Monday, February 28, 2011

February Reflections

February is overflowing with Agatha Christie, for fourteen of the twenty-two adult novels I read were Christie mysteries! You can see my obsession with a new-to-me genre didn't lessen! (Other mysteries included Carrie Bebris' The Intrigue at Highbury and Helen Grant's The Vanishing of Katharina Linden.)  However, I still managed to read fourteen new authors this month: Keith McGowan, Ellen Booraem, Veronica Roth, Beth Revis, Helen Grant, Benedict and Nancy Freedman, DC Pierson, Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall, Lloyd C. Douglas, Kimberly L. Smith, Laurie Alice Eakes, and Kimberly Stuart.

This month I read 53 books! My longest book was Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. My shortest book was The More We Get Together by Caroline Jayne Church. 

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, Chunkster Challenge, 42 ChallengeHistorical Fiction, Victorian Literature Challenge, Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge, Cruisin' Thru the Cozies.

Board Books: 5; Picture Books: 5; Children's Books: 2; Middle Grade: 2; Young Adult: 3; Adult: 22; Christian Fiction: 8; Christian Nonfiction: 3; Poetry: 3.

Review Copies: 27; Library Books: 24; Bought-Books: 2.

My favorite first lines of February 2011: 

There is one mirror in my house

I love children. Eating them, that is. I've eaten quite a few children over the centuries. You may wonder where I get them all. The answer is: I get them the traditional way. From parents, of course


My life might have been so different, had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded.
 
"You do see, don't you, that she's got to be killed?" The question floated out into the still night air, seemed to hang there a moment and then drift away down into the darkness towards the Dead Sea. 
 
Daddy said, "Let mom go first." 

My top five:

Our Mutual Friend. Charles Dickens.
The Moving Finger. Agatha Christie.
The Intrigue at Highbury: Or, Emma's Match. Carrie Bebris.
Divergent. Veronica Roth.
North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 


Reviews at Becky's Book Reviews

A Murder is Announced. Agatha Christie. 1950/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 288 pages.
4:50 From Paddington. Agatha Christie. 1957/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 288 pages.
The Intrigue at Highbury: Or, Emma's Match. Carrie Bebris. 2010. Tor. 317 pages.
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden. Helen Grant. 2010. Random House. 304 pages.
Mrs. Mike: "The Heartwarming Classic Story of the Boston Girl Who Married A Rugged Canadian Mountie." by Benedict & Nancy Freedman. 1947. 284 pages.Cards on the Table. Agatha Christie. 1937. Penguin. 224 pages.
Cards on the Table. Agatha Christie. 1937. Penguin. 224 pages. 
The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To. DC Pierson. 2010. Random House. 240 pages.
Appointment with Death. Agatha Christie. 1937/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 256 pages.
At Bertram's Hotel. Agatha Christie. 1965/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 272 pages.
Cat Among the Pigeons. Agatha Christie. 1959/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 272 pages.
Sad Cypress. Agatha Christie. 1939/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 256 pages.
And Then There Were None. Agatha Christie. 1939/2000. Buccaneer Books. 192 pages. 
The Moving Finger. Agatha Christie. 1942/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 208 pages.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Agatha Christie. 1926/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 288 pages.
A Caribbean Mystery. Agatha Christie. 1964/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 256 pages.
The Big Four. Agatha Christie. 1927/2001. Penguin. 208 pages.
Our Mutual Friend. Charles Dickens. 1864/1865. 880 pages.
Wyrd Sisters. Terry Pratchett. 1980/2001. HarperCollins. 288 pages.
Night of the Living Trekkies. Kevin David Anderson & Sam Stall. 2010. July 2010. Quirk Publishing. 256 pages.
Evil Under the Sun. Agatha Christie. 1940/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 224 pages.
Taken at the Flood. Agatha Christie. 1948/1984. Penguin. 256 pages.
North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1854-1855. 452 pages.
My Forever Friends (Friends for Keeps #4) Julie Bowe. 2011. July 2011. Penguin. 224 pages.
The Witches Guide to Cooking With Children. Keith McGowan. 2009. Henry Holt. 192 pages.
Small Persons with Wings. Ellen Booraem. 2011. Penguin. 304 pages.
Divergent. Veronica Roth. 2011. May 2011. HarperCollins. 496 pages.
Delirium. Lauren Oliver. 2011. February 2011. HarperCollins.  441 pages.
Across the Universe. Beth Revis. 2011. January 2011. Penguin. 416 pages.


Reviews at Young Readers

All Kinds of Kisses. Linda Cress Dowdy. Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont. 2010. Scholastic. 24 pages.
Tucker's Valentine. Leslie McGuirk. 2010. Candlewick Press. 28 pages.
I Love You Always and Forever. Jonathan Emmett. Illustrated by Daniel Howarth. 2010. Scholastic. 24 pages.
The More We Get Together. Caroline Jayne Church. 2011. Scholastic. 12 pages. 
You Are My Sunshine. Caroline Jayne Church. 2011. Scholastic. 12 pages.
Snow Rabbit, Spring Rabbit. A Book of Changing Seasons. Il Sung Na. 2011. Random House. 24 pages.
Quick, Slow, Mango! by Anik McGory. 2011. January 2011. Bloomsbury USA. 32 pages.
Have You Seen Duck? Janet A. Holmes. Illustrated by Jonathan Bentley. 2011. Scholastic. 24 pages.
Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party. Melanie Watt. 2011. Kids Can Press. 32 pages.
Without You. Genevieve Cote. 2011. Kids Can Press. 32 pages.
I Broke My Trunk! (Elephant and Piggie) Mo Willems. 2011. Hyperion. 64 pages.
Cousins of Clouds. Tracie Vaughn Zimmer. Illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy. 2011. [February 2011] Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages.
Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems. Kristine O'Connell George. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 47 pages.
Twosomes: Love Poems From the Animal Kingdom. Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Lee Wildish. 2011. Random House. 24 pages.


Reviews at Operation Actually Read Bible

The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas. Introduction by Andrew M. Greeley. 1942/1999. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 528 pages.
Bible Stories for Girls. American Bible Society. Scholastic. 2011. January 2011. 18 pages.
Bible Stories for Boys. American Bible Society. Scholastic. 2011. January 2011. 18 pages.
Passport Through Darkness: A True Story of Danger and Second Chances. Kimberly L. Smith. 2011. David C. Cook. 256 pages.
When Calls the Heart. Janette Oke. 1983/2005. Bethany House. 224 pages.
Lady in the Mist. Laurie Alice Eakes. 2011. Revell. 402 pages.
The Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 Years of the Most Influential English Translation. Leland Ryken. 2011. Crossway. 272 pages.
The Imagination Station: Voyage with the Vikings. Marianne Hering. Paul McCusker. Adventures in Odyssey. 2011. Tyndale. 128 pages.
The Imagination Station: Attack at the Arena. Marianne Hering. Paul McCusker. Adventures in Odyssey. 2011. Tyndale. 128 pages.
Operation Bonnet. Kimberly Stuart. 2011. David C. Cook. 272 pages.
Don't Call It A Comeback: the Old Faith For a New Day. Edited by Kevin DeYoung. Foreword by D.A. Carson. 2011. Crossway Books. 256 pages.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week In Review #9

What I Reviewed At Becky's Book Reviews


Wyrd Sisters. Terry Pratchett. 1980/2001. HarperCollins. 288 pages.
Night of the Living Trekkies. Kevin David Anderson & Sam Stall. 2010. July 2010. Quirk Publishing. 256 pages.
Evil Under the Sun. Agatha Christie. 1940/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 224 pages.
Taken at the Flood. Agatha Christie. 1948/1984. Penguin. 256 pages.
North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1854-1855. 452 pages.
Small Persons with Wings. Ellen Booraem. 2011. Penguin. 304 pages. 

What I Reviewed At Young Readers


I Broke My Trunk! (Elephant and Piggie) Mo Willems. 2011. Hyperion. 64 pages.
Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party. Melanie Watt. 2011. Kids Can Press. 32 pages.
Without You. Genevieve Cote. 2011. Kids Can Press. 32 pages.


What I Reviewed At Operation Actually Read Bible


Operation Bonnet. Kimberly Stuart. 2011. David C. Cook. 272 pages.
Don't Call It A Comeback: the Old Faith For a New Day. Edited by Kevin DeYoung. Foreword by D.A. Carson. 2011. Crossway Books. 256 pages.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Small Persons With Wings (MG)

Small Persons with Wings. Ellen Booraem. 2011. Penguin. 304 pages.


Last June, my parents jumped off a roof because of a pinky ring.

Small Persons With Wings is an interesting fantasy novel. It stars a young girl, Mellie Turpin, who is tired of being teased. Her nickname? Fairy Fat. It came about like this. In kindergarten, she told one of her classmates that she had a fairy living in her house. His name? Fidius. Those that didn't laugh, believed her. Until she didn't make good on her promise--to bring him for show and tell the next week. Months later, still "troubled" by the aftereffects of this social mess, the school counselor has a conference with her parents to talk about imaginary friends. Mellie never doubted that he was real until her parents called Fidius imaginary. She's been a skeptic ever since.

This overweight teen is still struggling with body issues, with social issues many years later. But. These problems are about to become trivial when her family moves to her grandfather's inn. For there Mellie discovers the truth. Fairies do exist. Fidius was real. And their new home doesn't just have a few fairies--it has a whole colony of fairies living in the basement. It seems her family has quite the legacy. Generations of secrets for one girl to uncover and explore. Mellie's "new" reality has dangers of its own. (Mellie may just end up a frog?!) But with it comes a chance for redemption...

I liked Small Persons With Wings. The story isn't flawless. It was a complex story, and it didn't always flow perfectly. The pacing was a little uneven at times. But it was enjoyable.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Fifth Trip in February

New Loot:

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
Day of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue by Julius Lester
Cupid: A Tale of Love and Desire by Julius Lester
Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Battle of the Sun by Jeanette Winterson
Surviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083 by Andrea White
Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle
Hit the Road by Caroline B. Cooney
Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel
Days with Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel
Frog and Toad Together by Arnold Lobel
Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel

Leftover Loot:

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley
Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer
Best Foot Forward by Joan Bauer
The dead and the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
This world we live in by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
Martin Chuzzlewit by Charels Dickens
Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
Vilette by Charlotte Bronte
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen


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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North and South (Revisited)

North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1854-1855. 452 pages.

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


Last spring I discovered North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. It was a story that I couldn't forget. I read the book. I listened to the audio book. I watched the movie. (I watched the movie twice.) When I wrote in my review that I loved it--I meant it. No question about that. But at the same time, I questioned the intensity of that love. Would it prove a lasting love? Would North and South prove to be a true favorite? Yes, the characters, the stories made an impression on me. But would it make a lasting impression? I knew that sooner or later I would have to reread this one.

So what do I think after rereading this one? I love it even more than I did before! And I didn't think that was quite possible! Because I was very enthusiastic the first time around.

There were things that I noticed for the first time. There were things that I was only able to appreciate the second time through. Little details that may not seem like much, but taken together add to the beauty and complexity of the whole.

I was able to focus on the relationships more, I think.  John's relationship with his mother and sister. And the relationship between Margaret and her mother and father and brother. And, of course, I was paying attention to every sign of affection between John and Margaret! Knowing the characters--knowing their strengths and weaknesses--it affected how I read the novel.
 
This was such a satisfying, comfort read.

North and South is bittersweet. I think the contrast between life's joys and sorrows is one reason why I love this one so very much. Because of everything that Margaret endures, her happily ever after means just that much more to me. I think I love John and Margaret more because of all the obstacles along the way.


Some of my favorite lines:

As she realized what might have been, she grew to be thankful for what was. (68)

'Take care you don't get caught by a penniless girl, John'
'I am not easily caught, mother, as I think you know. But I must not have Miss Hale spoken of in that way, which, you know is offensive to me. I never was aware of any young lady trying to catch me yet, nor do I believe that any one has ever given themselves that useless trouble. (78)

'Papa, I do think Mr. Thornton a very remarkable man; but personally I don't like him at all.' (88)

'Bessy, don't be impatient with your life, whatever it is--or may have been. Remember who gave it you, and made it what it is!' (91)

'Loyalty and obedience to wisdom and justice are fine; but it is still finer to defy arbitrary power, unjustly and cruelly used -- not on behalf of ourselves, but on behalf of others more helpless.' (109)

'I cannot forgive her pride,' said his mother; 'I will befriend her, if there is need, for your asking, John. I would befriend Jezebel herself if you asked me. But this girl, who turns up her nose at us all--who turns up her nose at you--'
'Nay, mother; I have never yet put myself, and I mean never to put myself, within reach of her contempt.'
'Contempt, indeed! Don't go speaking of Miss Hale, John, if I've to be kind to her. When I'm with her, I don't know if I like or dislike her most; but when I think of her, and hear you talk of her, I hate her.' (143)

'Don't dwell so much on the prophecies, but read the clearer parts of the Bible.'
'I dare say it would be wiser; but where would I hear such grand words of promise--hear tell o' anything so far different fro' this dreary world, and this town above as in Revelations? Many's the time I've repeated the verses in the seventh chapter to myself, just for the sound. It's as good as an organ, and as different from every day, too. No, I cannot give up Revelations. It gives me more comfort than any other book i' the Bible.' (137)

'I suspect my "gentleman" includes your "true man."'
'And a great deal more, you would imply. I differ from you. A man is to me a higher and completer being than a gentleman.'
'What do you mean?' asked Margaret. 'We must understand the words differently.'
'I take it that "gentleman" is a term that only describes a person in his relation to others; but when we speak of him as "a man," we consider him not merely with regard to his fellow-men, but in relation to himself, - to life - to time - to eternity. A cast-away lonely as Robinson Crusoe - a prisoner immured in a dungeon for life - nay, even a saint in Patmos, has his endurance, his strength, his faith, best described as being spoken of as "a man." I am rather weary of this word "gentlemanly," which seems to me to be often inappropriately used, and often, too, with such exaggerated distortion of meaning, while the full simplicity of the noun "man," and the adjective "manly" are unacknowledged - that I am induced to class it with the cant of the day.' (163)

'He is the first specimen of a manufacturer - of a person engaged in trade - that I had ever the opportunity of studying, papa. He is my first olive, let me make a face while I swallow it. I know he is good of his kind, and by and by I shall like the kind. I rather think I am already beginning to do so. (165)

'Speak to your workmen as if they were human beings. Speak to them kindly. Don't let the soldiers come in and cut down poor creatures who are driven mad. I see one there who is. If you have any courage or noble quality in you, go out and speak to them, man to man.' (175)

'I hardly know if it is pain or pleasure, to think that I owe it to one - nay, you must, you shall hear - to one whom I love, as I do not believe man ever loved woman before.' (192)

'One word more. You look as if you thought it tainted you to be loved by me. You cannot avoid it. Nay, I, if I would, cannot cleanse you from it. But I would not, if I could. I have never loved any woman before: my life has been too busy, my thoughts too much absorbed with other things. Now I love, and will love. But do  not be afraid of too much expression on my part. (194)

'I see a great deal of difference between Miss Hale and Fanny. I can imagine that the one may have weighty reasons, which may and ought to make her overlook any seeming impropriety in her conduct. I never knew Fanny have weighty reasons for anything. Other people must guard her. I believe Miss Hale is guardian to herself.' (305)

'The exact truth! Very few people do speak the exact truth. I have given up hoping for it.' (320)

'He may care for her, though she really has been almost rude to him at times. But she! - why, Margaret would never think of him, I'm sure! Such a thing has never entered her head.'
'Entering her heart would do. But I merely threw out a suggestion of what might be.' (329)



© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Library Loot: Fourth Trip in February

New Loot:

Come Juneteenth by Ann Rinaldi
I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems
A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley
Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Rules of the Road by Joan Bauer
Best Foot Forward by Joan Bauer
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The dead and the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
This world we live in by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
Martin Chuzzlewit by Charels Dickens
Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

Leftover Loot:


The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks
Vilette by Charlotte Bronte
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Jane Goes Batty by Michael Thomas Ford
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

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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Operation Bonnet

Operation Bonnet. Kimberly Stuart. 2011. David C. Cook. 272 pages.

I didn't set out to be the town luminary. True, there wasn't exactly a lot of competition in Casper. 

Set in Casper, Ohio, Nellie Monroe, an amateur private-detective, stars in Kimberly Stuart's Operation Bonnet. Her first client, Amos Shetler, is still getting adjusted to his new life. He left the Amish community because he felt he just didn't belong, but the truth is, he hasn't found exactly how to belong in the "English" community either. (Watching Gidget marathons probably isn't helping!) He is still in love with an Amish girl, Katie, but he fears that he'll never see her again. And even if she still loves him, how would their relationship ever be able to work? He's heard that Katie is being courted by John Yoder. And he's very jealous. He wants Nellie to learn if Katie is indeed going to marry this other guy. Nellie thrilled to have her very first case isn't quite sure how to go about it. But. Surely the first step is to try to find a way into the Amish community? But Nellie doesn't exactly "blend" well no matter her location. So expect a very messy comedy of misunderstandings...

The novel also spends a little time on Nellie's personal life. Primarily her loving relationship with her grandmother and her relationship with her best friend, Matt. As soon as Matt's name is mentioned, readers almost know with certainty, that he must surely be in love with her--that he has been in love with her for many, many years. And that Nellie is indeed truly clueless about love. But while there are certainly predictable elements within Operation Bonnet, this novel is so quirky that it almost works.

Operation Bonnet reminded me of Jane Austen's Emma. There is just something so clueless about Nellie. While many readers may enjoy Nellie's adventures (and misadventures), I found them slightly irritating. It wasn't so much that I disliked the book--its story, or its characters--I just felt a slight disconnect.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Taken at the Flood

Taken at the Flood. Agatha Christie. 1948/1984. Penguin. 256 pages.


In every club there is a club bore. The Coronation Club was no exception; and the fact that an Air Raid was in progress made no difference to normal procedure.

 Set, for the most part, in Warmsley Vale, this Hercule Poirot mystery focuses on a dysfunctional family in crisis: the Cloade family. Gordon Cloade made a lot of promises--promises it turns out he couldn't keep. He promised to provide for many--if not most--of his family. He helped them with their bills. He helped them with their dreams. His family was comfortable accepting his financial assistance. So when Gordon Cloade dies shortly after his marriage, everyone is upset. For his marriage changes everything, his wife will receive everything. His wife, an American widow, is a young beauty named Rosaleen. She's accompanied by her brother, David Hunter. The Cloade family hates them both. Though some family members play friendly--hoping to get a little money from her now and then. But David is always at her side telling her that her husband's family would love to see her dead.

So who's the victim? How does Poirot get involved? Well. A man shows up in town wanting to see David Hunter. He claims that he has proof that Rosaleen's first husband, a Mr. Underhay, is still alive. He wants money, of course, or he threatens to go to the Cloade family who will only be too happy to have this proof. For if Rosaleen's first husband was still alive when she married Gordon, then she wasn't legally his wife, and the family would get the money. This "Enoch Arden" is murdered--and the main suspect is David Hunter! But did he do it?

Lynn, one of the family, is involved in a very unhealthy love triangle in Taken at The Flood. Since returning home from the war, she's been restless. She's engaged to Rowley, but she's finding herself fascinated by the devilish David Hunter. And he's flirting back. Which will she choose? And will her choice prove deadly?

I enjoyed this one. It was exciting and fascinating. The family is a tangled mess, and Poirot has much to untangle before he can find all the pieces he needs to solve this one.

"Rowley. What's Rowley?"
"A better man than you--touch him if you dare," she said lightly.
"I've no doubt he's a better man than me--but I do dare. I'd dare anything for you, Lynn."
She was silent for a moment or two. She said at last.
"What you don't understand is that I love Rowley."
"I wonder."
She said vehemently: "I do, I tell you, I do."
David looked at her searchingly.
"We all see pictures of ourselves--of ourselves as we want to be. You see yourself in love with Rowley, settling down with Rowley, living here contented with Rowley, never wanting to get away. But that's not the real you, is it, Lynn?"
"Oh what is the real me? What's the real you, if it comes to that? What do you want?"
"I'd have said I wanted safety, peace after storm, ease after troubled seas. But I don't know. Sometimes I suspect, Lynn, that both you and I want--trouble." (58)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Evil Under the Sun

Evil Under the Sun. Agatha Christie. 1940/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 224 pages.

When Captain Roger Angmering built himself a house in the year 1782 on the island off Leathercombe Bay, it was thought the height of eccentricity on his part. A man of good family such as he was should have had a decorous mansion set in wide meadows with, perhaps, a running stream and good pasture.

Will Hercule Poirot ever vacation in peace? He doesn't get that opportunity in Evil Under the Sun. He may be on vacation at the Jolly Roger, a hotel resort, but the warning signs are there. Murder is probably inevitable as tensions rise between hotel guests. The victim is Mrs. Arlena Stuart Marshall. The suspects? Well, principally her husband, Captain Kenneth Marshall, her lover, Patrick Redfern, the angry wife, Christine Redfern, and the angry step-daughter, Linda Marshall. Of course, there are other guests at the hotel, but these are the ones with possible motives.

I am still enjoying Agatha Christie. I am still finding myself surprised by her revelations. (Some books there is more of a surprise than others!) But this one wasn't my favorite Hercule Poirot.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Night of the Living Trekkies

Night of the Living Trekkies. Kevin David Anderson & Sam Stall. 2010. July 2010. Quirk Publishing. 256 pages.

It was late winter of 2009, and Jim Pike was in Afghanistan.

Jim Pike, our narrator and a war veteran, is working security for a Houston hotel hosting GulfCon, a Star Trek Convention. But this convention will soon be unlike any other--for the convention--and eventually Houston itself--will be overrun with zombies. Pike teams up with an assorted crew of survivors--many Trekkies--their mission is to survive long enough to escape Houston, for they fear that when help comes, it will not be a distinguishing help. It's dramatic; it's violent; it's funny.

I am not a fan of zombie novels. I'm not. I am not a big fan of violence--blood, guts, etc. But I am a Star Trek fan. And I can appreciate a good, quirky read. So while this one may not be for everyone, I enjoyed spending an afternoon with this one.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Wyrd Sisters

Wyrd Sisters. Terry Pratchett. 1980/2001. HarperCollins. 288 pages.

The wind howled. Lightning stabbed at the earth erratically, like an inefficient assassin. Thunder rolled back and forth across the dark, rain-lashed hills. The night was as black as the inside of a cat.

Last fall, I discovered the joys of reading Terry Pratchett. This is my first of his adult novels to read. And I did enjoy it very much! It is the story of three witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat, as they attempt to meddle--in a completely non-evil way, of course--with the politics of a kingdom, of a royal family. There is a lost prince--a young person who does NOT know he's the son of the murdered king--living a happy theatrical life. There is the unhappy ghost of the murdered king. And there is the Fool madly in love with Magrat whose sole duty in life is to be loyal to the king--even if this king is a murderer with an unpleasant wife. And then there's Hwel, the dramatic dwarf. I just loved him! There is much to enjoy in this one. The writing is as enjoyable as can be. It's got humor and drama and a certain something that makes Pratchett stand out.

My favorite lines:

Like most people, witches are unfocused in time. The difference is that they dimly realize it, and make use of it. They cherish the past because part of them is still living there, and they can see the shadows the future casts before it. Granny could feel the shape of the future, and it had knives in it. (41)

The duke had managed quite well for fifty years without finding a use for curiosity. It was not a trait much encouraged in aristocrats. He had found certainty was a much better bet. However, it occurred to him that for once curiosity might have its uses. (45)

Particles of raw inspiration sleet through the universe all the time. Every once in a while one of them hits a receptive mind, which then invents DNA or the flute sonata form or a way of making light bulbs wear out in half the time. But most of them miss. Most people go through their lives without being hit by even one. Some people are even more unfortunate. They get them all. Such a one was Hwel. (60)

"What about dwarf bars?"
"You'd hate it," said Hwel, fervently. "Besides, you'd run out of headroom."
"Low dives, are they?"
"Look at it like this--how long do you think you could sing about gold?"
"'It's yellow and it goes chink and you can buy things with it.'" said Tomjon experimentally, as they strolled through the Plaza of Broken Moons. "Four seconds, I think."
"Right. Five hours of it get a bit repetitive." Hwel kicked a pebble gloomily. "Anyway," he added, "you'd get thrown out for being too creative. The actual words are 'Gold, gold, gold, gold, gold, gold.'"
"Is there a chorus?"
"'Gold, gold, gold, gold, gold" said Hwel. (178)

Only in our dreams are we free. The rest of the time we need wages. (195)



© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week In Review #8

What I Reviewed At Becky's Book Reviews


The Moving Finger. Agatha Christie. 1942/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 208 pages.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Agatha Christie. 1926/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 288 pages.
A Caribbean Mystery. Agatha Christie. 1964/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 256 pages.
The Big Four. Agatha Christie. 1927/2001. Penguin. 208 pages.
Our Mutual Friend. Charles Dickens. 1864/1865. 880 pages.
My Forever Friends (Friends for Keeps #4) Julie Bowe. 2011. July 2011. Penguin. 224 pages.

What I Reviewed At Young Readers
 

The More We Get Together. Caroline Jayne Church. 2011. Scholastic. 12 pages. 
You Are My Sunshine. Caroline Jayne Church. 2011. Scholastic. 12 pages.
Twosomes: Love Poems From the Animal Kingdom. Marilyn Singer. Illustrated by Lee Wildish. 2011. Random House. 24 pages. 

What I Reviewed At Operation Actually Read Bible


Lady in the Mist. Laurie Alice Eakes. 2011. Revell. 402 pages.
The Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 Years of the Most Influential English Translation. Leland Ryken. 2011. Crossway. 272 pages.
The Imagination Station: Voyage with the Vikings. Marianne Hering. Paul McCusker. Adventures in Odyssey. 2011. Tyndale. 128 pages.
The Imagination Station: Attack at the Arena. Marianne Hering. Paul McCusker. Adventures in Odyssey. 2011. Tyndale. 128 pages.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Our Mutual Friend

Our Mutual Friend. Charles Dickens. 1864/1865. 880 pages.

First sentence: In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark Bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in.

Oh how I loved Our Mutual Friend! I just loved, loved, loved it! I think reading Bleak House last fall helped prepare me to love it. Because it gave me a good taste for Dickens' style, his narrative techniques, his characterization. It showed me that all would be worth it in the end. Did I struggle with Our Mutual Friend? No. Not like I did with Bleak House. I happened to be in just the right mood, perhaps. But I found nothing dull, nothing lifeless about Our Mutual Friend. Nothing lifeless but the dead corpse discovered in chapter one that is!

How does one begin to describe a novel that is 800 pages long?! A novel that doesn't have one or two main characters--but many. A novel that doesn't have one or two main stories--but many. If you're not familiar with Charles Dickens, you should know that he has his own way of storytelling. His stories and characters unfold slowly but surely. Don't expect to meet all the main characters in the first hundred pages. Or even the first two hundred pages. Dickens won't be rushed. This is something that I have come to appreciate--though other readers may struggle with his pacing. I found it delightful; something to be savored.

Since I have to start somewhere, perhaps I should start with the corpse. Lizzie Hexam and her father, Jesse "Gaffer" Hexam discover a dead body during their night's work on the Thames. Her father's former business partner, Roger Riderhood, witnesses this discovery and later has some unflattering stories to spread to any willing to listen. (Stories that threaten Lizzie Hexam and her brother, Charley.) The body was soon identified as John Harmon--there were clothes and papers identifying him, I think. His death brings changes to several households. For his intended, Miss Bella Wilfer, it ushers in pitifully insincere mourning. She mourns--but for the riches she would have had if they'd married and he'd inherited his father's estate. But the household that changes the most is that of the Boffins. For Mr. and Mrs. Boffin will inherit the Harmon estate now that the heir is dead. Will money prove friend or foe to this lovely couple? One thing we learn early on, is that Mr. Boffin has a heart of gold--for he opens his heart and home to Miss Bella Wilfer. He also hires two men--two very different men--after he comes into his money: Silas Wegg, a man he hired to read to him, and John Rokesmith, a man he hired as his secretary. Is either man who he appears to be?

What did I love best about this one? The characters? I loved Bella Wilfer, John Rokesmith, Mr. and Mrs. Boffin, Melvin Tremlow, Jenny Wren, Mr. Riah, and Lizzie Hexam. And there were characters that I didn't exactly love--they weren't that lovable, after all--but their scenes were enjoyable nevertheless. The Podsnaps. The Veneerings. The Lammles. The Wilfers. Mr. Fledgeby. Mr. Lightwood and Mr. Wrayburn. Some characters added drama; some characters added humor!

This is what I said in my Bleak House review, but it proves equally true in the case of Our Mutual Friend:
Dickens did a great job with his characters. You'll find characters that you'll absolutely love and adore. You'll find characters that are so enjoyable, so fun, to spend time with. You'll find characters that make you laugh--or at least smirk. You might find a few characters that you love to hate, or hate to love. You'll find characters that are just so despicable, so nasty, so horrid that you hate them--with a passion. There might even be a few that drive you crazy! But I hope that you'll find a few characters that genuinely surprise you! I know a few surprised me! There are so many characters. Some are very important to the plot. Others are very minor. But just because they're minor doesn't mean they're pointless.
I loved the romances of Bella and Lizzie. The scenes with Bella and her true love made me giddy! And while Lizzie's scenes were a different nature--a bit more melancholy--they were so heartfelt. But it isn't just a romance. There is action, drama, mystery. There are secrets and lies and malicious plotting.

I loved this one. I loved the writing, the descriptions, the characterizations, the storytelling. It's a great, great book.
"Never was an obstinate person yet, who would own to the word!" remarked Miss Potterson, rubbing her vexed nose; "I'm sure I would if I was obstinate; but I am a pepperer, which is different." (74)
"No one is useless in this world," retorted the Secretary, "who lightens the burden of it for any one else."
"But I assure you I don't, Mr. Rokesmith," said Bella, half-crying.
"Not for your father?"
"Dear, loving, self-forgetting, easily-satisfied Pa! Oh, yes! He thinks so."
"It is enough if he only thinks so," said the Secretary. (511-12)
© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Library Loot: Third Trip in February

New Loot:

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities & Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. By Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
The Knight of Maison-Rouge: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Alexandre Dumas
The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron
I Think I Love You by Allison Pearson
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Jane Goes Batty by Michael Thomas Ford
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks
Vilette by Charlotte Bronte

Leftover Loot:

The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers
The Thistle and the Rose by Jean Plaidy
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King
Face Down in the Marrow-Bone Pie by Kathy Lynn Emerson
A Man Lay Dead by Ngaio Marsh

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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My Forever Friends

My Forever Friends (Friends for Keeps #4) Julie Bowe. 2011. July 2011. Penguin. 224 pages.

I'm Ida May and I'm feeling a little squished. That's because I'm sitting on a piano bench between Jenna Drews and Brooke Morgan. I was saving half of the bench for my best friend, Stacey Merriweather, but Jenna budged in before Stacey could. Jenna is my sometimes friend. Then Brooke budged in on the other side of me. Brook is my sometimes-not friend.

The first three books in this series are: My Last Best Friend , My New Best Friend, and My Best Frenemy. Ida May is still one of seven girls in Mr. Crow's fourth grade class. Tension is still high among the girls--Jenna, Brooke, Stacey, Ida May, Randi, Meeka, and Jolene--since Brooke and Jenna's big, big fight. And poor Ida May is feeling the pressure most of all. For Brooke is clinging to Stacey more than ever. And Jenna, well, Jenna is always around. Jenna and Rachel have been coming over after school every day since their mom, Mrs. Drews, is having a very difficult pregnancy. And Ida May is becoming really good at getting along with both. She's comfortable with Jenna, and she's losing that with Stacey. It's not always easy for Ida May to accept the changes. There are still times when she thinks Jenna is WAY too bossy, too much of a know-it-all. But she's beginning to love her unconditionally which is super-sweet. How can I not love Ida May having a big heart? Ida May realizes that she may be the only one able to repair the broken friendships tearing her class apart.

I loved this one. I did. I am still loving Ida May and her friends and classmates. Bowe has brought this fourth-grade class to life. Each of the students has been developed--of course, some more than others. But even the boys have a little individuality, a little personality. I am loving Jenna too. I really felt for her in this one. I was so glad she found a champion in Ida May. Not that Jenna wants to admit she needs one. But still. You know I loved the characters. But I also LOVED the writing. Julie Bowe knows how to tell a good story. She definitely has a way with words. There was something special about this book.

There are things about Jenna I'd like to change. Her bossiness. The way she treats Rachel sometimes. Her grudge against Brooke. But there's one thing I wouldn't change. Jenna knows her talents and she isn't afraid to tell you. (37)

I think about Brooke. And Jenna. And how their talents fit together.
Jenna knows how to cook things up.
Brooke knows how to to add the sprinkles. (63)

"You can't unditch someone," I say to George. "All you can do is say you're sorry and hope they yank you back in." (128)



© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Big Four

The Big Four. Agatha Christie. 1927/2001. Penguin. 208 pages.

I have met people who enjoy a channel crossing; men who can sit calmly in their deck-chairs and, on arrival, wait until the boat is moored, then gather their belongings together without fuss and disembark.

Captain Hastings narrates this Hercule Poirot novel. First, I must say that it was GREAT to have him back as narrator. I'd missed him lately. Second, I must say that this Hercule Poirot is very different from others I've read. There is a big mystery to be solved. And there are plenty of little mysteries to be solved. The motives for these crimes are very different. More political, more conspiracy theory, more intellectual intrigue than the traditional murder mystery.

Who are the Big Four? Well, Poirot believes them to be a secret organization running the world behind the scenes. The masterminds behind several political upheavals. One from China. One from France. One from the United States. And the fourth, well, that's the mystery. For this "destroyer" is the most elusive of them all. An expert at disguise he certainly must be. For Hastings and Poirot believe they've encountered him at many, many of their recent crime scenes. But no matter how many times they catch a glimpse, they're never able to describe him.

At the beginning, they've only got a lead on the identity of one of the members. But they're hoping to find all four so they can be brought to justice. For the bodies do begin to pile up in this one--and each one gives them a little clue. It won't be an easy case to solve--for it's all a game with traps hidden within traps within traps. But if anyone can solve it, Poirot's the man for the job.

I liked this one. I didn't love it exactly. But it was a good read, a compelling one!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Caribbean Mystery

A Caribbean Mystery. Agatha Christie. 1964/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 256 pages.

"Take all this business about Kenya," said Major Palgrave. 

 Miss Marple is on vacation. And, for the most part, she's enjoying herself. Enjoying getting to know the other people staying at the resort owned by a husband and wife, Tim and Molly Kendal. When the novel opens, she is listening--or pretending to listen--to Major Palgrave. Little knowing that within twenty-four hours this man will be dead. Did he die because he talked too much? Could one of his stories have led to his death? Maybe. Miss Marple will have to investigate to know for sure. But she suspects that his story about having a snapshot of a murderer might be to blame. Since this snapshot is not found after his death.

I enjoyed this one. I wouldn't say it is my absolute favorite Miss Marple--I don't know that I could really choose just one for that. But it was certainly enjoyable! I enjoyed the unfolding mystery of this one. I enjoyed the characters. I enjoyed the setting. I enjoyed the dialogue! It was a fun read!

Miss Marple woke early. Like many old people, she slept lightly and had periods of wakefulness which she used for the planning of some action or actions to be carried out on the next or following days. Usually, of course, these were of a wholly private or domestic nature, of little interest to anybody but herself. But this morning Miss Marple lay thinking soberly and constructively of murder, and what, if her suspicions were correct, she would do about it. It wasn't going to be easy. She had one weapon and one weapon only--and that was conversation.
Old ladies were given to a good deal of rambling conversation. People were bored by this, but certainly did not suspect them of ulterior motives. It would not be a case of asking direct questions. (Indeed, she would have found it difficult to know what questions to ask!) It would be a question of finding out a little more about certain people. (46)
"Conversations with you might be dangerous," he said.
"Conversations are always dangerous, if you have something to hide," said Miss Marple. (142)
"I've been wrong about her," said Mr. Rafiel with characteristic frankness. "Never been much of a one for the old pussies. All knitting wool and tittle-tattle. But this one's got something. Eyes and ears, and she uses them." (148)





© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Words




This week, the
 
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
 
is introducing
 
Words
 
B&H Books (February 1, 2011)
 
by
 
Ginny Yttrup
   



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:   



Ginny Yttrup is an author, freelance writer, and writing coach. As she writes, speaks, and coaches, her prayer is that God will use her words to replace the lies so many believe about themselves with the truth of His unconditional love and grace. To see someone grasp, perhaps for the first time, the truth of God's love, is truly an honor. Through a relationship with the Truth, Jesus Christ, the bonds of shame are loosed and freedom abounds!



When Ginny is not working, she loves spending time with her two college-age sons or with friends. She is surrounded by the most amazing people--each a gift in their own way. If she can spend time outdoors with those she love, it's even better. And she thoroughly adores her dog, Bear. He's a book lover too.



She has two grown sons and lives near Sacramento, California. Words is her first novel.



ABOUT THE BOOK   



"I collect words. I keep them in a box in my mind. I'd like to keep them in a real box, something pretty, maybe a shoe box covered with flowered wrapping paper. Whenever I wanted, I'd open the box and pick up the papers, reading and feeling the words all at once. Then I could hide the box. But the words are safer in my mind. There, he can't take them."



Ten-year old Kaylee Wren doesn't speak. Not since her drug-addled mother walked away, leaving her in a remote cabin nestled in the towering redwoods-in the care of a man who is as dangerous as he is evil. With silence her only refuge, Kaylee collects words she might never speak from the only memento her mother left behind: a dictionary.



Sierra Dawn is thirty-four, an artist, and alone. She has allowed the shame of her past to silence her present hopes and chooses to bury her pain by trying to control her circumstances. But on the twelfth anniversary of her daughter's death, Sierra's control begins to crumble as the God of her childhood woos her back to Himself.



If you would like to read the first chapter of Words, go HERE.



Watch the book trailer video:





© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Agatha Christie. 1926/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 288 pages.

Mrs. Ferrars died on the night of the 16th-17th September--a Thursday.

Someone has killed Roger Ackroyd, but who? The police are doing their best--no doubt. But one member of the family wants the best on the case, and the best would be Hercule Poirot, of course. Only he will be able to see through the holes of everyone's stories--their lies and half-truths. Only he will be able to piece together the strange motive for the crime. 

Dr. Sheppard narrates this Hercule Poirot mystery novel. And he's no Hastings, I'll tell you that now! I'll also admit from the start that I did not like this one at all. If I had been reading Christie's Poirot chronologically--there's a good chance I would not have continued on past this one. And I don't think Poirot is to blame. I just had a very difficult time with our narrator.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd made me appreciate Agatha Christie more. It made me thankful for the Poirot novels that I have enjoyed--really enjoyed. And it made me thankful for the Miss Marple books which--with one exception--I've loved and adored. I picked up A Caribbean Mystery after completing The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and I realized that I got more enjoyment out of that one chapter of a Marple novel then in the entirety of this one.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, February 14, 2011

The Moving Finger

The Moving Finger. Agatha Christie. 1942/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 208 pages.

I have often recalled the morning when the first of the anonymous letters came.

Jerry Burton, our hero, has taken a house in the country with his sister, Joanna. He's recuperating from an injury, and his doctor has definitely suggested some rest and relaxation. As for Joanna, she's recuperating from a broken heart. But rural village life isn't as uneventful and peaceful as he expected. For soon after his arrival, an anonymous "poison pen" begins a nasty letter campaign. Which is unpleasant enough, he supposes, but things turn deadly after a woman's "suicide" after receiving a vile letter. The victim leaves behind two young sons, an older daughter from her first marriage, a husband, and a rather pretty governess. Megan, the daughter from the first marriage, soon becomes a major player in this Miss Marple mystery. This "suicide" becomes a bit suspicious when a second death occurs--that of a maid--within the home. The question becomes did this maid--on her day off--see something?

I loved this one. I just LOVED it. It wasn't a purely pleasant read for me. I wouldn't exactly say I was praying throughout, but I was certainly wishful with my repeated pleas, please don't let it be Megan, please don't let it be Megan, please don't let it be Megan. Never have I gotten that involved with a mystery. Who is Megan? For better or worse, she's the young woman our hero described thusly, "She looked much more like a horse than a human being. In fact, she would have been a very nice horse with a little grooming" (17). She's largely ignored not only by the village but by her family as well. But there is something about her that Jerry, our hero, can't ignore. He goes out of his way--time and time and time again--to include her. He even invites her to stay with him and his sister after her mother's death. He is the one person, she's found, willing to listen to her.

While Jerry is making friends with Megan--not always an easy task--Joanna, his sister, is trying to make friends with the local doctor. That is an uphill battle. Joanna has never, ever had to work this hard to get a guy to like her.

So this mystery has a romantic element to it which I just loved. It also stars Miss Marple, though she doesn't enter the case until after the second death occurs. Miss Marple finds Jerry Burton a great help in this one! The details he's observed through his stay, makes solving this one so much easier for her! It gives her quite the lead. But she still has to *prove* it.

The Moving Finger is very compelling! I loved it for so many different reasons.

My favorite quotes:

Emily Barton, I think, has a mental picture of men as interminably consuming whisky-and-sodas and smoking cigars, and in the intervals dropping out to do a few seductions of village maidens, or to conduct a liaison with a married woman.
When I said this to Joanna later, she replied that it was probably wishful thinking, that Emily Barton would have liked to come across such a man, but alas, had never done so. (85)

"The police are doing their best."
"If Agnes could be killed yesterday, their best isn't good enough."
"So you know better than they do?"
"Not at all. I don't know anything at all. That's why I'm going to call in an expert."
I shook my head. "You can't do that. Scotland Yard will only take over on a demand from the chief constable of the county. Actually they have sent Graves."
"I don't mean that kind of an expert. I don't mean someone who knows about anonymous letters or even about murder. I mean someone who knows people. Don't you see? We want someone who knows a great deal about wickedness!"
It was a queer point of view. But it was, somehow, stimulating. (141)

"Yes, it was dangerous, but we are not put into this world, Mr. Burton, to avoid danger when an innocent fellow creature's life is at stake. You understand me?"
I understood. (199)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week In Review #7

What I Reviewed This Week:

From Becky's Book Reviews:


Divergent. Veronica Roth. 2011. May 2011. HarperCollins. 496 pages.
Delirium. Lauren Oliver. 2011. February 2011. HarperCollins.  441 pages.
Across the Universe. Beth Revis. 2011. January 2011. Penguin. 416 pages.
The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To. DC Pierson. 2010. Random House. 240 pages.
Appointment with Death. Agatha Christie. 1937/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 256 pages.
At Bertram's Hotel. Agatha Christie. 1965/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 272 pages.
Cat Among the Pigeons. Agatha Christie. 1959/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 272 pages.
Sad Cypress. Agatha Christie. 1939/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 256 pages.
And Then There Were None. Agatha Christie. 1939/2000. Buccaneer Books. 192 pages. 

From Young Readers:


Have You Seen Duck? Janet A. Holmes. Illustrated by Jonathan Bentley. 2011. Scholastic. 24 pages. 
Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems. Kristine O'Connell George. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 47 pages.

All Kinds of Kisses. Linda Cress Dowdy. Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont. 2010. Scholastic. 24 pages.
Tucker's Valentine. Leslie McGuirk. 2010. Candlewick Press. 28 pages.
I Love You Always and Forever. Jonathan Emmett. Illustrated by Daniel Howarth. 2010. Scholastic. 24 pages.


From Operation Actually Read Bible:


Passport Through Darkness: A True Story of Danger and Second Chances. Kimberly L. Smith. 2011. David C. Cook. 256 pages.
When Calls the Heart. Janette Oke. 1983/2005. Bethany House. 224 pages.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Across the Universe (YA)

Across the Universe. Beth Revis. 2011. January 2011. Penguin. 416 pages.

Daddy said, "Let mom go first."

I found Across the Universe a compelling read. It's narrated by Amy, a teen girl who was awakened fifty years too soon from her frozen sleep, and Elder, a teen guy, who was born to be a leader to an as-yet unborn generation of colonists on the Godspeed. He's being trained by Eldest, the leader of the space ship. The ship manages itself, but it is his job, his responsibility, to manage the people on the ship.

The novel opens with Amy. She's in a difficult position. Her parents are determined to be part of this colony ship. They're both "essential" to the mission. They've got the necessary skills, the needed skills, to plant a colony on an alien planet. True, they won't arrive for three hundred years, if everything goes according to plan. But then they'll have a new life. Amy has been given a choice, by her father, she can remain on Earth, stay with the rest of her family, stay with her boyfriend, and have a comfortable life--not a perfect life, not a problem-free life. But a chance to continue living life as she knows it. Or. She can be frozen like her parents. She can choose to take a chance on a new life, a challenging life, an uncertain life. She's scared, no doubt about it. Because there is no easy answer.

When readers first meet Elder, he's stumbled upon something that he's not quite ready for. This accident proves beneficial--for Eldest realizes that he's been failing at his job. He's not been taking his responsibilities seriously enough. He's ignored Elder for too long. And it's time for Elder to start learning many, many things. But he's not ready to tell his secrets--the ship's secrets--all at once. No, Elder will have to continue proving himself. But Elder has shown great potential.

One of the things Elder discovers is the storage room with all the frozen people. He NEVER knew that the ship carried these passengers. He always assumed that the feeders were the future colonists. (They are the workers on the ship.) His curiosity leads him to this room where he stumbles across a frozen Amy. But she won't be frozen for long...

Amy is just the first in a handful of attempts to tamper with the frozen passengers. Some they find in time, they're able to plug them back in before any damage is done. Others they don't find in time. Others die. It's all unsettling. Especially for Amy. For this "new" society is unreal, bizarre. She's surprised that this new world is mono-ethnic, animalistic, mindless. 

Together, Amy and Elder try to solve some of the great mysteries of the Godspeed.

There are no easy answers in this one. And I liked that. Decisions matter in this one. I found this book fascinating and compelling. It had danger and mystery. It had a little romance too. It's a complex world Beth Revis has created. And I enjoyed spending time in it. I found some elements quite clever. (Like the scene with the Gettysburg Address.)

Favorite lines:

I miss, more than the sound of my own beating heart, the sound of a ticking clock. Time passes, it must pass, but I have no more assurance of moving through time than I have that I am moving through space. In a way, I'm glad: this means perhaps 300 years and 364 days have passed, and tomorrow I will wake up. Sometimes after a cross-country meet or a long day at school, I'd fall into bed with all my clothes on and be out before I knew it. When I'd finally open my eyes, it would feel like I'd just shut them for a minute, but really, the whole rest of the day and half the night was gone. But. There were other times when I'd collapse onto my mattress, and shut my eyes, and dream, and it felt like I'd lived a whole lifetime in that dream, but when I woke up, it had only been a few minutes.
What if only a year has gone by? What if we haven't even left yet? That is my greatest fear. (67)

Everything is wrong here. Shattered. Broken.
Like the light.
Like me.
I never thought about how important the sky was until I didn't have one.
I am surrounded by walls.
I have just replaced one box for another. (125)



© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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And Then There Were None

And Then There Were None. Agatha Christie. 1939/2000. Buccaneer Books. 192 pages.

In the corner of a first-class smoking carriage, Mr. Justice Wargrave, lately retired from the bench, puffed at a cigar and ran an interesting eye through the political news in the Times. He laid the paper down and glanced out of the window. They were running now through Somerset. He glanced at his watch--another two hours to go.

Ten men and women arrive on Indian island never suspecting the dangers and thrills that are to come. None will leave the island alive. Mr. Justice Wargrave, Vera Claythorne, Captain Philip Lombard, Emily Brent, General MacArthur, Dr. Armstrong, Anthony Marston, Mr. Blore, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers. It seems each has been lured to the island without really knowing their host or hostess. Mr. and Mrs. Rogers being engaged as servants. Miss Vera Claythorne being engaged as a temporary secretary. The others all received letters of invitation. It soon becomes clear that not everything is as it appears.

There are some not-so-hidden clues embodied within a nursery rhyme poem, "Ten Little Indians" (found on pages 21-22 of my edition; you can get an idea of it from this site, though it's not an easy read, it seems it's a combination of two poems, one from 1868 and the other from 1869).  There are also ten little figurines--as each guest dies, a figurine from the table vanishes as well.

Readers get a chance to learn a little about each character. Especially the ones that survive the first few deadly days. None of the characters are particularly likable--none so delightful that you'd want to know them--especially not under these circumstances.

I would say this Christie novel comes the closest to inspiring fear and horror in its readers. There isn't anything particularly cozy or delightful or charming about this one. There are no clever detectives--arrogant or not--to counterbalance the violence. Almost everything that I love about Christie's mysteries seems to be missing in this one. But even though I don't especially "like" this one, I can't deny that it was cleverly written.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Divergent (YA)

Divergent. Veronica Roth. 2011. May 2011. HarperCollins. 496 pages.

There is one mirror in my house. Our faction allows me to stand in front of it on the second day of every third month, the day my mother cuts my hair. It is behind a sliding panel in the hallway upstairs.


Beatrice Prior, our sixteen-year-old narrator, is about to make the most important decision of her life. For two big days are coming: the day of the aptitude test and the Choosing Ceremony. Soon Beatrice will have to decide which faction she'll belong to for the rest of her life. If she chooses outside her parents' faction, she may never see them again. For ties to one's faction must come first. The five factions are as follows: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice has been raised Abnegation, but it's always felt like a wrong fit. Selflessness does not come easy for her. She has spent the first sixteen years of her life practically invisible--blending into the background. But Beatrice has secretly been watching her Dauntless classmates. Dare she admit it aloud? She's thinking of choosing the most rebel faction of all!

But not all initiates make it into the Dauntless faction. Only the bravest. Only the strongest. Only the best. Readers follow Tris (Beatrice) on her new journey. We meet fellow initiates--those born Dauntless, and those transferring from other factions. We follow their training through three stages. They will be challenged physically, mentally, and emotionally. We become familiar with their two trainers--Eric and Four. We see the faction's strengths and weaknesses. As does Tris. On the one hand, Tris realizes she is fierce. She can be strong, determined, brave. She is learning to face her fears, learning to face life. But she's also realizing that compassion and love are part of courage. That selflessness has prepared her for her new life. On the other hand, she sees how heartless, how cruel some are. Yes, the Dauntless have their flaws.

Divergent is an action-packed dystopia. It's exciting. It's compelling. It's impossible to put down. The futuristic Chicago setting has been well-crafted. While only two factions are explored in this first novel in the trilogy, the glimpses we get of this world are fascinating. I loved the setting, the world-building. I loved the characters. Tris is such a great heroine. And Four. Well, I don't want to spoil it. But he's definitely a large part of why I loved this one! I would definitely recommend this one. I think I loved it even more than The Hunger Games trilogy.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Delirium (YA)

Delirium. Lauren Oliver. 2011. February 2011. HarperCollins.  441 pages.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It's the only thing that there's just too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone. ~ Hal David, What The World Needs Now, 1965
First sentence: It has been sixty-four years since the president and the Consortium identified love as a disease, and forty-three since the scientists perfected a cure. Everyone else in my family has had the procedure already. My older sister, Rachel, has been disease free for nine years now. She's been safe from love for so long, she says she can't remember its symptoms. I'm scheduled to have my procedure in exactly ninety-five days, on September 3. My birthday. 

Lauren Oliver has created a world without love in her newest YA novel, Delirium. It stars a teen girl, Lena, who falls in love with a guy, Alex, in the last weeks of her freedom, for when Lena turns eighteen, she will receive "the cure" like everyone else. No longer will she be diseased by this thing called love, this destructive force that robs men and women of their reason and logic. When the novel opens, Lena, though susceptible, has not fallen prey to love. (It helps that contact between uncured guys and girls are extremely limited.) But on her Evaluation Day, something happens. Two things really. One, a herd of cows charges through the labs--the building--where the exams are being conducted. Two, someone--a cute boy--winks at her. Can you guess which one has the biggest impact?

Lena is afraid of love, no doubt about it. Her family's history has led her to fear the worst. When she was just six, Lena's mom committed suicide just days before her fourth attempt to be cured. For one reason, or another, the cure just didn't work on her mom. And her mom almost seemed happy about this. Though she had lost her husband, she cherished her memories of him. And above all else, she loved her two kids. She loved singing to them, playing with them, tickling them, laughing with them, hugging and kissing them. In everything she said and did, she showed she cared. But since love was a disease, since love was illegal, Lena is almost ashamed that her childhood had so many happy moments. All her happiest moments should not have happened. For if her mom was normal, chances are she'd still be alive. And Lena's cousin, Gracie, has also suffered from love. For her mom and dad were suspected of being sympathizers and arrested. Gracie will never know her mother. And since her home has been torn apart, Gracie hasn't said one single word. So, yes, Lena has her reasons for her fear.

Will Lena's seventeenth summer be her summer of love? Will she fall in love with the boy who winked at her? Will she fall in love with the boy who encouraged her to listen to music and dance? Will this summer be her happiest yet? Can she be happy knowing that it can never last? That no matter how much she protests, she'll be cured in September? That she'll be expected to live her life according to someone else's plan?

While Delirium is very much a teen romance, it is an interesting premise for a dystopian novel. Because this "cure" does more than prevent broken hearts and passion. For it treats not just romantic love, but all forms of love and desire. It impacts marriages, yes, but it also impact all family relationships. It removes the loving bond between parents and children, between siblings--at least after one of them has received the cure. These "new" families will have no loving parents, grandparents, aunts, or uncles. There will be no one to "model" love or affection to these children growing up in this strange, new world. (Unless a parent is "invalid" and can't be cured.) Friendships among adults are also impacted. As are hobbies, habits, and tastes. Imagine not being able to love anything. Of course, what you'd feel the most is the loss of love in human relationships. But I can't imagine not being able to love reading, listening to music, or the pleasure of savoring dark chocolate. Without love, there can be no joy in any aspect of your life.

The more you "love" Romeo and Juliet, the more you'll appreciate Delirium. I didn't love Delirium because it was a romance novel. It's not particularly better or worse than others I've read in the genre. (Some make me more giddy than others. Alex was no Marcus Flutie.)  But I did enjoy it as a dystopian novel. I enjoyed it because it was thought-provoking.

Favorite lines:

That's the real reason she doesn't speak. All the rest of her words are crowded out by that single, looming one, a word still echoing in the dark corners of her memory. Mommy. I know. I remember. (41)

I'm momentarily distracted by the way he says my name. In his mouth it sounds musical, not clunky and angular, the way my teachers have always made it sound. His eyes are a warm amber color, and as I look at him I have a sudden, flashing memory of my mother pouring syrup over a stack of pancakes. (61)

Snapshots, moments, mere seconds: as fragile and beautiful and hopeless as a single butterfly, flapping on against a gathering wind. (263)

Love: a single word, a wispy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That's what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in two. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side. Before and after--and during, a moment no bigger or longer than an edge. (301)



© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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