Sunday, July 31, 2011

July Reflections

I read a lot of MG fiction in July! Included are some great classics like Heidi, The Light Princess, The Trumpeter of Krakow, and The Story of the Amulet. I also discovered some great new-to-me authors like Anya Seton, George MacDonald, P.D. James, and Bo Caldwell. This month I've read some GREAT books that I've just loved and adored. But it also had some not-so-great books. Still I'm pleased with what I accomplished this month. 

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, Historical Fiction, Victorian Literature Challenge, The Classic Bribe Challenge, Agatha Christie Reading ChallengeCruisin' Thru the Cozies.

This month I read 36 books. 

Board books: 2; Picture books: 1; Middle Grade: 13; Young Adult: 4; Adult: 5; Christian Fiction: 6; Christian Nonfiction: 4; Nonfiction: 1.

Review copies: 11; Library books: 18; Books I bought: 7.

My top five six: 

City of Tranquil Light. Bo Caldwell. 2010. Henry Holt. 304 pages.
Trauma Queen. Barbara Dee.
Heidi. Johanna Spyri. 
The Light Princess. George MacDonald.
Withering Tights. Louise Rennison. 
Mine is the Night. Liz Curtis Higgs.

Reviews at Becky's Book Reviews: 

Elephants Can Remember. Agatha Christie. (Hercule Poirot). 1972. 212 pages.
Cover Her Face. P.D. James. 1962. 254 pages.
Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen. 1811. (The Complete Novels) Random House. p. 3-175.
My Theodosia. Anya Seton. 1941/2007. Chicago Review Press. 432 pages.
Dragonwyck. Anya Seton. 1944/2005. Chicago Review Press. 352 pages.
The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 477 pages.
Trauma Queen. Barbara Dee. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 272 pages.
No Passengers Beyond This Point. Gennifer Choldenko. 2011. Penguin. 256 pages.
Smells Like Treasure. Suzanne Selfors. 2011. Little, Brown. 416 pages.
 The Story of the Amulet. E. Nesbit. 1906. 228 pages.
The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #2) Maryrose Wood. 2011. HarperCollins. 320 pages.
Heidi. Johanna Spyri. 1880/2009. Puffin Classics/Penguin.  320 pages.
Heidi Grows Up. Charles Tritten. 1938. 190 pages.
Heidi's Children. Charles Tritten. 1939. 255 pages.
The Light Princess. George MacDonald. 1864. 110 pages.
The Trumpeter of Krakow. Eric P. Kelly. 1928. 208 pages.
Swift Rivers. Cornelia Meigs. 1932/2004. Walker. 288 pages.
Alice in Time. Penelope Bush. 2011. Holiday House. 208 pages.
Star-Crossed. Linda Collison. 2006. Random House. 416 pages.
Possession. Elana Johnson. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 416 pages.
Withering Tights. Louise Rennison. 2011. HarperCollins. 288 pages.
Are You Going To Kiss Me Now? Sloane Tanen. 2011. Sourcebooks. 368 pages.
Genrefied Classics: A Guide to Reading Interests in Classic Literature. Tina Frolund. 2007. Libraries Unlimited. 392 pages.

Reviews at Young Readers:

I Like Vegetables. Lorena Siminovich. 2011. Candlewick Press. 10 pages.
I Like Toys. Lorena Siminovich. 2011. Candlewick Press. 10 pages.
Grump. Janet Wong. Illustrated by John Wallace. 2001. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages.

Reviews at Operation Actually Read Bible:

My First Read and Learn: Book of Prayer. Dr. Mary Manz Simon. 2007. Scholastic. 40 pages.
Mine is the Night. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2011. Waterbrook. 464 pages
Read Your Bible One Book At A Time: A Refreshing Way To Read God's Word with New Insight and Meaning. Woodrow Kroll. 2002. Gospel Light Publications. 150 pages.
How to Find God in the Bible: A Personal Plan For the Encounter of Your Life. Woodrow Kroll. 2004. Multnomah. 204 pages.
City of Tranquil Light. Bo Caldwell. 2010. Henry Holt. 304 pages.
Embrace Grace: Welcome to the Forgiven Life. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2006. Waterbrook Press. 160 pages.
To The One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3. Sam Storms. 2008. Crossway Books. 240 pages.
Bookends. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2000. Multnomah. 340 pages.
Safely Home. Randy C. Alcorn. 2011. Tyndale. 434 pages.
Mixed Signals. Liz Curtis Higgs. 1999. Multnomah. 384 pages.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Sunday Salon: Week In Review #31

What I reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews:

My Theodosia. Anya Seton. 1941/2007. Chicago Review Press. 432 pages.
Dragonwyck. Anya Seton. 1944/2005. Chicago Review Press. 352 pages.
Are You Going To Kiss Me Now? Sloane Tanen. 2011. Sourcebooks. 368 pages.
Alice in Time. Penelope Bush. 2011. Holiday House. 208 pages.

What I reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible:

Safely Home. Randy C. Alcorn. 2011. Tyndale. 434 pages.
Mixed Signals. Liz Curtis Higgs. 1999. Multnomah. 384 pages.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Library Loot: Seventh Trip in July

New Loot:

Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury
The Lovely Shoes by Susan Shreve
My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek
Paradise by Jill S. Alexander
Lunch-box Dream by Tony Abbott
My Life Undecided by Jessica Brody
Out of Shadows by Jason Wallace
My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies by Allen Zadoff
Human.4 Mike A. Lancaster
The Victory Club by Robin Lee Hatcher

Leftover Loot:

Devil Water by Anya Seton
The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton
At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Sarah's Ground by Ann Rinaldi
By His Own Hand? The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis edited by John D.W. Guice
An Artist in Treason: The Extraordinary Double Life of General James Wilkinson by Andro  Linklater
Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg
The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit
The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit
The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
Wet Magic by E. Nesbit
The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene Du Bois
Whittington by Alan Armstrong

 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, July 29, 2011

Alice in Time (MG)

Alice in Time. Penelope Bush. 2011. Holiday House. 208 pages.

"I'm not wearing it."
"Yes you are."
"No, I'm not." 
Repeat those last two sentences about fifty times and you'll get some idea of what I'm up against. I'm trying to get my little brother into his page-boy outfit so that we won't be late for Dad's wedding, but I've been trying for the last hour without success.

I picked up Alice in Time because I was interested in the time travel premise. Alice, our heroine, is fourteen and miserable. She thinks her life is ruined, and it just happens that everyone else is to blame for all her woes. Her parents are divorced. Her relationship with her dad and his new wife, a bit awkward. And her brother, well, he's a bother and then some. Her mom is the worst of all. Even Imogen, her best friend, doesn't understand her. It seems the whole world is against her...

One late night in the park, a spin on the merry go round, a little accident ends up changing Alice's life forever. She wakes up from the accident as a seven year old. Her teenage memories are intact, but she's now seven again. She's forgotten how to be a kid, though, which makes this transition a bit tricky. Her mom definitely does NOT like the new Alice, who has turned mean and disrespectful and disobedient. What happened to her little angel that loves playing with Barbie and needed help brushing her hair and braiding it?

Alice soon decides that she'll try to "fix" all the problems of her life. She'll try to stop her cat from getting run over by a car. She'll try to warn her Grandma about the cancer. She'll try to warn anyone and everyone about her mom's postpartum depression. She'll try to stop her mom from throwing her dad out of the house, etc. The question becomes what should she do with her classmates? Should she make the same decisions? Should she choose Imogen over Sasha? Or Sasha over Imogen? Or should she choose a new path altogether? What if she could change her life for the better by choosing a whole new set of friends?

Of course, Alice doesn't really know what the consequences of any of her actions will be... One thing is for sure, this new-new Alice will be a different girl.

I liked Alice in Time. I didn't love it; I didn't hate it. I thought it took a little too long to get to the merry go round. Though that could be just me, since the time travel element is what I was most interested in. And Alice wasn't very likable. She was a brat. A full-time brat. But as she began to grow up a little (by growing down), I began to like her more and more.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Are You Going To Kiss Me Now? (YA)

Are You Going To Kiss Me Now? Sloane Tanen. 2011. Sourcebooks. 368 pages.

I should start at the beginning, four months ago, on the night of the senior prom. I wasn't a senior, or a prom person, so the fact that I hadn't been invited wasn't bothering me...much. I mean, I didn't want to go, but it would have been nice to be invited.

I picked up Are You Going To Kiss Me Now? because I wanted to see how it compared with Libba Bray's Beauty Queens. Each book has strengths, of course, and each has its own weaknesses.

The premise of this one is simple. What if a private plane carrying five celebrities, one contest winner, and one semi-famous blogger went down in the ocean near a small African island. Could these people ever learn to get along and work as a team? Would anyone know what to do? What are their chances of surviving it all?

The heroine, Francesca, is the contest winner. She wrote a little essay all about loss for Seventeen magazine. Her sob story about losing her dad in a car accident? So not true! She's just REALLY, REALLY angry that he's getting remarried. She never expected to win--never expected it to be published--so now she may just have to face the consequences.

The good news is that after the plane goes down, well, the people in her life might be so happy to see her again that they'll forgive her for her lies...

The other people on the island are Joe Baronstein, a middle-aged actor who supposedly got his start starring in Small Secrets, a sitcom about a psychic family living in Texas, and it was a musical too; Jonah Baron, the illegitimate son of Joe, a famous singer in a Christian boy-band; Milan Amberson and Eve Larkin, two actresses that hate, hate, hate one another, of course, each has flaws; Cisco Parker, the oh-so-dreamy actor who isn't as perfect as he appears. And then there's Chaz the gay blogger who is obsessed with all things celebrity. His site is all about publishing gossip, gossip, more gossip.

The good news is that Sloane Tanen did a good job with her characters; they are all developed. Especially when comparing them to the more stereotypical characters found in Beauty Queens. I can't say that I particularly loved--or even liked--any of the characters. They are all--in their own way, perhaps--so deeply flawed. Their personal lives are so messy--hate, anger, bitterness, pain, confusion, doubt, frustration, shame, etc. What Francesca learns is that everyone has issues, that no one is perfect. That celebrities are no better or no worse than anyone else.

Francesca (and to a certain extent Chaz) are good at mocking people. And both, I think, take a little enjoyment out of seeing the world in this way. How can I make a joke out of this or that. How can I get my one line in. And even when the person being mocked doesn't really mind at all, it can grow annoying after a while.

The story isn't as over-the-top as Beauty Queens. Yes, there were places I found it a stretch--the person who discovered them, his using Francesca--or trying to use Francesca, all the big "reveals" as they laugh about having all their deepest darkest secrets out of the closet now because of their time together on the island. And the ending, well, it felt a little too happy. But it still wasn't as crazy, over-the-top as Beauty Queens.

I didn't love the story. I have to be honest. I didn't really like--at all--or appreciate may be the better word, the way that Christianity was presented, discussed, mocked, etc. It's not completely unexpected. This book won't be the first or last to present Christianity in a false way and to depict Christians as evil or crazy or liars. So I was disappointed with this one because of that, because of the lack of respect, because of the insults and jokes and such, it was hard to like the characters.

I think there are plenty of readers out there who will appreciate this one--humor and all. It just wasn't for me.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dragonwyck

Dragonwyck. Anya Seton. 1944/2005. Chicago Review Press. 352 pages.

It was on an afternoon in May of 1844 that the letter came from Dragonwyck. 

Miranda Wells is the foolish heroine of Anya Seton's Dragonwyck. This farm girl has much to learn, and her trusting nature combined with her restlessness is just asking for trouble. The novel opens with Miranda being invited to visit her cousin, Nicholas, and his wife, Johanna, and their daughter, Katrine, in their home, Dragonwyck. Though cousins, the two have never met. For the Van Ryn's are quite wealthy, and the Wells are at best poor relations. But the couple appears--at first--to be looking for a companion for their daughter. Someone not quite a servant, but not quite a real guest either. The wealth and luxury of their lifestyle--especially in comparison to the only lifestyle she's ever known--life on a farm has Miranda thoroughly charmed. Everything that Nicholas says and does just wows her. He seems to be so perfectly, perfect. She just can't help herself, she finds herself falling for him. On her part, I do feel it's just silliness, with more innocence to it than real intent to break up a marriage. But the wife, well, she is unhappy and uncomfortable with Miranda being there. She didn't expect her to be so young, so beautiful, so ready to be charmed by her husband.

How does Nicholas feel about Miranda? How does Nicholas feel about his wife? his daughter? How does Nicholas feel about anyone else? Well. Readers can draw their own conclusions, perhaps. But needless to say, this reader was NOT charmed by Nicholas. He didn't seem all that swoon-worthy to me. And AFTER his wife's oh-so-convenient-death, well, my impressions changed even more--but not in his favor. A true romantic hero, in my opinion, would NEVER EVER propose marriage to a young woman while his dead wife was still in the room.

So do you think Miranda lives happily ever after with Nicholas?!

It's true I was never bored with Dragonwyck. But I also never found true satisfaction with it. Miranda was a frustrating heroine, to me, because she was just too stupid immature. She wasn't all that smart, and she wasn't all that good. (With goodness being a virtue.) There was very little to love in Miranda. That being said, I definitely felt something for her. I pitied her. Miranda's choices weren't all that smart. But NO WOMAN deserves to be treated the way she was treated. And I definitely wanted Miranda to be saved--to either save herself or to be rescued by some good soul. Nicholas. Well, what can I really say about him?! I didn't find him appealing at all. It was just so easy for me to hate him. His flaws are too many to even begin to list. And his strengths? Well, I can't think of any!

Have you read Dragonwyck? What did you think of it? Did you like it? love it? hate it? Do you think it's fair to compare it to Jane Eyre and Rebecca? I definitely see how Dragonwyck is a gothic romance.

Here's how Philippa Gregory's afterword begins, "At the very opening of this far-fetched, romantic novel, Anya Seton takes a great risk with her readers: she shows a foolish young woman reading a far-fetched, romantic novel and gently mocks both the genre and the readers."

Here's the part where I disagree with her:
Johanna is a wonderful thumbnail portrait of a woman whose death we are not going to mourn. Her greed, illustrated in the first moment we meet her when she demands to know if her husband has brought her pastries from town, is wonderfully described. Seeing Johanna, with crumbs on her gown and half-eaten dishes in her room, puts us neatly on the side of Nicholas and the guilty lovers. We are prepared for Johanna's death, and we don't mind when it happens.
By the time Nicholas comes to marry Miranda, Seton has so arranged our sympathies that we are as keen for the marriage to proceed as is Miranda. And so we forgive Nicholas for our suspicion of murder and Miranda for her desire for Nicholas and cupidity for his life. In addition, we agree with Miranda that the farm is a poor place. We forgive both Nicholas and Miranda because we are as bad as they. We don't mind that Johanna is dead, and we want to see Miranda live the high life. (339-340)
It is Nicholas who dominates the book, of course, and it is he who lingers in the mind after the book is finished. What a wonderfully gothic, nightmarish hero-villain he is! He is handsome and beautifully dressed; he is stylish and wealthy. He is absolutely exceptional, and we know this before he even enters the pages of the novel because Seton has the crowd murmur his name before he arrives. He delights us at once. He circumvents Miranda's father, which pleases us since we want to see her freed. He sweeps her away to his home, and his home is a wonder. We think, like Miranda, that he could be saved by true love. We despise his fat wife; we have hopes for his future. (341)
I don't only disagree with her a little, I disagree a LOT. (I might have exchanged a few words with the book.)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What's On My Nightstand (July)

The list is long this time! 

Mixed Signals by Liz Curtis Higgs. I am liking this one. I don't always love contemporary romance novels, I tend to prefer historical romance. But I'm glad I made an exception for Liz Curtis Higgs. This one is set in a small Southern town, and the heroine is a DJ at an oldies station. And the music references alone makes it a bit fun!

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I am NOT liking this one. I don't even know if this should surprise me. While I have loved three or four of the Steinbeck I've read--I'd easily say that should be LOVED, LOVED, LOVED-- this isn't my first or second or even third attempt to read The Grapes of Wrath. There is a crudeness to this one that isn't exactly typical of the Steinbeck that I've loved. Maybe it's the additional vulgarity and crudeness, maybe it's the lack of humor? Who knows. All I know is that I don't really like the language of this one at all.

Dragonwyck by Anya Seton. I am not hating this one exactly. I am just not liking it as much as I had hoped. I can say this. It definitely reminds me of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. The "hero" has not shown ANY heroic qualities at all. I think you'd have to be a silly type of fifteen or sixteen year old girl to have a crush on him, to find him irresistibly charismatic. (And he's the heroine's cousin). Taking the creep factor up, it's got an afterword by Philippa Gregory. Gregory gushes on and on and on about how Nicholas Van Ryn, the hero-villain, is so dreamy and swoon-worthy, and how readers see the attraction immediately. And how readers automatically want Miranda, the heroine, to win him away from his oh-so-fat wife, whom readers automatically hate because they find her fat disgusting. I was like, WHAT IS SHE TALKING ABOUT? I'm supposed to want this immature little baby-of-a-girl without any brains at all to tear this marriage apart? I am supposed to cheer while this marriage falls apart? Granted, I haven't gotten *that* far in the book yet. She's not even admitting to herself how much she wants her cousin. But the way Gregory talks about this one--well, it's just CREEPY! I'm supposed to hate the wife because she's fat?! I'm supposed to find this jerk of a guy swoon-worthy?! After reading this:
"I believe that death is inherent in our lives, that we get the kind of death which our natures attract. The mediocre die in bed where they began; the brave die adventurously."
"And those who are murdered deserved to be murdered?" asked the Count, amused.
Nicholas' eyes lingered a second on the other's face. "Perhaps," he said. "There's a vast amount of twaddle and sentimentality in the commonplace mind about death. It would be far better for the race if the ugly and useless ones were eliminated."
"But monsieur!" expostulated the Count, laughing. "This is barbaric. Who is to decide which one is ugly or useless enough for death? Who would dare?"
Nicholas lifted his glass and took a delicate sip. "I would dare--if the occasion arose." (62)
Does Nicholas sound swoon-worthy to you?! Shouldn't any reader have more judgment sense than that?

Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg. So. I read My Theodosia by Anya Seton. And this historical novel (that may or may not have any truth in it) has inspired me to pick up a couple of nonfiction books about the time period. Including this biography of Aaron Burr. I'm three chapters into it so far and I'm really enjoying it! Much more than some of the fiction I've been reading (The Grapes of Wrath, Dragonwyck).

By His Own Hand? The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis edited by John D.W. Guice. This is another nonfiction book inspired by the oh-so-fictional My Theodosia. In the novel, Seton imagines Theodosia madly, deeply, in love with Meriwether Lewis--but she's already married, and so this love--though requited--can never, ever have a happy ending. Despite Seton claiming that the romance had three sources, I don't think that is exactly the case. Anyway, this book presents a couple of sides. One person arguing for a case of suicide, another person arguing for a case of murder, and another person assessing the strengths and weaknesses of both sides of the issue. I certainly didn't know about this mystery...at all. So I am finding the book fascinating!

Let God Change Your Life: How To Know and Follow Jesus by Greg Laurie. I hope to finish this one soon for review at Operation Actually Read Bible.

Safely Home by Randy C. Alcorn. Another one I hope to finish soon for Operation Actually Read Bible. It's an interesting book. I'm not absolutely loving it. I find myself wanting to yell at one of the narrators. The book is definitely issue-driven. And the dialogue, at times, seems a little too purposeful, if that makes sense. I wouldn't say that it always feels forced, like the reader is the audience of a debate. But it can feel that way in places. Still, it's an interesting book about Christians being persecuted in China.

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

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Bookish Images Monday (Pierre-Auguste Renoir)

I've got two images for you this week. Both found using wikimedia commons. The picture on the left is "Gabrielle lisant" (1906). The picture on the right is "Liseuse à la Vénus (Gabrielle avec une sculpture)" (1913-1915).

A few of you may remember my old, old header--the mosaic of different women reading. If I'd found these images a few years ago, I would have LOVED to have them on the blog. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the colors!


Bookish Images Monday is hosted by Cindy's Book Club.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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My Theodosia

My Theodosia. Anya Seton. 1941/2007. Chicago Review Press. 432 pages.

At six o'clock on the morning of Midsummer Day, 1800, Aaron Burr's estate, Richmond Hill, was already well into the day's bustle of preparation for the gala dinner to be given that evening in honor of Theodosia's birthday.

My Theodosia was Anya Seton's first novel. When possible I like to begin at the beginning with a new-to-me author. Saving the first book for the end, well, it can end in disappointment. Because if an author keeps improving, then each book will show it.

The heroine, Theodosia Burr, is the daughter of Aaron Burr. At his greatest, her father was Vice President of the United States of America. At his worst, he was a wanted man accused of murder and treason, etc. His greatest fan, by far, was always his daughter. I think he could have done anything, said anything, and she still would have been there standing by him, supporting him with every breath in her body.

I think it is important for readers to know exactly what to expect from My Theodosia. It is NOT historical romance. That is while the novel focuses on Theodosia and the men in her life--her first kiss which came from Washington Irving on her seventeenth birthday, her husband, Joseph Alston, her 'true love', Meriweather Lewis, the novel isn't love and romance and passion. And it most certainly is not about happily ever afters.

My Theodosia is historical fiction. Some who have read it might even call it "historical" FICTION. I'm not one to judge the historical accuracy--or historical inaccuracy--of a novel when I haven't read any nonfiction at all about the subject. I don't have a clue if Anya Seton's characters resemble the people they're supposed to faithfully represent. I do know that in the author's note she claims that the novel is "historically accurate in every detail." And she claims to have read all the Burr biographies, and the published letters of Aaron Burr, and some of the unpublished letters of Aaron Burr. And she claims to have had three sources for the romance between Meriwether Lewis. There are certainly plenty of reviews that say differently. That claim this novel is 100% fiction with no truth in it at all.

The historical time period covered is 1800 to 1812. And for those interested in this period in American history, the novel may prove interesting. I certainly found it fascinating. I read it in two days. And I wasn't bored at any point during the narrative. I can't say that I loved the characters exactly--they were too flawed for that. Aaron Burr being very charismatic and manipulative. But I can say that I found the story compelling and tragic. Maybe I found it fascinating because I didn't know that much. Yes, I knew about the duel. But I didn't know much else. And I certainly didn't know about Mexico. So it definitely held my attention.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Sunday Salon: Week In Review #30


What I reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews:

The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #2) Maryrose Wood. 2011. HarperCollins. 320 pages.
Heidi. Johanna Spyri. 1880/2009. Puffin Classics/Penguin.  320 pages.
Heidi Grows Up. Charles Tritten. 1938. 190 pages.
Heidi's Children. Charles Tritten. 1939. 255 pages.
The Light Princess. George MacDonald. 1864. 110 pages.
The Trumpeter of Krakow. Eric P. Kelly. 1928. 208 pages.
Swift Rivers. Cornelia Meigs. 1932/2004. Walker. 288 pages.

What I reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible:

Bookends. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2000. Multnomah. 340 pages.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Library Loot: Sixth Trip in July

New Loot:

Devil Water by Anya Seton
At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald
The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
Sarah's Ground by Ann Rinaldi
Four Summers Waiting by Mary Fremont Schoenecker
The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran
Adverbs by Daniel Handler
The Exile of Sara Stevenson by Darci Hannah
Katherine by Anya Seton
Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers by Barbara Hambly
By His Own Hand? The Mysterious Death of Meriwether Lewis edited by John D.W. Guice
An Artist in Treason: The Extraordinary Double Life of General James Wilkinson by Andro  Linklater
Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg

Leftover Loot:

The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton
Dragonwyck by Anya Seton
Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit
The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit
The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
Wet Magic by E. Nesbit
Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen  
The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
Swift Rivers by Cornelia Meigs
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene Du Bois
Whittington by Alan Armstrong
Alice in Time by Penelope Bush
Are You Going To Kiss me now? Sloane Tanen
Mixed Signals by Liz Curtis Higgs

 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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Swift Rivers (MG)

Swift Rivers. Cornelia Meigs. 1932/2004. Walker. 288 pages.

It was the summer that Chris Dahlberg was seventeen that he mowed the high meadow alone for the first time.

I can't say that I LOVED Swift Rivers. But I can say that I did enjoy it--most of it at least. I checked it out from the library not really knowing what to expect. My plan was to give it a chapter or two to see if it was even something I wanted to read. And it was. Chris Dahlberg is a great hero for an adventure story. After his parents' death, his Uncle became responsible for him. But this responsibility didn't include love and respect. Chris works hard day after day after day with no one to really appreciate him. Since the Uncle absolutely HATES his father--Chris' grandfather--when Chris decides to leave home for four days to check on his grandfather, the Uncle forbids him, warning him that if he leaves he shouldn't bother coming back. For he'll never, ever, ever welcome him back into his home. Knowing that the grandfather is getting older, knowing that there must be a reason why he didn't come to help the mowing this year--like he has every year since he can remember--he makes his decision. He just has to see if his grandfather needs help. He needs to see if grandfather is ready to make it through the winter. The uncle is true to his word, but that doesn't turn out to be such a bad thing. For Chris and his grandfather and a helpful neighbor or two come up with an idea. It's a bit of a risk, it's not really been done before, but if it succeeds, it will be the start of something big. Chris and his grandfather are determined to enter the logging business, to cut down trees, and float the logs down the river, etc.

Half of the novel is the adventure of the logs-down-the-river. How this journey changes Chris. So it's a coming-of-age adventure story set in the 1830s. It's an industrious novel--one that focuses on men hard at work. It's a dangerous job that requires focus and skill and determination.

I liked this one because I liked Chris. I didn't necessarily love all the descriptions of river rafting. But even though I wasn't loving each and every page, I still enjoyed it for the most part. 


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Trumpeter of Krakow

The Trumpeter of Krakow. Eric P. Kelly. 1928. 208 pages.

It was in late July of the year 1461 that the sun rose one morning red and fiery as if ushering in midsummer's hottest day. His rays fell upon the old city of Krakow and the roads leading up to it, along which rolled and rocked a very caravan of peasants' wagons. 

Don't judge a book by its cover. Or, at least don't judge this book by its cover! For appearances can be deceiving, The Trumpeter of Krakow is anything but boring! It's an exciting adventure story with elements that reminded me of some great fantasy novels! (It stars an alchemist and his "student" who is obsessed with finding the philosopher's stone.)

The Charnetski family has come to Krakow seeking protection. The father (Andrew Charnetski) has relatives in the city, and he's hoping to find sanctuary there until he can have an audience with the King (Kazimir Jagiello). But when he arrives, he learns that his relative has died--been murdered--and that the rest of the family has fled. Knowing that his family is in great danger--especially if the man seeking to prevent him from entering the city comes back to cause trouble--he returns to the market to think out his options. Joseph, the son, happens to rescue a young woman from an attacking dog, and in doing so wins the gratitude of her uncle. An invitation is extended to Joseph and his family, and lodgings are arranged. Around the same time, Andrew meets an important man in the city, Jan Kanty, who listens sympathetically and offers great advice. Sell your horses and your cart, change your name, and become the trumpeter in the tower of the Church of Our Lady St. Mary. Andrew is happy to follow this advice closely. He even teaches his son to play the trumpet hymn (Heynal) that is to played four times every hour. There is a story about this hymn, and a legend of sorts about a trumpeter. Readers learn of this at the very beginning, for it is set several centuries before this adventure even begins.

There is never a dull moment in The Trumpeter of Krakow. For there are the neighbors above and below to keep things interesting. The most interesting, perhaps, being the alchemist, Kreutz, he is the distracted uncle of the grateful girl, Elzbietka. He has a student, Johann Tring, a young man that makes many--including Joseph and Elzbietka--nervous. The two--in varying degrees--are obsessed with finding out the secret of how to make gold, fascinated with the philosopher's stone. The niece feels that Tring is a bad, bad influence on her uncle, and that Tring is leading her Uncle into dangerous territory.

And of course, never for a minute forget that this family is being pursued. Why? Well, the family DOES have a secret, they have something in their possession that drives people mad, something that people are willing to kill to have.

The novel is exciting. It has action and adventure, and a bit of magic as well. I do believe this one is more plot-driven than character-driven, but that didn't bother me at all. For it was enough that I wanted to find out what happened next. And the writing, I felt, was pleasant.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Light Princess

The Light Princess. George MacDonald. 1864. 110 pages.

Once upon a time, so long ago that I have quite forgotten the date, there lived a king and queen who had no children. And the king said to himself, "All the queens of my acquaintance have children, some three, some seven, and some as many as twelve; and my queen has not one. I feel ill-used." So he made up his mind to be cross with his wife about it. But she bore it all like a good patient queen as she was. Then the king grew very cross indeed. But the queen pretended to take it all as a joke, and a very good one too.
"Why don't you have any daughters, at least?" said he. "I don't say sons; that might be too much to expect." 
"I am sure, dear king, I am very sorry," said the queen.
"So you ought to be," retorted the king; "you are not going to make a virtue of that, surely."
But he was not an ill-tempered king, and in any matter of less moment would have let the queen have her own way with all his heart. This, however, was an affair of state. The queen smiled. 
"You must have patience with a lady, you know, dear king," said she.
She was, indeed, a very nice queen, and heartily sorry that she could not oblige the king immediately. (1-2)

The Light Princess is such a DELIGHTFUL book. It seems obvious in a way to call it delightful and charming and oh-so-magical. But it's true. There are no other words that could do it justice. It's the story of what happens when this childless king and queen have a baby girl of their own. It's the story of what happens when one of the princesses (who is also a witch) is NOT invited to the christening.
The king tried to have patience, but he succeeded very badly. It was more than he deserved, therefore, when, at last, the queen gave him a daughter--as lovely a little princess as ever cried.
The day drew near when the infant must be christened. The king wrote all the invitations with his own hand. Of course somebody was forgotten.
Now it does not generally matter if somebody is forgotten, only you must mind who. Unfortunately, the king forgot without intending to forget; and so the chance fell upon the Princess Makemnoit, which was awkward. For the princess was the king's own sister; and he ought not to have forgotten her. But she had made herself so disagreeable to the old king, their father, that he had forgotten her in making his will; and so it was no wonder that her brother forgot her in writing his invitations. But poor relations don't do anything to keep you in mind of them. Why don't they? The king could not see into the garret she lived in, could he?
She was a sour, spiteful creature. The wrinkles of contempt crossed the wrinkles of peevishness, and made her face as full of wrinkles as a pat of butter. If ever a king could be justified in forgetting anybody, this king was justified in forgetting his sister, even at a christening. She looked very odd, too. Her forehead was as large as all the rest of her face, and projected over it like a precipice. When she was angry, her little eyes flashed blue. When she hated anybody, they shone yellow and green. What they looked like when she loved anybody, I do not know; for I never heard of her loving anybody but herself, and I do not think she could have managed that if she had not somehow got used to herself. But what made it highly imprudent in the king to forget her was--that she was awfully clever. In fact, she was a witch; and when she bewitched anybody, he very soon had enough of it; for she beat all the wicked fairies in wickedness, and all the clever ones in cleverness. (3-5)
Of course, the uninvited guest comes, and of course they bring an unwelcome gift. In this case, the princess-witch deprived the baby of gravity. So from the day of the christening on, she floated. The king and queen tried to find some positive aspects to it, but, really what could they do when their apologies failed? Just go on loving their daughter as she was with all their hearts.

But their daughter was different in another way too. She had no gravity in matters of the heart and mind too. She could not take anything seriously. Her reaction to life--to all of life--was laughter. Which is just as serious a curse as the other, in my opinion. For there was an emptiness in all her emotions, her actions.

The Light Princess is the story of what happens when she meets a prince. Will the young woman incapable of falling, be capable of falling in love?

I loved this one. I really loved it. It was charming, delightful, and witty. I loved the writing. Some of the descriptions just had me at hello. Like this one, "The wrinkles of contempt crossed the wrinkles of peevishness, and made her face as full of wrinkles as a pat of butter." To any reader who likes fairy tales, this one is a must!!! It's a beautiful, sweet story. And it's such a quick read. You can easily read it in one sitting.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Heidi's Children

Heidi's Children. Charles Tritten. 1939. 255 pages. 

Dorfli was still enveloped in a mantle of snow, but the baker, returning from Maienfeld in his wagon, reported that down in the valley it was already spring. 

Heidi's Children is, I believe, the third and final Heidi book. Heidi Grows Up, the second novel, ended triumphantly with Heidi wedding Peter, the goat herding boy she first met when she was just five. This third novel opens with Heidi just a few months away from giving birth to her first child.

Heidi and Peter live with Heidi's grandfather and Peter's mother in the village of Dorfli. (During the summer months, they retreat higher up in the mountains, though the grandfather's original hermit-hut is no more.) As they have the largest house in the village, they also have the local school teacher, Heidi's old school chum, Jamy, living with them. The novel opens with Jamy making a request of Heidi and Peter. She wants them to welcome her younger sister, Marta, into their home. It seems Marta is too difficult for her own parents to handle, and they essentially don't want to have her around...at all. Marta, of course, has figured all this out. Peter has his doubts initially, let the reader never forget how jealous and possessive he can be with Heidi, but eventually he agrees to the plan.

So Marta is the "first" of Heidi's "children" to arrive. A few months later Heidi welcomes twins into the world. A baby boy. A baby girl. And grandfather is there to welcome this next generation. He even suggests the names for both the babies.

This naming scene is funny, in my opinion. For it sees just about everyone from the village coming into their home to give advice and share gossip.
"Well, what do you think of them, Peterli?" his mother asked after he had studied their features for some time without making any comment.
"As alike as two strawberries," he answered, "and just as red. How long will it be before their eyes open?"
"They aren't kittens," laughed Heidi, looking up from her pillows. "Their eyes have already opened and they're as blue as the sky itself. They're sleeping now. Little babies have to sleep."
"Has the Alm-Uncle seen them?" asked Peter his face still thoughtful.
"Oh, yes," answered Heidi. "He was so pleased but he escaped to his own room again as soon as the neighbors came. Their chatter bothers him as it does me, but I can't ask them to leave."
"I'll ask them if you want me to," announced Marta, her eyes still fiery. "They're out there in the living room saying horrid things about everybody in the family and suggesting the most dreadful names for the babies. You won't name them anything they suggest, will you?"
"I swear it!" said Peter, raising his hand as though taking an oath. "Whatever they suggest, the babies shall surely be named something different."
Old age had not affected the Alm-Uncle's hearing, for suddenly he called out so loudly that those in Heidi's bedroom and even the neighbors in the living room beyond could hear it, "If they're her surprise, why not name the girl baby after the child?"
"After me?" said Marta, hardly believing her ears, for the Alm-Uncle had never once spoken her name all the time she had been there.
"As you say, Grandfather!" Heidi called back. "But what shall we name the boy?"
"Your father was an upright man, Heidi. It might be well to remember him."
Heidi had not thought of naming the boy anything but Peter. But since Peter objected to that, why not Tobias? She called again, "Very well, Grandfather. He shall be our little Tobi. The neighbors shall hear at the church what names we have chosen." (84-85)
Marta, Jamy's younger sister, is the real heroine of Heidi's Children. It is her story--her emotional and spiritual journey--that is told within the pages of the book. Her developing relationship with the grandfather, her love for Heidi and Peter, her finding a place to belong, etc. Her story isn't always a happy one. For she's still broken. She's mourning the loss of her grandmother. And she definitely hasn't healed from being completely rejected and abandoned by her parents.

The grandfather also plays a big part in this one. Though I don't want to spoil anything by sharing those details here. Let's just say that this is the first Heidi book where the reader catches glimpses of his past.

I did like Heidi's Children. I liked Marta. I liked how she was able to form a good relationship with the Grandfather. I liked how he was able to help her and reach her in a way that her own parents couldn't or wouldn't. It was nice to see him sharing Bible stories with her, for example. And it was nice how he helped fix her cross necklace.

I have enjoyed all three Heidi books! I do wish I'd read them sooner!


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heidi Grows Up

Heidi Grows Up. Charles Tritten. 1938. 190 pages. 

At nine o'clock one evening a very shy-appearing little girl stepped off the train at the big station in Lausanne.

Heidi Grows Up is the sequel to Heidi by Johanna Spyri written by Spyri's translator, Charles Tritten. The novel covers Heidi's teen years, for the most part. Readers briefly see a fourteen-year-old Heidi attend a French school. She meets other girls her own age and makes a few good friends. Her best friend being a girl named Jamy. The focus is on her first semester at school and her first summer vacation back home. The novel then speeds ahead to when Heidi has finished her schooling and is ready to teach school in the local village school. There readers are treated to learning about her first year as a teacher. We see her successes and failures as a teacher. We see her stand up to the school warden, and battle some of the bigger problems in the education department.

But Heidi Grows Up is still very much a sweet family story. We see a tender, loving Heidi who always knows what is most important in life. We see Heidi devoted and loyal as ever to her grandfather, to the doctor, to Peter, and even to the goats. One cute scene--early on in the novel--is when Heidi is praying. She's lifting her concerns for God and praying for those she loves best. And...at the end...she mentions each of the village goats by name. Yes, there's something very simple--and very pleasant--about this story.

I did like this one. I am still liking the characters very much. I am liking Heidi. And Peter seems to have grown out of some of his issues. Enough that by the ending, I was pleased with the development!


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Fifth Trip in July

New Loot:

The Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton
My Theodosia by Anya Seton
Dragonwyck by Anya Seton
Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
The Story of the Treasure Seekers by E. Nesbit
The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit
The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
Wet Magic by E. Nesbit
Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen 
From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg
Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
Swift Rivers by Cornelia Meigs
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene Du Bois
Whittington by Alan Armstrong
Alice in Time by Penelope Bush
Are You Going To Kiss me now? Sloane Tanen

Leftover Loot:

Mixed Signals by Liz Curtis Higgs
Mary Poppins Comes Back by P.L. Travers

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

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Heidi (MG)

Heidi. Johanna Spyri. 1880/2009. Puffin Classics/Penguin.  320 pages.

The pretty little Swiss town of Mayenfeld lies at the foot of a mountain range, whose grim rugged peaks tower high above the valley below.

If the cover to Heidi had looked this pretty, this inviting, this appealing, when I was a kid, there's a good chance I wouldn't have spent most of my life avoiding it. (It didn't help that the cover of the Heidi we had was AWFUL.) What I discovered was that Heidi is a nice, satisfying read. One that may just improve upon a reread. I can easily see why Eva Ibbotson, who wrote the introduction to this edition, described reading this one as feeling like you're coming home. There's just something cozy-and-comfortable about it.

So Heidi is an orphan, she's been one since the age of one. She has spent the next four years with her Aunt Detie. But at the start of the novel, at age five, she's being "given" to her grandfather. Detie has decided that enough is enough. She's not the only relative this kid has, and, well, she wants to live her own life without being a mother to her dead sister's kid. If my description is blunt and ugly, it's because Detie is. The way she speaks of the child--of Heidi--well it made me take an instant disliking to her. (And nothing in the book makes me change my opinion of her.) So Heidi and Detie are on their way up the mountain. The grandfather has a moment or two of doubt, but, Heidi erases his fears early on. He takes an instant liking to his granddaughter. And he notices how bright and wonderful she really is. Readers see this bond grow and grow as the two spend time together. No one could love grandfather more than Heidi, and no one could love Heidi more than her grandfather. Heidi has found her a home at last. And all seems right with the world. Heidi loves her grandfather, loves her new home, loves the mountains, loves the flowers, loves the goats, loves the goat herder, Peter, loves Peter's Grannie. Here is a girl that has a love of life, who doesn't want for anything.

But. All that changes with (boo, hiss) the arrival of Aunt Detie who seems to think that Heidi will be better off away from her grandfather. It has been arranged for Heidi to become the companion of a sickly little girl, Clara. Heidi has no choice in the matter. And is told that she can't have an opinion about it--essentially. Now, Heidi does like Clara well enough. It's not like she HATES Clara. I'm not sure it's in Heidi's nature to HATE anybody. But Heidi is definitely upset that she's been taken from everybody she loves, the home she loves, etc. And city life just isn't the same. Heidi doesn't feel like she belongs there.

The highlight of her time in the city may just be when Clara's grandmother comes to visit. This grandmother takes the time to get to know Heidi. She comes to love Heidi and care deeply about her. She encourages Heidi and gives her attention. She says you can learn to read and write. You are smart, you are capable, you can do it. Which is just the message this little girl needs to hear! When Heidi does learn to read, she is given a lovely picture book by this grandmother. But perhaps even more important than that gift is the gift of faith. For this grandmother--Mrs. Sesemann--talks to Heidi of God and prayer. She encourages the young girl to pray to God, to seek Him. She teaches Heidi that when God doesn't answer prayers right away--in the way we expect, in the time period we expect--that doesn't mean God hasn't heard. It's just that God knows what is best for us, he knows what we need, and when we need it. God may seem to be delaying his promises, or slow to working his promises, but God is a God who makes all things beautiful in HIS time.

So does Heidi get to return to her grandfather? What do you think?! Would it be so satisfying and happy-making if she didn't?

While I'm not quite sure that Heidi herself is flawed--she seems to represent everything pure and innocent and good in the world--the rest of the characters within the novel are flawed. And many--though not all--are lovable. Two of my favorites are Heidi's Grandfather (Uncle Alp) and Dr. Classen.

One of my favorite scenes with Dr. Classen:
"When you can do no more yourself," said Heidi confidently, "tell God."
"Those are good words, my dear," said the doctor, "but suppose it was God Himself who sent the sorrow."
Heidi sat pondering for a while. She was sure God could always help, but was trying to find the answer out of her own experiences. "I think you have to wait," she said at last, "and keep on thinking that God has something good which He's going to give you out of the sad thing, but you have to be patient. You see, when something's awfully bad, you don't know about the good bit coming, and you think it's going on for ever."
"I hope you will always feel like that, Heidi," he said, and fell silent, drinking in the scene before him.  (202)
And my favorite scene with the Grandfather--well, there are many, many scenes that I love between these two--is when she reads him the story of the prodigal son from her picture story book. The quote comes from an online edition of Heidi, not the exact same translation as the Puffin classic. (And I liked the Puffin classic better. In the book this comes from pages 172-175.)
"If God had let me come at once, as I prayed, then everything would have been different, I should only have had a little bread to bring to grandmother, and I should not have been able to read, which is such a comfort to her; but God has arranged it all so much better than I knew how to; everything has happened just as the other grandmother said it would. Oh, how glad I am that God did not let me have at once all I prayed and wept for! And now I shall always pray to God as she told me, and always thank Him, and when He does not do anything I ask for I shall think to myself, It's just like it was in Frankfurt: God, I am sure, is going to do something better still. So we will pray every day, won't we, grandfather, and never forget Him again, or else He may forget us."
"And supposing one does forget Him?" said the grandfather in a low voice.
"Then everything goes wrong, for God lets us then go where we like, and when we get poor and miserable and begin to cry about it no one pities us, but they say, You ran away from God, and so God, who could have helped you, left you to yourself."
"That is true, Heidi; where did you learn that?"
"From grandmamma; she explained it all to me."
The grandfather walked on for a little while without speaking, then he said, as if following his own train of thought: "And if it once is so, it is so always; no one can go back, and he whom God has forgotten, is forgotten for ever."
"Oh, no, grandfather, we can go back, for grandmamma told me so, and so it was in the beautiful tale in my book--but you have not heard that yet; but we shall be home directly now, and then I will read it you, and you will see how beautiful it is." And in her eagerness Heidi struggled faster and faster up the steep ascent, and they were no sooner at the top than she let go her grandfather's hand and ran into the hut. The grandfather slung the basket off his shoulders in which he had brought up a part of the contents of the trunk which was too heavy to carry up as it was. Then he sat down on his seat and began thinking.
Heidi soon came running out with her book under her arm. "That's right, grandfather," she exclaimed as she saw he had already taken his seat, and in a second she was beside him and had her book open at the particular tale, for she had read it so often that the leaves fell open at it of their own accord. And now in a sympathetic voice Heidi began to read of the son when he was happily at home, and went out into the fields with his father's flocks, and was dressed in a fine cloak, and stood leaning on his shepherd's staff watching as the sun went down, just as he was to be seen in the picture. But then all at once he wanted to have his own goods and money and to be his own master, and so he asked his father to give him his portion, and he left his home and went and wasted all his substance. And when he had nothing left he hired himself out to a master who had no flocks and fields like his father, but only swine to keep; and so he was obliged to watch these, and he only had rags to wear and a few husks to eat such as the swine fed upon. And then he thought of his old happy life at home and of how kindly his father had treated him and how ungrateful he had been, and he wept for sorrow and longing. And he thought to himself, "I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, 'Father, I am not worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants.'" And when he was yet a great way off his father saw him . . . Here Heidi paused in her reading. "What do you think happens now, grandfather?" she said. "Do you think the father is still angry and will say to him, 'I told you so!' Well, listen now to what comes next." His father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him. And the son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son." But the father said to his servants, "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf and kill it; and let us eat and be merry, for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." And they began to be merry.
"Isn't that a beautiful tale, grandfather," said Heidi, as the latter continued to sit without speaking, for she had expected him to express pleasure and astonishment.
"You are right, Heidi; it is a beautiful tale," he replied, but he looked so grave as he said it that Heidi grew silent herself and sat looking quietly at her pictures. Presently she pushed her book gently in front of him and said, "See how happy he is there," and she pointed with her finger to the figure of the returned prodigal, who was standing by his father clad in fresh raiment as one of his own sons again.
A few hours later, as Heidi lay fast asleep in her bed, the grandfather went up the ladder and put his lamp down near her bed so that the light fell on the sleeping child. Her hands were still folded as if she had fallen asleep saying her prayers, an expression of peace and trust lay on the little face, and something in it seemed to appeal to the grandfather, for he stood a long time gazing down at her without speaking. At last he too folded his hands, and with bowed head said in a low voice, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee and am not worthy to be called thy son." And two large tears rolled down the old man's cheeks.
Early the next morning he stood in front of his hut and gazed quietly around him. The fresh bright morning sun lay on mountain and valley. The sound of a few early bells rang up from the valley, and the birds were singing their morning song in the fir trees. He stepped back into the hut and called up, "Come along, Heidi! the sun is up! Put on your best frock, for we are going to church together!"
Not that Heidi is free from some oddities! I read somewhere that Johanna Spyri didn't really "like" school. And perhaps that shows in Heidi and Peter's reluctance to go to school and learn to read. Peter especially seems angry about it. Heidi, well, initially hers was thinking that she was too stupid to ever learn anything. So when Heidi does return to the mountain, to her grandfather, to Peter, she wants to help him learn to read. But as a modern reader, I can't really say I *like* her method of teaching the alphabet! Was this little rhyme something she learned from Clara's tutor? Perhaps. But maybe she should have recalled how it was the kind, encouraging, you-can-do-it words of Clara's grandmother that inspired her the most in her own learning.
If A B C you do not know
Before the judge you'll have to go

If D E F you cannot say
Bad luck is sure to come your way

If you forget your H J K
You'll have misfortune all the day

If L and M you can't say clear
You'll have to pay a fine, I fear.

Trouble will be in store for you
If you can't say N O P Q

If you get stuck at R S T
A dunce's cap your lot will be

If you confuse a V with U,
You'll find yourself in Timbuctoo

If over W you fall,
Beware the rod upon the wall

If letter X you can't recall,
You'll get no food today at all

If you find Y is hard to say,
They'll laugh at you at school today.

If Z should tie you up in knots
They'll send you to the Hottentots.
Heidi seems to be an optimistic hope-filled novel about brokenness. There were some very touching moments--very human moments--and then there were the purely satisfying sweet moments. And I definitely enjoyed it!!! 

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Bookish Images Monday (E. Nesbit)

Cindy of Cindy's Book Club hosts Bookish Images Monday. I thought I would participate today and focus on book covers. Specifically book covers for E. Nesbit's Five Children and It.

Covers 1 - 3. I liked the first one (left) because the period detail seems better than it is in most. It includes all five children (Lamb is in one of the girl's arms), and It. The middle one, well, there's something about it that appeals to me. Perhaps because it shows the moment of discovery? Or perhaps because it is at least trying to show some emotion? Or maybe because Lamb looks adorable? The third one is one that is definitely a bit different. The more I look at it, the more I can't decide if it's a good different or a bad different. I do like Lamb in it, however! It does NOT give you a clue what the book is about though. So there's that to consider.

Covers 4-6. The fourth cover (the left) disturbs me. Can you guess why?! The children are ALL wrong! There are supposed to be TWO girls. And they show three BOYS. Yes, Lamb is a boy, but he is a baby. The fifth cover (middle) would never be a favorite of mine. Though it is a chubby looking It! The sixth cover is just obnoxious, at least to me!

Covers 7 and 8. These two show us the Sand Fairy. One is a bit more mysterious than the other. Which is your favorite?

Covers 9 through 11. These don't exactly excite me. But they don't scream awful either. The middle one is the one I like least. You can't tell when it's that small, but there is something *frightening* about their faces. They definitely DO NOT look like children. Just look at the larger image on Amazon.

There are more covers to explore on LibraryThing.

Do you have a favorite cover? Which one is the worst?

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Hidden Gallery (MG)

The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #2) Maryrose Wood. 2011. HarperCollins. 320 pages.

"But the workmen swore the repairs to the house would be finished by now!"

It's been a few months since the disastrous Christmas affair when the three Incorrigible children--Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia--went a little crazy in front of all the guests. But the children have made friends with the squirrel, Nutsawoo, and they've been behaving well enough ever since. They've been themselves, true, confusing words like matador and metaphor. But they've not been awful or dreadful. Still, a little change of scene might be just the thing. For Penelope Lumley, the young but bright governess, has been invited to London by one of her former teachers. And Miss Lumley is eager to go with the children. She didn't necessarily expect Lord and Lady Ashton to want to go to London too. But the more the merrier, right?

So this second book is ALL about their London adventure. Do you think that these three children--supposedly raised by wolves--can go unnoticed in London? You're right. Things do get a little messy. But in the midst of the chaos, Miss Lumley discovers that she needs to be extra careful. For there is someone who wants to hurt the children. But who?! Miss Lumley's former teacher is NO help at all. Just warning Penelope to not ask questions of anyone and to leave well enough alone. But does that really sound like something Penelope can do?

I liked The Hidden Gallery. I didn't love it as much as the first one, perhaps, but it was a good read, an enjoyable one. Within this one, Penelope makes a new friend, Simon, whom she trusts almost immediately. At times I forget that Penelope is VERY young herself--just fifteen or so? So it was nice to see that she is interested in boys too. That she can think of more than Latin and geography and such. 

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

BBC's Five Children and It

Five Children and It. BBC. 1991. Six thirty minute episodes.

So after reading The Story of the Amulet, I didn't want the adventure to be over. So I decided to begin again! I decided to reread Five Children and It. And in my searching of the library catalog, I discovered that they had a BBC production of this one filmed in 1991. So I braved it.

I watched it this weekend, and, for the most part, I liked it.

I liked it it because it was very faithful to the novel. Yes, two wishes have switched places with one another. And yes, one wish has been left out completely--a choice that I feel was best since it was the "I wish there were Red Indians in England, just the right size for us to fight..." wish. Which leads to this nonsense in the book:

It is wonderful how like an Indian you can make yourselves with blankets and feathers and coloured scarves. Of course none of the children happened to have long black hair, but there was a lot of black calico that had been got to cover school-books with. They cut strips of this into a sort of fine fringe, and fastened it round their heads with the amber-coloured ribbons off the girls' Sunday dresses. Then they stuck turkeys' feathers in the ribbons. The calico looked very like long hair, especially when the strips began to curl up a bit.
'But our faces,' said Anthea, 'they're not at all the right colour. We're all rather pale, and I'm sure I don't know why, but Cyril is the colour of putty.'
'I'm not,' said Cyril.
'The real Indians outside seem to be brownish,' said Robert hastily. 'I think we ought to be really red -- it's sort of superior to have a red skin, if you are one.'
The red ochre cook used for the kitchen bricks seemed to be about the reddest thing in the house. The children mixed some in a saucer with milk, as they had seen cook do for the kitchen floor. Then they carefully painted each other's faces and hands with it, till they were quite as red as any Red Indian need be -- if not redder. (213-14)
So the adventures were very much from the book, and the dialogue, in many places, seemed to come directly from the book. So that was nice.

I liked this adaptation in spite of the bad, bad, bad music. The opening credits and the end credits were especially AWFUL. The end credits had the Sand Fairy singing a song, I was so worried that this song would find its way into my head--into my memory--that I fast forwarded them for the most part. Nothing gets me grabbing for the remote faster than a singing Psammead!!!

As for the special effects, well, I didn't mind the way the Psammead was portrayed. It could have been much, much worse! There were moments I found his interactions with the children charming and just right--in a match the mood/tone of the book way. But then there were moments that annoyed me too. Like the way he "breathed" out his wishes and wiggled his arms. But. For the most part, I was pleased with this aspect of the adaptation.

The other special effects, well, they could have been better perhaps. Or should that be would have been better if they'd been filmed a decade or two later. (I'm thinking of Robert's growing-into-a-giant and the wish for wings.) But the special effects didn't keep me from liking this one. If I had to choose between amazingly wonderful special effects with a script that barely resembled E. Nesbit's book, a script that shares the name and not much else with the novel, then I'd choose the poorer special effects any day.

Have you seen this one? What did you think?

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Weekly Geeks: 2011-23 Literary Prizes

The weekly geeks topic this week is about book awards. I honestly don't care about awards for adult books, for contemporary "literature." But I definitely pay close attention to the children's book awards--many given by the American Library Association. And, for me, the Newbery is the BIG award of the year!

I've read 24 Newbery Winners and 49 Newbery Honor Books. Except for Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins, which won in 2006,  I've read each winner since 1997! And there are quite a few years I've read most (if not all) of the honor books (2011, all but one, the Dark Emperor being tricky to track down; 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007,  2006, two out of four; 2005, 2004.)

My favorite, favorite, favorite Newbery winner would probably be The Giver by Lois Lowry!!! It's the only one on the list that I've read four or five times! (Though some I've read twice!)

Which winners/honors are your favorites?

Here are the winners that I've read:

Moon Over Manifest (2011)
When You Reach Me (2010)
The Graveyard Book (2009)
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! (2008)
The Higher Power of Lucky (2007)
Kira-Kira (2005)
The Tale of Despereaux (2004)
Crispin: The Cross of Lead (2003)
A Single Shard (2002)
A Year Down Yonder (2001)
Bud, Not Buddy (2000)
Holes (1999)
Out of the Dust (1998)
The View From Saturday (1997)
The Giver (1994)
Number the Stars (1990)
Sarah, Plain and Tall (1986)
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (1972)
A Wrinkle in Time (1963)
Island of the Blue Dolphins (1961)
The Door in the Wall (1950)
Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (1947)
Adam of the Road (1943)
Hitty Her First Hundred Years (1930)

Here are the honors books that I've read:

Turtle in Paradise (2011)
Heart of a Samurai (2011)
One Crazy Summer (2011)
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (2010)
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (2010)
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (2010)
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg (2010)
The Underneath (2009)
The Surrender Tree (2009)
Savvy (2009)
After Tupac & D Foster (2009)
Elijah of Buxton (2008)
The Wednesday Wars (2008)
Feathers (2008)
Penny from Heaven (2007)
Hattie Big Sky (2007)
Rules (2007)
Princess Academy (2006)
Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow (2006)
Al Capone Does My Shirts (2005)
The Voice That Challenged a Nation (2005)
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (2005)
Olive's Ocean (2004)
An American Plague (2004)
The House of the Scorpion (2003)
Hope Was Here (2001)
Because of Winn Dixie (2001)
Our Only May Amelia (2000)
A Long Way From Chicago (1999)
Ella Enchanted (1998)
The Thief (1997)
What Jamie Saw (1996)
The Watsons Go To Birmingham: 1963 (1996)
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle (1991)
The Sign of the Beaver (1984)
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (1982)
Ramona and Her Father (1978)
Frog and Toad Together (1973)
To Be A Slave (1969)
Charlotte's Web (1953)
My Father's Dragon (1949)
The Hundred Dresses (1945)
These Happy Golden Years (1944)
Little Town on the Prairie (1942)
The Long Winter (1941)
By the Shores of Silver Lake (1940)
Mr. Popper's Penguins (1939)
On The Banks of Plum Creek (1938)
Millions of Cats (1929)

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday Salon: Week In Review #29


What I Reviewed at Becky's Book Reviews

No Passengers Beyond This Point. Gennifer Choldenko. 2011. Penguin. 256 pages.
Smells Like Treasure. Suzanne Selfors. 2011. Little, Brown. 416 pages.
The Story of the Amulet. E. Nesbit. 1906. 228 pages.
Withering Tights. Louise Rennison. 2011. HarperCollins. 288 pages. 
Cover Her Face. P.D. James. 1962. 254 pages.
Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen. 1811. (The Complete Novels) Random House. p. 3-175.
Genrefied Classics: A Guide to Reading Interests in Classic Literature. Tina Frolund. 2007. Libraries Unlimited. 392 pages.

What I Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

Read Your Bible One Book At A Time: A Refreshing Way To Read God's Word with New Insight and Meaning. Woodrow Kroll. 2002. Gospel Light Publications. 150 pages.
How to Find God in the Bible: A Personal Plan For the Encounter of Your Life. Woodrow Kroll. 2004. Multnomah. 204 pages.
City of Tranquil Light. Bo Caldwell. 2010. Henry Holt. 304 pages.
Embrace Grace: Welcome to the Forgiven Life. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2006. Waterbrook Press. 160 pages.
To The One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3. Sam Storms. 2008. Crossway Books. 240 pages.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Genrefied Classics: A Guide to Reading Interests in Classic Literature

Genrefied Classics: A Guide to Reading Interests in Classic Literature. Tina Frolund. 2007. Libraries Unlimited. 392 pages.

Genrefied Classics is essentially a reference book. A book of bookish lists. There are ten genres explored in the book. Each chapter of genres is broken into sub-genres or categories. Each sub-genre has a list of recommended reads. Each entry lists the author, the title, the year and country of initial publication, details about more recent publications, and information about if the title has been done as a movie or an audio book. Each entry also features 'similar reads' and subject headings for that title.

Classics can be interpreted differently by people--depending on each person's definition of what a classic is and is not. This book only includes "classics" published before 1985. (Ender's Game would be an example of a more recent classic included in this one, the oldest examples would be The Iliad, Aesop's Fables, The Aeneid, etc.)

While the intended audience of this one may be adults who work with kids and teens (fifth grade on up through twelfth grade)--in other words librarians, teachers, etc., I think other readers can benefit from browsing this one. I don't think you have to be looking for a classic to put in the hands of a teenager to benefit from it.


There are categories or subcategories within this one which I wish were a bit longer because I would love even more suggestions. I would have LOVED it if the chapter on romance had been longer. I would have thought there would be more categories too. This section just felt a little uninspired, if that makes sense. Because while it's nice to include Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, it's not like those aren't oh-so-obvious choices. And to list only one Georgette Heyer?! I also think it would have been nice for Eugenia Price to get a mention or two either in this section or the historical fiction section. And Grace Livingston Hill, for that matter, either here or in inspirational fiction. And it just felt wrong, wrong, wrong for Elizabeth Gaskell not to be included in the romance section or the historical fiction section. Surely North and South and Wives and Daughters and Cranford are more than worthy to be included!!! I mean North and South is absolute must-must-must read in my opinion.

I was pleased to see some of my favorite authors included: Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Josephine Tey, Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, John Steinbeck, L.M. Montgomery, etc. Some of the authors recommended were unfamiliar, which is a GOOD thing in my opinion. I picked this one up wanting to discover new-to-me-authors in my genres of choice. Unfortunately, some of them might be a bit tricky to find at the library. 

Because of my familiarity with some of the subjects (sub-categories), their recommended reading lists seemed too short, too incomplete, as you might expect. If you come to the book wanting new-to-you authors, new-to-you-books, the more you've read of the basics, the more that will be the case. But these lists aren't supposed to be comprehensive, they're supposed to be more basic than that.

One thing that also GREATLY annoyed me (I have low tolerance for this, don't laugh) is when they used the WRONG, WRONG, OH-SO-WRONG listing for the Chronicles of Narnia. Publication order. Publication order. Publication order. That's all I have to say about that.

As you might expect, the longest chapter is devoted to historical fiction. Over sixty pages worth of recommended reading. The shortest chapter is definitely the one devoted to inspirational fiction.
The ten genres are:

Adventure

  • Espionage
  • Journey
  • Lost World
  • Nature and Animals
  • Sea Stories
  • Survival
  • Swashbucklers
Historical Fiction
  • Ancient Egypt
  • Ancient Greece
  • The Roman Empire
  • The Middle Ages (A.D. 500-1500)
  • Sixteenth, Seventeenth, Eighteenth Century Europe and England
  • The Spanish Colonies
  • Colonial America
  • American Revolution
  • American Civil War 1861-1865
  • Slavery
  • Settlers and Pioneers
  • Westerns
  • Gilded Age
  • Jazz Age
  • The Great Depression
  • Urban Realism and the Growth of City Life
  • World War I
  • World War II
  • Victorian England
  • Russian Novels Nineteenth Century
  • Russia Twentieth Century
Science Fiction
  • Aliens
  • Dystopias and Alternative Futures
  • Science Gone Awry
  • Space Travel, Adventure, and Life in Other Worlds
  • Time Travel
Fantasy
  • General Fantasy
  • High Fantasy
  • Mythology
  • Epic and Legend
  • Arthurian Fiction
  • Folktales
  • Fairy Tales
  • Animal Fantasy and Fables
  • Humorous Fantasy
Horror
  • Ghost Stories
  • Haunted Houses
  • Gothic Horror
  • Vampires
  • Supernatural and Weird Stories
  • Psychological Horror
  • Science Gone Awry
Mystery and Suspense
  • Detectives
  • Hard-Boiled Private Eyes
  • Crime and True Crime
  • Suspense
Coming of Age and Other Life Issues
  • Coming of Age
  • Relationships
  • Family
  • Extreme Mental States (Mental Illness and Drug Addiction)
  • Death
  • Social Conflict
Romance Fiction
  • Gothic Romance
  • Historical
  • Regency Romance
Inspirational Fiction
  • Religious Scriptures
  • Early Christianity
  • Christian Literature
  • Other Inspirational Stories
Humor



© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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