Monday, January 31, 2011

January Reflections

January was the month I discovered Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. I was charmed by Miss Marple, intrigued by Hercule Poirot, and fell head over heels in love with Lord Peter Wimsey.
I also spent some time with a good friend of mine, Orson Scott Card. I just loved reading The Lost Gate and Pathfinder.

My favorite quote comes from Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night:
"Do you find it easy to get drunk on words?"
"So easy that, to tell you the truth, I am seldom perfectly sober. Which accounts for my talking so much." (330)
January was also exciting because of the ALA announcements. Because of these awards and best lists, I read Interrupting Chicken, A Sick Day For Amos McGee, Bink & Gollie, Heart of a Samurai, and Five Flavors of Dumb.

I read eight new authors this month--including Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Margi Preus, Pedro de Alcantara, Antony John, Marilee Brothers, Robert J. Randisi, and Arthur Conan Doyle.

As far as challenges go, I was able to read at least one book for each of these challenges: New Author Challenge, 2011 TBR Challenge, TBR Pile Challenge, War Through the Generations, Historical Fiction, Victorian Literature Challenge, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge, Cruisin' Thru the Cozies.

Altogether, I read 45 books.

Board Books: 4; Picture Books: 4; Children's Books: 3; Middle Grade: 2; Young Adult: 6; Adult: 16; Christian Fiction: 4; Christian Nonfiction: 4; Nonfiction: 1; Poetry: 1.

Review Copies: 18; Library Books: 23; Bought-Books: 4.

My favorite lines of January 2011:


For the record, I wasn't around the day they decided to become Dumb

It is a truth less frequently acknowledged, that a good mother in possession of a single child, must be in want of sleep.  


There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood.

By the day I was born, April 3, 1990, I had already lived several lives.

Panty hose are a tool of the devil


My top five:

Pathfinder. Orson Scott Card. 
Five Flavors of Dumb. Antony John.
Strong Poison. Dorothy L. Sayers. 
Five Little Pigs. (Hercule Poirot) Agatha Christie.
Murder at the Vicarage. A Miss Marple Mystery. Agatha Christie. 


Reviews at Becky's Book Reviews


The Last Full Measure. Ann Rinaldi. 2010. [November 2010]. Harcourt. 218 pages.
Heart of a Samurai. Margi Preus. 2010. [August 2010] Harry N. Abrams. 320 pages.
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares. Rachel Cohn & David Levithan. 2010. [October 2010] Random House. 272 pages.
Backtracked. Pedro de Alcantara. 2009. Random House. 272 pages.
Entice. Carrie Jones. 2010. [December 2010] Bloomsbury. 272 pages.
Five Flavors of Dumb. Antony John. 2010. [November 2010] Penguin. 352 pages.
Pathfinder. Orson Scott Card. 2010. November 2010. Simon & Schuster. 662 pages.
Clockwork Angel. (Internal Devices #1) Cassandra Clare. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 479 pages. 
Whose Body? Dorothy L. Sayers. 1923/1995. HarperCollins. 224 pages.
The Mysterious Affair At Styles. A Hercule Poirot Mystery. Agatha Christie. 1920/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 224 pages.
Unnatural Death. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1927/1995. HarperCollins. 288 pages.
Murder on the Orient Express. Agatha Christie. 1933/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 272 pages.
Strong Poison. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1930/1995. HarperCollins. 272 pages.
Murder at the Vicarage. A Miss Marple Mystery. Agatha Christie. 1930/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 288 pages.
The Matters at Mansfield: Or The Crawford Affair. A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery. Carrie Bebris. 2008. Tor. 288 pages.
Have His Carcase. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1932/1995. HarperCollins. 448 pages.
The Lost Gate. Orson Scott Card. 2011. January 2011. Tor. 384 pages.
The A.B.C. Murders. (Hercule Poirot). Agatha Christie. 1935/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 256 pages.
Gaudy Night. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1936/1995. HarperCollins. 512 pages.
The Body in the Library. (Miss Marple) Agatha Christie. 1941/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 192 pages.
The Rock & Roll Queen of Bedlam. A Wise-Cracking Tale of Secrets, Peril, and Murder! Marilee Brothers. 2009. Medallion Press. 300 pages.
Five Little Pigs. (Hercule Poirot) Agatha Christie. 1941/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 256 pages. 
Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime. Robert J. Randisi. 2006. St. Martin's Press. 288 pages.
A Study in Scarlet. Arthur Conan Doyle. 1887/2003. Random House. 160 pages.

Reviews at Young Readers


For the Love of Music: The Remarkable Story of Maria Anna Mozart. Elizabeth Rusch. Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. 2011. February 2011. Random House. 32 pages.
A Dazzling Display of Dogs. Betsy Franco. Illustrated by Michael Wertz. 2011. Random House. 40 pages.
Interrupting Chicken. David Ezra Stein. 2010. [August 2010] Candlewick Press. 40 pages.
The Curious Garden. Peter Brown. 2009. Little, Brown. 40 pages.
A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Philip C. Stead. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. 2010. Roaring Brook Press. 32 pages. 
I'm Not. Pam Smallcomb. Illustrated by Robert Weinstock. 2011. Random House. 32 pages. 
Gossie. Olivier Dunrea. 2002/2007. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 16 pages.
Gossie and Gertie. Olivier Dunrea. 2002/2007. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 16 pages.
Ollie. Olivier Dunrea. 2003/2007. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 16 pages.
Peedie. Olivier Dunrea. 2004/2008. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 16 pages.
Play, Louis, Play!: The True Story of A Boy and His Horn. Muriel Harris Weinstein. Illustrated by Frank Morrison. 2010. [December 2010] Bloomsbury. 112 pages.
Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith. Illustrated by Mary Rayner. 1995 (Reprint). Random House. 128 pages.
Bink & Gollie. Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee. Illustrated by Tony Fucile. 2010. [September 2010] Candlewick Press. 96 pages. 


Reviews at Operation Actually Read Bible


The Attributes of God. Arthur W. Pink. [This edition 1975/2000] Family Christian Press. 96 pages.
The Girl in the Gatehouse. Julie Klassen. 2011. [January 2011]. Bethany House. 400 pages.
Courting Miss Amsel. Kim Vogel Sawyer. 2011. Bethany House. 346 pages.
Serendipity. Cathy Marie Hake. 2011. Bethany House. 352 pages.
Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. John MacArthur. 2010. December 2010. Thomas Nelson. 227 pages.
Jesus in the Present Tense: The I AM Statements of Christ. Warren W. Wiersbe. 2011. January 2011. David C. Cook. 208 pages.
Stars Collide. Janice Thompson. 2011. [January 2011] Revell. 324 pages.
A Million Ways To Die: The Only Way to Live. Rick James. 2010. October 2010. David C. Cook. 336 pages.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week In Review #5

What I Reviewed This Week:

From Becky's Book Reviews


Pathfinder. Orson Scott Card. 2010. November 2010. Simon & Schuster. 662 pages.
Heart of a Samurai. Margi Preus. 2010. [August 2010] Harry N. Abrams. 320 pages.
Clockwork Angel. (Internal Devices #1) Cassandra Clare. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 479 pages. 
The Body in the Library. (Miss Marple) Agatha Christie. 1941/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 192 pages.
The Rock & Roll Queen of Bedlam. A Wise-Cracking Tale of Secrets, Peril, and Murder! Marilee Brothers. 2009. Medallion Press. 300 pages.
Five Little Pigs. (Hercule Poirot) Agatha Christie. 1941/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 256 pages. 
Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime. Robert J. Randisi. 2006. St. Martin's Press. 288 pages.
A Study in Scarlet. Arthur Conan Doyle. 1887/2003. Random House. 160 pages.

From Young Readers


For the Love of Music: The Remarkable Story of Maria Anna Mozart. Elizabeth Rusch. Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. 2011. February 2011. Random House. 32 pages.
I'm Not. Pam Smallcomb. Illustrated by Robert Weinstock. 2011. Random House. 32 pages.
A Dazzling Display of Dogs. Betsy Franco. Illustrated by Michael Wertz. 2011. Random House. 40 pages.

From Operation Actually Read Bible


Stars Collide. Janice Thompson. 2011. [January 2011] Revell. 324 pages.
A Million Ways To Die: The Only Way to Live. Rick James. 2010. October 2010. David C. Cook. 336 pages.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet. Arthur Conan Doyle. 1887/2003. Random House. 160 pages.

In the year 1878 I took my degree of Doctor of Medicine of the University of London, and proceeded to Netley to go through the course prescribed for surgeons in the army. 

Readers are introduced to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in Arthur Conan Doyle's slim novel, A Study in Scarlet. Not only is this the first introduction of the characters to the audience, but it also shows the introduction of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to each other. They are introduced by a mutual acquaintance who knows that the other is looking for a roommate to help share costs. The two soon move into 221B Baker Street. As these two are getting to know one another, Dr. Watson witnesses first hand the "genius" of his new friend. For Sherlock Holmes is sought out to help solve a crime--a murder. At first Watson is skeptical, his friend is smart and clever, but is he as good as he claims to be?

The novel is told in three parts. The first and last being narrated by Dr. Watson. The middle section is told in third person. It is a tragedy that focuses on John Ferrier, his daughter, Lucy, and Lucy's would-be-husband, Jefferson Hope. John and Lucy are rescued from sure-death by a group of Mormons on their way west to Utah. Their rescue is conditional, however. John Ferrier must promise unconditionally to join their faith, to follow their laws and regulations, to obey their leaders and elders in all things. He agrees--what choice does he really have? Lucy is just a small girl when they are rescued. On the surface, he appears to conform as he should. He becomes a respected part of the community even. But. He still refuses to marry anyone. Secretly afraid, that if he agrees to marry one woman, he'd soon be pressured to take additional wives. And that is something that in good faith he cannot do. He's worried about Lucy as well. Knowing that when she's all grown, she'll be expected to marry into the community, most likely into a plural marriage arrangement. The two hope, for a little while, that Jefferson Hope may change all that. Hope loves Lucy so very much, and she loves him. But their daring plan of escape isn't so successful...

I honestly can't decide what I think about A Study in Scarlet. It was short. I liked that. But I can't say that I "loved" Sherlock Holmes OR Dr. Watson. Not that you have to love the detective in a mystery novel--though it sure helps!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Clockwork Angel (YA)

 Clockwork Angel. (Internal Devices #1) Cassandra Clare. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 479 pages.

The demon exploded in a shower of ichor and guts.

After her aunt's death, Tessa Gray comes to England hoping to start a new life with her older brother, Nate. She expected him to have met her when she arrived. Instead, she was met by the Dark Sisters and was imprisoned for many weeks as she was "trained" to take her 'rightful' place by their master, the Magister. For though Tessa didn't know it, she was a Downworlder, a warlock without the markings of a warlock. A warlock with special shape-shifting abilities. Tessa may not know much about magic, but she knows that the Dark Sisters are evil. And anyone they serve? Well, he'd have to be evil too. The fact that he wants to marry her?! It's all a little too creepy for her. To hold her brother--supposedly--hostage so she'll cooperate herself into a marriage?!
Tessa was already planning to try to escape when two Shadowhunters enter the scene. Will and Jem. They take her to the Institute, a hidden, protected place of the Shadowhunters, of the Nephilim. And that's just the beginning, for as the weeks go by she meets some very interesting people--only a few of which are fully human.

Tessa Gray may not have wanted this action-packed life, this dangerous adventure. But she may find that living a "normal" life is impossible now that she knows the truth. It is hard to know who to trust...and who to love. For she definitely finds herself falling in love with someone at the Institute.

I liked this one. It's historical fantasy. It's set in (an alternate) Victorian London. It's the first in a new series by Cassandra Clare. (Clare's previous trilogy--set in contemporary times--includes: The City of Bones, The City of Ashes, and The City of Glass.)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime

Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime. Robert J. Randisi. 2006. St. Martin's Press. 288 pages.

When I spotted Joey Bishop walking toward me across the Sands casino floor, I figured he wasn't heading for a blackjack table.

This adult mystery is set during 1960, during the filming of Ocean's 11 in Las Vegas. It stars the Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford. It's narrated by Eddie Gianelli (Eddie G) a pit boss at the Sands hotel. When the novel opens, he's being given an opportunity to do a favor for Frank Sinatra. Though he's flattered that Frank even knows he exists--to some degree--he is a bit hesitant too. What kind of "favor" could Sinatra want? And how dangerous would it be to say no? to say yes? Either way, it's a risk, a gamble. He certainly doesn't want to make enemies...

 But after a "friendly" discussion with his boss, Eddie G. decides to meet with Frank Sinatra, to do this special favor. What is the favor? Well, it's to figure out who is sending threatening letters to Dean Martin. Is it dangerous? Yes! But not quite for the reasons you might think.

I liked this one. I thought it was an interesting premise for a new mystery series. A bit playful, but full of drama. The others in the series include: Luck Be A Lady, Don't Die, Hey There (You With The Gun In Your Hand), You're Nobody Til Somebody Kills You, and I'm A Fool To Kill You.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Fourth Trip in January


Can you guess my new obsession?



New Loot:

ETA:
Lafayette and the American Revolution by Russell Freedman
The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

The Moving Finger: A Miss Marple Mystery by Agatha Christie
A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie
Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie
Cat Among Pigeons by Agatha Christie
Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie
Curtain by Agatha Christie
The Mirror Crack'd by Agatha Christie
Taken at the Flood by Agatha Christie
A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie
Murder with Mirrors by Agatha Christie
Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie
Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie
The Big Four by Agatha Christie
Thrones, Dominations by Dorothy Sayers & Jill Paton Walsh
Book of Days by James L. Rubart
The Golden Prince by Rebecca Dean
Unveiled by Francine Rivers
Unashamed by Francine Rivers
The Hidden Flame by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke
Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

Leftover Loot:

The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas
Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers

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      

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Heart of a Samurai (MG)

Heart of a Samurai. Margi Preus. 2010. [August 2010] Harry N. Abrams. 320 pages. 

Manjiro squinted across the expanse of glittering sea at the line of dark clouds forming on the horizon.

Historical fiction set in the 1840s-1850s. Manjiro may have dreamed about one day being a samurai, but, the truth is as a son of a fisherman, his "destiny" was to be a fisherman. Nothing more, nothing less. After a stormy beginning, Manjiro was lucky to be alive. For when he's out and about with a handful of other fisherman--all older, more experienced--their small boat becomes lost at sea. The young men (Manjiro's just fourteen) end up on a desolate rocky island. Their fate seems all too certain--starvation. But at the hand of "barbarians" (American whalers), they find new opportunities.

Unfortunately, these opportunities come at a heavy price. Because Japan's policies towards outsiders, if the men were to ever return they'd likely be killed because they've been "contaminated" by contact with the outside world. Manjiro accepts a special invitation from the Captain of the whaling vessel. He will--after several years aboard ship with the Captain--return with him to America, will become a part of the Captain's own family. He will be the first Japanese man in America. And the experience is something he never could have imagined! But will he ever get the chance to go home? For no matter how "lucky" he may be to have found a new life, a new family, he can't forget the family he left behind. He can't forget that he never told his mother goodbye--that he left without even telling her where he was going--fishing with friends. All these years, she had no way of knowing if her son was dead or alive. He has to find a way back to Japan if he can.

This historical fiction novel is based on a true story. It is historical adventure. Readers learn about his time at sea--on board a few whaling vessels. Readers learn about his time in America--his first experiences with school, with church,  with the community. Will he be accepted? Or will be seen as strange? as dangerous?

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Five Little Pigs

Five Little Pigs. (Hercule Poirot) Agatha Christie. 1941/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 256 pages.

Hercule Poirot looked with interest and appreciation at the young woman who was being ushered into the room. 

I've enjoyed a couple of other Hercule Poirot stories this past month--including The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Murder on the Orient Express, and ABC Murders--but, I must say that Five Little Pigs is my favorite so far. In this one, Hercule Poirot is investigating a sixteen-year-old murder--a case of poisoning. He's doing this at the request of a young woman, the child of the victim and convicted murderer. Before Caroline Crale's death, she wrote her daughter--then just a child--a letter saying that she was innocent of the crime. Now that the child is all grown up, now that she's twenty-one and has read that letter for herself, well, she needs to know one way or another before she can move on with her life, before she can get married and have kids of her own. Is her mother guilty of the crime of which she's been convicted? If she is innocent, was it suicide like the defense argued? Or was the crime committed by someone else?

Poirot's investigations will lead him to five people: Philip Blake (the best friend who proclaims his hatred for the wife a little too loudly), Meredith Blake (Philip's brother who had a fondness for growing poisonous plants in his lab at the time of the crime), Elsa Greer (the adulteress who announced the affair to the wife the day before), Angela Warren (the half-sister of Mrs. Caroline Crale, she was being 'raised' by her older sister), and Cecilia Williams (the governess hired to teach Angela). These were the people closest to the victim, Amyas Crale, on the last two days of his life. Could one of them be guilty of the crime?

I loved this one. I loved how this one was told. I loved the characters. I loved the narration. I loved how we learn about the crime, how the clues are revealed. Poirot is interviewing these people, but he's also urging them to write their own accounts of the crime.

My favorite lines:

"M. Poirot, you--you don't look exactly the way I pictured you."
"And I am old, am I not? Older than you imagined?"
"Yes, that too." She hesitated. "I'm being frank, you see. I want--I've got to have--the best."
"Rest assured," said Hercule Poirot, "I am the best!"
Carla said, "You're not modest....All the same, I'm inclined to take you at your word."
Poirot said placidly, "One does not, you know, employ merely the muscles. I do not need to bend and measure the footprints and pick up the cigarette ends and examine the bent blades of grass. It is enough for me to sit back in my chair and think. It is this"--he tapped his egg-shaped head--"this, that functions!" (6)

"It is inevitable," Hercule Poirot said. "Women will always see a private detective. Men will tell him to go to the devil."
"Some women might tell him to go to the devil too."
"After they have seen him--not before."
"Perhaps." (103)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Rock & Roll Queen of Bedlam

The Rock & Roll Queen of Bedlam. A Wise-Cracking Tale of Secrets, Peril, and Murder! Marilee Brothers. 2009. Medallion Press. 300 pages. 

Panty hose are a tool of the devil. On a tall woman, the crotch hangs at knee level, so she's forced to crouch and shuffle like Quasimodo. If a woman is vertically challenged, the things slither downward, pooling around her ankles like a reptilian second skin. My trouble began with panty hose.

I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. I found it an easy read, a light read. I liked *some* of the humor, especially the first paragraph. But. It wasn't all to my liking--my taste. I will mention, however, that the jacket description is flawed at best. It emphasizes all the wrong aspects of the novel.

This novel stars a teacher, Allegra Thome, who enjoys singing karaoke. It is because of her stumble into trouble that she loses her boyfriend, Michael, and meets her new love interest, Sloane. That relationship intensifies when one of Allegra's students goes missing. Sara Stepaneck is close friends with her nephew, Nick, in addition to being one of her own students. Most everyone is convinced it's just another runaway, but there are just enough clues to indicate otherwise. Trouble is that people close to Sara are turning up dead--her dad, her social worker. Will Allegra be next? Will her private investigation into this young girl's disappearance prove deadly?

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Body in the Library

The Body in the Library. (Miss Marple) Agatha Christie. 1941/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 192 pages.


Mrs. Bantry was dreaming. 

The Bantrys are about to get a great shock when this novel opens. They're awakened by their maid, Mary, proclaiming that she's found a dead body in their library! The body is that of a young, beautiful woman--a blond. At first Colonel Bantry doesn't believe it could be true. But Mrs. Bantry handles the situation surprisingly well: with a quick phone call to Miss Marple. She is more than happy to 'help' the police detectives solve another case. Who is this dead woman? How did she come to be in their library? Who killed her and why?

I enjoyed this mystery very much. I am enjoying my time with Miss Marple. She's such a wonderful character! So many of the characters in these Agatha Christie novels are well done. I'm enjoying the descriptions and dialogue very much! There's just something so cozy, so charming about these stories.

"I like your friend," said Adelaide Jefferson to Mrs. Bantry. The two women were sitting on the terrace.
"Jane Marple's a very remarkable woman," said Mrs. Bantry.
"She's nice too," said Addie, smiling.
"People call her a scandalmonger," said Mrs. Bantry, "but she isn't really."
"Just a low opinion of human nature?"
"You could call it that." (124)
 "As I've told you, I've got a very suspicious mind. My nephew Raymond tells me, in fun, of course--that I have a mind like a sink. He says that most Victorians have. All I can say is that the Victorians knew a good deal about human nature." (184)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Pathfinder (YA)

Pathfinder. Orson Scott Card. 2010. November 2010. Simon & Schuster. 662 pages.

Saving the human race is a frantic business. Or a tedious one. It all depends on what stage of the process you're taking part in.

I loved Pathfinder. I just LOVED it. Why did I love it? Great premise. Great world-building. Great characters. Now, it is the first in a series, I believe, so I think the characters and story will be developed even more in the next one. But. I have no complaints on how they were developed in the first novel.

Pathfinder has two stories to tell. The heart of the story focuses on Rigg, a young boy, who is well-educated for a trapper's son. His father has taken him along on all his adventures, and he's known a very rugged life. Turns out his father has been preparing him for something BIG all along. Something he'd have to face all on his own. But. He's not all on his own. Not for long. For he joins up with Umbo, a childhood friend who has in recent times been less than friendly, but a boy who has a secret destiny of his own. He's been "prepared" by Rigg's father too.

Rigg can see the paths of every human and animal that has ever walked the earth. He can see all paths but for one--his father. Umbo's gift, well, it's a bit harder to define. He can manipulate time--though whether he's slowing or speeding up time is anyone's guess. By working together--and this is found through chance--they can change the past. (And when they do change the past, they often find themselves the stuff of legend.)

Rigg's journey--his quest--is to travel to find his mother and sister. The focus being on the sister. Before his father's death--which occurred just a day or two before--he'd not known his mother was alive or that he even had a sister. But now he has something to do--find his sister, Param--and something to take with him--a legacy of nineteen stones. This journey will be full of danger, but working together they may just survive. Their chances for survival improve even more when they're joined by Loaf, a former soldier turned innkeeper.

Rigg's relationship with Umbo is complicated at best. Because not only did Umbo accuse (publicly) Rigg of murdering his younger brother, the two seem to be in competition when it comes to who-has-the-greatest-gift, and who-should-be-in-charge. Umbo does not want to be taken for granted. He does not want Rigg telling him when to use his gift, how to use his gift, etc. And then there's the fact that Rigg and Param are from the royal family--they may not sit on the throne; they may live surrounded by guards; they may legally 'own' nothing not even the clothes on their backs--but royalty nonetheless.

The second story is equally interesting. It is revealed in the first few paragraphs of each chapter. This story concerns a human captain of a colony ship and a mechanical 'expendable.' Ram Odin is the only human awake for this journey. He's told that he will be the one who determines if the ship makes the jump into the fold so they can travel faster than light to the new planet they hope to colonize. But things don't go according to plan--his plan at least. These portions are SO compelling. I was fascinated by this story. And I couldn't wait for these two stories to start blending together.  

I loved Pathfinder. I loved reading this one. It reminded me of everything I loved in Pastwatch and The Worthing Saga. It was so wonderful to be spending time with Orson Scott Card again. I would definitely recommend this one!



© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week In Review #4

Happy Sunday! I "finished" my first reading challenge of the year, the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge. But I have a feeling, that I won't *really* be done with it for months. I am trying to read a few books a week that are not mysteries. But it would be hard to miss this new obsession of mine!

Have you seen the new adaptations of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novels? I've seen Murder At The Vicarage, The Body in the Library, A Murder is Announced, and 4:50 From Paddington. So far, 4:50 from Paddington is my favorite and best adaptation!

What I reviewed:

From Becky's Book Reviews:


Murder at the Vicarage. A Miss Marple Mystery. Agatha Christie. 1930/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 288 pages.
The Matters at Mansfield: Or The Crawford Affair. A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery. Carrie Bebris. 2008. Tor. 288 pages.
Have His Carcase. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1932/1995. HarperCollins. 448 pages.
The Lost Gate. Orson Scott Card. 2011. January 2011. Tor. 384 pages.
The A.B.C. Murders. (Hercule Poirot). Agatha Christie. 1935/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 256 pages.
Gaudy Night. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1936/1995. HarperCollins. 512 pages.

From Young Readers:


A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Philip C. Stead. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. 2010. Roaring Brook Press. 32 pages.  
Gossie. Olivier Dunrea. 2002/2007. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 16 pages.
Gossie and Gertie. Olivier Dunrea. 2002/2007. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 16 pages.
Ollie. Olivier Dunrea. 2003/2007. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 16 pages.
Peedie. Olivier Dunrea. 2004/2008. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 16 pages.


From Operation Actually Read Bible:


Jesus in the Present Tense: The I AM Statements of Christ. Warren W. Wiersbe. 2011. January 2011. David C. Cook. 208 pages.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gaudy Night

Gaudy Night. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1936/1995. HarperCollins. 512 pages.

Harriet Vane sat at her writing-table and stared out into Mecklenburg Square. The late tulips made a brave show in the Square garden, and a quartet of early tennis-players were energetically calling the score of a rather erratic and unpracticed game. But Harriet saw neither tulips nor tennis-players.

This is the third novel starring Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. The first two being Strong Poison and Have His Carcase. Both featured Lord Peter prominently. In the first, he "rescued" an accused murderess, Harriet Vane, she stood accused of poisoning her former lover. In a little under a month, he proved his love by proving her innocence. Upon their first meeting, he proposed. It was--for him--love at first sight. In the second, Lord Peter proves helpful once again when Harriet discovers a dead body on the beach. He doesn't even wait for there to be a sign of trouble, he's there on the spot to do what he does best.

In the third novel, Lord Peter is strangely absent for the first half of the novel. At first, this irritated me. I mean, I want LORD PETER to be appearing in every chapter--if not on every page. I mean, I just can't get enough of him. I LOVE AND ADORE him. But. I think his absence serves at least two purposes. First, I think it reflects the times surprisingly well. Sayers has Lord Peter working for the Foreign Office; she has Lord Peter off in Europe trying to be a peacemaker. There are a few conversations that reflect that all is not as it should be in Europe, in the world, that there are tremors of political turmoil and uprising. That another war may be coming. Second, I think it's for Harriet's benefit. With Peter gone, she realizes--perhaps a little too slowly for this reader--just how much she needs him. Needs him not to "rescue" her perhaps though he has a way of doing just that. But needs him--as in needs his company, his humor, his wit, his strength, his intelligence. She almost aches for him. If that makes sense. So Harriet and I were both in the same place (for a change), we were both wanting Lord Peter, longing to hear his voice again.

So what is Gaudy Night about? Well, Harriet Vane has returned to Oxford, to her college (Shrewsbury College). At first this return is just for the "Gaudy" reunion. But. After the women's college experiences a series of pranks and other (small) crimes, she's called back to lend a hand in the investigation. They don't want to go to the police. They don't want outsiders to know that there is someone writing obscene letters and destroying college property. Since these letters are anti-feminist--the person writing them obviously feels that women should not be educated or work outside the home. A large part of this one is set in an academic environment. It features a handful of women discussing big issues of the day. It was hard, for me, to keep track of all the new characters introduced. All the women professors, tutors, dons, and students. But there was one new character that was unforgettable: Lord Peter's nephew, Lord St. George! (I really, really liked him!) As the months go by, the crimes start to change. The case may prove a little too challenging to solve all on her own, but Lord Peter can't stay away forever. And together, they may just do more than solve the case...

I enjoyed the romance in Gaudy Night. I enjoyed seeing Lord Peter through different eyes. (For example, Wimsey is discussed by a good many women at the college. Sometimes in a flattering way, sometimes not. But it is interesting to see Harriet's reaction to other people's opinion of Lord Peter. When she sees that Lord Peter is a desirable man in other women's eyes, well, it doesn't hurt the situation any!) I loved the characterization too. I loved Lord St. George and Reggie Pomfret, for example.  I wasn't such a big fan of the mystery plot in this one--it wasn't much of a surprise to me who was at fault. But overall, the writing still worked well for me.

Favorite quotes:

"How all occasions do inform against me!" muttered Harriet to herself. One would have thought that Oxford at least would offer a respite from Peter Wimsey and the marriage question. But although she herself was a notoriety, if not precisely a celebrity, it was an annoying fact that Peter was a still more spectacular celebrity, and that, of the two, people would rather know about him than about her. As regards marriage--well, here one certainly had a chance to find out whether it worked or not. Was it worse to be a Mary Atwood (nee Stokes) or a Miss Schuster-Slatt? Was it better to be a Phoebe Bancroft (nee Tucker) or a Miss Lydgate? And would all these people have turned out exactly the same, married or single? (46)

"Do you know any man who sincerely admires a woman for her brains?"
"Well, said Harriet, "certainly not many."
"You may think you know one," said Miss Hillyard, with a bitter emphasis. "Most of us think at some time or other that we know one. But the man usually has some other little axe to grind." (55)

"Peter" said Harriet. And with the sound of her own voice she came drowsing and floating up out of the strong circle of his arms, through a green sea of sun-dappled beechleaves into darkness. "Oh damn," said Harriet softly to herself. "Oh, damn, I didn't want to wake up." The clock in the New Quad struck three musically. "This won't do," said Harriet. "This really will not do. My sub-conscious has a most treacherous imagination." She groped for the switch of her bedside lamp, "It's disquieting to reflect that one's dreams never symbolize one's real wishes, but always something Much Worse." She turned the light on and sat up. "If I really wanted to be passionately embraced by Peter,  I should dream of something like dentists or gardening." (113)

If you learn how to tackle one subject--any subject--you've learnt how to tackle all subjects. (171)

"But what's Mock Turtle about?" inquired Harriet? On this point the authors were for the most part vague; but a young man who wrote humorous magazine stories, and could therefore afford to be wide-minded about novels, said he had read it and thought it rather interesting, only a bit long. It was about a swimming instructor at a watering place, who had contracted such an unfortunate anti-nudity complex through watching so many bathing-beauties that it completely inhibited all his natural emotions. So he got a job on a whaler and fell in love at first sight with an Eskimo, because she was such a beautiful bundle of garments. So he married her and brought her back to live in a suburb, where she fell in love with a vegetarian nudist. So then the husband went slightly mad and contracted a complex about giant turtles, and spent all his spare time staring into the turtle tank at the Aquarium, and watching the strange, slow monsters swimming significantly round in their encasing shells. But of course a lot of things into it--it was one of those books that reflect the author's reaction to Things in General. Altogether, significant was, he thought, the word to describe it. (233)

"He's a precocious little monkey," said his uncle, without enthusiasm. "Though I can't blame him for that; it runs in the blood. But it's characteristic of his impudence that he should have gate-crashed your acquaintance, after you had firmly refused to meet any of my people."
"I found him for myself, you see, Peter."
"Literally, or so he says. I gather that he nearly knocked you down, damaged your property and generally made a nuisance of himself, and that you instantly concluded he must be some relation to me."
"That's--If he said that, you know better than to believe it. But I couldn't very well miss the likeness."
"Yet people have been known to speak slightingly of my personal appearance! I congratulate you on a perception worthy of Sherlock Holmes at his keenest." (308)

How fleeting are all human passions compared with the massive continuity of ducks... (325)

"Do you find it easy to get drunk on words?"
"So easy that, to tell you the truth, I am seldom perfectly sober. Which accounts for my talking so much." (330)

"Something worried you about this room. What was it?"
"You don't need to be told."
"No, I am convinced that our two hearts beat as one. But tell Miss Martin." (345)

"Just exercise your devastating talent for keeping to the point and speaking the truth."
"That sounds easy."
"It is--for you. That's what I love you for. Didn't you know?" (365)

"I don't know. I have a reputation for flippant insincerity. You think I'm honest?"
"I know you are. I couldn't imagine your being anything else." (382)

It is said that love and a cough cannot be hid. (427)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 21, 2011

The A.B.C. Murders

The A.B.C. Murders. (Hercule Poirot). Agatha Christie. 1935/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 256 pages.

It was in June of 1935 that I came home from my ranch in South America for a stay of about six months. 

I liked The A.B.C. Murders. But I didn't love it. I'm not sure why. It had Hastings, the same narrator found in The Mysterious Affair at Styles; and, of course, it had Hercule Poirot. (My favorite of the three Poirot mysteries that I've read this year would probably be Murder on the Orient Express.) It had four murders instead of one, which is perhaps, why it wasn't love--for me. Instead of following the clues for one murder, instead of narrowing in on the motives for wanting one person dead, instead of figuring out who had the most to gain from the death, and all the 'good stuff' revealed along the way, Poirot is trying to outwit a serial killer. The crimes appear to be randomly connected--by the alphabet--as you can imagine. But are these murders random?

Poirot is taking this case personally because the killer has been sending him notes--warnings--about the crimes before they're committed. He's challenging Poirot, daring him to be clever enough to solve the crimes and identify him. He's an arrogant man, a seemingly insane man, who hides behind the initials ABC.

As I said, I liked this one. I don't regret reading it. And at the time I was reading I certainly found it entertaining enough. (I just had to read until I found out who the killer was.)

"Who are you? You don't belong to the police?"
"I am better than the police," said Poirot. He said it without conscious arrogance. It was, to him, a simple statement of fact. (90)

The spoken word and the written--there is an astonishing gulf between them. there is a way of turning sentences that completely reverses the original meaning. (122)

"Words, mademoiselle, are only the outer clothing of ideas." (132)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Lost Gate (YA/Adult)

The Lost Gate. Orson Scott Card. 2011. January 2011. Tor. 384 pages.


Danny North grew up surrounded by fairies, ghosts, talking animals, living stones, walking trees, and gods who called up wind and brought down rain, made fire from air and drew iron out of the depths of the earth as easily as ordinary people might draw up water from a well.

I enjoyed The Lost Gate. It's a fantasy novel with mythological elements. Danny North is from one of powerful families--former gods, you might say--cut off for centuries from their home-world. But he's not the family's greatest hope--far from it. He's grown up being less-than. His aunts, his uncles, his cousins, his parents, everyone in his life has a gift, a calling. But Danny? Well, he runs fast and he's smart when it comes to book-learning, to languages especially. Not exactly magical, is it?

But Danny is about to learn just how special he is when the novel opens--and this knowledge puts him in great danger. He can't go home again--for the truth--if revealed--will lead to his death. So how does a young boy (12 or 13) survive in the real world? A world he's been kept separate from? How fast can Danny learn the necessary skills to survive? He won't be alone for long, but when there are people who want you dead, it's not easy to know who to trust.

Speaking of trust, there is a second story within The Lost Gate. Readers aren't quite sure (exactly) how these stories connect since they seem to be disconnected--separated by great time or distance.

The Lost Gate is a fantasy novel. Orson Scott Card crafts a new world (or two) within The Lost Gate. He's peopled the 'real' world with some fantastical beings--some more obvious than others. I enjoyed the world Card has created. I'm not sure I "love" this new world yet. But. I can say that The Lost Gate kept me reading. I found it compelling, enjoyable, satisfying. The time I spent with the book was happy. It felt right to be reading Card again.



© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Have His Carcase

Have His Carcase. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1932/1995. HarperCollins. 448 pages. 

The best remedy for a bruised heart is not, as so many people seem to think, repose upon a manly bosom. Much more efficacious are honest work, physical activity, and the sudden acquisition of wealth.

Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey star in this mystery novel by Dorothy L. Sayers. After the murder charge against her has been dropped, Harriet Vane needs a good vacation. And so we find her, when the novel opens, on a little trip. But relaxing isn't quite the right word for her vacation. For it turns into another murder mystery. She discovers the body of a man on the beach. She has just enough time to take a few quick pictures of the body--of the crime scene--before the tide begins to threaten both. She seeks help--the police--but the damage has already been done. The body has vanished into the sea.

Is this murder? Is this suicide? There seems to be problems with both theories. Lord Peter Wimsey has his ideas--as does Harriet--but can they ever agree with the police in the matter? As these two set about privately investigating the affair, can they work out some of their personal problems too? For you see, Lord Peter still is madly, deeply in love with Harriet. And. He's still proposing. Often.

I still love Harriet and Lord Peter. I do. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Lord Peter Wimsey! I've included some of my favorite scenes--but none of what I include is a spoiler to the mystery, so don't worry about that!

She fell a victim to an inferiority complex, and tripped over her partner's feet.
"Sorry," said Wimsey, accepting responsibility like a gentleman.
"It's my fault," said Harriet. "I'm a rotten dancer. Don't bother about me. Let's stop. You haven't got to be polite to me, you know."
Worse and worse. She was being peevish and egotistical. Wimsey glanced down at her in surprise and then suddenly smiled.
"Darling, if you danced like an elderly elephant with arthritis, I would dance the sun and moon into the sea with you. I have waited a thousand years to see you dance in that frock."
"Idiot!" said Harriet (151).

"Why didn't you sock him one over the jaw?"
"It was a temptation. I felt that you would love me better if I did. But you would not, in your calmer moments, really wish me to put my love before my detective principles."
"Certainly not. But what's his idea?" (152)

"I may be everything you say--patronizing, interfering, conceited, intolerable, and all the rest of it. But do give me credit for a little intelligence. Do you think I don't know all that? Do you think it's pleasant for any man who feels about a woman as I do about you, to have to fight his way along under this detestable burden of gratitude? Damn it, do you think I don't know perfectly well that I'd have a better chance if I was deaf, blind, maimed, starving, drunken, or dissolute, so that you could have the fun of being magnanimous? Why do you suppose I treat my own sincerest feelings like something of a comic opera, if it isn't to save myself the bitter humiliation of seeing you try not to be utterly nauseated by them? Can't you understand that this damned dirty trick of fate has robbed me of the common man's right to be serious about his own passions? Is that a position for any man to be proud of?"
"Don't talk like that."
"I wouldn't, if you didn't force me. And you might have the justice to remember that you can hurt me a damned sight more than I can possibly hurt you."
"I know I'm being horribly ungrateful--"
"Hell!" (167)

"I could kiss you for it. You need not shrink and tremble. I am not going to do it. When I kiss you, it will be an important event--one of those things which stand out among their surroundings like the first time you tasted li-chee. It will not be an unimportant sideshow attached to a detective investigation." (203)

"Now then! My dear, what's happened? You're all of a doodah!"
"Peter! I believe I've been kissed by a murderer."
"Have you? Well, it serves you right for letting anybody kiss you but me. Good heavens! You raise all sorts of objections to a perfectly amiable and reasonably virtuous man like myself, and the next thing I hear is that you are wallowing in the disgusting embraces of a murderer. Upon my soul! I don't know what the modern girl is coming to." (234)
I would definitely recommend Dorothy Sayers. Particularly, Whose Body, Strong Poison, and Have His Carcase.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Third Trip in January

New Loot:

The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas
Magnificent Obsession by Lloyd C. Douglas
The Rock & Roll Queen of Bedlam by Marilee Brothers
The Big Sleep & Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
Breathers by S.G. Browne
Fated by S.G. Browne
The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To by DC Pierson
The Vaults by Toby Ball
Whatever Tomorrow Brings by Lori Wick
The Clockwork Man by William Jablonsky
The Anvil of the World by Kage Baker

Leftover Loot:

The Snake, The Crocodile, and the Dog by Elizabeth Peters
The Last Camel Died at Noon by Elizabeth Peters
A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux
The Intrigue at Highbury or Emma's Match by Carrie Bebris
A Murder is Announced by Agatha Christie
4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie
Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
The House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant
Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Introducing Agatha Raisin: The Quiche of Death; The Vicious Vet by M.C. Beaton
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
At Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie
Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie
The Body in the Library a Miss Marple Mystery by Agatha Christie
Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers
Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie

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    

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Matters at Mansfield

The Matters at Mansfield: Or The Crawford Affair. A Mr. & Mrs. Darcy Mystery. Carrie Bebris. 2008. Tor. 288 pages. 

It is a truth less frequently acknowledged, that a good mother in possession of a single child, must be in want of sleep. 

Who has killed Henry Crawford, and why should Elizabeth and Darcy care?! In The Matters at Mansfield, readers see a different side of Anne de Bourgh, the 'weak' daughter of Lady Catherine. With a little encouragement from Elizabeth Darcy, Miss de Bourgh has decided to follow her heart and disobey the command of her mother. For better or worse. Literally. The book sees Anne running away with her lover! Who's her lover? Three guesses! The scoundrel from Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, Henry Crawford. Has Carrie Bebris redeemed Mr. Crawford? Read for yourself and see all the excitement unfold...you can imagine, no doubt, what Lady Catherine will make of this affair...

I am just LOVING these mystery novels by Carrie Bebris. I love the writing, the style, the language, the witty dialogue, the just-right characterizations. I would definitely recommend these books! They are so well-written.

See also: Pride and Prescience and North by Northanger.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, January 17, 2011

The Murder at the Vicarage


Murder at the Vicarage. A Miss Marple Mystery. Agatha Christie. 1930/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 288 pages.

It is difficult to know quite where to begin this story, but I have fixed my choice on a certain Wednesday at luncheon at the Vicarage. The conversation, though in the main irrelevant to the matter in hand, yet contained one or two suggestive incidents which influenced later developments.

Murder at the Vicarage is the first Agatha Christie novel starring Miss Marple. And it was a delight. A pure and simple delight. It is narrated by the vicar, a Mr. Clement. His narrative was just right--for me. It was a perfect blend of humor and charm. And, of course, suspense! Mr. Clement is shocked to discover a dead man in his study. Colonel Protheroe had his moments--he's a man most would find difficult to live with. But no one *really* expected him to be murdered! He was supposed to be having a private meeting with the vicar that evening. But a phone call changes all that...

Inspector Slack is the "official" detective on the case. The man responsible for solving this crime and bringing the murderer to justice....

Miss Marple, one of the elderly women in the community, tells Mr. Clement that there are seven people she suspects capable of the murder. But she's not naming names--at least not yet. Which leaves Mr. Clement trying to guess the identity of the murderer as well.

Chapter by chapter, readers find clues. Can they guess the identity of the murderer before Miss Marple's big reveal?

I found both Mr. Clement and Miss Marple charming. I just LOVED the characterization in this one. The humor, the wit, the drama. It was just a satisfying read.

Here are some of my favorite lines:

"Dear Vicar," said Miss Marple, "you are so unworldly. I'm afraid that, observing human nature for as long as I have done, one gets not to expect very much from it. I daresay idle tittle-tattle is very wrong and unkind, but it is so often true, isn't it?" (23)


Thursday started badly. Two of the ladies of my parish elected to quarrel about the church decorations. I was called in to adjudicate between two middle-aged ladies, each of whom was literally trembling with rage. If it had not been so painful, it would have been quite an interesting physical phenomenon. (40)


"Ah!" said Miss Marple. "But I always find it prudent to suspect everybody just a little. What I say is, you really never know, do you?" (154)


"I remember a saying of my Great Aunt Fanny's. I was sixteen at the time and thought it particularly foolish."
"Yes?" I inquired.
"She used to say, "The young people think the old people are fools--but the old people know the young people are fools!" (282)


At that moment Anne Protheroe entered the room.
She was dressed very quietly in black. She carried in her hand a Sunday paper, which she held out to me with a rueful glance.
"I've never had any experience of this sort of thing. It's pretty ghastly, isn't it? I saw a reporter at the inquest. I just said that I was terribly upset and had nothing to say, and then he asked me if I wasn't anxious to find my husband's murderer, and I said 'Yes.' And then whether I had any suspicions and I said 'No.' And where I didn't think the crime showed local knowledge, and I said it seemed to, certainly. And that was all. And now look at this!"
In the middle of the page was a photograph, evidently taken at least ten years ago--Heaven knows where they had dug it out. There were large headlines.

WIDOW DECLARES SHE WILL NEVER REST TILL SHE HAS HUNTED DOWN HUSBAND'S MURDERER.

Mrs. Protheroe, the widow, of the murdered man, is certain that the murderer must be looked for locally. She has suspicions but no certainty. She declared herself prostrated with grief, but reiterated her determination to hunt down the murderer.

"It doesn't sound like me, does it?" said Anne.
"I daresay it might have been worse," I said handing back the paper. (201-02)



© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week in Review #3

Happy Sunday! Did you have a good week? Are you enjoying what you're reading? Have you read the ALA announcements yet? I wrote up a little post about the awards yesterday. I found some GREAT books this week! I also watched a few good movies--including an adaptation of Strong Poison and Murder at the Vicarage. (Also City of Ember.) I also found this book trailer for one of my favorite 2010 books:



What I reviewed:

From Becky's Book Reviews:


Entice. Carrie Jones. 2010. [December 2010] Bloomsbury. 272 pages.
Five Flavors of Dumb. Antony John. 2010. [November 2010] Penguin. 352 pages.
Murder on the Orient Express. Agatha Christie. 1933/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 272 pages.
Strong Poison. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1930/1995. HarperCollins. 272 pages.

From Young Readers: 


Interrupting Chicken. David Ezra Stein. 2010. [August 2010] Candlewick Press. 40 pages.
The Curious Garden. Peter Brown. 2009. Little, Brown. 40 pages.
Bink & Gollie. Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee. Illustrated by Tony Fucile. 2010. [September 2010] Candlewick Press. 96 pages.  

From Operation Actually Read Bible:


Courting Miss Amsel. Kim Vogel Sawyer. 2011. Bethany House. 346 pages.
Serendipity. Cathy Marie Hake. 2011. Bethany House. 352 pages.
Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. John MacArthur. 2010. December 2010. Thomas Nelson. 227 pages.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weekly Geeks 2011-2: ALA Awards

I haven't had an opportunity to write about his year's award announcements

Newbery Winner & Honors: I was THRILLED to hear that Moon Over Manifest had won the Newbery! This is one that I read and loved, loved, loved in the summer. (Loved so much I indulged in a reread this December!) I have read two of the Newbery honor books: Turtle in Paradise Jennifer L. Holm and One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. (My library does not have Joyce Sidman's Dark Emperor and other Poems of the Night. Heart of a Samurai is one I've got checked out from the library now. I hope to get to it soon!) As for disappointments, I would have LOVED to see some love for The Boneshaker by Kate Milford, A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, and Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper.

Caldecott Winner & Honors. I had not heard of the winner, A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, but I was happy to put a hold on it at the library. I have read and loved one of the honor books--Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein. Dave The Potter by Laban Carrick Hill may prove trickier to track down since my library doesn't have a copy.

Printz Winner & Honors. I was happy to see Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi win! It was one of the best YA books I read last year. I've only read one of the four honor books named: Stolen by Lucy Christopher.  Of the remaining three--Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King, Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick, and Nothing by Janne Teller--the one I am MOST interested in reading is Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King. I would have liked to see Grace by Elizabeth Scott get some love. I think she definitely deserves it.

Coretta Scott King Author Winner & Honors. I was happy to see One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia win this one. I have read two of the three honor books named: Ninth Ward. Jewell Parker Rhodes and Lockdown. Walter Dean Myers. The one I have not read--at least not yet--is Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri.

Schneider Family Book Award Winners. I have read all three winners! The children's winner was The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon. The middle grade winner was After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick. The teen winner is Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John. I am a bit surprised to see that there was no room for Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper either here or on the Newbery. But. That's how it goes.

I was ECSTATIC to learn that Sir Terry Pratchett is the 2011 Edwards Award winner! I read quite a few of his books last fall.

Geisel Winners & Honors. I have read the winner, Bink & Gollie,  and both honors, We Are In A Book! Elephant and Piggie Series by Mo Willems and Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin.

There were plenty of others announced. But if I had not read any of the winners or honors, I didn't feel the need to include it. After all, at best I would be saying my library has this or it doesn't. Or I want to read this soon, or I have no interest in this one ever. Either way, it doesn't *add* much.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Five Flavors of Dumb (YA)

Five Flavors of Dumb. Antony John. 2010. [November 2010] Penguin. 352 pages.

For the record, I wasn't around the day they decided to become Dumb. If I'd been their manager back then I'd have pointed out that the name, while accurate, was not exactly smart. It just encouraged people to question the band's intelligence, maybe even their sanity. And the way I saw it, Dumb didn't have much of it. But they weren't in the mood to be reasoned with. They'd just won Seattle's annual Teen Battle of the Bands, and they were milking their fifteen minutes for all it was worth.

I loved this one. I just loved it. One of the reasons why I loved it so much was the narration. I loved our narrator, Piper. She's a (beautiful) girl who is accustomed to not being heard. Most people--if they notice her at all--notice her for the wrong reasons. Something that will be challenged through the course of the novel. Piper is practically daring people to take notice of her now. For this deaf girl is about to take on a big challenge: she's going to be a manager of a rock band. She's determined to make this band a real band--a band that earns money. But the band, for better or worse, seems to be clashing in all the wrong ways. (Original band members: Tash, Will, and Josh.) In impossible-to-ignore ways. It certainly doesn't help matters that two new band members have joined Dumb since it won the Teen Battle of the Bands (Ed, Kallie). Can Piper do the impossible? Can she be the brains of Dumb?

Another reason I loved Five Flavors of the Dumb was the richness of its characters, the depth of the relationships, particularly family relationships. Piper has complex relationships with her mother, her father, her younger brother, Finn, and her baby sister, Grace. Especially since Grace has just had her cochlear implant turned on. And the operation was paid for with Piper's college fund. So, you can imagine, some of the difficulties Piper is facing as the novel opens.

I also loved how surprising the novel was--for me. I found it warm and satisfying, in all the right places, as the relationships develop and the plot unfolds. But it's more than that. Yes, it's got heart and soul. But it's more than that. It's got humor. It's got drama.

Five Flavors of Dumb is a great coming-of-age story set in Seattle. I'm happy to recommend it!

Winner of the 2011 Schneider Family Teen Book Award.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Entice (YA)

Entice. Carrie Jones. 2010. [December 2010] Bloomsbury. 272 pages.

"Am I really not allowed to complain about being here?" I ask as we enter Bedford High School about an hour late for the winter ball.

Entice is the third novel in Carrie Jones pixie series. The first two are Need and Captivate. This series would be great for fans of Stephenie Meyer and Melissa Marr. (Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange, and Fragile Eternity immediately come to mind.) I'm sure there are other authors I could mention. (After all, were-creatures, faeries, and such are still exceedingly popular at the moment. Though pixies are not that prevalent, so Jones is unique in that.) So these books are assured an audience.

I enjoyed Entice. I did. I liked it better than Captivate. And perhaps even more than Need. Though it's been so long since reading the first novel, I can't say that with certainty. If there was a time I liked Nick, I don't remember. One thing I do know is that I like Astley. I do. He is one of the main reasons why I enjoyed Entice so much! (The mythology would be a second reason.)

Almost everything I say about Entice would spoil Need and Captivate. I could talk about the danger Zara and her friends face. I could talk about the tough decision she's been "forced" to make in the name of love. I could talk about how confusing this all is for our young heroine, Zara. I could talk about how great it is that Zara has such a supportive team of friends. She's facing a lot--but she's not alone. But. I think the less you know going into it, the better it will be.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Serendipity

Serendipity. Cathy Marie Hake. 2011. Bethany House. 352 pages.

"Hoo-oo-ie, she's het up!"
Margaret Rose shook a spatula at the men in her kitchen.
"If you plan to eat supper, you'll not be egging him on."
All three bearded jaws dropped.
"I mean it." Never once had she made that threat. In her five years of cooking and caring for a baker's dozen ragtag of old men, Maggie managed to tolerate plenty. Love made it easy to dote on them and overlook blunders. Most often, her "uncles" showered her with affection, appreciation, and endless amusement. Today, however, was different. 
Why is Margaret Rose so bothered? Well, the subject of marriage has come up. One of her "uncles" wants her to know that when her "groom" shows up, it's okay for her to leave them behind. To make a new life for herself, to have a home of her own. Fact is, she's the only girl, the only woman, in her (small) community of Carver's Holler. And it's her "job" to take care of everyone. She doesn't believe that any potential "groom" will appear at her door, that they'll come a handsome stranger ready to propose marriage. But chapter two holds a few surprises.

A man, Todd Valmer, is on his way back home to his ranch in Gooding, Texas, with his mother when she gets sick. Margaret Rose is his mother's best chance--as unlikely as that seems--she is able to see that the woman has had a stroke. And she agrees to nurse her until the next train goes through. During that week, Todd sees just how amazing Margaret Rose is. And she has a chance to see just how swoon-worthy he is. But can he convince her that he's worth marrying in such a short amount of time? Will the potential of love, of happily ever after, be enough to convince Margaret Rose to leave her home, her family, her friends, to take a chance on a struggling rancher?

I liked this one. I liked this couple. I liked the struggles these two have with one another after their married. Among other things sharing a one-room house with the mother--the partially paralyzed, understandably bitter mother. She may be thankful (in her own way) for the temporary nursing of a stranger. But. She does not think that Margaret Rose is good enough for her son. She is angry, bitter, and scared. And if Margaret Rose can keep her temper when she's provoked time and time again, it might just be a miracle. But while caring for his mother--in such a small home--may be one big issue, it's not the only issue. The truth is Todd doesn't know Margaret that well. And she doesn't know him. And this getting-to-know-you business can be a little tricky. There are so many opportunities to be misunderstood. I liked the commitment these two made to one another. I liked how this romance focused on the marriage itself.

The novel is set in Arkansas and Texas in 1893. It's narrated by Todd, Margaret, and Helga (the mother).

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Strong Poison

Strong Poison. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1930/1995. HarperCollins. 272 pages.

There were crimson roses on the bench; they looked like splashes of blood.

I loved this one. I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one! It is a mystery starring Lord Peter Wimsey. And it introduces a new character, Harriet Vane, a novelist. She writes detective novels. Which may not be to her benefit, since when readers first meet her she's on trial for murder, accused of poisoning her ex-boyfriend, Philip Boyes. Since arsenic poisoning happened to be the subject of her latest book, well, they're saying she has all the know-how and a motive to match. One of the last places he was seen--before he took ill--was her place.


But. Hope is not lost. For Lord Peter Wimsey believes wholeheartedly in her innocence. And though he has only a month to prove it, he's determined to find all the proof and evidence needed to clear her name. In Strong Poison, it is more than curiosity motivating him to act. For he has fallen in love with Harriet--heart and soul, truly, deeply, madly in love with her. I *knew* that a romance between these two was coming. I just didn't expect the proposal to be so soon! And it's a little swoon-worthy, I think!
"Such a Victorian attitude, too, for a man with advanced ideas. He for God only, she for God in him, and so on. Well, I'm glad you feel like that about it."
"Are you? It's not going to be exactly helpful in the present crisis."
"No; I was looking beyond that. What I mean to say is, when all this is over, I want to marry you, if you can put up with me and all that."
Harriet Vane, who had been smiling at him, frowned, and an indefinable expression of distaste came into her eyes.
"Oh, are you another of them? That makes forty-seven."
"Forty-seven what?" asked Wimsey, much taken aback.
"Proposals. They come by in every post..." (44)

and
"Why? Oh, well--I thought you'd be rather an attractive person to marry. That's all. I mean, I sort of took a fancy to you. I can't tell you why. There's no rule about it, you know."
"I see. Well, it's very nice of you."
"I wish you wouldn't sound as if you thought it was rather funny. I know I've got a silly face, but I can't help that. As a matter of fact, I'd like somebody I could talk sensibly to, who would make life interesting. And I could give you lots of plots for your books, if that's any inducement."
"But you wouldn't want a wife who wrote books, would you?"
"But I should; it would be great fun. So much more interesting than the ordinary kind that is only keen on clothes and people. Though of course, clothes and people are all right too, in moderation. I don't mean to say I object to clothes." (45)
It was inevitable really. How could I not love Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey?!

Can Wimsey find the real murderer? Can he free the woman he loves? And if he does free her, will he win her heart?

I would definitely recommend this one. I loved so many things about it--the characters, the writing style, the dialogue, the humor, the suspense.

More of my favorite quotes:
"What a clear mind you have," said Miss Climpson.
"When I die you will find 'Efficiency' written on my heart." (53)
"If anybody ever marries you, it will be for the pleasure of hearing you talk piffle," said Harriet, severely.
"A humiliating reason, but better than no reason at all." (128)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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