Monday, May 31, 2010

May Accomplishments

These are a few of my favorite 'first' lines read in May 2010.

I am eleven years old, and I am invisible.

That morning they were making paper boys.

Once I was living in an orphanage in the mountains and I shouldn't have been and I almost caused a riot. It was because of the carrot.

Today I'm going to meet a boy, Jane Purdy told herself, as she walked up Blossom Street toward her babysitting job. Today I'm going to meet a boy. If she thought it often enough as if she really believed it, maybe she actually would meet a boy even though she was headed for Sandra Norton's house and the worst babysitting job in Woodmont.

Maybe it was time to kill Rawhide Rick.

'Edith!' said Margaret, gently, 'Edith!' But, as Margaret half suspected, Edith had fallen asleep.



May's Top Six:


Countdown by Deborah Wiles.
The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle
Gimme A Call. By Sarah Mlynowski.
Grace. Elizabeth Scott.
North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell.
Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope

See also: May Favorites at Young Readers; May Favorites at Operation Actually Read Bible

Results of May's Poll: Do you listen to audio books?

I gave my readers three options--a) yes, all the time b) no, not really and c) on occasion but not all that often. The results are in. 154 of you have spoken. 51% of you don't listen to audio books. 27% do listen on occasion. And 21% listen regularly to audio books.


Number of Board Books: 2

Animal Soup. Todd H. Doodler. 2010. May 2010. Random House. 14 pages.
Maisy's Book of Things That Go. Lucy Cousins. 2010. May 2010. Candlewick Press. 16 pages.

Number of Picture Books: 16

I Love My Mom. Anna Walker. 2010. March 2010. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.
Mommy is a Soft Warm Kiss by Rhonda Gowler Greene. Illustrated by Maggie Smith. 2010. March 2010. Walker Books. 32 pages.
The Wild, Wild Inside. Kate Feiffer. Illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith. 2010. March 2010. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.
I'm the Best. Lucy Cousins. 2010. May 2010. Candlewick Press. 32 pages.
Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don't) by Barbara Bottner. Illustrated by Michael Emberley. 2010. March 2010. Random House. 32 pages.
Dancing Feet. Lindsey Craig. Illustrated by Marc Brown. 2010. May 2010. Random House. 40 pages.
Please Take Me For a Walk. Susan Gal. 2010. May 2010. Random House. 40 pages.
What About Bear? Suzanne Bloom. 2010. February 2010. Boyds Mill Press. 32 pages.
Sleepy ABC. By Margaret Wise Brown. Illustrated By Karen Katz. Text, 1953. Illustrations, 2010. HarperCollins. 40 pages.
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems. 2004. Hyperion. 40 pages.
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Mo Willems. 2003. Hyperion. 40 pages.
The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! by Mo Willems. 2004. Hyperion. 40 pages.
The Pigeon Wants A Puppy. Mo Willems. 2008. Hyperion. 40 pages.
More, More, More. Vera B. Williams. 1990. HarperCollins. 32 pages.
Oh the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss. 1990/2010. Random House. 56 pages.
Cinderella. Max Eilenberg. Illustrated by Niamh Sharkey. 2008. Candlewick Press. 56 pages.

Number of Children's Books: 1

My Best Frenemy. Julie Bowe. 2010. May 2010. Penguin. 240 pages.


Number of Middle Grade: 7

Countdown by Deborah Wiles. 2010. May 2010. Scholastic. 400 pages.
Any Which Wall. Laurel Snyder. 2009. May 2009. Random House. 256 pages.
Gimme A Call. By Sarah Mlynowski. 2010. April 2010. Random House. 320 pages.
The Red Pyramid. (Kane Chronicles #1) Rick Riordan. 2010. May 2010. Hyperion. 528 pages.
Once by Morris Gleitzman. 2010. March 2010. Henry Holt. 176 pages.
Crispin: The End of Time. Avi. 2010. June 2010. HarperCollins. 240 pages.
Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Chrystallia. Brandon Sanderson. 2009. October 2009. Scholastic. 336 pages.

Number of YA: 14

The Princess and the Bear. Mette Ivie Harrison. 2009. 336 pages.
Some Girls Are. Courtney Summers. 2010. January 2010. St. Martins Press. 256 pages.
Fifteen by Beverly Cleary. 1956. HarperCollins. 208 pages.
Runaway. Meg Cabot. 2010. April 2010. Scholastic. 320 pages.
This World We Live In. Susan Beth Pfeffer. 2010. April 2010. Narrated by Emily Bauer. Listening Library. 6 hours, 53 minutes.
The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle. 2010. September 2010. Henry Holt. 160 pages.
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner. 2010. March 2010. HarperCollins. 316 pages.
Swoon at Your Own Risk. Sydney Salter. 2010. April 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 356 pages.
The Wager. Donna Jo Napoli. 2010. April 2010. Henry Holt. 272 pages.
Fever Crumb. Philip Reeve. 2010. April 2010. Scholastic. 336 pages.
Living Hell. Catherine Jinks. 2010. April 2010. Harcourt. 256 pages.
Ship Breaker. Paolo Bacigalupi. 2010. May 2010. Little Brown. 326 pages.
Diary of Pelly D. by L.J. Adlington. 2005. HarperCollins. 288 pages.
Grace. Elizabeth Scott. 2010. September 2010. Penguin. 208 pages.

Number of Adult: 5

Scarlet Letter. Nathaniel Hawthorne. 1850. 237 pages.
North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1854-1855.* 452 pages.
No Will But His. A Novel of Kathryn Howard. Sarah A. Hoyt. 2010. April 2010. Penguin. 352 pages.
Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 639 pages. (Oxford World's Classic, 1981)
Hester. Paula Reed. 2010. February 2010. St. Martin's Press. 308 pages.

Number of Christian: 8

The Bookends of the Christian Life
. Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington. 2009. March 2009. Crossway Publishers. 160 pages.
Rise and Shine. Illustrated by Tim Warnes. (Song is in the public domain.) 2010. February 2010. Board Book. Simon & Schuster. 26 pages.
Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes. 2010. April 2010. Tyndale. 384 pages.
Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book. Written by Starr Meade. Illustrated by Tim O'Connor. 2010. Crossway. 288 pages.
Jesus. Illustrated by Gennady Spirin. 2010. March 2010. Marshall Cavendish. 32 pages.
Life, In Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope After A Fatal Choice. Kristen Jane Anderson. Tricia Goyer. 2010. May 2010. Multnomah. 224 pages.
The Last Christian. David Gregory. 2010. Waterbrook Press. 416 pages
A Matter of Character. Robin Lee Hatcher. 2010. May 2010. Zondervan. 352 pages.

Number of Nonfiction: 5

Mission to the Moon. Alan Dyer. 2009. May 2009. Simon & Schuster. 80 pages.
Dewey the Library Cat: A True Story. Vicki Myron and Bret Witter. 2010. May 2010. Little Brown. 214 pages.
Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya. Donna Jo Napoli. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 2010. January 2010. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages.
Country Road ABC: An Illustrated Journey Through America's Farmland. Arthur Geisert. 2010. May 2010. 64 pages.
Christian Encounters: Jane Austen. Peter Leithart. 2010. March 2010. Thomas Nelson. 175 pages.

Number of Graphic Novels: 2

Olympians: Zeus: King of the Gods. George O'Connor. First Second. (Graphic Novel) 80 pages.
Olympians: Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess. George O'Connor. First Second. (Graphic Novel) 80 pages.

Number of Poetry: 3

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse. Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Josee Masse. 2010. Penguin. March 2010. 32 pages.
The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano. By Margarita Engle. Art by Sean Qualls. 2006. Henry Holt. 192 pages.
Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie. Jeannine Atkins. 2010. March 2010. Henry Holt. 224 pages.

Number of Short Story Collections/Anthologies: 0

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Chrystallia (MG/YA)


Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Chrystallia. Brandon Sanderson. 2009. October 2009. Scholastic. 336 pages.

So there I was, hanging upside down underneath a gigantic glass bird, speeding along at a hundred miles an hour above the ocean, in no danger whatsoever.
That's right. I wasn't in any danger. I was more safe at that moment than I'd ever been in my entire life, despite a plummet of several hundred feet looming below me. (Or, well, above me, since I was upside down.)


Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Chrystallia is the third in the Alcatraz series by Brandon Sanderson. The first two are Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians and Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones. If you're familiar with the first two books, then you know what to expect from this third installment--more of this "true" story of Alcatraz Smedry. If you haven't read the first two, then Alcatraz will tease you and tease you until you do. He's just like that, you know.

This book sees Alcatraz (and friends) returning to Chrystallia, one of the Free Kingdoms. Well, it's a return for everyone else. For Alcatraz who was raised in the Hushlands, everything is brand new. But the city--the kingdom--is in danger. And it may be up to Alcatraz (if he can keep himself from getting a big head) to save the day. You see, Alcatraz never knew he was famous (in the Free Kingdoms), that he was the star of a series of books. (I love that the books play a theme song when you open them!) Of course, those adventures of Alcatraz were pure fiction. But it doesn't seem to keep Alcatraz from losing focus--at least not in the very beginning. Can Alcatraz remember what is most important in time? (What's most important? Remembering that librarians are evil and out to rule the world, of course. And the librarian threat is much closer than they know!)

I enjoyed this one. I didn't love, love, love it like I did the first book in the series. But I still found it to be great fun. I still love the humor. I still love the narrator.

Summarizing is when you take a story that is complicated and interesting, then stick it in a microwave until it shrivels up into a tiny piece of black crunchy tarlike stuff. A wise man once said, "Any story, no matter how good, will sound really, really dumb when you shorten it to a few sentences."
For example, take this story: "Once there was a furry-footed British guy who has to go throw his uncle's ring into a hole in the ground." Sounds dumb, doesn't it?
I don't intend to do that. I intend to make you experience each and every painful moment of my life. I intend to prove how dreadful I am by talking about how awesome I am. I intend to make you read through a whole series before explaining the scene in which I started the first book.
You remember that one, right? The one where I lay tied to an altar made from encyclopedias, about to get sacrificed by the Librarians? That's when my betrayal happened. You may be wondering when I'm finally going to get to that most important point in my life.
Book five. So there. (107-108)
Characters in books, you may have noticed, rarely have to go potty. There are several reasons for this. Many books--unlike this one--simply aren't real, and everyone knows fictional characters can "hold it" as long as they need to. They just wait until the end of the book before using the restroom.
In books like this one, which are real, we have more problems. After all, we're not fictional characters, so we have to wait until chapter breaks, when nobody is looking. It can get hard for longer chapters, but we're quite self-sacrificing. (I really feel sorry for the people in Terry Pratchett's novels, though.) (118-119)
I would definitely recommend this series.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #22


Do you know what books you're going to read this summer? I hope you consider reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Why? Because Austenprose has a fun little project in the works called Pride and Prejudice Without Zombies. I haven't participated in all the read-alongs they've hosted in the past, but I did have great fun with Northanger Abbey and Lady Susan. And I'd definitely like to participate in this one! So please consider joining in the fun!!!

One book I'll be reading--if all goes well--is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I have the Richard Pevear/Larissa Volokhonsky translation. I'm participating in The Classics Circuit, Imperial Russian Literature tour. The tour runs from June 21 - July 16. My tour date is June 29th.

I have also found one summer reading challenge. It is hosted by A Southern Daydreamer Reads. If you know of other summer challenges, please let me know in the comments!

Next weekend I'll be participating in MotherReader's 48 Hour Reading Challenge. I'm still trying to decide which books I want to read for that. The problem is if I start looking too closely at the books I might want to read, I'll read them before the challenge starts!

What I've Reviewed This Week:

Diary of Pelly D. by L.J. Adlington. 2005. HarperCollins. 288 pages.
Grace. Elizabeth Scott. 2010. September 2010. Penguin. 208 pages.
No Will But His. A Novel of Kathryn Howard. Sarah A. Hoyt. 2010. April 2010. Penguin. 352 pages.
Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 639 pages. (Oxford World's Classic, 1981)
Hester. Paula Reed. 2010. February 2010. St. Martin's Press. 308 pages.
The Last Christian. David Gregory. 2010. Waterbrook Press. 416 pages
A Matter of Character. Robin Lee Hatcher. 2010. May 2010. Zondervan. 352 pages.
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Mo Willems. 2003. Hyperion. 40 pages.
The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! by Mo Willems. 2004. Hyperion. 40 pages.
The Pigeon Wants A Puppy. Mo Willems. 2008. Hyperion. 40 pages.
More, More, More. Vera B. Williams. 1990. HarperCollins. 32 pages.
Oh the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss. 1990/2010. Random House. 56 pages.
Cinderella. Max Eilenberg. Illustrated by Niamh Sharkey. 2008. Candlewick Press. 56 pages.

Currently Reading:


The Phoenix and the Carpet. E. Nesbit. 1904. 224 pages.


The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Anne Bronte. 1848. 496 pages.


Pamela. Samuel Richardson. 1740/1801. (Penguin) 540 pages.



Fire Will Fall. Carol Plum-Ucci. 2010. May 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 485 pages.


A Hopeful Heart. Kim Vogel Sawyer. 2010. June 2010. Bethany House. 352 pages.


Anna Karenina. Leo Tolstoy. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. 2004, this translation. Penguin. 864 pages.

What I Hope To Begin/Finish Soon:


A Tailor-Made Bride by Karen Witemeyer. 2010. June 2010. Bethany House. 352 pages.


Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico by Lena Nelson Dooley. 2010. May 2010. Summerside Press. 320 pages.


Maid to Match. Deeanne Gist. 2010. June 2010. Bethany House. 368 pages.


Wayfarer by R.J. Anderson. 2010. June 2010. HarperCollins. 304 pages.


Perchance to Dream. Lisa Mantchev. 2010. May 2010. Feiwel & Friends. 352 pages.



My Life With the Lincolns. Gayle Brandeis. 2010. March 2010. Henry Holt. 256 pages.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Imagine a Blog(ger) Without Guilt...

Thoughts on blogging...

I think that bloggers should just have the freedom to be themselves, the freedom to just be. To post what they want to post, when they want to post. The freedom to blog without anyone saying do this, not that.

I think sometimes bloggers (all bloggers, all blog communities--at least the ones I'm familiar with) over-analyze things. Sometimes you can think too much. Sometimes by evaluating and re-evaluating and re-re-evaluating, you end up more confused and more frustrated than you were to begin with. (Now some reflection is good, I'm not saying never think about your blog, never evaluate your goals, never ask yourselves hard questions. But all in moderation. Remember that blogger angst can be spread easily.) I think bloggers put a lot of pressure on themselves when they don't need to, when they don't have to. I think it's easy to become discouraged when you start comparing yourself to others. I definitely think blogging should not be a competition.

There is no exact formula to follow. You don't have to follow a certain format, a certain style. You don't have to model what you do based on what others in the community do. Differences are a good thing. Individuality should be celebrated.

And wouldn't it be wonderful if guilt could be eliminated from the blog community? If bloggers could stop feeling guilty for not being perfect, for being human, for living their own lives, for being too busy to focus solely on blogging, for putting other things in their lives first, for taking time away from the computer, for not having the time to comment on the blogs they read, for not having time to read all the blogs they'd like to, for marking all posts read in their google readers, for not finishing every reading challenge they've signed up for--even if they're the host. Wouldn't it be great if bloggers could accept the fact that they're human... That there is no way to do it all; no way to please everyone; no way to balance it all. That it is okay to just be.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hester


Hester. Paula Reed. 2010. February 2010. St. Martin's Press. 308 pages.

If it is a lonely life to be the embodiment of sin, lonelier still it is to be a legend.

This may sound strange, but I read The Scarlet Letter so I could read Hester. And I wanted to read Hester because I fell for the first line of the prologue.

How does Hester compare to The Scarlet Letter? Well, it's easier to read for one thing. The characters are actually well-drawn, quite human. The characters stand for more than a single symbol (or two). Pearl is more than just a wild child--a wicked little devil in the making. Hester is more than her shame, her guilt.

Hester focuses on the "missing years" of The Scarlet Letter. The beginning sees her setting sail for England with Pearl, and the close sees her returning--alone--to America, to New England. Paula Reed imagines Hester becoming involved--for better or worse--with the politics of the day. Reed imagines Hester with a unique gift of sensing others' sins. Not reading their minds, exactly, but sensing their sins, their secrets. Her time wearing the scarlet letter has left her with the ability to reflect people's sins, their hypocrisies. Oliver Cromwell learns of her "gift" and wants to use her, manipulate her, "for the good of the country." He hopes that Hester can determine which men are traitors, which men are plotting his downfall, which men are secretly Royalists wanting the return of Charles II.

But just because Hester has this "gift" doesn't mean that she is comfortable using it. That she is happy that the men in her life want to use her in their political games. Because Cromwell isn't the only man in her life. (There is one man much, much closer. A man Hester finds difficult to read. A man who urges Hester to doubt everything--to question sin, guilt, shame, prayer, God, etc. He says sin doesn't exist, that if you don't believe in sin, well, then you're free from the guilt, the shame. Sin is just something you're taught to believe in. If you let go of those beliefs, then you can be happy, you can make your own choices. Her friendship with John Manning causes her to reflect on her past, on her relationship with Arthur...

I didn't love everything about this one. (I didn't like Manning's beliefs, for example.) But I did enjoy seeing the characters come to life. I had a hard time connecting with the one-dimensional characters of Hawthorne.

The premise. I was very skeptical. And in a way, I still am. But when I was reading the novel, I was so in the moment that I didn't stop to think about it all that closely. Because the writing kept me reading. I may not have loved every minute of it, but I was still engaged for the most part. The book did make me curious. I'd love to read other books set in this time period--to read more about Oliver Cromwell and Charles II.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Library Loot: Third Trip in May


New Loot:

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman
Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson
Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
Freaky Green Eyes by Joyce Carol Oates
After the Wreck, I picked Myself Up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away by Joyce Carol Oates
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
Vilette by Charlotte Bronte
Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

Leftover Loot:

The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkowski
Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston
The White Queen by Philippa Gregory
Dear Husband by Joyce Carol Oates
Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott
Hester The Missing Years by Paula Reed

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

Read more...

A Matter of Character


A Matter of Character. Robin Lee Hatcher. 2010. May 2010. Zondervan. 352 pages.

Maybe it was time to kill Rawhide Rick. He'd served his purpose, the old rascal. He'd hunted buffalo and fought Indians and stolen gold from hardworking miners and sent men to the gallows. Now might be the time for him to meet his Maker. The trick was deciding how to kill him.

Should Daphne McKinley kill Rawhide Rick? Can Joshua Crawford save him?

The year is 1918. And Daphne is a dime novelist. Of course, at the beginning, when readers first meet her, no one knows she's a published writer. Dime novels aren't necessarily books to be proud of having written, or of having read, after all, whether written by a man or a woman. Her pen name is D.B. Morgan.

Joshua Crawford is an out of work reporter with an agenda. He is the grandson of "Rawhide Rick." His grandfather, Richard Terrell, went by that nickname and Joshua is so not happy with this "D.B. Morgan" for making his grandfather the villain in the McFarland Chronicles. The grandfather he knew was loving, compassionate, generous, kind, good. He's angry, and he's searching for the truth. But first he has to find this D.B. Morgan and have a few choice words.

A Matter of Character is the third (and final) book in the Sisters of Bethlehem series by Robin Lee Hatcher. However, each one can be read on its own. I have not read the previous two books, and I did just fine. The three books have overlapping characters, but each is narrated by a different character. It is a romance novel.

I liked this one. I did. It was interesting to see this hero and heroine clash with one another. To see their relationship slowly develop through the weeks and months. I liked the way these two challenged one another.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Doctor Thorne


Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 639 pages. (Oxford World's Classic, 1981)

Before the reader is introduced to the modest country medical practitioner who is to be the chief personage of the following tale, it will be well that he should be made acquainted with some particulars as to the locality in which, and the neighbors among whom, our doctor followed his profession.

Doctor Thorne is the third in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series by Anthony Trollope. The first two are The Warden and Barchester Towers. Though it is part of a series, it can truly stand on its own.

There is Doctor Thorne and his niece, Mary. The Gresham family--the squire, his oh-so-proud wife, Lady Arabella, his firstborn son, Frank, who must marry money. (They hope that by saying it every hour of every day that maybe just maybe Frank will realize his responsibility to the family.) And the Gresham daughters--the two who enter into the story are Augusta, who has cause for some of the bitterness, and Beatrice, who is sometimes cranky and other times sweet as can be. (Lady Arabella is proud of her de Courcy blood. These de Courcy relations enter into the story as well.) Then there are the Scatcherds--Sir Roger and his son, Louis. (Of course there is a Lady Scatcherd as well.) They may not have the best blood, but they do have money. Money that the Greshams desperately need (and therefore borrow never minding the consequences) And then there are the competing doctors in the neighborhood. But I won't go there. (Though they do lend some humor now and then.)

What is this one about? Frank loves Mary. Mary loves Frank. But. Mary is not an heiress. Mary is also not of good birth, but that isn't as big of a stumbling block for most. It seems these two find themselves in an impossible position. They cannot marry for they have nothing to live on. But they cannot stop loving one another either. Though Mary says that she'll not hold Frank to any of his promises, he cannot even begin to picture himself married to someone else. Not once he's sure of her love.

Because Lady Arabella is not getting her way--how dare her son have his own ideas about how to live his life--she decides to make everyone miserable--her husband (who she has been making miserable for almost the whole duration of their marriage), her son (who couldn't possibly take joy in his mother nagging him day and night), and her daughter, Beatrice (how dare her daughter want to be friends with the enemy). And of course this includes, Mary (how dare Mary follow her heart, she should know her place. She is a nobody after all) and the doctor (how could her doctor not interfere in the matter, how dare he not put his niece in her place. Well, she'll just have to deny him the pleasure of her business).

I loved this one. I did. I love Anthony Trollope. I love his characters. I love the complexity of his communities. How he peoples his novels so richly, so diversely. I love his narration. How he at times speaks directly to the readers, addresses the fact that this is a novel and that he is the writer. I love his sense of humor. I love how me makes me smile with his descriptions. His writing is amusing, charming, and oh-so-engaging. I cared about the characters. I cared about the story. Even though it's over six hundred pages, I wanted more. I would have gladly spent more time in the company of these characters.

The one son and heir to Greshamsbury was named as his father, Francis Newbold Gresham. He would have been the hero of our tale had not that place been preoccupied by the village doctor. As it is, those who please may so regard him. It is he who is to be our favorite young man, to do the love scenes, to have his trials and his difficulties, and to win through them or not, as the case may be. I am too old now to be a hard-hearted author, and so it is probable that he may not die of a broken heart. Those who don't approve of a middle-aged bachelor country doctor as a hero, may take the heir to Greshambury in his stead, and call the book, if it so pleases them 'The Loves and Adventures of Francis Newbold Gresham the younger.' (7)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

No Will But His


No Will But His. A Novel of Kathryn Howard. Sarah A. Hoyt. 2010. April 2010. Penguin. 352 pages.

Kathryn Howard was the young and unfortunate fifth wife of Henry VIII. I was familiar enough with her story--my favorite account being a novel by Alisa Libby--The King's Rose. But reading about the Tudors--Henry's wives, his children, etc.--is one of my guilty pleasures. So when I saw this one at the library, I knew I had to read it.

Did this young teenager love the King? respect the King? Was she urged into this marriage by her family? Or did she have some ambition of her own? Did she want to be Queen so much that she was willing to risk everything? Was she in love with another man when she married the King? Or did love come later? come too late?

Kathryn was not perfect, was not innocent, was not perfectly innocent. But at one time the King thought she was. And when he learned about the Queen's past, well, it turned ugly. I did like the way this story unfolds for the reader.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Diary of Pelly D (YA)


Diary of Pelly D. by L.J. Adlington. 2005. HarperCollins. 288 pages.

When the dust settled, Toni V took his goggles off for a moment and rubbed his eyes. It was only mid-morning and already the heat was fierce. The Demolition Crew in the plaza had stripped down to vests and shorts, with shirts twisted around their waists. They had regular water stops. This wasn't one of them.

I really enjoyed this one. I am so glad I didn't judge this book by its cover. (Because I am not a fan of all the orange and green.)

Toni V, our narrator, is on the demolition crew when he makes a discovery. Instead of turning over this find, like he is required to do--he hides it away. What does he find? A diary. Soon he begins spending his spare time reading a diary of a girl he's never met. A girl who in so many ways is so different from any one Toni has ever known. She's wealthy. She's popular. She has it all. Or so it seems. But that was before the war. Before this obsession with gene tags and pure heritages.

I definitely would recommend this one. I found it be very compelling. And the society Adlington created was so well done. One of the things I liked best about this one was that I had no idea what to expect. I hadn't read much about this one. And I liked that process of discovery. So I don't want to tell you too much either.

Other reviews: Reading Rants, Books and Movies, The Spotted Mushroom, The Secret Adventures of WriterGirl.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Grace (YA)


Grace. Elizabeth Scott. 2010. September 2010. Penguin. 208 pages.

I'm afraid my hair is showing.

Grace almost left me speechless. Elizabeth Scott continues to amaze me. The author that makes me giddy with her teen romances leaves me haunted by such books as Grace and Living Dead Girl. (It's not that her romances lack substance or full characterization. All her characters feel human. And all her characters seem to be struggling with something.)

What is Grace about? Well this dystopian set in the near future stars Grace a girl who was "raised to be an Angel, a herald of death by suicide bomb." But Grace realizes--at the last moment--that this is not what she wants. And perhaps for the first time, she realizes that what she wants does matter.

She doesn't want to die for the cause. She's not even sure she believes in the cause anymore. (If she ever did.) She wants to live. But living life might be tricky because first she'll have to escape her old life.

Grace, when we first meet her, is on the run for her life. She's hoping and praying that she can escape. She's on a train heading for what could be her only chance for freedom, for a new life. But she's not traveling alone. She's traveling with a young man she's never met. A man she doesn't know if she can trust. As these two share their stories, share their pasts, quite a story unfolds.

Grace is a compelling read. I just couldn't put it down! It's a thought-provoking read too. I liked the way this one was told. How as Grace makes this journey to freedom, readers learn her back story bit by bit. We learn about the circumstances--political and social--that led her to where she is. I liked how Grace is challenged along the way to think and rethink her beliefs, her ethics.

I would definitely recommend this one.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #21

Happy Sunday! I thought I would talk a little this week about classics. Do you read classics? Why or why not? Do you have any expectations when it comes to classics? Have you ever been surprised by a classic?

This month I've read The Scarlet Letter (didn't love but found engaging), North and South (loved very much, become a new obsession). I've also started two other classics. Pamela by Samuel Richardson. And Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope.

I have found Pamela to be surprising. I had no real idea what to expect. I had not read Samuel Richardson before. And it was written in 1740. How interesting could it be? How accessible could it be? It wasn't a question (for me) of whether it would be boring--it was a question of degree--just how boring would it be. BUT. I have found it to be anything but boring! Yes, it is melodramatic in places. With the heroine falling to her knees or falling on her face every now and then. But. It is exciting. I found myself caring from the start. Now I've still got a couple of hundred pages to go. And I have no idea where the story is going (I haven't read any spoilers), but so far I am liking it.

Doctor Thorne has not surprised me all that much. I expected to love it. Anthony Trollope makes me giddy. I don't know what it is about Trollope, but I just love, love, love his voice. His writing is amusing, charming, and oh-so-engaging. I just love spending time with him. I love meeting his characters. I love laughing with them. I love laughing at them. I just find myself so connected, so engaged with what I'm reading that I'm absolutely hooked. He's one of the rare writers whose works--no matter how long--and Doctor Thorne is over six hundred pages I believe--feels too short. I always want more. Always.

What I've realized this month is that in some ways reading classics is more rewarding than reading more contemporary fiction. Let me explain. I think North and South is worth thousands of books like Twilight. I do think there are some super amazing authors writing today. (Patrick Ness comes to mind as just one example.) But I think readers should brave the classics now and then. Because not all classics are intimidating. And you might just be surprised...

Have you read North and South? Would you be interested in reading it this summer? I'm thinking about having a group read. But I'm still in the thinking stage. I'm wanting to know if there would be any interest in this...

Have you read any books lately that you think are worthy of being future-classics? Any books out there that are so amazing you think they'll be timeless?

If there is anyone interested in reading Middlemarch by George Eliot, you should definitely consider joining Nymeth's upcoming project. I read that one last summer with the Fill in the Gaps group. (And it's definitely too soon for me to do a reread. But. I think it would be great fun, so I'm encouraging you to join!)

What I've Reviewed This Week:

Fever Crumb. Philip Reeve. 2010. April 2010. Scholastic. 336 pages.
Living Hell. Catherine Jinks. 2010. April 2010. Harcourt. 256 pages.
Ship Breaker. Paolo Bacigalupi. 2010. May 2010. Little Brown. 326 pages.
Once by Morris Gleitzman. 2010. March 2010. Henry Holt. 176 pages.
Crispin: The End of Time. Avi. 2010. June 2010. HarperCollins. 240 pages.
Maisy's Book of Things That Go. Lucy Cousins. 2010. May 2010. Candlewick Press. 16 pages.
What About Bear? Suzanne Bloom. 2010. February 2010. Boyds Mill Press. 32 pages.
Sleepy ABC. By Margaret Wise Brown. Illustrated By Karen Katz. Text, 1953. Illustrations, 2010. HarperCollins. 40 pages.
Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems. 2004. Hyperion. 40 pages.
Life, In Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope After A Fatal Choice. Kristen Jane Anderson. Tricia Goyer. 2010. May 2010. Multnomah. 224 pages.
Country Road ABC: An Illustrated Journey Through America's Farmland. Arthur Geisert. 2010. May 2010. 64 pages.
Christian Encounters: Jane Austen. Peter Leithart. 2010. March 2010. Thomas Nelson. 175 pages.
Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie. Jeannine Atkins. 2010. March 2010. Henry Holt. 224 pages.

Currently Reading:


Fire Will Fall. Carol Plum-Ucci. 2010. May 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 485 pages.


Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia. Brandon Sanderson. 2009. October 2009. Scholastic. 336 pages.



Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter. R.J. Anderson. 2009. April 2009. HarperCollins. 336 pages.


Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 639 pages. (Oxford World's Classic, 1981)


Pamela. Samuel Richardson. 1740/1801. (Penguin) 540 pages.

What I Hope To Begin/Finish Soon:


The White Queen by Philippa Gregory. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 432 pages.



Hester. Paula Reed. 2010. February 2010. St. Martin's Press. 308 pages.


Sisters Red. Jackson Pearce. 2010. June 2010. Little, Brown. 328 pages.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Crispin: The End of Time (MG)


Crispin: The End of Time. Avi. 2010. June 2010. HarperCollins. 240 pages.

Bear was dead. That sweet and kindly man, the wisest I had ever known, the one I considered friend, teacher, and even father, was gone. Would I could be half so fine. God keep his saintly soul!
Though I no longer had a father or a mother, I had, thanks be to God and Bear, a name: Crispin. And since I was bound to no land, kin, lord, or for that matter, any man, I considered myself free. As long as I could keep myself out of bondage, I'd be true to Bear's teaching. And so it was that beyond all else, I was determined to keep my freedom.


This concludes the trilogy. The first two books are Crispin: The Cross of Lead and Crispin: At The Edge of the World. These three are set in the fourteenth century. And reading about medieval wanderers may not be for every reader. (I always find it amusing to see the kinds of comments these two posts receive.)

While I enjoyed the first one, I can't say that I enjoyed the other two as much. Not even close. It's not that I stopped caring about Crispin exactly. It's just that with Bear being put through so much in the second book (and then dying), well, it was a joyless read. (If that makes sense.) And it's hard to like a book like that. I will say this about the third book, in some ways, the worst is over. Now that Bear is gone, what more can they do to me?

Can Crispin learn to be more like Bear? Can Crispin find his place in the world? Can Crispin find trustworthy companions to help him along the way? Is his dream of going to Iceland even possible? You know since he has no idea where it is or how to get there? How much is Crispin willing to sacrifice to live his life according to the What Would Bear Do philosophy?

I wanted to like this one more. I wanted to find it more interesting than I did. More compelling. But I struggled with this one here and there. It just wasn't holding my interest. It could be a mood thing. Maybe you have to be in a certain mood to read about wandering boys who've lost their way. I don't know. Or it could be a case of trying to read this one after reading Megan Whalen Turner's oh-so-compelling Queen's Thief series.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Poetry Friday: Borrowed Names


Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie. Jeannine Atkins. 2010. March 2010. Henry Holt. 224 pages.

I liked this one. It was strange, but in a good way. All three women--Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C.J. Walker, Marie Curie--were born in 1867; all three women were mothers. The poems are about these three women--their relationships with their daughters, their personal lives, their careers. What were these successful women really like? What kind of relationships did they have with their daughters?

Laura Ingalls Wilder was the only woman whose story I was familiar with. I did enjoy getting to know these other two women. All three women had very different different experiences, different hardships, different strengths and weaknesses.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

More on North and South


It's been almost a week since I finished reading Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. But I haven't stopped thinking about the story. If you're already a fan of the book--or of the movie--that probably isn't too surprising. After all, Mr. Thornton is hard to forget.

The audio book. You might think that listening to an audio book (especially so soon after completing the book-book) would be a bit silly. After all, I do know what happens now. Why continue? Well, it is only now in the comfort of knowing that I'm able to completely give myself over to the experience of listening. Knowing how it ends, frees me to really care, to really give it my time, my focus. A great book like this one can only be improved by closer examination.

The audio production I am listening to is by Naxos. The narrator is Clare Wille. And I would definitely recommend it if you listen to audio books.

The movie. Wow. Wow. Wow. I just finished watching this one a few hours ago. And oh-that-ending. Wow. Of course, I loved the ending from the book too. I think the book had a really great, really memorable last line. I thought it was perfectly suited to the characters, to their relationship. But I loved the movie ending as well. It was giddy-making.

There are other differences between the book and the movie. There were definitely changes throughout the movie. But instead of complaining about them, I think I'll choose to appreciate them instead. Because when I think about it, there is nothing negative that I could ever say that would even begin to outweigh the positive. The music. The acting. The quality of the production. The chemistry between John and Margaret. Everything was oh-so-magical.

I would definitely recommend the movie! I think I'll be watching this one again very soon!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Ship Breaker (YA)


Ship Breaker. Paolo Bacigalupi. 2010. May 2010. Little Brown. 326 pages.

Nailer clambered through a service duct, tugging at copper wire and yanking it free.

This futuristic novel wowed me. It is set on what was once the Gulf Coast. Nailer and his friends from the light crew are scavengers. They scavenge the ruins of what once was--mainly ships and tankers--looking for valuable (and now scarce) metals and other resources.

Loyalty is everything--and the crew is bonded together by blood. To join the crew you must take a blood oath to be there for one another. If you break your oath, then you're out. And being on your own in this crowd, in this community, something you want to avoid at all costs. Desperate times and all. You have to be a certain weight and height to be on the light crew--to fit places most wouldn't--and it's hard, demanding work.

Nailer's best friend is a young woman named Pima. These two are together (after a BIG, BIG storm) when they make an extraordinary find. They find a newly wrecked clipper ship--a private ship. And this kind of luck doesn't come along twice in a lifetime. As they are searching the ship and making a plan, they discover something even more surprising. The ship's sole survivor, a young girl named Nita. She's the daughter of a somebody. She's wealthy. She's unbelievably wealthy. What's to be done now? To trust or not to trust? Can someone that rich understand the depth of poverty? The desperation that comes along with not having enough to eat? of having no real place to call home?

I loved this one. Bacigalupi has created an intense world--dark and desperate and cruel in many ways--and given readers a unique cast of characters. It's a very compelling read. (Definitely one hard to put down!)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Living Hell (YA)


Living Hell. Catherine Jinks. 2010. April 2010. Harcourt. 256 pages.

You have to understand what it was like.
There were so many of us--hundreds and hundreds. In A Crew alone there were more than seven hundred people. And B Crew was almost as big. Not that we had anything to do with B Crew. But they were there, in the Stasis Banks. ready for their next shift.
The shift that never arrived.


Living Hell is narrated by Cheney, one of the would-be survivors of the starship Plexus. Life on ship was going well. And it was the only life Cheney had ever known. He was one of the children born on Plexus. He was thirty-three or seventeen--depending on your view of things. (If you counted real years or shift years.) Yet one day, one moment can change everything.

When the Plexus encounters a powerful radiation wave--everything changes...

I liked reading Cheney's account. I did. It felt good to be reading science fiction again. To be reading science fiction that wasn't dystopia. (Though I do love, love, love a good dystopia!) I would recommend it to science fiction fans.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Fever Crumb (YA)


Fever Crumb. Philip Reeve. 2010. April 2010. Scholastic. 336 pages.

That morning they were making paper boys.

In this futuristic prequel, readers learn a bit more about the origins of the world first introduced in the Hungry City Chronicles quartet. (Mortal Engines, Predator's Gold, Infernal Devices, A Darkling Plain.)

Fever Crumb is an orphan who has been adopted by a group of engineers. But Fever isn't your average orphan, or your average girl. (She's the youngest member of the Order of Engineers, and she's the only female member.)

When we first meet Fever, we learn that she is about to become an assistant to an archaeologist, Kit Solent. He is hoping that Fever can help him unlock some secrets from the past--from the time of the Scrivens. But this new job isn't without risk. Fever has never been out in the world, and her appearance causes some to fear her. Is she a Scriven? a half-Scriven? If she is, her life and the lives of those protecting her could be in danger...

This is an interesting futuristic science fiction novel. But I thought it lacked the humor and the wit of the earlier books in the quartet. And it wasn't quite as action-packed as the later books in the quartet. So it didn't quite work for me the way I was hoping. I think the world-building was intriguing. I think some of the details work well. But as much as I liked some of the elements of this one, I just failed to stay connected throughout the book. (I had moments where I liked it, and moments I was bored.) This could also be a timing issue. Perhaps I wasn't in the right mood for this one just now.

Other reviews: Reading Rants, The Discriminating Fangirl, Carrie's YA Bookshelf.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Once (MG)


Once by Morris Gleitzman. 2010. March 2010. Henry Holt. 176 pages.

Once I was living in an orphanage in the mountains and I shouldn't have been and I almost caused a riot. It was because of the carrot.

Once is a holocaust novel. It stars a young Jewish boy, Felix. He loves stories. You might could even say he gets a bit carried away with the stories--with crafting a story. If Felix has a fault, it would be his innocence. Is innocence really a fault? It might be in dangerous times such as these. Because Hitler's got the power. And Felix, well, Felix doesn't understand what that means exactly for him, for his family, for all European Jews.

When we first meet Felix, he is living in a Catholic orphanage. He doesn't know why his parents--booksellers--left him there in the care of nuns. He doesn't understand that there is an enemy to be feared. That this enemy does more than just burn books. It's a hard lesson to learn, but can he learn it in time?

What I appreciated most about this one was the writing. He begins each chapter with the word once. And these are some powerful sentences--sentences that make you want to read more.

Here are a few examples:


Once I escaped from an orphanage in the mountains and I didn't have to do any of the things you do in escape stories. Dig a tunnel. Disguise myself as a priest. Make a rope from nun robes knotted together. I just walked out through the main gate. (29)

Once I escaped from an underground hiding place by telling a story. (99)

There is something about this one that just worked for me.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #20

Happy Sunday!

Do you listen to audio books? That is the poll of the month, by the way. If you haven't voted yet, there is still plenty of time. I am curious to see how many do make time to listen to books. I'm not sure 'make time' is the right way to phrase it though. I think some people have more time to fit in for audio books than others. Those with long(er) commutes, for example. I don't have much time to squeeze in for audio, personally. It's not that I devalue audio books. That I think listening to a book isn't the same as reading a book. But when you think about it listening isn't the same as reading. (I think they take different skills.) And I've found that I have a harder time listening than reading. (Perhaps I just haven't exercised those skills enough yet.) I can (and do) listen to audio books as a way to reread a book. I love, love, love The Book Thief. And I really have enjoyed Life As We Knew It and This World We Live In. And I probably shouldn't admit how many times I've listened to The Willoughbys. And the narration on the Little House books was just so delightful. (I'm so thankful to Sarah Miller for blogging about those.) But it's hard for me to listen to a book if I'm new to it. (Or to listen to a book if the narrator and I clash.)

Anyone have any experiences to share?

What I've Reviewed This Week:

North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1854-1855.* 452 pages.
The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle. 2010. September 2010. Henry Holt. 160 pages.
A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner. 2010. March 2010. HarperCollins. 316 pages.
Swoon at Your Own Risk. Sydney Salter. 2010. April 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 356 pages.
The Wager. Donna Jo Napoli. 2010. April 2010. Henry Holt. 272 pages.
Gimme A Call. By Sarah Mlynowski. 2010. April 2010. Random House. 320 pages.
The Red Pyramid. (Kane Chronicles #1) Rick Riordan. 2010. May 2010. Hyperion. 528 pages.
My Best Frenemy. Julie Bowe. 2010. May 2010. Penguin. 240 pages
Dewey the Library Cat: A True Story. Vicki Myron and Bret Witter. 2010. May 2010. Little Brown. 214 pages.
Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya. Donna Jo Napoli. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 2010. January 2010. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages.
The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano. By Margarita Engle. Art by Sean Qualls. 2006. Henry Holt. 192 pages.
Rise and Shine. Illustrated by Tim Warnes. (Song is in the public domain.) 2010. February 2010. Board Book. Simon & Schuster. 26 pages.
Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes. 2010. April 2010. Tyndale. 384 pages.
Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book. Written by Starr Meade. Illustrated by Tim O'Connor. 2010. Crossway. 288 pages.
Jesus. Illustrated by Gennady Spirin. 2010. March 2010. Marshall Cavendish. 32 pages.
Animal Soup. Todd H. Doodler. 2010. May 2010. Random House. 14 pages.
I Love My Mom. Anna Walker. 2010. March 2010. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.
Mommy is a Soft Warm Kiss by Rhonda Gowler Greene. Illustrated by Maggie Smith. 2010. March 2010. Walker Books. 32 pages.
The Wild, Wild Inside. Kate Feiffer. Illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith. 2010. March 2010. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.
I'm the Best. Lucy Cousins. 2010. May 2010. Candlewick Press. 32 pages.
Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don't) by Barbara Bottner. Illustrated by Michael Emberley. 2010. March 2010. Random House. 32 pages.
Dancing Feet. Lindsey Craig. Illustrated by Marc Brown. 2010. May 2010. Random House. 40 pages.
Please Take Me For a Walk. Susan Gal. 2010. May 2010. Random House. 40 pages.

Currently Reading:


The Last Christian. David Gregory. 2010. Waterbrook Press. 416 pages.



Fire Will Fall. Carol Plum-Ucci. 2010. May 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 485 pages.


Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia. Brandon Sanderson. 2009. October 2009. Scholastic. 336 pages.



Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter. R.J. Anderson. 2009. April 2009. HarperCollins. 336 pages.


Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 639 pages. (Oxford World's Classic, 1981)

What I Hope To Begin/Finish Soon:


The White Queen by Philippa Gregory. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 432 pages.



Hester. Paula Reed. 2010. February 2010. St. Martin's Press. 308 pages.


Sisters Red. Jackson Pearce. 2010. June 2010. Little, Brown. 328 pages.


My Life With the Lincolns. Gayle Brandeis. 2010. March 2010. Henry Holt. 256 pages.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Read more...

Unique Visitors and Google PR Rank

Free PageRank Checker

Pageloads Counter

The background is based on a background I found here...with some small adjustments on my part so it would work with the template.
Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP