Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year in Review: Favorite and Best


Here is my list of my favorite (and best) books I read in 2009. If I did the math correctly (which is certainly questionable!) I read 620 books in 2009.

My 3 Favorite Board Books:

The Birthday Box. Leslie Patricelli. 2009. Candlewick Press.
Books are for eating reading. by Suzy Becker. 2009. Random House.
Shake It Up, Baby by Karen Katz. 2009. Simon & Schuster.

I read and reviewed thirty board books this year.

My 12 Favorite Picture Books:

Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas. 2009. Simon & Schuster.
Here Comes The Big, Mean Dust Bunny! by Jan Thomas. 2009. Simon & Schuster.
All God's Critters by Bill Staines. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Simon & Schuster. 2009.
A Mighty Fine Time Machine by Suzanne Bloom. 2009. Boyds Mills Press.
My Elephant. Petr Horacek. 2009. Candlewick Press.
Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman. 2009. Chronicle Books.
Where's Tumpty? by Polly Dunbar. Candlewick. 2009.
Maybe A Bear Ate It by Robie H. Harris. 2008. Scholastic.
Me and You by Genevieve Cote. 2009. Kids Can Press.
Love That Puppy! by Jeff Jarka. 2009. Henry Holt.
1000 Times No. Mr. Tom Warburton. 2009. HarperCollins.
I Don't Want A Posh Dog by Emma Dodd. 2009. Little, Brown.

I read 120 picture books this year.

My 12 Favorite Children's Books:

The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket. HarperCollins. 2009. 40 pages.
Dragon's Fat Cat by Dav Pilkey. 1992. Scholastic. 48 pages.
Horrid Henry and the Mega-Mean Time Machine by Francesca Simon. 2009. Sourcebooks. 88 pages.
Max Spaniel: Dinosaur Hunt. David Catrow. 2009. Scholastic. 40 pages.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things. Lenore Look. Random House. 2008. 172 pages.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters. Lenore Look. 2009. Random House. 170 pages.
Heart of a Shepherd. Rosanne Parry. 2009. Random House. 161 pages.
Anything But Typical. Nora Raleigh Baskin. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 195 pages.
The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis. Barbara O'Connor. 2009. FSG. 150 pages.
Love, Aubrey. Suzanne LaFleur. 2009. Random House. 262 pages.
Umbrella Summer. Lisa Graff. 2009. HarperCollins. 235 pages.
The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine. 2009. Penguin. 266 pages.

I read 88 children's books this year.

My 20 Favorite Young Adult Books:

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. 2009. Scholastic. 312 pages.
The Ask and the Answer. Patrick Ness. 2009. Candlewick Press. 519 pages.
Fat Cat by Robin Brande. 2009. Random House. 336 pages.
Nation. Terry Pratchett. 2008. HarperCollins. 370 pages.
The King's Rose by Alisa M. Libby. 2009. 320 pages. Penguin.
Antsy Does Time. Neal Shusterman. 2008. Penguin. 247 pages.
Graceling by Kristin Cashore. 2008. Harcourt. 471 pages.
Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott. 2009) 224 pages. Simon & Schuster.
The Lonely Hearts Club. Elizabeth Eulberg. 2010. Scholastic. 304 pages.
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley. 2009. Little Brown. 373 pages.
Twenty Boy Summer. Sarah Ockler. 2009. Little, Brown. 290 pages
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams. St. Martin's Griffin. 224 pages.
The Forest of Hands and Feet by Carrie Ryan. 2009. Random House. 310 pages.
Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. 2009. Feiwel and Friends. 368 pages.
The Farwalker's Quest by Joni Sensel. 2009. 384 pages. Bloomsbury.
The Emerald Tablet. P.J. Hoover. 2008. CBay Books. 288 pages.
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. Brandon Sanderson. 2007. Scholastic. 306 pages.
Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 313 pages.
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. 1986. 329 pages.
Tomorrow, When the War Began. John Marsden. 1993. 277 pages.

I read 176 YA books.

My 10 Favorite Adult Books:

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran. 2007. 480 pages. Random House.
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte. Syrie James. 2009. HarperCollins. 454 pages.
To Say Nothing of the Dog. Connie Willis. 1998. 493 pages.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Random House. 278 pages.
Genesis. Bernard Beckett. 2006/2009. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 150 pages.
Old Man's War by John Scalzi. 2005. 314 pages.
Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty. 2009. 258 pages.
Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck. 1935. 207 pages.
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. 1926. 218 pages.
Devil's Cub. Georgette Heyer. 1932/2009. Sourcebooks. 310 pages.

Special Bonus Category: Classics

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy. 1905. Signet Classics. 248 pages.
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope. 1857. 525 pages.
Three Men In a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. 1889. 144 pages.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. 1605/1615. (1998 Modern Library Edition) 1240 pages.
The Way We Live Now. Anthony Trollope. 1875. 776 pages.

I read 97 adult books.

My 5 Favorite Christian Books:

Though Waters Roar. Lynn Austin. 2009. Bethany House. 430 pages.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. (Audio Dramatization) Focus on the Family. 2009.
Fireflies In December by Jennifer Erin Valent. Tyndale. 343 pages.
The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz. 2009. Revell. 412 pages.
Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen. 2007. Bethany House. 412 pages.

Special Bonus Category: Christian Children's Titles

My Story Bible: 66 Favorite Stories by Jan Godfrey and Paola Bertolini Grudina. 2009. Tyndale. 141 pages.
Baby Bible: Stories About Jesus. Currie, Robin. 2004.
Toddler Bible by Bethan James and Yorgus Sgouros. 2008.
Questions from Little Hearts by Kathleen Long Bostrom. Illustrated by Elena Kucharik. 2009
Mortimer's First Garden. Karma Wilson. 2009. Simon & Schuster. Illustrated by Dan Andreasen.

I read 48 Christian books (Though this is only the number of adult titles).

My 3 Favorite Verse Novels:

All the Broken Pieces. Ann E. Burg. 2009. 220 pages. Scholastic.
Crossing Stones. Helen Frost. 2009. FSG. 184 pages.
TROPICAL SECRETS: HOLOCAUST REFUGEES IN CUBA. by Margarita Engle. 2009. (March 31, 2009 Pub.)Henry Holt. 198 pages.

I read 8 verse novels this year. Next year, I don't think I'll keep track of these. I think I'll blend them in with the YA books.

My 3 Favorite Graphic Novels:

Maus: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman. 1986. 159 pages. & Maus II : A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman. 1991. 136 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.
Binky The Space Cat. Ashley Spires. 2009. Kids Can Press.

I read 12 Graphic Novels this year.

My 3 Favorite Nonfiction:

To Be A Slave by Julius Lester. 1968. Penguin. 176 pages.
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain. Peter Sis. 2007.
Clara's War: One Girl's Story of Survival by Clara Kramer. 2009. HarperCollins. 352 pages.

I read 25 Nonfiction this year.

My 3 Favorite Collections/Anthologies:

Lips Touch Three Times. Laini Taylor. Illustrations by Jim Di Bartolo. Scholastic. 272 pages. (three short stories)
Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales. Lucy Cousins. 2009. Candlewick Press. 128 pages. (fairy tale collection)
Starry Rift: An Original Science Fiction Anthology. Edited by Jonathan Strahan. 2008. (Short Stories)

I read 16 in this catch-all category that includes short stories, poetry, essays, etc.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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December Accomplishments

These are a few of my favorite 'first' lines read in December of 2009:

When I was five years old, I walked down the aisle with the man of my dreams. Okay, make that boy. He was five, too.

It was all my idea. The stupid ones usually are. Once in a while the genius ideas are mine, too. Not on purpose, though.

There were Martians in the backyard.

By 1899, we had learned to tame the darkness but not the Texas heat.

Most people like to talk in their own language.

December's Top Five:

Anything But Typical. Nora Raleigh Baskin.
The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis. Barbara O'Connor.
The Lonely Hearts Club. Elizabeth Eulberg.
The Unwritten Rule. Elizabeth Scott.
Antsy Does Time. Neal Shusterman.

Number of Picture Books: 2

God Gave Us Love. Lisa Tawn Bergren. 2009. Waterbrook Press.
God Gave Us Christmas. Lisa Tawn Bergren. 2006. Waterbrook Press.

Number of Board Books: 1

Merry Christmas. Susan Leigh. Concordia Press. 2006.

Number of Children's Books: 14

The Year of the Bomb by Ronald Kidd. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 202 pages.
Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford. 2009. Penguin. 196 pages.
Walking Backward. Catherine Austen. 2009. Orca. 167 pages.
The Kind of Friends We Used To Be. Frances O'Roark Dowell. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 234 pages.
Highway Cats. Janet Taylor Lisle. 2008. Penguin. 128 pages.
Horrid Henry's Christmas. Francesca Simon. 2006/2009. Sourcebooks. 112 pages.
Anything But Typical. Nora Raleigh Baskin. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 195 pages.
The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis. Barbara O'Connor. 2009. FSG. 150 pages.
The Last Invisible Boy. Evan Kuhlman. 2008. Simon & Schuster. 235 pages.
Peace, Locomotion. Jacqueline Woodson. 2009. Penguin. 136 pages.
Faith, Hope, and Ivy June. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. 2009. Random House. 280 pages.
Lucky Breaks. Susan Patron. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 180 pages.
Gone From These Woods. Donny Bailey Seagraves. Random House. 178 pages.
William S. and the Great Escape. Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Simon & Schuster. 214 pages.

Number of YA Books: 16

The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Prisoner's Dilemma. Trenton Lee Stewart. 2009. Little, Brown Young Readers. 391 pages.
Dear Pen Pal by Heather Vogel Frederick. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 412 pages.
Guardian. Julius Lester. 2008. HarperCollins. 136 pages.
The Unwritten Rule. Elizabeth Scott. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 210 pages.
This World We Live In. Susan Beth Pfeffer. 2010. Harcourt. 256 pages.
Counterfeit Son. Elaine Marie Alphin. 2000. Houghton Mifflin. 180 pages.
Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle. 2008. Penguin. 352 pages.
Dani Noir. Nova Ren Suma. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 266 pages.
Antsy Does Time. Neal Shusterman. 2008. Penguin. 247 pages.
Palace of Mirrors. Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2008. Simon & Schuster 304 pages.
Operation Yes by Sara Lewis Holmes. 2009. Scholastic. 238 pages.
The Lonely Hearts Club. Elizabeth Eulberg. 2010. Scholastic. 304 pages.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. 2009. Henry Holt. 352 pages.
Leaving the Bellweathers. Kristin Clark Venuti. 2009. Egmont USA. 244 pages.
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg. Rodman Philbrick. 2009. Scholastic. 224 pages.
The Fiddler's Gun. A.S. Peterson. 2009. Rabbit Room Press. 293 pages.


Number of Adult Books: 8

Man and Wife. Wilkie Collins. 1870. 688 pages.
The Way We Live Now. Anthony Trollope. 1875. 776 pages.
Genesis. Bernard Beckett. 2006/2009. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 150 pages.
These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer. 1926/2009. Sourcebooks. 378 pages.
The Gift. Cecelia Ahern. 2009. HarperCollins. 304 pages.
The Gift. Richard Paul Evans. 2007. Simon & Schuster. 335 pages
The Christmas List. Richard Paul Evans. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 368 pages.
Devil's Cub. Georgette Heyer. 1932/2009. Sourcebooks. 310 pages.

Number of Christian Books: 1

Treasured: Knowing God by the Things He Keeps. Leigh McLeroy. 2009. Waterbrook Press. 208 pages.

Number of Nonfiction:

Number of Verse Novels:

Number of Graphic Novels:

Number of Short Story Collections, Anthologies, Poetry Books: 1

How Beautiful The Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity. Edited by Michael Cart. HarperCollins. 357 pages.

Movies Watched/Reviewed:

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Year In Review: 12 Book of the Months


January: Nefertiti by Michelle Moran.
February: Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.
March: Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork.
April: Emil and Karl by Yankev Glatshteyn.
May: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. Brandon Sanderson.
June: The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery.
July: Three Men In a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
August: The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz.
September: The Ask and the Answer. Patrick Ness.
October: All the Broken Pieces. Ann E. Burg.
November: Nation. Terry Pratchett.
December: Anything But Typical. Nora Raleigh Baskin.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Year in Review: 52 Book of the Weeks


What I've done is gone through my 'Sunday Salon' posts of the past year where I shared my week's reading. I picked my favorite-and-best from each week. These books may not have ended up in that month's top five, but these are the best books I read week by week by week. I chose to focus on middle grade through adult. (I excluded picture books from this list. I'll try to do a best-of-picture books feature at another time.)

1. The Farwalker's Quest by Joni Sensel. 2009.
2. Something, Maybe by Elizabeth Scott. 2009.
3. Nefertiti by Michelle Moran. 2007.
4. The King's Rose by Alisa M. Libby. 2009.
5. Infernal Devices by Philp Reeve. 2005.
6. Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. 2009.
7. Old Friends and New Fancies: An Imaginary Sequel to the Novels of Jane Austen. By Sybil G. Brinton. 1914/2008.
8. The Year The Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice. 2009.
9. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. 1605/1615.
10. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. 2009.
11. The Forest of Hands and Feet by Carrie Ryan. 2009.
12. Eyes Like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. 2009.
13. Maus: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman. 1986. & Maus II : A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began by Art Spiegelman. 1991
14. A Passion Most Pure by Julie Lessman. 2008.
15. Jumped. Rita Williams-Garcia. 2009.
16. Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner. 2009.
17. The Warden. Anthony Trollope. 1855.
18. The Queen of Everything. Deb Caletti. 2002.
19. Forest Born by Shannon Hale. 2009.
20. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. 2009.
21. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians. Brandon Sanderson. 2007.
22. Fat Cat by Robin Brande. 2009.
23. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. 1986.
24. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen. 2009.
25. A Tangled Web by L.M. Montgomery. 1931.
26. Old Man's War by John Scalzi. 2005.
27. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope. 1857.
28. Three Men In a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. 1889.
29. To Say Nothing of the Dog. Connie Willis. 1998.
30. The Emerald Tablet. P.J. Hoover. 2008
31. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. By Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. 2008.
32. The Frontiersman's Daughter by Laura Frantz. 2009.
33. Lady of Milkweed Manor by Julie Klassen. 2007.
34. Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix. 2009.
35. Jumping Off Swings. Jo Knowles. 2009.
36. The Martian Child by David Gerrold. 2002.
37. The Ask and the Answer. Patrick Ness. 2009.
38. The Indigo Notebook by Laura Resau. 2009.
39. The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte. Syrie James. 2009.
40. Perfect Fifths by Megan McCafferty. 2009
41. Lips Touch Three Times. Laini Taylor. 2009.
42. The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine. 2009.
43. All the Broken Pieces. Ann E. Burg. 2009.
44. Crossing Stones. Helen Frost. 2009.
45. The Shadow Dragons. James A. Owen. 2009.
46. A Constant Heart by Siri Mitchell. 2008.
47. Colonel Brandon's Diary. Amanda Grange. 2008.
48. Nation by Terry Pratchett. 2008.
49. Antsy Does Time. Neal Shusterman. 2008.
50. The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis. Barbara O'Connor. 2009.
51. Anything But Typical. Nora Raleigh Baskin. 2009.
52. Devil's Cub by Georgette Heyer. 1932.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg (MG)


Philbrick, Rodman. 2009. The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg. Scholastic. 224 pages.

My name is Homer P. Figg, and these are my true adventures. I mean to write them down, every one, including all the heroes and cowards, and the saints and the scalawags, and them stained with the blood of innocents, and them touched by glory, and them that was lifted into Heaven, and them that went to the Other Place.

I didn't know what to expect from this one. The cover, well, the cover didn't do much for me. But I enjoyed this one. A lot more than I thought I would. Especially considering the fact that this one is set during the Civil War. The jacket flap describes this one as a "story filled with adventure, humor, and danger" and they do actually get that right. (Sometimes they really don't.)

At the heart of this one is a young boy, Homer, on a quest. His older brother was "volunteered" for the Union army. Sold into by his mean guardian, their mean guardian. Upset--and understandably so--Homer sets off to find his brother. He runs away. But he doesn't get far when danger finds him. Still no matter what happens--no matter who he meets and where he ends up--he is always trying to find his brother. All that other stuff, well, it just happens. What he does to find his brother, to save his brother, well, it's not a stretch to call it a bit heroic.

There were many things I enjoyed about this one. One of the top things is the writing. I love some of the descriptions, the narrative. I found it very appealing, very reader-friendly. (I know sometimes historical fiction can be hard to sell to readers of all ages. But the truth is it doesn't have to be boring.)

Far as I'm concerned, taking a bath is sort of like drowning, with soap. Never could abide it, not since I was a little baby. (119)


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

William S. And The Great Escape (MG)


Snyder, Zilpha Keatley. 2009. William S. and the Great Escape. Simon & Schuster. 214 pages.

His birth certificate, if he even had one, probably just said Willy Baggett, but for most of the seventh grade he'd been signing his school papers William S. Baggett.

William S. has been planning his escape for most of his life. Since his mother's death, well, things have gone from bad to worse in the Baggett house. Too many people under one roof. Too many mean, abusive people. When his sister--distraught after the death of Sweetie Pie, her pet guinea pig--comes to him begging for help, then the great escape becomes more than a far-away dream; it becomes a reality. Jancy wants to run away with William S. and bring the two youngest along as well: Buddy and Trixie. Can these four kids make their way to Aunt Fiona's house? And what will await them if they do make it all that way?

William S. And The Great Escape is historical fiction. It's set in 1938. What makes this adventure story a bit more unique is the fact that William is so strongly attached to all-things Shakespeare. He carries his Complete Works of William Shakespeare around like it is the biggest treasure ever. He reads it to himself. He reads it aloud to his siblings. He quotes from it. He acts from it. He entertains with it. It symbolizes so much to him--represents a great promise of all that could be...if he wasn't stuck being a Baggett.

I enjoyed this one very much.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Classics Bookclub (Goals)


5 Minutes for Books is changing the way they do their Classics Book Club. (Something that I *meant* to do most of last year but mostly forgot about. I love reading classics, the idea of reading certain classics. This year, you get to choose the books you read, and the round-ups (wrap-ups) are quarterly. She is encouraging would-be-participants to write up a few goals for the year.

Which classic authors do I want to read this year (2010)?

John Steinbeck. I really loved discovering him in 2009. I loved Tortilla Flat. Just loved it. And I've not been disappointed by a Steinbeck yet. Though Of Mice and Men made me very sad I can't deny that it has a certain power to it. I need to read East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath. Then if there is time I've got Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday.

Charlotte and Anne Bronte. I don't know which books I'll be reading just yet. But I know I want to read some Bronte. (And I am so not rereading Wuthering Heights. A book I reread last year.)

Anthony Trollope. I love, love, love Trollope. Yes, he's a new discovery. But I consider him a favorite. There are so many books I have yet to discover!

Charles Dickens. I wouldn't say I hate him. That wouldn't be fair (or polite). But I would say I don't have a good first or second impression of Dickens. Great Expectations is to blame for this. Assigned in high school and college and yet I still can't remember much of this one. I've got it blocked from my memory apparently. I won't be tackling Great Expectations. (Though the phrase third time's the charm comes to mind.) But I will try my very very best to read something Charles Dickens in 2010.

There are so many others that I *want* to read at some point. It's just hard to say that 2010 is the year I'll get to them.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Best First Lines (2009)


These are the best of the best. The first lines that have stuck with me through the entire year (2009) and left a lasting impression:

When I was five years old, I walked down the aisle with the man of my dreams. Okay, make that boy. He was five, too.

Everyone's seen my mother naked.

Not to brag or anything, but if you saw me from behind, you'd probably think I was perfect.

In the spring, there are vampires in the wind.

Like Moses, Meemaw had ten commandments.

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically.

In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.

I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife's grave. Then I joined the army. Visiting Kathy's grave was the less dramatic of the two.

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

Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty. But I was such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago.

There is a certain kind of girl the goblins crave.

For months I had wished and wished the baby would be a girl, a little sister. Maybe I shouldn't have wished so hard. A boy might have lived.

----------

First place: I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife's grave. Then I joined the army. Visiting Kathy's grave was the less dramatic of the two.

Second place: When I was five years old, I walked down the aisle with the man of my dreams. Okay, make that boy. He was five, too.

Third place: For months I had wished and wished the baby would be a girl, a little sister. Maybe I shouldn't have wished so hard. A boy might have lived.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, December 28, 2009

The Fiddler's Gun (YA)


Peterson, A.S. 2009. The Fiddler's Gun. Rabbit Room Press. 293 pages.

The trouble with Phineas Michael Button began the moment she was born.

It continues,

"She had the expected two ears, two eyes, one nose, and dimpled cheeks, but in her father's mind there was a problem. He had twelve children, daughters all, and was convinced that number thirteen would be his long-awaited son. So on the twenty-fifth of September, 1755, when he drew another baby girl from the womb of his long-suffering wife, he declared the discovery of an unacceptable mistake."


Abandoned by her parents, left in an orphanage in Ebenezer, Georgia, Fin, our young heroine has no problem being tough and staying strong. She's needed to be her whole life. But she is not the person the Baab Sisters--especially Hilde--would have her to be. She's not ladylike enough. She's too manly, too strong, too wild in their minds. Maybe a little kitchen duty will do the trick...

At first Fin is angry that she's been thrust into the kitchen, and forced into apprenticing with the orphanage's cook, Bartimaeus. (She's jealous that her best friend, her would-be-could-be husband, Peter, gets the better deal, the better job. He gets apprenticed to a carpenter.) But she soon realizes that this may just be the best thing that ever happened to her. For Bartimaeus --though not a simple man or a perfect man--loves her like she's his own child, his own daughter. He's a man with a past, a history--a dark and tangled mess of a past. But he's a good man, a changed man*.

With increasing hostilities between the colonies and England, it's not an easy time for Fin to come of age. Not with Fin's temperament. Her quick temper leads to...well...a great big dangerous adventure**.

Historical fiction. Action. Adventure. Pirates. Orphans. And a little old war.

What did I enjoy about this one? So very much! I love historical fiction. Usually. And this was no exception. A bit violent at times, yes, but what else would you expect in a sea-adventure filled with pirates?! It was exciting, compelling, hard to put down. It's anything but boring! I cared about Fin from the start. And her companions--especially Jack, Knut, and Tan--became important to me as well. The characters definitely felt human--felt flawed--which is a good thing. I would definitely recommend this one. (Especially if you enjoyed The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.)

The story will conclude in a second book, Fiddler's Green. (I want it now!)

You can order a copy of The Fiddler's Gun book through Rabbit Room Press.

*I will say this part of the story was just awesome for me. Peterson was able to connect the story with George Whitefield. True, it's a very small--very tiny--part of the overall story. But still, it made me happy.
**It probably helped that I love films like Pirates of the Caribbean, Captain Blood, and The Sea Hawk. I think having this background helped me visualize the fighting-at-sea scenes.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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18th and 19th Century Women Writers Completed

1. Emma by Jane Austen
2. Silas Marner by George Eliot
3. The Morgesons by Elizabeth Stoddard
4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
5. Middlemarch by George Eliot
6. Lady Susan by Jane Austen
7. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
8. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
9. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
10. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Centuries Reading Challenge Completed

1. Emma by Jane Austen (1815)
2. Fanny Hill by John Cleland (1749)
3. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605/1615)
4. Wycliffe New Testament (1388)
5. Silas Marner by George Eliot (1861)
6. The Warden by Anthony Trollope (1855)
7. The Morgesons by Elizabeth Stoddard (1862)
8. All's Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare (1590s or 1600s)
9. Tyndale New Testament (1534)


10. Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871/1872)
11. Barchester Towers (1857)
12. Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K. Jerome (1889)
13. Three Men On A Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome (1900)
14. Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins (1870)
15. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope (1875)
16. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (1851-3)
17. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell (1848)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Lucky Breaks (MG)


Patron, Susan. 2009. Lucky Breaks. Simon & Schuster. 192 pages.

Eleven, Lucky thought from her seat at the back of the school bus, eleven, eleven, eleven, and the idea of it, the sound of it, threw off sparks in her head.

I had low expectations for this one because I was not really a fan of the award-winning first book, The Higher Power of Lucky. But this one surprised me. I enjoyed it a great deal, much more than I was expecting. It stars many of the same characters from the first book--Lucky, of course, and her new-mother, Brigitte, and her best-friend-even-if-he-is-a-boy, Lincoln, and the lovable though slightly obnoxious and much younger, Miles. But it also introduces a new character or two. Lucky meets a girl with best friend potential. Her name is Paloma. Of course, there are a few problems--one being that Paloma is only visiting Hard Pan. Has Lucky found a real best friend at last? Does Lucky even understand what it means to be a real friend?

But what if Paloma didn't like the canned-ham trailer? Being used to Lincoln, Lucky wasn't sure how it worked to be friends with girls. Did you have to tell every secret? Were you supposed to show you were cool by using swear words? No, Paloma was definitely a fun type of person, not a bad-mouth type. Lucky's optimism gland started pumping and she felt that kind of excitement of right before you open a present. (31)
As for what the book is about...well, it's about friendship and family and what it means to be ten-and-eleven.

But Lucky was considering how, when you're eleven, you're interested in love and murder, blood and glory and kissing, things that are precious and fragile, things that are abandoned or condemned. Because eleven is much more intrepid than only ten. (6)
The book is definitely unique. I like the style of Patron's writing. The way she describes things.

Lucky spotted a worm, a big soft fat one. The word for not wanting to touch a big soft fat worm is squeamish, which has a built-in sound of exactly the feeling in your fingers as they reach for that worm. Being, like Charles Darwin, a scientist, Lucky un-squeamished her fingers. Worms grasp their branch strongly, so you have to get a really firm grip on their bodies in order to pry them off. (13)
What did I enjoy most about this one? Mostly Lincoln. Sure, I enjoyed Lucky. At times. But Lincoln is such an amazing person--an amazingly patient person--to care for her as he does. To be her friend through thick and thin.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #52

The last Sunday of the year. Wow. It seems impossible that a whole year has gone by! But it's been a good one, so no complaints from me. Are you excited about the new year? I am. I always get a little thrill when the new year starts. It's not so much that I'm all about new resolutions. Though I do like making reading resolutions (and blogging ones). It's just that I like the idea of starting over, of starting fresh. (Like Anne Shirley and her "tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet...") That and I love making best-of lists. And signing up for new reading challenges. When I look back, I think reading challenges have made a HUGE difference in how I feel about the new year. That and the fact that I'm not in school anymore. January used to mean Christmas vacation was over. Now it means new reading challenges.

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

The Gift. Cecelia Ahern. 2009. HarperCollins. 304 pages.
Faith, Hope, and Ivy June. Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. 2009. Random House. 280 pages.
Gone From These Woods. Donny Bailey Seagraves. Random House. 178 pages.
Horrid Henry's Christmas. Francesca Simon. 2006/2009. Sourcebooks. 112 pages.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. 2009. Henry Holt. 352 pages.
Leaving the Bellweathers. Kristin Clark Venuti. 2009. Egmont USA. 244 pages.

What I read this past week and reviewed:

The Gift. Richard Paul Evans. 2007. Simon & Schuster. 335 pages
The Christmas List. Richard Paul Evans. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 368 pages.
Devil's Cub. Georgette Heyer. 1932/2009. Sourcebooks. 310 pages.

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

William S. and the Great Escape. Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Simon & Schuster. 214 pages.

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

Calamity Jack. Shannon and Dean Hale. Illustrated by Nathan Hale. 2010. Bloomsbury. 144 pages (approx.) (Graphic Novel.)
The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) by Barbara Kerley. 2010. Scholastic (Picture Book)
Lucky Breaks. Susan Patron. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 180 pages.
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg. Rodman Philbrick. 2009. Scholastic. 224 pages.

What I'm currently reading:

The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. Peterson
The Blackstone Key by Rose Melikan

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

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (I've decided to wait until the new year so it can count for the sci-fi experience)

What I've abandoned:

Brooklyn Nine by Alan Gratz

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Devil's Cub


Heyer, Georgette. 1932/2009. Devil's Cub. Sourcebooks. 310 pages.

There was only one occupant of the coach, a gentleman who sprawled very much at his ease, with his legs stretched out before him, and his hands dug deep in the capacious pockets of his greatcoat.

Every Heyer book is packed with potential--with promise. Will it be the one to become my new favorite and best? Can it top the previous Heyer novels I've read? Because just when I think I've found the perfect Heyer, the one that just has to be the best one ever, I find myself falling for another hero, charmed by another great couple, or hooked by another adventure or drama.

Devil's Cub is a sequel to These Old Shades. That giddy-making couple of Justin and Leonie have an all-too-grown-up son, Dominic (aka Vidal). And boy does he have a way of getting into trouble. (Some might say he takes after his dear old dad--back before his marriage calmed him down. Though Leonie fears he takes after her--after her side of the family.) After his latest scandal, his father decides it would be best for him to leave England, to spend some time in Europe. His mother would like to see him settled down, married to a girl who can calm him down and keep him safe and happy. (If he's happily married then surely he won't be getting into so many duels. After all, he's mostly fighting men over women.)

But Vidal doesn't head to France (to Paris) alone. He plans on taking Sophia Challoner along with him. To set her up as his mistress. (Tis done there, he assures her.) He sends a letter, a note, telling her where and when to meet him. She doesn't get the note. It's intercepted by her older sister, Mary. (In poor Mary's defense, it is addressed to "Miss Challoner.) How can one sister save the other? Well, for better or worse, Mary decides to go disguised in her place. Granted, she doesn't know the destination (Paris). She thinks she'll be able (easily) to return home after her true identity is discovered. But what she doesn't know about Vidal could fill a book.

How will he react to this trick? Can Mary hold her own?

I love, love, loved this book. Granted, I didn't love everything about this one. There is one scene in particular that I didn't care for at all. (One scene that made me very uncomfortable--SPOILER--a scene where Vidal wants to show his strength to Mary--pointing out how easy it would be for him to do her harm.) But for the most part, I really enjoyed this one. It wasn't so much Mary-and-Dominic that I loved so much as the whole package. All the characters (about half of these were carried over from These Old Shades) that make this one work really well. I loved how everything came together at the end. It was oh-so-satisfying.

I mentioned that These Old Shades is my mom's favorite book. Well, I think Devil's Cub might end up being mine. At least for now.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Christmas List


Evans, Richard Paul. 2009. The Christmas List. Simon & Schuster. 368 pages.

James Kier looked back and forth between the newspaper headline and the photograph of himself, not sure if he should laugh or call his attorney. It was the same photograph the Tribune had used a couple of years earlier when they featured him on the front page of the business section....While the photograph was the same, the headline could not have been more different. Not many people get to read their own obituary.

James Kier comes close to beating old Ebenezer Scrooge when it comes to crankiness. Well, not crankiness exactly. But for his cynical, cold-hearted, what's-in-it-for-me approach to life. His business practices don't just border on unethical and immoral, they're just downright mean and heartless. He doesn't care who he hurts in his life--it could be his childhood best friend, his elderly neighbor, or his own wife and son. The truth is if ever a man was in need of a wake-up call, it was James Kier. And you can count on Richard Paul Evans to deliver that and more in The Christmas List.

How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your legacy to be? Kier always thought he didn't care. That it just didn't matter how people felt about him. People's feelings just didn't rank very high with him. He didn't care how many enemies he made. Not if it made him richer, more successful. But when Kier reads his own obituary--well, more precisely reads the comments his online obituary brings, he realizes just how much he does care. It stings, really stings, to see how very many people are rejoicing in his death, how many are happy to talk bad about him. What he realizes--in those moments--is that truth is being spoken. The person they're describing, that is him. That is how he lived, that is how he treated people.

So what can he do about it? Can he change who he is? Can he change his legacy before it's too late? With an oh-so-helpful secretary, Kier has a plan for "fixing" his image, his legacy. But can it be done all by Christmas day?

I really enjoyed this one. It had an interesting premise. I didn't know at first how well it would work for me. But I must admit that even though this one is definitely message-driven and a bit melodramatic, well, it worked all the same. Expect it to be oh-so-bittersweet.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas! I plan on spending tonight much like I spend every night (wow, the Brain just popped into my head) reading a couple of good books!

I don't know how much (or how little) I'll be blogging over the holiday weekend. I know I have three or four books I *need* to review this weekend--William S. and The Great Escape by Zilpha Keatley Synder, Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron, and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick. (Yes, I know I said four. I am over halfway finished with another Richard Paul Evans Christmas book. If I finish it tonight, I *may* pop in tomorrow with a quick review. It just seems a bit sad to review a Christmas book after Christmas. Though that may just be me.)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Leaving the Bellweathers (MG)


Venuti, Kristin. 2009. Leaving the Bellweathers. Egmont. 242 pages.

It is nighttime in the village of Eel-Smack-by-the-Bay.

If ever a book surprised me--completely surprised me--it was this one. Looking at the title, the cover, even the first sentence, nothing whispered the promise of how much fun this book would be, how funny and how right this book would be. Will every reader love this one? Will every reader fall for the quirky humor? Well, it would be nearly impossible for any one book to be beloved by every reader. But oh-how-I-wish this one would find a large fan base! Because I think it's just the right blend of what makes a book work.

What is it about? It's about a disgruntled but oh-so-loyal (but not that loyal) butler who is counting down the days until he leaves his job. For two hundred years, his family has served the Bellweathers. But not anymore. When the two hundred years of pledged service are up, he is so out of there! And to make money for his new start, this butler--Tristan Benway--has decided to write a tell-all book about the Bellweathers. He's got a story to tell, and oh what a story that is! Each member of the family--especially all the Bellweather children--get a chance in the spotlight. And it is a real contest (at times) to see just which one is the wildest, craziest, out-there of the bunch.

I definitely recommend this one. It is funny and unusual. And there is just something about it that works.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Gift (Evans)


Evans, Richard Paul. 2007. The Gift. 335 pages.

It's Christmas night.

A young boy with a gift of healing changes the lives of those around him. But his compassionate and miraculous gift has a price. He's dying; he can't heal himself. And each gift of healing takes more out of him. He loses strength with each one. The Gift is a story of love--compassionate and sacrificial love--a story of how one life can touch many. The book is the story of those whose lives he touched, he changed. It's narrated by Nathan Hurst a man with physical and emotional problems. He's a man in need of so much. Before he met Collin--the young boy--he was cynical, broken. His childhood was VERY VERY traumatic. His relationship with his mother--his only remaining family--so not good. Can Collin (and his family Addison (Collin's mom), Elizabeth (Collin's sister) help Nathan see the real meaning of Christmas?

It's Richard Paul Evans so expect it to be oh-so-bittersweet and a bit message-oriented. It's a nice book, an enjoyable one. I do enjoy these meaning-of-life type books on occasion.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (MG)


Kelly, Jacqueline. 2009. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Henry Holt.

By 1899, we had learned to tame the darkness but not the Texas heat.

That is a great first line. I just loved it. While I didn't love the whole novel quite as evenly, I did enjoy it--really enjoy it! It's historical fiction. (A genre I tend to love.) It's set at the turn of the twentieth century. It stars a great little heroine, a twelve-year-old (I think), named Calpurnia Virginia Tate. She's not interested in sewing, stitching, or cooking. No, this little Texas miss is all about science, nature. She's detail-oriented and she loves spending time with her grandfather who is a naturalist/scientist.

What did I love about this one? Was it the fact that it's a novel all about a girl growing close to her grandfather? A novel about how special of a relationship that can be? (Also the fact that the book wasn't about him (the grandfather) getting sick or dying.) Yes, I loved all of that. Was it then the fact that it was about a strong-minded, strong-willed girl who knew she wanted more out of life than being stuck in the kitchen, in the house? A girl with spirit and life and intelligence? Yes, I loved all that too. But I think more than anything, I loved the writing, the style of this one. Jacqueline Kelly knows how to tell a good story. The storytelling just kept me hooked, kept me reading. I just loved the way she put things. It just felt oh-so-right.

Here's just one example:

You would think that having Lula as a friend would be a great relief to me after all my brothers, and generally this was so, but sometimes she could be a bit sappy. She wouldn't collect specimens with me at the dam (snakes). She wouldn't walk with me to the Old Confederate Training Ground (blisters and snakes). She wouldn't go swimming in the river (undressing and snakes). But we shared a desk at school, and we always had. This is how our friendship had started and why in part, I guess, it persevered. (132 in the ARC)
I'd definitely recommend this one!


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Gift (Ahern)


Ahern, Cecelia. 2009. The Gift. HarperCollins. 302 pages.

If you were to stroll down the candy-cane facade of a suburban neighborhood early on Christmas morning, you couldn't help but observe how the houses in all their decorated, tinseled glory are akin to the presents that lie beneath the Christmas trees within. For each holds its secrets inside.

I've found you're either the type of reader that loves cozy-little-message-driven books about Christmas, or you're not. Me, I can take them or leave them.

This is definitely a message-driven Christmas book. A book about how precious time is. How life is meant to be lived in the moment and with purpose.

Lou, our non-hero hero, is always on the go. He jokes around that he'd like to be two or three places at once. That he has so much to do, so many places to be, so many people to meet, that there should be more of him. One year he gets an opportunity to do just that--to be multiple places all at the same time. But will he use this for good or bad? Can one man learn the value of time, of life, before it's too late?

This story is told within a frame, which is interesting in a way. It gives you a way to view the story with perspective. In this case, the story is being told by a cop or two to a teen boy with a troubled family life. He's been arrested for throwing a turkey through his dad's window. Can Lou's story help turn Turkey-Boy's life around?

A quick read. I don't know that it is the best Christmas-themed story I've ever read. But it was enjoyable. It has enough drama that it would make a good movie.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Everything Austen Challenge Completed

Stephanie's Written Word hosted the Everything Austen Challenge.

What I read/watch:

1. Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange
4. Pride and Prejudice (DVD) (1940)
5. Pride and Prejudice (DVD) (1980)
6. Pride and Prometheus (novella) (2008) by John Kessel

Everything Austen X Two. Austenprose.

7. Lady Susan by Jane Austen
8. Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler
9. A Match for Miss Mary Bennet by Eucharista Ward OSF
10. Colonel Brandon's Diary by Amanda Grange
11. Willoughby's Return by Jane Odiwe
12. The Other Mr. Darcy by Monica Fairview


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gone From These Woods (MG)


Seagraves, Donny Bailey. 2009. Gone From these Woods. Random House. 192 pages.

I didn't want to shoot a rabbit that cold November morning in 1992.

What a heavy little book this one is. A tragic story (fictional) of a hunting accident and how it tears an already dysfunctional family further apart. How it destroys (at least for a bit) the young boy (just eleven years old) responsible for his uncle's death.

Daniel Sartain, our narrator, has a sad story to share. And it wasn't always a story I was ready and wanting to hear. The guilt, the shame, the pain, the loss, the confusion, the anger; it went all over the place--emotionally. As it should, as you would expect. So I wouldn't say this story would be for everyone. But for those readers who can handle it, those who can go to the dark places, then this one might work well because it is well-written and compelling. And it is a hopeful story as well. Yes, it goes to very dark places. It explores dark and heavy emotions that are just uncomfortable, but it doesn't leave you there. It's an ultimately hopeful story of a journey through darkness to light, to a healing of sorts.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, December 21, 2009

2010 TBR Challenge


TBR 2010
January 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010
12 Books
The list CANNOT be changed after January 1, 2010.

So after much thought, I have created a list for 2010. It wasn't easy. I think I have been working on this list for over a month. But here it is. 12 for the 'original' list. 12 for the 'alternate' list.



My list of 12:

1. Fire by Kristin Cashore (480 pages)
2. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (400 pages)
3. Everwild by Neal Shusterman (432 pages)
4. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (400 pages)
5. Ice by Sarah Beth Durst (308 pages)
6. The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo (201 pages)
7. Saving Juliet. By Suzanne Selfors. (272 pages)
8. Are These My Basoomas I See Before Me? by Louise Rennison (310 pages)
9. Prada & Prejudice. by Mandy Hubbard. (288 pages)
10. Alcatraz Versus The Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson (336 pages)
11. The Doom Machine by Mark Teague (320 pages)
12. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (448 pages)



My list of 12 alternates:

1. New York by Edward Rutherfurd (880 pages)
2. Captain Wentworth's Diary by Amanda Grange (293 pages)
3. The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James (352 pages)
4. Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (448 pages)
5. Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor (368 pages)
6. Libyrinth by Pearl North (336 pages)
7. Brief Gaudy Hour: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Margaret Campbell Barnes (382 pages)
8. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (560 pages)
9. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (336 pages)
10. East of Eden by John Steinbeck (602 pages)
11. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (544 pages)
12. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck (192 pages)


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Faith, Hope, and Ivy June (MG)


Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds. 2009. Faith, Hope, and Ivy June. Random House. 280 pages.

They'll probably be polite--crisp as soda cracker on the outside, hard as day-old biscuits underneath.

Catherine Combs and Ivy June Mosley are about to get a chance to live each other's lives. Both are Kentucky girls, however, they live very different lives. Ivy June is a mountain-girl, a country-girl, a lives-without-running-water-girl, a girl with a big family and a big heart. Catherine is a city-girl, have-everything-girl. But just because her family has more money (at least to Ivy June's way of thinking) doesn't mean her life is perfect, her family is perfect. Ivy June is the first to venture forth. She'll visit Catherine for two weeks in her Lexington home. Then, Catherine will return with her to stay for two weeks. Can these two strangers--two seventh graders--become friends? What can they learn from each other? How will this experience change their lives?

One thing that surprised me--more because I haven't thought that much about it, I suppose--is how little it takes to make someone jealous or upset. Ivy June's back-home friends becoming upset when she returns to school with a new hair clip (or hair bow). How her wearing her hair differently to school one day means that she's returned some horribly changed, unrecognizable person. People are so much more than that. They are more than their hair, their clothes. Ivy June can't stop being herself, her genuine-and-compassionate self just because Catherine loans her a hair clip or shirt.

I enjoyed this one. I enjoyed spending time with both girls--with both narrators. It's definitely a coming-of-age, learning-life-lessons type of book. One where Big Things happen for both girls.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Our Mutual Read (2010 Challenge)


Usually, I just mention challenges on my Behind-the-Scenes blog, but now and then I get so *very, very* excited about a new challenge, that I can't help mentioning it here too. Such is the case with Our Mutual Read. It is for reading Victorian literature. (Though neo-victorian is okay too, within limits). Anyway, it sounds super-fun. I'll be participating at level 2. I really want to say level three. But I'm afraid that may just be enthusiasm talking. (I think I approach reading challenges like I do pizza at the buffet.) So level two is where I'll be. For now at least!

~ Level 2: 8 books, at least 4 written during 1837 - 1901. The other books may be Neo-Victorian or non-fiction.


And I'll be doing the Period Film Mini-Challenge as well.

Period Film Mini-Challenge -- watch at least 6 films that take place between 1837 - 1901 (they don't necessarily have to be based on a book) and post a review.
I hope to read some Trollope, Bronte, and Dickens. And maybe reading other reviews will help me find other authors to try from this period!

What I *PLAN* on reading this year:

  • Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope. (1858)
  • Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope. (1861)

I *really* loved reading the first two books in the Barsetshire series (The Warden, Barchester Towers)

  • Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope. (1865)
  • Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope. (1869)

I hope to start the Palliser series this year. I have loved all the Trollope I've read so far. (I've also read The Way We Live Now.)

  • He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope. (1869)

I'll throw in this stand-alone novel as well. I love Trollope so much--he feels like a friend--I don't know if I can honestly get to all five of these Trollopes or not in one year. But we'll see!

  • Miss Majoribanks by Margaret Oliphant (1866)
  • Hester by Margaret Oliphant (1883)

I've not read any of her books before. But I'm looking forward to trying a new-to-me author.

  • Adam Bede by George Eliot (1859)
  • The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (1860)
  • Romola by George Eliot (1863)
  • Felix Holt, The Radical by George Eliot (1866)
  • Daniel Deronda by George Eliot (1876)

I don't know which Eliot I'll get to this year. I read two last year (Middlemarch and Silas Marner) and it would be nice to read a few more this year.

  • Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell (1853)
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (1854-5)
  • Sylvia's Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell (1863)

These are my three remaining Gaskell novels. I hope to read them this year. (I've read Mary Barton, Cranford, and Wives and Daughters.)

  • Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens (1855-1857)
  • Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (1864-1865)
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (1837-1839)
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (1849-1850)


Dare I venture into Charles Dickens???? I've always been so intimidated by the books--though not the movies. So maybe I can try again?!

  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (1860)
  • Armadale by Wilkie Collins (1866)
  • The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (1868)

I do want to read some more Collins. I did enjoy (despite the fact it was so didactic) Man and Wife. I am planning on participating in The Big Read with Leila of Bookshelves of Doom for The Woman in White.

January 6: The First Epoch: The Story Begun by Walter Hartright, Chapters I-VIII

January 8: Walter Hartright, Chapters IX-XV

January 11: The Story Continued by Vincent Gilmore; The Story Continued by Marian Halcombe

January 13: The Second Epoch: The Story Continued by Marian Halcombe, Chapters I-V

January 15: Marian Halcombe, Chapters VI-X; Postscript

January 18: The Story Continued by Frederick Fairlie, Esq.; The Story Continued by Eliza Michelson

January 20: The Story Continued in Several Narratives (This is a really short section, which will allow for any needed catching up.)

January 22: The Third Epoch: The Story Continued by Walter Hartright, Chapters I-VI

January 25: Walter Hartright, Chapters VII-XI

January 27: The Story Continued by Mrs. Catherick; The Story Continued by Walter Hartright, Chapters I-VII

January 29: The Story Continued by Isidor, Ottavio, Baldassare Fosco; The Story Concluded by Walter Hartright, Chapters I-III


And now for the Brontes...

  • Shirley by Charlotte Bronte (1849)
  • Vilette by Charlotte Bronte (1853)
  • The Professor by Charlotte Bronte (1857)
  • Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte (1847)
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848)
I've read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.

And last but not least, just one more to add (so far):

  • Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1862)

This would be a new-to-me author, but it looks like a good read!


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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These Old Shades


Heyer, Georgette. 1926. These Old Shades. HQN. 334 pages.

A gentleman was strolling down a side street in Paris, on his way back from the house of one Madame de Verchoureux.

My mom's favorite Heyer. I've spent most of my life--well, my adult life--hearing about how wonderful Georgette Heyer is. How These Old Shades is the Best Book Ever. So I was excited to get a chance to read this one. To find time to squeeze it in this busy holiday season. What is it about? And did it live up to my expectations?

These Old Shades is historical romance. (This is not a Regency romance, however, for those who think of Heyer as only a writer for that period.) It stars a bad boy-in-need-of-reforming named Justin Alastair (His Grace of Avon). When our hero first meets the will-be-heroine, she is dressed as a he. Leonie has been living as Leon for several years--since she was twelve or so. He buys her. She becomes his page. And oh-how-she-loves him, idolizes him as her rescuer, her savior. But he--at first--is thinking only of revenge, of payback, of finally getting "justice" on a wrong several decades old. When will his thoughts turn to love...well...you'll have to read this one yourself and see how this romance (deliciously) develops.

It is a fun little book. A completely satisfying and giddy-making romance. So did it live up to my expectations? Mostly. I can't say it's my favorite Georgette Heyer. I've read so many this past year--so many that just felt oh-so-right and oh-so-fun. But I am glad I read it. I am glad I get to share my thoughts with my mom. I *do* think this would be a fun novel to start off with. To introduce someone to Georgette Heyer. I think it is one of her best. One of the more accessible ones as well.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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