to live it firsthand.

Thanks Susan

If you like to win a copy of Kara, Lost please click the link:  Kara, Lost Contest

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ms. Nique Visits South High

Ms. Nique Visits South High

In honor of "I Love to Read" month, South High invited several local authors in to speak about their books.  The second author to share her story and her book is author Ms. Nique.  She visited South High School on Monday, February 13th to inspire students and to talk about her biography, If My Past Wasn't So Dark...MY Future Wouldn't Shine So Bright.

Ms. Nique told her personal story to a crowded auditorium.  She talked about the fact that she was a survivor of abuse, a young teenage mother and how writing was the way she coped through the pain of her childhood.  She inspired the crowd, made us laugh and think about how to be positive and happy.

Ms. Nique is a poet and a spoken word artist.  She enjoys acting and inspiring others.  She is a positive young author and has published two books.  Her poetry book is called The Definition of Me. 

Ms. Nique kept it real.  She quoted her auntie saying "What you do today, affects tomorrow!"  Of course, no one thinks tomorrow as in Saturday but yeah what you do today does affect the day after. 

Thanks Ms. Nique for an inspiring visit!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy

The Baker's Daughter by Sarah McCoy

The Baker's Daughter is a novel that will warm your heart and tease your palate.   Germany is a country of people with mountains of pride and a somewhat painful past.  It is a country of beer, bratwurst, bread and war.  Elsie,  the baker's daughter lives in Garmisch, Germany during the second world war.  Elsie is young and naive and becomes a witness to shocking horrors that she didn't believe Germans capable of.

Fast forward to El Paso, Texas in 2007 where we meet Elsie and her daughter Jane, as they are interviewed by local reporter, Reba Adams.  Reba is drawn to these two women, their stories and of course their delicious baked goods.  A picture hangs on the wall of Elsie and her mother on Christmas Eve, 1944, in Germany, and Reba is curious is about what really happened that night all those years ago.  Reba has her own secrets that Elsie and Jane work to pry loose as they wonder why she wears her engagement ring around her neck.

In this amazing parellel storyline, we learn Elsie's and Reba's story and how their two histories intertwine.  My grandmother was 100 percent German and Elsie reminded me of her.  My grandmother was not a baker by trade but she did bake.  Her cinnamon bread was the best.  The Baker's Daughter contains some recipes for the delicious bread mentioned throughout the story and I can't wait to try one of them.  I loved the German words, the culture, the historical setting and time period in the book, all of which made me long for my lost German heritage.

My grandfather flew in Ninth Army Air Force during the war and McCoy mentions the Ninth in the book as a group who visited Garmisch, Germany.  It makes me wonder if my grandpa was stationed there or visited after the war.  This book contained a lot of personal connections for me.

The Baker's Daughter is a multi-layered book with themes of war, immigration, and human cruelty.  It is also a story of full of love, food, compassion and survival.    This is a book you will definitely want to savor.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Kara, Lost by Susan Niz

Kara, Lost by Susan Niz

Kara is sixteen and she is a runaway living on the streets of Minneapolis.  Kara runs, partly because her family doesn't understand her. She turns to her older sister for help but she has a controlling boyfriend who won't let Kara stay there.  She has no choice but to try and make it on her own.  She doesn't have an ID of any kind, therefore getting a job or a place to live will prove difficult.

There are predators that prey on young vulnerable teens on the streets.  Kara is naive and isolated and that makes her vulnerable.  Kara is very trusting and yet has some street smarts as she is able to procure a job washing dishes and a small apartment in a really bad neighborhood.  She makes friends and dreams of returning to school so she can get off the streets.  She is lonely and unsure of herself.  Kara struggles to be self sufficient.

Kara's story is based on the author's real life experience as a runaway teen on the streets.  Kara, Lost is well-written and believable.  Reading the book reminding me of my own story as a runaway for one week, living in my car, which I parked in front of my boyfriends house.  It was January, bitter cold and my boyfriend's mother refused to let me sleep in the house.  I brushed my teeth and washed up at the local Perkins then drove to work or school.  I went back home.  Kara didn't.

The ending of the book was so powerful and scary, it seriously took my breath away.  No teen should have to endure the streets alone.  I couldn't sleep after reading the ending of the book and spent most of my night thinking about it.  Kara, Lost does not read as a typical Young Adult novel.  Susan Niz penned each word with precision and fore thought and what emerged is a gritty, raw novel that takes time to absorb.  Kara, Lost is not cheesecake, it is torte of magnificent proportions.

Note:  I am not sure why I used this analogy but it seriously works.  There aren't any cheesecakes or tortes mentioned in the book. But there are egg rolls.  LOL.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Entwined by Heather Dixon

Entwined by Heather Dixon

Azalea is the oldest of twelve sisters, all princesses, each named for a letter of the alphabet.  Entwined begins on Christmas Eve, the day of Azalea's first ball and the day her youngest sister is born.  It is also the last night Azalea will speak to her mother as she dies during the night.  Before she dies, she makes Azalea promise to take care of her sisters and she gives her a special silver handkerchief.

The death of the Queen sends the whole household into a miserable period of mourning.  Dancing is not allowed.  Every one must wear black and the house is darkened, clocks stop ticking and the girls are forbidden to go outside.  Since dancing is their favorite adventure, they search for a way to dance.  The palace is a fortress of hidden magical places and Azalea finds a secret dancing pavilion which they enter through their fireplace.  The pavilion is guarded by a strange and handsome man whom they call the Keeper.  The Keeper is not what he seems and the girls are to trusting.

The Entwine is a style of dance also known as the Gentleman's Catch.  It is similar to a waltz and danced with a long sash or ribbon.  Each partner must hold the sash.  The object of the dance is for the gentleman to try to entwine the ribbon about the lady's wrists while she tries to evade capture.  Azalea excels at avoiding capture.

Entwined is the first ebook I bought for my Nook.  I was attracted by the beautiful cover design.   Little did I know, Entwined was a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses.  I have never read The Twelve Dancing Princesses however, and enjoyed the book immensely.  Entwined appealed to my inner princess, my wish to dance all day with handsome men and whirl away the day with adventures in magical places.  Entwined gave me a chance to escape and to dance in my dreams. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Susan Niz Visits South High

Susan Niz Visits South High

In honor of "I Love to Read" month, South High invited several local authors in to speak about their books.  The first author to share her story and her book is author and Minneapolis native, Susan Niz.  She visited South High School on Tuesday to talk to students about her book Kara, Lost. 

Susan is a ELL teacher at a local elementary school and she wrote a compelling Young Adult novel about Kara, a teenage runaway.  Kara, Lost is based on Susan Niz's personal story as she herself was a teenage runaway in the early 1990's. 

Susan prepared a compelling speech as she detailed her experience as a teenage runaway.  She talked about how she took a fiction writing class at the Loft Literary Center taught by author, David Housewright.  He gave her book a full length critique and believed in her novel.  This gave her the confidence she needed to finish her book and find a publisher. 

After her speech, Susan let students ask questions.  One student asked her a question that was sort of rude and Susan handled it with grace.  He asked her What is the worst thing that happened to you on the streets?  She responded with, "Read the book".  After reading Kara, Lost, I firmly agree with Susan's answer, if you want to know what happened to her on the streets as a teenage runaway, read the book! 

Susan has been working with runaway youth at Lincoln Place in Eagan, Minnesota and handed out information to students in case they wanted to volunteer.  Susan also works with a teen writing group after school and invited South students to join.

Here is a picture of Susan Niz and I.  I am holding Susan's book, Kara, Lost. 
Thanks Susan, for a memorable visit. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Kara, Lost Contest

Contest for Kara, Lost by Susan Niz

Hey Everyone, Susan Niz, Minnesota author in the spotlight, here on Booksnob is giving away two copies of her Young Adult book, Kara, Lost.  The contest is open to followers in the United States and Canada and ends on 2/29.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Contest Rules:
Leave a comment
Fill out the Form.
Must be a U.S./Canada resident
Must be a Booksnob follower.
Contest ends 2/29 at midnight.

Good Luck!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tinkers by Paul Harding

Tinkers by Paul Harding

Tinkers is a story about George Crosby who is lying on his death bed with eight days of his life remaining.  He fades in and out of consciousness while his family surrounds his sick bed with around the clock visitations.  George revisits his past as his memory and body plan their imminent escape.

As George fades, his memory of his father and his childhood emerge to paint a complicated and impoverished upbringing in New England.  George lives a full life with a wife, children and grandchildren.  He built his house with his own hands, retires to tinker with outdated clocks and slowly grows old. 

Tinkers is a novel of the senses with detailed descriptions of just about everything.  The clocks are a metaphor for life that runs continually throughout the book, as Harding meditates on nature, clocks, life, family, birds nests, lightning, death and more.  At times the book moves forward slowly as the reader's mind wanders.  So then, the reader must re-read.

I was drawn to this book for it's beautiful cover, it's Pulitzer Prize winning status and my perception of it as being a quick read.  At 191 pages, it took me longer to read it than I thought it would, and as the story progressed, my mind had trouble focusing during the long digressions on nature and life. I found Tinkers worthwhile and meaningful but wished I was able to focus my mind on its complexities and fully comprehend its unique subtleties.   

Tinkers is a intimate, beautiful look at how death comes to each of us.  Each word is purposeful.   Tinkers is a reminder that life is slowly unwinding and ticking away, tick, tock, tick, tock. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A Discovery of Witches Contest

 A Discovery of Witches Contest

Today is my anniversary of being a book blogger.  I have been blogging for two years now and continue to love it.  It has changed my life for the better and I treasure all the friendships I have made with fellow bloggers and have enjoyed working with multiple authors.  Book Blogging is such a great experience.  I only wish I could make a living doing it.

In honor of my 2 year blogging anniversary, I have a signed copy of A Discovery of Witches to giveaway to one my followers.  I had the chance to hear Deborah Harkness speak a couple of weeks ago and as I have not read her book yet, I found the talk really fascinating.

Deborah states the book began entirely by accident while she thought about the question "If you were a vampire, what would you do for a living?"  She is a Historian of Science and specializes in the 16 century.  She is currently teaching college in California as well as writing books.  Deborah says her goal is to write one to two pages a day which takes her about two hours and if she accomplishes this, it is a good day.  She states that writing fiction is a form of alchemy.

Deborah Harkness describes her book as a fairy tale for grownups.  She states A Discovery of Witches is a love letter to books, libraries and librarians.  She has also included little treasure hunts for the discerning reader, eggs of knowledge to seek and find.  A Discovery of Witches is the first book in a trilogy and has already been optioned for a movie.  I can hardly wait to read it, what about you?

Contest Rules:
1.  Leave a comment
2.  Fill out the form
3.  Open internationally
4.  Must be a BookSnob follower

Contest Ends 2/29
Good Luck!  Spread the Word.

The Fantasic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

This is beautiful and Magical. If you love books and reading you will love this animated short. It is up for an Academy Award. Watch it with your kids! It is simply breathtaking.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Between Light and Shadow Contest Winner!

Between Light and Shadow Contest Winner!!

I am happy to announce the winner of a personalized and signed copy of Between Light and Shadow from Jacob Wheeler, January's Minnesota author in the spotlight.

Congratulations Steph from Stephthebookworm!

If you didn't win you can still order a copy of Jacob's book from Amazon. 
This is such a great story.
Check out Jacob's website at

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February-Hometown Track Author in the Spotlight

February-Hometown Track Author in the Spotlight

Welcome to the great month of February. The month of love, black history and books. Did you know it is I love to read month? It is also the anniversary of my second year of blogging. So let's celebrate with a new young adult author from Minnesota. I met February's author at the MN book fair in October and her book about a teenage runaway based on the authors personal story intrigued me. So without further adieu, meet Susan Niz author of Kara, Lost.

Here is the synopsis of Kara Lost from Goodreads:

This month you can expect a book review, a author interview, a contest and a guest post. You can also check out Susan Niz's blog and website here. Check back often this month as you can expect great things to happen on Booksnob!