Thursday, February 28, 2013

February Reflections

This month I read 40 books. 

My top five:

  1.  Victoria Rebels. Carolyn Meyer.
  2. The Center of Everything. Linda Urban.
  3.  The Man With Two Left Feet. P.G. Wodehouse
  4. The Cape Cod Mystery. Phoebe Atwood Taylor. 
  5. The Fairest Beauty. Melanie Dickerson.

Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction:
  1. Anne of Avonlea. L.M. Montgomery. 1909. 304 pages.
  2. The Story Girl. L.M. Montgomery. 1911. 220 pages.
  3. Elsie Dinsmore. Martha Finley. 1867. 320 pages
  4. A Tangle of Knots. Lisa Graff. 2013. Penguin. 240 pages.
  5. The Center of Everything. Linda Urban. 2013. Harcourt. 208 pages.
  6. Pollyanna Grows Up. Eleanor H. Porter. 1915. 304 pages.
  7. Revenge of The Girl With The Great Personality. Elizabeth Eulberg. 2013. [March] Scholastic. 272 pages.
  8. Victoria Rebels. Carolyn Meyer. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 192 pages.
Adult Fiction:
  1. Mary Barton. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1848. 437 pages.
  2. Miss Billy. Eleanor H. Porter. 1911. Dodo Press. 208 pages.
  3. Miss Billy's Decision. Eleanor H. Porter. 1912. Dodo Press. 248 pages.  
  4. The Leavenworth Case. Anna Katharine Green. 1878. 439 pages.
  5. Unnatural Death. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1927. HarperCollins. 288 pages.
  6. The Cape Cod Mystery. Phoebe Atwood Taylor. 1931. Countryman Press. 190 pages. 
  7. The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1928/1995. HarperCollins. 256 pages.  
  8. Regency Buck. Georgette Heyer. 1935. 352 pages.
  9. The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Agatha Christie. 1920/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 224 pages.  
  10. Devil's Cub. Georgette Heyer. 1932/2003. Harlequin. 272 pages. 
  11. The Convenient Marriage. Georgette Heyer. 1934/2009. Sourcebooks. 318 pages. 
  12. Clouds of Witness. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1926/1966. Avon. 224 pages.  
  13. Kilmeny of the Orchard. L.M. Montgomery. 1910. 144 pages. 
  14.  Final Curtain. Ngaio Marsh. 1947. Jove. 278 pages.
Short Story Collections:
  1. The Man With Two Left Feet. P.G. Wodehouse. 1917. 200 pages. 
  2. My Man Jeeves. P.G. Wodehouse. 1919. 256 pages.
Christian Books:
  1. The Fairest Beauty. Melanie Dickerson. 2013. Zondervan. 352 pages.  
  2. Rebekah. Jill Eileen Smith. 2013. Revell. 320 pages.  
  3. Comforts From Romans: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at A Time by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick. 2013. Crossway. 160 pages.
  4. The Beatles, God, & The Bible. Ray Comfort. 2012. WND Books. 180 pages.  
  5. One Minute After You Die. Erwin Lutzer. 1997. Moody Publishers. 192 pages.  
  6. Your Eternal Reward. Erwin Lutzer. 1998. Moody Publishers. 171 pages. 
  7. A New Home for Lily by Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2013. Revell. 272 pages.  
  8. Bride in the Bargain. Deeanne Gist. 2009. Bethany House. 365 pages.
  9. Thru the Bible Commentary Series: Romans Chapters 1-8. J. Vernon McGee. Thomas Nelson. 170 pages.
  10. Love's Enduring Promise. Janette Oke. 1980. Bethany House. 239 pages. 
  11. Desiring God. John Piper. 1986/1996. Multnomah. 358 pages. 
  12. John Calvin And His Passion for the Majesty of God. John Piper. 2008. 64 pages.  
  13. One Perfect Life. John MacArthur. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 520 pages. 
  14. Marcia Schuyler. Grace Livingston Hill. 1908. 224 pages.  
  15. Convert: From Adam to Christ. Emilio Ramos. 2012. Bridge-Logos Foundation. 183 pages. 
  16. Thru the Bible Commentary Series: Romans 9-16. J. Vernon McGee. Thomas Nelson. 144 pages.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Fairest Beauty (2013)

The Fairest Beauty. Melanie Dickerson. 2013. Zondervan. 352 pages.

I have loved Melanie Dickerson's novels in the past. I really enjoyed Merchant's Daughter and Healer's Apprentice. I was not disappointed with her third novel, third retelling. In The Fairest Beauty we have a LOVELY retelling of Snow White.

Sophie is a scullery maid tormented daily by the evil Duchess. But Sophie was born for higher things, she's the daughter of a Duke. The Duchess is truly her stepmother. Sophie doesn't remember, of course, her parents have always been dead. She's accepted the Duchess' story of her life. She's a peasant child--an orphan--taken in by charity; she should be grateful she's been allowed to serve the Duchess all these years. One woman who knows the truth about Sophie managed (at last) to escape...and news of Sophie's survival has (at last) been told... But Sophie's betrothed has a broken leg. Gabe, the brother, feels strongly that Sophie's situation is desperate. The Duchess is unpredictable, wicked, cruel. Every day Sophie spends there her life is in danger...so Gabe decides to go against advice and rescue her himself. It's dramatic, romantic, and lovely.

Read The Fairest Beauty
  • If you enjoy fairy tale retellings
  • If you enjoy the Snow White fairy tale
  • If you enjoy YA romance
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Center of Everything (2013)

The Center of Everything. Linda Urban. 2013. Harcourt. 208 pages.

I was not disappointed with Linda Urban's newest novel, The Center of Everything. While I didn't love, love, love it to the same degree as I loved A Crooked Kind of Perfect (a book I read twice in one week because it was just that good), I still found myself loving The Center of Everything.

Ruby Pepperdine is the heroine of The Center of Everything. We meet her on a big day, the day she's part of the town's parade. She'll be reading her winning essay to the waiting crowd. Winning is something that she definitely didn't expect. Then again, a lot of unexpected things have been happening: her grandmother dying, a growing distance between herself and her best friend, her newly developed friendship with a boy, and that's not to mention the wish...

Readers get flashes from the past bringing the story to life. We learn chapter by chapter what is going right and what is going wrong in this young girl's life.

The Center of Everything is a great coming of age story; it captures some of the emotions of being eleven-going-on-twelve.

Read the Center of Everything
  • If you are a fan of Linda Urban
  • If you enjoy middle grade fiction with a focus on friendship and family
  • If you enjoy coming of age stories
  • If you are looking for a MG title about grief
  • If you are looking for a 'summer' book

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, February 25, 2013

A Tange of Knots (2013)

A Tangle of Knots. Lisa Graff. 2013. Penguin. 240 pages.

A Tangle of Knots reminded me of Ingrid Law's Savvy. In both MG novels, we've got some characters with special, unique talents or powers. In A Tangle of Knots, readers meet a large cast of characters--children and adults, some more obviously talented than others in terms of magic. If we have a true main character, it would be Cady, a young girl with a talent for KNOWING precisely what kind of cake to bake for each person she meets. She has a way of knowing what each person's perfectly-perfect cake is. She's the only orphan living in the orphanage. The manager of the orphanage can't keep any other kids because her oh so special talent is matching orphans with adoptive parents. She just has a way of knowing where people belong. There are probably a dozen or so other characters complicating this story about fate and destiny and belonging. The plotting can be a bit messy, I believe it is intentionally messy since it's called Tangle of Knots. The characters are tangled together in a way, their lives intermingling, touching one another. One isn't always sure how the pieces are all going to fit together. But. It has its delightful moments. I think you might have to be in the right mood to love it, but, it was quite enjoyable regardless.

Read A Tangle of Knots
  • If you enjoy middle grade fiction
  • If you enjoy coming of age stories with a touch of fantasy
  • If you enjoy books that incorporate recipes into the storytelling
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Salon: Reading The Story Girl (1911)

The Story Girl. L.M. Montgomery. 1911. 220 pages.

This children's book by L.M. Montgomery focuses on a family of cousins. Beverly (the narrator) and Felix are visiting their aunts and uncles and cousins on Prince Edward Island while their father leaves the country on business. The cousins are Dan, Felicity, Cecily King and Sara Stanley (aka The Story Girl). Two non-relations complete the group, Peter Craig, a hired boy on one of the King farms, and Sara Ray, a neighbor girl prone to excessive crying. Each child is unique, and they don't always get along with one another. Some are very stubborn and opinionated. The book chronicles their adventures and misadventures May through November their first year together. The Story Girl has many, many admirers. She charms just about everyone with the sound of her voice. She's a natural storyteller and she uses that to her advantage plenty of times. (For example, she makes friends with more eccentric 'characters' in town; she gets money out of a man who never ever contributes to any cause.) But she also uses her stories to amuse and entertain her friends on a daily basis. Sometimes these are true stories based on family history, the community, etc. Other times the stories are more imaginative and might-have-been-true stories. A couple of ghost stories, a couple of love stories--including a story on how kissing was discovered.

My favorite chapters were about 'the judgment day.' They read one day (Saturday perhaps?) in a newspaper that the Judgment Day is the next day at 2PM. They believe it. They worry that tomorrow really is the LAST DAY. Some are full of regrets, some make resolutions. They take great comfort in being together until the very end. I really enjoyed this section because Peter decides to start reading the Bible beginning with Genesis. What he discovers after spending hours in the Word is just how much he LIKES reading the Bible and how interesting it really is. Though the judgment does not happen, though life soon returns to normal for just about everyone...Peter keeps with the Bible.
I also enjoyed the 'dream books.' Each decides to keep a special book to record ALL their dreams. They get together daily and share their dreams, each trying to out-dream the other. Then a few of them get the 'clever' idea to eat disagreeable foods so they have more interesting, more troubled dreams...

I liked these stories, these adventures. I liked seeing the children with one another. Loved their conversations and arguments.

Favorite quotes:
“There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it. And they do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over. Henceforth they must dwell in the common light of common day. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles. The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.”
“Well, I don't know," said the Story Girl thoughtfully. "I think there are two kinds of true thing - true things that are, and true things that are not, but might be.” 
"If voices had colour, hers would have been like a rainbow. It made words LIVE. Whatever she said became a breathing entity, not a mere verbal statement of utterance. Felix and I were too young to understand or analyze the impression it made upon us; but we instantly felt at her greeting that it WAS a good morning--a surpassingly good morning, the very best morning that had ever happened in this most excellent of worlds."
"It's no wonder we can't understand the grown-ups," said the Story Girl indignantly, "because we've never been grown-up ourselves. But THEY have been children, and I don't see why they can't understand us." 
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Week in Review: February 17-23

Mary Barton. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1848. 437 pages.
Elsie Dinsmore. Martha Finley. 1867. 320 pages.
The Leavenworth Case. Anna Katharine Green. 1878. 439 pages.
Unnatural Death. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1927. HarperCollins. 288 pages.
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1928/1995. HarperCollins. 256 pages.
Regency Buck. Georgette Heyer. 1935. 352 pages.
Thru the Bible Commentary Series: Romans Chapters 1-8. J. Vernon McGee. Thomas Nelson. 170 pages.
Love's Enduring Promise. Janette Oke. 1980. Bethany House. 239 pages.
Desiring God. John Piper. 1986/1996. Multnomah. 358 pages.
John Calvin And His Passion for the Majesty of God. John Piper. 2008. 64 pages.
One Perfect Life. John MacArthur. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 520 pages.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Third Trip in February

New Loot:
  • Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller
  • Knit Your Bit: A World War I Story by Deborah Hopkinson
  • Bright Island by Mabel L. Robinson

Leftover Loot:
  • Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
  • Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood
  • The Queen's Lady by Eve Edwards 
  • Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit by Corey Olsen
  • Freight Train by Donald Crews
  •  Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie
  • My Big Train Book by Roger Priddy  
  •  Trains Go by Steve Light 
    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.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Mary Barton (1848)

Mary Barton. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1848. 437 pages.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell is one of my favorite books. I love, love, love North and South. Mary Barton was Elizabeth Gaskell's first novel. It shares some things in common with North and South: Gaskell's focus on lower classes, the working force, unions and strikes, etc. But it is also very different from North and South. At the heart of Mary Barton is a murder mystery. Our heroine, Mary Barton, loves the man suspected of murdering the mill owner's son. She knows he's innocent; she trusts in his innocence even when most everyone else doesn't. In fact, she's willing to go to great lengths to help acquit him. There are sections of this one that are quite lovely and very intense. Once the mystery begins, once the murder occurs, this book becomes a good read. It does have a slow(er) beginning. Half the book is spent on introducing the two main families of the novel, the Wilsons and the Bartons. The characterization is important in the end, but, this one certainly isn't plot-driven in the beginning! 

Jem Wilson has always only loved Mary Barton. He may not be rich. He may not live in a grand house. But his heart and soul have belonged to Mary Barton. And there's nothing he wouldn't do for the love of his life. Even if he feels that love is unrequited. On the day he proposed, Mary Barton refused him thoroughly. And, to poor Jem, it seemed rather cruel, heartless, and final. But readers know that hope remains. For on that very day Mary has a moment of revelation: she does love Jem, loves him more than anyone. But she doesn't feel it quite proper to chase Jem down and say that she changed her mind, that she wants to marry him desperately. So she waits and hopes praying that one day he'll come and ask her again.

Read Mary Barton
  • If you enjoyed North and South, if you're a fan of Elizabeth Gaskell
  • If you enjoy dramatic mystery novels with a touch of romance
  • If you enjoy Victorian literature with plenty of detail and description
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Leavenworth Case (1878)

The Leavenworth Case. Anna Katharine Green. 1878. 439 pages.

The Leavenworth Case (1878) is the first mystery novel by Anna Katherine Green. It is definitely a detective story. It's told in first person from the point of view of a young man (a lawyer) who becomes fascinated in a murder case. He's on the scene, supposedly, to comfort the grieved nieces (Mary, Eleanore) of the victim, Horatio Leavenworth. The details of the crime are reviewed and presented early in the novel. One of the ladies becomes the main suspect in the murder, but the narrator feels certain of the young lady's innocence. He begins working closely with the detective on the case, Ebenezer Gryce. He follows his own instincts in a way, but he also follows clues provided by Gryce. He stumbles upon even more clues. But even though his efforts are proving worthwhile, the truth is slow in coming.

I enjoyed this one. I didn't LOVE it, but, it certainly was an interesting read! I would have liked to know more about the narrator, however. I'm not really used to reading mysteries with first person narratives.


Quotes:
"The murderer? Whom do you suspect?" I whispered. He looked impassively at the ring on my finger. "Every one and nobody. It is not for me to suspect, but to detect."
No conclusion is valuable which is not preceded by a full and complete investigation.
It is not enough to look for evidence where you expect to find it. You must sometimes search for it where you don't. 

Read The Leavenworth Case
  • If you enjoy mystery or detective stories
  • If you enjoy Victorian literature, classics
  • If you enjoy amateur detective stories
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Regency Buck (1935)

Regency Buck. Georgette Heyer. 1935. 352 pages.

Regency Buck was one of the first Georgette Heyer novels I read. It is the story of a brother and sister newly arrived in London. They are rich--or soon will be rich once they are of an age to inherit their father's money. But in the meanwhile they find themselves under the protection of a surprisingly young man, Earl Worth. Judith Tavener's first impression of Worth is something. Readers aren't exactly clear at times HOW he feels about her, but readers never question Judith's feelings regarding him. She HATES him. She does not trust him. She could easily name half a dozen men she'd rather spend time with. Not that Judith wants to rush into marriage with anyone. But to be told by a man she hates that she is forbidden to accept any suitor's proposal...well...it's frustrating. Is Worth doing it just to annoy her or does he perhaps know more of the world? Worth is also opinionated on Peregrine Tavener's love life. Though he does permit the young man to become engaged to a worthy woman. Still he would have him wait...

Regency Buck has drama and mystery. For as the novel progresses, readers learn that Peregrine's life is in danger. There are a series of attempts on his life, not that Peregrine is quick to realize his own danger or quick to judge those near him who may not be as trustworthy as he believes...

It is also RICH in historical detail. Though readers may not know just how rich it is unless they're familiar with the time period and the historical figures of the day.

I enjoyed the characterization and found the plot quite exciting!

My first review.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1928/1995. HarperCollins. 256 pages.

I definitely enjoyed The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club more than Unnatural Death. It's just an enjoyable mystery. If you enjoy spending time with Lord Peter and Inspector Parker, you'll probably enjoy this one as much as I did! In this mystery, Peter has been asked to investigate the death of a club member, General Fentiman, whose body was discovered at the end of the day. No one at the club knows exactly when he died, though most think they know how he died. He was discovered sitting up in his usual chair reading his usual paper. But there is nothing ordinary about this private investigation. Lord Peter knows that his results will change lives. Why? Well. It's complicated. It's a matter of inheritance. For Lady Dormer, the General's sister, died on the same day. If the General died first, then Ann Dorland would inherit most of Lady Dormer's money, Major Robert Fentiman and Captain George Fentiman would receive a little money. If Lady Dormer died first, then the General would have inherited most of his sister's money. And with the General being dead too, well, that leaves his two sons quite a bit wealthier. But who died first? The Lady's death was discovered first. But that doesn't necessarily mean she died first.

So Lord Peter Wimsey is asked to help 'solve' this mystery. And at first, it is just a matter of determining when he died naturally. But some of the clues just don't make sense unless he died by unnatural causes.

Was it murder? Can Lord Peter Wimsey solve this case?

This was my first time to reread The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club. And I think I appreciated it even more the second time. One of the suspects was a veteran from World War I, and the novel touches on just how much the horrors of war is still effecting him ten years later. It was so easy to care about the characters in this one.

Lord Peter Wimsey to Mr. Murbles:

"Acid man you are," said Wimsey. "No reverence, no simple faith or anything of that kind. Do lawyers ever go to heaven?"
"I have no information on that point," said Mr. Murbles dryly. (15)
Marjorie Phelps to Lord Peter:
"Peter Wimsey! You sit there, looking a perfectly well-bred imbecile, and then in the most underhand way you twist people into doing things they ought to blush for. No wonder you detect things. I will not do your worming for you!" (162)
"Moral certainty is not the same thing as proof." (205)


© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Unnatural Death (1927)

Unnatural Death. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1927. HarperCollins. 288 pages.

Unnatural Death is probably my least favorite Lord Peter mystery. I still enjoyed Lord Peter, Bunter, Parker, and Miss Climpson. And the writing--when it wasn't being racist--was pleasant enough. But. The mystery didn't thrill me. In this mystery novel, Lord Peter is trying to determine if a crime has actually been committed. The old woman's death was ruled natural. But Agatha Dawson's death was convenient, a little too convenient, in Peter's reckoning. Especially when Lord Peter realizes that Mary Whittaker's right to inherit may have been challenged by a new law which would have gone into effect with the new year. Unnatural Death is a mystery with a lot of technicalities (legal and genealogical) and a lot of additional deaths.

Here are a few of my favorite lines:

"I told you I'd be turnin' up again before long," said Lord Peter cheerfully. "Sherlock is my name and Holmes is my nature. I'm delighted to see you, Dr. Carr. Your little matter is well in hand, and seein' I'm not required any longer I'll make a noise and buzz off." (38)
"Who is Miss Climpson?"
"Miss Climpson," said Lord Peter, "is my ears and tongue," said Lord Peter, dramatically, "and especially my nose. She asks questions which a young man could not put without a blush. She is the angel that rushes in where fools get a clump on the head. She can smell a rat in the dark. In fact, she is the cat's whiskers."
"That's not a bad idea," said Parker.
"Naturally--it is mine, therefore brilliant. Just think. People want questions asked. Whom do they send? A man with large flat feet and a note-book--the sort of man whose private life is conducted in a series of inarticulate grunts. I send a lady with a long, woolly jumper on knitting-needles and jingly things round her neck. Of course she asks questions--everyone expects it. Nobody is surprised. Nobody is alarmed." (28-9)

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Salon: Reading Elsie Dinsmore (1867)

Elsie Dinsmore. Martha Finley. 1867. 320 pages.

Reading Elsie Dinsmore is an experience. But is it a pleasant experience? Or an infuriating one? And if is an infuriating one? Why is it SO infuriating? Well, this is how Elsie's described:
Though not a remarkably precocious child in other respects, she seemed to have very clear and correct views on almost every subject connected with her duty to God and her neighbor; was very truthful both in word and deed, very strict in her observance of the Sabbath--though the rest of the family were by no means particular in that respect--very diligent in her studies; respectful to superiors, and kind to inferiors and equals; and she was gentle, sweet-tempered, patient, and forgiving to a remarkable degree. (17)
Elsie Dinsmore is a young girl being raised by her grandparents. Her father is alive but traveling; her mother is dead. The house has plenty of children, Elsie's aunts and uncles, most are close to her in age, just close enough to bully in some cases. Elsie is bullied by children older and younger than her. Most of her aunts and uncles are true brats, for the most part. But Elsie doesn't find compassion, sympathy, courtesy, or respect from any (white) adult on the plantation. (Most of the slaves, however, love and adore her.) So how does Elsie spend her time? Reading the Bible, crying, praying, and talking with her beloved mammy, one of the few people on the plantation that love Jesus just as much as she does. Anytime Elsie is picked on unfairly (which happens at least once per chapter), she doesn't complain; she doesn't make excuses; she doesn't defend herself; she doesn't tattle on others; she just cries and submits to whatever punishment the adults hand out. Several chapters into this one, her father returns home. Elsie wants more than anything to feel warmth, love, affection from her father. But he finds her an unnatural child and prefers to spend time with his own brothers and sisters (Elsie's aunts and uncles). Any interactions they do seem to have with each other is disciplinary. The more he disciplines, the more Elsie loves him. She doesn't resent his harshness or think him mean or unfair. The more he misunderstands her, the more she understands her own weaknesses and failures. She's a sinner. She's a horribly, rebellious sinner. Her father isn't punishing her enough.

Elsie Dinsmore is NOT Jane Eyre OR Mary Lennox OR Anne Shirley. She has no fight within her, no gumption or spirit.

Elsie Dinsmore talks openly about her faith in Jesus Christ. And her eagerness for everyone in her life to come to Christ is evident in her dialogue. She is clearly presenting the gospel message--the bad news and the good news--to everyone in her life. She's eager to share what truths she's learned with others. And she LOVES to quote Scriptures to those around her. Very few in her family want to hear talk about Jesus, very few want to hear the Bible read to them, but, Elsie consistently tries her best to reach out to others.

I had a difficult time liking any of the characters, especially the adults: her grandfather, her grandmother,  her father, her governess. I didn't have an easy time loving Elsie either. While I appreciated Elsie's love for Jesus, I could not identify with Elsie as a heroine. She did not respond naturally, in my opinion, to her family. The adults in Elsie's life were infuriating. There were dozens of times when it would only be normal and natural for Elsie to get angry and show it, even if that showing was only to the readers and happened in the privacy of her own room. I also hated the fact that her father was always, always yelling at her to stop crying. While her father eventually calmed down slightly and started treating his daughter better than before, it still wasn't enough for me to actually like this novel.

Have you read the novel? What did you think of the characterization and dialogue? Is there any benefit to reading Elsie Dinsmore?

Quotes from the novel:
She laid down the geography, and opening her desk, took out a small pocket Bible, which bore the marks of frequent use. She turned over the leaves as though seeking for some particular passage; at length she found it, and wiping away the blinding tears, she read these words in a low, murmuring tone:
"For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow His steps."
"Oh! I have not done it. I did not take it patiently. I am afraid I am not following in His steps," she cried, bursting into an agony of tears and sobs. (6)
 Readers also meet Rose Allison, a Northern woman visiting the South. She is Elsie's kindred spirit.
"She is an odd child," said Adelaide; "I don't understand her; she is so meek and patient she will fairly let you trample upon her. It provokes papa. He says she is no Dinsmore, or she would know how to stand up for her own rights; and yet she has a temper, I know, for once in a great while it shows itself for an instant—only an instant, though, and at very long intervals—and then she grieves over it for days, as though she had committed some great crime; while the rest of us think nothing of getting angry half a dozen times in a day. And then she is forever poring over that little Bible of hers; what she sees so attractive in it I'm sure I cannot tell, for I must say I find it the dullest of dull books."
"Do you," said Rose; "how strange! I had rather give up all other books than that one. 'Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart,' 'How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.'"
"Do you really love it so, Rose?" asked Adelaide, lifting her eyes to her friend's face with an expression of astonishment; "do tell me why?"
"For its exceeding great and precious promises Adelaide; for its holy teachings; for its offers of peace and pardon and eternal life. I am a sinner, Adelaide, lost, ruined, helpless, hopeless, and the Bible brings me the glad news of salvation offered as a free, unmerited gift; it tells me that Jesus died to save sinners—just such sinners as I. I find that I have a heart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and the blessed Bible tells me how that heart can be renewed, and where I can obtain that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. I find myself utterly unable to keep God's holy law, and it tells me of One who has kept it for me. I find that I deserve the wrath and curse of a justly offended God, and it tells me of Him who was made a curse for me. I find that all my righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and it offers me the beautiful, spotless robe of Christ's perfect righteousness. Yes, it tells me that God can be just, and the justifier of him who believes in Jesus."
Rose spoke these words with deep emotion, then suddenly clasping her hands and raising her eyes, she exclaimed, "'Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!'"
For a moment there was silence. Then Adelaide spoke:
"Rose," said she, "you talk as if you were a great sinner; but I don't believe it; it is only your humility that makes you think so. Why, what have you ever done? Had you been a thief, a murderer, or guilty of any other great crime, I could see the propriety of your using such language with regard to yourself; but for a refined, intelligent, amiable young lady, excuse me for saying it, dear Rose, but such language seems to me simply absurd."
"Man looketh upon the outward appearance, but the Lord pondereth the heart," said Rose, gently. "No, dear Adelaide, you are mistaken; for I can truly say 'mine iniquities have gone over my head as a cloud, and my transgressions as a thick cloud.' Every duty has been stained with sin, every motive impure, every thought unholy. From my earliest existence, God has required the undivided love of my whole heart, soul, strength, and mind; and so far from yielding it, I live at enmity with Him, and rebellion against His government, until within the last two years. For seventeen years He has showered blessings upon me, giving me life, health, strength, friends, and all that was necessary for happiness; and for fifteen of those years I returned Him nothing but ingratitude and rebellion. For fifteen years I rejected His offers of pardon and reconciliation, turned my back upon the Saviour of sinners, and resisted all the strivings of God's Holy Spirit, and will you say that I am not a great sinner?" Her voice quivered, and her eyes were full of tears.
"Dear Rose," said Adelaide, putting her arm around her friend and kissing her cheek affectionately, "don't think of these things; religion is too gloomy for one so young as you."
"Gloomy, dear Adelaide!" replied Rose, returning the embrace; "I never knew what true happiness was until I found Jesus. My sins often make me sad, but religion, never.
A glimpse of Elsie's mammy:
"I's only a poor old black sinner, but de good Lord Jesus, He loves me jes de same as if I was white, an' I love Him an' all His chillen with all my heart." (15)
A glimpse of Elsie's relationship with her dad:
"I am very sorry I was naughty, papa. Will you please forgive me?" The words were spoken very low, and almost with a sob.
"Will you try not to meddle in future, and not to cry at the table, or pout and sulk when you are punished?" he asked in a cold, grave tone.
"Yes, sir, I will try to be a good girl always," said the humble little voice.
"Then I will forgive you," he replied, taking the handkerchief off her hand.
Still Elsie lingered. She felt as if she could not go without some little token of forgiveness and love, some slight caress.
He looked at her with an impatient "Well?" Then, in answer to her mute request, "No," he said, "I will not kiss you to-night; you have been entirely too naughty. Go to your room at once."
Aunt Chloe was absolutely frightened by the violence of her child's grief, as she rushed into the room and flung herself into her arms weeping and sobbing most vehemently.
"What's de matter, darlin'?" she asked in great alarm.
"O mammy, mammy!" sobbed the child, "papa wouldn't kiss me! he said I was too naughty. O mammy! will he ever love me now?" (92)
 And then there's this infuriating scene:
"What is the matter?" he asked, looking up as they appeared before the door.
"Elsie has been very impertinent, sir," said Miss Day; "she not only accused me of injustice, but contradicted me flatly."
"Is it possible!" said he, frowning angrily. "Come here to me, Elsie, and tell me, is it true that you contradicted your teacher?"
"Yes, papa," sobbed the child.
"Very well, then, I shall certainly punish you, for I will never allow anything of the kind."
As he spoke he picked up a small ruler that lay before him, at the same time taking Elsie's hand as though he meant to use it on her.
"O papa!" she cried, in a tone of agonized entreaty.
But he laid it down again, saying: "No, I shall punish you by depriving you of your play this afternoon, and giving you only bread and water for your dinner. Sit down there," he added, pointing to a stool. Then, with a wave of his hand to the governess, "I think she will not be guilty of the like again, Miss Day."
The governess left the room, and Elsie sat down on her stool, crying and sobbing violently, while her father went on with his writing.
"Elsie," he said, presently, "cease that noise; I have had quite enough of it."
She struggled to suppress her sobs, but it was almost impossible, and she felt it a great relief when a moment later the dinner-bell rang, and her father left the room.
In a few moments a servant came in, carrying on a small waiter a tumbler of water, and a plate with a slice of bread on it.
"Dis am drefful poor fare, Miss Elsie," he said, setting it down beside her, "but Massa Horace he say it all you can hab; but if you say so, dis chile tell ole Phoebe to send up somethin' better fore Massa Horace gits through his dinner."
"Oh! no, thank you, Pompey; you're very kind, but I would not disobey or deceive papa," replied the little girl, earnestly; "and I am not at all hungry."
He lingered a moment, seeming loath to leave her to dine upon such fare.
"You had better go now, Pompey," she said gently; "I am afraid you will be wanted."
He turned and left the room, muttering something about "disagreeable, good-for-nothing Miss Day!"
Elsie felt no disposition to eat; and when her father returned, half an hour afterward, the bread and water were still untouched.
"What is the meaning of this?" he asked in a stern, angry tone; "why have you not eaten what I sent you?"
"I am not hungry, papa," she said humbly.
"Don't tell me that," he replied, "it is nothing but stubbornness; and I shall not allow you to show such a temper. Take up that bread this moment and eat it. You shall eat every crumb of the bread and drink every drop of the water."
She obeyed him instantly, breaking off a bit of bread and putting it in her mouth, while he stood watching her with an air of stern, cold determination; but when she attempted to swallow, it seemed utterly impossible.
"I cannot, papa," she said, "it chokes me."
"You must," he replied; "I am going to be obeyed. Take a drink of water, and that will wash it down."
It was a hard task, but seeing that there was no escape, she struggled to obey, and at length every crumb of bread and drop of water had disappeared.
"Now, Elsie," said her father, in a tone of great severity, "never dare to show me such a temper as this again; you will not escape so easily next time; remember I am to be obeyed always; and when I send you anything to eat, you are to eat it."
It had not been temper at all, and his unjust severity almost broke her heart; but she could not say one word in her own defence.
He looked at her a moment as she sat there trembling and weeping; then saying, "I forbid you to leave this room without my permission; don't venture to disobey me, Elsie; sit where you are until I return," he turned to go.
"Papa," she asked, pleadingly, "may I have my books, to learn my lessons for to-morrow."
"Certainly," he said; "I will send a servant with them."
"And my Bible too, please, papa."
"Yes, yes," he answered impatiently, as he went out and shut the door. (99-101)
A word from Elsie herself:
"Dear papa, I love you so much!" she replied, twining her arms around his neck. "I love you all the better for never letting me have my own way, but always making me obey and keep to rules." (164)


© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Week in Review: February 10-16

What I've reviewed this week:

Marcia Schuyler. Grace Livingston Hill. 1908. 224 pages. 
Miss Billy's Decision. Eleanor H. Porter. 1912. Dodo Press. 248 pages. 
Pollyanna Grows Up. Eleanor H. Porter. 1915. 304 pages.
The Man With Two Left Feet. P.G. Wodehouse. 1917. 200 pages.
My Man Jeeves. P.G. Wodehouse. 1919. 256 pages.
 The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Agatha Christie. 1920/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 224 pages.
Devil's Cub. Georgette Heyer. 1932/2003. Harlequin. 272 pages.
The Convenient Marriage. Georgette Heyer. 1934/2009. Sourcebooks. 318 pages.
Revenge of The Girl With The Great Personality. Elizabeth Eulberg. 2013. [March] Scholastic. 272 pages.
The Fairest Beauty. Melanie Dickerson. 2013. Zondervan. 352 pages.
Rebekah. Jill Eileen Smith. 2013. Revell. 320 pages.
Comforts From Romans: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at A Time by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick. 2013. Crossway. 160 pages.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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The Man With Two Left Feet (1917)

The Man With Two Left Feet. P.G. Wodehouse. 1917. 200 pages.

I loved this collection of P.G. Wodehouse short stories. These thirteen short stories had originally appeared in various magazines in both the UK and US before being published in book form in 1917. The stories: "Bill The Bloodhound," "Extricating Young Gussie," Wilton's Holiday," "The Mixer: He Meets a Shy Gentleman," "The Mixer: He Moves In Society," "Crowned Heads," "At Geisenheimer's," "The Making of Mac's," "One Touch of Nature," "Black for Luck," "The Romance of an Ugly Policeman," "A Sea of Troubles," and "The Man With Two Left Feet."

Some of the stories are set in America, other stories are set in England. A few of these stories even have animal narrators: that's how diverse these stories are! (The two "Mixer" stories are narrated by a dog.) "Black for Luck" stars a traveling black cat that may or may bring luck with him.

I absolutely LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Wodehouse's writing style. "Extricating Young Gussie," introduces Bertie and Jeeves. Readers will be treated to plenty of stories starring these two in following books. "Bill the Bloodhound" was an interesting "detective" story of sorts. It starring a detective that isn't clever and brilliant, but just a likable guy who may not be good at his job but is fun to know anyway. "Wilton's Holiday" and "The Man With Two Left Feet" are short stories with a dancing theme. I really, really enjoyed both of those. In "Wilton's Holiday," readers meet a professional dancer who entertains some out of town visitors. The husband has been to New York before and is very proud of himself and confident that he knows everything there is to know. The dancer has pity on his poor wife who is sitting in the background watching her husband behave foolishly. He won't dance with her because she's never been to New York before and couldn't possibly dance well enough to be seen in public. She goes to speak with the wife and convinces her to dance with someone else, to even enter a dance competition....It is a story well worth reading! "The Man With Two Left Feet" is also a story about a newly married couple. The man who cannot dance falls in love with a beautiful woman; after a year of marriage he realizes that his wife may miss not being able to go out and go dancing. He begins to secretly take dance lessons. It does not go well. But he's persistent. The wife meanwhile wonders why her husband is acting so strange and has changed his habits... It's also a fun story, in a way, because the man is reading his way through the encyclopedia.

I enjoyed so many of these stories! I would definitely recommend this one!

Read The Man With Two Left Feet
  • If you love short stories
  • If you hate short stories
  • If you enjoy humorous stories
  • If you enjoy great writing, great storytelling

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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My Man Jeeves (1919)

My Man Jeeves. P.G. Wodehouse. 1919. 256 pages.

My Man Jeeves (1919) was my first introduction to the wonderful writer, P.G. Wodehouse. I absolutely loved, loved, loved it from first to last. This is a short story collection containing eight short stories: four short stories starring Bertie and Jeeves ("Leave it to Jeeves," "Jeeves and the Unbidden Guest," "Jeeves and the Hard-boiled Egg," "The Aunt and the Sluggard") and four short stories starring Reggie Pepper ("Absent Treatment," "Helping Freddie," "Rallying Round Old George," and "Doing Clarence a Bit of Good.") The writing is WONDERFUL. I just loved, loved, loved its cleverness, its playfulness, its attention to detail. It's just a DELIGHT to read this one. My favorite stories were the ones starring Jeeves and Bertie. But I also enjoyed the other stories.

This is a collection I see myself rereading again and again just because it is so very fun!  


Read My Man Jeeves
  • If you love short stories
  • If you hate short stories
  • If you enjoy humorous stories
  • If you love Bertie and Jeeves
  • If you enjoy P.G. Wodehouse
  • If you love great storytelling or narration
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, February 15, 2013

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920)

The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Agatha Christie. 1920/2006. Black Dog & Leventhal. 224 pages.

The intense interest aroused in the public by what was known at the time as "The Styles Case" has now somewhat subsided. Nevertheless, in view of the worldwide notoriety which attended it, I have been asked, both by my friend Poirot and the family themselves, to write an account of the whole story. This, we trust, will effectually silence the sensational rumours which still persist.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles was one of my first mysteries to read, my first Agatha Christie. It is also among my first Christie mysteries to reread. This was Christie's first novel, and it stars Hercule Poirot.

Captain Hastings, our narrator, has been invited to the home of an old friend. While he's visiting this family, something horrible happens: a murder. It's not absolutely unexpected, he'd been informed by one of the occupants of the house that the family was a mess and that Mrs. Inglethorp is in danger. But it is a surprise. He decides that it would be wise if he called Hercule Poirot, a Belgian detective he'd met previously. The two are definitely friendly, but, they aren't as close as they are in later books. In this first novel, Hastings is very amateurish and completely unused to Poirot's tricks and methods. Hastings instincts and observations seem to be all wrong. His insights amusing Poirot perhaps. Though it is one of Hastings comments that help Poirot find his missing link...

The presentation and arrangement of the clues is confusing, purposefully confusing I believe since the case is seen entirely through Hastings view point. Since Hastings was having a horrible time solving the case and focusing in on what was important and how the suspects fit into it...readers can at times struggle along with him. Hastings always has an idea, a guess, and he's always seeking confirmation from his hero, Poirot. Since Poirot is reluctant to share his own opinions on the case with Hastings, this can be frustrating to him. Why won't Poirot tell him if he's right or close to being right?

I would recommend this one.

Read The Mysterious Affair at Styles
  • If you enjoy vintage mysteries, cozy mysteries, British mysteries
  • If you enjoy Agatha Christie
  • If you enjoy Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality (2013)

Revenge of The Girl With The Great Personality. Elizabeth Eulberg. 2013. [March] Scholastic. 272 pages.

I have enjoyed Elizabeth Eulberg's work in the past--The Lonely Hearts Club and Prom and Prejudice--so I was hoping that I would enjoy her newest YA novel. It didn't work for me. But I think it may still work for many readers.

The heroine of Revenge of the Girl with The Great Personality is Lexi. She is the girl with the "great personality." It's a label that she has difficulty letting go of, in a way, because she believes what she hears or overhears about herself. What should you know about Lexi? Well, she has a seven year old sister who's into beauty pageants. Her mom is obsessed with putting her sister into every pageant possible--no matter the cost, no matter the drama. Lexi is part of this lifestyle--like it or not. And her favorite thing about the pageant life is spending time with Logan. (Logan has a girlfriend, Alyssa, who's in pageants.)

Essentially Lexi hates not having a boyfriend or a life and one day she's dared by her gay best friend, Benny, to do something about it. He dares her to wear make-up for a week, to do her hair, to wear dresses, etc. She then dares him to start talking to the guy he likes, to ask him out, etc.

What will happen when Lexi transforms into the most beautiful woman ever? Will she get attention? The right kind of attention? Will everyone suddenly think she's worth knowing? worth talking to? worth eating lunch with? worth inviting to parties? worth dating? What will people start saying about her and her new look? And dare she go back to her old self?

I did not like this one. Lexi's obsession with Logan prevents her from taking the one guy who might actually like her seriously. Though it doesn't stop her from dating him [Taylor] for most of the book. While I am glad that Lexi did not get a happily ever after--with either Taylor or Logan--and that she eventually realized how silly she'd been over Logan once she caught a glimpse of the real Logan, I still found most of the book annoying. 

Revenge of The Girl with the Great Personality has plenty of drama and conflict. Lexi's family is certainly dysfunctional and broken. Lexi struggles to have a good relationship with her mom and her sister. And there is even a love triangle, of sorts. For those that like YA books focusing on popularity and fitting in or not fitting in...it may be right for you. But. It didn't work for me. 

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Convenient Marriage (1934)

The Convenient Marriage. Georgette Heyer. 1934/2009. Sourcebooks. 318 pages.

"Lady Winwood being denied, the morning caller inquired with some anxiety for Miss Winwood, or, in fact, for any of the young ladies. In face of the rumour which had come to her ears it would be too provoking if all the Winwood ladies were to withhold themselves."

The Convenient Marriage is one of my top Georgette Heyer novels. I've previously reviewed the book and the audiobook. The romance in this novel occurs after the marriage making this Heyer read a bit different.

Horatia is the youngest in the Winwood family. She knows that the family NEEDS to accept the marriage offer from Lord Rule because they are so in debt. (He's offered for Elizabeth, the oldest daughter). But she also knows that her sister could never be happy marrying for convenience when she's already in love with someone else. But why couldn't Lord Rule be made to understood the situation? Why couldn't he offer for her instead? The families would still be "aligned", her family would still be saved...and she'd be the one to have the good life in society. So she goes to Lord Rule secretly and explains the situation to him, making him a proposition of her own...

Her plan is quite bold and quite wonderful. By that I mean it is deliciously entertaining. The first few chapters of this one are so full of promise. Especially the second and third chapters. If there was an award for the best-ever-second-chapter-in-a-book, I'd nominate The Convenient Marriage.

I absolutely love this one. I love getting to know all of the characters: Horry (Horatia), Lord Rule (Marcus Drelincourt), Pelham Winwood (Horry's brother), Sir Roland (Pelham's best friend), Lord Robert Lethbridge (Rule's nemesis), Crosby Drelincourt (Rule's cousin). And that's just to name a few. I loved the storytelling, the dialogue, the glimpses into society life. It can be dramatic and romantic. Most of all I loved the characterization!!! These characters are so flawed and yet lovable!

This Heyer novel is quite memorable and very satisfying! I LOVED it.

From chapter two:
'Will you tell me how old you are?'
'Does it matter?' Horatia inquired forebodingly.
'Yes, I think it does,' said his lordship.
'I was afraid it m-might,' she said. 'I am turned seventeen.'
'Turned seventeen!' repeated his lordship. 'My dear, I couldn't do it.'
'I'm too young?'
'Much too young, child.'
Horatia swallowed valiantly. 'I shall grow older,' she ventured. 'I d-don't want to p-press you, but I am thought to be quite sensible.'
'Do you know how old I am?' asked the Earl.
'N-no, but my cousin, Mrs. M-Maulfrey, says you are not a d-day above thirty-five.'
'Does not that seem a little old to you?' he suggested.
'Well, it is rather old, perhaps, b-but no one would think you as much,' said Horatia kindly.
At that a laugh escaped him. 'Thank you,' he bowed. 'But I think that thirty-five makes a poor husband for seventeen.'
'P-pray do not give that a thought, sir!' said Horatia earnestly. 'I assure you, for my p-part I do not regard it at all. In f-fact, I think I should quite like to marry you.'
'Would you?' he said. 'You do me a great honour, ma'am.' (24-25)
Read The Convenient Marriage
  • If you enjoy (clean) romance novels
  • If you enjoy historical romance novels
  • If you enjoy Georgette Heyer 
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Devil's Cub (1932)

Devil's Cub. Georgette Heyer. 1932/2003. Harlequin. 272 pages.

 There was only one occupant of the coach, a gentleman who sprawled very much at his ease, with his legs stretched out before him, and his hands dug deep in the capacious pockets of his greatcoat.

Devil's Cub is the sequel to Georgette Heyer's These Old Shades. (These Old Shades is an adapted sequel of sorts to The Black Moth. All the names have changed from one book to another, the details and characterizations have not.) Leonie and Justin have a grown son who happens to fight duels somewhat regularly: a son who perhaps doesn't value human life quite enough. His name is Dominic (Vidal). And he's something. Does he take after his mother or father more?! That is the question. Either way, he needs some taming in order to be any woman's ideal husband.

Mary Challoner, our heroine, sees Dominic as TROUBLE. She doesn't want him for herself, certainly, and if she has her way, her sister won't have him either. Or should that be if Mary has her way, HE won't have her sister. For she fears that Dominic would never actually MARRY her sister, Sophie. Does she trust Sophie to do the right thing? NO. Mary feels it's her duty to watch out for her sister's reputation. So when Mary accidentally receives a letter from Dominic (Vidal), she decides not to pass the letter on. He's asked for a secret meeting--an "elopement" of sorts, telling her the time and place to meet him. Sophie knows his destination: Paris; but Mary hasn't a clue. She goes--disguised, wearing a mask--in her sister's place. Her true identity hidden at first, and then her true character hidden even more by a few lies she tells him. Perhaps Mary is not behaving wisely, but, she IS brave, opinionated, feisty, stubborn...even if she's not strong enough to prevent the kidnapping.

Does Dominic mean her harm? Perhaps in his initial rage...but it doesn't take him long to do something he's NEVER done before: offer a lady his name. He is willing to marry her, and quickly, and do whatever he can to make sure her reputation is spared, that most of the scandal is avoided. He is not only willing to marry her, he WANTS to marry her. For the more Mary engages in conversation with him, the more he realizes how wonderful she is. The more she holds her own, the more he WANTS her for herself. Not that he communicates this well exactly. For Mary doesn't know that Dominic "wants" her for herself and not just to save a lady in distress because it is honorable.

So much drama and excitement...and that's just one of the stories in The Devil's Cub. There are plenty of characters, plenty of subplots. So many ways to be entertained. Readers get reacquainted with these characters from These Old Shades: Justin and Leonie (duke and duchess of Avon); Lady Fanny Marling, Justin's sister; Lord Rupert Alastair, Justin's brother. We also meet Lady Fanny's son and daughter (John and Juliana). In fact, there is a second romance in Devil's Cub: Juliana and Frederick Comyn.

Loved this one from beginning to end! It would be WONDERFUL if Richard Armitage narrated this Heyer classic. He's narrated three other titles: Convenient Marriage, Venetia, and Sylvester.

Read Devil's Cub
  • If you like historical romances
  • If you like or love Georgette Heyer
  • If you enjoyed These Old Shades
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Miss Billy's Decision (1912)

Miss Billy's Decision. Eleanor H. Porter. 1912. Dodo Press. 248 pages. 

Miss Billy is engaged to Bertram Henshaw. Their engagement has just been announced. But life gets busy and the couple struggles in their relationship. Bertram is painting the portrait of a young, wealthy, beautiful woman--very temperamental, always changing her mind on what pose suits her best. Billy is occupied with a handful of things: first, planning the wedding of Cyril and Maria (the music teacher); second, writing or composing her own songs for publication: this time with a partner, "Mary Jane" Arkwright; third participating or organizing an operetta for charity: if she can play matchmaker for two of her new friends, it would be great. Through the months, Billy feels that Bertram is too focused on ART and not focused enough on her, and, Bertram feels that Billy is too focused on MUSIC and not focused enough on him. Each feels let down by the other. Perhaps each feeling that love should be easy now that they're together and planning to get married. The couple begins to grow apart from one another--very gradually. 

At one point in the novel, Miss Billy struggles to make the decision that is "right" for everyone. She's been told by a certain someone that she is ruining Bertram's life, that the two would never--could never--be happy together. That it would be best for Bertram's career if he were to remain single. It's not like Billy has never had doubts about their future together. So Billy starts looking for signs to help her decide...

One might think that Bertram would be more developed as a hero, as a character since he is the love of Miss Billy's life. But. He still wasn't as developed as he might have been. I still feel that readers never really get a chance to know him. Readers spend MOST of the novel seeing Miss Billy and "Mary Jane" (M.J. Arkwright) together. He LOVES Billy and honestly doesn't know that she's already engaged. And they have so much in common, at first glance. She's great at writing music; he's great at writing lyrics. Readers know that he loves her, but, does she love him in return?

I did enjoy this one more than Miss Billy.


Read Miss Billy's Decision
  • If you enjoy Eleanor Porter's writing style; she's VERY readable
  • If you enjoy light/clean romance
  • If you enjoy reading classics
  • If you're looking for vintage 'new adult' titles
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Sunday Salon: Reading Pollyanna Grows Up (1915)

Pollyanna Grows Up. Eleanor H. Porter. 1915. 304 pages.

In January, I read Pollyanna and loved it. I definitely wanted to read the sequel. The novel begins with a nurse (Della Wetherby) visiting her cranky (grieving) sister (Mrs. Carew). The nurse is wishing that her sister could meet Pollyanna. She's bold enough to write to Pollyanna's guardians (aunt and uncle) to ask them to send Pollyanna to visit Mrs. Carew in Boston. As the couple is about to go to Germany, they agree that Pollyanna can remain behind and go and stay with Mrs. Carew for a year. The first half of this sequel is about her year in Boston: the friends she makes, the experiences she has, etc. The second half of the novel is about Pollyanna when she is grown up (20+).

Mrs. Carew is a wealthy, cranky widow. Her "good excuse" for being cranky and shutting the world out is that she is mourning the loss of her nephew, Jamie. After Jamie's parents died, she lost all contact with the young child. She was never able to find out what happened to him, where he went, who took him in, etc. He 'vanished' from her life and she desperately wanted to adopt him and raise him herself. She's searched and searched but to no avail.

Will Pollyanna change Mrs. Carew? Perhaps the better question is HOW MUCH will she change Mrs. Carew's life?

Pollyanna Grows Up offered few surprises. I was able to predict almost everything that happened in this one. That didn't make it less compelling. I was guessing something specific and I had to wait and wait and wait and wait for it. So it ended up keeping me reading all the same. I didn't love everything about this one. There are a couple of awkward scenes between Pollyanna and Jimmy Bean. I liked seeing Pollyanna in Boston, and I enjoyed seeing her perspective on the world change throughout the novel. How her eyes were opened to the misfortunes of others and the very real dangers that others faced on a day-to-day basis. Readers meet Jamie, a boy who can't walk, and Sadie, an (honest) working girl who is afraid of being noticed too much by all the wrong people.
I long ago discovered that you can't TELL about Pollyanna. The minute you try to, she sounds priggish and preachy, and--impossible. Yet you and I know she is anything but that. (10)
"Aunt Polly is all stirred up over it. You see, she wants Uncle Tom to have what he wants, only she wants him to want what she wants him to want. See?" Mrs. Carew laughed suddenly. (22)
Have you read Pollyanna Grows Up? Did you enjoy it as much as Pollyanna? Would you recommend it? What did you think of Pollyanna and Jimmy Bean and the conclusions they make about each other?

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, February 09, 2013

Week In Review: February 3-9

Books reviewed this week:

Victoria Rebels. Carolyn Meyer. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 192 pages.
Clouds of Witness. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1926/1966. Avon. 224 pages. 
Kilmeny of the Orchard. L.M. Montgomery. 1910. 144 pages.
Miss Billy. Eleanor H. Porter. 1911. Dodo Press. 208 pages.
The Cape Cod Mystery. Phoebe Atwood Taylor. 1931. Countryman Press. 190 pages.
 Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Tullian Tchividjian. 2011. Crossway. 220 pages.
Comforts From Romans: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at A Time by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick. 2013. Crossway. 160 pages.
The Beatles, God, & The Bible. Ray Comfort. 2012. WND Books. 180 pages.
One Minute After You Die. Erwin Lutzer. 1997. Moody Publishers. 192 pages.
Your Eternal Reward. Erwin Lutzer. 1998. Moody Publishers. 171 pages.
A New Home for Lily by Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2013. Revell. 272 pages.
Bride in the Bargain. Deeanne Gist. 2009. Bethany House. 365 pages.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Second Trip in February

New Loot:
  • Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
  • Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood
  • The Other Countess by Eve Edwards
Leftover Loot:
  • Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Queen's Lady by Eve Edwards 
  • Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit by Corey Olsen
  • Freight Train by Donald Crews
  • Courage Has No Color by Tanya Lee Stone
  • Miss Marple: The Complete Short Stories by Agatha Christie
  • Three Act Tragedy by Agatha Christie
  • Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie
  • My Big Train Book by Roger Priddy
  • The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer
  •  Trains Go by Steve Light 
  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.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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These Books Came Home With Me

Today was the Friends of the Library book sale at my library. And these are the books I was able to fit into my bag!  
  • Hannah's Hope by Karen Kingsbury
  • Sarah's Song by Karen Kingsbury
  • The Case of the Postponed Murder by Erle Stanley Gardner
  • The Case of the Fenced-In Woman by Erle Stanley Gardner
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock by Vonda N. McIntyre
  • The Death and Life of Miguel de Cervantes by Stephen Marlowe
  • The Boomerang Clue (aka Why Didn't They Ask Evans) by Agatha Christie
  • Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie
  • Mrs. McGinty's Dead by Agatha Christie
  • Murder with Mirrors by Agatha Christie
  • The Cat Who Went Into the Closet by Lillian Jackson Braun
  • The Cat Who Moved A Mountain by Lillian Jackson Braun
  • The Cat Who Blew the Whistle by Lillian Jackson Braun
  • The Cat Who Said Cheese by Lillian Jackson Braun
  • Uneasy Terms by Peter Cheyney
  • The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood by Susan Wittig Albert
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • The Cunning Man by Robertson Davies
  • Gently Love Beckons by June Masters Bacher
  • Another Spring by June Masters Bacher
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, February 08, 2013

Kilmeny of the Orchard (1910)

Kilmeny of the Orchard. L.M. Montgomery. 1910. 144 pages.

THE sunshine of a day in early spring, honey pale and honey sweet, was showering over the red brick buildings of Queenslea College and the grounds about them, throwing through the bare, budding maples and elms, delicate, evasive etchings of gold and brown on the paths, and coaxing into life the daffodils that were peering greenly and perkily up under the windows of the co-eds' dressing-room.  

Eric Marshall, our narrator, takes a teaching position at a Prince Edward Island school to help out a friend who needs to take a leave of absence for health reasons. While on the island, he falls in love with a beautiful young woman, Kilmeny. It is love at first sight, for him; but for her, well, it's a different story. She flees the scene. At first he wasn't sure if the problem was with him or with her. He doesn't know who she is, and, he certainly doesn't know her story. But he gradually learns the truth. She can't speak. And she's had a horribly sad and awkward upbringing. He loves her all the same. And through a series of secret meetings, they come to love one another very much. He is ready to propose, but, she is not ready to say yes. How can she wed him when she's so unworthy of him? He surely deserves a wife who can speak. So she's ready to turn him down no matter how many times he proposes for his own good. But he's not ready to walk away from true love, and he's got hope and confidence. Confidence that his good friend, who just happens to be a THROAT doctor, can figure out why Kilmeny can't speak and perhaps cure her.

This romance novel is not my favorite. I do not care for the conflict in it. Neil Gordon is a "foreign" orphan taken into Kilmeny's family and raised practically by birth. (He's Italian.) Yet, it's clear that NATURE wins over nurture in this one. For he's so "strange," and "foreign," and "wild" and so very unsafe. Though the two have been raised together their whole lives, he becomes obsessed with her. Think Jud Fry from Oklahoma. And when he sees the two together, he's anything but happy. Even though this conflict helps bring the story to its resolution--Kilmeny having GREAT motivation to finally speak--I can't help regretting it all the same.

Have you read this one? What did you think?

Read Kilmeny of the Orchard
  • If you love L.M. Montgomery
  • If you like romance novels (clean romance novels)
  • If you like classics and/or historical fiction
  • If you like descriptive writing; Montgomery LOVES nature

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Victoria Rebels (2013)

Victoria Rebels. Carolyn Meyer. 2013. Simon & Schuster. 192 pages.



I absolutely loved this book. But I tend to always like Carolyn Meyer's historical fiction. And I have great interest in Queen Victoria. If you enjoyed watching Young Victoria, there's a good chance you'll enjoy reading this book. Half of the novel focuses on Victoria's childhood and her strict upbringing, the second half focuses on the first six or seven years of her reign. Only the last few chapters focus on Victoria as wife...and mother.

Relationships matter in this book. We see this at the very beginning as Victoria struggles to have genuine relationships with the people in her life. Victoria is disappointed again and again as the people she loves and trusts most leave her life. (Her sister, her favorite uncle, various cousins, etc.) She does NOT have a good relationship with her mother...at all. The tension between the two is seen throughout the novel. Other important relationships, of course, are between Victoria and Daisy (Louise Lehzen), Victoria and Albert (her husband-and-cousin), Victoria and Lord Melbourne (prime minister).

It is about politics, but, it isn't only about politics. It offers plenty of drama: ROYAL DRAMA. For example, Victoria's mother does NOT get along with the king...they HATE each other.

I really enjoyed this one. It is told completely from Victoria's point of view. And I think it's well told.

Read Victoria Rebels
  • If you LOVED Young Victoria or Victoria and Albert
  • If you love Victorian literature (Dickens, Trollope, Gaskell, Collins, Eliot, etc.) and want to have more background on the time period;
  • If you love reading about royals
  • If you enjoy MG or YA historical fiction
 
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Clouds of Witness (1926)

Clouds of Witness. Dorothy L. Sayers. 1926/1966. Avon. 224 pages.

Lord Peter Wimsey stretched himself luxuriously between the sheets provided by the Hotel Meurice. After his exertions in the unraveling of the Battersea Mystery, he had followed Sir Julian Freke's advice and taken a holiday.

I hope to reread all of Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter books this year. This is my first reread of the series. My first review of Clouds of Witness

While Clouds of Witness is not my absolute favorite in the Lord Peter Wimsey series, I definitely enjoyed it. Lord Peter is still Lord Peter. I still enjoy seeing Lord Peter in discussion with Bunter and Parker. I still love references to Lord Peter's mother!

In this mystery, Lord Peter rushes home because his brother has been arrested for murder. The victim was engaged to be married to his sister, Mary. But with his brother staying silent about WHERE he was and WHO he was with at the time of the crime, and Mary being caught in a handful of lies, Peter is having difficulty establishing just who the real murderer was.

Lord Peter to Inspector Charles Parker:

"True, O King. Well, you've sat on all my discoveries so far. Never mind. My head is bloody but unbowed. Cathcart was sitting here--"
"So your brother said."
"Curse you, I say he was; at least, somebody was; he's left the impression of his sit-me-down-upon on the cushion."
'That might have been earlier in the day."
"Rot. They were out all day. You needn't overdo this Sadducee attitude, Charles. I say Cathcart was sitting here..." (38)
Lord Peter to Inspector Charles Parker:
"I say, I don't think the human frame is very thoughtfully constructed for this sleuth-hound business. If one could go on all-fours, or had eyes in one's knees, it would be a lot more practical." (48)

Lord Peter to Inspector Charles Parker:
"Did you ever read The Lay of the Last Minstrel?"
"I learnt a good deal of it at school," said Parker. "Why?"
"Because there was a goblin page-boy in it," said Lord Peter, "who was always yelling 'Found! Found! Found!' at the most unnecessary moments. I always thought him a terrible nuisance, but now I know how he felt. See here." (52)

Sir Impey Biggs to the Dowager Duchess:
"Lawyers enjoy a little mystery, you know. Why, if everybody came forward and told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth straight out, we should all retire to the workhouse." (62)
A solemn Peter...
With that instinct which prompts one, when depressed, to wallow in every circumstance of gloom, Peter leaned sadly upon the hurdles and abandoned himself to a variety of shallow considerations upon (1) The vanity of human wishes; (2) Mutability; (3) First love; (4) The decay of idealism; (5) The aftermath of the Great war; (6) Birth-control; (7) The fallacy of free-will. (71)

Lord Peter to Inspector Charles Parker:
"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)
Read Clouds of Witness
  • If you enjoy mysteries--cozy mysteries, vintage mysteries, British mysteries
  • If you enjoy Dorothy Sayers' mysteries
  • If you can't get enough of Lord Peter!
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Miss Billy (1911)

Miss Billy. Eleanor H. Porter. 1911. Dodo Press. 208 pages.

Miss Billy (1911) is a pleasant romance by Eleanor H. Porter, an author perhaps better known for her children's novel Pollyanna (1913). Billy becomes an orphan around the age of eighteen. She has no living relatives, but she still needs a family, wants a family. She decides to write one of her father's college friends, a friend she was named after. Her name *is* Billy. Her namesake, William Henshaw, is living with his two younger brothers, Cyril and Bertram. (Also making up the household is Pete, the butler, and Dong Ling the cook.) Her letter reveals her eagerness, her expectation, her hope to come and live with the Henshaw family in Boston. Her letter doesn't reveal her gender. I don't think Billy even thought that her name might be ambiguous enough to cause confusion. They send her the message to come, and then comes the big surprise. What will a houseful of men do with an eighteen year old girl? Well, they'll call their sister to beg her to be chaperon for a night or two perhaps. But then they'll see what spinster relative they can bring into their home along with this newcomer and her cat. Aunt Hannah will suit nicely. The first part of the novel focuses on how Miss Billy changes things up for these three men. How she brings life and excitement to them all, making the house feel more like a home. The second part of the novel, however, focuses on the all-too-absent Billy. For after a big misunderstanding, Billy decides to live elsewhere using college and then European travels as an excuse to stay away from the Henshaw brothers. The third part of the novel is set when Billy is twenty-one or twenty-two, she's return to Boston and bought her own home and is establishing herself quite well. It is the third part of the novel that focuses on Billy's love life...

It is a pleasant, enjoyable novel. Miss Billy is vivacious and lovely. And the three brothers are interesting as well. At least two of the three brothers are unsociable and a bit awkward until helped by Miss Billy. Cyril being thought to be interested only in music; Bertram being thought to be interested only in art; William being thought to be interested only in collecting various objects for his huge collection. There are a few good minor characters as well, including the very domestic music teacher. The only minor character I didn't like is the sister, Kate, who is almost always the source of confusion and misunderstanding...


Read Miss Billy
  • If you like orphan stories (like Anne of the Island, Daddy Long-Legs, etc.)
  • If you like light romances (or clean romances)
  • If you've read Pollyanna and want to read more from Eleanor H. Porter
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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