Saturday, July 31, 2010

July Accomplishments

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

I peered into the deep-sea canyon, hoping to spot a toppled skyscraper. Maybe even the Statue of Liberty. But there was no sign of the old East Coast, just a sheer drop into darkness.

Lisabeth Lewis didn't mean to become Famine.

A definition:
A real live boyfriend does not contribute to your angst
.


The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby.

Strange things can happen at a crossroads.

I don't trust Clive Fagenbush.

July's Top Eight:

The Boneshaker. Kate Milford.
Real Live Boyfriends. E. Lockhart.
Cloaked in Red. Vivian Vande Velde.
A Long Walk to Water. Linda Sue Park
Moon Over Manifest. Clare Vanderpool.
The Daughter of Time. Josephine Tey
She Stoops to Conquer. Oliver Goldsmith.
Venetia. Georgette Heyer

Number of Board Books: 9

Welcome Summer by Jill Ackerman. Illustrated by Nancy Davis. 2010. Scholastic. 10 pages.
I Like Bugs. Lorena Siminovich. 2010. March 2010. Candlewick. 10 pages.
I Like Fruit. Lorena Siminovich. 2010. July 2010. Candlewick. 10 pages.
The Napping House. Audrey Wood. Illustrated by Don Wood. 1984/2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages.
Baby at the Farm. Karen Katz. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 10 pages.
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. Mem Fox. Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. 2008/2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 38 pages.
All About Me! A Baby's Guide to Babies by David Salariya. 2008. Random House. 16 pages.
Click, Clack, 123. Doreen Cronin. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin. 2006/2010. Little Simon. 22 pages.
Click, Clack, ABC. Doreen Cronin. Illustrated by Betsy Lewin. 2005/2010. Simon & Schuster. 24 pages.

Number of Picture Books: 15

No T. Rex in the Library
. Toni Buzzeo. Illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.
Swim! Swim! by Lerch (James Proimos). 2010. July 2010. Scholastic. 32 pages.
The Eensy Weensy Spider Freaks Out (Big Time) by Troy Cummings. 2010. May 2010. Random House. 40 pages.
Beaver is Lost. Elisha Cooper. 2010. June 2010. Random House. 40 pages.
Hello Baby! Mem Fox. Illustrated by Steve Jenkins. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.
Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! by Kyle Mewburn. Illustrated by Ali Teo & John O'Reilly. 2008. Peachtree. 32 pages.
My Love Will Be With You. Laura Krauss Melmed. Illustrated by Henri Sorensen. 2009. HarperCollins. 24 pages.
Please Pick Me Up, Mama! Robin Luebs. 2009. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages.
Dinosaurs Love Underpants. Claire Freedman. Illustrated by Ben Cort. 2009. December 2009. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.
Night Lights. Susan Gal. 2009. November 2009. Random House. 32 pages.
Always in Trouble. Corinne Demas. Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. 2009. Scholastic. 40 pages.
How Rocket Learned to Read. Tad Hills. 2010. July 2010. Random House. 40 pages.
Ferocious Wild Beasts! by Chris Wormell. 2009. December 2009. Random House. 32 pages
Posy. Linda Newbery. Illustrated by Catherine Rayner. 2008. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.
When the World is Ready for Bed. Gillian Shields. Illustrated by Anna Currey. 2009. Bloomsbury. 32 pages.

Number of Children's Books: 10

No New Pets by Hans Wilhelm. 2010. Scholastic. 32 pages.
I Won't Share. Hans Wilhelm. 2010. Scholastic. 32 pages.
Jake. Audrey Couloumbis. 2010. September 2010. Random House. 176 pages.
Mo and Jo Fighting Together Forever. Dean Haspiel and Jay Lynch. 2008. Toon Books. 40 pages.
Stinky. Eleanor Davis. 2008. Toon Books 40 pages.
The Black Circle (The 39 Clues #5) Patrick Carman. 2009. Scholastic. 176 pages.
Phineas L. MacGuire...Erupts. Frances O'Roark Dowell. 2006. Simon & Schuster. 176 pages.
I Survived The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912. Lauren Tarshis. 2010. Scholastic. 112 pages.
Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same. Grace Lin. 2010. July 2010. Little, Brown. 43 pages.
Word After Word After Word. Patricia MacLachlan. 2010. HarperCollins. 128 pages.

Number of Middle Grade: 15

Moon Over Manifest. Clare Vanderpool. 2010. October 2010. Random House. 368 pages.
Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) by Alison McGhee. 2008. Scholastic. 290 pages.
Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos. 2007. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 343 pages.
Theodosia and the Staff of Osiris. R.L. LaFevers. 2008. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 400 pages.
Peter and the Sword of Mercy. Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. 2009. Hyperion. 528 pages.
A Long Walk to Water. Linda Sue Park. 2010. November 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 128 pages.
The Boneshaker. Kate Milford. 2010. May 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 372 pages.
Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. 1997. HarperCollins. 80 pages.
Elephant Run. Roland Smith. 2007. Hyperion. 336 pages.
Bamboo People. Mitali Perkins. 2010. July 2010. Charlesbridge. 272 pages.
Julia Gillian (And the Quest for Joy). Alison McGhee. 2009. Scholastic. 320 pages.
Julia Gillian (And the Dream of the Dog). Alison McGhee. Illustrated by Drazen Kozjan. 2010. July 2010. Scholastic. 336 pages.
The Everlasting Now. Sara H. Banks. 2010. Peachtree Publishers. 176 pages.
Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home. Henry Cole. 2010. HarperCollins. 342 pages.

Number of YA: 19

Don't Judge A Girl By Her Cover. Ally Carter. 2009. Hyperion. 272 pages.
The Treasure Map of Boys. E. Lockhart. 2009. Random House. 256 pages.
Scars. Cheryl Rainfield. 2010. WestSide Books. 250 pages.
Real Live Boyfriends. E. Lockhart. 2010. December 2010. Random House. 240 pages.
Wildthorn. Jane Eagland. 2010. September 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 352 pages.
Jumpstart the World. Catherine Ryan Hyde. 2010. October 2010. Random House. 192 pages.
Hunger. Jackie Morse Kessler. 2010. October 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 180 pages.
In a Heartbeat. Loretta Ellsworth. 2010. February 2010. Walker & Company. 216 pages.
Only The Good Spy Young. Ally Carter. 2010. Hyperion. 272 pages.
Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. Morgan Matson. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 343 pages.
The First Part Last. Angela Johnson. 2003. Simon & Schuster. 144 pages.
Finding My Place. Traci L. Jones. 2010. May 2010. FSG. 192 pages.
Stolen. Lucy Christopher. 2010. Scholastic. 304 pages.
The Gardener. S.A. Bodeen. 2010. May 2010. Feiwel & Friends. 240 pages.
I Kissed a Zombie, and I Liked It. Adam Selzer. 2010. Random House. 192 pages.
Dark Life. Kat Falls. 2010. Scholastic. 304 pages.
Everlasting. Angie Frazier. 2010. June 2010. Scholastic. 336 pages.
Leviathan. Scott Westerfeld. 2009. October 2009. Simon & Schuster. 448 pages.
Fire. Kristin Cashore. 2009. Penguin. 480 pages.

Number of Adult: 15

The Man in the Queue
. Josephine Tey. 1929/1995. Simon & Schuster. 256 pages.
Bath Tangle. Georgette Heyer. 1955. Harlequin. 336 pages.
The Daughter of Time. Josephine Tey. 1951/1995. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages.
Star Begotten: A Biological Fantasia by H.G. Wells. 1937/2006. Wesleyan University Press. 172 pages.
The Pirates! In An Adventure with Ahab. Gideon Defoe. 2005. Knopf Doubleday. 160 pages.
The Lost Duke of Wyndham. Julia Quinn. 2008. HarperCollins. 384 pages.
Mr. Cavendish, I Presume. Julia Quinn. 2008. HarperCollins. 384 pages.
An Apology for the Life of Mrs. Shamela Andrews. (Shamela) Henry Fielding. 1741. 40 pages.
Uncommon Reader. Alan Bennett. 2007. FSG. 128 pages.
First Comes Marriage. Mary Balogh. 2009. Random House. 416 pages
Then Comes Seduction. Mary Balogh. 2009. Random House. 448 pages.
At Last Comes Love. Mary Balogh. 2009. Random House. 416 pages.
Seducing an Angel by Mary Balogh. 2009. Random House. 416 pages.
She Stoops to Conquer. Oliver Goldsmith. 1773. 80 pages.
Venetia. Georgette Heyer. 1958/2009. Harlequin. 368 pages.

Number of Christian: 9

Magdalene. Angela Hunt. 2006. Tyndale. 448 pages.
A Morning Like This. Deborah Bedford. 2002/2009. Faith Words. 336 pages.
When You Believe. Deborah Bedford. 2003/2009. Faith Words. 288 pages.
Perfectly Dateless: A Universally Misunderstood Novel. Kristin Billerbeck. 2010. July 2010. Revell. 256 pages.
Touching the Clouds. Bonnie Leon. 2010. July 2010. Revell. 320 pages.
The Sister Wife. Diane Noble. 2010. HarperCollins. 343 pages.
The Church History ABCs: Augustine and Twenty-Five Other Heroes of the Faith. Stephen J. Nichols. Illustrated by Ned Bustard. 2010. June 2010. Crossway. 32 pages.
Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz. 2010. Revell. 368 pages.
Fancy Pants. Cathy Marie Hake. 2007. Bethany House. 384 pages.


Number of Nonfiction: 7

Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science. Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos. 2010. November 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 176 pages.
Oscar and the Bat: A Book About Sound. Geoff Waring. 2008. Candlewick. 32 pages.
Oscar and the Snail: A Book About Things We Use. Geoff Waring. 2009. Candlewick. 32 pages.
Oscar and the Cricket: A Book About Moving and Rolling. Geoff Waring. 2008. Candlewick. 32 pages.
Oscar and the Bird: A Book About Electricity. Geoff Waring. 2009. Candlewick. 32 pages.
Oscar and the Frog: A Book About Growing. 2007. Candlewick. 32 pages.
Oscar and the Moth: A Book About Light and Dark. Geoff Waring. 2007. Candlewick. 32 pages.

Number of Graphic Novels:

Number of Poetry:

Number of Short Story Collections/Anthologies: 2

The Storyteller's Secrets. Tony Mitton. Illustrated by Peter Bailey. Random House. 128 pages.
Cloaked in Red. Vivian Vande Velde. 2010. October 2010. Marshall Cavendish. 128 pages.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Fire (YA)


Fire. Kristin Cashore. 2009. Penguin. 480 pages.

Prologue: Larch often thought that if it had not been for his newborn son, he never would have survived his wife Mikra's death. It was half that the infant boy needed a breathing, functioning father who got out of bed in the mornings and slogged through the day; and it was half the child himself.

Chapter one: It did not surprise Fire that the man in the forest shot her. What surprised her was that he shot her by accident.

Fire's father was a monster, and deep-down Fire thinks she may be one too. When the king asks her to use her powers to interrogate prisoners, supposed spies, she questions her "gift" more than ever. But with the kingdom so close to war, with the army in need of intelligence, Fire can't deny that she is needed. That her "gift" could help her country, her kingdom, that her "gift" could save lives. Still Fire is haunted by the mistakes of the past--her father's mistakes--would the country be in such a miserable condition if her father hadn't misused his gift?

Fire is a fantasy--a romance--rich in detail, in world-making. It is a companion novel to Graceling. While I didn't love Fire as much as Graceling, I did enjoy it. I did find it compelling. There's plenty of action and romance.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Leviathan (YA)


Leviathan. Scott Westerfeld. 2009. October 2009. Simon & Schuster. 448 pages.

The Austrian horses glinted in the moonlight, their riders standing tall in the saddle, swords raised. Behind them two ranks of diesel-powered walking machines stood ready to fire, cannon aimed over the heads of the cavalry. A zeppelin scouted no-man's-land at the center of the battlefield, its metal skin sparkling.

I've enjoyed several alternate history novels over the years. Leviathan is a science fiction novel set at the very start of the Great War (World War I). Its alternative world is fascinating. A world divided into two camps: Clankers (those who love machines and technology) and Darwinists (those who love splicing together 'incredible' new beings). Of course, if you're a Clanker, those new beings are monstrous, an abomination--there being nothing natural about this 'evolution.'

Leviathan has two narrators: Alek, a young boy who is trying to hide his real identity, and Deryn, a young woman who is trying to keep her gender hidden so she can be in the British Air Service. She's living her new life as Dylan Sharp.

There is much world-building in Leviathan. The world Scott Westerfeld has created is rich in detail. And this novel is just the first book. (The sequel, Behemoth, is being published this October.) I appreciate that. I think I will probably like the second one more.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Everlasting (YA)


Everlasting. Angie Frazier. 2010. June 2010. Scholastic. 336 pages.

1855 San Francisco
Camille clicked the latches down on her trunk and glanced out her bedroom window. White haze choked the small seaport, and the fog bells sounding across the bay echoed in her chest. Fitting weather to mark the death of her freedom
.

I love this cover. I do. There is something so sweet about this cover. It reminds me of "Kiss the Girl" from The Little Mermaid. And that isn't the only Disney movie that comes to mind either.

Camille is engaged to be married to Randall Jackson, but his kisses inspire no passion within her. And she can't help feeling there is something missing in their relationship. When the novel opens, Camille is preparing to sail on a final trip with her father. He's a sea captain. She's been accompanying him for years. She feels so at home at sea. She knows this is one of the things she'll miss most after she's married.

Oscar Kildare, her father's first mate, is also sailing with the Christina. Camille's father senses there is something between Oscar and Camille--some attraction--so he tries his best to remind his daughter of her duty. She is to marry Randall in a few months. She should not be spending time with Oscar. Nothing good can come of it. So he thinks...

This is no ordinary trip. It will be her father's final voyage. And before he dies, he betrays Camille. (So she thinks.) She finds the true purpose for this trip, finds the letter he's been keeping secret, and learns a VERY big secret that he's been keeping from her for sixteen years. Camille will have decisions to make. BIG decisions that will change her life forever.

Everlasting is a historical romance with magical elements. There is plenty of action and adventure too. (Think Pirates of the Caribbean.)

I like this one. I like the romance between Oscar and Camille. (It reminds me of Will and Elizabeth.)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nest for Celeste (MG)


Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home. Henry Cole. 2010. HarperCollins. 342 pages.

Below the crackled and faded painting of a horse, beneath the heavy sideboard, under the worn carpet, and dusty floorboards of the dining room, sat Celeste, hunched over her worktable. She was weaving a basket from blades of dried grasses.

If you're a fan of the Tale of Despereaux, The Underneath, or Night Fairy, then you should consider reading Henry Cole's A Nest for Celeste. Who is Celeste? She's a mouse who doesn't quite have a place to call home. She's bullied by two rats--Trixie and Illianna--though we later learn that it are these rats who taught her to live in the big house, so they can't be all bad. When she's not being bullied by the rats or chased by the cat, Celeste likes to spend her time weaving baskets of all shapes and sizes. She uses these baskets when she's about the house. She gathers crumbs and other small remnants that only a mouse could appreciate--blades of grass, the occasional feather, etc. One day after a vigorous escape from the cat, Celeste finds a "better" home. But this home isn't a true home either. It's a boot. With an owner. Fortunately, it's owned by a young boy, Joseph, who appreciates just how cute and little and harmless she is. He calls her "Little One." And he likes to carry her with him in his pocket. Who is Joseph? He's a young boy who is an assistant to John James Audubon. For those unfamiliar with Audubon, he was a nineteenth century artist. He specialized in painting wildlife--birds. Did the birds love Audubon? Not so much. With good reason.

I didn't love this one. Not as much as I hoped anyway. It is beautifully illustrated. It's a novel about loneliness, friendship, and finding happiness where you can, when you can.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top Ten Picks: Favorite Books of All Time


The topic this week at Random Ramblings is Favorite Books of All Time. It is extremely difficult for me to even think about creating a top ten. But. I shall try.

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer.

Lisa is pregnant.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings.
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
"I've watched through his eyes, I've listened through his ears, and I tell you he's the one. Or at least as close as we're going to get."
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell.
Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.
Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
When war came to Monterey and to Cannery Row everybody fought it more or less, in one way or another.
Book Thief by Markus Zusak
First the colors. Then the humans. That's usually how I see things. Or at least, how I try.
Venetia by Georgette Heyer
"A fox got in amongst the hens last night, and ravished our best layer," remarked Miss Lanyon.
The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
"Your noise reveals you, Todd Hewitt."
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Mrs. Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies' eardrops and traversed by a brook that had its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde's Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs. Rachel Lynde's door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs. Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Venetia


Venetia. Georgette Heyer. 1958/2009. Harlequin. 368 pages.

Venetia. Georgette Heyer. Read by Richard Armitage. 2010. Naxos AudioBooks. Abridged. 4 hours, 48 minutes.

"A fox got in amongst the hens last night, and ravished our best layer," remarked Miss Lanyon. "A great-grandmother, too! You'd think he would be ashamed!" Receiving no answer, she continued in an altered voice: "Indeed, you would! It is a great deal too bad. What is to be done?"
I love Georgette Heyer. I do. I just love her. Most of her books leave me feeling happy, satisfied. Some more than others. But still, it is always difficult for me to name one book as my favorite. Or even two or three books as my favorites. Just when I think I've found it--the perfect Heyer--I read another and change my mind again. Such is the case with Venetia. I absolutely loved this one.

Venetia is a woman (25) living with her younger brother, Aubrey (17), and being courted by two equally unsatisfying gentlemen of the neighborhood, Edward Yardley and Oswald Denny. The Lanyon siblings do have an older brother, Conway. But he is in the army, and he hasn't been at Undershaw in years. Venetia and Aubrey do not miss him at all. Life is fairly routine for the two. Until. Lord Damerel ("The Wicked Baron") returns to his estate.

The two meet when she is trespassing on his land. He has no idea who she is. But she has a fairly good idea who he is. Especially after he kisses her! Yes, he kisses her.
"Who are you?" he demanded abruptly. "I took you for a village maiden--probably one of my tenants."
"Did you indeed? Well, if that is the way you mean to conduct yourself amongst the village maidens you won't win much liking here!"
"No, no, the danger is that I might win too much!" he retorted. "Who are you? Or should I first present myself to you? I'm Damerel, you know."
"Yes, so I supposed, at the outset of our delightful acquaintance. Later, of course, I was sure of it."
"Oh, oh--! My reputation, Iago, my reputation!" he exclaimed laughing again. "Fair Fatality, you are the most unusual female I have encountered in all my thirty-eight years!"
"You can't think how deeply flattered I am!" she assured him. "I daresay my head would be quite turned if I didn't suspect that amongst so many a dozen or so may have slipped from your memory."
"More like a hundred! Am I never to learn your name? I shall, you know, whether you tell me or no!" (33)
He intends to know her better while he's in the neighborhood. Venetia doesn't need a Lady Denny to tell her that would be unwise. But. When her brother, Aubrey, has a riding accident and is saved by none other than Damerel...well, she can't help getting to know him much, much better. And soon they become great friends. Of course, it's a friendship with always a hint of something more...

Lord Damerel isn't the only newcomer to the neighborhood. Soon Venetia and Aubrey welcome TWO very unexpected house guests. Conway has gotten married--her name is Charlotte. And Charlotte and her mother have come to stay at Undershaw. And the mother is quite the character. How long can Venetia stand to share a home with such a woman? Venetia begins to think about her options...and wishing it was more socially acceptable for her to set up her own home.

What did I love about this one? Everything! I loved the characters. I loved the main characters: Venetia, Aubrey, and Lord Damerel. I loved the minor characters too! Edward Yardley, Oswald Denny, Charlotte Lanyon, Mrs. Scorrier, etc. I loved the dialogue--the conversations. They were so well done! So exciting. Whether Venetia was having a heated argument with Mrs. Scorrier or flirting with Lord Damerel, there was just something about this one. So many memorable scenes. I think it would make a WONDERFUL movie.

The romance. Venetia and Lord Damerel make a great couple. There is such chemistry from the start! Every scene with these two is satisfying! It was a joy reading this one.
He released her hands, but only to pull her into his arms. "When you smile at me like that, it's all holiday with me! O God, I love you to the edge of madness, Venetia, but I'm not mad yet--not so mad that I don't know how disastrous it might be to you--to us both! You don't realize what an advantage I should be taking of your innocence!" He broke off suddenly, jerking up his head as the door opening on to the passage from the ante-room slammed. (221)
Venetia is a Georgette Heyer romance that does not follow her usual pattern.

The audiobook! Wow, wow, wow! I LOVED listening to Venetia. I did read the book first, so I would be familiar with the story, the characters. But then I listened to this one. And it was so very satisfying! I didn't think it was possible for me to love Lord Damerel more than I already did...but hearing the part read by Richard Armitage...wow!!! He does such a wonderful job with all the characters!

In other news:

The Convenient Marriage is the next Georgette Heyer audiobook to be narrated by Richard Armitage. It releases in August 2010.


In August, Austenprose will be celebrating Georgette Heyer! The month long celebration includes: "thirty-four book reviews of her romance novels, guest blogs, interviews of Heyer enthusiast from the blog-o-sphere, academia and publishing and tons of great giveaways." The schedule can be found here.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Cloaked in Red (MG)


Cloaked in Red. Vivian Vande Velde. 2010. October 2010. Marshall Cavendish. 128 pages.

From the author's note: Everyone knows the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl with the unfortunate name and the inability to tell the difference between her grandmother and a member of a different species.
The question is: Why do we all know it?
If you look at "Little Red Riding Hood," it's a perfect example of the exact opposite of a good story.


I loved this one. I did. I just LOVED it. Vivian Vande Velde gives readers EIGHT different "Little Red Riding Hood" stories. Each supposed to be 'better' than the original. With more heart and substance. And she definitely succeeded in my opinion. I enjoyed reading these stories. One area in which Vivian Vande Velde excels is in creating great first lines.

The Red Cloak: Once upon a time, after fashion was discovered but before people had makeovers on TV, there was a young girl named Meg.

The Red Riding Hood Doll: Once upon a time, before department stores and designer labels, there was a young seamstress named Georgette.

Little Red Riding Hood's Family: Once upon a time, long after people had found out that their families could sometimes be an embarrassment, but before there were advice columnists you could complain to, there was a girl named Roselle.

Granny and the Wolf: Once upon a time, before online dating services, there was a granny who had an unwelcome suitor.

Deems the Wood Gatherer: Once upon a time, before eyeglasses were invented, there was a nearsighted but good-hearted man named Deems.

Why Willy and His Brothers Won't Ever Amount to Anything: Once upon a time, after books were invented but before TV and movies, there was a girl named Isolda Adeline Genevieve Trenthausen.

The Little Red Headache: Once upon a time, before superhighways and hotel chains, a wolf was journeying through the woods.

Little Red Riding Hood's Little Red Riding Hood: Once upon a time, before malls, boutiques, or online clothing catalogs, there was a fairy godmother who was having trouble finding something to wear to the naming-day ceremony for her goddaughter.

The focus shifts in each story. Sometimes focusing on the human characters: the young girl, the grandmother, the woodcutter; other times focusing on the red riding hood (cloak) or the wolf. Many stories do have a twist--as you'd expect in a collection of fairy tale retellings.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Julia Gillian (And the Dream of the Dog) (MG)


Julia Gillian (And the Dream of the Dog). Alison McGhee. Illustrated by Drazen Kozjan. 2010. July 2010. Scholastic. 336 pages.

Welcome to sixth grade," said Mr. Lamonte. "We have a great many forms to fill out, so let's get started, shall we?"

Julia Gillian (And the Dream of the Dog) is the third in the Julia Gillian series by Alison McGhee. The first two are Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing) and Julia Gillian (And the Quest for Joy). I love Julia Gillian. I love her best friend, Bonwit Keller. I love her dog-of-my-dreams, Bigfoot. I love how connected she is with her parents, her neighbors, her community, her school.

Julia Gillian is still uncomfortable with change. She's learned the best way is to move forward, to work past the fear, the anxiety. But it doesn't always make it easier in-the-moment. Her sixth grade teacher has introduced Julia to the concept of controlling variables. And Julia Gillian has taken his words to heart in just about every area of her life. From how to best avoid the Crazy Eights (eighth graders), to how to take care of her aging dog. Yes, Bigfoot, is getting older. And slower. And Julia Gillian isn't ready for what's coming. (I wasn't either.)

I loved this one. It was bittersweet. I have to warn you. But it was good, very good. It not only made me cry, it kept me crying. The last couple of chapters it was impossible to read without tears. To read her project for the Reading Buddy Extravaganza, it was definitely emotional!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Everlasting Now (MG)


The Everlasting Now. Sara H. Banks. 2010. Peachtree Publishers. 176 pages.

When I first met Champion Luckey, I didn't know that he was going to change my life. Maybe you never know when that's going to happen; it's not like something you're expecting. It's more like getting struck by lightning and living to tell about it.

Historical fiction. Set during the Depression. In Alabama. In 1937. Our narrator, "Brother" Longstreet Sayre, is coming of age at a difficult time in America. One unforgettable summer, he becomes close friends with Champion Always Luckey. (He is the nephew of Lily Luther, the Sayre's housekeeper.) That friendship surprises and upsets. Some at least. Champion is black. Brother is white. During these months Brother sees the world around him in a new way. He notices the differences, the restrictions, the injustices for the first time. It's not like he thought the world was perfect before--he's lost his father; he's felt the rawness of pain and grief--but he is realizing that the world needs to be changed. And he wants to be a part of that change. He wants the world to be better.

I liked this one. Not like I love To Kill A Mockingbird. Not like I enjoyed Moon Over Manifest. Or The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had. But I did like it.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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What's On Your Nightstand (July)

What's On Your Nightstand is hosted at 5 Minutes for Books.

Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters. I am reading the second Generation Dead novel. I hope to get to the third, Passing Strange, soon. The books star a diverse cast of zombies differently biotic individuals. 30 chapters in.

Fire by Kristin Cashore. YA Fantasy. 18 chapters in.

Knightley Academy by Violet Haberdasher. Alternate Victorian historical setting. The synopsis (borrowed from B&N): In Violet Haberdasher's Knightley Academy, the first commoner accepted at a prestigous boarding school uncovers a conspiracy that could lead to war. 6 chapters in.

Venetia by Georgette Heyer. Regency romance novel. I am listening to this one and reading it. It is such a great read so far. 8 chapters in.

Emma and the Vampires by Jane Austen and Wayne Josephson. Paranormal retelling of Jane Austen classic. It releases mid-August, I believe. 4 chapters in.

X Isle by Steve Augarde. YA Dystopia. Synopsis (borrowed from B&N) Ever since the floods came and washed the world away, survivors have been desperate to win a place on X-Isle, the island where life is rumored to be easier than on what's left of the mainland. Only young boys stand a chance of getting in, the smaller and lighter the better... 1 chapter in.



© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Julia Gillian (And the Quest for Joy) (MG)


Julia Gillian (And the Quest for Joy). Alison McGhee. 2009. Scholastic. 320 pages.

It was the end of September, and Julia Gillian, along with the other Lake Harriet Elementary School students, had been in school for nearly a month.

I loved Julia Gillian (And the Art of Knowing). I thought Julia Gillian was a great quirky heroine. I found it easy to relate to her and her problems. (In the first book, she struggled with anxiety and fear.) Changes. This second book deals with changes.

Julia and her friends are in the fifth grade. And at times Julia feels her friends are growing up faster than she is. Julia doesn't want to be a baby. But. She likes her parents to pack her lunches. She loves the notes her parents write her in her lunches. She has saved each and every one. And some of these notes, well, she pastes them into her papier-mache masks because they give her courage, they make her feel better. When her best friend, Bonwit, announces that he packs his own lunches, Julia does the unthinkable. She lies. She says she packs her own lunches too. And that one little lie is just the start of the uncomfortableness that becomes Julia's life. There are so many things bothering Julia these days. Worries about her trumpet--she's the only one in her class that can't make the trumpet make a sound. Worries about her friendship with Bonwit--he hasn't invited her over to his house in months, and every time she invites him over, well, he says no. Worries about the lunchroom--her favorite lunch monitor is out, and there's a substitute who is trouble, trouble, trouble for anyone who believes in life, liberty, and the pursuit of Oreos. But though Julia very worried, she can't find the courage to speak up. She thinks she should be able to solve her problems on her own without asking her parents for help, for advice. Can Julia learn to be honest with everyone in her life?

I loved Julia Gillian and the Quest for Joy. I did. I would definitely recommend these books!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Dark Life (YA)


Dark Life. Kat Falls. 2010. Scholastic. 304 pages.

I peered into the deep-sea canyon, hoping to spot a toppled skyscraper. Maybe even the Statue of Liberty. But there was no sign of the old East Coast, just a sheer drop into darkness.

When Ty, a boy who has spent almost all of his life living deep undersea, meets Gemma, a Topsider, a girl who has spent her life on land, their lives are changed for better or worse.

Gemma has come to the sea in hopes of finding her brother. She hasn't seen him in years. But if she can get his signature, she'd have some freedom. She hates being a ward of the 'wealth (The Commonwealth). Of course, she'd love it if her brother welcomed her with open arms, if he welcomed her into his home. But. Before she can settle her future, she has to find him. And that is proving more challenging than she ever thought. Ty, not exactly used to girls, let alone Topsider girls, agrees to help her in her search. But the search has its own interruptions. Because things aren't exactly stable undersea--politically. There's a band of outlaws making things a bit topsy-turvy. And Ty and Gemma keep stumbling into danger.

I really liked this one. It was a very interesting dystopian novel. Falls has created a unique new world, new society, undersea. For those humans with the pioneer spirit--like Ty's parents--the ocean offers a new beginning, a new hope.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Nonfiction Monday: Sugar Changed the World


Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science. Marc Aronson and Marina Budhos. 2010. November 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 176 pages.

It was a typically hot, dry day in Jerusalem.

Before reading this book, I had not given much thought to the history of sugar. I had not made the connection between sugar and some of the cruel injustices of the world. I speak of the connection between sugar and slavery.

"Sugar created a hunger, a need, which swept from one corner of the world to another, bringing the most terrible misery and destruction, but then, too, the most inspiring ideas of liberty.
Sugar changed the world." (8)
The book is divided into four sections: "From Magic to Spice," "Hell," "Freedom," and "Back to Our Stories: New Workers, New Sugar." The book spans the centuries and explores many different cultures and societies.

I found the book rich in detail. I would definitely recommend this one.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #30


Happy Sunday!

What I've Reviewed This Week:

Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz. 2010. Revell. 368 pages.
The First Part Last. Angela Johnson. 2003. Simon & Schuster. 144 pages.
Finding My Place. Traci L. Jones. 2010. May 2010. FSG. 192 pages.
Stolen. Lucy Christopher. 2010. Scholastic. 304 pages.
The Gardener. S.A. Bodeen. 2010. May 2010. Feiwel & Friends. 240 pages.
I Kissed a Zombie, and I Liked It. Adam Selzer. 2010. Random House. 192 pages.
The Storyteller's Secrets. Tony Mitton. Illustrated by Peter Bailey. Random House. 128 pages.
Elephant Run. Roland Smith. 2007. Hyperion. 336 pages.
Bamboo People. Mitali Perkins. 2010. July 2010. Charlesbridge. 272 pages.
Phineas L. MacGuire...Erupts. Frances O'Roark Dowell. 2006. Simon & Schuster. 176 pages.
I Survived The Sinking of the Titanic, 1912. Lauren Tarshis. 2010. Scholastic. 112 pages.
First Comes Marriage. Mary Balogh. 2009. Random House. 416 pages
Then Comes Seduction. Mary Balogh. 2009. Random House. 448 pages.
At Last Comes Love. Mary Balogh. 2009. Random House. 416 pages.
Seducing an Angel by Mary Balogh. 2009. Random House. 416 pages.
She Stoops to Conquer. Oliver Goldsmith. 1773. 80 pages.
Dinosaurs Love Underpants. Claire Freedman. Illustrated by Ben Cort. 2009. December 2009. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.
Night Lights. Susan Gal. 2009. November 2009. Random House. 32 pages.
Always in Trouble. Corinne Demas. Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones. 2009. Scholastic. 40 pages.
The Napping House. Audrey Wood. Illustrated by Don Wood. 1984/2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages.
Baby at the Farm. Karen Katz. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 10 pages.
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. Mem Fox. Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. 2008/2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 38 pages.
All About Me! A Baby's Guide to Babies by David Salariya. 2008. Random House. 16 pages.

Currently Reading:


Venetia. Georgette Heyer. 1958/2009. Harlequin. 368 pages.


Fire. Kristin Cashore. 2009. Penguin. 480 pages.


Kiss of Life. Daniel Waters. 2009. Hyperion. 416 pages.
What I Hope To Begin/Finish Soon:



Theodosia and the Eyes of Horus. R.L. LaFevers. 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 375 pages.


Knightley Academy. Violet Haberdasher. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 469 pages.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Fifth Trip in July


New Loot:

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean
Kiss of Life by Daniel Waters
Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems
Furious George Goes Bananas by Michael Rex
Runaway Mummy by Michael Rex
Frankenstein Makes A Sandwich by Adam Rex
Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan
Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams
Will by Maria Boyd

Leftover Loot:

Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham. 2010. Penguin. 240 pages.
The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles. 2007. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 256 pages.
Love, Ruby Lavender. Deborah Wiles. 2001. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 200 pages.
Half Magic. Edward Eager. 1954/2004. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 240 pages.
Phineas L. MacGuire Gets Slimes. Frances O'Roark Dowell. 2007. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages.
Phineas L. MacGuire Blasts Off. Frances O'Roark Dowell. 2008. Simon & Schuster. 208 pages.
Then Comes Seduction. Mary Balogh. 2009. Random House. 448 pages.
At Last Comes Love. Mary Balogh. 2009. Random House. 416 pages.
Seducing an Angel by Mary Balogh. 2009. Random House. 416 pages.


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

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

I Kissed A Zombie and I Liked It (YA)


I Kissed a Zombie, and I Liked It. Adam Selzer. 2010. Random House. 192 pages.

Watching a vampire make out with an idiot is kind of like going to the farmers' market and noticing just how many farmers have lost fingers in on-the-job accidents.

Our heroine Alley (aka Gonk) thinks she knows what she wants in a guy. One of the things she's looking for is a guy who's willing (and able) to leave town after high school. A pulse and heartbeat are also important factors. Dead guys just don't appeal to her like they do to her friend Marie.

"Dead people have no reason to live," I say. "Shouldn't we have stopped thinking vampires were awesome when we found out they spend most of their time acting all emo?"
"You're just jealous, Alley," says Marie. "Can you honestly tell me that if some guy rose from the grave and spent a hundred years looking for just the right person, then fell for you, you wouldn't think that was totally romantic?"
"I'd think he was a stalker," I say.
"It's true love!" says Marie. (3)

It continues,
"You guys are just prejudiced," says Marie. "I would kill to date a vampire. I mean, he's crazy strong, but not strong enough to stay away from her. How romantic can you get?"
"Right," says Peter. "I think that's on page one of How to Get Teenage Girls to Fall in Love with You."
"And her parents probably think he's a monster, but she truly understands him," I chime in.
"See?" asks Peter. "Textbook." (4)
Which is why it's funny when Alley is the first of her friends to date a dead guy. Of course, she doesn't realize--at first--that Doug is a zombie. Doug is the first guy that Alley has liked enough to date. Usually she's all about making out with random guys--guys she doesn't like like, but never guys she dislikes. Alley hasn't wanted to feel anything with a guy. The fact that she feels for Doug? Well, it surprises her--even more when she finds out the truth--but soon Alley's convinced that Doug is the best boyfriend ever. That he is her everything. But no relationship is ever that easy. And this one has its challenges...

As a paranormal romance, I Kissed A Zombie, And I Liked It didn't quite work for me. As commentary on the paranormal craze, it worked well. It was funny. It was insightful.
I swear that looking around in disgust is one of vampires' actual powers--every vampire I've ever known is an expert at it. (13)

Sometimes I think vampires have spent centuries just honing their pickup lines. But I'm immune to pickup lines. (51)

When a vampire glares at you, man, you stay glared at. (51)

I spend the next hour just making snarky comments to girls who think it's great that their boyfriend pressures them into dying instead of pressuring them to have sex. (130)
There is even a pamphlet entitled "Vampires, Zombies, and You: Questions and Answers About Post-Humans for Teens." One of the questions is even:
My boyfriend/girlfriend and I totally want kids. If we were both posthumans, the babies would be, like, superbabies, right? (125)
So I enjoyed reading I Kissed A Zombie and I Liked It. It was funny. It was smart.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Seducing an Angel


Seducing an Angel by Mary Balogh. 2009. Random House. 416 pages.

"What I am going to do is find a man."

Seducing an Angel is the fourth in Mary Balogh's Huxtable Family series. The first three are First Comes Marriage, Then Comes Seduction, and At Last Comes Love. This fourth book focuses on the brother in the family, Stephen. He is the "angel" of the title, the man our heroine, Cassandra Belmont (Lady Paget), has determined to seduce.

It would be nearly impossible for a widow to have a worse reputation than Lady Paget. She's rumored--by the ton--to have killed her husband. With an axe. The fact of the matter, for those that care about facts, is that her husband died from a bullet to the heart. When Seducing An Angel opens, Lady Paget is newly returned to London. She's got little to lose--no money, no jewels, no estate, no reputation. So she decides that perhaps it's time to try a new vocation. She's out to catch a man to keep her. She is seeking a man willing to pay well for her services. Once she hears that Stephen Huxtable is oh-so-wealthy and oh-so-single, well, she's determined that he may just be the perfect man for her.

Stephen is a little shocked by just how bold Cassandra is. How blatantly she is pursuing him at the ball. Widow or not, she's behaving very shockingly. She wants him in her bed before the night is out.

But what she doesn't realize is that Stephen may be uncomfortable with how she wants this business arrangement to go...he wants her mind and body or not at all.

I liked this one. It's not my favorite of the four I've read. Cassandra isn't the easiest heroine to love. Both Seducing an Angel and At Last Comes Love deal with abusive husbands and the predicament of married women--the fact that men legally had complete power, complete control over their wives. They were their possessions to use and abuse as they saw fit.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, July 23, 2010

The Storyteller's Secrets


The Storyteller's Secrets. Tony Mitton. Illustrated by Peter Bailey. Random House. 128 pages.

Not so very far from here, nor so very long from now, there were two children. Their names were Toby and Tess and they were twins. They lived with their mother in a cozy cottage beside a village green. In the middle of the green stood a great old chestnut tree, and beneath the tree was a stout wooden bench where Toby and Tess sat when they hadn't much to do or when there were things they wanted to talk about.

The Storyteller's Secrets was originally published in the UK. The book has an old-fashioned, traditional feel to it. You can tell this even from the end papers. And the black-and-white illustrations. And the language. What is the book about? It's about two children--a boy and a girl named Toby and Tess. One day after their mother has shooed them out of the house, they meet a stranger. A stranger named Teller. He loves to tell stories--and, of course, these stories all have morals, or should I say MORALS!--and he finds a welcoming audience in these two. The book has five of Teller's stories: The Woodcutter's Daughter, St. Brigid's Cloak, The Seal Hunter, The Pedlar of Swaffham, and Tam Lin. The stories are told in verse, in rhyme. Though the framework of the story--Teller meeting the children, their friendly encounters--are told in prose.

There were a few moments where I felt Teller was a bit too condescending, a bit too didactic with the children. Is the book didactic because it's trying to be old-fashioned? It could be. It didn't bother me enough to stop me from reading the book.

My favorite was "Five Fragments" which sums up the book nicely. I won't share all the poem. But here are the first two 'fragments'.

a shrivelled old berry
that came from a wood
where a woodcutter's cottage
once quietly stood...

a fragment of cloth
from the edge of a cloak
once worn by a woman --
such wisdom she spoke...


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Stolen (YA)


Stolen. Lucy Christopher. 2010. Scholastic. 304 pages.

You saw me before I saw you.

Not many novels are written in the second person. I think it can be a bit tricky. But in the case of Stolen, I think it works. The novel is a letter. Gemma, our heroine, is writing a letter to the man, Ty, who kidnapped her and held her captive in a remote part of Australia. The novel begins with the kidnapping. Begins with how he was able to get her alone--alone enough to slip something into her drink without anyone noticing. Gemma was at the airport with her parents. She went to get a cup of coffee. Her parents went on to the gate, sure that their sixteen year old daughter would follow a few minutes later. But Ty had different plans for Gemma. Plans that would keep her his forever.

Stolen is a compelling read--very intense. It's also complex. There are only two characters, but both are developed well. Both are flawed. Of course, you could argue Ty is much more flawed than Gemma! It's a strange book--there are a few scenes that are just so very, very strange.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Top Ten Picks: Favorite Male Literary Characters


Random Ramblings Top Ten Picks topic this week is Favorite Male Literary characters. I am going to try my best not to duplicate my Literary Crushes list. (Which is why there will be no Captain Wentworth, Gilbert Blythe, Henry Tilney, John Thornton, etc.)


Don Quixote from Don Quixote. Miguel de Cervantes. My review. I enjoyed both Don Quixote and Sancho Panzo. I loved these two so much that this chunkster was a delight to read. I won't lie, it took me almost two months to read, but, it was a great two months. It was a journey that I loved taking.


The creature from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. My review. This novel is one of my favorites. Yes, favorites. For me, it is a comfort read. For me, it is all about the meaning of life, what it means to be human, what it means to feel. Yes, the 'creature' mainly feels miserable. But. The fact that he feels at all. Well, it speaks to me. My favorite part of this novel are the sections narrated by the creature, the sections where the creature speaks to his creator, Victor Frankenstein.


Death. From The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. My review. I loved everything about Death in this amazing book by Markus Zusak. The book was truly wonderful and completely unforgettable.


Ender/Andrew Wiggin from Ender's Game and Speaker of the Dead by Orson Scott Card. I love this character. I love this series. I love how Ender has matured into Andrew. I loved seeing how much he's grown...changed. He is wise. But his wisdom doesn't make him less human, it makes him more human. I love how this novel is about taking broken things, messy things, ugly things--and making them whole, making sense of the chaos, making them beautiful.

Rhett Butler from Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell. My review. Rhett is such a strong character in Gone With The Wind. He steals so many scenes in Margaret Mitchell's classic. He does. Most of the scenes that I love and adore (and read over and over and over again) star Rhett.


Matthew from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I love, love, love Matthew. I do. I love his shyness. I love his stubbornness. I love his devotion. I love his tenderness. Which is why his death makes me cry no matter how many times I read the novel.


Almanzo Wilder from Long Winter, These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I love the Little House books. I do. I love The Long Winter especially. It makes me cold. It makes me hungry. It makes me desperately hungry. It makes me feel. I love Almanzo because he is a hero.


Spencer Martin from Suite Scarlett and Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson. I love Scarlett's older brother, Spencer.


Marcelo from Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork. I loved Marcelo's voice. I loved his observations. I loved his interactions, his conversations. I loved that his special interest was God, religion. I loved his intelligence; his way of digesting the world and discerning for himself right from wrong. I loved his strength, his character. Here is a man with heart and soul, with substance.


Gramps from Rash by Pete Hautman. He's cranky, but he's fun. He adds a bit of humor and common sense to this futuristic novel.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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At Last Comes Love


At Last Comes Love. Mary Balogh. 2009. Random House. 416 pages.

When Duncan Pennethorne, Earl of Sheringford, returned to London after a five-year absence, he did not go immediately to Claverbrook House on Grosvenor Square, but instead took up a reluctant residence on Curzon Street with his mother, Lady Carling.

At Last Comes Love is the third in the Huxtable family series by Mary Balogh. It follows First Comes Marriage and Then Comes Seduction. (Though each book could be read as a stand-alone. They're not that dependent on one another.)

It is Margaret Huxtable's turn at last. She's the oldest sister, the self-sacrificing, good-natured caretaker of the family. In her youth, she was courted. Once. She thought she had an understanding with Crispin Dew. But war kept the two apart. And then he wed another. And then that was that. Margaret had an offer or two or three. But she wasn't in love with her would-be suitor, the Marquess of Allingham. So she said no to each of his proposals. But now that she's thirty, now that Crispin Dew has returned home a widower, now that she's been insulted and humiliated by Dew's condescending attitude, well, Margaret can't say yes fast enough. Now if she could only find someone to propose.

Duncan Pennethorne needs a bride--fast. If he doesn't get married before his grandfather's eightieth birthday--a mere two weeks away--then he'll lose almost everything. His grandfather will give his estate--well, the profits of that estate at least--to another. So Duncan is desperately seeking a woman--a good woman--to be his wife. She needs to be a proper lady--one accepted by Society--so that his grandfather approves.

So when Duncan and Margaret collide with one another at a dance, well, it could be destiny. He asks her to dance and to marry him in the same breath.

"Excuse me," she said when his grip on her arms did not loosen."Why?" he asked her, his eyes roaming boldly over her face. "What is your hurry? Why not stay and dance with me? And then marry me and live happily ever after with me?" Margaret was startled out of her panic. (43)
Her answer? "Does it have to be in that order?"

As desperate as she is, she isn't taking Duncan's proposal seriously. Though he continues to act as if he is quite serious. But then Crispin Dew comes to "rescue" her from her dance partner. And well, Margaret takes a big risk. She introduces him to Dew as her betrothed. A shocking lie that could lead to a big scandal...

I loved this one. I think it is my favorite of the three. I liked Duncan and Margaret. I liked them as a couple.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Finding My Place (MG/YA)


Finding My Place. Traci L. Jones. 2010. May 2010. FSG. 192 pages.

For most people, the big news during the fall of 1975 was the second assassination attempt on President Ford. Not for me. For me, that October was the month my father, Morris Ray Baker, and my mother, Annie Louise Baker, decided to completely ruin my life. Oh, they claimed it was not only a good move for our family, but a step forward for our race as a whole. My parents were big on doing their part to uplift the race, which meant I was expected to do my part as well.

Tiphanie, our narrator, is convinced that this move to a new neighborhood, a new school, is bad news. She'll be starting a new school where she'll be one of two black students--Bradley being the other. Tiphanie is unsure of it all. Are people staring at her because she's new? Or are they staring because she's black? Are people ignoring her because that's just the way they are? Would any new student get the same treatment? Or are her classmates racist? She doesn't want to overreact. But she can't help wishing that they'd been a warmer welcome. More people smiling, more people talking to her, asking her to be a part of their group.

Not everyone is shy. Jackie Sue is anything but shy. Some might argue she's a bit too blunt. (She tells Tiphanie her name is spelled wrong, and that none of the white guys at their school would be brave enough to date her. Even if they wanted to, they'd be too afraid of what others would think.) But Jackie Sue and Tiphanie are soon good friends. But not everyone is happy about this friendship. Clay, for example, is openly hostile. He doesn't want Jackie Sue talking to Tiphanie. And he certainly doesn't want Jackie inviting Tiphanie back to her trailer home. Tiphanie's parents aren't thrilled by the friendship either. They think their daughter could do better. Jackie Sue's mom, well, she leaves much to be desired. So while they wouldn't ever forbid Tiphanie from being friends with her, they take every opportunity to encourage Tiphanie to make other friends. Tiphanie's parents have definite opinions--on who they want their daughter to be, what they expect from her, who she should be friends with, etc.

Tiphanie is trying to discover who she is exactly. Trying to balance what she wants with what her parents' want. I liked this one. It's a universal story in many ways.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Then Comes Seduction


Then Comes Seduction. Mary Balogh. 2009. Random House. 448 pages.

Jasper Finley, Baron Montford, was twenty-five years old.

Then Comes Seduction is the second in the Huxtable Family series by Mary Balogh. The first being First Comes Marriage. I did not enjoy the second as much as the first. I'm not sure if Jasper and Katherine didn't quite work for me as a couple, or if I just couldn't get past all the wagers.

Jasper does not make a good first impression. Well, he might for some readers. The novel opens with Jasper--in a very drunken state--bragging and boasting about how he can get any woman into bed. No woman presents a true challenge to him. It doesn't matter who she is. He's simply irresistible. Jasper's friends--also drunk--then propose a wager. They select one of the young women of the ton. They want this woman to be new-to-town, new-to-society. They want her to be as innocent-and-naive-as-can-be. They pick Katherine Huxtable to be the woman of the wager. They write down her name (and the details of the wager) in a public book as an official bet so that other men in the community can place their money one way or the other.

Katherine is drawn to Jasper from the start. (So perhaps his boasting isn't all for show.) She's been warned--over and over again--to stay away from Jasper and his kind. Rakes are no good, end of story. But when she finds herself at the center of his attention, she's giddy even when she knows she should be shocked. She allows herself to be separated from her friends, from her chaperon. She enjoys a very private walk with him. A walk that could very well lead to her undoing.

This first wager is only the beginning...

The novel jumps ahead three years or so--without ANY warning or explanation. Katherine and Jasper meet each other again after considerable time apart...is the spark still there? How does she really feel about him? How does he really feel about her? Can her reputation withstand a second flirtation? Or will a scandal force the two to wed?

I didn't like this one. I'm not sure if I just disliked Jasper. Or if I disliked Jasper and Katherine.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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She Stoops to Conquer


She Stoops to Conquer. Oliver Goldsmith. 1773. 80 pages. [Read the play online.]

I vow, Mr. Hardcastle, you're very particular. Is there a creature in the whole country but ourselves, that does not take a trip to town now and then, to rub off the rust a little?

She Stoops To Conquer is a wonderfully funny, oh-so-charming play that I adored.

It stars the Hardcastle family. Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle. Mrs. Hardcastle's son, Tony Lumpkin; Mr. Hardcastle's daughter, Miss Kate Hardcastle; Mrs. Hardcastle's niece, Miss Constance Neville.

Charles Marlow and his friend George Hastings are on their way to visit the Hardcastles. Charles' father is friends with Mr. Hardcastle. And this Mr. Hardcastle has a daughter. It is his father's wish that the two meet. If the two suit each other, then a marriage may soon follow. Hastings has his own business in accompanying his friend. He is well acquainted with Miss Constance. He would love to be even better acquainted. If he has his way, then the two will soon be eloping.

Marlow and Hastings get lost. Who should give them 'better' directions than Tony Lumpkin? Well, if Tony wasn't so frustrated with his mother and stepfather, maybe no one. But Tony wants to have a little fun. So he sends the two on their way, telling them about how they should spend the night at a nearby inn before going on their way.

The inn in question? The Hardcastle home. No doubt about it, Marlow finds Mr. Hardcastle an uncommon innkeeper! And he mistakes Miss Kate for a barmaid. And there the fun begins...

I loved, loved, loved this play! I hope that you'll want to give it a chance as well.

There was a wonderful adaptation made in 2008. You can read my review of that movie here.


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Bamboo People (MG/YA)


Bamboo People. Mitali Perkins. 2010. July 2010. Charlesbridge. 272 pages.

Teachers wanted. Applicants must take examination in person.

Bamboo People has two narrators; each on a different side of the war; each closer to childhood than adulthood.

Chiko, who narrates the first half of the novel, is tricked into joining the Burmese army. His father, a doctor, is in prison for "resisting" the government. His mother is worried about her son. Worried that her son will be taken away from her. But she reluctantly agrees that her son should answer the ad for teachers. Her son is smart, and he would make an excellent teacher. Is it a trap? Neither know for sure. But Chiko feels he's failing his father. He feels he isn't being a man. That he's not doing a good job of providing for the family. That a real man wouldn't stay indoors and hide hoping that the trouble will pass him by. Tai is another child, another boy, taken the same time as Chiko. These two become good friends. Chiko even takes time to teach him how to read and write. Neither wants to be in the army. Neither wants to see war.

Tu Reh, our second narrator, is living in the Karenni refugee camp. He has every reason to hate the Burmese. And like so many of the others he's been taught to hate his enemy. But one day he discovers a dying soldier--someone he sees as a mere boy, a child. His first instinct is to kill. Yet something stops him from killing. Something even prompts him to pick the boy up and carry him to a healer. It isn't easy for Tu Reh, it's a decision he questions again and again. Yet he can't regret saving a life. He can't regret seeing this child-soldier as a fellow human. There is something remarkable about Tu Reh.

I loved both narrators. I loved seeing the human side of war. I think Bamboo People is a very compelling read.

It is set in contemporary times.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Elephant Run (MG/YA)


Elephant Run. Roland Smith. 2007. Hyperion. 336 pages.

When Nick Freestone was young, he and his mother lived on a farm in Kansas.

Historical fiction. Set in Burma during World War II. When Nick Freestone's mother becomes concerned about her son's safety--the bombing of London by the Nazis--she sends her son to Burma, to his father. Nick hasn't seen in his father in years, hasn't been on his father's plantations, in years.

Nick's arrival comes just days before Japan invades Burma. He's barely had time to settle in, barely had time to tour the plantation, before the danger becomes all too real. His father hurriedly makes plans to send his son to India--in an attempt once again to get him out of danger--but these plans fail. His father is captured. And Nick becomes a servant, a prisoner to the Colonel who has taken his father's plantation. But he's not alone.

I really enjoyed this one. I found it a compelling read. It was fascinating to read about World War II from this perspective. The novel has a diverse cast of characters--British, Burmese, Japanese, etc. It was easy for me to love Nick, Mya, and Hilltop. I also thought Smith did a great job with Sergeant Sonji and Colonel Nagayoshi.

Not everyone likes reading about war, but I thought Smith did a great job in making this a very human story.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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