Monday, August 31, 2009

August Accomplishments

These are a few of my favorite 'first' lines read in August of 2009.

Everybody has at least one ugly secret, and mine is as ugly as they come.

It was one of the most important moments in Nathaniel Fludd's young life, and he was stuck sitting in the corner.

My mother and I both spent a lot of time in hospitals. Unlike her, I survived.

Moonlight has special powers.

When it came to love, my mother's big advice was that there were WARNING SIGNS.

August's Top Five:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy.
Babymouse: The Musical (#10) by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm.
Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix.
The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz.

Number of Picture Books: 11

Monsters Don't Eat Broccoli. Barbara Jean Hicks. 2009. Random House.
Lulu's Pajamas. Lucie Papineau. 2009. Kids Can Press.
The True Story of Little Red Riding Hood by Agnese Baruzzi. 2009. Candlewick Press.
The True Story of Goldilocks. Agnese Baruzzi. 2009. Candlewick Press.
Wilson and Miss Lovely by John Stadler. 2009.
I Don't Want To Go To School by Stephanie Blake. 2009. Random House.
Big Bear Hug. Nicholas Oldland. 2009. Kids Can Press.
Come Back Soon by Daniel Schallau. 2009. Houghton Mifflin.
Christian the Lion. Anthony Bourke and John Rendall. 2009. Henry Holt.
What is the Bible? by Kathleen Long Bostrom. 2009. Tyndale.
Who Made the World? by Kathleen Long Bostrom. 2009. Tyndale.

Number of Board Books:

Number of Children's Books: 2

Five Children and It by E. Nesbit. 1902. Puffin Classics. 237 pages.
Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix. R.L. LaFevers. 2009. Houghton Mifflin. 138 pages.

Number of YA Books: 18

Al Capone Does My Shirt by Gennifer Choldenko. 2004. Penguin. 228 pages.
Goth Girl Rising by Barry Lyga. Houghton Mifflin. 2009. 400 pages. (October release)
Tom's Midnight Garden. Philippa Pearce 1958. 240 pages.
Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. 1979. Simon & Schuster. 389 pages.
North Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson. 2009. Water Brook. 332 pages.
The Navel of the World. P.J. Hoover. 2009. CBay Books. 296 pages.
Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu. 2006. 420 pages.
David Inside Out by Lee Bantle. 2009. 184 pages.
Absolutely, Positively Not... by David Larochelle. 2005. 219 pages.
The Siren Song by Anne Ursu. 2007. Simon & Schuster. 435 pages.
The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones. 2009. Bloomsbury (Walker). 272 pages. (September 2009)
Jumping Off Swings. Jo Knowles. 2009. Candlewick Press. 230 pages.
A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell. 2009. Scholastic. 273 pages.
Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 313 pages.
The Secret Life of Prince Charming. Deb Caletti. Simon & Schuster. 322 pages.
Hoppergrass. By Chris Carlton Brown. 2009. Henry Holt. 240 pages.
Never Cry Werewolf by Heather Davis. 2009. HarperCollins. 216 pages.
The Immortal Fire. Anne Ursu. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 510 pages.


Number of Christian Books: 5

Montana Rose by Mary Connealy. 2009. Barbour. 318 pages.
The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz. 2009. Revell. 412 pages.
Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen. 2007. Bethany House. 412 pages.
June Bug by Chris Fabry. Tyndale. 2009. 326 pages.
Whirlwind by Cathy Marie Hake. 2008. Bethany House. 358 pages.

Number of Adult Books: 6

The Plight of the Darcy Brothers: Pride and Prejudice Continues: A Tale of the Darcys and the Bingleys. by Marsha Altman. 2009. Sourcebooks. 359 pages.
Mr. Darcy, Vampyre. Amanda Grange. 2009. Sourcebooks. 308 pages.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Random House. 278 pages.
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. 1905. Signet Classics. 248 pages.
Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare. 1608(ish).
The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare.

Number of Verse Novels: 1

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 625 pages.

Number of Graphic Novels: 3

Knights of the Lunch Table: The Dragon Players. By Frank Cammuso. 2009. 127 pages.
Babymouse: The Musical (#10) by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. 2009. Random House. 96 pages.
Babymouse: Dragonslayer (#11) by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. 2009. Random House. 96 pages.

Number of Nonfiction:

Number of Short Story Collections, Anthologies, Poetry Books:

Movies Watched/Reviewed:

Star Trek I: The Motion Picture
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock
Ballet Shoes
Goodbye Mr. Chips
Scarlet Pimpernel, 1934 (my review)
The Buccaneers
Under the Greenwood Tree (my review)
The Three Musketeers, 1948 (my review)
Til the Clouds Roll By, 1946
Casanova
David Copperfield, 1999
Oliver Twist, 2007
Double Dynamite
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
His Girl Friday
Pride and Prejudice, 1980 (my review)
She Stoops To Conquer (my review)
Amazing Grace
The Scarlet Pimpernel, 1999 (my review)
Pride and Prejudice, 1940 (my review)
Lost in Austen, 2008 (my review)
Boomtown
I Love You Again
Double Wedding
Critics Choice
Once Upon A Mattress, 2005
Veggie Tales: Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah's Umbrella (my review)
The Other Boleyn Girl



© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Immortal Fire (MG)


Ursu, Anne. 2009. The Immortal Fire. Simon and Schuster. 510 pages.

Phil is back, and he's got his sights on the Big Guy--Zeus, himself. The Immortal Fire is the third book in Anne Ursu's Cronus Chronicles. (The first being, The Shadow Thieves, and the second being, The Siren Song. In the first one, Phil has set his sights on Hades; in the second, he has set his sights on Poseidon.) In each novel, we've got two heroes: Charlotte and her British cousin Zachary (or "Zee" or "Zero") who are thrown into the action and adventure. Phil really, really comes to hate them--especially Charlotte.

At the cradle of civilization, close to the belly button of the world, there is a sea like no other on Earth.

The world needs Charlotte and Zee. Desperately. Since Poseidon lost his battle with Phil--lost his trident--the sea and all its creatures (monsters) have unleashed chaos on the mortal world. Phil loves it. Seeing all these "freakish" acts of "nature" destroy humanity and civilization. Only Charlotte and Zee know the real truth. And with a little help from their former teacher, Mr. Metos, these two want to help restore the world to order, to stop Phil's evil plan--of course they don't know what his plan is exactly--but they know him, and they know he's up to something! But this is their biggest challenge--most dangerous adventure--yet. To save the world might require the biggest sacrifice of all.

What did I like about this one? More gods and goddesses than ever before. I liked getting to know these new characters. And it was great to see one character return and play a big role in this one.

I also enjoyed the humor and style of this one. (It was very similar to the first two in that way. Conversational. Light. Fun.)


For much of the last year, Charlotte felt like she had been living in a book--one of those where ordinary kids are unwittingly plunged into an extraordinary world where they must struggle against unimaginable evil to save the world, not to mention themselves, except usually in those books the kids discovered they had super-special top secret powers perfectly suited to thwart that particular evil. Or at the very least the kids had been Chosen somehow, they're fated to save the world. Charlotte had no powers of any kind and was not fated to do anything except, perhaps, get a C in math. (190)
While I enjoyed this one, I had some problems with the pacing. But overall, I enjoyed it.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Taming of the Shrew


Shakespeare, William. The Taming of the Shrew.

Why Taming? Why now? I realized this weekend that I had one more Shakespeare play due before the Shakespearean Summer challenge closes tomorrow. Knowing that I'd never be able to handle a new-to-me play, I decided to go with one I'd not blogged about before. Plus, I've had this desire to watch Ten Things I Hate About You for a week or so. And this is the perfect excuse for why it needs to happen now.

Chances are you're aware that this Shakespeare play is a bit controversial with modern readers. What is Shakespeare saying about women? And what's up with this "cruel to be kind" notion of wooing?

The story, quite simply, concerns two sisters. The oldest, Katharina (aka Kate), is known for her sharp tongue, her wit, her sassy and all-too-disagreeable ways. She has a mind of her own, and she's not afraid to tell you where to go. The youngest, Bianca, is the favorite. She supposedly is beautiful and perfect and just so darn likable that she's got a long list of would-be-suitors. The father won't allow Bianca to marry until Katharina does.

Enter Petruchio. A man who has "come to wive it weathily" in Padua. He's determined to marry Kate--he insists on calling her Kate--and "tame" her. To turn her into a good little wife, one who will do his bidding.

Of course there are other characters--some more comical than others--but I've always focused on Kate and Petruchio. Bianca and her suitors? Well, to be honest, they bore me. So she's beautiful? Big deal. So a dozen guys want her? So what?! Can she hold her own in conversation? Kate, on the other hand, has always been an interesting character to me.

There are all sorts of things I could try to say about this one. It's a comedy. You can tell these lines are supposed to come across as funny. (You can almost always tell where Shakespeare wanted a laugh track inserted.) Should the relationships be taken seriously? Is this a true romance? Is there anything in the play itself that shows that Kate really and truly loves Petruchio? Or that he loves her? Most of his 'wooing words' came before the ceremony, and most were spoken in jest. Or at least Kate took them that way. (Should readers???) Didn't he just say he came to wive it wealthily? Didn't he agree to marry her before he even met her once the dowry had been agreed upon? Isn't this more about pride than love? What about respect? We get the idea that Kate is at the very least showing respect to him outwardly. But is there any indication that he respects her?

I remember I had a point I wanted to get across when I began...

What struck me this second (or is it third?) time through is that neither Bianca nor Kate are exactly as they appear. Kate isn't really a shrew. And Bianca isn't little miss perfect. The father doesn't really get his daughters. It makes me think that maybe there was labeling going on. If this "shrewishness" wasn't brought about in a big case of sibling rivalry where the dad was fanning the flames. No one likes to be labeled 'the shrew.' No one likes to be treated so condescendingly. The way this dear-old-dad spoke about his daughter was embarrassing and shameful. If this is what he tells strangers, I can only imagine the kind of stuff he says in private.

But does her marriage put her in a better place? I just don't know. I think, in a way, they're equally matched. But will they have their happily ever after? Will he treat her with kindness and respect now that he's "tamed" her? Now that he's proven his case, will he stop testing her, pushing the boundaries to see just how far she'll submit?

And what about Bianca? What is she really like? Is she selfish and stupid and shallow? What kind of wife will she make? If all her worth is tied up into her beauty, what will happen when her looks start to fade? Doesn't a wife need to be more than a pretty face?

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Shakespearean Summer Completed


My three plays:

1. All's Well That Ends Well
2. Antony and Cleopatra
3. The Taming of the Shrew

The host was Liv's Book Reviews.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #35

Big happenings going on this past week:

Eva of A Striped Armchair has suggested a mentoring program tentatively called Bookworms to Bookworms. You can read more about it on her blog. I personally think it's a great idea with a lot of potential. I'm always willing to help folks out with their questions. So if you're a newbie blogger and got a question or two for me, I'm happy to help when I can.

The Cybils administration is seeking judges for both rounds for the 09 season. So if you blog about children's books...or YA books...you may want to head on over to the site to see if you qualify and find out how to apply for this very time-consuming but ultimately satisfying job.

Carl has announced the fourth R.I.P (Readers Imbibing Peril) challenge. It officially starts September 1rst. But reviews are starting (slowly) to appear on the review site. There are over 160 participants so far, but there is always room for more!!! New to blogging? Wanting to find a community where you belong? No better way to find your place. Carl's challenges are amazing opportunities to make new friends and connect with book-loving people!

Little happening that made me think (oh no!):

I was reading Stuff As Dreams Are Made On this morning, and I was reading Chris' comments. Pat had a wonderful, wonderful idea that Chris should be suggesting books for others to read--for the "bad bloggers" that always get him in trouble. So then I started thinking, wouldn't it be fun if bloggers did just that. If bloggers had a way to personalize recommendations and gush about books, a platform to 'encourage' readers to pick up books.

I don't know about you, and maybe it's just me, maybe it's because I've been around too many books and read too many blogs. But I read certain books and I think of other bloggers. I start matchmaking in my head. I start thinking so-and-so would really like this one. Or I wonder if so-and-so has read this yet, it's so good!

For example, after reading Renay's oh-so-wonderful rant yesterday about Lee Bantle's David Inside Out, I'd love to know if she has read Cycler by Lauren McLaughlin. While I didn't care for this one...at all, I'm really super-curious to hear what Renay would say about this one. If she loved it--or if she liked it--it might help me appreciate it. It might give me a different angle to approach it with. If she didn't like it, well, that would be interesting as well. Because no one can rant like Renay. That's one reason I love her so much. She's honest. And it may hurt--if you're the author--but she speaks her truth, and she's awesome. Anyway, the book is about a girl--a teen girl--who transitions into a guy, yes, quite literally--once a month.

Another example, I just finished The Martian Child by David Gerrold, and I immediately thought of Debi and Chris. It's about a single father (who happens to be gay) who wants to adopt a child. The child has a very thick file folder spelling out all his troubles and problems (emotional, psychological, etc.). Supposed reasons why adopting this child would be an absolute nightmare, a mistake. Anyway, he's been in and out of foster homes and in and out of group homes since he was abandoned as a toddler. But the man sees the child for who he is and accepts him on his own terms--for better or worse.

Anyway, it's not like the blogging world is really hurting for another weekly (or monthly) meme, but I think it would be fun if such a meme existed that rounded up such posts.

Movies this week:

Star Trek I: The Motion Picture
Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock
Ballet Shoes
Goodbye Mr. Chips
Til the Clouds Roll By, 1946

What I read in a previous week, but reviewed this week:

Hoppergrass. By Chris Carlton Brown. 2009. Henry Holt. 240 pages.
Never Cry Werewolf by Heather Davis. 2009. HarperCollins. 216 pages.
The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones. 2009. Bloomsbury (Walker). 272 pages. (September 2009)
Jumping Off Swings. Jo Knowles. 2009. Candlewick Press. 230 pages.
A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell. 2009. Scholastic. 273 pages.

What I read this past week and reviewed:

What is the Bible? by Kathleen Long Bostrom. 2009. Tyndale.
Who Made the World? by Kathleen Long Bostrom. 2009. Tyndale.

What I read this past week and haven't reviewed yet:

The Martian Child by David Gerrold. 2002.
The Immortal Fire (The Cronus Chronicles, Book Three) by Anne Ursu. 2009.

What I've read and really, really need to review:

What I'm currently reading:

The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick
Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

What I'm just fooling around that I'm reading:

Fearless by Max Lucado
Ash by Malinda Lo
Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton
The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope

What I've abandoned:

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

And Today We're Three


Today marks the third anniversary for Becky's Book Reviews. I'd like to thank my readers for sticking around, for being so supportive and so friendly. I love to hear from you. So don't be shy! (I love comments!) I'd like to thank the publishers and authors as well. While I would still continue to blog even without new review copies--I'm not in this for the free books after all--I appreciate your generosity and thoughtfulness. You do make a big difference in my life--in what I read and what I blog. (Or perhaps I should amend that to when I read what I blog.) I'd like to thank all the challenge hosts out there for giving me something to blog about. Challenges have made a huge difference in my life after all. They're so very addictive. And I want to thank you for enabling me!

Last anniversary, I chose selected posts from each month, I'd like to do the same this year...

Year Three, Month One: My review of Breaking Dawn. Slightly off topic, I really, really can't wait until Dan breaks down Breaking Dawn. Right now, he's reading New Moon. And he's already finished Twilight.

Year Three, Month Two: My review of Jane Eyre. Because I love being wrong about a book. I love making a new friend.

Year Three, Month Three: My interview with Kathi Appelt. I know I shouldn't have favorites. But this interview is. I think Kathi Appelt was just awesome.

Year Three, Month Four: My review of Jellicoe Road. Because sometimes it's really, really hard to describe a book you find so perfect.

Year Three, Month Five: Weekly Geeks 27 Because I still miss Dewey.

Year Three, Month Six: The King's Rose. Because the cover still wows me. I don't know. Do I have to have a reason???

Year Three, Month Seven: Don Quixote Because I spent so much time with Don Quixote. This is a monster of a book and I'm really proud of myself for sticking with it.

Year Three, Month Eight: Maus An amazing book--an unforgettable one.

Year Three, Month Nine: Real Reason I Blog Because sometimes I need a reminder that it is all about making connections. Connecting books with readers.

Year Three, Month Ten: Fat Cat Because I love finding a book that makes me giddy.

Year Three, Month Eleven: The Blue Castle Because I love finding myself in a book.

Year Three, Month Twelve: To Say Nothing of the Dog. Because I love taking a chance and having it pay off.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Library Loot: Fourth Week in August


Leftover Loot:

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove
The United States of Atlantis by Harry Turtledove
A Monster's Notes by Laurie Sheck
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

New Loot
Pistols for Two by Georgette Heyer
The Pirates! In An Adventure With Napoleon by Gideon Defoe
Hitler's War by Harry Turtledove
The Martian Child by David Gerrold
Wait Until Twilight by Sang Pak
The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Never Cry Werewolf (MG, YA)


Davis, Heather. 2009. Never Cry Werewolf. HarperCollins. 216 pages. (September 2009)

Moonlight has special powers. Even in Beverly Hills, where everything sparkles whether it's real or fake, there's something magic about that big full moon. It can make you act crazy, take a risk you'd never consider in the daylight, or even fall completely head over heels. Moonlight can totally change your life. And it all starts so simply.
You. Him. The moon. You're toast.


If you can't get enough of werewolves, then you'll probably enjoy this fun romance. (Or if you've finished all of the vampire books at your local library and now want to try your hand at werewolves.) Shelby's parents don't trust her. (Whether this is because her new step-mother just doesn't like her and is trying to turn her father against her or if Shelby really, truly isn't worthy of such trust, I can't say.) When her stepmother catches her almost kissing a boy, her parents decide she needs to go to a summer camp where she'll learn to be good and obedient and trustworthy. (In her stepmom's defense, the boy is at least several years older than Shelby. And as innocent as a goodnight kiss could be, it could also lead to trouble down the way.)

Who does she meet at camp? The son of a famous rock star, that's who (Austin Bridges III). And what's his secret? His big secret? You guessed it, he's a werewolf. Shelby's in on his secret--he confides in her because he needs her help. And then some. You see, the camp has confiscated his super-secret serum that prevents him from transforming into a wolf, and it's almost time for the full moon. Can Shelby save her new boyfriend in time? Will helping him cost her more than she's willing to give? How can Shelby be "new-and-improved-and-oh-so-obedient" if she's seen breaking all the rules?

It's not the most sophisticated of reads. It's light enough, fun enough, tame enough. The ending did leave me curious. Is there a sequel in the works? Was the author hinting about something-more*?

I didn't love it, but I didn't hate it either. I'm curious to see what the response will be from younger readers--eleven, twelve, thirteen--if this book is satisfying for them.

S
P
O
I
L
E
R

*Did anyone else find the ending suspicious when Austin finds puncture marks on Shelby? What exactly does that mean? What is the reader to think?

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Hoppergrass (YA)


Brown, Chris Carlton. 2009. Henry Holt. 232 pages.

It's always a clean white car--this time a Ford.

Every now and then I come across a not-for-me type book. Such is the case with Hoppergrass by Chris Carlton Brown. It is a coming of age novel. It's set in the late sixties--1969 to be precise--at an institute for delinquent teenage boys. The novel is about the harder things of life, the injustices of life--both large and small. It's also a novel about tensions between races: the whites and blacks. Our narrator, Bowser, becomes friends with Nose, a black teen, but Bowser's other friends--and Nose's other friends--can't exactly understand. These two are scripted--by their friends--to hate one another. To be enemies. But behind the scenes, these two are on good terms. But the power and authority of this institution is corrupt--very corrupt--and the lives of some teens (delinquent or not) are at risk. Bowser is one of a very small handful that realizes just how dangerous the situation is becoming. Bowser and Nose are the two facing the biggest risks.

I think there are plenty of readers out there who can appreciate this one. It's about meaning-of-life type stuff. Serious issues of justice and injustice, corruption and prejudice and the like. It's a book about friendship and courage as well. So thematically, the book has much to offer.

I think I just didn't get this book. I didn't really feel a connection with the characters and the story. I wanted to care more than I actually did.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CFBA Blog Tour: The Frontiersman's Daughter


Frantz, Laura. 2009. The Frontiersman's Daughter. Revell. 412 pages.

I've been in a bit of a reading slump lately when it comes to Christian fiction. I've not really enjoyed much of anything in several months--most of the summer really. But The Frontiersman's Daughter changed my luck. I just loved--and I do mean loved--this one. It's good historical fiction with a touch of romance.

Set in the 1770s in Kentucke (which is Indian Territory at this time) it is the story of Lael Click, daughter of Ezekiel Click, one of the first frontiersman in Kentucke. When the novel first opens, our heroine is just thirteen. But as young as that is, it's not too young to have caught the notice of Captain Jack. But I'm rushing into things aren't I? Oh well. That can hardly be avoided. The white settlers have an ongoing struggle for peace with their Indian neighbors, the Shawnee. And Ezekiel Click is an interesting case. A white man who was 'captured' (he chose to surrender instead of to fight) by the Shawnee and lived among them several years. He learned their language, learned their ways, earned their respect. Captain Jack is another white man--one captured as a young boy--living among the Shawnee. He is one of them. When the novel opens, a group of Shawnees are visiting the Click cabin. They're speaking with Ezekiel. And at one point, one asks--in English--to see his young daughter, to see Lael. He asks her to let down her hair. She does. And he obviously likes what he sees because he starts leaving presents for her to discover--a necklace of blue beads, a blanket, etc. But her mother has something to say about this! She won't stand for it. Not one little bit. So Lael is sent away--rather quickly--to visit Ma Horn, a woman who knows her herbs and is known as a healer. Lael learns her art, her techniques, something that will prove helpful later on in life.

The novel spans almost a full decade. We see Lael grow up. Lael loves the outdoors. She loves living in this 'wild' and 'uncivilized' place. So she's most unhappy when her father sends her away--sends her to Briar Hill, a school in Virginia that will teach her how to be a lady--a proper lady, civilized. It isn't until her father's death that she is able to return to Kentucke, to the land she loves.

She's strong. She's intelligent. We see her being pursued by several men: Simon (the brother of her best friend), Captain Jack (her father's friend, a white man living as an Indian), and Ian Justus (a young Scottish doctor). Which man is right for her?

What did I love about this one? The characters. The story. The details. I felt a connection with this one almost immediately. It was an absorbing read, one that was hard to put down.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Tear Collector (YA)


Jones, Patrick. 2009. The Tear Collector. Walker (Bloomsbury) Books. 272 pages. September 2009.

"Are you crying?" I ask as I tap on the driver's side window of the white Chevy Impala.

The Tear Collector has an interesting premise. From the back cover, "readers beware of a new kind of vampire--one that feeds off tears instead of blood." Our narrator, Cassandra Gray, depends on human sorrow--tears--to survive. Which wouldn't be so horribly bad if she wasn't the one responsible for collecting tears for her great-grandmother, Veronica. She's collecting for two, you see. Fortunately, tears are relatively easy to come by. Cass works as a volunteer at the hospital--and it's easy for her to find folks grieving there. And then, of course, there's high school. On any given day, any given week, Cass is always finding heartbreak and sorrow there. So Cass plays sympathetic friend. Cry on my shoulder--my bare shoulder--says she. Sometimes Cass has to help things along--tell a lie, start a rumor, spread some gossip, etc. But Cass thinks she knows the boundaries. There are things she'd never, ever do. Unlike her cousin. She suspects he'd do anything to collect tears. But she's different...or is she?

Cass doesn't make for a sympathetic heroine. She's cold, calculated, manipulative. She excuses this with the I'm-not-human-don't-blame-me routine. The Tear Collector is about her quest to change all that, her quest to become more human. Can she make a real friend? Can she really fall in love? Or is her life destined to be all make believe.

I had a hard time connecting with Cass. Then again, Cass had a hard time making genuine connections. So I think it was just part of who she was as a character. Is she trustworthy and reliable as a narrator? Was she meant to be? I don't know. I personally didn't trust her. But that could be just my take on it. Could the reason I loathe Cass be because Cass loathes Cass? Here is a character that despises who she is. That despises the life she lives. Despises the choices she's forced to make.

I found some of the scenarios a bit far fetched as well. The overflowing sloppiness of the tears.

"It's okay to cry, Robyn," I say softly, encouraging another emotional outburst. she listens, letting loose a torrent of tears. I slip off my jacket--actually my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend Cody's varsity jacket--then pull her close, letting her tears fall on my bare left shoulder. I'm wearing a simple gray tank top set off by the tie-dyed bandanna holding back my long multi-colored hair. My hair is like my life: mostly dark, but with a few streaks of light and color added in.
I don't say anything; instead, I let her cathartic tears soak into my skin. (3)


"Sometimes I think it would be better if I were dead."
I don't respond; instead, I let more drops soak into my shoulder and I feel a rush from the energy in the tears, probably like an addict feels getting his fix from his drug of choice.
When I'm so full that I'm almost disoriented, I take a white linen monogrammed handkerchief from my back pocket. I gently transfer the tears from her face to this old-fashioned invaluable family heirloom. I pull her close, so she can't see the smile forming on my face as a waterfall of tears continues to cascade from her eyes. Robyn needs to cry, but what she doesn't know--and nobody outside of my family could imagine--is that I need her to cry even more. Just as a vampire needs to suck blood to live, I need these human tears in order to survive. (9)
I think it is an interesting premise. It was nice to see some role reversal going on. A "vampire" girl in pursuit of the ordinary boy-next-door.

I think for those that seek this genre, sub-genre of books--darker romances with supernatural and/or horror elements...that this one might make for a nice read.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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If you'd like to vote...

Voting is now open for the North! Or Be Eaten blog tour.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

R.I.P. IV (The POOL)


So Carl has announced this year's R.I.P. challenge. It's in its fourth year. For those not in the know, it stands for Readers Imbibing Peril. What kinds of books are included in this challenge: mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror, supernatural. Reviews will be collected on the review challenge blog. September 1, 2009 through October 31, 2009.

I'll be participating in Peril the First which asks readers to commit to reading four books. I'll probably be reading more than four books. Carl doesn't require us to make a list of definite titles, but does encourage participants to list a pool of books that they'll be considering reading. My "pool" ended when I got exhausted. I've probably got a couple of dozen more books boxed up that fit the challenge.

1. The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness
2. Look for Me By Moonlight by Mary Downing Hahn
3. A Monster's Notes by Laurie Sheck
4. Vampire Kisses: The Beginning by Ellen Schreiber

Extra books:

1. The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones
2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
3. Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel (short story)
4. Night Runner by Max Turner
5. Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse by Victor Gischler
6. Vampire A Go-Go by Victor Gischler
7. Gifted: Out of Sight, Out of Mind. Marilyn Kaye.
8. Evermore by Alyson Noel
9. The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong
10. Dance with a Vampire by Ellen Schreiber
11. Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey
12. Never Slow Dance With a Zombie. E. Van Lowe.



The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series by Heather Brewer
Eighth Grade Bites
Ninth Grade Slays
Tenth Grade Bleeds


Vampire Kisses series by Ellen Schreiber
The Beginning
Dance With A Vampire
The Coffin Club
Royal Blood


Claudia Gray:
Evernight
Stargazer


The Ask and The Answer by Patrick Ness (Book 2, sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go)
The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong (Book 2, sequel to The Summoning)
Sacred Scars by Kathleen Duey (Book 2, sequel to Skin Hunger)


Soulstice by Simon Holt (Book 2, sequel to The DeVouring)
The Otherworldlies by Jennifer Anne Kogler
Another Faust by Daniel & Dina Nayeri


Lifeblood by Tom Becker (Book 2, sequel to Darkside)
Emily The Strange: Lost Days by Rob Reger and Jessica Gruner
Malice by Chris Wooding


Night Runner
by Max Turner
Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow
Ghost in the Machine by Patrick Carman (Book 2, sequel to Skeleton Creek)


Invisible Touch by Kelly Parra
Soulless by Christopher Golden
Triskellion by Will Peterson
Triskellion 2: The Burning by Will Peterson


Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler
A Monster's Notes by Laurie Sheck

Witch Ember by John Lawson
Raven by John Lawson

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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What's On Your Nightstand (August)

The August round-up of one of my favorite monthly memes, What's On Your Nightstand.

The Immortal Fire by Anne Ursu
The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick
Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
Fearless by Max Lucado
Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove
Ash by Malinda Lo
Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton
The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Fancy Pants by Cathy Marie Hake
The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan

and my current library loot.

The Immortal Fire by Anne Ursu
Currently a little slow-going. I don't know why the pace of this one reads differently--to me--than the first two in the trilogy.

The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick
Started slow, but things are going much better now that I'm almost halfway through with this one.

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
I am really enjoying this one now! I had wanted to read Antony and Cleopatra by Shakespeare before tackling this one, which is why it took me so long to get started. And then, just my luck, I happened to catch a little documentary on Cleopatra last night, and that sure was motivation to make this my top priority!



Fearless by Max Lucado
This one is due September 8th.

Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove
This is my first experience with Harry Turtledove. And I am LOVING it. Just loving it.

Ash by Malinda Lo
I've stalled halfway through this one, but I want to finish it. So I'll give it another try.

Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton
I started this one a week or two ago. But I haven't picked it up lately. This is a reread for me--one of my favorites in the Christian nonfiction category.

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
I wanted to commit to reading this one in August. But I'm only three chapters in. It's a long one too. I do *want* to read it. I just don't know where to find the time.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
I wanted to reread this one so that I could appreciate several other Frankenstein themed stories. (Pride and Prometheus; A Monster's Notes; Mary Shelley & The Curse of Frankenstein).

Fancy Pants by Cathy Marie Hake
I recently have read some other Cathy Marie Hake books, so I'm catching up on the remaining ones in my pile.

The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan
This one only arrived yesterday, but I couldn't wait! It's a graphic novel about the Dust Bowl but with some magical/fantasy elements. Very cool.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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A Map of the Known World (YA)


Sandell, Lisa Ann. 2009. A Map of the Known World. Scholastic. 273 pages.

Somewhere, things must be beautiful and vivid. Somewhere else, life has to be beautiful and vivid and rich. Not like this muted palette -- a pale blue bedroom, washed out sunny sky, dull green yellow brown of the fields. Here, I know every twist of every road, every blade of grass, every face in this town, and I am suffocating.

Meet Cora Bradley. An unhappy often frustrated teen grieving the death of her brother, Nate, and the loss of her parents. Since the death of her brother, her mother and father have each in their own way disconnected from the family. Cora feels alone. Like her mother and father don't care about her, that they don't see her. Only one thing is known, her art gives her life meaning. The time she spends drawing (and painting and whatever else) is her time to just be. It is through her art that she explores herself--her thoughts, her feelings, her hopes and dreams. Her art is her connection to her soul, if you will. Her art keeps her going.

What Cora didn't know--couldn't know--was that Nate, her brother, was also an artist. How does she discover this? Well, Cora starts to fall for Nate's best friend, Damian. They're in art class together, and though they are far apart in ages--one being a freshman, the other a senior--they find a connection that brings them together. Something more than just shared grief.

This YA novel has some traditional themes, recognizable ones. The theme of loss--anger, confusion, sadness--as our heroine, Cora, is grieving the loss of her older brother who died in a car accident. The theme of art saving the day--you know, where being artistic and creative unleashes all the good things in life and allows the character to thrive and come into her own. (Yes, you'll find the sympathetic art teacher that "gets" the heroine like no one else quite can.) The theme of a small-town girl dreaming of the day when she can get out, find freedom in the world, and be her own person. (Cora can't wait to get out! She wants to see the world, the whole world, she wants to travel, see and do it all.) And there is the theme of unraveling friendships as life-long friends grow apart as they want and need different things in life.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Jumping Off Swings


Knowles, Jo. 2009. Jumping Off Swings. Candlewick Press. 230 pages.

I can still feel a trace of his warm lips against mine as he slips away from me and fumbles for the door to his father's van. I stay lying under the scratchy wool blanket on the backseat, wishing he'd stay. When he slides the door open, the ceiling light blinks on and exposes our faces to each other. His hair is rumpled. His brown eyes avoid mine.
"Thanks, Ellie. See you inside?"
I nod.
He slides the door shut and leaves me in the dark.
Thanks, Ellie.
I sit up and reach under my shirt to reclasp my bra as his shadow makes its way across the lawn and back to the house.
He doesn't turn around.
Ellie has a bit of a reputation. She'll have sex with anyone, so they say. Which is why Josh seeks her out at a party, takes her to his father's van. But what no one planned for, no one expected, was that nine months later, Ellie would be delivering a baby boy. The novel is segmented into four parts: September, December, March, and June. We get the story--the real story--from four different narrators.

Life can be complicated. And it shows in Jo Knowles' Jumping Off Swings, a teen novel about how one pregnancy can effect four lives: Ellie, Caleb, Corinne, Josh.

Ellie, the mother-to-be, is anything but happy with her life, with her choices. In fact, at one point, she made the decision to have an abortion. But--and without any outside pressure--she decided to have her baby, to choose adoption. Ellie seeks love in all the wrong places, in all the wrong ways. She's hurting and wanting to find love, to find comfort. But what she usually ends up finding is more pain, more confusion, more emptiness.

Caleb and Corrine are two of her best friends. They've been her best friends for years. Caleb has always crushed on Ellie, but with these changes, could it be that his love has turned, he's seeing Corinne in a whole new light, but is it wrong for these two to find love, to find each other when their friend is going through so much?

Josh, the father-to-be, is confused as well. He was tired of being teased about being a virgin. He was tired of being the only one of his friends not having sex. But his brief experience with Ellie wasn't what he was expecting, it was a bit of a disappointment actually. With his friends, he talks big, but is there a sensitive kid, a good kid, in there somewhere? Caleb thinks so. Caleb sees that Josh is different depending on who he is hanging out with. Who is the real Josh? And how will this experience change him?

Multiple narrators can be a bit tricky at times. Not every author can pull it off well. That's because each narrator requires so much work, so much substance. Narrators need to be complex, authentic, fleshed-out individuals. I thought Knowles did a great job with each narrator.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #34

First, I'd just like to thank everyone for nominating me for several different BBAW awards! It was a wonderful surprise. In semi-related (but not really) news, my blogoversary is only six days away. In some ways three years feels like forever, but in other ways not so much. I haven't decided how I'd like to celebrate yet.

Shannon Hale had a great post this week on rating books. She questions the importance of readers (and reviewers) rating books. "In my opinion, there are more interesting questions to ask myself after reading a book than what I would rate it." And "I wonder if we get so caught up in gushing or bashing, shining up those stars or taking them away, that the reading experience is weighed too heavily on the side of the book itself and not enough on the reader. After all, reader is more important than book. Reader is the one who changes from reading, not the book. Reader is the one who lives the magic of storytelling." She then asks her readers six questions.

While I've flirted with the idea of rating books--I went through a six or seven month period a year ago or so where I tried to consistently rate each book I reviewed on the blog--I've never been great at it. I think I've always realized that it's just too subjective. And that more often than not, ratings just get misconstrued anyway.

One of the questions--or half-questions--she asks is: What do you feel is your role as reviewer?

That's a tough question. The simplest approach is to say "Hey, this book is here, and this is what I thought." But it's more complicated than that. Part of me feels that what I personally like or doesn't like just doesn't matter all that much. Reading is just too subjective to only recommend books that I love, love, love. Part of me feels that my role should be about trying to capture what a book is about, what the author was trying to do with the book, trying to evaluate how a book fits (or doesn't fit) within a genre or subgenre, trying to let my readers know if this book could be a good match for them.

But it's impossible to remove the subjective experience completely. And I think there is some value to having it there within the review. Depending on your relationship with the blogger--if you're a loyal reader of a particular blog--it does matter whether a person likes a book or not. If you've established a trusting relationship, then it can be a deciding factor on whether or not you pick up a book. But it's important to keep in mind that negative and lukewarm reviews can encourage readers as well. There are times where the reviewer doesn't like it, but there is just enough there to make you curious. To make you say that you want to read it and see for yourself.

Putting myself in the role of reader (of reviews) I ask myself, "Is this a book I'd like to read?" I look for clues in the review. Clues loosely related to the question of "Why should I read this?" and "Is this book a good match for me?" And "Is this book worth my time?" Again this may be subjective, so different readers might look for different things, different answers within a review. What do you look for in a review?

Movies this week:

Scarlet Pimpernel, 1934 (my review)
The Buccaneers
Under the Greenwood Tree
The Three Musketeers, 1948 (again)
Casanova

What I read in a previous week, but reviewed this week:

North Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson. 2009. Water Brook. 332 pages.
Absolutely, Positively Not... by David Larochelle. 2005. 219 pages.
The Siren Song by Anne Ursu. 2007. Simon & Schuster. 435 pages.
Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 313 pages.
The Secret Life of Prince Charming. Deb Caletti. Simon & Schuster. 322 pages.
Babymouse: The Musical (#10) by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. 2009. Random House. 96 pages.
Babymouse: Dragonslayer (#11) by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. 2009. Random House. 96 pages.

What I read this past week and reviewed:

Wilson and Miss Lovely by John Stadler. 2009.
I Don't Want To Go To School by Stephanie Blake. 2009. Random House.
Big Bear Hug. Nicholas Oldland. 2009. Kids Can Press.
Come Back Soon by Daniel Schallau. 2009. Houghton Mifflin.
Christian the Lion. Anthony Bourke and John Rendall. 2009. Henry Holt.
Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix. R.L. LaFevers. 2009. Houghton Mifflin. 138 pages.
Whirlwind by Cathy Marie Hake. 2008. Bethany House. 358 pages.
Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare. 1608(ish).

What I read this past week and haven't reviewed yet:

The Tear Collector by Patrick Jones. 2009. Bloomsbury (Walker). 272 pages. (September 2009)
Hoppergrass. By Chris Carlton Brown. 2009. Henry Holt. 240 pages.
Never Cry Werewolf by Heather Davis. 2009. HarperCollins. 216 pages.

What I've read and really, really need to review:

Jumping Off Swings. Jo Knowles. 2009. Candlewick Press. 230 pages.
A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell. 2009. Scholastic. 273 pages.

What I'm currently reading:

The Immortal Fire by Anne Ursu
The Greatest Knight by Elizabeth Chadwick
Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
Fearless by Max Lucado
Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove
Ash by Malinda Lo

What I'm just fooling around that I'm reading:

Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton
The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

What I've abandoned:

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Siren Song (MG)


Ursu, Anne. 2007. The Siren Song. Simon & Schuster. 435 pages.

Once, not so long ago, inside an ordinary middle school in an ordinary city in an ordinary state in the middle of an ordinary country, a small redheaded eighth grader was doing something very ordinary indeed. Charlotte Mielswetzski (Say it with me: Meals-wet-ski. Got it? If not, say it again: Meals. Wet. Ski.) was in the school office calling her mother. And lest you think she was calling her mother for some interesting reason, let me assure you she most certainly was not.

It's been months since Charlotte and her cousin, Zee, saved the Underworld from Phil. But the consequences of their actions are still being felt. For one, Charlotte's parents--especially her mother--have not forgotten. Charlotte is still ultra-grounded. For another, Phil has not forgotten either. And Philonecron isn't going to be forgetting anytime soon. He's bent on revenge. He wants Charlotte to suffer...and then some. How's a guy like Phil go about taking revenge? By trying to enlist some help from his grandfather, Poseidon, of course. He certainly can't expect to win all on his own, now can he? Not when he got beat so badly by an eighth grader.

Charlotte and Zee are in danger. Though Charlotte is the one he hates above all, Zee is still part of Phil's evil plans and schemes. So both are definitely in danger...though neither realizes it in time to save themselves some trouble.

Action. Adventure. Greek mythology come to life in the modern world. While the first book explored Hades and the underworld, this one explores Poseidon's realm or kingdom--the sea.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Blog Tour: The Second Wingfeather Adventure


Peterson, Andrew. 2009. North! Or Be Eaten. Water Brook. 331 pages.

"Toooothy cow!" bellowed Podo as he whacked a stick against the nearest glipwood tree. The old pirate's eyes blazed, and he stood at the base of the tree like a ship's captain at the mast. "Toothy cow! Quick! Into the tree house!"

North! Or Be Eaten is the sequel to On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, the second in the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson. It stars the Igiby children: Janner, Tink, and Leeli. And the adults that love them--their grandfather, Podo, their uncle-friend, Artham (a.k.a. Peet the Sock Man), their mother, Nia, and their bookseller-friend, Oskar N. Reteep. Of course, there are enemies to be found as well. The danger has tripled or even quadrupled in this latest installment: there are the Fangs of Dang, the monsters of Glipwood Forest, the thieving Stranders of the East Bend, and the merciless folks at the 'dreaded' Fork Factory.

If you're a reader of fantasy and like action, adventure, mystery, suspense, and some humor...then this one might suit you well. Though I would definitely recommend starting with the first book. It does require you to suspend your disbelief and engage your imagination. Peterson has created a whole new world--filled it with people and various creatures--including dragons and monsters--and tried to give it a culture all its own.

I can understand and appreciate the family dynamics and relationships. The Wingfeathers (aka, the Igibys) are a complex bunch no question. And our hero, Janner, is well-developed. It's hard not to love such a hero. But it's harder for me to believe, to accept, some of the fantasy elements of this world--the wild creatures, etc. I think this comes easier for some readers than for others. So on the one hand, I cared about these characters and I chose to keep reading because I had to know what happened to them, but I didn't necessarily love the fantasy bits. As an adult, it's really hard to judge at times how well a book is going to work for its intended audience.


Other bloggers touring this book:



The 160 Acre Woods, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Booking Mama, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Book Buzz, KidzBookBuzz.com, My Own Little Corner of the World, My utopia, Novel Teen, Olive Tree, Reading is My Superpower, Through a Child’s Eyes

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Library Loot: Third Week in August


Leftover Loot:

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini
The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Bronte by Laura Joh Rowland

New Loot:

Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove
The United States of Atlantis by Harry Turtledove
A Monster's Notes by Laurie Sheck
The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer
The Land of the Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Blog Tour: Favorite Andrew Peterson Songs


This week, I'm participating in a blog tour for Andrew Peterson's newest children's book, North! Or Be Eaten. (My review will be up tomorrow!) While I'm not a huge fan of his books, I can't emphasize how much I just love, love, love Andrew Peterson as a musician: a singer/songwriter. He has been recording music since 2000*, his albums include: Carried Along (2000), Clear To Venus (2001), Love and Thunder (2003), Behold the Lamb of God (2004), The Far Country (2005), Appendix A: Bootlegs and B-Sides (2006), Slugs & Bugs & Lullabies (2006), and Resurrection Letters, Vol. 2 (2008).

As I mentioned, I'm a big fan of his music. He is without a doubt one of my all-time favorite musicians. I can (and do) listen to his music all the time.

So which songs are my favorite? It depends on my mood.

If I'm feeling silly or happy then it really doesn't get much better than Alien Conspiracy, or The Cheese Song. Here it is in part...


What is that white stuff on my nachos?
It’s too thin for melted cheese
It’s too thick to be just milk
So won’t somebody tell me please?
What is that white stuff I’m consuming?
Cause it’s so consuming me

Well you know they’ll never tell you
Cause then they’d have to kill you
There’s a mother load of cheese juice
That they found at Machu Pichu
At the temple of the Incas
There’s fountain flowing cheese dip
Then they smuggle it to Texas
Then they trick us with the free chips

It’s mind control
In a salsa bowl
I’m not even sure I remember how I got here

Well, give me some of that white stuff on my nachos
It’s too thin for melted cheese
It’s too thick to be just milk
In its sublime consistency
What is that white stuff I’m consuming?
Cause it’s so consuming me

So this is sorta a love song
It’s a kind of confession
As for me you see I’m long gone
So consider this a lesson
They wanna make us into zombies
Lurching to la hacienda
To gobble up the chimichangis...


And let's not forget that he's the genius behind The Monkey Song...and The Biscuit of Zazzamarandabo.





But you can't be silly all the time, so here are some of my other favorite songs:

The Chasing Song from Carried Along
Loose Change from Clear to Venus
Alaska or Bust from Clear to Venus
Just As I Am from Love & Thunder
Tools from Love & Thunder
Mystery of Mercy from The Far Country

He has a gift for making me laugh, smile, and cry. But more importantly, he makes me think.

Here is "More" from The Far Country

More by Andrew Peterson

This is not the end here at this grave
This is just a hole that someone made
Every hole was made to fill
And every heart can feel it still--
Our nature hates a vacuum

This is not the hardest part of all
This is just the seed that has to fall
All our lives we till the ground
Until we lay our sorrows down
And watch the sky for rain

There is more
More than all this pain
More than all the falling down
And the getting up again
There is more
More than we can see
From our tiny vantage point
In this vast eternity
There is more

A thing resounds when it rings true
Ringing all the bells inside of you
Like a golden sky on a summer eve
Your heart is tugging at your sleeve
And you cannot say why
There must be more

There is more
More than we can stand
Standing in the glory
Of a love that never ends
There is more
More than we can guess
More and more, forever more
And not a second less

There is more than what the naked eye can see
Clothing all our days with mystery
Watching over everything
Wilder than our wildest dreams
Could ever dream to be
There is more



*His site lists an album, Walk, from 1996, but I haven't been able to track down a copy anywhere...and so I'm not sure how widespread this release was. Amazon has three copies available used starting at $33.47 so apparently this one is hard to get these days.

Other participants in the tour:

The 160 Acre Woods, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Booking Mama, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Book Buzz, KidzBookBuzz.com, My Own Little Corner of the World, My utopia, Novel Teen, Olive Tree, Reading is My Superpower, Through a Child’s Eyes

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Secret Life of Prince Charming (YA)


Caletti, Deb. 2009. The Secret Life of Prince Charming. Simon & Schuster. 322 pages.

When it came to love, my mother's big advice was that there were WARNING SIGNS.

I haven't always appreciated each and every Deb Caletti novel. Some I've loved, some I've only liked, and one I've disliked quite a bit. But what Caletti does--and quite well--is write beautifully and authentically. She has a way with words, a way with phrasing things just right so that the reader can relate. She's good at capturing the little things, the small details, that make up ordinary life. The Secret Life of Prince Charming is the story of a girl. It's not an ordinary, traditional romance. If anything it is more of an un-romance. Here we have all the gritty little details of the unhappily ever afters.

Quinn, our heroine, has heard all these stories about men all her life. How they can disappoint you, hurt you, break you, scar you, anger and frustrate you as well. Her mother. Her grandmother. Her aunt. Just to name a very few. Quinn has taken these words of warning seriously. Opting to go for the obviously-safe choices when it comes to love than the more dangerous (albeit more temptingly fun and passionate) choices. But even being safe when it comes to her love life--the ever-boring Daniel--doesn't keep her safe. Boring doesn't mean safe; nice doesn't always mean good. Does Daniel breaking up with her hurt her? Yes and no. Her pride more than anything, since her relationship lacked spark and life. He was there, but that was about it.

But the more significant relationship--though a bit off screen--is the relationship between Quinn and her father. Though her parents have been divorced a long time, though her mother never loses an opportunity to complain about her ex, Quinn feels the need to have him in her life. She wants to have a good relationship with him, even if it means allowing for his mistakes and ignoring the stupid things her father does.

But some things can't be ignored. When she discovers that her father has 'stolen' sentimental (and sometimes quite valuable) items from many (if not all) of his former lovers, then Quinn along with her two sisters (one older, one younger) set out on a quest, a road trip, to return all these items to their rightful owners. Along the way, she'll speak with each ex and learn more about her father; she's trying to piece together why her father is the way he is. Trying to make sense of who he is from what he has done.

If you're looking for a young adult book that is strictly romance, then this one may disappoint. If however you're looking for a complex story showcasing humanity--for better or worse--then this one should satisfy. It's about dynamic family relationships--Quinn's relationship with her mother, her father, her younger sister, Sprout, her older half-sister, Frances. It's a coming-of-age story as well.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Blog Tour: The First Wingfeather Adventure


Today is the first day of the blog tour for North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson. North! Or Be Eaten is the second book in the Wingfeather saga. The first book being On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

I originally published this review in March of 2008. But I am reposting it for this blog tour so that you can become familiar with the characters and story before I publish my review of this newest book.

If you're curious in this book and/or its author, visit these other blogs:



The 160 Acre Woods, A Christian Worldview of Fiction, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Booking Mama, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Book Buzz, KidzBookBuzz.com, My Own Little Corner of the World, My utopia, Novel Teen, Olive Tree, Reading is My Superpower, Through a Child’s Eyes

Peterson, Andrew. 2008. On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson is the first book in the Wingfeather Saga*. Andrew Peterson isn't new to writing; he's a creative genius in my opinion, a singer-songwriter.** But this is his first novel. And it releases MARCH 18TH, 2008. The publisher is Water Brook (a division of Random House).

The novel boasts of having "adventure, peril, lost jewels, and fearsome toothy cows." A boast which proves true of course.

There are three "brief" introductions to the novel. (Three mini-prologues.) As is the case in some prologues, they are written in a different manner than the novel itself. I think that's a good thing in this situation because Peterson's prologues are a bit over-the-top***.

First sentence of "A Brief Introduction to the World of Aerwiar":

The old stories tell that when the first person woke up on the first morning in the world where this tale takes place, he yawned, stretched, and said to the first thing he saw, "Well, here we are." The man's name was Dwayne and the first thing he saw was a rock. Next to the rock, though, was a woman named Gladys, whom he would learn to get along with very well. In the many ages that followed, that first sentence was taught to children and their children's children and their children's parents' cousins and so on until, quite by accident, all speaking creatures referred to the world around them as Aerwiar.


First sentence of "A Slightly Less Brief Introduction to the Land of Skree":
The whole land of Skree was green and flat. Except for the Stony Mountains in the north, which weren't flat at all. Nor were they green. They were rather white from all the snow, though if the snow-melted, something green might eventually grow there. Ah, but farther south, the Plains of Palen Jabh-J covered the rest of Skree with their rolling (and decidedly green) grasslands. Except, of course, for Glipwood Forest. Just south of the plains, the Linnard Woodlands rolled off the edges of all maps, except, one would suppose, those maps made by whatever people lived in those far lands.


First sentence of "An Introduction to the Igiby Cottage Very Brief":
Just outside the town of Glipwood, perched near the edge of the cliffs above the Dark Sea, sat a little cottage where lived the Igiby family. The cottage was rather plain, except for how comfortable it was, and how nicely it had been built, and how neatly it was kept in spite of the three children who lived there, and except for the love that glowed from it like firelight from its windows at night. As for the Igiby family? Well, except for the way they always sat late into the night beside the hearth telling stories, and when they sang in the garden while they gathered the harvest, and when the grandfather, Podo Helmer, sat on the porch blowing smoke rings, and except for all the good, warm things that filled their days there like cider in a mug on a winter night, they were quite miserable. Quite miserable indeed in that land where walked the Fangs of Dang.


First sentence of Chapter One:
Janner Igiby lay trembling in his bed with his eyes shut tight, listening to the dreadful sound of the Black Carriage rattling along in the moonlight.


The Igiby family are the stars in Andrew Peterson's On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. There is a grandfather, Podo, a mother, Nia, the oldest son, Janner, the sister, Leeli, the younger brother, Tink, and the dog, Nugget. They live in occupied territory. The Fangs are dangerous that's for sure. And within a few chapters, the Igibys accidentally make themselves the target of the Fangs hatred and abuse. This leads to the promised "adventure, peril, lost jewels, and fearsome toothy cows." The book is full of adventure and mystery. And it is quite enjoyable. It is one of those fantasy novels that creates a new world, new lands, new peoples, new creatures, etc. And like a few fantasy novels these days it does make use of footnotes. Fun little asides meant to entertain. I won't lie and say the footnotes were as enjoyable as those found in the Bartimaeus trilogy, however, I will say that their use is a positive and not a negative attribute of the novel. There are also appendices at the end.

What can I say about the novel? I tended to enjoy it. It could be in part to the fact that I think Andrew Peterson is so wonderful. But it could be something more. I think for kids that can't get enough fantasy it will be thoroughly enjoyable. For those that get impatient with fantasy--the strange names of people and places and maps--then it might not be "thoroughly" enjoyable. (It might just be enjoyable.) For those that are skeptical that a musician can write, let me assure you that it is better than the prologue. That's not to say I dislike the prologue. But the third prologue in particular would be very very very very annoying if that was the style of the book and the best the author had to offer. It was cute for one page, but for 279 pages it would have been overkill. Also, I think kids that love funny books will enjoy this one. I'm not sure the book is 'as funny' for adults as it would be (or might be) for kids. It's REALLY hard to be an adult and judge if the humor is going to work for kids. For one thing, each kid is different. And what is 'funny' to one might not be 'funny' to another. But I think it has potential there.

So I recommend this one.

-------
*I don't know if the publication of the series depends on the success of the first book or not.
**He writes all types of songs. Sometimes they are deep and meaningful. Sometimes they just ring with truth and authenticity. Sometimes they make you cry (songs about grandpa's dying, etc.). Sometimes they make you laugh. Two examples: Andrew Peterson is one of the geniuses responsible for "The Monkey Song" featured on the Veggie Tales video The Wizard of Ha's. He also wrote one of the funniest songs of all time: Alien Conspiracy or The Cheese Song. (Unfortunately the lyrics aren't available online or it would have been a Poetry Friday post long long ago. I'm too lazy to try to transcribe it myself.)
***I'll try to explain through examples.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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