New Books!

A quiet week that ended with a small flurry of bookish goodness. Wanna see? Of course you do, or you wouldn't have buzzed by.

I won a signed galley of this through ArmchairBEA (this is the cover image from Amazon)!
It looks so good, definitely looking forward to reading this one!
It was on the bargain table at B&N and just seemed like a good all-around purchase, both for the "may end up being an English teacher" bit and just because I'm a book/word/story nut.
Yes, I just took (and passed with beyond-flying-colors!) the Praxis II for School Media. But I've always planned to pick up add-on licensure in Secondary English, and decided to just bite the bullet and do it now (because it's easier to get a teaching job if you've already got a passing score...), so I've got a month to cram. Oh boy...

For Review:
Won through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.
Grew up with the Sisterhood girls, so  definitely looking forward to reading this one. Only, it's been so long that I think I've got to reread the original books first...



Mitch Stokes
Thomas Nelson, 2011

When I saw this available for review on BookSneeze, I jumped at the chance. Ever since my college Astronomy classes, I've loved Galileo, and this biography seemed like something right up my alley.

Galileo covers the life and experiences of Galileo Galilei - the famed astronomer who revolutionized science and human understanding. It's a quick, easy read that takes readers on an accelerated journey through Galileo's life, from birth to death to reconciliation with the Catholic church.Needless to say, this is a lot of territory to cover in a smallish 213-page volume, especially considering the attention and details required to fully explain Galileo's scientific discoveries and contributions. Have no fear, however: Stokes has a very informal style, that makes reading Galileo less like trudging through a biography and more like picking up a "long magazine" or something similar. While some of the science and math discussed is very advanced, it's not presented in a way that intimidates or confuses. (This isn't a text book, after all). And if you have a background in science and/or math, it's that much of an easier, more enjoyable read.

I only had two minor problems with the book, first being the tone - and I realize this is purely a personal preference, and quite probably a result of my professional training. At times the informality of Stokes' writing style felt too informal, with too many personal opinions and interjections. The other issue I'm not sure how to label...At times, I felt as if I was reading a literature review of all the existing biographies on Galileo, but with a definite emphasis placed on finding religious meaning. Chalk this one up to all those history classes, but if you're going to make a claim, I need to see the primary evidence backing it - not just what someone else has said before.

Those two issues aside, I feel like Galileo definitely meets the goal of the Christian Encounters series, which is to "highlight important lives from all ages and areas of the Church through prose as accessible and concise as it is personal and engaging" (front flap). This is the first Christian Encounters biography I've read, but I look forward to reading more.

Book provided by publisher for review.


Once Upon a Time V Challenge: COMPLETE!

I have officially completed the Once Upon a Time V reading challenge. Hip-hip-hooray! I decided to participate at Quest the First level, which meant I would read at least five books from within the four categories/genres: folklore, fantasy, fairytale, and/or mythology.

Without further ado, my completed Quest:
I definitely loved this challenge, and read three of the five titles on my original list - so that's not too shabby either! It was a lot of fun, and with all the reviews linked up on the review site, I've got an amazing list of other "Once Upon a Time" reads to filter through and read in the future.


Spindle's End

Spindle's End
Robin McKinley
Putnam, 2000

I have come to a conclusion: Robin McKinley's books make me stay up entirely too late reading them. Seriously! It's like I get sucked into the story and cannot put it down. The first night I was reading this, I didn't put it down and turn out the light until 2am. Oops. However, it's totally worth the late night, er - nights. Besides, what else is caffeine for?

Spindle's End is a revisiting of 'Sleeping Beauty', but with twist upon twist upon twist. At some point, I decided it left 'Sleeping Beauty' behind and just went on its own merry little journey. I loved it. (Many thanks to Jess for pointing out that I had to read it!) Thanks to the heroic efforts of Katriona and her aunt Aunt, Rosie - the poor little cursed princess (aka: the Sleeping Beauty) - grows up in a magic-sprinkled environment as an ordinary girl. Well, as ordinary as a girl can be who talks to animals and lives with two fairies. I don't want to give too much about the story itself, because the journey is much of the fun of the reading. The way everything plays out, and turns out, and develops? Amazing.

At times I got a little confused, feeling as if I needed to consciously hold on to the story and follow it through a forest. But, where this would annoy me in most cases, it did not here - probably because the world the story is set in, and in part the story itself, is that sort of complex, convoluted, sometimes-up-is-down way. The characters are all delightfully drawn and some left mysterious. I loved Narl - he reminded me of a couple guys I've known, and he was a nice surprise in the middle of everything. The animals are just as much involved in the story as the humans, and they are written convincingly and enchantingly. Basically, this is just another of McKinley's amazing works, and one that I really feel like you must read for yourself.

Book provided by my local library.


New Books!

It was a super happy book week for me this week! (Which was just fine with me since the first part of the week involved a killer migraine, and then I got a spiderbite. Sheesh! haha...All better now though!)

Books Won:

This lovely set of cookbooks from Morrow Cookbooks got lost in the mail, and finally made it's way to me!
I've been drooling over these, and already made a blueberry cake from 10 Things You Need to Eat: AMAZING!

I won these through the International Chick Lit Month celebration!
This was won through Armchair BEA, and looks so fun!

Books for Review:
Received from Peachtree Publishers for review - entirely too fun. I mean, way, way fun.


A Jane Austen Education

A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter
William Deresiewicz
Penguin, 2011

This one caught my attention for several reasons: the quirky cover, the title, and the fact a guy was writing about Jane Austen changing his life. Let's face it people: how can you not pick up a book like that?

The book is broken into chapters that focus on a specific Jane Austen novel and the 'lesson learned' from the reading of each. Additionally, it's fairly chronological (not in order of Austen novels read per say, but in the following of the author from obnoxious first-year graduate student to enlightened PhD-holder. This is a format that works, and works well. Not only because it prevents a lot of time-jumping (which can be exceptionally confusing), but because by looking at the novels individually, and their lessons applied during the specific times/contexts, it helps create a fuller picture of how Jane Austen can be a revolutionary educator. The only minor problem I had with the format was that, since chapters are limited to/aligned with the novels, they can get a little lengthy - this is a personal issue, since I hate putting a book down mid-chapter if I can help it, and not a general technical problem.

What I loved, and I mean loved, about A Jane Austen Education is that Deresiewicz really captured what it is that makes Austen so, well - Austen. He breaks it down, and looks at her writing - what she wrote, what she didn't write - and captures quite nicely what it is about her novels that we still love so much two hundred years after the fact. It's not a literary critique, but it's clear he is a scholar and student of Literature. It's not a personal response essay, but it's obvious that Jane Austen has personal meaning. If, in places, it feels a little over-wordy, it's an interesting contrast to the simplicity of Austen's own language. 

I'm not entirely sure what I expected going into it, but I thoroughly enjoyed the read. I liked taking a closer look at Jane Austen, exploring why she is so influential, what the magnetic draw she has over us, and - maybe most of all - seeing the actual way that Jane Austen can shape a person. Even, gasp!, a guy. For the Janeites reading this, I think you'll enjoy it; and for any non-Janeites, well, maybe this will help you understand our passion.

Book provided by my local library.



Jessi Kirby
Simon & Schuster, 2011

I won a signed copy of Moonglass over at The Elevensies blog, and once it arrived, I swooned a little. The cover looks nice in the image, yes? You’ve not seen anything yet. In person, holding it in your hands, it shimmers. Yeah, I said it: It shimmers. We are talking *gorgeous* here. And, happy day, the story lives up to the cover’s smashing good looks.

The beach. A cute lifeguard. Sea glass. Dilapidated old beach cottages. The call of the water. Ghosts of the past. Unanswered questions. With ingredients like this, Jessi Kirby had a recipe for an amazing story, and she delivered. Anna has spent the last nine years struggling with the truth of her mother’s drowning. When her father accepts a transfer to Crystal Cove, she fights the move away from home, but then decides maybe a fresh start is a good thing. Until reminders of her past – actually, reminders of her pre-history, when her parents met – start surfacing and refuse to be silenced. Not even the cute lifeguard, Tyler, or her surprising new friend Ashley can block out the visions in her memory. As she begins to settle into life in Crystal Cove, finding a rhythm and pattern that fit, Anna slowly realizes that she can’t keep running from the past – that sometimes you can’t move forward until you stand and drag everything out in to the open. It’s painful, it’s messy, and it very nearly costs her her life (how's that for a teaser?). But at the same time, it’s oh-so-freeing.

Anna’s story has plenty of raw emotion. Moonglass is a fast read, but it’s not always an ‘easy’ one – it will get your heart involved, and make you stop and think a bit about what’s really important in life. It is a good story however, and as Anna fights against her own memories, she discovers that others’ lives have been similarly shattered – that she’s not going through this wholly alone. Kirby presents Anna’s struggle in a believable way: it’s not an easy, overnight ‘fix’ – rather, there’s a series of progressions, and even at the end, everything’s not magically ‘all better’, but it is better. In a day and society when so many young people are going through painful parts of life, it’s good to have a realistic portrayal of the journey. Moonglass is a wonderfully written debut novel that I think will have a positive impact on readers.

Book provided by my personal library.


The Gold Miner's Daughter

The Gold Miner’s Daughter: A Melodramatic Fairy Tale
Jackie Mims Hopkins & Jon Goodell (illustrator)
Peachtree Publishers, 2006

This book is entirely too cute. You have probably figured out by now I’m a sucker for fairy tales, but did you also know I love tall tales? (Random trivia: I even wrote my English senior thesis on what makes tall tales ‘American’). The Gold Miner’s Daughter takes both of those wonderful story types and combines them in a whirlwind tale that will have you and your little reading buddies laughing out loud.

The Gold Miner’s Daughter is presented as if it’s a movie being shown in an old-fashioned movie theatre out West – with Gracie Pearl trying to come up with a way to save her father’s claim without having to marry the evil Mr. Bigglebottom. Along the way, she encounters many familiar characters – but finds no solution. Or so it appears. As is the case with fairy tales and tall tales alike – the end answer has been before your eyes most of the story, without you ever realizing it.

A fun, zany read, The Gold Miner’s Daughter is written in a way that begs for interactive storytime: Throughout the text, there are symbols introduced at the very beginning, which encourage ‘audience participation’. For instance, whenever the mustache is drawn, you ‘Boo’ and ‘Hiss’. It’s a lot of fun, and a book kids and parents/teachers/librarians alike will enjoy. Also, the illustrations are as much fun as the text, with quirky animals and lots of details.

Book provided by publisher for review.


What Happened to Goodbye

What Happened to Goodbye
Sarah Dessen
Penguin, 2011

Summer is never truly ‘Summer’ for me until I read a Sarah Dessen novel. This is a reading philosophy I shall be exploring in a future post, so for now just know: Sarah Dessen = Summer. This is why I am always so very excited when a new Dessen novel is published, and why I was giddy beyond belief when I found out a new novel was coming out this summer. I’ve been counting the days between when I found out about it back in the fall, and when I got my hands on it a few weeks ago. What Happened to Goodbye … the title is arresting, the cover is intriguing, and – the most important point: It. Is. A. New. Dessen. Novel. Okay, so maybe I’m sounding a little fangirly, but anyone who has read – and been touched by – a Sarah Dessen novel will understand what I’m saying here. Okay, enough of the prelude, let’s talk about the book!

McLean has spent the last two years of her life in motion, running from whatever ghosts might come from the past to haunt her if she stops. She and her father have been physically moving around the country, but McLean’s ‘journey’ is more than that – she recreates herself in every new town. Until she arrives in Lakeview, and a surprising boy interrupts her ‘creating’ and she finds herself as simply ‘McLean.’ This surprising boy – Dave – and the equally surprising friends she finds herself surrounded by, gently force McLean to rediscover who she really is. To find the real McLean, and give her a chance. It’s hard, it’s messy, and McLean fights it like there’s no tomorrow. It’s what she needs though, and probably, somewhere deep inside, what she wants. Nothing ever comes easy, and nobody can go through life without making mistakes – and McLean definitely makes some. But that adds to the realism and charm of the story. One of the things I love about Dessen novels is how human her characters are: they have moments of incredible blind-stupidity, they have their scars and their ghosts. They’re just like you and me. McLean could be one of many girls who see their family dissolve and have to come to terms with their new reality, and decide if they are the same or different.

What Happened to Goodbye is funny, thoughtful, pure Dessen goodness. Everything readers have come to expect is delivered, complete with an adorable new hero (Dave may actually rival Wes for my favorite Dessen boy now, hard as that is to believe!). It’s a story that caught me up and I couldn’t put down until it was finished, and it also made me think. Think about the different masks we were, the different versions of ourselves we show the world. I liked McLean, I could relate to her and I was happy she actually grew out of the place she started from. Definitely a new favorite summer read.

Book provided by my local library.


Happy [Belated] Birthday, to my blog!

So, it's been an insane week this week with a few too many late nights, and I totally forgot that my blogoversary was yesterday. Oops. Could've sworn it was next week. Yeah, my brain's totally off right now. But now I'm going to pause for a moment and think about what the last year has been like ...

My first official book review: the summer i turned pretty by Jenny Han, posted June 2, 2010.
Since then, I've written 65 reviews! This year, I'm making a conscious effort to review every book I read, which is helping my 'numbers' from last year's "let's just figure this out as we go" system of reviewing reads.

I've also gotten to participate in a cover reveal and book launch, have participated in my first blog tours, and started receiving books from publishers to review. (Okay, so that one makes me a little excited - I felt like I had 'arrived' when I got my first review copy!)

Oh yeah, and I have an official facebook page too: www.facebook.com/awordsworthblog!

On many levels, I still have a 'baby' blog - it's only a yearling, after all. But looking back, it's grown so much, and my style and technique are growing and changing right along with it. I'm slowly gaining followers, and getting more involved in the blogging community. Definitely looking forward to seeing what the next year will offer! (Hopefully I'll remember the correct birthday!)

This Girl is Different

This Girl is Different
JJ Johnson
Peachtree Publishers, 2011

This one caught my eye from the get-go: Homeschooler Evie decides to spend senior year at public high school. As a graduate of homeschool (6th-12th grades, spending junior and senior years dual-enrolled at the community college), I am always curious to see how people represent the homeschooler-to-"real" school adventure (favorite of all favorites so far: Stargirl!)

Evie and her new friends Jacinda and Rajas are fun, engaging characters. They're very real, like high school seniors I would expect to meet wandering the halls of any high school. They meet by chance and quickly become friends - and maybe more. Evie is unlike anyone Rajas or Jacinda have ever met, and they are quickly caught up in her plans to revolutionize The Institution Of School and take down The Man. But soon their plans get out of hand, and sheer chaos erupts, tearing apart the school - and shattering their friendships. While Evie's mother is fully supportive, and even instigates a large amount, of the 'revolution,' Evie begins to wonder if perhaps there isn't a better way to bring about (needed!) social changes ... Taking the leap from homeschool to public school is a major learning experience for Evie - but also for all the students, and teachers. Lessons are learned, sometimes painfully, and everyone begins to realize there are always alternative ways to get your point across.

Now time for a mini 'rant' of sorts. I enjoyed the story - Evie made me laugh at times, and I feel like the story is largely believable. I've seen first-hand how impulsive and 'unthinking' high schoolers can be, so I could definitely see students taking advantage of the anonymity that Evie's 'lightning' plan allowed to go crazy with the personal expression idea. The one thing that did really bug me isn't unique to This Girl is Different - I've seen it in so many places, whether books or movies or what have you - and that is the idea that homeschoolers are by default radical liberals wanting to come in and change the world. Think about it: homeschoolers are almost always classified one of two ways - either painfully religious and conservative or radically liberal and freethinking. There is no middle ground or 'normal'. Stargirl comes the closest, I think, but even she is presented as very different. While it's true that there are a number of homeschoolers who match each of this stereotypes, there are more who are just 'kids' - I was one of those. Granted, I'm a little old-fashioned about some things, and haven't done a lot of what my contemporaries have - but that's been my choice, made using my own thoughts and reasons. And I've got plenty of friends who were homeschooled and are 'normal' like me - so where are the books about us? Some of us went to public school, we've almost all gone to college, what about telling our stories? Or are they not as much fun - because we're not as different and strange? Just a thought ... It always comes back to mind when I read another homeschooler novel. Anybody have any thoughts or insights?

Book provided by publisher for review.



Karl Friedrich
McBooks Press, 2011

I managed to snag this through LibraryThings's Early Reviewers program, and was really excited. I have always had an interest in aviation history, and this sounded right up my alley. Once I started reading though, I was a little disappointed - I'll explain in a minute. First, let me say that it is a good book - worth a read if you're interested in aviation history, or American women's history. Maybe some of my "eh"-reaction to the book was from taking in different expectations than what I received in the reading - if any of you read it, I'd love to hear what you think!

Okay, let's discuss the book itself. The premise is awesome: Sally, a 'self-trained' pilot from Texas, is part of the Army's WASP training program (Women Airforce Service Pilots). She and her fellow WASP students are being trained in flying 'the Army way' so they can then transport planes as needed for the Army to free up male pilots to fight and do 'official' World War II duties. Going in to the reading, I was expecting a bit more about the WASP trainees themselves - but this focuses pretty exclusively on Sally, with her introductions and involvement with a handful of other characters. Sidenote: I loved the other girls Sally 'hangs' with, especially Dixie - the secondary characters definitely added spice and color to Wings. There is, happily, a lot of airplane talk, and I was introduced to aspects of American aviation history I was not fully aware of previously - so from a historical fiction perspective, it definitely has merits (especially as a jumping-off point).

So where did my "eh"-reaction come from? I'm not wholly sure of any one given moment when I realized I wasn't crazy about this book, it was a more gradual "oh, this is really not what I was expecting..." The chronology felt a little awkward to me - the pace of what I was reading felt much slower than where I felt like I should have been in the story. I can deal with chronology issues, if I'm conscious to pay attention as I read (not my favorite technique, since I prefer to 'escape' into my reading rather than 'work' with it), so that's not a major negative point. I think my biggest 'issue' with the book is that I had a really hard time investing in Sally's story. She's a character who goes through a lot in life, with a fierce determination to succeed, but she doesn't actually grow. I got rather frustrated with her attitudes and choices, I wanted her to open her eyes and see what was going on - but she just kept on keepin' on the same old way.

On the whole? Wings is a decent historical read, especially if you have an interest in WWII or aviation history. It's a neat topic, and handled as best it can as the backdrop for Sally's story. So it's worth picking up if you're interested, but I would advise against it if you want a fast, quick read.

Book provided by publisher for review.