Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August Accomplishments

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

Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome.

Everyone thinks children are sweet as Necco Wafters, but I've lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten. The only difference between grown-ups and kids is that grown-ups go to jail for murder. Kids get away with it.

Come to think of it, the day my brother tried to eat his first-grade teacher turned out to be the same day that my dad brought me home a very, very strange cat.

I don't want to die, I thought. Not again.

The big question: Is Origami Yoda real? Well, of course, he's real. I mean, he's a real finger puppet made out of a real piece of paper. But I mean: Is he REAL? Does he really know things? Can he see the future? Does he use the force?

Emma Woodhouse--handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition--had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress her. Until the vampire attacks began.

August's Top Five:

A Tale Dark and Grimm. Adam Gidwitz.
The Convenient Marriage. By Georgette Heyer. (1934) Read by Richard Armitage. (2010)
To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee.
Turtle in Paradise. Jennifer L. Holm.
Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Salley Mavor

Number of Board Books: 6

Baby's Book Tower. By Leslie Patricelli. 2010. August 2010. Candlewick. 96 pages.
Count My Kisses, Little One. Ruthie May. Illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie. 2010. August 2010. Scholastic. 24 pages.
Five Little Ducks. Beth Harwood. Illustrated by Emma Dodd. 2008. Amazing Baby. 10 pages.
Time for Bed. Mem Fox. Illustrated by Jane Dyer. 1993/2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 28 pages.
Amazing Baby: Clap and Sing. Emma Dodd. 2007. Silver Dolphin. 12 pages.
Princess Baby On the Go. Karen Katz. 2010. August 2010. Random House. 14 pages.

Number of Picture Books: 10

Dog Loves Books. Louise Yates. 2010. July 2010. Random House. 32 pages.
Too Pickley! By Jean Reidy. Illustrated by Genevieve Leloup. 2010. July 2010. Bloomsbury. 32 pages.
Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late. Mo Willems. 2006. Hyperion. 40 pages.
Piggy Pie Po. Audrey & Don Wood. 2010. September 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages.
The Most Amazing Hide-and-Seek Alphabet Book. Robert Crowther. 1999/2010. August 2010. Candlewick. 12 pages.
The Most Amazing Hide-and-Seek Numbers Book. Robert Crowther. 2010. August 2010. (1999) Candlewick. 12 pages.
Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep! Mo Willems. 2010. HarperCollins. 32 pages.
One Smart Cookie: Bite Size Lessons for the School Years and Beyond. By Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Illustrated by Jane Dyer & Brooke Dyer. 2010. HarperCollins. 40 pages.
Chicken Big. Keith Graves. 2010. Chronicle Books. 40 pages.
It's A Book. Lane Smith. 2010. August 2010. Roaring Brook Press. 32 pages.

Number of Children's Books: 6

In Too Deep (The 39 Clues #6) Jude Watson. 2009. Scholastic. 206 pages.
Complete Adventures of Curious George: 70th Anniversary Edition. Margret and H.A. Rey. 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 432 pages.
Curious George Storybook Collection. 2010. September 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 197 pages.
Otter Everywhere: Brand New Readers. By Christine Webster. Illustrated by Tim Nihoff. 2007. Candlewick Press. 48 pages.
Brand New Readers: Termite Tales. Kathy Caple. 2009. Candlewick Press. 48 pages.
Brand New Readers: Larry and Rita. Jamie Michalak. Illustrated by Jill Newton. 2007. Candlewick Press. 48 pages.Link

Number of Middle Grade: 7

A Tale Dark and Grimm. Adam Gidwitz. 2010. November 2010. Penguin. 192 pages.
Leaving Gee's Bend. Irene Latham. 2010. Penguin. 240 pages.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. Tom Angleberger. 2010. Harry N. Abrams. 141 pages.
Knightley Academy. Violet Haberdasher. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 469 pages.
Crunch. Leslie Connor. 2010. HarperCollins. 336 pages.
The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams. Rhonda Hayter. 2010. Penguin. 256 pages.
Turtle in Paradise. Jennifer L. Holm. 2010. Random House. 208 pages.

Number of YA: 6

Kiss of Life. Daniel Waters. 2009. Hyperion. 416 pages.
Glimpse. Carol Lynch Williams. 2010. June 2010. Simon & Schuster. 496 pages.
Passing Strange (Generation Dead #3). Daniel Waters. Hyperion. 400 pages.
Sphinx's Princess. Esther Friesner. 2009. Random House. 384 pages.
Shiver. Maggie Stiefvater. 2009. Scholastic. 400 pages.
The Half-Life of Planets. Emily Franklin. and Brendan Halpin. 2010. Hyperion. 256 pages.

Number of Adult: 7

The Convenient Marriage. By Georgette Heyer. (1934) Read by Richard Armitage. 2010. August 2010. Naxos Audiobooks. 5 hrs. 6 minutes.
Beauvallet. Georgette Heyer. 1929/2010. Sourcebooks. 301 pages.
Emma and the Vampires by Wayne Josephson. 2010. Sourcebooks. 304 pages.
April Lady. Georgette Heyer. 1957/2005. Harlequin. 270 pages.
The Foundling. Georgette Heyer. 1948/2009. Sourcebooks. 439 pages.
To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee. 1960. 281 pages.
Civil Contract. Georgette Heyer. 1961/2009. Harlequin. 432 pages.

Number of Christian: 6

The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. Tim Challies. 2007. Crossway Publishers. 208 pages.
Masquerade by Nancy Moser. 2010. Bethany House. 368 pages.
George Whitefield: God's Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century. Arnold A. Dallimore. 2010. Crossway Publishers. 224 pages.
The Devil in Pew Number Seven: A True Story. Rebecca Nichols Alonzo with Bob DeMoss. 2010. Tyndale. 288 pages.
Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope. Mary Beth Chapman. With Ellen Vaughn. 2010. Revell. 288 pages.
The Vigilante's Bride. Yvonne Harris. 2010. Bethany House. 304 pages.


Number of Nonfiction:

Number of Graphic Novels: 2

Koko Be Good. Jen Wang. 2010. September 2010. First Second. 304 pages.
Frankenstein The Graphic Novel: Original Text. Mary Shelley. 2008. Script Adaptation by Jason Cobley, American English Adaptation: Joe Sutcliff Sanders. Illustrations by Declan Shalvey, Jason Cardy & Kat Nicholson, etc. Classical Comics. 144 pages.

Number of Poetry: 1

Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Salley Mavor. 2010. September 2010. Houghton Mifflin. 72 pages.


Number of Short Story Collections/Anthologies:

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Vigilante's Bride


The Vigilante's Bride. Yvonne Harris. 2010. Bethany House. 304 pages.

"Marry him? I most certainly will not. Why, I've never laid eyes on the man!"

Luke Sullivan didn't exactly know what the consequences would be when he decided to rob the stagecoach. He's not exactly a criminal. Just a hero with a momentary weakness--he'd just learned some surprising news about his past, his father, something that attributes blame to the rancher, Bartholomew Axel. Sullivan feels that Axel owes him a bit of money, and, that is his justification.

But what Sullivan didn't know was that the stagecoach was carrying a beautiful young woman to her would-be-husband. She's been purchased by a rancher. Three guesses as to who...yes, Sullivan's enemy, Bartholomew Axel. Sullivan can't in good conscience leave this woman to her fate. She has to be made to see the truth. That Axel is old, ugly, cruel, mean, and a bully. He's not fit to be any woman's husband. Since Emily McCarthy has never met him, and isn't exactly thrilled with the arrangement to begin with, it's not that big a struggle. Not that she's happy to be 'kidnapped.' But she doesn't consider it a crime for long. Especially after meeting Axel a few days later! No, Emily soon thinks that Luke may be the hero of her dreams.

Will Emily find her place in Montana? Will Luke Sullivan find a wife?

I liked this one. It is historical romance--Montana 1880s--with plenty of adventure and drama. I don't think it's the best Christian romance I've read this year. But I've certainly read worse.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Frankenstein


Frankenstein The Graphic Novel: Original Text. Mary Shelley. 2008. Script Adaptation by Jason Cobley, American English Adaptation: Joe Sutcliff Sanders. Illustrations by Declan Shalvey, Jason Cardy & Kat Nicholson, etc. Classical Comics. 144 pages.

From the letters of Robert Walton:

Letter I - December 11th

My dear sister...
I am already far north of London; I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves and fills me with delight.
I love Frankenstein. I do. I consider it one of my favorite books. It is one that I love to reread whenever I get the chance. So I was happy to read this graphic novel adaptation of the original text. I was curious to see if I'd enjoy it. I'm not a big fan of graphic novels. But. Since I love Frankenstein so much, I wanted to give it a chance. I'm glad I did. I thought they did a great job in telling the story of Victor Frankenstein's monstrous creation.

For those that may be unfamiliar with the book, it is the story of a young man, Victor Frankenstein, whose obsession leads him to the dark side. He becomes consumed with trying to resurrect the dead. He pieces together a creature, a being. He is not beautiful to look upon--even before he's brought to life--and he's quite taller than your average human. He was built to intimidate, in a way, though Frankenstein seems in denial about this until it is much too late! (I've always been curious as to HOW Frankenstein could be surprised by the creature's appearance. How tall, how strong, how ugly. Was he not in his lab every single day and night with the creature? Did he not build him piece by piece by piece? If the creature is ugly, it's because Frankenstein made him that way.) When the time comes, when the creature is brought to life, Victor Frankenstein panics and abandons his creation. His madness gave birth to an unnatural being, and Victor does NOT want to be credited as his creator. Yet. Denial and neglect does not negate the fact that Victor IS responsible. Victor Frankenstein tried to play god--and the result is a demon, a devil.

Readers get this story from Victor and from his creation. Readers hear the creature's sad story. Of his confusion, of his frustration, of his pains and miseries, of his rejection. The creature, at first, is trying to survive and learn. He does have hopeful moments in the beginning. He finds a family to watch. He learns about humans, about family, about reading and writing. He gets a glimpse of "the good life." But he soon learns that this "good life" will never be his. Because before he can even utter a word, men, women, and children shriek in terror. Every person he encounters fears him. Every person responds in violence. Soon, this creature begins to treat others as they treat him. If they expect violence, he'll give them violence. He wanted compassion, but it seems even from his creator--the only man who has a duty, perhaps, to love--that that is an impossible dream. The creature tries to reason with his creator, then he tries threats. And, yes, he does incredibly violent things. In revenge. In anger. There is no excuse for this violence.

So who is to be pitied more? Victor Frankenstein? Or the creature? Is either deserving of sympathy? of friendship? Have you read Frankenstein? What do you think of this classic? What do you think about graphic adaptations of classics?

(There is another edition available from Classical Comics which abridges and updates the text.)


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #35


Happy Sunday! Today is my blogoversary. Today Becky's Book Reviews turns four! I think it is a good time for me to revise one of my goals for blogging. In the past, I've loved blogging daily, loved having a book to review for most days. But. I just can't keep up this pace. I can't. I need freedom. I need balance. So I might not have something to post every day of the week. So I might be reviewing fewer books per week, per month. But I'm hoping that what I do review, what I do post, will be worth it. By giving myself some freedom, I hope to have more things that I love, love, love.

What I've Reviewed This Week:

Turtle in Paradise. Jennifer L. Holm. 2010. Random House. 208 pages.
The Half-Life of Planets. Emily Franklin. and Brendan Halpin. 2010. Hyperion. 256 pages.
To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee. 1960. 281 pages.
Civil Contract. Georgette Heyer. 1961/2009. Harlequin. 432 pages.
The Vigilante's Bride. Yvonne Harris. 2010. Bethany House. 304 pages.
Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Salley Mavor. 2010. September 2010. Houghton Mifflin. 72 pages.
Chicken Big. Keith Graves. 2010. Chronicle Books. 40 pages.
It's A Book. Lane Smith. 2010. August 2010. Roaring Brook Press. 32 pages.
Amazing Baby: Clap and Sing. Emma Dodd. 2007. Silver Dolphin. 12 pages.
Princess Baby On the Go. Karen Katz. 2010. August 2010. Random House. 14 pages.

Coming Soon:


Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope. Mary Beth Chapman. With Ellen Vaughn. 2010. Revell. 288 pages.


Frankenstein The Graphic Novel: Original Text. Mary Shelley. 2008. Script Adaptation by Jason Cobley, American English Adaptation: Joe Sutcliff Sanders. Illustrations by Declan Shalvey, Jason Cardy & Kat Nicholson, etc. Classical Comics. 144 pages.


Jane Eyre The Graphic Novel: Original Text. Charlotte Bronte. 2009. Classical Comics. 144 pages.


The Adventures of Nanny Piggins. R.A. Spratt. Illustrated by Dan Santat. Little Brown. 239 pages.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Turtle in Paradise (MG)


Turtle in Paradise. Jennifer L. Holm. 2010. Random House. 208 pages.

Everyone thinks children are sweet as Necco Wafters, but I've lived long enough to know the truth: kids are rotten. The only difference between grown-ups and kids is that grown-ups go to jail for murder. Kids get away with it.

There are so many things to love about Turtle in Paradise. I loved the narrator, Turtle. I loved the characterization and the storytelling. I loved the writing. (Jennifer Holm has a way with words!) I loved the setting: Key West, Florida, 1930s. I loved the little details that help a reader feel settled in a specific time and place. In this case, Turtle's love of comics (like Little Orphan Annie and Terry and the Pirates) and radio dramas (the Shadow) and her dislike of Shirley Temple.

The book stars an eleven year old, Turtle, who is moving from Pennsylvania to Florida. She is meeting her mother's family for the first time. She's coming to stay with her aunt and her cousins. (Her mom is staying behind with the new boyfriend and the new job.) It's a "surprise" visit too. Minnie has no idea her sister is sending her daughter to stay with her. Will Turtle fit in with her cousins Buddy, Beans, and Kermit? Will she get along with Aunt Minnie? And what about her grandmother?! Turtle didn't even know she had a grandmother living until she settled into her new life. Will Turtle find a way to open up with this new family, and make a place for herself in this new community? Will she find a way to be in the Diaper Gang even if she is a girl?

I would definitely recommend this one. I think it would make a great read aloud. It's got heart, humor, and adventure!

My favorite quotes:

Kids lie. We have to or we'd never get anything. But grown-ups lie, too--they just do it differently. They leave things out; they don't give you the whole story. (51)


In my opinion, the fellas who make Hollywood pictures are really just salesmen. Instead of peddling girdles, they sell thrills and chills, and folks eat them up. Not me, though. I'm no sucker. I know there's no such thing as giant apes climbing skyscrapers or mummies walking out of tombs. But just try telling that to the boys. (123)


It's a fact: if a kid is being nice, he's probably up to no good. (131)


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Top Ten Picks: Fictional Places


Random Ramblings Top Ten Picks topic this week is fictional places. The list can be a mix of places we'd love to visit and places we wouldn't ever really want to visit.

Prince Edward Island. The Anne series by L.M. Montgomery.

Barchester. Chronicles of Barsetshire by Anthony Trollope.

The Shire. Tolkien's novels.

Regency England. Various romance novels of Georgette Heyer, Julia Quinn, etc.

Narnia. Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Gracehope. First Light. Rebecca Stead.

Archipelago of Dreams. The Chronicles of The Imaginarium Geographica. James. A. Owen.

Ingary. Howl's Moving Castle. Diana Wynne Jones.

Hundred Acre Woods. The World of Pooh by A.A. Milne.

Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, August 27, 2010

The Half-Life of Planets (YA)


The Half-Life of Planets. Emily Franklin. and Brendan Halpin. 2010. Hyperion. 256 pages.

I am not a slut.

Liana and Hank narrate The Half-Life of Planets. These two strangers meet in the women's bathroom at a hospital. What starts out as an awkward beginning turns into much more...over the course of a summer. What develops is a slightly awkward--but in a good way--relationship between two misunderstood people.

They bond over music. They bond over loss. Most of all, they just enjoy being with one another. Not in a romantic way. Not for Liana. Not at first. She's determined that this will be the summer of no kissing. For Hank, it's as close to love as he's ever gotten. Liana is his best chance to be kissed, to be loved. Why? Hank has Asperger's syndrome and relationships just don't come easy for him--let alone romantic ones. But he's trying so hard to get things right...and in her own way Liana is too. Because before the school year ended, she received an anonymous note in her letter calling her a slut. So she's trying to find out if the label is true. If someone's perception of her matches reality in any way.

I didn't exactly love this one. But. I did like it. Hank was my favorite of the two narrators.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Further Thoughts on To Kill A Mockingbird

Earlier in the week, I reviewed Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. This was a buddy read with Annette from A Garden of Books, Impressions in Ink, and A Well-Watered Garden.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Civil Contract


Civil Contract. Georgette Heyer. 1961/2009. Harlequin. 432 pages.

"The library at Fontley Priory, like most of the principal apartments in the sprawling building, looked to the south-east, commanding a prospect of informal gardens and a plantation of poplars, which acted as a wind-break and screened from view the monotony of the fen beyond."

Okay, so that first sentence doesn't even hint at what the story is about. And it offers little incentive to the reader. Fortunately, most readers need only hear Georgette Heyer's name to know that this may be a gem of a book. For those that aren't the "most" in the readers listed above, I'd like to think I'm doing my part. A Civil Contract is a satisfying read in a very gentle and subtle manner. I enjoyed it. Enjoyed the characters and the subtle complexities of its non-plot. This is a very human novel.

You're probably wondering, but what is it about??? Adam Deveril is a soldier whose father has just died. He's inherited a title--he's now Viscount Lynton--but he's also inherited an overwhelming debt. A debt that is due to negligence, gambling, and mismanagement. He's got a mother (Dowager is how she's referred to in the text), and two sisters Charlotte and Lydia. Charlotte is engaged to be married, so she's not one of his primary concerns. However, his mother and sister are. He's been advised that he should marry for money. He finds the idea repugnant. Especially at first. But even Lydia, his younger sister, knows that sacrifices are called for in this occasion. It is her discussions of how she needs to be marry an older man for his money to "rescue" the family, that has Adam pondering how much he's willing to do for his family.

The family home, Fontley, is at risk. All their property is at risk--most of their holdings are mortgaged already. And only their townhouse and Fontley remain. Adam feels that the honorable thing to do would be to sell everything they can and hope to break even. That is hope they have enough money to settle their debts. Whatever small amount may be left would be settled upon his sister for her dowry. He's not worried so much for himself, for his comfort. He knows that he can go soldiering again and live on his pay if need be.

Of course, this newly-discovered money problem does mean that he cannot marry his first love, his supposed one and only love Julia Oversley. They met when he was injured. She became enamored with a vision of a dashing, heroic soldier. He became enamored of her beauty and charm. The parents consented at the time, though Lord Oversley did feel they weren't well suited for one another. But now that he's poor and soon to be without a home, he knows the only honorable thing is to break the engagement. Oversley does agree with him. Julia's brokenhearted. Adam is melancholy but resolved that he's doing the right thing, the responsible thing.

Enter Jonathan Chawleigh. A very wealthy man, but not "genteel" or gentle bred. Oversley introduces the impoverished Adam to Chawleigh with the hopes that they can solve each other problems. Chawleigh has high hopes for his daughter, his only child, Jenny. He wants to see her marry a proper gentleman, a man with a title, a man with dignity and distinction. A man that is part of the ton. Adam is shocked at first, but the more he considers the idea, the more he comes to feel it would be doing the better thing for his family--his mother and sister. The couple does meet first. And Chawleigh was right, Jenny doesn't overwhelm men with her beauty and charm and grace. She's the opposite of Julia in a way. Shy. Intelligent. Meek. Forgiving. Generous. Unassuming. And practical. Above all else practical. For those that are familiar with it, think Proverbs 31. Jenny is the essence of a Proverbs 31 woman. So after meeting her, while not overwhelmed by her beauty, he sees that they could live together amicably. They'd "suit" each other. Neither is dishonest. She knows that her husband is in love with another woman. He knows that she knows he's in love with another woman. Yet this awkward situation somehow doesn't stay awkward. Not for long. She doesn't demand love. Her only hope--in the beginning--is for respect and dignity.

I loved Jenny. I did. I loved her father Jonathan. The scenes with him are just satisfyingly good. I loved Adam's aunt Lady Nassington. I loved Adam's sister Lydia. So many of the characters were just so wonderfully human, so thoroughly developed. I loved this quiet and gentle but always intelligent novel about marriage and love and family.

I wouldn't say that I liked A Civil Contract better than A Convenient Marriage. But it was so much better than April Lady!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Library Loot: Third Trip in August


New Loot:

Lady of the Butterflies by Fiona Mountain
Paul is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion by Alan Goldsher
Shakespeare Undead by Lori Handeland
Rebels and Traitors by Lindsey Davis
The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer
The Spanish Bride by Georgette Heyer
Pistols for Two by Georgette Heyer
The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer
Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael
Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly by Robert Dalby
A Piggly Wiggly Wedding by Robert Dalby
Kissing Babies at the Piggly Wiggly by Robert Dalby
A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh
Lady Vernon and Her Daughter by Jane Rubino and Caitlen Rubino-Bradway
The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy by Sara Angelini
Dearest Cousin Jane by Jill Pitkeathley

Leftover Loot:

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge
Jane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte and Sherri Browning Erwin
Wildfowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire 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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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What's On Your Nightstand (August)


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

I'm currently reading four books.

Jane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte and Sherri Browning Erwin. I'm enjoying this paranormal retelling much more than I thought I would.

Wildfowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer. This is historical fiction--World War II.

The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt. This children's book is very funny! It is about three children who have a pig for a nanny.

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope. This is the fourth in the Barsetshire series.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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To Kill A Mockingbird


To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee. 1960. 281 pages.

I love rereading favorite books. I do. I don't get the chance as often as I'd like--too many new books wanting my attention. But rereading this one felt just right. When Annette from A Garden of Books suggested we read this one together, I was very excited!

To Kill A Mockingbird is one of those rare novels--a true classic--with a dozen or more themes in it--but it feels so effortless to read, to savor. Yes, it's about justice, prejudice, race and class, etc. But above all else it is about ordinary people of all ages. Men. Women. Girls. Boys. Ordinary folks--Southern folks--living life as best they can.

Atticus Finch, the father of Scout, our narrator, challenges his children to think about things differently. "If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view" (30).

I loved Scout. I just LOVED her. The novel chronicles three years of her life. (Mostly summers--though school does play a role in the novel. And there is a great Christmas chapter!) Readers see Scout in relationship with various people--her father, Atticus, her brother, Jem, her summer-time friend, Dill, Calpurnia, the Finch's housekeeper, Aunt Alexandra, Uncle Jack, Miss Maudie (a neighbor), Mrs. Dubose (yet another neighbor), etc. And then, of course, there is the ever-mysterious Boo Radley. The man that fascinates Scout, Jem, and Dill.

When Atticus Finch is chosen to defend Tom Robinson a black man accused of raping a white woman, life changes--for better or worse--for his two children. Many in the community can't understand why he actually takes the case seriously. Why he is putting his all into it, treating it as a real case. But Atticus says it well when he says, "Scout, I couldn't go to church and worship God if I didn't try to help that man" (104) and "The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience" (105).

Harper Lee did a GREAT job with her characters. They're so richly detailed. Many characters feel so real, so human. It is a joy to spend time with Scout. To become a part of her world. To see the world through her eyes. She also did great with descriptions. Whether the scene is serious--heartbreaking--or comical--Harper Lee has a way of describing it in a way that is memorable and true to life.


Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing. (18)


It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do. (112)


"How could they do it, how could they?"
"I don't know, but they did it. They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it--seems that only children weep. Good night."
(213)
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Masquerade


Masquerade by Nancy Moser. 2010. Bethany House. 368 pages.


"I've told you, Father, I won't marry him."

Charlotte Gleason has led a privileged life. True, her father has kept a mistress for years and years, and he's now being named in a divorce case. Being "outed" as an adulterer. And so her family name may not mean what it used to. But Charlotte Gleason, for better or worse, has had it fairly easy. She's had her own lady's maid since she was twelve. Dora Connors, her maid, could tell you Charlotte is a bit spoiled, a bit naive.

Her parents have arranged a marriage for their daughter. To "protect" her from the instabilities--financial and social--of the family situation. Her intended is the son of a wealthy New York business man. Almost every one has heard of the Tremaines. Conrad Tremaine (and his family) may be nouveau riche. But. It might be the best match she could hope for under the circumstances.

But Charlotte is unwilling to give him a try. No. She'll pretend to follow orders. She'll go to New York to meet him. But. She's concocting a grand deception. Her plan? To have Dora, her maid, take her place. Dora will become Charlotte Gleason. Dora, if all goes well, will vanish forever. She'll marry Conrad and have the life Charlotte would have had--could have had. She'll even write Charlotte's parents pretending to be the "real" Charlotte. What Dora thinks--what Dora wants--doesn't matter. Charlotte will then have the freedom to have AN ADVENTURE. She has this grand idea of what it will be like to be free. She'll call herself Lottie Hathaway, and life in America, in New York, will be oh-so-perfect. True, she won't have as much money. But with the money she has with her, and with the money she'll make from selling her jewelry, she hopes it will be enough to get started. But her plans are flawed at best.

Masquerade follows both Dora and Charlotte in their new American lives. Though once the switch occurs, it really is goodbye to Dora. Dora becomes Charlotte in the third person narration. And Charlotte Gleason--the real Charlotte--becomes Lottie.

In many ways, Lottie makes a great damsel in distress. She may be "surviving" in New York--after a series of mishaps--but she is surviving because other men and women have taken mercy on her. It's not by her own wit by any means! Dora has more common sense, but, apparently not enough to tell Lottie the truth: this plan is foolish and will lead to no good.

I did not enjoy Lottie. At all. While Masquerade wasn't a great read for me, you might enjoy it better than I did.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #34


Happy Sunday! It's August. It's hot. And I haven't been in the best of reading moods lately. Sound familiar? Well. It's still August. And it's still hot. And I'm still in a reading slump. Part of the problem--I think--is that I'm just not sure what I'm in the mood for. I've got books in every genre--it seems--yet I don't know what to read next.

What I've Reviewed This Week:

The Foundling. Georgette Heyer. 1948/2009. Sourcebooks. 439 pages.
Crunch. Leslie Connor. 2010. HarperCollins. 336 pages.
The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams. Rhonda Hayter. 2010. Penguin. 256 pages.
Koko Be Good. Jen Wang. 2010. September 2010. First Second. 304 pages.
Otter Everywhere: Brand New Readers. By Christine Webster. Illustrated by Tim Nihoff. 2007. Candlewick Press. 48 pages.
Brand New Readers: Termite Tales. Kathy Caple. 2009. Candlewick Press. 48 pages.
Brand New Readers: Larry and Rita. Jamie Michalak. Illustrated by Jill Newton. 2007. Candlewick Press. 48 pages.
Time to Sleep, Sheep the Sheep! Mo Willems. 2010. HarperCollins. 32 pages.
One Smart Cookie: Bite Size Lessons for the School Years and Beyond. By Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Illustrated by Jane Dyer & Brooke Dyer. 2010. HarperCollins. 40 pages.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Library Loot: Second Trip in August


New Loot:

Jane Slayre by Charlotte Bronte and Sherri Browning Erwin
Wildfowers of Terezin by Robert Elmer

Leftover Loot:

Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire 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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Friday, August 20, 2010

The Foundling


The Foundling. Georgette Heyer. 1948/2009. Sourcebooks. 439 pages.

When the young gentlemen strolling through the park with his gun on his shoulder and an elderly spaniel at his heels came within sight of the house it occurred to him that the hour must be farther advanced than he had supposed, for the sun had sunk below the great stone pile, and an autumnal mist was already creeping over the ground.

The Duke of Sale (Gilly) is twenty-four. But. He's never lived his own life, or made his own decisions. He's had an entourage for as long as he can remember. An entourage that is determined to keep him safe, healthy, and comfortable. An entourage that Gilly feels discourages his independence, his individuality. He's never known a day of freedom.

Until. His cousin Matthew shares his troubles--he is being blackmailed. And the Duke determines to "solve" this family problem all on his own. He'll do it by being nobody. Without "being" the Duke, without being the head of the family. No. He wants to see if he's capable of being a man. Of thinking and acting like a man.

Does he succeed? At over four-hundred pages, you can imagine he does. But this new freedom doesn't come without risks and challenges and mishaps. He'll pick up not one but two strangers along the way. One young man, Tom, who is foolish and prank-loving. And one young woman, Belinda, a foundling, he "rescues" from an "uncle" who doesn't have the best of intentions. Belinda will BELIEVE any man who offers her a purple dress, you see. Or a ring. She's as silly as silly can be. But Belinda is NOT the love interest of Gilly. (I was quite relieved!)

The Foundling is not my favorite Georgette Heyer. It is a bit too long. There were so many potential ending places in the last hundred pages. Places where one more paragraph could have nicely done the job. But. For whatever reason, this ending would not be rushed. I liked it, but didn't love it.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams (MG)


The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams. Rhonda Hayter. 2010. Penguin. 256 pages.

Come to think of it, the day my brother tried to eat his first-grade teacher turned out to be the same day that my dad brought me home a very, very strange cat.

It isn't always easy being a witch. Just ask Abbie Adams. True, she enjoys some aspects of it. But. Using her powers, well, they can get her into some trouble--and out of trouble too. Her younger brother, Munch, struggles with this too! (Which is why he sometimes need help from his older sister!) There is a responsibility to use it wisely, use it well. And Abbie HATES having to keep part of her life a secret from her best friend. (Especially since when accidents happen, she has to use magic on her friend(s) to help them forget.)

So Abbie Adams has witchy worries. As does her whole family. The adventure of this one is solving the mystery surrounding this very strange cat--or kitten. At first, his name is Benjamin. And while it's slightly strange for a cat to be interested in books, in reading, in homework, they soon realize something else. This cat isn't a cat. He's an enchanted human. Who is he? How old is he? Who did the enchantment? When did it happen? Why? Can it be undone?

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Devil in Pew Number Seven


The Devil in Pew Number Seven: A True Story. Rebecca Nichols Alonzo with Bob DeMoss. 2010. Tyndale. 288 pages.

I ran.
My bare feet pounding the pavement were burning from the sun-baked asphalt. Each contact between flesh and blacktop provoked bursts of pain as if I were stepping on broken glass. The deserted country road, stretching into the horizon, felt as if it were conspiring against me. No matter how hard I pushed myself, the safe place I was desperate to reach eluded me.
Still, I ran.

The Devil in Pew Number Seven is such a compelling read. It's a true crime memoir by Rebecca N. Alonzo. She's the daughter of a small-town pastor. And her story is quite amazing, and in many ways a bit surprising. Each chapter features a black-and-white photo. Just one more reminder to readers that this story--this haunting story--is all too real. Yes, this book goes dark, ugly places. But. It's a story of hope, love, survival, faith, and forgiveness.

The book is told within a framework. The opening chapter places you at the climax. A child running for her life. A child running for help. A child trying her best to be brave for her mom, for her dad, for her younger brother, Daniel, who was just a toddler. A child running after witnessing the unthinkable...

But. The book then goes back to the beginning. With the story of her parents. How they met and married. How they struggled with infertility. How her father came to be a pastor in this small community. How they came to welcome two children into their home. How their family was tortured--tormented--by a few disgruntled individuals within that community. How their family was loved and supported by others. It's a story of faith, of hope, of love.

The author argues that forgiveness is the language of heaven, and that God's forgiveness is mankind's greatest need.




© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Koko Be Good


Koko Be Good. Jen Wang. 2010. September 2010. First Second. 304 pages.

Koko is a graphic novel about three twenty-somethings trying "to be good." These are three characters trying to be find themselves, trying to discover what they want to do with their lives, trying to make a difference, trying to be the best they can be while staying somewhat true to themselves. Our characters are Jon, Koko, and Faron. Their individual stories become somewhat connected throughout the novel.

I'm not always a fan of graphic novels. Many I find more confusing than entertaining. But there was something compelling about Koko Be Good. I may not always understand these three characters, understand the choices they make. But there's an honesty about it that I found compelling.

From one of Koko's "broadcasts":

This time I have a question. I just want to ask you, listeners...if you think you're good people. And if you are, how would you know? Is it something you always knew? Or was it something you found? I think some people are just naturally good at it...But if being Good is supposed to be right, is it worth trying to be something you're not? Just because it's right? (251-252)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Crunch (MG)


Crunch. Leslie Connor. 2010. HarperCollins. 336 pages.

I saw it like this: A single worker at some faraway oil refinery with his head tilted down, peering into a pipe, waiting for one more drop that never came. Doesn't mean it was really like that. It probably wasn't. But that's what I saw in my mind's eye the night our parents called to say that their trip had been extended. Indefinitely.

When an energy crisis leaves five children parentless--for the duration of the emergency--Dewey and his brothers and sisters must learn how to take care of themselves and their family's business. Dewey and his brother, Vince, are managing the Bike Barn, a repair shop that is thriving with the energy crisis. Without oil or gas, people are having to resort to walking or biking. Highways are being transformed into strangely human lanes of travelers. The sight of it shocks Dewey at first. It is on one of his bike rides that he meets a stranger, Robert, who quickly becomes a family friend.

In some ways, this crisis shows a community coming together. There are many who go out of their way to be kind and helpful. And in other ways, it shows just how desperate some within the community are. How difficult times can lead to desperate actions--crimes.

Crunch is about crisis--of a nation, of a community, of a family. I enjoyed this book.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #33


Happy Sunday! It's August. It's hot. And I haven't been in the best of reading moods lately. (I'm SO happy that Emma and the Vampires and I have parted ways!) But Georgette Heyer has been a great indulgence--a true comfort read!

I recently reviewed several audiobooks of Georgette Heyer's novels narrated by Richard Armitage. The Book Chook had a GREAT question on my Convenient Marriage post. "My question Becky is this (eventually): I love this book, and have read it often. I hear Horry's gruff little voice and Cosby's simper in my head already. Won't hearing someone else's interpretation be like going to a movie that mangled a loved book?"

I do have opinions on books that have been made (badly) into movies. I do see it as a form of interpretation/adaptation. Often changes are made. And (beloved) characters can act out of character. Before this question, I hadn't really seen audio books as a way for a book to be misinterpreted. Not in the same way at least. The words remain the same. Though it's obvious that some narrators are better than others. There are definitely times when enjoyment is lessened by a bad narration. So it's more than just the words themselves, how these words are read does influence your experience. The narrator is interpreting the words--perhaps not as much as in the movies--but still there is some interpreting going on.

In the case of The Convenient Marriage--I thought Richard Armitage did a great job. I would almost say a perfect job. But. There is the little fact that it is an abridged audiobook. I thought he did a great job with Horry's stammer. I thought he did a great job with our hero, Lord Rule. Listening to this one was very happy-making. I do LOVE the book. I've read it twice now. And I do love the book all on its own. Richard Armitage's narration didn't *make* me love it. But I was certainly very pleased with it. I can't guarantee that anyone will love it or even like it the same way I did. But I would encourage people to give it a chance. If it doesn't work out, then it doesn't work out. But if it does...then those five hours will not be wasted.

What do you think? Have you listened to any great audiobooks lately? Any 'favorite' narrators you enjoy spending time with?

What I've Reviewed This Week:

Beauvallet. Georgette Heyer. 1929/2010. Sourcebooks. 301 pages.
Emma and the Vampires by Wayne Josephson. 2010. Sourcebooks. 304 pages.
April Lady. Georgette Heyer. 1957/2005. Harlequin. 270 pages.
Sphinx's Princess. Esther Friesner. 2009. Random House. 384 pages.
Shiver. Maggie Stiefvater. 2009. Scholastic. 400 pages.
Knightley Academy. Violet Haberdasher. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 469 pages.
Complete Adventures of Curious George: 70th Anniversary Edition. Margret and H.A. Rey. 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 432 pages.
Curious George Storybook Collection. 2010. September 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 197 pages.
Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late. Mo Willems. 2006. Hyperion. 40 pages.
Piggy Pie Po. Audrey & Don Wood. 2010. September 2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages.
The Most Amazing Hide-and-Seek Alphabet Book. Robert Crowther. 1999/2010. August 2010. Candlewick. 12 pages.
The Most Amazing Hide-and-Seek Numbers Book. Robert Crowther. 2010. August 2010. (1999) Candlewick. 12 pages.
Masquerade by Nancy Moser. 2010. Bethany House. 368 pages.
George Whitefield: God's Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century. Arnold A. Dallimore. 2010. Crossway Publishers. 224 pages.
The Devil in Pew Number Seven: A True Story. Rebecca Nichols Alonzo with Bob DeMoss. 2010. Tyndale. 288 pages

Currently Reading:


The Foundling. Georgette Heyer. 1948/2009. Sourcebooks. 448 pages.

What I Hope To Begin/Finish Soon:



The Half-Life of Planets. Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin. 2010. Hyperion. 256 pages.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

April Lady


April Lady. Georgette Heyer. 1957/2005. Harlequin. 270 pages.

There was silence in the book-room, not the silence of intimacy but a silence fraught with tension.

April Lady is an enjoyable albeit predictable read. Our hero, Cardross, and our heroine, Nell, have been married over a year when the novel opens.

The book begins with an argument over money. The wife is being scolded by her husband for going over her quarterly allowance. It’s not that he’s not fabulously wealthy. He is. He just wants his wife to be able to account for the money he’s given her, for the unpaid bills that arrive at the house.

After the scolding, Nell is horrified to learn that she missed one bill. It is for a Chantilly lace dress. She can't possibly tell her husband the truth--the bill got buried in a drawer, forgotten. She can't possibly expect her husband to understand this circumstance. Perhaps her brother can help her...

Nell is keeping other secrets from her husband. She is lying about giving money to her brother, Dysart, to cover his gambling debts. She knows she is disobeying her husband by “supporting” her brother like this. But she can’t understand why her husband blames Dysart for being an addict. He should know that Dysart just can’t control himself when it comes to gambling and racing. Being unsure of her husband’s love (and respect), Nell spends much of her time afraid of her husband. She’s afraid to be honest with him, which is all that he is asking of her.

Both husband and wife are deceived. She is certain that he doesn’t love her, that their marriage is one of convenience not love. And he is certain that she doesn’t love him, that she married him for his money. (Her family is always in need of money since her father and brother are gambling addicts.) The reader is the only one who knows the truth: these two do love each other, and have loved each other from the beginning.

Is Nell as silly as she seems? Is Cardross as tyrannical and unforgiving? Will these two ever be completely honest with one another?

While I didn't love the plot of this one--at least as much as other Heyer novels I've read in the past--I did enjoy the characters. Particularly the "minor" characters. Nell has a sister-in-law, Letty, whose troubled love life steals the show, in a way. She's in love with a man, Jeremy Allandale, deemed "unsuitable" by her older brother. (Letty gets one of her many scoldings in the second chapter.) This love affair is "aided" by Letty's cousin, Selina Thorne, a young lady who has read too many novels. This romance provides my favorite scene of the novel!

Dysart, Nell's brother, and Mr. Hethersett, Cardross' cousin who has a way of being in the right place at the right time to aid Nell out of her messes, also add to the novel's charm.

One of the weaknesses of this novel, however, is Cardross. It's hard for the reader to fall in love with Cardross when he's only in a handful of scenes. (He spends most of the novel out of town on a trip.) Especially when most of those scenes show him scolding the women in his life. Are Letty and Nell silly? Yes. But still, that doesn't mean it's fun to read Cardross' condescending scoldings. (Or Dysart's scoldings for that matter!)

Also, I felt the romance between Cardross and Nell to be a little lacking. We're told that it was love at first sight. Yet we rarely see these two in the same room. And when they are in the same room, he's either scolding her or she's awkwardly avoiding him in conversation. These two are uncomfortable in their scenes together. Neither wants to be vulnerable. Neither wants to show too much.



© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Sphinx's Princess (YA)


Sphinx's Princess. Esther Friesner. 2009. Random House. 384 pages.

From the time of my first memories, my dreams were filled with lions--fierce, impossibly huge monsters with fiery manes and eyes black and cold as a starless night.

Nefertiti. Sphinx's Princess is a fictional account of Nefertiti's early years. Set in Ancient Egypt, the novel is rich in detail--history, mythology, culture. Readers learn what life as a royal might have been like through the eyes of a young woman betrothed to Pharaoh's son. A young woman royal in her right--the niece of the Queen. Her father has warned her for years of the dangers of becoming too close to the Queen, of being a part of court life. Nefertiti is learning about these risks herself--for better or worse. Her story continues in Sphinx's Queen which releases in September 2010.

Friesner's Nefertiti is an intelligent, beautiful, compassionate young woman. She can read and write. She can sing and dance. Her life is saved by a slave--a Hebrew slave--and this changes her. She's now tender-hearted and devoted to the life of one slave girl in particular. (I'm not sure I *believed* that anyone would take such risks for another person, slave or not.) Friesner's Nefertiti is not concerned about politics, about power. She just wants a simple, private life.

Friesner's Nefertiti is VERY different from Michelle Moran's Nefertiti. Both books are, of course, historical fiction. So neither Nefertiti is the "real" Nefertiti.

I enjoyed Sphinx's Princess. I look forward to reading Sphinx's Queen soon.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Emma and the Vampires


Emma and the Vampires by Wayne Josephson. 2010. Sourcebooks. 304 pages.

Emma Woodhouse--handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition--had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress her. Until the vampire attacks began.

I did enjoy reading Seth Grahame-Smith's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. But I didn't enjoy Wayne Josephson's Emma and the Vampires.

Do I love Emma? No. I've never loved Jane Austen's Emma. I'm not sure a love for the original would have solved all the book's problems. But. It might have helped.

Emma is still Emma. Clueless as she ever was. True this Emma has had to defend herself and her friend, Harriet, from a few attacking vampires. But the addition of vampires--practically every man of her acquaintance (with the exception of her father) is a vampire--failed--for the most part--to add charm or wit to the original. There were a few clever moments here and there. (I loved it when Frank Churchill (a vampire) squealed in fright when other vampires attacked.) But the constant reminders that these characters are vampires on every other page (so it seemed) failed to entertain this reader at least. The plot/plot details seemed a bit messy.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beauvallet


Beauvallet. Georgette Heyer. 1929/2010. Sourcebooks. 301 pages.

The deck was in shambles.

Dona Dominica, the daughter of the former governor of Santiago, Don Manuel de Rada y Sylva, is on her way back to Spain--along with her dying father, when their ship the Santa Maria is boarded by English adventurers (pirates) led by the fearless El Beauvallet (Nicholas Beauvallet). The two are taken captive by Beauvallet and brought aboard his ship, Venture. But he promises--and it's not a promise without risk--to return these two safely to Spain. If anyone can land an English ship safely into a Spanish port during these hostile times it would have to be Beauvallet.

At first Dominica hates her captor. She refuses to admit to herself that he is a little charming, a little handsome. She flirts with the other men to drive him crazy. But. Soon she has to admit that there is an attraction between them. And she's shocked to hear him boast recklessly of his honorable intentions to make her an English woman before the year is out. Since she is his captive, you might think this would be easy. Just set sail for England instead of Spain. The lady seems willing enough. But Beauvallet wants the challenge. So he keeps his promise--his first promise--both father and daughter arrive safely in Spain. Beauvallet returns to England, to his family, to his Queen.

But Dominica has not been forgotten. And a few months later, Beauvallet is ready to pursue his lady. To woo her in Spain. With England and Spain so very, very close to war--how can an Englishman, a pirate, a dreaded pirate, safely enter Spain? He has boasted that he will find a way...

Meanwhile, Dominica's father dies and she is taken into her aunt's family. Her aunt!!! Oh what a character Dona Beatrice is! She's a strong, strong woman with a mind of her own. She has a way of bullying all the men in her life including her son, Don Diego. She has determined that he must marry Dominica.

Beauvallet is an exciting and dramatic historical romance set in the Elizabethan era. Beauvallet is a bold adventurer who will risk it all to win his lady love. With his faithful companion, Joshua Dimmock, by his side, Beauvallet is ready for any challenge. The book had action, adventure, drama, and romance. I enjoyed Beauvallet very much!

The opening chapters of Beauvallet definitely reminded me of The Sea Hawk, a 1940 film starring Errol Flynn.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Knightley Academy (MG)


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

The Midsummer School for Boys sat on top of a steep but rather flat hill, staring down its nose at the village below.

Set in an alternate Victorian England. It stars a young boy, Henry Grim. He is lower class, a servant. But he's smart. Very smart. And he surprises almost everyone when he passes the incredibly difficult entrance exam to Knightley Academy. No one from his school--Midsummer School for Boys--has passed in five years. Henry is NOT a student. He's a servant who studies in his spare time--nights mostly. He's become friendly with one of the professors. But Henry won't be the only commoner attending. No, there will be three commoners admitted. And if they do well, then there's always the chance that more will be permitted to attend in the future. If they don't, well, then it will remain an elite privilege for the upper classes. Do Henry and his friends have what it takes? Can Henry handle all the unique challenges in his path? It certainly won't be an easy task!

I enjoyed this book very much! I liked the characters. I liked the plot. And the writing was fun.

"Curses, as you surely remember, are meant to be broken. And once they break, unlike satchel straps or pairs of spectacles, they do not need to be fixed. However, to break something has consequences, and curses are no exception." (71)


"Everything's a bad bargain if you never meant to gamble in the first place." (84)


"It is a truth universally acknowledged that the problem with new shoes is that they are never as comfortable as the ones they are meant to replace. But Henry hadn't known this. After all, he'd never had a pair of new shoes before." (86)


© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Shiver (YA)


Shiver. Maggie Stiefvater. 2009. Scholastic. 400 pages.

I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves. They were licking me, biting me, worrying at my body, pressing in. Their huddled bodies blocked what little heat the sun offered.

Our heroine, Grace, survived a wolf attack as a child. You might think that would make her fearful of wolves. But just the opposite is true. Grace borders on the obsessive. With one wolf in particular. Each winter she watches and waits. She seeks him out from the pack. Little does she know that he is always watching and waiting for her. His name is Sam. And he is a werewolf.

After a local tragedy, the community decides to do something about the wolf problem. Grace is angry--and determined. She wants to save the wolves. She wants to save "her" wolf. He is shot but not fatally. When he's shot--or perhaps soon after he's shot--he shifts to human form. And Grace has a chance to connect--really connect--with "her" wolf.

Grace isn't the only one in the community to learn the secret--that werewolves are real. Does Grace's romance stand a chance against the bitter cold of winter?

I didn't love Shiver. I'm not even sure I liked Shiver. It was okay. But I certainly didn't find it romantic or giddy-making.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sunday Salon: Reading, Read, To Read #32

Happy Sunday!

What I've Reviewed This Week:

A Tale Dark and Grimm. Adam Gidwitz. 2010. November 2010. Penguin. 192 pages.
Leaving Gee's Bend. Irene Latham. 2010. Penguin. 240 pages.
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. Tom Angleberger. 2010. Harry N. Abrams. 141 pages.
Kiss of Life. Daniel Waters. 2009. Hyperion. 416 pages.
Glimpse. Carol Lynch Williams. 2010. June 2010. Simon & Schuster. 496 pages.
Passing Strange (Generation Dead #3). Daniel Waters. Hyperion. 400 pages.
The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. Tim Challies. 2007. Crossway Publishers. 208 pages.
The Convenient Marriage. By Georgette Heyer. (1934) Read by Richard Armitage. 2010. August 2010. Naxos Audiobooks. 5 hrs. 6 minutes.
Baby's Book Tower. By Leslie Patricelli. 2010. August 2010. Candlewick. 96 pages.
Count My Kisses, Little One. Ruthie May. Illustrated by Tamsin Ainslie. 2010. August 2010. Scholastic. 24 pages.
Five Little Ducks. Beth Harwood. Illustrated by Emma Dodd. 2008. Amazing Baby. 10 pages.
Time for Bed. Mem Fox. Illustrated by Jane Dyer. 1993/2010. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 28 pages.
Dog Loves Books. Louise Yates. 2010. July 2010. Random House. 32 pages.
Too Pickley! By Jean Reidy. Illustrated by Genevieve Leloup. 2010. July 2010. Bloomsbury. 32 pages.
In Too Deep (The 39 Clues #6) Jude Watson. 2009. Scholastic. 206 pages.

Currently Reading:



Emma and the Vampires by Wayne Josephson. 2010. Sourcebooks. 304 pages.


Masquerade by Nancy Moser. 2010. Bethany House. 368 pages.

What I Hope To Begin/Finish Soon:


The Half-Life of Planets. Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin. 2010. Hyperion. 256 pages.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, August 07, 2010

Passing Strange (YA)


Passing Strange (Generation Dead #3). Daniel Waters. Hyperion. 400 pages.

I don't want to die, I thought. Not again.

Passing Strange is the third in a series. The first two are Generation Dead and Kiss of Life. As "fascinating" as I found Phoebe, our narrator, being tortured by guilt and obligation in Kiss of Life. It was a great relief to learn that she is not the narrator of Passing Strange. This isn't Phoebe's Love Triangle, part three. No, Karen Desonne is the narrator of Passing Strange. Before now, Karen has always been a mystery. Phoebe didn't always understand her. Phoebe didn't always try that hard to understand her either. Readers at last will get to know the real Karen. The Karen behind the persona.

The differently biotic are having a difficult time in Oakvale--a difficult time anywhere. There are many who consider them to be dead, to not have any legal rights--a few even consider them demons, a problem to be solved once and for all with violence. When Passing Strange opens, Karen and other zombies are being 'pursued' by police. She finds refuge in her home--in her parents' home. But she's not content to stay in hiding. No, Karen wants to be out in the world passing. She likes to pretend to be a beating heart.

But passing has its own risks. Like what will happen if she's discovered? What will her coworkers think of her deception? But Karen--perhaps not the bravest or the wisest of individuals--is finally ready to start taking risks. And the biggest risk of all? Pretending to be interested in Pete Martinsburg. Pretending to be his girlfriend. She suspects him of many anti-zombie crimes. And she wants proof...

Karen is also still trying to process what went wrong in her life--her first life. Trying to cope with her suicide and its aftermath. The depression. The secrets. The lies. The shame. Can Karen find peace?

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, August 06, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (MG)


The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. Tom Angleberger. 2010. Harry N. Abrams. 141 pages.

The big question: Is Origami Yoda real? Well, of course, he's real. I mean, he's a real finger puppet made out of a real piece of paper. But I mean: Is he REAL? Does he really know things? Can he see the future? Does he use the force?

Tommy really wants to know if Origami Yoda--Dwight's finger puppet--is real. If the answers this Yoda gives to some of life's toughest questions are wise enough to trust. So Tommy has compiled a case file for Origami Yoda. He's asked his friends, his classmates, those with Yoda experiences to write about them. While we're "learning" about this finger puppet, we come to learn a little more about his creator, Dwight.

I enjoyed this one. It was a fun story with a cute premise. In times it's very silly--other times more serious. The setting is a middle school, and our characters are sixth graders, for the most part. Our characters are trying to find their place, where they belong. And Dwight, well, Dwight isn't particularly welcome many places. But strange enough...Origami Yoda is.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Leaving Gee's Bend (MG)


Leaving Gee's Bend. Irene Latham. 2010. Penguin. 240 pages.

Mama pulled a chicken egg from behind the azalea bush in our front yard and narrowed her eyes. "Ludelphia Bennett! You go back in there and get your eye patch."

Historical fiction. Set in Gee's Bend, Alabama. 1932.

Ludelphia's mother is dying, and there's nothing she can do about it. That's what everyone says. But Ludelphia isn't convinced. She thinks that if she can just get a doctor--a real doctor--to come and see her mother, there might be a chance. True, Ludelphia has never left Gee's Bend, has never been to Camden. But. If there's a chance that someone could help her--no matter how small--she's got to brave it. It's scary, no doubt about it, because it isn't easy to leave Gee's Bend. It requires a ferry. Which may not be a big deal...if you're not in a hurry, if the ferry man can be found, if there hasn't been a big storm upsetting the river, if you know exactly where you're going. Ludelphia will have to brave more than just the river...as she embarks on this journey. A journey that proves physically and emotionally demanding.

I liked this one.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Glimpse (YA)


Glimpse. Carol Lynch Williams. 2010. June 2010. Simon & Schuster. 496 pages.

In one moment
it is over.
In one moment
it is gone.
The morning grows
thin, gray

and our lives--
how they were--
have vanished.

Lizzie and Hope are sisters and best friends. Hope is almost thirteen, Lizzie just fourteen. But one day Hope gets a bit of a shock. She finds her sister, Lizzie, in a desperate moment. She finds her sister holding a gun, fingering the trigger. She does save her sister--in that moment--and Liz is taken to a place where she can get some help. But that is just the beginning of a mystery. For Hope can't understand what led Lizzie to such an act. Did her sister really want to die? Was it just a cry for help? Can Hope discover the truth--the real reason--behind Lizzie's actions?

The book is about Hope's journey to see the why.

Glimpse is a dark novel, a verse novel, for older teens. Carol Lynch Williams made me feel. It's rare for me to hate a mother so very, very much. But hate her I did. Glimpse may not be for every reader. It's dark, ugly, raw with pain. But it's very well written.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Waiting on Wednesday

Here are a few books I'd love to read...


Bespelling Jane Austen: Almost Persuaded\Northanger Castle\Blood and Prejudice\Little to Hex Her. Mary Balogh. Susan Krinard. Colleen Gleason. Janet Mullany. (September 2010) Harlequin.


Jane by April Lindner. October 2010. Little Brown Young Readers.

A modern "Jane Eyre" story with Rochester as a rock star.




© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Kiss of Life (YA)


Kiss of Life. Daniel Waters. 2009. Hyperion. 416 pages.

Phoebe. Beautiful Phoebe.

Phoebe Kendall's closest friends are zombies differently biotic. Phoebe Kendall's love interests are zombies differently biotic as well. This includes Adam, the best friend that she didn't really see in that way until he died saving her life at the close of the first book, and Tommy, the boyfriend she never got to kiss because Adam's death dampened the party atmosphere.

When Kiss of Life opens, Phoebe is ignoring Tommy completely and doting on Adam. How is Adam adjusting to life as a zombie? Well, he's having a rough time of it. He is just not as "alive" as the rest of the zombies. At least not yet. Phoebe is hoping that she can change that. She's hoping that if she loves him enough, he'll get better. But is she doing this out of love or guilt or pity? Does she love Adam in that way? Or does she still love Tommy?

Like Generation Dead, Kiss of Life is a novel about how people are treated. In the first book, much time was spent on making sure the reader understood that zombies are people too. That they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. That they are not monsters to be feared. Which is why it is so important to never offend a zombie by using the word "zombie". They are differently biotic as opposed to traditionally biotic. But Phoebe also has learned that among themselves, many do like the word zombies. It's just the "beating hearts" who can't get away with the z word.

Are the differently biotic any closer to fitting in with society? Are they still outsiders within the community? This community is very much in danger. Because the world is just not that accepting. And Kiss of Life reveals some of the threats facing the differently biotic.

So there is much drama in Kiss of Life. Sadly, I felt disconnected from that drama. In places I found it lacking in compelling drama. I just didn't care about Phoebe's love triangle. Or the broken fragments of what once was a love triangle. There is some tension between Phoebe and the other zombies she hangs out with. Especially with Karen. So that was nice. And then there was the revealing of the bad guys...so there was some drama.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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