Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Word Worship {Markus Zusak}

"I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right." 
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

What a beautiful way to describe a lifelong relationship with words. There are words that we hate to hear, and those that we love to read, and in the midst of it all we try our hardest to do right by our words. If you haven't yet read The Book Thief, I highly recommend it. It's one of those books that changes the way that you think about life and death -- one of those books that stays with you long after you've read it. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Instagram Updates & Weekend Reading

Happy weekend to you! I've been busy as a bee over here with both my graduate courses and my practicum in teaching fourth grade, both of which are going wonderfully so far! I have to say, you know how sometimes you get the feeling that you're in exactly the right place? That's how I feel about my experience with teaching this year. I have yet to dread a day of teaching, which for me is a sign that I'm on the right path. I'm already looking forward to transitioning to a full time schedule in the spring, but for now I'm working on that careful balance of school, blogging, teaching, and real life. This weekend marks my first without travel plans or company since the summer, so I'll be focusing on employing some of my best strategies for living well and taking lots of time to linger in bed with a good book! I thought I'd leave you with some updates from my Instagram and a few bookish links from around the web!

My children's literature course has been a-m-a-z-i-n-g so far. We've read a spectacular selection of children's books. Surprisingly enough, I haven't read most of the books on our syllabus (our reading list is 36 books long!) and I've been really enjoying both the reading and our discussions so far. You can mark this down as possibly my favorite course of all time ( History of Magic course would come in as a close second). 

We have had the loveliest fall weather so far this year. I swear, the red trees are more brilliant this year than ever before, and every time I go to Trader Joe's (which is embarrassingly often), I can't resist these cute little pumpkins.

Have you heard about the new illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone? I pre-ordered it back in August and it was finally released last week. The coffee table-sized book contains the text of the entire first book, plus 100 gorgeous illustrations by Jim Kay. It's a wonderful tribute to a world that I practically grew up in and something that I'll be poring over for years to come. A great gift idea for any Harry Potter fan in your life!

And finally, here are just a few bookish links from around the web!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Review: The Witch's Daughter

Paula Brackston is now high on my list for favorite authors of fantastical historical fiction (my new genre name for fantasy that's steeped in rich historical detail). The first thing that caught my eye was the cover -- for a person whose two obsessions are books and shoes, they sure nailed it on the head for me with this one. The Witch's Daughter is the story of Elizabeth (Bess) Hawksmith, a young girl living with her family in Bathcombe in the early 1600's. Bess's family is struck by the plague, leaving only Bess and her mother alive and well. The villagers fear the disease, and soon bring in a witchfinder, whose duty is to locate the witch who brought the plague to their small village. The witchfinder settles on Bess's mother, and Bess is mortified. Her own mother, a witch? Impossible. But it's true. After Bess sees her mother hanged for her alleged crimes, she escapes into the arms of a powerful sorcerer named Gideon, who transforms Bess into his equal. Fearing her newly dark nature and incredible powers, Bess escapes and plunges into a centuries-long game of cat-and-mouse with Gideon. 

When we next meet Bess, she's living in modern day England as Elizabeth, an eccentric and lonely woman who sells tinctures at artisan markets. She meets a young girl, Tegan, whose admiration for Elizabeth prompts the two to start a relationship as witch and apprentice. Elizabeth tells Tegan the story of her many lives: as a surgeon in the Victorian era and a nurse during the war, and how Gideon has managed to find her in each of those roles. We hear about the heartache and loss that come with Bess's incredible powers, and this was what made me fall in love with her character. 

Brackston wrote Bess as headstrong, as brilliant, devoted to healing and with strong morals, but mostly she wrote her as a flawed, ordinary human (albeit with amazing supernatural powers). That made her heartache that much more potent and made the danger posed by Gideon seem all too real. The villain in this story, Gideon, gave me stronger chills than most because his vengeance was steeped in desire, and that made him all the more dangerous and terrifying. Tegan had to have been my least favorite character, but I'll admit it was because of her immature behavior, which was actually appropriately written. The thing that I loved most about this story was that it could have easily felt like a cheesy fantasy novel, but the historical detail made it rich and sophisticated. Brackston did an excellent job jumping between eras; I fell easily into the different time periods and had no trouble picturing the scenes in my mind as I read. The book reminded me of my favorite October read from 2014, and I've already put several of Brackston's other novels on my library list.

Bottom-Line Rating: 5/5

Title: The Witch's Daughter: A Novel
Author: Paula Brackston
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books, 2011
Price: $10 on Amazon
ISBN: 978-1250004086
Format: Paperback
Source:  Public Library

Friday, October 16, 2015

Library Sale Spoils

If you know me, you know that I do countdowns for my local library sales.
This week I went to the biggest library sale in my area. Over 50,000 (yes, really!) books were put out for this sale, and boy was it a bibliophile's dream.

Long story short, I bought ninety-seven books.
If your mouth is hanging open, I don't blame you. Even the librarians were impressed.

Let me explain...
I went with the goal of building upon my classroom collection, which I started a few years ago but is still only a fraction of size I hope to have in my classroom come next year. Many people have no idea that the books in a classroom library are purchased out-of-pocket by teachers and that schools don't provide teachers with the books for their classrooms. In the fourth-grade classroom in which I'm completing my student teaching this year, we have more than a thousand books for our students to choose from for their daily reading. They often read 2-3 books per week, which means that we need to have a whole lot of options for them throughout the year! There's no way to predict which grades I'll teach in the future, and my teaching license covers first through sixth grade (and up to eighth for special education), so I've been collecting everything from picture books to more difficult middle grade series. This sale was a great opportunity for me to pick up a lot of books for a much lower price than any online seller or local bookstore can offer.

I didn't go in with a list, but I do have a general idea of which authors are really important for me to have (big names like Andrew Clements and Sharon Creech), and which series are most popular and therefore great for buddy or bookclub reads (A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Warriors, etc.)

That being said, I did buy a few books for myself, so I thought I'd share those here.

Needless to say, I have a great stock of books to cozy up with this winter. The sale happens again in March, so I'm already saving my pennies for another round! Do you see any favorites here? Have a recommendation that I absolutely have to look for at the next sale? I'm always up for adding more to my wish list!
P.S. Have a children's book (or two) that you'd like to donate to my classroom library? E-mail me at!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Word Worship {Carlos Ruiz Zafón}

"Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens."
- Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind 

Friday, October 9, 2015

If You Liked That, Read This!

If you liked:

Read this:

If you're a fan of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot series, pick up Charles Finch's Charles Lenox series  the next time you're in the mood for a good old-fashioned mystery! I may have mentioned this repeatedly a few times, but October is such a good month for reading mysteries. Agatha Christie will always be the queen of the genre, but for those who have read all of her books (bravo, by the way), the Charles Lenox mysteries won't disappoint. Though I expect that more people will have read The Mysterious Affair at Styles first, I actually picked up A Beautiful Blue Death last year (the cover hooked me) and loved it. You can read my review of it here, though I have to laugh at myself a bit here because in my review, I said that it wasn't quite up to the level of excitement of an Agatha Christie novel. Well, I must have been comparing it to And Then There Were None, because after reading A Mysterious Affair at Styles last month, I could go on forever about the similarities between the two. (And yes, both are great for fans of Sherlock Holmes as well!) I think some readers may shy away from these types of novels because of their subdued nature -- they're nothing like the action-packed mystery movies that we see today -- but that's precisely why I've fallen in love with them. They're more subtle, the detectives have more exacting natures (it's my favorite trait of theirs) and while there are no high-speed chase scenes, I'm often left shocked at finding out the culprit. I just finished the second in the Charles Lenox series, The September Society a few days ago and am already itching to get the next installment. For those of you who like to follow a series, this is one that I'd recommend. There are currently ten books in the Charles Lenox mysteries (one just recently published), and forty-five in the Hercule Poirot series, if you can believe it. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Books about Books (Or, Bookception)

I recently posted this picture on Instagram with a short blurb about how this book, A Novel Bookstore,  has one of my all-time favorite book covers. I was drawn to it instantly because of that, but the story inside is even more captivating for bibliophiles like myself because the plot revolves entirely around books and characters who spend their lives digging for great literature. The picture prompted a few fellow bookworms to recommend other titles whose stories features books. Suddenly, I realized that there are actually so many books about books (also known as bookception), and that anytime I come across one, I'm almost guaranteed to buy it. Between myself and a few others that feel the same way, we came up with a long list of books that you might want to read, if you're interested in plots of the literary variety.

Books about Books: Read & Recommended by Me

Have a favorite to add to this list? Comment below or shoot me an e-mail at!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Currently Coveting {October}

Maybe it's because I was born in the fall, but there's just something about the switch to fall weather that makes me feel at peace. By the time October gets here I'm craving those crisp days and the sound of leaves crunching underfoot. That's why, when it was eighty degrees here earlier this week, I had a little bit of a scowl on my face. Fall is so fleeting here (it goes from summer to the depths of winter in about three weeks) and I felt like I was being shortchanged on my favorite time of year. Well, Mother Nature saw my scowl and replied with lots of perfect fall days in the forecast.

The best weather for reading, right?

Which brings me to my post for today, the books that I'm currently coveting this month. As you know, October is probably my favorite month of the year for reading. Give me anything with witches, mystery, or spooky settings and I'm hooked. I look forward to jumping into bed every night with a mystery or tale of magic in hand. Sometimes, I even daydream about spending hours in my reading chair with nothing else on my to-do list (emphasis on the word daydream). 

The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero // The inheritance of a haunted mansion, an abundance of secrets, and a mysterious ritual -- the perfect read for evenings spent in a big comfy chair with a cup of tea in hand.

Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough // Not that I need another mystery series to be following (more on that list soon), but this one seems too good to pass up. While Jack the Ripper causes hysteria to ripple throughout London, there's another serial killer on the loose. He's known as the "Torso Killer," and this old-fashioned, gaslit mystery seems like the perfect tale to spook yourself or your bookclub.

The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston // I've seen this cover everywhere but have never actually sought it out, and now that I've read the description I'm practically running to the library to borrow it! A tale of a witch over three hundred years old and the man chasing her through centuries to modern day England. 

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson // This has been on my to-read list for a while because every person I know that's read it raves about it. It's the non-fiction account of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and it has all the elements of a good horror story. I hear that the most horrifying thing about it is that it's all true rather than built from the imagination of a disturbed author.

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi // Another terrifying work of non-fiction, the title of which speaks for itself. Am I brave enough to read this? I'm not sure. Am I going to check it out of the library and stare at it on my shelves until I decide? Most definitely. 

What are you looking forward to reading this month?

Happy Reading!