Saturday, April 30, 2011

April Reflections

I could almost subtitle this one "finding my p(l)ace" because my pace seems to have drastically changed the past five weeks or so. I'm finding that a slower pace makes for a happier me. Which is a good thing, I think!!! I may not have as many posts per week in the months ahead. But if I'm *happy* with what I'm reading, then I think it will make a BIG difference.

So this month saw a few more changes in addition to "how often" I blog. For one, WHERE I blog. I have not reviewed a thing at Young Readers. So there will be no reviews of board books or picture books or early readers or children's books this month. Which is strange--though it may not seem strange to you--but it's definitely strange to me. I'm not sure what this means for the future of Young Readers. Though if I were to stop posting there, I'd just *have* to start reviewing those types of books here at Becky's Book Reviews. Maybe like how Amanda does Picture Book Saturdays? Except probably not every week. And definitely not tied to any one day of the week. Anyway, we'll have to see how May goes. Though at the very, very least I'm going to try to blog about YOUR MOMMY WAS JUST LIKE YOU by Kelly Bennett.

On a positive note, I have 30 posts on Operation Actually Read Bible this month. I've really felt led to devote my time there. And it's been a big blessing to me to follow my heart. I felt like I've made a new friend or two. And I really, really, really enjoyed my New Testament in week challenge!

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 Challenge, Historical Fiction, Spring Reading Thing, Once Upon a Time.

This month I read 31 books.

Middle Grade: 4; Young Adult: 8; Adult: 6; Christian Fiction: 2; Christian Nonfiction: 9; Nonfiction: 1; Graphic Novel: 1. 

Review Copies: 8; Library Books: 14 books; Bought Books: 9.

Twelve books were from new-to-me authors!!! 


My favorite first lines of April:

 
My top five:

The Ropemaker. Peter Dickinson. 
Persuasion. Jane Austen
The Pilgrimage: The Unforgettable SF Masterpiece of the Strangers Among Us: The First Book of The People. Zenna Henderson.
The Land of the Silver Apples. Nancy Farmer.
Wither. Laura DeStefano.

Reviews at Becky's Book Reviews

Matched. Ally Condie. 2010. Penguin. 369 pages.
XVI. Julia Karr. 2011. Penguin. 272 pages.
Wither. Laura DeStefano. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 368 pages.
Outside In. Maria V. Snyder. 2011. Harlequin. 336 pages.
The Ropemaker. Peter Dickinson. 2001. Random House. 384 pages.
Sharp North. Patrick Cave. 2004/2006. Simon & Schuster. 528 pages.
The Land of the Silver Apples. Nancy Farmer. 2007. Simon & Schuster. 512 pages.
A Brief History of Montmaray. Michelle Cooper. 2009. Random House. 304 pages.
The Door in the Wall. Marguerite de Angeli. 1949/1990. Random House. 128 pages.
Inside Grandad. Peter Dickinson. 2004. Random House. 128 pages.
The Spellcoats. Diana Wynne Jones. (The Dalemark Quartet). 1979. HarperCollins. 280 pages.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. C.S. Lewis. 1952. HarperCollins. 256 pages.
Persuasion. Jane Austen 1818/1992. Knopf Doubleday. 304 pages.
Jubilee. Margaret Walker. 1966. 512 pages.
The Pilgrimage: The Unforgettable SF Masterpiece of the Strangers Among Us: The First Book of The People. Zenna Henderson. 1961. 255 pages.
Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain. Margaret Irwin. 1953/2011. Sourcebooks. 336 pages.
The People: No Different Flesh. (The New Chronicle of  THE PEOPLE) Zenna Henderson. 1967. Avon. 225 pages.
Wickham's Diary. Amanda Grange. 2011. Sourcebooks. 208 pages.
What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist -- The Facts of Daily Life in 19th Century England. Daniel Pool. 1994. Simon & Schuster. 416 pages.  
Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer #1. Van Jensen. Dusty Higgins. 2009. SLG Publishing. 128 pages.

Reviews at Operation Actually Read Bible


The Practice of the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence. Joseph de Beaufort. 1982. Whitaker House. 96 pages.
ESV Seek and Find Bible. Crossway Publishing. 2010. 1888 pages.
How To Get The Most From God's Word. John MacArthur. 1997. Thomas Nelson. 168 pages.
God is Great: A Toddlers Bible Storybook by Carolyn Larsen. Illustrated by Caron Turk. 2011. Crossway Publishers. 44 pages.
No Other Gospel: 31 Reasons From Galatians Why Justification by Faith Alone is the Only Gospel. Josh Moody. 2011. Crossway. 288 pages.
Discovering Jesus: Why Four Gospels to Portray One Person? T.D. Alexander. 2010. Crossway Publishers. 144 pages.
Through Gates of Splendor. Elisabeth Elliot. 1956/2005. Tyndale. 296 pages.
Cries From the Cross: A Journey Into the Heart of Jesus. Erwin Lutzer. 2002. Moody. 170 pages.
The Judgment. Beverly Lewis. 2011. Bethany House. 336 pages.
How To Study The Bible. R.A. Torrey. 1896. Hendrickson Publishers. 90 pages.
How to Pray. R.A. Torrey. 1900. Hendrickson Publishers. 82 pages.
© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Weekly Geeks: Catching Up On Reviews

This week's weekly geeks theme is one of my favorites. It's a Dewey Original. Though I don't think it's a favorite of other weekly geeks. (I'm not sure why.)

1) In your blog, list any books you've read but haven't reviewed yet. If you're all caught up on reviews, maybe you could try this with whatever book(s) you [hope to] finish this week. 
2) Ask your readers to ask you questions about any of the books they want. In your comments, not in their blogs. Most likely, people who will ask you questions will be people who have read one of the books or know something about it because they want to read it.
3) Later, take whichever questions you like from your comments and use them in a post about each book. I'll probably turn mine into a sort of interview-review. Link to each blogger next to that blogger's question(s).
4) Visit other Weekly Geeks and ask them some questions!

I happen to be all caught up on reviews. But I am currently reading a handful of books. So I will share what I am currently reading. And you can ask me questions about any of these! If you're not familiar with a particular book--you can ask me about the author or the genre!
  • Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (Victorian literature/classic)
  • Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope (Victorian literature/classic)
  • Enclave by Ann Aguirre (YA dystopian)
  • Black Orchids by Rex Stout (adult mystery)
  • The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck (adult literature/classic)
These are books that I have NOT started yet. But I hope to get to very soon. You can ask me questions about these if you prefer.
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (classic)
  • The Islands of the Blessed by Nancy Farmer (MG/YA Fantasy)
  • Angel Isle by Peter Dickinson (MG/YA Fantasy)
  • Mine is the Night by Liz Curtis Higgs (Adult Historical Fiction/Christian Fiction)
  • The Gift by Bryan Litfin (Adult Fantasy/Science Fiction/Christian Fiction)

Want to help me pick the next book from my TBR pile? I'm participating in the TBR Pile Challenge, I'm feeling a little discouraged.

A Faraway Island. Annika Thor. (MG Historical Fiction)
War Games. Audrey Couloumbis and Akila Couloumbis. (MG Historical Fiction)
The Miles Between by Mary E. Pearson  (YA Realistic Fiction)

Even if you're not participating in the Weekly Geek event, I ask you to please ask a question or two!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot Fifth Trip in April

New Loot:

Enclave by Ann Aguirre
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Black Orchids & the Silent Speaker by Rex Stout
Death of a Doxy by Rex Stout
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
Sons by Pearl S. Buck
The Mother by Pearl S. Buck
Three Daughters of Madame Liang by Pearl S. Buck
Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck
The New Year by Pearl S. Buck
The Promise by Pearl S. Buck
Imperial Woman by Pearl S. Buck
Dragon Seed by Pearl S. Buck
The Living Reed by Pearl S. Buck
Mandala by Pearl S. Buck
The Moon Opera by Bi Feiyu
Three Sisters by Bi Feiyu
The German Bride by Joanna Hershon

Leftover Loot:

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
Angel Isle by Peter Dickinson
The Islands of the Blessed by Nancy Farmer
Some Buried Caesar; The Golden Spiders by Rex Stout

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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Friday, April 29, 2011

The Judgment

The Judgment. Beverly Lewis. 2011. Bethany House. 336 pages.

Tomorrow holds nary a promise, my dear Mamm often says. But thankfully some things are quite certain--we plow, we plant and harvest. We attend canning bees and quilting frolics. Our wedding season always begins on the first Tuesday in November. And this year there are many couples marrying and looking ahead to starting their own families.

The Judgment is the sequel to Beverly Lewis' The Thorn. It is the second in the trilogy; these books are set in the mid-80s in Pennsylvania Dutch Country. The novels focus on two sisters--Rose and Hannah.

Hannah (Hen) is married, but she's--for better or worse--separated from her husband. He is of the world, and he wants to raise their young daughter to be of the world. He doesn't think it's a "problem" for her to be watching Madonna videos, for example. Hen never knew how much her faith meant to her until she realized how far she'd fallen through the years. She sacrificed her family, her faith, her traditions to marry this man. Now that she's wanting to reconnect with her faith, her tradition, he's saying NO WAY. There is NO WAY he's going to stay married to a woman who dresses plain and frowns on the sinful "modern" world. He does NOT want his daughter to be brought up Amish. He's not willing to compromise. Hannah must choose between her faith--her way of life--and her marriage. If she doesn't give up--or give in--then he'll file for divorce and custody.

Rose should be content. She's engaged to Silas Good a perfectly respectable man in the community. She should be happy that he's courting her. She should be able to ignore the not-so-new woman in town who's been rather chatty with him. But. If Silas has a few secrets of his own, so does Rose. For Rose can't stop thinking about Nick--even though Nick left the community in disgrace. Nick's not around for her to talk to, to confide in. But he's never far from her thoughts.

So this one has some drama. Two sisters trying to make sense of their love lives. But it's more than just a romance. It's a family drama too.

Did I love it? I'm not sure that I did. I enjoyed spending time with Hen and Rose again. And I look forward to the conclusion of this trilogy. But it wasn't quite love, love, love. I liked it.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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A Brief History of Montmaray (YA)

A Brief History of Montmaray. Michelle Cooper. 2009. Random House. 304 pages.

23rd October 1936
Dear Sophie,
Happy birthday to my favorite little sister! I've been trying to recollect the day you were born so I can gush about it in an appropriately sentimental fashion, but I'm afraid it's all a blank.

Sophie FitzOsborne lives an isolated life with her younger sister, Henry, her cousin Veronica, and her mad-uncle John who happens to be King. Except for a handful of villagers and/or servants that make up the "kingdom" of Montmaray, they are the island's only residents. (Toby, her brother, and Simon, the housekeeper's son, being away in England for most of the novel.) But they may not stay isolated for long. The year is 1936, and for whatever reason--bad luck, bad timing, whatever--the Germans have become interested in the island-kingdom. Small though it may be, there is a library in the castle that one or two visiting Germans would just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to be allowed to explore. But with mad-uncle John still incredibly, fiercely angry at the Germans because of The Great War, the two girls (Sophie and Veronica) dare not let them near the castle. For who knows what King John would do if he discovered Germans on HIS island.

Sophie, our young heroine, is coming of age at an increasingly dangerous time. Plenty of tension and conflict when it comes to European politics and the like. And of course, there is the every day drama of growing up. Should Sophie accept her aunt's invitation to "a season" in London? Should Sophie leave her island home for a big, grand adventure in the city? Her aunt's invitation included Veronica as well. But Sophie knows it would take a LOT of convincing to get Veronica off the island. Because she is VERY VERY busy writing a "Brief History of Montmaray." Sophie may just discover that "love" is a tricky business too.

Historical fiction with plenty of mystery--lies, secrets, murder!

I very much enjoyed Michelle Cooper's A Brief History of Montomaray. I can't wait to begin the sequel, The FitzOsbornes in Exile, which was released this month.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Land of the Silver Apples (MG/YA)

The Land of the Silver Apples. Nancy Farmer. 2007. Simon & Schuster. 512 pages.

It was the middle of the night when the rooster crowed.

The Land of the Silver Apples is the sequel to Nancy Farmer's The Sea of Trolls. And I must admit that I loved it. I just loved, loved, loved it! Even more than the first book. Perhaps because I already loved our hero Jack! Perhaps because I already cared for Thorgil, Brother Aiden, and the Bard (Dragon Tongue to some.) Perhaps because I really, really came to care for the new characters we're introduced to in this second novel! Or maybe it was just perfect timing--the right book at the right time! Lucy, Jack's younger sister, Jack's all-too-spoiled younger sister, has been acting very, very, very strange! Turns out there is a good reason! For their father has been keeping a HUGE secret from the family. A secret about Lucy. But this secret is forced into the open, as a new quest begins, a new adventure begins.

In The Land of Silver Apples, readers journey along with Jack into dangerous new worlds. We'll encounter hobgoblins (including the Hobgoblin king, Bugaboo) and elves (beware, beware!) and that's just the beginning.

If you enjoy a blending of mythology and fantasy, then you should definitely read these books! They're good fun. Plenty of action and adventure. Some humor. And I love the writing! It's just a satisfying novel!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sharp North (YA)

Sharp North. Patrick Cave. 2004/2006. Simon & Schuster. 528 pages.

The girl nearly didn't find out who she was. What she was.

Sharp North is a perplexing YA novel. Part mystery. Part thriller. Part dystopian. It's set in a future world forever altered by global warming. A future world with a corrupt government. (How many fictional future worlds don't have a corrupt government?) A future world threatened by an underground movement, a revolution in the making. Our heroine, Mira, has a role to play in this world--for better or worse. And it's a role that mystifies Mira. For Mira's future is just as uncertain as her past.

Sharp North begins with a murder. Mira witnesses this murder, this hushed up murder, and it forever changes the way she sees the world, the way she sees her community. In part because she finds out that she is connected to the victim. She finds a piece of paper, a mere scrap, with a list of names. Her name is on the list. And so is the name of one of her friends, Gil Moore. He's listed as "her watcher." But why is he watching her? Is he her friend or her enemy? Is he out to see that she survives? Or is he in place to eliminate her? That's what Mira can't forget, can't erase. Are the people who murdered this mysterious woman, this mysterious stranger, out to get her? What led to this crime? For even if the whole world chooses to ignore it, Mira can't. Was it the woman's curiosity? Well, Mira can't help being curious now!

So Mira sets out on a journey to discover the truth, the truth about who she is, what she is. In a way she's running away from danger just as much as she's running straight into it. For Mira hasn't a real clue who her enemies are and who her friends may be. Is there a safe place for Mira? Or is she destined to upset the balance of those around her?

We meet a few interesting characters in Patrick Cave's Sharp North. Including several members of the Saint family, one of the "Great Families" that govern in this new world.

Maybe other readers can piece together this mystery. Maybe other readers can read it without being confused by the ending--as for me, well, I'm puzzled by how it ended. I still don't know what really happened.

So did I like it? Yes and no. I liked the idea of it. But. It felt like two or three stories pieced together. And it didn't always work for me.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, April 25, 2011

The Ropemaker (MG/YA)

The Ropemaker. Peter Dickinson. 2001. Random House. 384 pages.

It had snowed in the night. Tilja knew this before she woke, and waking she remembered how she knew. Somewhere between dream and dream a hand had shaken her shoulder and she'd heard Ma's whisper.

The Ropemaker reminded me of all the reasons I love reading fantasy. Did I love it? I didn't want it to end! I wanted to savor every moment of it. Why? Well, because I loved not only the characters, not only the story, but the world Peter Dickinson created! My favorite character happens to be our heroine, Tilja.

Tilja's valley has almost always--twenty generations--been protected by magic. Protected from its neighbors--those who would love to tax, tax, tax in the name of "providing protection" and those who would invade and plunder and conquer. There is a story passed down through the generations--a story some scarcely believe these days--about how the valley came to be protected. A story about two people on a quest for a magician named Asarta. We learn this story in chapter two. Here is how it starts:

There was time in the Valley, of course--how could there not be? But there was no history. In all the rich farmland between the northern mountains and the forest there were no wars, or reports of wars, only days, seasons, generations. No kings or other rulers, only parents, grandparents, ancestors. For eighteen generations nothing had happened in the Valley that anyone would have thought worth putting in a book, or setting up a memorial stone to record. So, no history. Only time. And the story of Asarta. (17)

Did I mention I love the writing?! Well, I did!!! Anyway, Tilja, our unlikely heroine, joins three others on a quest to "save" the magic that protects them. For they know the magic is fading, that soon unwelcome guests might invade--when they realize the truth. So Tilja and her grandmother, Meena, and Tahl, and his grandfather, Alnor, set out on a dangerous and uncertain journey. Their quest is to find the magician, Faheel, the magician who first helped the Valley all those generations ago. Is he still alive? Can he be found? Does he want to be found? Will he help them? Can he help them? Has his powers grown stronger or weaker through the years?

The Ropemaker is about their journey, their quest, as they face countless dangers, as they meet many, many people along the way. This journey will require them to be wise and courageous and diligent. To protect the Valley, to protect their families, their homes, their villages, they may have to risk it all.

I enjoyed this one very much! I'd definitely recommend it.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week In Review #17

What I Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. C.S. Lewis. 1952. HarperCollins. 256 pages.
Wickham's Diary. Amanda Grange. 2011. Sourcebooks. 208 pages. 
What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist -- The Facts of Daily Life in 19th Century England. Daniel Pool. 1994. Simon & Schuster. 416 pages.  

What I Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

Discovering Jesus: Why Four Gospels to Portray One Person? T.D. Alexander. 2010. Crossway Publishers. 144 pages.
Through Gates of Splendor. Elisabeth Elliot. 1956/2005. Tyndale. 296 pages.
Cries From the Cross: A Journey Into the Heart of Jesus. Erwin Lutzer. 2002. Moody. 170 pages.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Weekly Geeks: ABC's of Favorite Authors

I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this week's weekly geek theme
You know how when someone asks you who your favorite author is? And you feel a bit crazy coming up with just one? Now is your chance to come up with 26 (at least) favorite authors by making a list of  them ABC style.  (See my above link from the past for an example.) There are no rules, list a couple per letter if you feel the need. Skip a letter if you draw a blank. Make it be categories if you want to.  For instance, a favorite YA author list. A favorite classic author list.  A favorite "new to me" author list. A favorite mystery author list.

Or simply an all time favorite author list... from A to Z! 
D -- Charles Dickens. Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend. Little Dorrit.
E -- Julie Edwards. Mandy.
F -- Nancy Farmer. The House of the Scorpion. The Sea of Trolls. The Land of Silver Apples (coming soon!)
I -- Eva Ibbotson. Countess Below Stairs.
J -- Diana Wynne Jones. Howl's Moving Castle. Castle in the Air, House of Many Ways. Enchanted Glass. The Spellcoats.
K -- Kate diCamillo. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Tale of Despereaux, Mercy Watson Thinks Like A Pig, Mercy Watson to the Rescue, Mercy Watson Goes For A Ride, Mercy Watson Fights Crime, Mercy Watson Princess in Disguise, Mercy Watson Something Wonky This Way Comes. The Magician's Elephant.
L -- Lois Lowry. The GiverGathering Blue. Messenger. GossamerThe Birthday Ball. The Willoughbys. Number the Stars.
M -- L.M. Montgomery! The Blue Castle, A Tangled Web, Chronicles of Avonlea, Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, Emily's Quest, Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne's House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley, Rilla of Ingleside, Kilmeny of the Orchard.
N -- Patrick Ness. Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and The Answer, Monsters of Men
O -- ORSON Scott Card -- Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, The Worthing Saga. Empire. Lost Boys; Ender's Game, (Ender's Game), War of Gifts, Ender in Exile, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Pathfinder. The Lost Gate.
P -- Terry Pratchett  Nation, The Wee Free Men. A Hat Full of Sky. Wintersmith. The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. Wyrd Sisters.
Q -- Julia Quinn: The Duke and I, The Viscount Who Loved Me, An Offer From A Gentleman, Romancing Mister Bridgerton, To Sir Phillip, With Love, When He Was Wicked, The Lost Duke of Wyndham. Mr. Cavendish, I Presume.What Happens in London. Ten Things I Love About You.
X
Y --  Jane Yolen.  Sword of the Rightful King
Z -- Markus Zusak. The Book Thief. I Am Messenger.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Fourth Trip in April

New Loot:

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch
Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross
The Hollow Earth by Rudy Rucker
Elantris by Brandon Sanderson
Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom
The Bad Book Affair by Ian Sansom
The Book Stops Here by Ian Sansom
Some Buried Caesar; The Golden Spiders by Rex Stout
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Leftover Loot:

Angel Isle by Peter Dickinson
Entwined by Heather Dixon
Stay by Deb Caletti
The Islands of the Blessed by Nancy Farmer
City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov
Time's Eye by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
Till Human Voices Wake Us by Mark Budz
Chill by Elizabeth Bear
Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein
Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
The Gospel According to Science Fiction: From the Twilight Zone to the Final Frontier by Gabriel McKee
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
Forever Erma: Best Loved Writing From America's Favorite Humorist by Erma Bombeck

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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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wickham's Diary

Wickham's Diary. Amanda Grange. 2011. Sourcebooks. 208 pages.


11th July 1784, 
Fitzwilliam and I rode out early this morning. We raced down to the river and I won, beating him by a good two lengths, at which I laughed and called him a sluggard. He was annoyed and challenged me to a race back to the house. 

Amanda Grange's latest Austen-inspired novel gives voice to George Wickham. Wickham's Diary is a prequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Readers get a glimpse of Wickham as a boy and young man. As someone who is playfully mischievous and ambitious, as someone who is plotting and manipulative, and, of course, someone who is selfish! Grange presents a Wickham who knows just what to say to women to get what he wants, what he needs. A confident Wickham who loves being wicked. And oh how Wickham can justify himself!

Did I enjoy this one? Yes. Would it have been my first choice for her next book? Probably not! I've never seen the appeal of George Wickham. And I would love to see Amanda Grange do all the *real* heroes before tackling the so-called bad-boys of Austen! I would LOVE to see, for example, Mr. Tilney's Diary. Then, perhaps, she can continue her series. I would be thrilled to see Mr. Crawford's Diary!!! He is my *one* exception to Austen's "bad boys." For as I mentioned in my review of Mansfield Park, I think he's been misunderstood! And then there's Mr. Willoughby, of course.

See also my reviews of Mr. Knightley's Diary and Colonel Brandon's Diary.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. C.S. Lewis. 1952. HarperCollins. 256 pages.

There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it. His parents called him Eustace Clarence and masters called him Scrubb. I can't tell you how his friends spoke to him, for he had none.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is one of my favorite, favorite books. There are seven books in the Chronicles of Narnia, this is the third. Yes, third. For there is NO other way to read the books then in their proper order: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair,  The Horse and His Boy, The Magicians Nephew, and The Last Battle.

This third adventure stars Lucy and Edmund Pevensie and their cousin, Eustace Scrubb. These three are transported to Narnia--much to Lucy and Edmund's delight and Eustace's horror and disbelief--through a magical painting. Lucy remarking one day that the ship in the picture looks Narnian, that those waves look like they're moving. Once on board this ship, they meet King Caspian. They join him on his quest to find his father's missing friends, these "seven lost lords": Lord Bern, Lord Octesian, Lord Restimar, Lord Rhoop, Lord Mavramorn, Lord Revilian, and Lord Argoz.

The book is a series of adventures; these adventures being loosely tied together by their one mission, one quest, of discovering the fate of these seven lords. They are NOT out to save the world, NOT out to save Narnia from a dark and evil threat. They are adventuring for the sake of adventuring. They are facing risks, yes, because they are curious and brave and loyal. But they are not facing risks because there is evil lurking and threatening to destroy everything they know and love. Why mention this? Well, if you saw the movie, you might have gotten a different idea of their adventures.

What do I love about this one? The characters and the stories! I love to see how Eustace is turned into a dragon. I love, love, love how he's restored and healed by Aslan. That scene being oh-so-magical! (And the movie? Well? They don't quite capture it the way the book did. They changed things throughout.) There are so many elements that I just loved in this one! Lucy "helping" the invisible dufflepuds, Dark Island and the albatross, etc. And then, of course, there is Reepicheep!!!

So do I recommend this one?! Yes!!! How did I feel about the movie? Well, there were places I enjoyed it. But they rearranged things; they changed things; they added and subtracted. And there were a few scenes that just felt tedious. (The big scene that is supposed to be the climax; the big battle). But it was a beautiful movie. It was compelling even if it was different. Were the changes necessary? I'm not convinced they were. Especially how they felt the need to add conflict and tension between the characters--when there wasn't any in the book. But it wasn't a horrible adaptation.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, April 18, 2011

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew

What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist -- The Facts of Daily Life in 19th Century England. Daniel Pool. 1994. Simon & Schuster. 416 pages. 

I enjoyed reading What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew. I enjoyed reading about various aspects of life in 19th Century England. I won't lie. There were chapters and sections more appealing, more interesting than others. (I'll admit to "skimming" the sections on lawyers.) But, for the most part, I enjoyed it. I liked all the bookish references. I would say most--if not all--sections reference at least one or two British authors. Charles Dickens and Jane Austen, of course, but also including Anthony Trollope, Emily and Charlotte Bronte, Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, etc. (Sadly, he does not include Elizabeth Gaskell or Wilkie Collins.) He takes the time to name specific characters and situations from specific books to highlight and illustrate social customs. Readers may not be familiar with all of these characters, and sometimes what he says about a book could be considered spoilerish. But since these are books that have been around over a hundred years, keeping things spoiler free isn't a necessity.

This one is in two parts. (I read the first part. The second part is a glossary.) As you can see, it covers a little bit of everything--both public and private.

The Basics:
  • Currency, 
  • The Calendar, 
  • Hogsheads and Drams: English Measurement, 
  • England, 
  • London.

The Public World:
  • Precedence: Of Bishops, Barristers, and Baronets,
  • The Titled,
  • How To Address Your Betters
  • Esq., Gentl., KCB., etc.
  • Status: Gentlemen and Lesser Folk
  • Society: Society and "The Season," Basic Etiquette, How To Address the Nontitled, "May I Have This Dance?', The Rules of Whist and Other Card Games, Calling Cards and Calls, 
  • The Major Rituals: Presentation at Court, The Dinner Party, The Ball, The Country House Visit
  • Money: Being Wealthy, Entail and Protecting the Estate, Bankruptcy, Debt, and Moneylending
  • Power and the Establishment: The Government, Britannia Rules the Waves, The Army, The Church of England, Oxford and Cambridge, Schools, "The Law Is An Ass," Lawyers, Crime and Punishment

Transition:
  • The Horse
  • Please, James, the Coach
  • The Railroad
  • The Mail

The Country:
  • Life on the Farm
  • The Midlands, Wessex, and Yorkshire
  • Who's Who in the Country
  • Shire and Shire Alike: Local Government in Britain
  • "The Theory and System of Fox Hunting"
  • Vermin, Poachers, and Keepers
  • Fairs and Markets

The Private World:
  • "Reader, I Married Him"
  • Sex
  • An Englishman's Home
  • Houses with Names
  • Furniture
  • Lighting
  • How the English Kept Clean
  • "Please, Sir, I Want Some More."
  • Pudding!
  • Tea
  • Drink and the Evils Thereof
  • Women's Clothing
  • Men's Clothing
  • Servants
  • The Governess
  • A Taxonomy of Maids
  • Victorian Recycling

The Grim World:
  • The Orphan
  • Occupations
  • Apprentices
  • The Workhouse
  • Disease
  • Doctors
  • Death and Other Grave Matters

And if you'd like to read Jane Austen or Charles Dickens for the Classics Circuit blog tour, you've still got through tomorrow--April 19th--to sign up!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week In Review #16




What I Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews


The Pilgrimage: The Unforgettable SF Masterpiece of the Strangers Among Us: The First Book of The People. Zenna Henderson. 1961. 255 pages. 
The People: No Different Flesh. (The New Chronicle of  THE PEOPLE) Zenna Henderson. 1967. Avon. 225 pages.
Outside In. Maria V. Snyder. 2011. Harlequin. 336 pages.
The Spellcoats. Diana Wynne Jones. (The Dalemark Quartet). 1979. HarperCollins. 280 pages. 
Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain. Margaret Irwin. 1953/2011. Sourcebooks. 336 pages.

What I Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

All of the New Testament! (Not that I *reviewed* it!)
No Other Gospel: 31 Reasons From Galatians Why Justification by Faith Alone is the Only Gospel. Josh Moody. 2011. Crossway. 288 pages.  

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Library Loot: Third Trip in April

New Loot:

Angel Isle by Peter Dickinson
Entwined by Heather Dixon
Stay by Deb Caletti
The Islands of the Blessed by Nancy Farmer
City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare
I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov
Friday by Robert A. Heinlein
Time's Eye by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter
Till Human Voices Wake Us by Mark Budz
Chill by Elizabeth Bear
Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein
Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
The Gospel According to Science Fiction: From the Twilight Zone to the Final Frontier by Gabriel McKee

Leftover Loot:

Pgymalion: A Romance in Five Acts by Bernard Shaw
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
Sharp North by Patrick Cave
The Ropemaker by Peter Dickinson
The Land of the Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer
Forever Erma: Best Loved Writing From America's Favorite Humorist by Erma Bombeck
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Drowned Ammet by Diana Wynne Jones
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales 

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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Friday, April 15, 2011

No Different Flesh

The People: No Different Flesh. (The New Chronicle of  THE PEOPLE) Zenna Henderson. 1967. Avon. 225 pages.

Meris watched the darkness rip open and mend itself again in the same blinding flash that closed her eyes.

No Different Flesh is the second People book by Zenna Henderson. It's a collection of loosely connected stories about The People. If you enjoy science fiction, I'd recommend both books. Both are well-written. Both are fantastic. (Much better than what you might think based on the book covers alone!)

The novel does begin on a dark and stormy night. Meris and Mark are a married couple grieving the loss of a child. After the storm, Mark discovers a young child. Where did this little one come from? Why are her clothes so out-of-this-world? Is she not talking because of shock? Or does she not speak English? One mystery is soon solved when the girl's father arrives within a few days. But for Mark and Meris, it's only the beginning of the wonder, of the mystery. For this child and her father are of The People. And soon they are joined by others of their Group. And the stories begin. And Mark and Meris are very happy to be included in these gatherings. The framework of this novel isn't as strong as in the first book. But the stories are just as fascinating, just as wonder-making.

The stories included in this one are: No Different Flesh, Deluge, Angels Unawares, Troubling of the Water, Return, and Shadow on the Moon.

My favorite would probably be "Deluge" and "Angels Unawares." In Deluge,  readers learn about The Home--the origin planet for The People, a planet that was dying, a planet The People were forced to leave; we witness everything through the eyes of one family. In Angels Unawares, readers follow one member of that family to her new home, Earth.

I enjoyed the stories. I enjoyed the characters. I even enjoyed the structure--how many stories we have, and how many different narrators we have.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Pilgrimage

The Pilgrimage: The Unforgettable SF Masterpiece of the Strangers Among Us: The First Book of The People. Zenna Henderson. 1961. 255 pages.

The window of the bus was a dark square against the featureless night.

I enjoyed this science fiction novel very much! The novel opens with a young woman, Lea, contemplating suicide. But fate--in the form of a woman--intervenes. Karen reaches out to Lea at her most vulnerable moment and persuades her to take the first baby step towards life, towards hope. She encourages her to wonder. Karen takes her home, takes her to The People. The People are gathering nightly--they have decisions of their own to make, decisions just as important perhaps--but they are gathering to tell stories, to record their stories, their histories, their journeys. Lea, an outsider, hears things that are almost to incredible to believe.

Who are The People? Where did they come from? How can they do the things they do? Read and see for yourself!

I enjoyed the stories. I enjoyed the characters. I enjoyed the storytelling. Many of these stories could be described as coming-of-age stories. I'd definitely recommend this one.

Another review: Necromancy Never Pays.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Spellcoats (MG)

The Spellcoats. Diana Wynne Jones. (The Dalemark Quartet). 1979. HarperCollins. 280 pages.

I want to tell of our journey down the River. We are five. The eldest is my sister Robin. Next is my brother, Gull, and then my brother Hern. I come fourth, and I am called Tanaqui, which is a name from the scented rushes that line the River. This makes me the odd one out in names, because my youngest brother is Mallard--only we always call him Duck.

Did I love it? I'm not sure that I did. Did I like it? Definitely! What I liked most about this one was the setting, the tone. There is something about the way Diana Wynne Jones tells a story. There is something about how she draws readers in slowly but surely. Not that this one has a slow-pace. (Though I wouldn't say the pace is ever thrilling.) It has action, adventure, mystery. All the things you'd expect to find in a fantasy novel, but it's uniquely told, in my opinion. Our heroine, Tanaqui, is weaving this story into two coats--two spellcoats. And there is a richness in the details, in the setting, in the telling. If you're in the right mood, then I think it has great potential. If you're expecting a light, fun, humor-oriented fantasy like Wee Free Men or The Amulet of Samarkand, then you might be disappointed.

My review of Cart and Cwidder.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Outside In (YA)

Outside In. Maria V. Snyder. 2011. Harlequin. 336 pages.

My world changed in a heartbeat, that's how it felt to me. As if one second ago, I was Trella the lower level scrub, cleaning the air and water ducts of Inside, and now I am Trella the victorious leader of the Force of Sheep rebellion.

After the rebellion, after the Lowers proved to themselves and the Uppers that their voice was worth being heard, Trella thought life would start to improve. But a series of terrorist actions threaten everything--soon Trella doesn't know who to trust. For the truth is, no one is quite sure who the enemy is. Is the enemy an old threat or a new foe?

This one is the sequel to Maria V. Snyder's Inside Out. Both books are science fiction. Both are set in space--on space ships. Both have plenty of action and adventure. There's definitely a romantic story to both books. As our heroine, Trella, struggles with matters of the heart under extreme stress. Her world is in danger, yet, she's falling in love.

I enjoyed both books. I found both to be quick reads.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain

Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain. Margaret Irwin. 1953/2011. Sourcebooks. 336 pages.

'My father has fought bulls singlehanded in the arena,' said the boy. 'He is brave as a lion. He has never been defeated. He is the Conqueror of the World. How could he be conquered--by a pirate fleet of heathen Moors?'

Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain follows Young Bess and Elizabeth, Captive Princess in Margaret Irwin's historical trilogy. Overall, I enjoyed this trilogy. I enjoyed watching Elizabeth grow up. While the politics could--at times--be confusing, it was rarely--if ever--boring. At the heart of this trilogy, of course, is Elizabeth, the second daughter of Henry VIII. And Elizabeth's heart is ambitious and patient. Does Elizabeth want the throne? YES! Does she know that she has to be careful, calm, reserved, and patient in order to see that dream come true? Yes.

Elizabeth and the Prince of Spain was probably my favorite of the trilogy. I enjoyed the story from Philip's point of view and Elizabeth's point of view. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed Philip's side of the story. (After all, I knew that England was soon to do battle with Spain!) I would recommend this one to those that enjoy historical fiction, to those that enjoy reading about ambitious politicians.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week in Review #15

What I Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews:

The Door in the Wall. Marguerite de Angeli. 1949/1990. Random House. 128 pages.
Inside Grandad. Peter Dickinson. 2004. Random House. 128 pages.
Matched. Ally Condie. 2010. Penguin. 369 pages.
XVI. Julia Karr. 2011. Penguin. 272 pages.
Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer #1. Van Jensen. Dusty Higgins. 2009. SLG Publishing. 128 pages.


What I Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible:

How To Get The Most From God's Word. John MacArthur. 1997. Thomas Nelson. 168 pages.
God is Great: A Toddlers Bible Storybook by Carolyn Larsen. Illustrated by Caron Turk. 2011. Crossway Publishers. 44 pages.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Library Loot: Second Trip in April

New Loot:

Historical Romances: The Prince & The Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
The Lumby Lines by Gail Fraser
Stealing Lumby by Gail Fraser
Futures Imperfect: Three Short Novels by Connie Willis
Pgymalion: A Romance in Five Acts by Bernard Shaw
The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
The Silver Chalice by Thomas B. Costain
Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Sharp North by Patrick Cave
Evvy's Civil War by Miriam Brenaman
The Ropemaker by Peter Dickinson
The Land of the Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer
Forever Erma: Best Loved Writing From America's Favorite Humorist by Erma Bombeck

Leftover Loot:

Stardust by Neil Gaiman
Drowned Ammet by Diana Wynne Jones
Cart and Cwidder by Diana Wynne Jones
Crown of Dalemark by Diana Wynne Jones
1984 by George Orwell
Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary
Otis Spofford by Beverly Cleary
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew From Fox Hunting to Whist: The Facts of Daily Life in Nineteenth Century England by Daniel Pool
The Game by Diana Wynne Jones
The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales 

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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The Readathon

So I think I am "participating" in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon. I'm not feeling super-motivated at this point because I've been in a strange non-reading mood lately, though this could be just because I've had a cold.

ETA: The Updates

I finished my first book. NO DIFFERENT FLESH by Zenna Henderson.

So, I never finished another book. But I did spend some time in the day reading. I read two introductions and the first chapter to The Princess Bride. I read the first sixty pages in Sharp North. I read the first two chapters of Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I read the first chapter in Little House in the Big Woods. I read the first chapter in Evvy's Civil War. The first chapter in The Ropemaker. The first three chapters in The Land of the Silver Apples. And the first section in Forever Erma.

So the introduction meme--

1) I'm reading from home.
2) Readathons are NOT enough motivation for me to get up early on a Saturday.
Few things are motivation for me to get up early on the weekends.
Saturdays are generally my busiest day of the week.
3) I don't have a Readathon pile. (Shocking in a way, isn't it?) I do have a couple of books that I'm currently reading.

Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede
No Different Flesh by Zenna Henderson (the Second "People" book)
A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper
Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

4) I have no goals for this Readathon. While I'm relatively sure I can finish No Different Flesh--I think I only have about eighty pages left--I'm not sure I can finish anything else. And I'll definitely not be reviewing what I do read.
5) Relax as much as possible.



© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, April 08, 2011

Matched (YA)

Matched. Ally Condie. 2010. Penguin. 369 pages.

Now that I've found the way to fly, which direction should I go into the night? My wings aren't white or feathered; they're green, made of green silk, which shudders in the wind and bends when I move--first in a circle, then in a line, finally in a shape of my own invention. The black behind me doesn't worry me; neither do the stars ahead.

Cassia, the heroine of this dystopian YA novel, is on her way to her Match banquet. This is THE night where she will learn the identity of the man she'll spend the rest of her life with. It's also the day Cassia turns seventeen. Just one of many coincidences, perhaps, of Ally Condie's Matched.

For it is revealed that her match is her best friend, Xander. Usually, one's match is a complete stranger. The fact that she knows him--that she knows and loves him--well, it's a strange coincidence. But that's just the beginning. For when she looks on her microcard, a microcard that should be full of pictures and background information on her match--she catches a glimpse of another friend, Ky. For a moment, only a moment, it appears that Cassia has two matches. This kind of mistake should NEVER happen. And it's corrected by a visiting Official who tries her best to convince Cassia that it was a mistake, nothing more. Ky could never, ever, ever be her real match. Because he's not good enough to be anyone's match.

Any guesses which young man Cassia starts to fall in love with?

I enjoyed Matched. I wouldn't say that I loved it absolutely. But I enjoyed it. I found it entertaining and satisfying. I liked Cassia. I liked Ky. I liked Xander. I liked Cassia's family. Her brother, Bram, her father and mother, her grandfather. I was interested in the world Condie created. I liked the role poetry played in this one. How forbidden poems were used to help reveal some of the mysteries. It just worked for me.

Favorite quotes:
The almost-snow reminds me of a line from a poem we studied this year in Language and Literacy: "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening." It is one of my favorites of all the Hundred Poems, the ones our Society chose to keep, back when they decided our culture was too cluttered. They created commissions to choose the hundred best of everything: Hundred Songs, Hundred Paintings, Hundred Stories, Hundred Poems. The rest were eliminated. Gone forever. For the best, the Society said, and everyone believed because it made sense. How can we appreciate anything fully when overwhelmed with too much? (29)
Every minute you spend with someone gives them a part of your life and takes part of theirs. (65)



© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

XVI (YA)

XVI. Julia Karr. 2011. Penguin. 272 pages.

"Nina, look." Sandy jabbed me in the ribs.

XVI is a new dystopian novel. I love dystopian novels, usually. But I wasn't loving this one. I didn't connect to the characters. I didn't believe the romance. I failed to connect with the story, with this new world Karr created.

Nina Oberon is the star of this one. Her best friend, Sandy, is unbelievably annoying--though still a few weeks from her sixteenth birthday, she's acting like a sex-teen already. In other words, she's stopped thinking and has bought into the media's belief system completely. Why is Nina best friends with Sandy? Well, it's hard for readers to know for sure. I can only assume that a few years ago, Sandy, had to be less annoying and more likable.

Nina also has a younger sister, Dee. Since their mother is murdered fairly early in the novel, it becomes Nina's responsibility to protect Dee from her father, Ed. So Nina's life is getting crazier by the day, and trying to make sense of her life, her world, what everything means, well, it could be a full time job. Nina does make a few new friends, friends that are actually capable of thinking, to help her in this difficult time, this dangerous time.

One of these new friends is a guy named Sal. Though Nina is convinced she is not ready for a boyfriend, she can't help wanting Sal in her life. She can't stop thinking about him, wanting him, needing him. Will Sal help her solve some of the big mysteries in her life? Will Sal help keep her safe?

So why didn't I love this one? Why didn't I like it? Why didn't I like Nina and Sal? I'm not sure. It just felt a little lacking. I just felt disappointed with it. It could be just bad timing. You may love this one. (I hope you do enjoy it more than I did.)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

The Door in the Wall (MG)

The Door in the Wall. Marguerite de Angeli. 1949/1990. Random House. 128 pages.

Robin drew the coverlet close about his head and turned his face to the wall. He covered his ears and shut his eyes, for the sound of the bells was deafening. All the bells of London were ringing the hour of Nones. St. Mary le Bow was nearest, St. Swithin's was close by, and not far away stood great St. Paul's. There were half-a-dozen others within soun, each clamoring to be heard. It seemed to Robin as if they were all inside his head screaming to be let out. Tears of vexation started to his eyes, but he held them back, for he remembered that a brave and "gentil" knight does not cry.

This is my first time reading this Newbery winner. It's not a title I would have been drawn to as a kid, much like Adam of the Road, but I am glad I read it as an adult.

Robin, our hero, is all alone. His father is fighting in a war; his mother called to serve the queen. He was supposed to become a page and begin his training to be a knight, but, an illness left him weak, unable to stand or walk. A compassionate monk, Brother Luke, saves him from an uncertain (at best) fate--for his caretaker, his nurse, falls ill with the plague. Robin begins to heal and begins to learn. He learns to read and write. He is strengthened by swimming. And then there's the whittling. (Exciting stuff.) The book chronicles his journey through these dark and sometimes dangerous times. Readers get a glimpse of the Middle Ages.

The Door in the Wall is a pleasant enough read. While I didn't find it the most thrilling book ever, not even the most thrilling book ever set during the Middle Ages, I didn't find it painful either. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon.

You might also be interested in: Adam of the Road, Crispin: The Cross of Lead, Crispin: At The Edge of the World, Crispin: The End of Time. Not to mention Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schiltz.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer

Pinocchio: Vampire Slayer #1. Van Jensen. Dusty Higgins. 2009. SLG Publishing. 128 pages.

This book owes a lot to Carlo Collodi's original story, Pinocchio. We mean a lot. You could say everything, and wouldn't complain. We never could have dreamed up a wooden puppet whose nose grows when he lies. I mean, you can't make that kind of stuff up. Unless your name is Carlo Collodi, Then, apparently, you can.

This graphic novel begins by providing readers with a "condensed" telling of the original Pinocchio. This was necessary because Disney's Pinocchio is NOTHING AT ALL like the original. As the introduction says, "That beloved dancing cricket? He didn't dance or sing and was dead within a few paragraphs. Pinocchio's encounter with the fox and cat ends with him swinging from a tree. And no, they didn't have tire swings back then." Having just read the book, I must say they did a GREAT job with it!

The book really begins with readers finding out that the happily ever after ending was all a lie. For, Pinocchio did not become a real boy, and he still had trouble listening to Geppeto. In this one case in particular, Geppeto tried, so readers are told, to tell Pinocchio that there was something dark and sinister creeping about. That the town (or is a village?) was in great, great danger. But. Pinocchio didn't listen. And subsequently, Pinocchio witnessed Geppeto's murder. He was killed by vampires. And since that day, that night, Pinocchio has his own agenda. He's a monster killing. One lie at a time, he's able to strike down evil vampires. The threat is real, but Pinocchio is still having a hard time proving his case to the villagers. Now he's the puppet who cries vampire. The fact that his nose does NOT grow when he tells them of the danger? Well, that's lost to them, to most of them anyway. There are a few people who support Pinocchio in his new mission...

I enjoyed this one. I didn't love it. It's not like I think it is the best graphic novel I've ever read. But it was enjoyable. I liked the premise. I thought it was fun and creative. I remember when I first heard about it a few years ago that it made me smile. And I'm glad I thought to check at my library to see if they had a copy. Because this is a book I never would have bought. 

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, April 04, 2011

Inside Grandad (MG)

Inside Grandad. Peter Dickinson. 2004. Random House. 128 pages.

Gavin and Grandad were fishing for mackerel from the harbor wall when the seal popped its head out of the water. 

Gavin loved his Grandad very much. Grandad is the one who takes care of him; Gran works; his mom works; his dad is gone most of the time. The two are very close. They enjoy doing many things together. They like to fish. They like to build model boats. One day the two are busy at work on a model boat, a boat that Gavin has just decided to name Selkie, when his Grandad has a stroke. The doctors say that Grandad has had a stroke. No one knows how much of a recovery he'll make. It's too soon to say. He's still in a coma.

The novel focuses on how this effects Gavin. He's scared. He's worried. He's anxious. He wants to be at the hospital by his Grandad's side, holding his hand; and yet, he doesn't. He wants to be the one to reach him. He wants to be the one to talk to him, to read to him, to hold his hand, to be there for him. Yet, it seems too much to handle.
At some point, Gavin becomes convinced that selkies may hold the answer. His grandad always said they could help you when you were in need. And that's where this novel becomes a little weird, a little magical.

I didn't care for the selkie twist in this one. Not really. I mean I think some readers will enjoy that aspect of it. But I could have done without it.

So do I like this one? Yes, for the most part. I didn't love it. But I don't need to love everything I read.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, April 03, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week in Review #14

What I Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews:

Wither. Laura DeStefano. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 368 pages.
Persuasion. Jane Austen 1818/1992. Knopf Doubleday. 304 pages.
Jubilee. Margaret Walker. 1966. 512 pages.

What I Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible:


The Practice of the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence. Joseph de Beaufort. 1982. Whitaker House. 96 pages.
ESV Seek and Find Bible. Crossway Publishing. 2010. 1888 pages.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, April 02, 2011

Wither (YA)

Wither. Laura DeStefano. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 368 pages.

I wait. They keep us in the dark for so long that we lose sense of our eyelids. We sleep huddled together like rats, staring out, and dream of our bodies swaying. I know when one of the girls reaches a wall. She begins to pound and scream--there's metal in the sound--but none of us help her. We've gone too long without speaking, and all we do is bury ourselves more into the dark. The doors open. The light is frightening. It's the light of the world through the birth canal, and at once the blinding tunnel that comes with death. I recoil into the blankets with the other girls in horror, not wanting to begin or end.

Did I like Wither? Yes! I really LOVED it! One of the best 2011 books that I've read so far. Rhine Ellery knows almost exactly when she'll die--and why she'll die. Mad scientists, so called geniuses, from previous generations have manipulated human genes too much. Having created the "oh-so-perfect" generation of children, they've cursed the human race. Every woman dies from a deadly virus at age 20. Every man dies from that virus at age 25.Will there be a cure found in Rhine's lifetime? Maybe, maybe not. She's just sixteen. But she's not that hopeful. Rhine knows one thing for sure. She does NOT want to spend her remaining years in a forced marriage with two other sister wives. Even if her husband, Linden, is ignorant of how his three wives really came to be his. Even if he doesn't know the truth about his father's schemes and manipulations. No, Rhine wants to be free, needs to be free. She wants to find her twin brother, Rowan, and live the rest of her days free. But will she find a way to escape?

I enjoyed Wither! I enjoyed spending time with Rhine and her sister wives, Cecily, the youngest, Jenna, the oldest. I also enjoyed spending time with Gabriel, one of the servants who works at the estate. Their developing friendship adds a great deal of excitement to the novel! I didn't hate Linden. While Rhine may not have fallen for him, may not have found that lifestyle tolerable under any circumstances, I can't help pitying him.

Overall, I found the novel fascinating and compelling. The world Lauren DeStefano created was haunting and horrible and so wonderfully developed. I'd definitely recommend this one.

She wanders down one of the aisles, and I follow her as she runs her finger along the spines of books, taps one of them, eases it out of its place. The book is dusty, the cover eaten away, the pages yellow and brittle as she flips through them. All of these books are from the twenty-first century or earlier, which isn't very strange. The television also airs old movies, and most shows are set in the past. It has become a form of escapism to visit a world in which people live a long time. What was once real and natural has become a fantasy. "There are lots of love stories here," she says. "They either end happily, or everyone dies." She laughs, but it sounds more like a sob. "What else is there, right?" (86)

A few minutes later we're huddled under a blanket on a couch in the sitting room, sharing a gallon of vanilla ice cream she ordered from the kitchen, and we're watching an early-morning rerun of yesterday's soap opera. Along with the romance novels, these are another of her guilty pleasures. The actors are all teenagers made up to look much older. Jenna tells me they're constantly changing the actors, since of course the show has been on for more than a decade and the original actors have died by now. The only consistent actors are first generations. And as she's explaining to me who's in a coma and who unknowingly married an evil twin, both of us bathed in the television's glow, I do start to relax a little. (243)
You might also be interested in reading: Divergent by Veronica Roth, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and The Maze Runner by James Dashner.



© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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