For Darkness Shows the Stars

For Darkness Shows the Stars
Diana Peterfreund
Balzer + Bray, 2012

Oh. My. Word. Seriously, you guys. This book was amazing. This is the Persuasion I always wanted Jane Austen to have written. Set in a world that's dramatically under-technological, generations after an apocalypse-like event that split society into castes (Reduced and Luddites), our story takes place.

The basic premise is Persuasion, with Elliott North (Anne Elliott) left behind on her family farm as Kai (Wentworth) runs away to seek adventure and perchance fortune. And, as the familiar story goes, he waltzes back into her life years later, and she realizes everything she lost in not following her heart and leaving with him. But here's where the story takes a dramatic left-turn from Austen's. Elliott chose to stay on her farm. It was her choice to stay, and try her best to run the farm and protect the Reduced and Posts (children of Reduced parents who were untouched by the developmental limitations). While she wasn't always successful, her heart was in the right place, and even though she aches over the loss of Kai, she knows it was the right decision. When the Post Fleet comes and rents space to build new ships, Elliott's rocked to her core to discover that Kai - now Malakai Wentforth - is a star captain of the Fleet. Meeting Kai again in such startling (and somewhat reversed) circumstances is only the beginning of everything that happens to make Elliott start questioning everything she's ever been taught or believed. The Post Fleet brings with them many wonderful stories and objects - but also more secrets than Elliott would have ever suspected. And through it all, she's forced to face the truth of the tension between herself and Kai.

The story ... the characters ... I wish my reading of Persuasion had been as enjoyable as my reading of For Darkness Shows the Stars. Where Anne Elliott got on my last nerve for being so easily swayed, and having no backbone or apparent mind of her own at all, Elliott North is keenly aware that she has made the choices that cause such aching loneliness and pain. Another wonderful development is that we get to see the history of Kai and Elliott, through the letters they exchanged throughout their childhood - and which Elliott secretly kept, and has reread to the point of memorization. By seeing these letters, interspersed through the story, we can get a sense of who Kai and Elliott were - and how they've become the mature characters they are now. It's a wonderful addition, and really helps build sympathy with both parties: you know that they had a close relationship in the past, and that their separation would have been mutually destructive.

Honestly, my only real complaint is that the story ends so soon. I want more - I want to know what happens next - and can only hope that there's a sequel in the works.

Many, many thanks to the ever-amazing Jen Ryland for sharing this Austenesque find!

Book provided by my personal library.


Keep Holding On

Keep Holding On
Susane Colasanti
Viking, 2012

Noelle's main goal is to survive high school. Her survival plan involves keeping quiet, keeping to herself, and doing everything possible to avoid giving the Popular Elite any more ammunition for bullying her. But staying quiet and trying to be invisible can only work so long before things must be faced, brought into the open, and dealt with.

Keep Holding On is a quick read - it's not very long, and it's a compelling story. I wanted to find out what happened next. But it's also a rough read - there are some serious, heavy issues being handled here, and they made my heart hurt. Bullying is a serious concern, as are teenagers - just big kids, really - struggling to make it essentially on their own. Noelle's had a hard life, made harder by her issues at school dealing with the pressure - bullying - of the popular kids (some of whom used to be her friends, before things changed). Colasanti has written an amazing story, in that even as it's tearing my heart to pieces, she's created a character that truly grows and evolves over the course of the story. In the beginning, I sort of wanted to shake Noelle awake (just being honest). Even though her situation was horrible, I felt like she was focusing more on the "poor me"-aspect of life rather than doing anything to try and make progress towards her dreams/escape/better life. But as things spiraled out of control, she did actually wake up and I was able to cheer for her as she began to blossom and grow.

A moving story, and one that definitely needs to be available to teens. This is real-life stuff, and maybe Noelle's fictional journey will help real teenagers wake up and take their own steps forward, out of the shadows.

Book provided by my local library.


Mini Reviews

Welcome to another set of mini reviews! This one is themed: Sarah Dessen. For me, summer isn't truly summer until you've reread Dessen! And since these are such old favorites (well, some older than others), I decided to spotlight them in mini reviews ...

Along for the Ride
Sarah Dessen
Viking, 2009

Auden has always had everything neat, organized, and under-control -- a stark contrast to her carefree (careless?) brother Hollis. Other than her sleepless nights, Auden's been the very picture of extreme maturity and academic excellence. Until she spontaneously decides to join her father and stepmother at the beach for her last summer before college. There, Auden - reluctantly - learns to live. To make up for lost time, and experience things that essentially are growing up. She learns to laugh, to make friends, to take chances, and fall in love. She learns about starting over when things don't work out like you planned, and that family really does mean something. I love Auden's journey to reality - watching her struggle to master the little things in life, the things that give it dimension and sparkle.

Book provided by my personal library.

This Lullaby
Sarah Dessen
Speak, 2002

Remy is tough as nails, and doesn't believe in love. After watching her romance novelist mother stumble and crash through a series of failed marriages, Remy knows that love is just something people imagine. A crutch for the weak. An unnecessary risk. Certainly nothing that will ever affect Remy's life. And then she meets Dexter. Clutzy, messy, musician Dexter, who embraces the messier sides of life and thinks nothing of taking chances, taking risks. Dexter believes in love, and he believes in Remy. In that pivotal summer between high school and college, Remy learns that sometimes living means you have to take risks - that loving doesn't mean you're weak - and sometimes the people we need most are those we least expect.

Book provided by my personal library.


Imperfect Bliss

Imperfect Bliss
Susan Fales-Hill
Atria, 2012

Okay, I requested this on NetGalley because it's billed as "Jane Austen meets The Bachelorette", and there was no turning that down. The combination was, I admit, a little bizarre in my mind, but Fales-Hill makes it work. (Of course, I've never actually seen The Bachelorette, but from my understanding of the show, you know...) However, I also feel like I need to point out that even if you've never read Pride & Prejudice, nor seen the movie, nor have any idea what the story is -- you will still be able to enter into the full spirit of things in Imperfect Bliss. (Sidenote: If you haven't ever sampled the wonder of P&P, how on earth did you manage that? And can I suggest a quick remedy?)

Bliss is in the middle of a really horrible not-quite-midlife-crisis. Her marriage ended when she walked into her husband's office - and the middle of an extramarital liaison. In the year following, she's moved back into her parents' home - young daughter Bella in tow - and started work on her dissertation. Social life? Not a chance. Nor does she want one. Unless you count daydreaming about the dreamy Chair of the History Department (whom, you should know, Bliss has known practically her entire life). As if her own life wasn't tangled enough, Bliss is also coming face-to-face with all the drama that a family of four daughters creates. Her older sister, Victoria, cannot find a beau she wants to keep (to Mama's utter dismay!); Charlotte, the youngest, is running around with absolutely no pretense of morals; and Diana - beautiful, virginal-but-crazy-seductive Diana - has suddenly been selected to star in a reality tv drama about her quest to find Her Own True Love. Insanity. Sheer insanity.

Against the backdrop of Diana's reality show - cameras everywhere, The Public haunting their house, and arrogant womanizing producer Dario (aka: bane of Bliss's current existence, for his remarkable aesthetic similarity to her ex) - Bliss navigates the tricky, taunting waters of single parenthood and rediscovering herself. She also learns, the hard way, just how jaded and snap-judgmental she's become since the divorce. As the months spin by, Bliss begins to take a better look at people - specifically the people around her, from her own family circle to her academic idol to Dario. If you know the story of Pride & Prejudice, you can see the patterns falling into place.

Imperfect Bliss has what I consider "shades of Austen" - the story is changed just enough that I can't quite call it an exact modernization. That said, how exactly, could you bring Darcy and Elizabeth into the modern, contemporary world without making some fairly significant tweaks? Fales-Hill did a marvelous job of balancing the classic storyline with relevant contemporary thought. Bliss is a modern woman struggling to find balance, struggling to find herself. Her interactions with her sisters - each of whom is also on her own quest to find Self - are realistic and at times perfectly flawed. It's a human story, and therein lies the greatest correlation with Austen's own study of human love and judgment: We are all flawed, even the greatest of heroes and heroines. But perfectly so.

eARC provided by publisher for review.


Blogoversary Winners!

Yes, you read that post title correctly: WINNER-S! Plural!

Since I had almost 200 entries, I decided to add a second winner to receive a little something-something in the mail ... Are you curious?

The main giveaway winner is:
Gabby blogs over at Gabby Reads, and is a girl after my own heart: She has A Thing for YA.

And the surprise second winner? None other than
Candy also blogs, you can find her at So Little Time... where you can read about her reading adventures, often involving Austenesque romances.

I've already emailed and confirmed both winners, and their prizes will be in the mail shortly. Please join me in congratulating these lovely reading ladies! And if you didn't win, don't despair: I still have a decent number of books in my "giveaway stash," and I may just decide to have another giveaway sooner rather than later. You never know ...


This Scarlet Cord

This Scarlet Cord
Joan Wolf
Thomas Nelson, 2012

Oh. Wow. This is one of those books that sucks you in and doesn't let go until you've finished. And what a story it tells ... Anyone familiar with the story of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho will recognize the name "Rahab" - and knows that she helped save the lives of Joshua's spies, so in return her family alone was saved when the walls of Jericho fell. And that's where the Biblical account begins and ends - picking up briefly in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus to mention Rahab's son as a direct ancestor. But have have you ever wondered about Rahab, the woman? Who she was, why she'd risk everything to aid the enemy? That's the story Wolf tells in This Scarlet Cord - a beautiful, intricate imagining about the life of Rahab.

Rahab's story begins when as a spunky twelve-year old, she is rescued from bandits by Sala - a young Hebrew, living in one of the only Hebrew settlements in Canaan. Their connection is instant, as neither is like anyone else the other has ever met. Sala tells Rahab stories of Elohim, the One God, a God so very different from Baal and the other gods of her people. Once Rahab is returned to her family, well-to-do vineyard owners, years pass without any contact. But Rahab remembers, and in her heart of hearts, she wants a husband like Sala. As Rahab grows older, she becomes increasingly more beautiful, and her father decides to take her into Jericho to find a rich husband. And things begin to get interesting.

By chance, Rahab is reunited with Sala - in Jericho - and realizes that she doesn't just want a husband like Sala, she wants Sala. He loves her too, but their love is doomed - a Hebrew cannot marry a Canaanite. Besides, Sala and his father are working with Joshua, helping glean information to supply the Israelite army before their attack on the city. But true love conquers all, and who are mortals to question the plan of Elohim? Rahab (along with her sister-in-law Atene) turns to Elohim in her hour of greatest need, vowing to leave the gods of her people if He will hear her cry. Elohim answers, and Rahab's true story begins. Risking everything, she agrees to help Sala protect Joshua's spies - with the understanding her family will be saved. We know this part of the story, and after the fall of Jericho, Rahab and her family escape to the Israelite encampment until further arrangements can be made. Marriage arrangements, and the impossible coming true.

I loved This Scarlet Cord, truly. Knowing the story, I knew there was a happy ending (always a plus), but the build-up, the development, getting to know the characters ... Masterfully done. The story is told from both Rahab and Sala's points of view, giving a more fleshed-out tale, and letting us see what goes on in both hearts. It's a story of Love, of sacrifice and risk, but also of finding one's self. Rahab and Sala struggle with the religious chasm dividing them, but work through - and against - the prejudice to find truth and love. Their families are brought together in harmony. Rahab's journey from Canaanite daughter to ancestor of Jesus is remarkable - and human. Is this how it really happened? Nobody knows, nor will we know until One Day, but my heart likes the story Wolf tells.

Book provided by publisher for review.


Q&A with Phillipa Ashley

Today I am totally excited to share a Q&A session with the lovely Phillipa Ashley. So kick back, relax, and take a few moments to get to know this rockin' British author!

A Word's Worth (AWW):You have 2 books releasing right now - can you tell us a little about them?
Phillipa Ashley (PA): I have two re-releases out. Just Say Yes is a romantic comedy which is now available as a US edition. (See my review here).
Samhain has also published Fever Cure in a paperback edition. This is a steamy, sexy contemporary romance:
The road to heartbreak is paved with honorable intentions…
 After a year dealing with her mum’s health scare and the end of a bad relationship, Keira Grayson was looking forward to kicking up her heels at her best friend’s wedding. Until she kicks off her (spare) knickers in front of the trifecta of perfection. Tom Carew. Son of an earl, honorable doctor and possibly the hottest man on the planet.
 One look at Keira’s delightful embarrassment, and Tom’s hormone meter spins off the charts. Trouble is, his bags are already packed to return to the jungles of Papua New Guinea. He has patients waiting—and amends to make for a terrible choice that left devastation in its wake.
 They both reason that indulging in a one-time dinner date won’t hurt…until their inhibitions melt away in the heat of their lethal sexual chemistry. Leaving Keira wondering if a sizzling fling is just what the doctor ordered, or another prescription for relationship disaster. And Tom fighting a battle against inner demons that could shatter both their hearts.

AWW: And you've mentioned something about a third book - what do we have to look forward to?
PA: The new book is called Miranda’s Mount and will be available worldwide from October 4th 2012. It’s actually my first brand new book since 2011 and my first longer contemporary romance - so I’m incredibly excited about it. It’s being published as an e book first by Piatkus Entice who are part of the UK-based Little Brown Group. I’m thrilled to work with them and they have been very enthusiastic about Miranda’s Mount which is always a huge help.
Miranda is one of those rare books that was a dream to write: the idea came to me on a long car journey. I remember saying to my husband and daughter: I know what the next book will be. I know what the setting is, who the hero and heroine are and why they can’t be together. As soon as I got home, I started writing it and didn’t stop. My agent loved it and eventually, I received several offers for it. I wish all books were like that!  

AWW: Does it get confusing, as an author, to have multiple projects going on at once? Is it easier to have projects moving at the same pace or at different points in the process (i.e. both in writing, or one writing and one editing)?
PA: Well, having books at different stages of production is par for the course as an author. For instance, right now, I have just finished the final proof checks on Miranda’s Mount and I’m coming towards the end of writing my 2013 release for Piatkus Entice. I’ve also been promoting my previous books. It can get quite tiring and it seems odd to refocus on stories from a few years ago but somehow it gets done. However, for a couple of months now the promotion of those US books is over, I plan to focus solely on the current wip which will be a wonderful luxury.  

AWW: Once you finish a manuscript - or manuscripts - what do you do to 'rest your brain'? Favorite celebratory activity or fun read?
PA: I try to do anything that involves being outdoors: I go to the health club for a swim or the gym about 4 or 5 days a week. I also like going for a walk in the country but my ultimate pleasure is to go bodyboarding in Devon or Cornwall. I’ve had a few surfing lessons but I still can’t stand up although I’ve used the experience in Miranda’s Mount where the hero, Jago, is a surfer (as well as being an Earl.)
I always read the newspapers after a workout; they’re free at the health club and I often read 2 or 3 different ones. I get ideas for books from there. I read romance, of course, but I don’t seek out books because they are labelled as a particular heat level. The idea of avoiding a book because it might be ‘naughty’ seems strange to me! If I like the author, I read the book and it can be chaste or very very steamy.

AWW: Do you have a favorite snack or drink for when you're writing? 
PA: I do enjoy a biscuit: ginger crinkle crunch for preference. I used to mainline strong coffee but for health reasons I’ve had to switch to decaff coffee and tea. 

AWW: Where do you do your best writing? Brainstorming?
PA: My most productive brainstorming locations are when I’m a passenger on a long car journey and on the exercise bike at the gym! Somehow, I find story ideas and plot solutions just pop into my mind at these times, often unbidden. I tend to write best early in the morning and just before dinner. 

AWW: What about your favorite place to read? 
PA: I do most of my reading in bed and er... somewhere else I’m too ashamed to admit to...
Thanks for having me at A Word’s Worth!

Thanks, Phillipa, for a fun Q&A session! Now I really want to make a batch of gingersnaps ... 


In Honor

In Honor
Jessi Kirby
Simon & Schuster, 2012

Right before she's supposed to leave for college, Honor's world is turned upside down when she found out her brother, Finn, was killed overseas. Days later, his last letter arrives - but Honor leaves it unopened until after the funeral. Inside, she finds a hand-written letter, and tickets to the Kyra Kelley farewell concert. On an impulse, Honor decides to pretend to leave for college as planned, but head west to California and the concert -- it feels like a fitting tribute to Finn's life, better than the military funeral. Everything starts out fine, but before she can even leave the driveway, Honor has an unexpected companion: Finn's ex-best friend Rusty. Drunk and hungover, Rusty climbs in the passenger seat and falls asleep, leaving Honor no choice but to take him with her.

The next few days are jam-packed with unexpected adventures (and misadventures!), fights, taunts, reminiscing and confessing. Honor and Rusty are both dealing with the heartbreak of losing best friend and brother, and dealing with all the hurt existing between the two of them from the falling out that Finn and Rusty had when Finn enlisted. Along the way, healing slowly starts happening. Slowly being the key word, and not without many setbacks and new bruises in the process. Driving cross-country, in her brother's old Impala, with the now very-grown-up-and-handsome Rusty, Honor is forced to "grow up" and come to terms with her own responsibilities and life.

In Honor is a story that's tough to read at times - Honor's sadness is raw and real, compounded by the ongoing tension (and chemistry) between herself and Rusty. And Rusty is his own colorful, sometimes mysterious, character - even though he was a smart alecky jerk at times, I really liked him. And the adventures that Honor and Rusty have were enough to make me want to take a little road trip myself -- though I am definitely glad to not have the same incentive. Jessi Kirby's debut Moonglass was amazing, and this follow-up offering has cemented her as a favorite contemp author. Looking forward to seeing what else she writes!

Book provided by my public library.


Blogoversary Giveaway!

It's hot as a he-haint around here. We're in the middle of a brutal heat wave, setting records and making things all-around-miserable. So what better time to finally post my blogoversary giveaway?! Yes, it's a month late. Oops. But hey, better late than never, right? I can't believe I've already been blogging two years (and a month)! I've learned a lot, and am still tweaking and fine-tuning things, but I never would have thought posting simple thoughts on the books I read could turn into something so long-lasting and fun. I've met some amazing people along the journey, discovered new books I'd never have picked up otherwise, and realized that I really, truly, must be doing something with words and stories.

I thought about doing some sort of review-type post, with challenge check-ins and highlights of the past year...but then I realized: hey, that's all well and good, but what people are really interested in are the giveaway details. Right? I thought so. One of the happy "perks" of blogging is free books - whether provided by authors/publishers for review, or acquired through giveaways, my book collection has grown over the last two years. To the point that I'm going to share the love. Here's the scoop:
  • The prize: A selection of at least 4 books (maybe more, depending on what I can fit in the box I've got available), very gently read.
  • The actual books are a surprise - I've got a nice pile of books designated for "sharing," with a decent variety represented. I'll try to match the selection with the winner's favorite genre/etc - so make sure you answer the question on Rafflecopter!
  • The giveaway will be open for a week. Winner will be selected by Rafflecopter, and notified by email. At that point, they'll have 48 hours to email me back with their mailing address. If I don't hear from the winner within 48 hours, I will have to pick a new winner.
  • Since I'm footing the postage myself, I'm going to have to limit this to US addresses only.
Sound good? Ready to enter for a lovely selection of titles? Just fill out the Rafflecopter below, and good luck!



Alex Flinn
HarperCollins, 2011

When you pick up an Alex Flinn fairy tale, you know it's going to be fun and fast reading. Cloaked is no different, though nailing down that one particular fairy tale its retelling is a little impossible. You see, this is a combination of fairy tales, in one big, glorious, modern mix-up! The main theme is "The Frog Prince," but "The Elves and the Shoemaker" is also a key player, as are "The Twelve Swans." There are also sprinklings of so many other fairy tales too, I loved it!

It all starts when Johnny happens to meet the Princess of Aloria - Victoriana - somewhat by accident. (He's a humble teenager, repairing shoes for the wealthy patrons of a swanky hotel in Florida, not exactly the type of guy management wants hobnobbing with royalty). The Princess sees something she likes, and enlists Johnny's help in finding her brother - who has been turned into a frog by a wicked witch. After a bit of convincing, involving promises of marriage and wealth, not to mention experimenting with the magic traveling cloak, Johnny finds himself on an impossible quest. Wandering around the Keys, talking to animals-who-were-once-humans and passing (or failing) test after test, Johnny soon discovers that there is so much more to the world than what meets the scientific eye. And once his best friend Meg (who has plenty of secrets of her own) joins the quest, Johnny begins to take a closer look at all aspects of life - trying to see what lies beneath the surface.

As with any good fairy tale, there is a happy ending. Or several happy endings, since there are multiple fairy tales taking place simultaneously. The course of true love never did run smooth, and what's a good story without some unexpected twists and turns and "oh my gosh!"-moments right at the end? This was a fun, lighter read than Beastly, but I enjoyed the mish-mash of fairy tale goodness. Great for summertime.

Book provided by my public library.


New Books!

Okay, so I totally spaced and didn't get a New Books post up for May...but then, I didn't really have much activity to report in May. So...I'm combining my May NetGalley list with June's list of books. Without further ado...


For Review:


I also received this lovely treasure, as a result of the rockin' awesomeness of a fellow bookblogger:

I've got a summer's worth of amazing reading in my hands...and that's wonderful, since we're breaking records right now. Stay cool and read good books, people!