Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year in Review: My Favorites of 2011

I read 442 books in 2011! I am pleased with that number. It is not as much as in previous years, but I am fine with that.

My top five picture books are:

Hooray for Amanda & Her Alligator. Mo Willems. 2011. HarperCollins. 72 pages.
Is Everyone Ready for Fun by Jan Thomas. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages.
My Side of the Car. Kate Feiffer. Illustrated by Jules Feiffer. 2011. Candlewick. 32 pages.
The Princess and the Pig. Jonathan Emmett. Illustrated by Poly Bernatene. 2011. Walker. 32 pages.
The Best Birthday Party Ever. Jennifer LaRue Huget. Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 2011. Random House. 40 pages.

My top three children's books are:

Clementine and the Family Meeting. Sara Pennypacker. Illustrations by Marla Frazee. 2011. Hyperion. 164 pages.
Should I Share My Ice Cream: An Elephant and Piggie Book. Mo Willems. 2011. Hyperion. 64 pages.
Toys Come Home. Emily Jenkins. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. 2011. Random House. 144 pages.

My top nonfiction picture book is:


If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet. Leslie McGuirk. 2011. Random House. 48 pages.

My top poetry picture book is:

Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems. Kristine O'Connell George. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. 2011. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 47 pages.

My top five middle grade books are:

Doggirl. Robin Brande. 2011. Ryer Publishing. 269 pages.
The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic. Jennifer Trafton. With illustrations by Brett Helquist. 2010. Penguin. 352 pages.
Small Acts of Amazing Courage. Gloria Whelan. 2011. Simon & Schuster. 224 pages.
The Light Princess. George MacDonald. 1864. 110 pages.
Heidi. Johanna Spyri. 1880/2009. Puffin Classics/Penguin.  320 pages.

My top five young adult books are:

Divergent. Veronica Roth. 2011. May 2011. HarperCollins. 496 pages.
Pathfinder. Orson Scott Card. 2010. November 2010. Simon & Schuster. 662 pages.
Withering Tights. Louise Rennison. 2011. HarperCollins. 288 pages.
I'll Be There. Holly Goldberg Sloan. 2011. Little, Brown. 392 pages.
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (#1 Heroes of Olympus) 2010. Hyperion. 576 pages.

My top twelve adult books are:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett. 2009. Thorndike Press. 722 pages.
The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb. Melanie Benjamin. 2011. Random House. 425 pages.
Strong Poison. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1930/1995. HarperCollins. 272 pages.
Our Mutual Friend. Charles Dickens. 1864/1865. 880 pages.
The Sunne in Splendour: "A fascinating portrait of the controversial King Richard III--a monarch betrayed in life by his allies and betrayed in death by history." by Sharon Kay Penman. 1982. 944 pages.
The Woman in White. Wilkie Collins. 1860. 672 pages.
The Virginian. Owen Wister. 1902. Penguin Classics. 370 pages.
Some Buried Caesar. Nero Wolfe Mystery. Rex Stout. 1938. Random House. 288 pages.
Kinfolk. Pearl S. Buck. 1945/2004. Moyer Bell. 408 pages.
The Small House at Allington. Anthony Trollope. 1864. 752 pages.
North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1854-1855. 452 pages.
The Moving Finger. Agatha Christie. 1942/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 208 pages.

My top five Christian fiction books are:

The Colonel's Lady. Laura Frantz. 2011. Revell. 412 pages.
City of Tranquil Light. Bo Caldwell. 2010. Henry Holt. 304 pages.
Mine is the Night. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2011. Waterbrook. 464 pages
Bathsheba. (The Wives of King David #3) Jill Eileen Smith. 2011. Revell. 350 pages.
The Merchant's Daughter. Melanie Dickerson. 2011. Zondervan. 285 pages.

My top five Christian nonfiction books are:

Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Tullian Tchividjian. 2011. Crossway Books. 220 pages.
Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself. Joe Thorn. Foreword by Sam Storms. 2011. Crossway Books. 144 pages.
Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. John MacArthur.
Through Gates of Splendor. Elisabeth Elliot. 1956/2005. Tyndale. 296 pages.
Lit: A Christian Guide to Reading Books. Tony Reinke. 2011. Crossway Books. 208 pages.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, December 30, 2011

Year in Review: 12 Books of the Month


January: Strong Poison. Dorothy L. Sayers. 
February: Our Mutual Friend. Charles Dickens.
March: The Small House at Allington. Anthony Trollope. 
April: The Ropemaker. Peter Dickinson. 
May: Kinfolk. Pearl S. Buck.
June: The Golden Spiders. Rex Stout. 
July: City of Tranquil Light. Bo Caldwell.
August: The Colonel's Lady. Laura Frantz.
September: The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb. Melanie Benjamin.
October: The Woman in White. Wilkie Collins.
November: The Sunne in Splendour: "A fascinating portrait of the controversial King Richard III--a monarch betrayed in life by his allies and betrayed in death by history." by Sharon Kay Penman
December: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Year In Review: 52 Book of the Weeks


What I've done is gone through my 'Sunday Salon' posts of the past year where I shared my week's reading. I picked my favorite-and-best from each week. These books may not have ended up in that month's top five, but these are the best books I read week by week by week. I chose to focus on middle grade through adult.

1. Dash & Lily's Book of Dares. Rachel Cohn & David Levithan.
2. Five Flavors of Dumb. Antony John.
3. Strong Poison. Dorothy L. Sayers.
4. Murder at the Vicarage. A Miss Marple Mystery. Agatha Christie.
5. Pathfinder. Orson Scott Card.
6. Mrs. Mike: "The Heartwarming Classic Story of the Boston Girl Who Married A Rugged Canadian Mountie." by Benedict & Nancy Freedman.
7. Divergent. Veronica Roth.
8. Our Mutual Friend. Charles Dickens.
9. North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell.
10. Little Dorrit. Charles Dickens.
11. The Small House at Allington. Anthony Trollope.
12. Nightlight: A Parody. The Harvard Lampoon.
13. Mansfield Park. Jane Austen.
14. Persuasion. Jane Austen
15. Matched. Ally Condie.
16. The Pilgrimage: The Unforgettable SF Masterpiece of the Strangers Among Us: The First Book of The People. Zenna Henderson
17. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. C.S. Lewis.
18. The Land of the Silver Apples. Nancy Farmer.
19. East Wind: West Wind. Pearl S. Buck.
20. Kinfolk. Pearl S. Buck.
21. The Pickwick Papers. Charles Dickens.
22. The Virginian. Owen Wister.
23. The Golden Spiders. Rex Stout.
24. The Cat Who Could Read Backwards. Lilian Jackson Braun.
25. Doggirl. Robin Brande.
26. The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic. Jennifer Trafton.
27. To Dream in the City of Sorrows. (Babylon 5: Book #9). Kathryn M. Drennan.
28. Trauma Queen. Barbara Dee.
29. Withering Tights. Louise Rennison.
30. The Light Princess. George MacDonald.
31. My Theodosia. Anya Seton.
32. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. E. L. Konigsburg.
33. The Colonel's Lady. Laura Frantz.
34. Into the Parallel. Robin Brande.
35. Wrapped. Jennifer Bradbury.
36. The Five Red Herrings. Dorothy L. Sayers.
37. Home to Harmony. Philip Gulley.
38. Mister Creecher. Chris Priestly.
39. The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
40. The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. Ree Drummond.
41. The Woman in White. Wilkie Collins
42. Wonderland Creek. Lynn Austin.
43. Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow. James Rollins.
44. Alice I Have Been. Melanie Benjamin.
45 The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2). Rick Riordan.
46. The Sunne in Splendour: "A fascinating portrait of the controversial King Richard III--a monarch betrayed in life by his allies and betrayed in death by history." by Sharon Kay Penman.
47. The Two Towers. J.R.R. Tolkien.
48. Jane Eyre. Charlotte Bronte.
49. The Nine Tailors. Dorothy L. Sayers.
50. Doomsday Book. Connie Willis.
51. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
52. The Future of Us. Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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December Reflections

I read 26 books in December.

Children's Books 3; Middle Grade: 2; Young Adult: 4; Adult: 12; Christian Fiction: 2; Christian Nonfiction: 2; Nonfiction: 1.

Review copies: 3; Library Books: 21; Books I Bought: 2.

My top five:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
The Merchant's Daughter. Melanie Dickerson.
Busman's Honeymoon. Dorothy L. Sayers.
Doomsday Book. Connie Willis
Clementine and the Family Meeting. Sara Pennypacker.

Reviews at Becky's Book Reviews:

The Death Cure. James Dashner. 2011. Random House. 324 pages.
All These Things I've Done. Gabrielle Zevin. 2011. FSG. 354 pages.
Eve. Anna Carey. 2011. HarperCollins. 322 pages.
The Secret History of Tom Trueheart. Ian Beck. 2006. HarperCollins. 345 pages.
Gideon The Catpurse. Linda Buckley-Archer. 2006. Simon & Schuster. 405 pages.
A Shilling for Candles. Josephine Tey. 1936. 240 pages.
The Nine Tailors. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1934. 312 pages.
The Fat Man: A Tale of North Pole Noir. Ken Harmon. 2010. Penguin. 275 pages.
The Return of the King. J.R.R. Tolkien. 1955/1965. Houghton Mifflin. 311 pages.
Hercule Poirot's Christmas. Agatha Christie. 1938/1939. Black Dog & Leventhal. 272 pages.
Doomsday Book. Connie Willis. 1992. Random House. 592 pages. 
I Am Half Sick of Shadows. Alan Bradley. 2011. Random House. 300 pages.
Busman's Honeymoon. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1937. HarperCollins. 403 pages.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. 2009. Thorndike Press. 722 pages.
Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen. 1813. 386 pages.
The Future of Us. Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler. 2011. Penguin. 356 pages.
Thrones, Dominations. Dorothy L. Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh. 1998. St. Martin's Press. 312 pages.
A Presumption of Death by Jill Paton Walsh & Dorothy Sayers. 2002. St. Martin's Press. 384 pages.
The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England. A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century. Ian Mortimer. 2008. Simon & Schuster. 345 pages.

Reviews at Young Readers:

Clementine and the Family Meeting. Sara Pennypacker. Illustrations by Marla Frazee. 2011. Hyperion. 164 pages.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals, and Other Fatal Circumstances. Lenore Look. 2011. Random House. 198 pages.
Hound Dog True. Linda Urban. 2011. Harcourt. 152 pages.

Reviews at Operation Actually Read Bible:


The Mercy. Beverly Lewis. 2011. Bethany House. 310 pages.
My First Read and Learn Countdown to Christmas. Dr. Mary Manz Simon. Illustrated by Siobhan Harrison. 2009. Scholastic.
God With Us: Divine Condescension And the Attributes of God. K. Scott Oliphint. 2011. Crossway. 303 pages.
The Merchant's Daughter. Melanie Dickerson. 2011. Zondervan. 285 pages.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Future of Us (YA)

The Future of Us. Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler. 2011. Penguin. 356 pages.

I can't break up with Graham today, even though I told my friends I'd do it the next time I saw him. 

I enjoyed this one. I'm not sure I loved it. But I can say that it held my attention. And it made me smile more than once. And it has a very interesting premise.

The Future of Us is narrated by two teens. Emma Nelson and her former best friend Josh Templeton. After a misunderstanding, he tried to kiss her at the movies, these two stopped speaking together. But these two are about to become close again. And all because of AOL.

The year is 1996. Josh has received an AOL CD in the mail. He doesn't have a computer, but Emma does. She has a brand, new computer. A gift from her Dad. She may not have a good relationship with him, but her new computer is awesome.

So. This novel is about what happens when these two discover something puzzling and amazing. After signing in, the computer goes to a facebook sign-in page. Emma and Josh have the opportunity to read their facebook pages....from fifteen years in the future. They get to 'see' who they married, how many children they have, where they work, where they live, who they're friends with. Even what meals they're eating. It seems their future-selves SHARE every little detail about their lives.

But Emma isn't content reading about the future. She wants to change it. Josh isn't so sure that's a good idea. Emma just can't see why Josh always ends up happy and content and drama-free...and why she always ends up unhappy, complaining, worried. No matter where she lives, who she's married to, what job she has or doesn't have.

Can Emma learn how to live in the moment, for the moment? Can Emma learn how to like herself?

The Future of Us is an interesting coming-of-age novel. It's fun and playful, in a way. (Much more so than Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why.)

I think this one will appeal most to adults. To those that were teens in the nineties. If you were in high school around this time, then this one is for you. There are dozens and dozens of references just for you. Things that only you will appreciate it. Like all the references to Crash Into Me. Though it's never mentioned, I wonder if Emma and Josh's children would listen to this lullaby...

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Presumption of Death

A Presumption of Death by Jill Paton Walsh & Dorothy Sayers. 2002. St. Martin's Press. 384 pages.

'Whoever, for example, Lady Peter,' said Miss Agnes Twitterton, 'is that?"
'You do have a point, my dear,' said Mrs. Goodacre, the vicar's wife, who was standing with the two women behind a trestle table at one end of the Village Hall, pouring out Miss Twitterton's parsnip wine into rows of assorted sherry glasses. 'There was a time, as you say, and not so long ago, when we would have known everybody we could possibly meet here--when any stranger was a seven-day-wonder--and now here we are organizing a village hop, and we don't know half the people here. They could be anybody, indeed I expect they are.' 

A Presumption of Death is set in 1940. Lord Peter and Bunter are in Europe on a secret-mission. Lady Harriet is in the country at Talboys with the children. Her and Peter have two small sons, Bredon and Paul, and she's also taken Charles and Mary's three children, Charlie, Mary, and Harriet. Harriet is not the only woman thinking of the safety of her children, no, many families are trying to send their children to the country for safety. The villagers are opening their homes, and, are willing to their duty for the war. The village IS preparing for war. They've been working on air raid shelters and organizing themselves to prepare for the worst. It is during the rehearsal of an air raid that a murder is committed! A woman is found dead. Almost everyone was accounted for in one of the two shelters. But someone murdered the young woman...can the local police with a little aid from Lady Harriet solve this crime?

I liked this one. I can't really say too much about it. It is a mystery after all. And the less you know, the better it will be! But I enjoyed it. I think Jill Paton Walsh has done a good job with the characters, keeping them true to the originals, yet giving readers more of what they love.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Fifth Trip in December

New Loot:

World Without End by Ken Follett
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
Fire Watch by Connie Willis
Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer
The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson
The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
From the Land of the Moon by Milena Agus; translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein
Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio; translated by Guido Waldman

Leftover Loot:

Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov
Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov
Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein
The Deception at Lyme by Carrie Bebris
Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, translated and adapted by Peter Ackroyd
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
Alanna the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce
In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce
Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell
Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

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, December 27, 2011

2012 Challenges: European Reading Challenge

European Reading Challenge 2012
Hosted by Rose City Reader
January 1, 2012 - January 31, 2013

Essentially, "The idea is to read books by European authors or books set in European countries (no matter where the author comes from). The books can be anything – novels, short stories, memoirs, travel guides, cookbooks, biography, poetry, or any other genre. You can participate at different levels, but each book must be by a different author and set in a different country – it's supposed to be a tour."

I am signing up at the five-star (deluxe entourage) level:

1) His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg: Courage, Rescue, and Mystery During World War II. Louise Borden. (Sweden OR Hungary; NONFICTION)
2) My Family for the War. Anne C. Voorhoeve. (England OR Germany)
3) All Our Worldly Goods. Irene Nemirovsky. (France)
4) In the Garden of Beasts. Erik Larson. (Germany; NONFICTION)
5) Between Shades of Gray. Ruta Sepetys. (Lithuania)
6) Breaking Stalin's Nose. Eugene Yelchin. (Russia--Soviet Union)
7) Mascot: Unraveling the Mystery of My Jewish Father's Nazi Boyhood. Mark Kurzem. (Latvia/Belarus; NONFICTION)
8)  Smuggled by Christina Shea. (Romania/Hungary)
9) The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman (Czech Republic)
10) The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges (Russia and Montenegro)
11) Gods and Warriors. Michelle Paver. (Greece)
12)  The Flight of Gemma Hardy. Margot Livesey. (Scotland/Iceland)


Right now, I'm thinking my countries will be: Great Britain, France, Russia, Sweden, and Italy. I am also thinking that I'll try to read more than that. That I might try to read ten books. Other countries I might visit include: Greece, Poland, Spain, Austria, Germany. Or Denmark, Hungary, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium. Of course, I might change my mind as to the countries. But I am SO EXCITED about this challenge!

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Top Ten MG/YA Fantasy OR Science Fiction

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic. Jennifer Trafton. With illustrations by Brett Helquist. 2010. Penguin. 352 pages.

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

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

The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2). Rick Riordan. 2011. Hyperion. 525 pages.

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

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

No Passengers Beyond This Point. Gennifer Choldenko. 2011. Penguin. 256 pages.

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

All These Things I've Done. Gabrielle Zevin. 2011. FSG. 354 pages.

A Year Without Autumn. Liz Kessler. 2011. (October 11, 2011). Candlewick Press. 304 pages.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Top Ten Historical Fiction


City of Tranquil Light. Bo Caldwell. 2010. Henry Holt. 304 pages.

Mine is the Night. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2011. Waterbrook. 464 pages.

The Colonel's Lady. Laura Frantz. 2011. Revell. 412 pages.

Wonderland Creek. Lynn Austin. 2011. Bethany House. 400 pages.

The Help. Kathryn Stockett. 2009. Thorndike Press. 722 pages.

The Sunne in Splendour: "A fascinating portrait of the controversial King Richard III--a monarch betrayed in life by his allies and betrayed in death by history." by Sharon Kay Penman. 1982. 944 pages.

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb. Melanie Benjamin. 2011. Random House. 425 pages.

A Heart Most Worthy. Siri Mitchell. 2011. Bethany House. 384 pages.

Mrs. Mike: "The Heartwarming Classic Story of the Boston Girl Who Married A Rugged Canadian Mountie." by Benedict & Nancy Freedman. 1947. 284 pages.
A Most Unsuitable Match. Stephanie Grace Whitson. 2011. Bethany House. 336 pages.


© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thrones, Dominations

Thrones, Dominations. Dorothy L. Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh. 1998. St. Martin's Press. 312 pages.


'I do not,' said Monsieur Theophile Daumier, 'understand the English.'
'Nor does anybody,' replied Mr Paul Delagardie, 'themselves least of all.'

Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet return to London after their honeymoon, Harriet hasn't been unconditionally accepted by all of Peter's family--at least not yet. And let's be honest, she may never be welcomed by Peter's sister-in-law, Helen. But she is happy as a new wife. Though she'd admit it feels strange to not have to write detective stories anymore. She still wants to write, but her writing is not prompted by absolute necessity. And so she's still trying to figure out what that means to her writing, how to get focused on her work--or should I say stay focused on her work. She's being introduced to new people all the time. Some of these new acquaintances she welcomes, some are more forced upon her. The Harwell couple, for example. Neither Lord Peter or Harriet "enjoy" spending time with Laurence Harwell and his wife, Rosamund Harwell; and it should be said that Laurence Harwell and Rosamund Harwell don't truly "enjoy" spending time with them either. But. Society is society and the connection may prove useful at some point.

Thrones, Dominations provides an intimate (not that kind of intimate) look at two marriages. Peter and Harriet and Laurence and Rosamund. The two marriages do share certain similarities. Husbands who at some point in the past 'rescued' their wives. The husbands being of higher social class than their wives. But a closer examination proves the differences outweigh any similarities. For it becomes clear that Lord Peter and Harried LOVE each other truly--with a forever-kind-of-love. And for Rosamund and Laurence, what love might have existed is buried under disinterest, neglect, and manipulative games. She wants her husband to be jealous of her, possessive of her, to want her to be his and his alone. And he just doesn't care who she talks to, who she dines with, who she goes about with in town, etc.

Halfway through the novel, once the reader gets a chance to know both couples and the society they share, the mystery begins. Lord Peter is once again called upon to solve the mystery and find the murderer.

I enjoyed this one. I did. I particularly liked seeing Harriet and Peter together. I thought she did a great job with their dialogue and the development of their relationship. I would recommend this one to those that can't get enough of this couple!

Harriet and Lady Severn
"Well, how do you like it?"
"Like what, Lady Severn?"
"Being part of the Wimsey Estate."
"Peter doesn't treat me as part of the estate."
"I suppose not. He always had good manners. An excellent bedside manner, too, or so they tell me."
Harriet said gravely, "I don't think they ought to have told."
In spite of herself, the corners of her mouth twitched and the vulture chuckled again.
"You're quite right, my dear, they oughtn't. You won't tell, I can see. Never tell me anything; I always repeat it. Are you in love with him?"
"Yes. I don't mind having that repeated."
"Then why didn't you marry him sooner?"
"Obstinacy," said Harriet, and this time she grinned openly.
"Humph! You're probably the first woman that ever kept him waiting. What do you do with him, now you've got him, hey? Lick his toes, or make him sit up and beg?"
"What do you advise?"
"Honest dealing," said the old lady, sharply. "A man's none the better for being fretted to fiddle-strings. You're going to amuse me. Most of these young women are very dull. They either take offence or think I'm a scream. What do you think?"
"I think," said Harriet, feeling she might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb, "you are behaving like a character in a book. And I think you are doing it on purpose."
"That's rather shrewd of you," said the vulture.
"When I put you in a book," pursued Harriet, "I shall make that aspect of your psychology quite clear."
"All right," said Lady Severn. "I'll take six copies. And I'll promise to live till it's published." (41-42)
Lord Peter to Harriet on her writing:

"How I envy you your capacity to take facts or leave them," said Peter. (51)

Harriet to Mr. Amery:

"You should never say thank you for a good review," said Harriet. "That would imply that one had done a favour to the author, whereas one has simply done justice to the book." (101)

Lord Peter and Harriet:

"It is perfectly possible, I suppose," said Lord Peter to his wife, over breakfast, "for someone to be murdered while doing something she does not usually do, or behaving in a way unaccustomed to her. But it is an affront to the natural feelings of a criminologist, all the same."
"It has a feeling of lightning striking twice in the same spot, you mean?"
"It does rather. I would greatly prefer it if in every tiny break in precedent was in some way connected to the crime. And therefore could be constructed as a clue by a brainy enough person."
"Well, if this were a work of fiction, one would certainly make sure that was the case," said Harriet. "But in real life, Peter, don't people usually do unusual things? Aren't they always going to places for the first time, mildly surprising their friends by little switches in behavior, suddenly getting bored, or headachy, and dashing out to parties, or going early to bed, or buying a red dress instead of a blue one, or suddenly marrying, at the age of forty-five, a highly unsuitable person?"
"Do you mean that unpredictable behavior may simply reveal the secret truth of someone's inner man or woman?"
"In a novel, of course, it would. Things have to be connected or the reader would not believe them."
"It's odd, that, isn't it?" said Peter. "If unconnected and spur-of-the-moment things keep happening in the real world, why shouldn't they be plausible in novels? Shouldn't the most plausible picture of life be a portrait of reality in all its bizarre and incoherent confusion?"
"I think a novel has to deal in a different kind of truth," said Harriet. "For example, if poor Rosamund's death were in a novel, readers would know at once that the Sunbury attacker who so alarmed Laurence Harwell could not have done it. If a wholly unconnected stranger arrived in a story just in time to commit the crime and disappear, there would be no plot."
"But in real life random things occur, and there may actually be no plot, in that sense of the word," said Wimsey, thoughtfully. (137-38)

Lord Peter to Inspector Parker
"I wish you wouldn't get so obsessed by motives, Charles. Motives are ten a penny. There's always a motive for anybody doing anything. Just find out who had the opportunity, and you can make up the motive."
"I don't really agree with you," said Charles. "Juries like motives, you know." (141)

Lord Peter and Harriet
"Frivolity can give a good deal of pleasure," he said, mildly. "But I don't like to hear you call detective stories frivolous."
"But aren't they? Compare to the real thing?"
"What do you call the real thing?"
"Great literature; Paradise Lost; novels like Great Expectations, or Crime and Punishment or War and Peace. Or on the other hand real detection, dealing with real crimes."
"You seem not to appreciate the importance of your special form," he said. "Detective stories contain a dream of justice. They project a vision of a world in which wrongs are righted, and villains are betrayed by clues that they did not know they were leaving. A world in which murderers are caught and hanged, and innocent victims are avenged, and future murder is deterred."
"But it is just a vision, Peter. The world we live in is not like that."
"It sometimes is," he said. "Besides, hasn't it occurred to you that to be beneficent, a vision does not have to be true?"
"What benefits could be conferred by falsehood?" she asked.
"Not falsehood, Harriet; idealism. Detective stories keep alive a view of the world which ought to be true. Of course people read them for fun, for diversion, as they do crossword puzzles. But underneath they feed a hunger for justice, and heaven help us if ordinary people cease to feel that." (151)
Dowager Duchess in a letter:

Sent Franklin to Hatchards for copy of War and Peace, thinking today good time to start long book...Silly woman came back with Anna Karenina, saying it was the nearest thing she could find. Got as far as first sentence, then stopped to think. "All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Great author has got that the wrong way round. I think unhappiness is much the same whatever the reasons for it, and happiness is a quirky odd sort of thing... (312)



© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, December 26, 2011

The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England

The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England. A Handbook for Visitors to the Fourteenth Century. Ian Mortimer. 2008. Simon & Schuster. 345 pages.

It is the cathedral that you will see first.

Is this book as promising as it sounds? Is it dry and boring? OR is it actually FUN?

I found The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England a fun and delightful read. It was written in a way that I wish all history books could be written. If history textbooks read like this one, perhaps more people would like studying it!

The text was very engaging. The author is speaking directly to readers as if they were actually going to be visiting the past. The past feels very real, very much alive.

The premise is fun and unique. As the jacket flap says, "The past is a foreign country. This is your guidebook." And..."A time machine has just transported you back to the fourteenth century. What do you see? How do you dress? How do you earn a living and how much are you paid? What sort of food will you be offered by a peasant or a monk or a lord? And more important, where will you stay?"

It is divided essentially into eleven chapters:
  • The Landscape
  • The People
  • The Medieval Character
  • Basic Essentials
  • What to Wear
  • Traveling
  • Where To Stay
  • What to Eat and Drink
  • Health and Hygeine
  • The Law
  • What to Do
My favorite chapter was "Health and Hygiene." "What to Wear," "The People," and "Traveling" were also quite interesting. (My least favorite chapter was "The Law.")

Overall, I found the book fascinating. I did. I think it's a great companion read for those who love historical fiction. There are so many great books set during this time period, and reading this book can help you appreciate the time period even more, I think.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Top Ten Dorothy Sayers' Quotes

These are the Dorothy Sayers' mysteries I read in 2011!

Whose Body?, Clouds of Witness Unnatural Death, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. Five Red Herrings. Strong Poison. Have His Carcase. Murder Must AdvertiseGaudy Night. Nine Tailors. Busman's Honeymoon.

And one of my favorite things about the series--besides, of course, how giddy-making Lord Peter Wimsey is--is how quotable the books are! So here are my TOP TEN (not in any order) quotes from the series:

From Whose Body?

1. "One demands a little originality in these days, even from murderers," said Lady Swaffham. "Like dramatists, you know--so much easier in Shakespeare's time, wasn't it? Always the same girl dressed up as a man, and even that borrowed from Boccaccio or Dante or somebody. I'm sure if I'd been a Shakespeare hero, the very minute I saw a slim-legged young page-boy I'd have said: "Odsbodikins! There's that girl again!" (123)

2. "Look here, Wimsey--you've been reading detective stories; you're talking nonsense." (29)

From Clouds of Witnesses:

3. "Mother said--well, I told you what she said. By the way, how do you spell ipecacuanhna?"
Mr. Parker spelt it.
"Damn you!" said Lord Peter. "I did think I'd stumped you that time. I believe you went and looked it up beforehand. No decent-minded person would know how to spell ipecacuanha out of his own head. Anyway, as you were saying, it's easy to see which side of the family has the detective instinct."
"I didn't say so--"
"I know. Why didn't you? I think my mother's talents deserve a little acknowledgment. I said so to her, as a matter of fact, and she replied in these memorable words: 'My dear child, you can give it a long name if you like, but I'm an old-fashioned woman, and I call it mother-wit, and it's so rare for a man to have it that if he does you write a book about him and call him Sherlock Holmes.'" (97)

From Strong Poison:
After the *first* proposal

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

5. "If anybody ever marries you, it will be for the pleasure of hearing you talk piffle," said Harriet, severely.
"A humiliating reason, but better than no reason at all." (128)

From Have His Carcase:

6. "Darling, if you danced like an elderly elephant with arthritis, I would dance the sun and moon into the sea with you. I have waited a thousand years to see you dance in that frock."
"Idiot!" said Harriet (151).
From Five Red Herrings:

7. The essence of detection is secrecy. It has no business to be spectacular. But you can watch me if you like. (218)

From Gaudy Night:

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

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

From Busman's Holiday:

10. "I am always trying to say something too silly to be believed; but I never manage it." (256)




© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen. 1813. 386 pages.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

Pride and Prejudice is the first Austen novel I remember reading. And it's such a lovely, lovely read. There is something wonderfully satisfying about it. The characters, the dialogue, the letters.

I reread it this month hoping to recapture some of the joy of that first experience. I don't know if that's even possible. To reread something with new eyes, to seek to feel exactly the same way about it as you did before, but I tried my best.

Did I love it? Yes. Of course. It's Pride and Prejudice. But while other Austen novels have improved upon rereads--me liking them more than I did before, there is no improving Pride and Prejudice.
That's not a bad thing.

Is Pride and Prejudice your favorite Austen? It probably isn't mine. Mine would probably be Persuasion. I love and adore Persuasion. I do. There's just something oh-so-magical about it for me. But Pride and Prejudice though it isn't my favorite it is definitely special. Would I have gone on to read other Austen novels if I hadn't loved Pride and Prejudice? Would I have sought out every Austen movie adaptation if I hadn't loved it so much? Probably not.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday Salon: Week In Review #51

Merry Christmas!!!!

Reviews at Becky's Book Reviews:

I Am Half Sick of Shadows. Alan Bradley. 2011. Random House. 300 pages.
Busman's Honeymoon. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1937. HarperCollins. 403 pages.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. 2009. Thorndike Press. 722 pages.
All These Things I've Done. Gabrielle Zevin. 2011. FSG. 354 pages.
Eve. Anna Carey. 2011. HarperCollins. 322 pages.
Hound Dog True. Linda Urban. 2011. Harcourt. 152 pages. 
The Secret History of Tom Trueheart. Ian Beck. 2006. HarperCollins. 345 pages.

Reviews at Operation Actually Read Bible:

God With Us: Divine Condescension And the Attributes of God. K. Scott Oliphint. 2011. Crossway. 303 pages.
The Merchant's Daughter. Melanie Dickerson. 2011. Zondervan. 285 pages.


Reviews at Young Readers:

Clementine and the Family Meeting. Sara Pennypacker. Illustrations by Marla Frazee. 2011. Hyperion. 164 pages.
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Dead Bodies, Funerals, and Other Fatal Circumstances. Lenore Look. 2011. Random House. 198 pages.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Top Ten Mysteries

I have read seventy mysteries in 2011! (Before January 1, 2011, I'd only read eleven.) These are the mystery authors I've read this year:

  • Agatha Christie
  • Dorothy Sayers
  • Rex Stout 
  • Alan Bradley
  • Carrie Bebris 
  • Lilian Jackson Braun
  • Wilkie Collins
  • Jill Paton Walsh 
  • Gyles Brandreth 
  • Josephine Tey
  • P.D. James
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Elizabeth Peters 
  • Kathy Lynn Emerson 
  • Marilee Brothers
  • Robert J. Randisi
  • Helen Grant
  • Anya Seton 
  • Ken Harmon 
And these are my top ten books:


The Intrigue at Highbury: Or, Emma's Match. Carrie Bebris. 2010. Tor. 317 pages.


The Woman in White. Wilkie Collins. 1860. 672 pages.

A Red Herring Without Mustard: A Flavia de Luce Novel. Alan Bradley. 2011. Random House. 399 pages.


Sad Cypress. Agatha Christie. 1939/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 256 pages.

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

Some Buried Caesar. Nero Wolfe Mystery. Rex Stout. 1938. Random House. 288 pages.

The Golden Spiders. Rex Stout. 1953. Random House. 206 pages.

4:50 From Paddington. Agatha Christie. 1957/2007. Black Dog & Leventhal. 288 pages.

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

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

© 2011 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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