My Life Undecided

My Life Undecided
Jessica Brody
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011

Brooklyn Pierce is a girl with a knack for getting into "interesting" scrapes. As a toddler, she got trapped in a mine shaft. As a fifteen year old, she ended up setting her mother's model home on fire. After getting by with just a warning (and a LOT of community service), Brooklyn begins to realize maybe her problem is her decision-making skills. Or lack thereof. In a moment of inspiration, she creates an anonymous blog where she will post the decisions or choices she encounters, and allow the public to make the decision for her. At first, things seem to be going okay - the public doesn't always chose what Brooklyn would have, but that's the point right: have someone else make (better) decisions for you? As the experiment continues however, Brooklyn starts to waver in her enthusiasm for the idea - especially as life gets trickier and trickier.

As a character, Brooklyn was seriously annoying at first. I wanted to shake her and try to make her see things the way they really are instead of how she thinks they are. But she began to grow on me, as she started waking up a little and realizing that maybe life was a little different. I enjoyed watching her work through things, and while it took a little longer than I'd have preferred - that also lends a sense of authenticity to the story. I mean really: how many of us actually learn the first time? I cringe to remember the lessons I've relearned through the years. And I love the supporting cast, especially "Heimlich". Brody did a good job of creating a high school environment without belaboring the point.

All in all, My Life Undecided is an enjoyable, quick read that also stops to make you think: What if someone else did make all your decisions for you? How would your life change? Would it change?

Book provided by my personal library.


Wander Dust winners!

I love announcing winners! And today I get to share the happy news that three people have won something cool!

First, remember the prizes?

One grand prize winner is going to receive a signed paperback of Wander Dust, signed bookmarks, and a really, really amazing Tolkien necklace.

Two other winners are getting signed bookmarks.

All around, it's a pretty cool little giveaway!

So, winners...Are you curious? Well, let me make the big announcement...

Huge congratulations to the winners, who have already been emailed (check your inboxes and/or spam filters, ladies!) and have until Friday morning at 9am EST to send me their addresses.

And a huge "THANK YOU!" to everyone who visited my blog and facebook pages during this tour. I hope you like what you see, and will come back soon! Plus, I have it on good authority that more giveaways are in the future...



Sophie Flack
Poppy, 2011

I loved this book. Absolutely loved it. The cover is gorgeous. The story is engrossing. The characters are real, dimensional. And perhaps one of the coolest things? Sophie Flack was a professional ballet dancer, so Bunheads is full of little insider info-nuggets. Love it! ((Sidenote: I like this trend of insiders-turn-authors...it gives a sense of authenticity to the stories.))

Hannah Ward has been dancing for most of her nineteen-year-old life. It's her passion, her ambition, her life. The time and energy she has invested as a member of the Manhattan Ballet corps, always working towards the honor of becoming a soloist, have been satisfactorily rewarded by the thrill and rush of dancing. But then, by chance, she meets a cute pedestrian (non-dancer), named Jacob. And everything starts to change. As she continues to fight for her moment in the spotlight on stage, Hannah finds herself also taking a closer look at herself - at the dancers around her - at the world that exists beyond the theatre. The result is an engrossing story that is one-half dance and one-half coming-of-age. A combination I found particularly enjoyable.

I liked that Hannah was a little older than some YA characters; at 19, she's struggling to find her place in the world - orienting herself through the transition into 'adulthood', while simultaneously navigating the uber-challenging world of professional ballet. I loved all the dance details: the vocabulary, the descriptions, the emotions and frank examinations of what it means to be a ballet dancer (let alone achieve that illusive ballerina status). Hannah and the other dancers all have distinct personalities and voices, and their various approaches to handling their chosen life are intriguing and believable. I think that's one of the big appeals of Bunheads: it's believable. Even though I've never been in the professional dance world, the details and voices in Bunheads creates a world I can see and accept. Not to mention watching Hannah finally realize who she is and where she wants to go next - I can totally relate to her questioning and soul-searching.

A beautiful book that ended both too soon, and at just the right moment.

Book provided by my personal library.


2012 Challenges

Okay, rather than do individual posts for the challenges I want to join in 2012, I'm going to do one BIG post...Keeps things simpler for my brain.

First up, I'm going to rejoin the Historical Fiction Challenge over at Historical Tapestry. This year I 'competed' at the Severe Bookaholism level (20 books), but fell just shy of that mark. So for 2012, I'm going to participate on the Undoubtedly Obsessed level - which means I will read at least 15 historical fiction books. I'm really excited about revisiting this challenge, because I love Historical Fiction and a lot of the books on my To Read list are applicable!

Another challenge I'm excited about is hosted by Laura of Laura's Reviews. The Victorian Challenge 2012 is what I'd consider a "wide-open" challenge in that so many things count towards the challenge! From books to plays to movies! So long as it applies to the Victorian period (1837-1901), it counts. The reading level is super easy, and I'm hoping to actually do more than the 2-6 items.

I don't have a concrete list of things I want to read for this, but I will definitely be visiting Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain, as well as probably reacquainting myself with George Eliot and the Brontes. I'd also like to finally sit down and read some more biographical stuff on Queen Victoria herself - she fascinates me. Yay!

And of course, anyone who frequents this blog knows I'm a fan of Jane Austen and all the Austenesque literature that has developed. So imagine how psyched I was to discover this challenge: Explore the Many Genres of Jane Austen Spinoffs 2012, hosted by Existing's Tricky!

This one's pretty sweet and simple: just read (at least) one book from each of the 8 categories of Jane Austen spinoff:
  • Variation
  • Sequel
  • Jane Austen as a Fictional Character
  • Paranormal
  • Modern Adaptation
  • Mystery
  • Supporting Characters
  • Books by Jane Austen
I've got a whole slew of Austenesque books to read, so this is going to be fun!

And the other challenge I'm really looking forward to for 2012 is the Completely Contemp Challenge hosted by Chick Loves Lit! I absolutely love YA literature, and the thing I really like about this challenge is it covers the last three years of publishing: 2010, 2011, and 2012 contemp YA releases are all fair game. Definitely good for working on that To Read list! I have decided I'm going to participate on the "5-level"...so I will read 5 books published in 2010, 5 books published in 2011 ad 5 books published in 2012.

There ya have it: 4 totally awesome challenges to help stretch and encourage my reading for 2012...Am I crazy? Maybe. But I'm also practical: I've picked challenges that meet my reading interests and goals -- and there's definitely some overlap involved too, which helps. What about you? What challenges are you totally psyched about? Are you joining me for any of these?


Eliza's Daughter

Eliza's Daughter
Joan Aiken
St Martin's Press, 1994

Confession from the get-go: I didn't finish this one. I don't normally count unfinished books towards challenges (okay, theoretically I don't: I've only had one unfinished book that was relevant to a challenge this year), but I wasted so much reading time on this one that I'm counting it. Fair's fair.

The premise is intriguing: What happened to the baby, the daughter, of Col. Brandon's "lost" ward? You know, the one that Willoughby fathered, and the knowledge of which cost him everything he held dear? See: great premise. I just had a really hard time getting into the story, which is told from the point of view of this baby - also called Eliza. Beginning with her early memories, then wandering into her more 'grown up' experiences, Eliza introduces herself to us as a fairly worldly, if wholly unattached young girl. She's never met Col. Brandon, her benefactor, nor does she know anything at all about her (supposed) dead parents. When she finally, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, finds herself at Delaford, we meet Elinor and Edward Ferrars. And here's where I really started having a hard time with the story. All of Jane's beloved characters from Sense and Sensibility have evolved (or maybe devolved?) into characters so unlike how I imagine them that I had a hard time taking the story seriously from that point forward. It kept moving rather slowly, also, so I started flipping ahead and reading sections/chapters throughout the book until the end.

For someone with more patience, it is probably a better read - and there were a few twists and turns here and there. It just wasn't my cup of tea, and that's a-ok. Because if I loved every book I ever picked up? We'd be in a world of trouble, re: storage.

Book provided by my local library.


Tribute Books: Interview with Nicole Langan

Hello, hello! Today I've got something a little different in store for you. One of my favorite things about the blogging world is getting to meet new people and make new friends. Book bloggers are especially friendly, and I've gotten to know other bloggers, authors and publishers through my adventures. It's a lot of fun! And today, I'm featuring an interview with Nicole Langan, the brains behind Tribute Books. I've worked with Nicole before, and love checking out her book blog, so when she emailed asking if I'd host an interview to help spread the word about her new venture, I wholeheartedly agreed!

AWW: Tribute Books is fixing to undergo a pretty big change, and is traveling in a cool direction. Can you tell me a little about how it'll look and work once everything's up-and-running?
Nicole: Well to tell you where we're headed, let me tell you a bit about where we've come from. Tribute Books began in 2004 and we've published over 30 titles since that time. Some of our books have gone on to win awards such as the Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year and the Mom's Choice Award while others were endorsed by PBS and The Thoreau Society. We've covered a wide range of genres from children's picture books to history to sports under both traditional and subsidy contracts. In 2012, Tribute Books will transition into a royalty-paying ebook publisher of young adult titles.

AWW: What made you decide to leave the more traditional route and become an ebook only YA "press"?
Nicole: Over the course of 2011, we've watched our ebook sales outpace our print sales by 2 to 1 due to the explosion in popularity of e-readers such as the Kindle, Nook and iPad. The under $5 price point of most of our e-titles and the ease of purchase and delivery surely facilitated this rapid change.

Overall, our transition is based on three factors. On a business level, the young adult genre sells especially if it is well written and has a paranormal romance theme. On a marketing level, the devotion of the young adult fan base is unparalleled. On a personal level, I thoroughly enjoy a good young adult novel and review many on my blog at
http://tributebooksreviews.blogspot.com. I'm a believer in doing what you love and working with like-minded people, when it's at all possible.

AWW: For authors, or author-hopefuls, what should they know about the new look of Tribute Books? Are you open for any YA authors who want to e-pub, or do you have specific genres?
Nicole: Our preference is for damn good writing, the particular topic is secondary in importance. However, books written with a series in mind or those that delve into the paranormal will have a slight edge.

Manuscripts that have already been professionally edited will receive greater consideration. Our preference is to work with authors who have already been published through a royalty-paying press and who know the ins and outs of book promotion. An established social media platform is a must, and we will not consider writers who do not have a well-followed blog, Facebook page or Twitter account.

Interested authors can submit their manuscripts via email to info@tribute-books.com. There will be no charge for the authors we select to work with, and they will receive 50% of the net profits of their ebook sales in quarterly royalty payments. We're looking for Microsoft Word documents with a maximum of 350 pages of text with no photos, charts, illustrations, graphs, etc.

AWW: What excites you most about this new adventure?
Nicole: My hope is that we are able to recruit some talented writers of well-written, well-crafted stories in order to develop an eager fan base for the titles we publish. We want readers to be excited about the ebooks we produce. Young adult authors have the most devoted fan followings out there, and we'd like to introduce that audience to a whole new host of talent.

We try to keep an active online presence with our web site (http://www.tribute-books.com/), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Archbald-PA/Tribute-Books/171628704176), Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/TributeBooks)  and blog (http://tributebooks.blogspot.com/). We'd love to have anyone who loves young adult literature to join us for the ride. 

I don't know about you guys, but I am definitely looking forward to seeing how this develops! Nicole's plan is to work with 12 authors in 2012, publishing one novel a month. Pretty cool, no? So if you are, or know, a YA author who might be interested, let them know! And if you, like me, are an avid read of YA - I think we're fixing to have a great new source for reading material!

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Nicole, and best of luck in this new adventure!


Love, Inc.

Love, Inc.
Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout
Hyperion, 2011

What happens when three high school girls find out that their amazing boyfriends are actually one boy? In the case of Zahra, Kali and Syd, they unite forces and exact careful, painful revenge. They find it such a satisfying and effective exercise, not to mention a good catharsis, that when word leaks out and others begin to request their 'services,' Love, Inc. is born.

Love, Inc. is all about helping others find happiness in relationship, or at least find a good way through the end of one. From mediating conflicts to running reconnaissance to dabbling in matchmaking, the three girls find themselves with an endless stream of business. And even though they've been badly burned by the three-timing Eric, maybe - just maybe - all their work with the human heart is helping to heal theirs, and love can be found again. Love, Inc. is a fun read, and the concept is one I could definitely see high school girls coming up with - actually, I think it'd make for a really cute movie. Zahra, Kali and Syd have a great chemistry, and I loved watching them overcome their differences and unite forces, finding true friendship. There's a broad spectrum of high school that's seen throughout the book, as students from all circles come to the girls of Love, Inc. for assistance.

The only thing that distracted me from the read, and it's a minor distraction that's more of a personal preference, is that a lot of the characters came across so much older than their 15-17 year old range. I can understand that there are differences in society and culture depending on where you are, and kids do act older than they are in real life, but some of the actions or conversations just felt a little too mature, too far removed from what's probable. Again, minor distraction, and mainly a personal 'mini-peeve' -- definitely does not take away from the story.


Blog Tour: Wander Dust

Wander Dust
Michelle Warren

I fell in love with the cover of Wander Dust the first time I ever saw it on facebook, and once I started learning more about the story - I knew it was one I'd be reading. When Michelle put out a call for bloggers willing to partner with her on a book launch blog tour, I put in my application quickly. Happily, I was picked! Did you see my interview with Michelle on Sunday? Check it out - plus, there's an amazing giveaway. Definitely worth your time, I promise!

Going into the reading, I had a basic idea of the story, but had no idea how 'edgy' of a read I was getting. It's intense, emotional, involving. Sera has lived her life with one concept of reality, only to have it turned on-end on her sixteenth birthday. Suddenly she's having weird 'moments' or 'visions' that combine to make her question her sanity. Once she learns she is a Wanderer (one who can 'wander' through Time), Sera is enrolled in the Academy, where she will learn to navigate her reality and 'new' identity. At this point, the story takes turn after turn after turn.

Before getting into too many details, let me make a quick 'detour' to say that Michelle has definitely created a well-rounded world. With any story, but especially with fantasies, I always appreciate when authors take the time to really think about the world they're creating: fleshing it out, giving it background and context, rather than just scribbling down a setting because it makes their story work. Wander Dust takes place in 'the real world,' but it also features a whole other world as well - and that world is carefully orchestrated, with a history, a mythology, and an uncertain future. It's real. And as we are discovering this mysterious 'second world,' so is Sera. I really appreciated getting to discover the hidden secrets through the eyes and experiences of Sera - it helped add an authenticity to the story, and is a great way to introduce strange concepts (time travel!) without coming across as a manual description or etc.

There's a host of characters, and nobody is quite as they seem. Even with mysteries appearing and being solved constantly, Sera is never sure what exactly is going on - and neither was I, as reader. With every new revelation, my internal reader was rethinking all my assumptions. The reading-journey was so much fun, that I'm hesitant to give away too much in my review. If you have too many 'teasers,' it could mess with your brain while reading, and truly: taking every step and misstep along with Sera and Co. is definitely a big part of what makes this such a great read. It's safe to say this one kept me guessing until the end. Also safe to say I'm very glad to know this is a trilogy, and that more of this story is forthcoming! I need to know what the answers to some of the lingering questions are! Not to mention see where things are going to progress, now that certain misconceptions have been corrected. (Nope, not telling, you've got to read it for yourself!)

Book provided by author for review.


The Day Before

The Day Before
Lisa Schroeder
Simon Pulse, 2011

I'm still new to verse novel-reading, but so far I am definitely liking what I read. I think telling stories in verse can have a variety of effects, and in the case of The Day Before, the poems help build suspense and create mystery. As I was reading, I had absolutely no idea where I was going to end up. The poems suggested a great struggle, a big change coming that will change Amber's life - and her family's lives - forever. There's a rawness to the wording, and a realness. Then letters start slipping in, and the story starts to slip into place. Things start making sense, and I can understand Amber's impulse to spend 'the day before' doing her thing.

And yet, the mystery remains. Cade, the beautiful, unusual boy Amber meets in the aquarium, has a story of his own. As we get to know Cade through Amber's eyes, we see the confusion, feel the tension, the mystery. There's a dark, pressing need to spend 'the day before' on his own terms for Cade as well.

With the give-and-take flow of the ocean they both love, Cade and Amber spend a single, beautiful, magical day together. As they fight their own personal demons, they find strength in being there for each other. Strength in unity, in believing in someone else's success. It's a simple story, taking place over a single day and night. But there's a strong sense of reality, of connection and the pressing need to find out 'why.' I found The Day Before to be a beautiful, moving read. It's definitely one you need to read for yourself, so you can experience the journey without getting distracted by the details.

Book provided by my personal library.


Blog Tour: Wander Dust

I am happy to be a part of the Wander Dust blog tour, helping celebrate Michelle Warren's debut release! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you come back by Tuesday, when I feature a review of Wander Dust!

As part of the blog tour, I sent Michelle a couple questions and she was good enough to answer them for you! Settle in and read through our little Q&A session, then keep reading for more exciting information and even a giveaway!

A Word's Worth: How would you tweet Wander Dust?
Michelle: Ug! I’m awful at Twitter. I actually consider it my nemesis. Here's my best shot:
If the world snaps shut over you like a closing book, catapulting you into a wormhole, u r not a Normal. U r a Wanderer. #writers #Flitchat

AWW: According to your website, it was your love of scifi, paranormal and fantasy that prompted you to write your own novel. What authors do you think were most influential or inspirational in your writing of Wander Dust?
Michelle: I think my influence was less about other authors and more about the Discovery and History channels. I’m sort of a geek. A typical conversation with my sister will not be about the high heels I want to buy at the mall, because we are more likely to discuss whether angels could be aliens or if aliens could be time travelers. I’m fascinated by science that is perceived to be unrealistic, yet these things could be completely possible one day.

I love this quote from Arthur C. Clarke:
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

AWW: What 5 books do you think everyone should read?
Michelle: My current favorites are:
  • Anything by Dan Brown  
  • The Tiger's Curse Series by Colleen Houck 
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bones by Laini Taylor
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett & illustrated by Ron Barrett
  • Wander Dust!                       

AWW: What’s your favorite place to crash and read, and favorite snack?
Michelle: I have the most obnoxious, fluffy couch known to man. When I’m reading, I love to sink into the pillows and relax. I should say my favorite snack is a granola bar or something healthy like that, but then I’d just be lying. I’m a total chocoholic. There should be a support group for it.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Michelle's pretty cool, right? If you want to learn more, check out these sites:
And here's the official book trailer, which is, you know, pretty amazing:

But wait! THERE'S MORE!
Michelle has generously offered a prize package for readers and blog tour visitors here at A Word's Worth.
In case you can't tell from the photo...the grand prize includes a signed paperback of Wander Dust, an amazing Tolkien necklace (that I'd really like to keep for myself, but I'm sharing), and signed bookmarks!
I'm also going to have 2 winners who get signed bookmarks!

I'm going to make it really easy to enter: Just fill out the Rafflecopter form! If for some reason it's not working (I'm still learning how to use it), leave me a comment and let me know what's going on. And, because I know this is an awesome prize package, you have a few options for extra entries.


Railroad John and the Red Rock Run

Railroad John and the Red Rock Run
Tony Crunk & Michael Austin (illustrator)
Peachtree Publishers, 2006

I'm a huge fan of tall tales, and Railroad John has all the flair and flavor of my beloved 'classic' tall tales while maintaining a sense of uniqueness. Love it!

Poor Lonesome Bob is finally gonna get hitched, to the illusive Wildcat Annie, and he's terrified he's going to be late. Because if the train's late getting there, Annie's going to leave -- she waits for nobody. And of course, in true tall tale fashion, there is obstacle after obstacle after obstacle that must be out-thunk, out-run, and just plain kick-butt-to-win. No worries, though, Railroad John is proud of his record: forty years and never late!

It's whirlwind ride, a hair-raising adventure, with colorful names and incredible escapes. The illustrations have a vintage, old movie feel that only helps create the atmosphere necessary for a convincing tall tale. Which is to say: quite my kind of story!

Book provided by publisher for review.

The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians

The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians
Carla Morris & Brad Sneed (illustrator)
Peachtree Publishers, 2007

As a girl whose earliest memories are of the University library where my mom was completing her Master's degree, and who grew up to earn her own Master of Library Science degree, I love this book. Like, love it.

Melvin is one of those cool kids that goes to the library after school every day, and he's made friends with a trio of reference librarians I would love to know in real life! Together the foursome discover any number of things, learning not only how to use the library, but how to learn. These days of exploration and quality library time stick with Melvin all the way through school, and on into college...but is that the end, or only the beginning? Because as I know from personal experience: you can take the kid outta the library, but you can't take the Library outta the kid.

Not only is the story cute and fun, but the illustrations are colorful and quirky - the perfect compliment for the adventures taking place. Definitely a keeper, and one I look forward to sharing with my future little library-going children.

Book provided by publisher for review.


J.R.R. Tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien
Mark Horne
Thomas Nelson, 2011

When I saw this up for grabs on BookSneeze, I knew I wanted to review it. Even though I am crazy about The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, I know very little about their author. Having previously discovered that the Christian Encounters biography series is a great way to get a 'crash course' introduction to someone, I settled in for a 'get-to-know-you' session with Tolkien.

Horne does a wonderful job of breaking Tolkien's life into manageable chapters, and corresponding them with Tolkienesque chapter titles that made my inner geek smile. Beginning at the very beginning, Horne looks at Tolkien's life from a dual-perspective: how it impacted the man, and how it influenced the writing. Drawing from previously written, more extensive biographies as well as Tolkien's letters and writings, Horne creates a biography that is condensed without feeling lacking - an enjoyable read, but also substantive. And, of course, there's attention paid to Tolkien's faith and its role.

The writing of the biography is such that I am led from chapter to chapter - not just in the text, but in Tolkien's life as well. Spanning cultural and political changes (Tolkien 'came of age' during WWI, losing all but one of his closest friends), it's interesting to look at how his life experiences may have shaped his writing -- and I'm a literature major who hates to superimpose meaning on texts! In this instance, there's a compelling case. With this informative, though necessarily brief, introduction to the personal story of one of my favorite authors, I now feel compelled to track down some more in-depth information -- and I'm probably starting with Horne's own bibliography!

Book provided by publisher for review.


The Other Countess

The Other Countess
Eve Edwards
Delacorte, 2011 (originally published 2010, UK)

The Elizabethan court - a place and time when chivalry was everything, and maintaining the proper (court-approved) connections required dedication and commitment. Not to mention funds. A time of intrigue and social status, of fine dress and finer manners. A beautiful world - unless you're on the outside looking in.

For Ellie, her father's all-consuming obsession with alchemy has effectively destroyed her chances for joining court. Though she is Lady Eleanor Rodriguez, Countess of San Jaime, her title is only a title, and offers her no foothold for escape. Likewise, Will - the handsome Earl of Dorset - has also had his chances rattled and impaired by Ellie's father, Sir Arthur, who nearly bankrupted Will's father. With this shared history, there's no love lost between Will and Ellie. Until, a few years later, as Will is trying to impress the Queen for funds to save his family, and he encounters the fiesty, lovely, mysterious Lady Eleanor. What follows is a story of the age-old struggle between heart and duty. Friendships are forged and tested, mysteries are unveiled, and events contrive to send our cast of characters down unexpected paths.

The Other Countess is a beautiful story about learning to see past your prejudices, and deciding what really matters in life. It's a descriptive historical fiction, without getting too bogged down in the details. I feel like I have a better sense of how society itself functioned under the celebrated Virgin Queen, and definitely made a connection with the characters. Edwards did a great job of making them realistic and accessible, despite the years and differences between their lives and those of readers. Their context may be different, but their struggles and dreams are not so far-removed from my own. And their stories caught my interest, making me devour the book and want more! I'm looking forward to picking up the story in future books!

ARC provided by my personal library.


His Good Opinion

His Good Opinion
Nancy Kelley

Today, I am super excited to share with you my review of His Good Opinion! Nancy Kelley is one of my #TangledJaneite buddies, and co-owner of Indie Jane. We have some hilarious conversations, and I was honored to be one of her beta readers during the final stages of prepping HGO for publication. I guess I did a good job, because she trusted me enough to let me do an official review of the finished product! And let me tell you, it's even better this go-round!

His Good Opinion is Pride and Prejudice, from Darcy's perspective. Different from Mr Darcy's Diary, this is a complete novel that follows the Austen original with painstaking, careful attention. But it also fills in the gaps of the story. You know, like how exactly did Darcy discover Georgianna and Wickham, and how did he work through that near-disaster? What went on when he was in London, or at Rosings Park, away from Elizabeth? And, perhaps the most pressing question: What did Darcy do after Elizabeth refused him? Nancy does a wonderful job of answering these questions - and more! - while maintaining an authentic feel and tone. All her characters feel true-to-form, and I especially loved getting to see the relationships between Darcy and Bingley, and Darcy and Col. Fitzwilliam.

The story itself is well-paced and well-formed, and the 'behind-the-scenes' material (aka: the stuff Jane Austen left to our imagination) does much to further the story. Instead of going straight from the disastrous first proposal to the reunion at Pemberley, where we meet a more 'mellow' Darcy, Kelley takes the time to explore Darcy's psyche. In sorting through Darcy's reactions to Elizabeth's words, and his subsequent examination of his own words and actions, we are introduced to a man who's wholly human - and entirely lovable. Not to mention one super appealing hero. And he's hopelessly in love with the one woman he can't have -- or can he?

His Good Opinion is a beautiful new look at one of the most timeless love stories ever written. It's fun, it's fresh, it's detailed and delightful. And it hints at so much more to the story - just what is Col. Fitzwilliam up to, anyway? Alas, I must wait for those answers (yes, Nancy Kelley is working on a new novel aready!), but until then, Darcy is quite satisfactory.

Digital ARC provided by author for review.


Giveaway Winner!

Okay, so I had some difficulties getting a review finished for today, but...how about a GIVEAWAY WINNER?!

Yeah, I thought you'd like that.

This morning was the cut-off to enter to win an ebook copy of Double Clutch.
There were 3 entries, and when I consulted Random.org, I got this result:

And just who is lucky, winning commenter number 3?

So glad you asked...

Not only does Jessica crack me up, but she's got a really nifty giveaway of her own going on right now! If you like Mr. Darcy and Starbucks, you definitely want to check it out.

Jess, I'm fixing to email you!

And to everyone else reading this: there's going to be another AMAZING giveaway coming up soon. Real soon. Next-weekend-soon. Stay tuned!


The A Circuit

The A Circuit
Georgina Bloomberg & Catherine Hapka
Bloomsbury, 2011

Competitive, A Circuit horse shows. A high-stakes, high-dollar competitive circle of the horse world. Late-teenage angst and self-discovery, amplified by money (or lack thereof) and opportunity. And horses. A lot of gorgeous horses.

That is definitely not a description of my world, but it is a very real world - and it's the world explored in The A Circuit (which, by the way, is apparently the first in a series! Yes! That means there's more coming!). I've always been a bit of a horse nut - I decided to go into Library Science in kindergarten when my elementary school librarian refused to let me check out Marguerite Henry books because they were chapter books. I have a lot of memories about horse books, and horse dreams. It's never been a world I was able to enter into however, except through the pages I was devouring. And this is definitely a great addition to that collection.

The storytelling is split between three main girls: Tommi (Wall Street money), Zara (celeb daughter), and Kate (working student), allowing readers to get to know each girl on a personal level: their story, their struggles, their reactions and opinions of what's going on - and of each other. Additionally, there's a whole barn of secondary characters, some of whom play pretty key roles. And the horses. We can't forget the horses! I really enjoyed getting an insider's peek into the world of 'high-end horse showing' (Georgina Bloomberg is a competitor herself), and learning a little more about the way things work. I also, as a fan of YA, I appreciate the characters and story. All the teens have an authentic feel - even with their privileged lives, they've got "normal" problems. They're human. They're young. They're learning - and making a lot of mistakes in the process. And as they make these mistakes and learn these lessons, they're starting to realize that personal actions have an impact on others - that sometimes, your first impression (or prejudice) is wrong - that sometimes, what you need most is to let others in.

Tommi, Zara and Kate - as well as their horses - have caught my attention, and I will definitely be waiting for book two to hit shelves.

Book provided by my local library.


Sense and Sensibility (DVD)

Sense and Sensibility
Columbia, 1995
Starring: Emma Thompson & Kate Winslet

I'm trying to remember if I read Sense and Sensibility or watched this version of the movie, first, and honestly, I can't think back that far. I feel like I probably read the book and then saw the movie. Regardless, this was my first visual introduction to the story, and while I like it - it's not my favorite. (That honor belongs to the 2008 BBC version).

On the whole, this film is a good representation of Austen's original novel, but far from perfect. They've played with the characters, and not always in a good way, especially since I've recently reread the novel. I have a hard time with this portrayal of Edward - he just seems more...wishy-washy? awkward? flat? Something. In contrast, Col. Brandon is a nice, strong character (as he should be), but the difference in age is so dramatic that it's really a wonder Marianne even talked to him. Like I said, I do like the film - it's a fun movie, and it has its high points. This Willoughby is definitely the best there is - he's got just the right amount of charm and appeal that you're thrown off the trail of his 'deviousness' (as opposed to the 2008 Willoughby who just gives me the heebies). Definitely an Austen film-variation that I've watched several times and will see many more in the future.

DVD provided by my local library.


Blog Tour: Double Clutch

Double Clutch
Liz Reinhardt

Welcome back to the second phase of the Double Clutch Blog Tour! Did you catch Liz's guest post last week? You should definitely check it out - she bares her soul and reveals all about...her First Kiss! Today, I'm going to share my review, and if you keep reading, you just might find a happy little surprise. It is officially the holiday season, after all!

Brenna Blixen spent her freshman year homeschooling in Denmark, and recreating herself. So when she arrives back in New Jersey for sophomore year, she's ready for a new adventure - and seeing just what she's capable of. It's an interesting, eye-opening experience that is nothing like she expected. From the first day - the first day - of American high school, Brenna finds herself in the middle of a complicated, passionate, and dramatic mystery of sorts. The sort of mystery commonly known as 'boy drama'. But it's more than that, as Brenna discovers. What's going on between herself, smooth-talkin' charmer Saxon, and reformed bad boy Jake is deeper than just high school drama, or even boyish competition. It's real, and it's deeply rooted in the boys' shared past as well as the intense attraction each has for Brenna - and she for them.

I really enjoyed Double Clutch, and look forward to reading the second installment of Brenna's story - Junk Miles. I've got to know how this adventure progresses, where it goes, how it ends. Because Liz has created a very *real* story. It's raw, it's authentic, it's believable. The characters are realistic -- if a bit 'growny' at times, that's still realistic: there are a lot of high school kids that I look at and shake my head. Everything feels like it could be going on in a high school, it didn't have that television movie-feel to it, if you know what I mean. It's a serious story that is a lot of fun to read.

Digital copy provided by author for review.

Would you like to win a copy of Double Clutch for yourself? 
Liz has generously agreed to supply an e-book! If you want to enter, just leave a comment on this review and include your email (so I can contact you if you win)!
Giveaway ends on December 2nd at 11:00am (EST).


Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is one of my favorite holidays: Thanksgiving...

...and not just because it's the start of a 4-day weekend of football, food and family either.
No, really!

Today is the day when we consciously stop to think about what's important...what we've been blessed with...how good we've got it...

I'm thankful for my family - for the ones who share my genes, and the group of friends who might as well be blood, because we're just that close.

I'm thankful for my country - even when it's messed up and struggling, it's the greatest land in the world. The land of the free, home of the brave. Where I can dream anything, and know I have a fightin' chance to make it come true. Where I can wander around in jeans and bare feet, knowing I'm safe.

I'm beyond blessed with freedom - and always aware that it's been purchased with blood.

I'm thankful for the chances I have, the opportunities I get - to read, to write, to chase down dreams and sunny afternoons...to meet international scholars, to get to know authors and fellow readers...to laugh and to cry, to make new friends and reconnect with old ones...

I'm thankful for the people in my life who make me smile on my bad days, and let me return the favor on theirs.

I'm thankful for every breath I breathe, every move I make, and every beat of my heart.

So while I'm feeding my insatiable hibernation-instinct-hunger with the amazingness of Thanksgiving feasting, and screaming myself hoarse watching football, know that I am, truly, thankful for the sheer ability to do so.

God bless.


Tuesdays at the Castle

Tuesdays at the Castle
Jessica Day George
Bloomsbury, 2011

I love Jessica Day George's ability to create characters that I can't get enough of. Princess Celie, her sister Lilah and brother Rolf (Bran also has potential, but we don't really get to know him), and the dashing Pogue (the blacksmith's son) are characters I fell in love with. Celie & Co. live in Castle Glower: a mysterious castle that is 'alive', always building on and making renovations to itself. Particularly on Tuesdays. Castle Glower is opinionated, and will always make its feelings known - a fact which Celie's family understands and embraces, but that others, from outside the Castle, tend to think of as a fairy tale. But we all know there's truth in fairy tales, and when the King and Queen suddenly vanish during a routine trip, the Castle starts to share its deepest secrets with Princess Celie - its favorite person.

As Celie learns more and more about - and from - Castle Glower, she quickly realizes that there are a lot of things 'not right' about the whole situation. For one thing, the Castle has not changed her parents' room, convincing Celie and her siblings that perhaps the King and Queen really are alive. With much sneakiness and an amazing sense of humor, Celie, Lilah, Rolf, Pogue and the Castle wage a quiet war to retain their kingdom and their Castle. With twists and turns and unexpected allies, Celie & Co. fight until it appears all hope is lost. And then, in one last, stunning moment of courage, the Castle surprises everyone, and everything falls into place. It's a quick-reading story, with colorful characters and a plot that keeps you guessing. The ending was all I wanted it to be - except...it came too soon! I can't help but hope there's more adventures in store for Celie and the rest of the crew at Castle Glower.

Book provided by my local library.


Jane Austen Made Me Do It

Jane Austen Made Me Do It
Laurel Ann Nattress, ed.
Ballantine, 2011

I am a regular visitor to Laurel Ann's amazing blog Austenprose, and several of my blog buddies were finalists in the contest to have their short story featured in this anthology. So when I was emailed asking if I'd be willing to review Jane Austen Made Me Do It, I accepted with a happy grin. As with The Road to Pemberley, a variety of authors have written short stories in their own unique styles and voices - the difference is where Pemberley was limited to Pride and Prejudice-related stories, Jane Austen Made Me Do It features all things Jane: so long as there's a connection to our beloved Austen, it's fair game.

A sampling of my favorite stories:
  • “Jane Austen’s Nightmare”: Our dear Jane comes face to face with her characters, and is surprised to discover their true feelings. While a few (think Bingleys and Darcys) are happy with their stories, others are rather disgruntled. The nightmare experience however, provides the inspiration for a new story – about a Naval captain in Bath, with sad eyes, and a heroine the ripe old age of 27.
  • “Nothing Less than Fairy-Land”: Have you ever stopped to think about what it must have been like when Mr. Knightley moved in with Mr. Woodhouse?
  • "Jane Austen and the Mistletoe Kiss": This is just a sweet Christmassy story. It made me smile, and just feels like a cozy read - especially this time of year.
  • "When Only a Darcy Will Do": Any guy who takes that much time and effort to meet a girl? Yeah, he totally earns the 'Darcy' tag!
  • "Me and Mr. Darcy, Again...": I loved getting to see how the story picks up for characters I met in Me and Mr. Darcy a few years ago. So. Awesome.
  • "The Love Letter": This is the story that won the contest for inclusion, and it's simply beautiful. A good example of how Jane Austen can still play key roles in 'modern' lives (and romances).

This is a wonderful collection of Jane-related stories, and definitely one I want to keep handy for when I need a 'pick-me-up' without wanting to read a whole novel.

Book provided by author for review.


Blog Tour: Guest Post by Liz Reinhardt

I am very excited to be participating in the Double Clutch blog tour hosted by Missy's Reads & Reviews! Be sure to swing by and check out the complete line up: interviews, guest posts, reviews, and giveaways. In fact, you might want to swing back by here next Friday for my own review - and you never know, there just may be a little 'holiday cheer' thrown in the mix. Today, I am handing the blog over to Liz Reinhardt, and she's going to tell us about her First Kiss. Young love...happy sigh...Find some cookies to munch, and read on for Liz's delightful walk down Memory Lane!

First Kiss! How Lurlene McDaniel Helped Me Know
I Should Kiss Aaron T

I recently wrote a YA contemporary romance called Double Clutch, and writing it made me reflect on all of those amazing firsts...first heartbreak, first crush, and, of course, first kiss! My first kiss was fantastic, and I'd like to share the experience with all of you!

If you read about my first crush on Mike A. on http://smmirza.blogspot.com/, you'll know that I came within a hair's breadth of kissing him in order to save our week-long, sitting-by-each-other-at-lunch-and-meeting-at-our-lockers relationship. In the end, I decided to hold out and pursue my studies instead of joining into the kissing drama, and I'm so glad I did! 

I had a few years to read. And read. And read. The more I read, the more I wanted to read. And when I cleaned out all the children's books and classics, I moved up to romance novels for YA. What I read most (and most voraciously) were Lurlene McDaniel's tragic tales of love and terminal illness. If you've never read on, pick one up NOW! They were addictive, romantic, and left me a sobbing, blubbering mess at the conclusion of every single book.

I don't know if I read this specific one, but this is what I remember the covers looking like, and they were wonderful! Me and all my book-loving friends devoured them, and would come to school with red, puffy eyes from crying over them!

But Lurlene McDaniel taught me something essential about love...she taught me that it was important to cherish love, because life could be short. Tragically short!
The summer after seventh grade I went to Danish language camp in Minnesota (I know! Awesome! Oh. Wait. Were you thinking 'nerdy'?). I was dragging my suitcase through the camp to my cabin when a boy with the sweetest drawl I'd ever heard said, "Can I help you?"

It seemed silly not to allow an adorable guy with dreamy hazel eyes to help me out, but this was the first time I was staying away from my parents at a sleep-away camp, and I was determined to prove my independence to everyone. "No! Thanks!" I yelled.

He smiled. And helped me anyway. Aaron T. was a boy Lurlene would have approved of...well, she may not have written him into a story. We were both extremely healthy young people. But she would have liked him because he knew a good thing when it told him to go away. 

Because I did. Over and over. Camp was going to be about learning the ancient, guttural language of my Danish ancestors, not mooning around with some boy.
Denmark, you have my sincere apologies. I meant to take a very active interest in you...but that boy! How could you compete with his drawl, and those long lashes, and those highly kissable lips? I know you understand!

"Wanna go walk by the lake?" Aaron asked as I helped mix a gigantic bowl of almond cookie batter with a group of grimy younger kids.
"No! Thanks!" I yelled over the din. "I want to learn to make traditional Danish almond cookies and eat them."

Aaron raised his eyebrows. "Sven's arms are a different color above the elbow. You sure you wanna eat those cookies?"
I glanced down and young Sven did, in fact, have two-toned arms. The half that were buried deep in the dough were clean and light, right down to his over-long fingernails. The half that weren't in the dough were a dirty, grisly grey. Even my iron stomach blanched. I wiped the flour off of my hands and joined Aaron for a walk around the lake.

He was quiet. He liked to read, too. He was from Tennessee. He didn't want to come to camp. He wanted to work so he could save up money and not have to borrow from his mom. He liked that I was gruff and bookish and knew my own mind. I liked his Soundgarden shirt, his black hair, and the slow way he talked and smiled.

Camp romances work because camp is intrinsically romantic. Walks by the shimmering lake. Rustic cabins. Way more campers than there are counselors to keep an eye on them. 
C'mon! Who could see something that freaking beautiful every evening and not swoon!
Aaron and I spent many afternoons skipping crafts/sports so we could lie around on benches at the boat house, watch the sun in the trees, and talk until we settled into a comfortable silence.

Our easy friendship blossomed on the way back from a campfire, where he pulled me aside in the shadow of a cabin. Everyone else was coming back slowly, so we had a few minutes to ourselves. He brushed his hand over mine. All the air in my lungs locked down.

"I wish we could see the moon," he said with a nervous shuffle of his feet. The thick pines of northern Minnesota kept us from seeing any sign of the moon.
"Why?" I demanded.

"It's romantic." He smiled.

I pressed my eyebrows together. "So?"

"Don't you want to look at the moon with me?" This time his hand didn't just brush mine. He full-on grabbed my hand and locked our fingers together.

Shock sent my adrenaline racing. "But there is no moon! No moon!" 
"Well, there's a romantic-lookin' patch of grass. Kinda looks like the man in the moon," Aaron said, his eyes flicking to the spotty, much-trampled grass by the side of the cabin. He twisted his lips. "Or maybe Colonel Sanders? What do you think?"

My brain was turning to goo, but I managed to say, "Definitely Colonel Sanders."
"I agree." He grinned and leaned in. "We have a lot in common." He tilted his head and leaned closer.

"Are you trying to kiss me?" I asked as panic seared through me.
He backed away and chuckled. "Um, trying. Trying really hard, actually."

"Oh." My heart was hammering all over, so I talked even louder. "I have a hat on. That's why you couldn't get close to my face!"
Aaron's shoulders shook, and he covered his face with his hand, laughing so hard, I thought he'd double over. "I'm sorry. I'm rushin' this. I thought you wanted to..."

"I do!" I panicked. Did I? I did! I liked him! I liked this boy, and I wanted to kiss him! I was going to kiss someone! I was going to kiss Aaron! "But my hat?" 
Obviously, the excitement of the impending kiss rendered me deficient in the problem-solving area.

"You could take it off," Aaron suggested. He reached out and plucked off my very sexy Notre Dame ballcap, pulled me closer, and kissed me.
I still can't pass a Kentucky Fried Chicken without sighing over my first kiss!
It was a fireworks and saliva and beating hearts and screaming nerves kind of kiss, and I almost instantly went from 'never been kissed' to 'want to kiss this boy every second for the rest of my life.'

Then a screen door slammed. I popped my lips off of his, shoved at his chest with both hands and bolted to my cabin. I sat on my bunk and tried to contain the total, impossible, blood-humming, crazy joy coursing through my veins. 


I knocked my head on my bunk and stifled a scream. Aaron's voice came through the screen.
"Go to bed, Aaron!" I demanded in a whisper, suddenly unsure what to say to this boy-I-had-kissed.

"That was nice. Can we do it again sometime?" His voice was quiet and sweet in the dark.
"Go to bed," I repeated. I heard his feet crunch away. "Aaron!"

The footsteps came back. "Yeah?"

"Yes, we can! Now go to bed!"

I could hear him laughing all the way back to his cabin.
Ah! Young love!

And we did practice kissing. For the rest of camp, we used every spare minute. It was much more fun than painting bird houses or playing soccer. And when the last day of camp rolled around, my gut clenched at the thought of leaving my kissing buddy.

We stayed penpals for two years, writing long, mopey letters back and forth. But Aaron was older, and high school was in full swing for him, so eventually, the letters petered out, and my summer kissing friend existed only in my memories. But what awesome memories they were!

Thank you, Rebecca, for letting me tell my insane first kiss story on your blog! If you'd like to hear about my first real boyfriend, please check out my post on November 22 at alchemyofscrawl.wordpress.com!


A Race to Splendor

A Race to Splendor
Ciji Ware
Sourcebooks, 2011

The cover of this one caught my attention immediately. That is a gorgeous dress. Like, seriously. gorgeous. And then, Laura's Reviews hosted Ciji Ware for a guest post and giveaway, and I realized I had to read A Race to Splendor. (Happily, I won the giveaway!)

This is one of those involving stories that just keeps evolving. Every time you think you have something figured out, there's a new twist: either a character reveals a little more of their personal secrets, or the plot shifts on you, or you just suddenly realize you'd been reading it all wrong. I loved getting to know Amelia as she struggled to overcome the massive curveballs and setbacks life hurled in her way following graduation from architecture and engineering school in Paris. A full-fledged architect, Amelia faces not only the 'normal' struggles of a being a woman in a man's world, but this is San Fransisco in 1906. The Earthquake and Fire that destroyed much of the city - and also gave it new life. Then too, there's the small detail of her father gambling away her rightful inheritance - the Bay View Hotel - and her ongoing 'battle' with the new owner JD Thayer. It's a complicated story, but Ware has detailed it beautifully.

This is the kind of historical fiction that gives historical fiction a good name: very researched, very detailed. Ware didn't just skim the surface, she got down into the heart of the history - researching and writing not just the aftermath of the Earthquake, but also the 'inner-workings' of San Fransisco: the corruption, the day-to-day struggles, the people. I absolutely loved the characters. Every one was well-developed and real. They read like living people, with secrets and pasts and a mix of good and bad - some with more bad, some with more good. They're flawed, but they're human. Their relationships feel authentic and believable, taking what could have been a dull, dusty novel and making it a living story. If this is the way Ware's novels always read, I'm definitely going to be looking for more of them.

Book provided by my personal library.


Chronicle Books: Happy Haulidays, take 2!

Chronicle Books has brought back their Happy Haulidays extravaganza, with an added 'perk' this year: Not only will one lucky blogger win their $500 wishlist, but one commenter on the winning post will also win the wishlist. That's not all! This year, the winning blogger also gets to pick a non-profit/charity of their choice to win $500 to spend on books/products from Chronicle Books! Amazing.

Of course I'm participating, my wishlist is below. Check it out, and leave a comment if you like what you see. If I win, someone will be picked from my comments to win too!

There are so many great non-profits out there, it was a little hard to pick just one. But I decided to go with my first impulse: The Tim Tebow Foundation. You can check out their site for more details, and as for why I pick it as my charity of choice? I have been a fan and admirer of Tim Tebow since the first time I saw him on the Florida sidelines as a freshman. In the years since, he's proved himself to be a class act person and role model, as well as athlete. His foundation is one I can fully support - with a mission to "bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need."

The Wishlist (click on image to go to Chronicle Books' description):


Total: $495.88

Don't forget to swing by and check out all the other blogs participating too! So many wishlists...
And if you're entering here, leave an email or some other contact with your comment - in case you win!