Saturday, November 30, 2013

2014 Sci-Fi Experience

Sci-Fi Experience
Hosted: Stainless Steel Droppings (sign-up post) (review site)
December 2013 - January 2014
# of Books: I'm hoping for seven

What I'm reading, OR, hope to read:

Dangerous by Shannon Hale
Unsouled by Neal Shusterman
Shift by Hugh Howey (I *may* decide to reread Wool before finishing the series with Dust)
Dust by Hugh Howey
Across A Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund (a sci-fi retelling of Scarlet Pimpernel!!!!!)
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Vader's Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown
Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown
Star Wars Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown
Original Star Wars Trilogy (George Lucas, Alan Dean Foster, Donald F. Glut, James Kahn, Lawrence Kasdan)
Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen
The 100 by Kass Morgan
Risked by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Pastwatch the Redemption of Christopher Columbus by Orson Scott Card
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card (maybe?)


© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Fifth Trip in November

New Loot:
  • Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
  • Salt by Helen Frost
  • A Song for Bijou by Josh Farrar
  • Risked by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Mariah Mundi by G.P. Taylor
  • A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty
  • The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
  • Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett
  • The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
  • Building Our House by Jonathan Bean
  • The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
  • P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
  • Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli

Leftover Loot:
  • Pete the Cat Saves Christmas Eric Litfin, James Dean
  • Rocking In My School Shoes by Eric Litfin, James Dean
  • Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by Kimberley and James Dean
  • Wheels on the Bus (Pete the Cat) James Dean 
  • Pete the Cat And His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean, Eric Litwin
  • Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, Eric Litwin, James Dean
  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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November Reflections

This month I read 44 books! 

My top five:

Paperboy. Vince Vawter. 2013. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Library] 
The Boy on the Porch. Sharon Creech. 2013. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Fortunately, The Milk. Neil Gaiman. 2013. HarperCollins. 114 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 
Magic Marks the Spot (Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates). Caroline Carlson. 2013. HarperCollins. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Rose Under Fire. Elizabeth Wein. 2013. Hyperion. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

Picture Books:

  1. Olive And The Big Secret. Tor Freeman. 2012. Candlewick Press.  32 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. Olive and the Bad Mood. Tor Freeman. 2013. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Middle Grade and Young Adult:
  1. Paperboy. Vince Vawter. 2013. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Library]  
  2. The Boy on the Porch. Sharon Creech. 2013. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
  3. Fortunately, The Milk. Neil Gaiman. 2013. HarperCollins. 114 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 
  4. Allegiant. Veronica Roth. (Divergent Series #3) HarperCollins. 544 pages. [Source: Library] 
  5. The String Quartet. Dan Hupalo. 2013. CreateSpace. 292 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. The Year of Billy Miller. Kevin Henkes. 2013. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Library] 
  7. Parallelogram. Robin Brande. 2013. Ryer Publishing. 350 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
  8. Rose Under Fire. Elizabeth Wein. 2013. Hyperion. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends. Shannon Hale. 2013. Little, Brown. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. Magic Marks the Spot (Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates). Caroline Carlson. 2013. HarperCollins. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  11. Mandy. Julie Andrews Edwards. 1971. HarperCollins. 320 pages. [Source: Bought Replacement Copy]
  12. Anne of Windy Poplars. L.M. Montgomery. 1936. 288 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  13. The Wind in the Willows. Kenneth Grahame. Illustrated by David Roberts. Candlewick. 256 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
  14. Heaven is Paved With Oreos. Catherine Gilbert Murdock. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 208 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
  15. The Hero's Guide to Saving the Kingdom. Christopher Healy. 2012. HarperCollins. 448 pages. [Source: Library] 
  16. The Norman Conquest. Janice Hamilton. 2007. Twenty-First Century Books. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
  17. Our Island Story. H.E. Marshall. 1905/? 512 pages. [Source: Bought]  
Adult Fiction and Nonfiction:
  1. The Nonesuch. Georgette Heyer. 1962/2009. Sourcebooks. 352 pages. [Source: Library] 
  2. False Colours. Georgette Heyer. 1963/2011. Thorndike. 520 pages. [Source: library]
  3. Black Sheep. Georgette Heyer. 1966/2008. Sourcebooks. 280 pages. [Source: Library]
  4. Frederica. Georgette Heyer. 1965/2009. Sourcebooks. 437 pages. [Source: Library] 
  5. The Bastard King. Jean Plaidy. 1974. Fawcett Crest. 320 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  6. The Lion of Justice. Jean Plaidy. 1975. Fawcett. 320 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  7. The Passionate Enemies. Jean Plaidy. 1976. Fawcett. 320 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  8. Alfred the Great. Justin Pollard. 2005. John Murray. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
  9. How The Barbarian Invasions Shaped The Modern World. Thomas J. Craughwell. 2008. Fair Winds Press. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
  10. Becoming Shakespeare: The Unlikely Afterlife That Turned a Provincial Playwright Into the Bard. Jack Lynch. 2007. Walker. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
  11. Cymbeline. William Shakespeare. circa 1611. [Source: Bought]

Christian Fiction and Nonfiction:
  1. Found In Him. Elyse M. Fitzpatrick. 2013. Crossway. 240 pages. [Source: Review Copy]  
  2. The Kind of Preaching God Blesses. Steven J. Lawson. 2013. Harvest House. 128 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
  3. Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry. 2010. Tyndale. 400 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 
  4. Prodigal Cat. Janette Oke. 1984. Bethany House. 160 pages. [Source: Childhood Copy] 
  5. Spunky's Diary. Janette Oke. 1982/1998. Bethany House. 112 pages. [Source: Childhood Copy] 
  6. When Breaks the Dawn. Janette Oke. 1985. Bethany House. 215 pages. [Source: Library] 
  7. Reliable Truth: The Validity of the Bible in an Age of Skepticism. Richard E. Simmons III. 2012. Union Hill. 192 pages. [Source: Review Copy] 
  8. Perfectly Matched. Maggie Brendan. 2013. Revell. 352 pages. [Source: Library] 
  9. Living for God's Glory. Joel R. Beeke. 2008. Reformation Trust. 414 pages. [Source: Borrowed From Friend]
  10. Ducktails. Janette Oke. 1985. Bethany House. 144 pages. [Source: Childhood Copy]  
  11. A Cote of Many Colors. Janette Oke. 1987. Bethany House. 144 pages. [Source: Childhood Copy] 
  12. The Impatient Turtle. Janette Oke. 1986. Bethany House. 112 pages. [Source: Childhood Copy]
  13. Made In Our Image. Steven J. Lawson. 2000. Doubleday. 224 pages. [Source: Borrowed From Friend]
  14. Not In The Heart. Chris Fabry. 2012. Tyndale. 432 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Week in Review: November 24-30

Paperboy. Vince Vawter. 2013. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Library]
Anne of Windy Poplars. L.M. Montgomery. 1936. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
Black Sheep. Georgette Heyer. 1966/2008. Sourcebooks. 280 pages. [Source: Library]
Frederica. Georgette Heyer. 1965/2009. Sourcebooks. 437 pages. [Source: Library]
Rose Under Fire. Elizabeth Wein. 2013. Hyperion. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
Alfred the Great. Justin Pollard. 2005. John Murray. 368 pages. [Source: Library]
Heaven is Paved With Oreos. Catherine Gilbert Murdock. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 208 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Made In Our Image. Steven J. Lawson. 2000. Doubleday. 224 pages. [Source: Borrowed From Friend]
Not In The Heart. Chris Fabry. 2012. Tyndale. 432 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Rose Under Fire (2013)

Rose Under Fire. Elizabeth Wein. 2013. Hyperion. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

Compelling, intense, thought-provoking. Rose Under Fire is a book to be experienced, for better or worse. The subject is intense. The heroine Rose spends at least half the novel in a concentration camp as a political prisoner.  (Ravensbruck) Rose, our heroine, is an American pilot. She was not technically supposed to be flying so close to the war zone. Perhaps she was not even supposed to be ferrying planes to France. But when she gets lost, well, things happen. Rose finds herself captive. Her experience is horrifying, no doubt. Will every reader want to explore the darkness of evil? Of course not! But is it a story worth telling? I know it is. The theme of Rose Under Fire is that even when the telling is difficult, the story needs to be told. The story represents lives, lives of women whose lives were taken and destroyed by the Nazis.

Rose Under Fire is specifically the story of "the Rabbits." These were girls and women experimented on by doctors and scientists. Some of their subjects died. Some of their subjects survived. The book details a few of these as some of Rose's dearest friends are Rabbits. She can see with her eyes just what the enemy has done. It is with shame that she recalls her past, how she actually heard accounts of these experiments and laughed them off as bad propaganda. She hears stories as well. Her new family WANTS her to memorize the names of all the Rabbits, to know their stories, to know enough to TELL the story to others. They know that not everyone will survive; they are realistic to know that before the end of the war many more will die. But they hold on to the hope that surely a few will survive. And for those few, they have the responsibility, the duty, to tell the world.

The book is in journal format, for the most part. Rose Under Fire is a companion novel to Code Name Verity. It was an impressive read.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

2014 Reading Challenge: TBR Pile (Roof Beam Reader)

2014 TBR Pile
Host: Roof Beam Reader (sign up here); updates on 15th each month.
January - December 2014
# of Books 12 to 14

My list:


1066 And All That. W.C. Sellar & R.J. Yeatman. 1931/1993. Barnes & Noble. 116 pages. [Source: Bought]


In Search of England. H.V. Morton. 1927/2007. Da Capo Press. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]


Dick Turpin: The Myth of the English Highwayman. James Sharpe. 2004. Profile Books. 258 pages. [Source: Book I bought]


When Christ and His Saints Slept by Sharon Kay Penman. 1994. Random House. 746 pages. [Source: Bought]  


The Merry Monarch's Wife by Jean Plaidy. 1991/2008. Crown. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]


Victoria Victorious. Jean Plaidy. 1985. Three Rivers Press. 564 pages. [Source: Bought]


The Birth of Britain (History of the English Speaking People #1). Winston Churchill. 1956. 496 pages. [Source: Bought]


Pastwatch The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. Orson Scott Card. 1996. Tor.  351 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]


An Autobiography. Agatha Christie. 1977/1996. Berkley. 635 pages. [Source: Bought]

And Be A Villain. (Nero Wolfe). Rex Stout. 1948. 256 pages. [Source: Book I Bought] 


Good Morning, Miss Dove. Frances Gray Patton. 1954. 218 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]


The Eustace Diamonds. Anthony Trollope. 1873. 794 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]


My alternates:
The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court At Kensington Palace. Lucy Worsley. 2010. Walker. 432 pages [Source: Bought]


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Betty Smith. 1943. Harper Perennial. 493 pages. [Source: Bought]

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Black Sheep (1966)

Black Sheep. Georgette Heyer. 1966/2008. Sourcebooks. 280 pages. [Source: Library]

I love this one. It was great to get a chance to reread it.

Abigail (Abby) Wendover and Selena Wendover are the two aunts responsible for raising their young niece, Fanny, a young lady who is just getting ready to come out in society. When the novel opens, Abby has just returned to Bath from visiting some of her brothers and sisters. So she has missed the early stages of Fanny's young love. Fanny has fallen in forever-and-ever love with Stacy Calverleigh, a man with a bit of a reputation.

While no one can deny that he comes from a good family, it's also undeniable that since Stacy has come of age, the family's financial standing has continued to fall. He desperately needs to marry money if he's going to "save" the family home and keep up appearances--living a certain lifestyle.

Fanny may be young, but she'll inherit a great deal of money when she comes of age. Enough to tempt young Calverleigh. That's how Abby and her brother, James, see it anyway. Selena, well, she's easily charmed. And Stacy has a way of making her think the best of him. Abby fears that Stacy may convince Fanny to elope with him.

Soon after Abby returns home, Miles Calverleigh arrives. He's the "black sheep" of the Calverleigh family. (He's been in India for years.) He has come to Bath quite unaware that his nephew, Stacy, has been there.

Can Abby convince Miles to intervene? Will Miles see his young nephew's affair as being any of his concern? After all, he has never met the boy.

What starts out as "concern" for Fanny and Stacy, develops into something more--much much more. Has Abby found love at last? Will her sister, Selena, let Abby go? And should she care what Selena and her brother, James, think of her relationship with Miles?

I love, love, love this one! I love the romance between Miles and Abby. And I love the romance between Fanny and Oliver. I think I was able to appreciate Oliver much more the second time around! I love how Miles chooses to intervene!!! And I love, love, love the ending! So satisfying! 

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Frederica (1965)

Frederica. Georgette Heyer. 1965/2009. Sourcebooks. 437 pages. [Source: Library]

Frederica and Venetia are (probably) my top two Heyer romances. I ADORE Frederica. It is one of my favorite, favorite historical romances. I first read it in 2009.

Frederica has a great hero. Lord Alverstoke is a great hero, a giddy-making hero. Every moment with him is special. And Frederica Merriville, is a wonderful heroine. Her unexpected arrival into Lord Alverstoke's life changes everything. And she doesn't come alone! She comes with a stunningly beautiful younger sister (Charis) and a handful of brothers (Harry, Jessamy, and Felix). (Also a large dog!) She appears at his house one day claiming a family connection. She wants his help, well his wife's help, in launching her sister into the ton, into society. She didn't expect him to be unmarried. But she learns he has sisters. It just so happens that Lord Alverstoke has just refused to help launch a niece or two into society. His house apparently being quite the ideal party location. Frederica gets a yes, however. He will "act as guardian" to her family. Over the next few weeks, Lord Alverstoke does indeed act as guardian. He becomes a constant companion, almost, to Frederica and her siblings. Two of her brothers, Felix and Jessamy, the youngest, really seek out his attention. And Lord Alverstoke is absolutely great with them! Kind and patient and attentive. I love seeing the whole family bond with Lord Alverstoke. I love seeing these relationships form. There are plenty of scenes with Lord Alverstoke and Frederica, there are plenty of scenes that develop this romance, but it is also a family novel.

I love, love, love this novel. It is a great example of what makes Heyer great.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Paperboy (2013)

Paperboy. Vince Vawter. 2013. Random House. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

Paperboy had me at hello. I loved, loved, loved, loved, REALLY LOVED this one. Yes, I'm going to gush about how wonderful and just-right this one is.

Paperboy is set in Memphis, Tennessee, in July of 1959. The narrator is a young boy (11, I think?) who stutters. He doesn't want stuttering to define him. He doesn't think that's fair. He is good at many, many things, like baseball. He is GREAT at baseball. He is good at typing, at writing. He loves words. But his stutter keeps him from loving speaking words aloud. It keeps him nervous and awkward around new people or strangers, people he feels will judge him based on his stutter alone, who will assume that his inability to speak clearly means he's unable to THINK clearly too.

So. The month of July will prove challenging to him for he has agreed to take over his best friend's paper route. Oh, he's not worried about the delivering part. He knows he's got that handled. He's worried about Fridays, about the day when he'll have to go to the door and TALK to people and ask for the money owed. You might think, in some ways, that it would be the first week that would be the most difficult, and that, all other weeks would just be easy after that initial effort. That is only partly true. He does make a friend, a wonderful friend. And he does learn a few life lessons that help him grow up a bit and cope a bit. And, I suppose, you could say that his perspective expands a bit in that he sees that the world is full of people who have problems, who have issues; that every person is dealing with something, struggling with something.

I think I loved the narrator best. The book is in his own words, he's recounting these events. There is something in the narrator's life, a secret that he discovers one day, and it could potentially be big and disturbing--just as there are other events in the novel that could be BIG AND DISTURBING. But this one thing that he wrestles with on his own, quietly meditating on it perhaps, was handled so tenderly and lovingly that it just worked for me. It made a novel that I already LOVED, LOVED, LOVED that much more wow-worthy.

I also loved other characters in this novel. Characters that might have seemed minor, but, were anything but. Characters like Mam, Rat (Art), Mr. Spiro, and, to a certain extent his Dad.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Heaven is Paved With Oreos (2013)

Heaven is Paved With Oreos. Catherine Gilbert Murdock. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 208 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

I wanted to love Heaven is Paved With Oreos. I really did love Catherine Gilbert Murdock's Dairy Queen trilogy. And Heaven is Paved With Oreos features D.J.'s younger brother, Curtis, as the love interest. So my expectations were high.

Sarah Zorn, our heroine, has a best friend, Curtis. The two are "going out." It was part of her clever plan. The two would pretend to be boyfriend and girlfriend so the teasing would stop. The two share a deep interest in dead things. Yes, you read that right, the two love studying how dead bodies (a calf in this case) decompose. These two do seem made for each other. But Curtis is tired of lying. What he is not saying is significant. It takes "losing" Curtis for her to realize that she's been unhappy with the arrangement as well.

The most unsatisfying aspect of this one--in my opinion--was Sarah's trip with her Grandma Z to Rome. Sarah's parents are initially hesitant to let their daughter go on a trip with Z. But Z has concocted a persuasive story, and pleads I've already bought her plane ticket. The middle section of the novel is their vacation together in Rome.

The novel has a theme of lying: of examining why people lie, why it may be justifiable or understandable, why people may choose to lie to the people closest to them, etc. There is something human about this one, and I suppose that is always a good thing. Sarah has to decide if she will stay angry at a person who lied to her and used her.

I did not enjoy reading Heaven is Paved With Oreos. Sarah and Curtis may be made for each other, but, reading about a decomposing calf and all the talk about reconstructing the bones for a science fair was unpleasant. I am glad that Sarah and Curtis eventually communicated with one another. The ending with these two was super-sweet. Sarah's trip to Rome with Z left me unsatisfied.

S
P
O
I
L
E
R


A
L
E
R
T

I really hated Z's lies. I thought she used her granddaughter horribly. She was selfish and untrustworthy. She lied to Sarah's parents; she lied to Sarah. She had ulterior motives for wanting to go to Rome. And when her fantasy collapsed, she had a breakdown leaving Sarah to care for them both in a foreign country. And her excuses for the trip in the first place were WEIRD. Part of me was glad that they fell away as lies. She had Sarah convinced that visiting seven churches in Rome would assure her [Z] a place in heaven. "But thousands of pilgrims over hundreds of years have visited this church because they hoped it would help them with heaven, and Z needs to go!" (101) and "instead we did something that was a lot more fun, even if it won't get us into heaven..." (106)

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Alfred the Great (2005)

Alfred the Great. Justin Pollard. 2005. John Murray. 368 pages. [Source: Library]

I liked this biography of Alfred the Great. I can see why it might not appeal to every reader. Why it might not be considered a must-read by everyone. Not everyone gets excited by history. But I did enjoy learning more about Alfred the Great. This biography was pleasantly complex. It was rich in detail; it wasn't always the easiest to follow. I wouldn't want to be quizzed necessarily. But at the same time I was fascinated that there was so much to know, that so much has been passed down to us, that there are historians who specialize in this time period. There is a great deal about Vikings in this biography, which is just what I was looking for...

Since falling in love with Vikingland, I wanted to learn more. The song goes, "We split your isles diagonally from south-east to north-west. Our section was called the Danelaw, King Alfred ruled the rest" and "though we began as raiders so well-planned you accepted us as traders." The song does have a propaganda feel (in a good way) to it.

I found plenty within this one to interest me. Readers can learn a lot about Anglo-Saxon culture through the centuries. My goal was mainly big-picture. As I said earlier, there was a lot of information that could be absorbed by a careful reader or scholar. I wasn't trying to learn-to-remember every little thing. 

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Salon: Reading Anne of Windy Poplars

Anne of Windy Poplars. L.M. Montgomery. 1936. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]

Anne of Windy Poplars is such a lovely little epistolary novel. Readers are privileged to share in some of Anne's letters to her beloved Gilbert. In these letters there are hundreds (if not thousands) of character sketches sharing details about Anne's life and new experiences as she teaches at a high school in Summerside, Prince Edward Island. (Highlights include Rebecca Dew, "Little Elizabeth" (Grayson), Katherine Brooke, Aunt Chatty and Aunt Kate, Jen Pringle, Mrs. Gibson, Lewis Allen, Teddy Armstrong (Little Fellow), Gerald and Geraldine (the twins she babysits...once), Jarvis Morrow, Dovie Westcott, Miss Minerva Tomgallon, etc.) Some people just get a brief sentence or two, but oh what Montgomery can do with just a few sentences or even a few words! Montgomery, at her very best, can bring more life and humanity to a character than a good many contemporary writers do in an entire novel. Other characters have whole episodes about them. For example, readers really get to spend some time with Katherine Brooke! One of my favorite episodes--if episode is the right word--is Anne and Lewis out canvassing for subscriptions to the drama club. They meet a "little fellow" named Teddy Armstrong. That story just gets me every single time! Montgomery can bring me to near tears and yet not feel manipulative. How does she do that?!

Have you read Anne of Windy Poplars? How do you think it fits in with the rest of the series? Do you have a favorite character?

Favorite quotes:
I have a scratchy pen and I can't write love-letters with a scratchy pen...or a sharp pen...or a stub pen. So you'll only get that kind of letter from me when I have exactly the right kind of pen. 
You know I've always been one to whom adventures come unsought. I just seem to attract them, as it were.  
School begins tomorrow. I shall have to teach geometry! Surely that can't be any worse than learning it. 
Isn't it queer that the things we writhe over at night are seldom wicked things? Just humiliating ones.
I don't like reading about martyrs because they always make me feel petty and ashamed...ashamed to admit I hate to get out of bed on frosty mornings and shrink from a visit to the dentist!
Nobody is ever too old to dream. And dreams never grow old.
I said drenched and I mean drenched.
Oh, no, babies are never common," said Anne, bringing a bowl of water for Mrs. Gibson's roses. "Every one is a miracle."
It seems so strange to read over the stories of those old wars...things that can never happen again. I don't suppose any of us will ever have more than an academic interest in 'battles long ago.' It's impossible to think of Canada ever being at war again. I am so thankful that phase of history is over. 
Nobody is ever too old to wear just what she wants to wear. You wouldn't want to wear it if you were too old. 

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Week in Review: November 17-23

The Hero's Guide to Saving the Kingdom. Christopher Healy. 2012. HarperCollins. 448 pages. [Source: Library]
False Colours. Georgette Heyer. 1963/2011. Thorndike. 520 pages. [Source: library]
The Boy on the Porch. Sharon Creech. 2013. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Parallelogram. Robin Brande. 2013. Ryer Publishing. 350 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
The Norman Conquest. Janice Hamilton. 2007. Twenty-First Century Books. 160 pages. [Source: Library]
The Wind in the Willows. Kenneth Grahame. Illustrated by David Roberts. Candlewick. 256 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Ducktails. Janette Oke. 1985. Bethany House. 144 pages. [Source: Childhood Copy]
A Cote of Many Colors. Janette Oke. 1987. Bethany House. 144 pages. [Source: Childhood Copy]
The Impatient Turtle. Janette Oke. 1986. Bethany House. 112 pages. [Source: Childhood Copy]

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Fourth Trip in November

New Loot:
  • Paperboy by Vince Vawter
  • Pete the Cat Saves Christmas Eric Litfin, James Dean
  • Rocking In My School Shoes by Eric Litfin, James Dean
  • Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by Kimberley and James Dean
  • Wheels on the Bus (Pete the Cat) James Dean

Leftover Loot:
  • Pete the Cat And His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean, Eric Litwin
  • Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, Eric Litwin, James Dean
  • Thumpy Feet by Betsy Lewin
  • Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown
  • Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown
  • The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz
  • The 100 by Kass Morgan
  • Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen
 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, November 22, 2013

The Hero's Guide to Saving the Kingdom (2012)

The Hero's Guide to Saving the Kingdom. Christopher Healy. 2012. HarperCollins. 448 pages. [Source: Library]

Perhaps I was not in the right mood to appreciate Christopher Healy's The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. The things that delighted me in the first two or three chapters, became exceedingly annoying by halfway through the novel. I persevered perhaps when I should have set the book aside for another time. The premise is fun and playful. Readers are introduced to four princes all named Prince Charming. Cinderella's prince, Rapunzel's prince, Sleeping Beauty's prince, Snow White's prince. All have proper names and distinct personalities. That being said the princes mostly blended together for me with the exception of Snow White's prince and Cinderella's prince. These two weren't exactly memorable because I loved what Healy did with their stories. I didn't see characters being developed so much as quirks being displayed again and again and again and again. I never really connected with the princes on their (long) journey.

What this MG fantasy has is plenty of action and adventure...also a great deal of humor. For readers who love fairy tales and action/adventure quests with plenty of humor, this one may prove quite pleasing.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

False Colours (1963)

False Colours. Georgette Heyer. 1963/2011. Thorndike. 520 pages. [Source: library]

False Colours was one of the few Heyer romances I'd not read previously. (Though I think I'd attempted it before and found myself not in the mood.) I had my doubts about this title because it is about twins switching places. The premise didn't sound appealing. But I found myself enjoying this one after all!

Christopher "Kit" Fancot returns to London unexpectedly. His mother is thrilled to see him, but incredibly anxious as well, you see, for she was expecting to see Kit's twin, Evelyn. If Evelyn doesn't return in the next day (or so) it will be super-awkward for the family. He's supposed to be meeting his fiancee's (extended) family at a party. It's a big deal. (Their engagement isn't official yet. If he doesn't impress certain members of her family, it may be broken off.) The mother fears that something has happened to her son to keep him away. He went away on an errand for her behalf, to redeem a brooch she'd lost gaming. Kit and his mother are bantering back and forth when she gets an idea: Kit can take his brother's place at the party! Since Evelyn has not met (most) of the family yet anyway, they wouldn't be able to distinguish between the two twins anyway--and if they know Evelyn has a twin at all, well, they expect him to be in Europe (Vienna, I think?). He agrees--for this one emergency--to take his brother's place. Readers know it won't really be that simple!

The heroine of False Colours is a lovely young woman, Cressy Stavely. Kit finds himself in an impossible situation when it becomes clear that Cressy and Evelyn are practically strangers and they have only had one or two conversations at most--one being the proposal itself. Another conversation was interrupted. Here's where it gets tricky. She wants to finish that conversation! She wants to meet again... So Kit finds himself continuing the deception...

False Colours is delightful and quite predictable. I definitely enjoyed it for the characterization. I liked Kit very much! I loved seeing Kit interact with his mother. He was so patient and kind and thoughtful. His mother, well, she's a character. One could see how she'd be incredibly annoying, could really get on all your nerves. But Kit accepts his mother's "weaknesses," awaits her moments of calmness, and is very tender with her. I also loved seeing him interact with Cressy! Those two were definitely meant to be. There were other characters that I enjoyed as well, including one of his mother's suitors! 

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Boy on the Porch (2013)

The Boy on the Porch. Sharon Creech. 2013. HarperCollins. 160 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

I really loved Sharon Creech's The Boy On The Porch. I loved it for many reasons, but, I'm not sure I can put into words just why. I loved how this childless couple, this out-of-the-way couple, this on-the-outskirts couple were transformed by the presence of a young, quiet boy in their lives. Marta and John were surprised--pleasantly surprised--when a young sleeping boy appears on their front porch with a note. The note reveals his name, Jacob, but, little else. Whoever left him may come back for him, but, there are no guarantees, no answers. The presence of the boy changes things, perhaps, they don't want to admit HOW much from day one. But their love for him, and their amazement and joy they find in watching him, caring for him, nurturing him, changes them deep down as well. Yes, some changes are surface: John going into town more often, trading more often, buying LOTS of jelly beans. But other things are quieter and subtler, I believe. One thing about the novel is the big question that no one really wants to dwell on: will the boy stay forever, is he theirs to keep and love forever and ever, or, will they have to let him go at some point. But the "ending" is really only the beginning. I absolutely loved some of the imagery.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Parallelogram (2013)

Parallelogram. Robin Brande. 2013. Ryer Publishing. 350 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

I have enjoyed the books in this series. I wish I'd had time to reread the two previous books in the series, but, since that wasn't possible, I'll just say that it took me a few chapters to fully remember (in a satisfactory way) what was going on, what had just happened. I found myself remembering the big things, but forgetting the little things. I would encourage readers to read the series as close together as possible.

Seize the Parallel keeps readers in touch with both Halli and Audie. The two have definitely switched places. Halli's consciousness is inhabiting Audie's body. Halli is having to adjust to this parallel universe. Since Halli and Audie are so very different from one another, she's having to make some harsh decisions. She cannot successfully pretend to be Audie and fool anyone. She's having to be Audie-whose-had-a-change-of-heart-transformation. An Audie who is obsessed with exercise and eating healthy. An Audie who loves to cook. An Audie who has lost interest in attending the college of her dreams. An Audie who has suddenly decided to become a nature guide! Audie's consciousness is inhabiting Halli's body. She has an easier time, perhaps, in this book in that she spends the entire book in the hospital in the parallel universe. She is on pain killers. She's barely allowed visitors. She's considerably worried and anxious to get back to her body, to get back her life, to make contact again, but, there is a lack of action.

If Seize the Parallel has a fault, it would be lack of action. It has complex ideas, but, most of the book is just spent waiting for decisions to be made and actions to be taken.

My enjoyment of a book is not determined by the amount of action. I didn't have a problem with it personally. For me, it is almost always matter of characterization. Seize the Parallel does not stand alone. I cared about the characters because I'd read the previous books. I'm not sure I would have cared about them based on this book alone.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, November 18, 2013

The Norman Conquest of England

The Norman Conquest. Janice Hamilton. 2007. Twenty-First Century Books. 160 pages. [Source: Library]

I really enjoyed Janice Hamilton's The Norman Conquest of England. I thought the layout was great. It was very reader-friendly. The information was clearly presented, very straight-forward. I thought they did a great job in conveying just enough background to make it all make sense. It is important to have a big picture before going into the little details in my opinion.

There are seven chapters and an epilogue: "Anglo-Saxon England," "The Kings of England," "Normandy," "A Question of Succession," "The Battle of Hastings," "After the Battle," "A Blended Society," and "The Conquest Remembered."

I really enjoyed learning about the culture and the times. I really thought they did a great job in providing a framework. The most helpful chapter, perhaps, is "The Kings of England." This chapter takes readers from the 790s (when the Vikings first started raiding) to the death of Edward the Confessor (1065). Readers learn about Alfred the Great, Ethelred the Redeless, Queen Emma, Sweyn and Canute, the Godwin family, Edward the Confessor, etc. I think it is important to grasp the connection between England and Normandy BEFORE the "invasion." Queen Emma was Norman, the daughter of the duke of Normandy, she married the English King Ethelred "the Unready"; at some point (either when her husband was defeated OR when he died) her children with him took refuge in Normandy with her relatives. Emma also married King Canute and had children with him. She saw several of her children on the throne--from both marriages. Edward the Confessor was her son. William the Conqueror was her great-nephew. This truly is a fascinating time period!

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Salon: Reading Wind in the Willows (1907)

The Wind in the Willows. Kenneth Grahame. Illustrated by David Roberts. 1907/2013. Candlewick. 256 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

I enjoyed spending time with Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger. I believe this was only the second time I'd read this children's classic. It was a good read. Some chapters I liked more than others, of course. But overall, it was a book that I enjoyed. I'm not sure I loved it however.

Do you have a favorite character? A favorite scene? Do you like Toad despite his obsession with motor cars?! Do you think his friends are right to try to convert him?

Favorite quotes:
He thought his happiness was complete when, as he meandered aimlessly along, suddenly he stood by the edge of a full-fed river. Never in his life had he seen a river before—this sleek, sinuous, full-bodied animal, chasing and chuckling, gripping things with a gurgle and leaving them with a laugh, to fling itself on fresh playmates that shook themselves free, and were caught and held again. All was a-shake and a-shiver—glints and gleams and sparkles, rustle and swirl, chatter and bubble. The Mole was bewitched, entranced, fascinated. By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spell-bound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.
'Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.
Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not.
Packing the basket was not quite such pleasant work as unpacking' the basket. It never is. 
for it is impossible to say quite ALL you feel when your head is under water. 
Early or late he's always the same fellow.
"What are we to do with him?" asked the Mole of the Water Rat.
"Nothing at all," replied the Rat firmly. "Because there is really nothing to be done. You see, I know him from old. He is now possessed. He has got a new craze, and it always takes him that way, in its first stage. He'll continue like that for days now, like an animal walking in a happy dream, quite useless for all practical purposes. Never mind him.
At this very moment, perhaps, Toad is busy arraying himself in those singularly hideous habiliments so dear to him, which transform him from a (comparatively) good-looking Toad into an Object which throws any decent-minded animal that comes across it into a violent fit. We must be up and doing, ere it is too late. You two animals will accompany me instantly to Toad Hall, and the work of rescue shall be accomplished.' 'Right you are!' cried the Rat, starting up. 'We'll rescue the poor unhappy animal! We'll convert him! He'll be the most converted Toad that ever was before we've done with him!'
At first Toad was undoubtedly very trying to his careful guardians. When his violent paroxysms possessed him he would arrange bedroom chairs in rude resemblance of a motor-car and would crouch on the foremost of them, bent forward and staring fixedly ahead, making uncouth and ghastly noises, till the climax was reached, when, turning a complete somersault, he would lie prostrate amidst the ruins of the chairs, apparently completely satisfied for the moment. As time passed, however, these painful seizures grew gradually less frequent, and his friends strove to divert his mind into fresh channels. But his interest in other matters did not seem to revive, and he grew apparently languid and depressed.
Try and grasp the fact that on this occasion we're not arguing with you; we're just telling you. 
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Week In Review: November 10-16

Our Island Story. H.E. Marshall. 1905/? 512 pages. [Source: Bought]
How The Barbarian Invasions Shaped The Modern World. Thomas J. Craughwell. 2008. Fair Winds Press. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
The Nonesuch. Georgette Heyer. 1962/2009. Sourcebooks. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends. Shannon Hale. 2013. Little, Brown. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
Magic Marks the Spot (Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates). Caroline Carlson. 2013. HarperCollins. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Cymbeline. William Shakespeare. circa 1611. [Source: Bought]
Found In Him. Elyse M. Fitzpatrick. 2013. Crossway. 240 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
The Kind of Preaching God Blesses. Steven J. Lawson. 2013. Harvest House. 128 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
Reliable Truth: The Validity of the Bible in an Age of Skepticism. Richard E. Simmons III. 2012. Union Hill. 192 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Perfectly Matched. Maggie Brendan. 2013. Revell. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
Living for God's Glory. Joel R. Beeke. 2008. Reformation Trust. 414 pages. [Source: Borrowed From Friend]

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Library Loot: Third Trip in November

New Loot: 
  • Pete the Cat And His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean, Eric Litwin
  • Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, Eric Litwin, James Dean
  • Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope
  • Train by Elisha Cooper
  • Timeless by Alexandra Monir
  • Longbourn by JO Baker
  • Ah Ha by Jeff Mack
  • Thumpy Feet by Betsy Lewin
  • Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown
  • Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown
  • The Grimm Conclusion by Adam Gidwitz
Leftover Loot:
  • Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein by Stephanie Hemphill
  • The 100 by Kass Morgan
  • Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen
 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, November 15, 2013

Shakespeare's Cymbeline

Cymbeline. William Shakespeare. circa 1611. [Source: Bought]

This was my first time to read Cymbeline. Overall, I liked it. I was able to follow the story, something that is always a bit of concern when exploring Shakespeare on my own. I enjoyed the setting--ancient Britain in the days of conflict with the Roman empire.

Imogen, the daughter of King Cymbeline, is secretly married to Posthumus Leonatus, a Roman soldier. Their marital happiness faces many threats. One unnecessary threat is from one of Leonatus' boasting friends, a certain Iachimo, who boasts he can get Imogen into his bed. It's a wager between the two to see if his wife will be faithful or not. If Iachimo was an honest gentleman to begin with, he wouldn't be boasting or making bets about a woman's virtue and reputation. So you can guarantee Iachimo is NOT honest and won't play fair. In other words, he'll say what he wants even if it is lies through and through. Iachimo brings back his "evidence" and Leonatus drastically orders one of his men to kill his wife. Fortunately, Pisanio, is a good man. He helps Imogen instead of harming her.

Here is where the play gets very messy and oh-so-complicated. I will not try to summarize everything! But Shakespeare presents a tangled affair only to untangle it rather nicely. There are villains--obvious and not so obvious. There is an invading army and a few action-packed battles. Mistaken identities, secrets, and disguises abound. There is even a fake death...

I liked this one. I would have to reread it again to see how it works as a whole. The first time through I was too concerned with what would happen next to think about the mechanics of it.

Quotes:
 "Thither write, my queen, and with mine eyes I'll drink the words you send, though ink be made of gall." (Posthumus to his wife, Imogen)
Cloten: Britain is a world by itself, and we will nothing pay for wearing our own noses.
Belarius: The gates of monarchs are arch'd so high that giants may jet through and keep their impious turbans on without good morrow to the sun. 
Pisanio: The paper hath cut her throat already. No, 'tis slander, whose edge is sharper than the sword, whose tongue outvenoms all the worms of Nile, whose breath rides on the posting winds and doth belie all corners of the world.
 Imogen: Men's vows are women's traitors!
 Imogen: Society is no comfort to one not sociable. 
Imogen: Our very eyes are sometimes, like our judgments, blind.
Imogen: The dream's here still. Even when I wake it is without me, as within me; not imagin'd felt.
Jupiter: Whom best I love I cross; to make my gift, the more delay'd, delighted.
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

Magic Marks the Spot (2013)

Magic Marks the Spot (Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates). Caroline Carlson. 2013. HarperCollins. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Ever since the letter had arrived from Miss Pimm's Hilary had spent more and more time talking to the gargoyle. 

I loved, loved, loved Magic Marks the Spot. Hilary, our heroine, has spent most of her life wanting just one thing: to be a pirate. Unfortunately, young ladies are not allowed into the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates. And when she makes the application, well, the league itself steps in to "do the right thing" and enroll her in Miss Pimm's Finishing School for Delicate Ladies. And it is to finishing school she goes, for a while at least, but she has no plans of staying there. She is waiting for the right opportunity to escape. And that moment does come, she sneaks away to answer an advertisement:
WANTED: PIRATE CREW
Established, respected freelance pirate seeking experienced crew members for upcoming voyage. Must be able to swashbuckle, swab decks, swill grog, fire cannons, and climb to the crow's nest. Successful applicants will sign contract for one round-trip voyage, with opportunity for further collaboration if merited. Voyage details to be divulged upon acceptance. Applicants trained in treasure location are of particular interest. Please apply in person to 25 Little Herring Cove, Wimbly-on-the-Marsh, at ten o'clock on Saturday morning. Eye patches and hooks OK. Please--no parrots. (75)
Magic Marks the Spot is historical fantasy. Magic is very real in the world Carlson has created. It is not equally distributed, however. Magic plays a definite role. Hilary's gargoyle is magic. And he is a delightful part of the story! The action and adventure center on finding magical treasure, and the mystery on finding the thief who has been stealing magical objects from the elite ruling class.

I enjoyed this one so much! The characters are quite fun. The story is just delightful with plenty of surprises! Would definitely recommend!

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Storybook of Legends (2013)

Ever After High: The Storybook of Legends. Shannon Hale. 2013. Little, Brown. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

Completely shallow--well, mainly--but a good deal of fun too. The puns are never ending in this one, and it's obviously meant to be shallow on the surface. But. I liked this one for the most part. The heroine is Raven, the daughter of the Evil Queen in the Snow White story. Raven is dreading this year of school; she's dreading Legacy Day, the day where she'll commit herself and proclaim her destiny: she will become the evil queen, the story will live on for the next generation. Apple White, the daughter of Snow White, is her roommate. When Raven becomes obsessed with the idea of making choices and having free will and breaking from authority, well, Apple starts to panic. Raven has to become evil in order for her story to work. But Raven, well, she's just not the evil type. And she starts to notice that others aren't quite perfect for their prescribed roles either. Will she sign the Legacy Book? Or will she rebel against the system?

I enjoyed this one.


© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Nonesuch (1962)

The Nonesuch. Georgette Heyer. 1962/2009. Sourcebooks. 352 pages. [Source: Library]

Georgette Heyer wrote so many wonderful romance novels. I adore her historical romances. The Nonesuch is not a novel with a lot of wow power. It isn't her wittiest. It isn't the one with the most mishaps or the most misunderstandings. It isn't her feistiest. It isn't the most dramatic. It isn't the most romantic. And yet I enjoyed it all the same. I enjoyed spending time with the characters even though they may not be the most memorable of Heyer's creations.

Sir Waldo is the hero. He's recently inherited an estate. He travels to the community to learn more about his new property. While there he meets all his neighbors. There are many young women and men in the community--varying social classes. And Waldo's arrival especially since it brings about two more visitors--eligible bachelors all--causes quite a stir! Readers get a variety of views. Readers get a chance to know a few characters, a few courting couples.

I liked this one. I did not love it. I was never bored, but, I was never WOWED either.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, November 11, 2013

How The Barbarian Invasions Shaped The Modern World

How The Barbarian Invasions Shaped The Modern World. Thomas J. Craughwell. 2008. Fair Winds Press. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

The full subtitle of this one is "The Vikings, Vandals, Huns, Mongols, Goths, and Tartars Who Razed the Old World and Formed the New."

I'd describe this book as readable. It is a broad overview of the subject; it provides a framework for further study perhaps. It serves as a good introduction. It isn't the most thorough book on the Vikings or the Vandals or the Huns or the Mongols or the Goths or the Tartars.

I found it fascinating and quite entertaining. I knew practically nothing on the subject, and yet I found this one compelling instead of confusing. I wasn't sure what to expect when I began, but by the end, I was a fan. I loved the middle section the best. The Viking chapters were just what I was looking for.
  • "The Brightest Light of the Whole World Is Extinguished" The Goths Sack Rome
  • "They Filled The Whole Earth With Slaughter and Panic" The Arrival of the Huns
  • The Scourge of God: Attila the Hun
  • King of the Land and the Sea: Gaiseric and the Glory Days of the Vandals
  • An Empire of Their Own, The Vandals and the Second Sacking of Rome
  • The Groans of the Britons: The Angle, Saxon, and Jute Invasion of Britain
  • The Long-Haired Kings: The Franks
  • The First Viking Invasion of England: The Sacking of Lindisfarne Abbey
  • The Last King: Alfred the Great
  • "Floods of Danes and Pirates" The Vikings in Ireland
  • The Wasteland: The Vikings in the Frankish Empire
  • The Resurrection of Hastein: Vikings in the Mediterranean
  • The Blood of Heroes: Irish and Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf
  • The End of the Viking Age: The Battle of Stamford Bridge
  • Vengeance On Her Mind, Olga of Kiev
  • The Prince Who Made Kiev Christian: Vladimir of Kiev
  • Spitting on the Emperor: The Mongols in China
  • The Golden Horde: The Mongols in Russia
  • Sacks Full of Ears: The Mongols in Eastern Europe
The legacy of the Vikings in England is destruction. Libraries burned. Rare works of art looted and lost forever. Towns and villages wiped off the landscape. Lives destroyed. And the future of England--the nation that has had an immeasurable impact on the world's ideas about civil rights, representational government, and personal freedom--placed in severe jeopardy.
Some historians have tried to find positive contributions that the Vikings brought to England. But aside from teaching the English a better method of shipbuilding and adding Scandinavian words such as "skate" and "skiff" and "anger" and "muck" to the English language, and giving Scandinavian names to about 1,400 locations in England (places ending in -by, -thorpe, -toft, and -thwaite), Viking influence in England was almost nil. With one exception: By annihilating six of the seven English royal families, the Vikings inadvertently transformed the country from a patchwork of little kingdoms into a single realm under one kind. And once England was unified, it became a political and cultural powerhouse. (128)
Once the Vikings and the English intermarried, and especially once the Vikings began to convert to Christianity, their assimilation into English society was virtually painless. But that integration came decades after the first Viking raid in England. Between 793 and 865, the Vikings were marauders who brought nothing but pain and anguish to the people of England. (130)
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday Salon: Reading Our Island Story

Our Island Story. H.E. Marshall. 1905/? 512 pages. [Source: Bought]

Our Island Story blends fact and fiction. It is technically a history book, an introduction to British history. But included in this "history" book are legends and myths. Marshall definitely attributes motives to various historical figures and makes definite judgments. It is a subjective history book with an emphasis on story and personality. It isn't exactly scholarly and accu-rat. (In fact there were a few chapters here and there where I was singing right along with "It's Not True.") But it is almost thoroughly enjoyable all the way through. True, I didn't always agree with her conclusions, and she was very reliant on Shakespeare's history plays perhaps. But. Still I think this one offers an enjoyable overview of a large period of history--over a thousand years! It covers Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans, and all the rest! Every monarch gets covered, some more than others. So even if you find yourself disagreeing with a fact or two in a couple of stories, chances are you'll find something to appreciate at least! The narrative style is "for children" in that it is simplified and written in a traditional story style. It is a tame presentation of history in a way. If you're familiar with some of the monarchs, you'll understand why that might be needed!

The edition I read went through World War I and discussed the founding of the League of Nations. I cannot find a date for a subsequent edition or reprinting.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, November 09, 2013

Library Loot: Second Week In November

New Loot:
  • Hideous Love: The Story of the Girl Who Wrote Frankenstein by Stephanie Hemphill
  • The 100 by Kass Morgan
  • Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen
  • Across A Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
 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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Week in Review: November 3-9

Fortunately, The Milk. Neil Gaiman. 2013. HarperCollins. 114 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Mandy. Julie Andrews Edwards. 1971. HarperCollins. 320 pages. [Source: Bought Replacement Copy]
Allegiant. Veronica Roth. (Divergent Series #3) HarperCollins. 544 pages. [Source: Library]
Becoming Shakespeare: The Unlikely Afterlife That Turned a Provincial Playwright Into the Bard. Jack Lynch. 2007. Walker. 320 pages. [Source: Library]
The Bastard King. Jean Plaidy. 1974. Fawcett Crest. 320 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Lion of Justice. Jean Plaidy. 1975. Fawcett. 320 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Passionate Enemies. Jean Plaidy. 1976. Fawcett. 320 pages. [Source: Bought]
Olive And The Big Secret. Tor Freeman. 2012. Candlewick Press.  32 pages. [Source: Library]
Olive and the Bad Mood. Tor Freeman. 2013. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
Almost Heaven by Chris Fabry. 2010. Tyndale. 400 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
Prodigal Cat. Janette Oke. 1984. Bethany House. 160 pages. [Source: Childhood Copy]
Spunky's Diary. Janette Oke. 1982/1998. Bethany House. 112 pages. [Source: Childhood Copy]
When Breaks the Dawn. Janette Oke. 1985. Bethany House. 215 pages. [Source: Library]

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Fortunately, The Milk (2013)

Fortunately, The Milk. Neil Gaiman. 2013. HarperCollins. 114 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

Fortunately, the Milk may just be my favorite Neil Gaiman book. I loved it because it was odd and fanciful. I loved it because it was a fantastic tall tale that stretches in all directions: pirates, aliens, dinosaurs, ponies, vampires, time travel via hot air balloons, etc. It felt like a chapter-book spin on And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, if that makes sense! It was just pure fun with a few doses of insanity! I loved every single minute of it, from start to finish. It was just PERFECT. I think this one could easily become a classic!

First paragraph: There was only orange juice in the fridge. Nothing else that you could put on cereal, unless you think that ketchup or mayonnaise or pickle juice would be nice on your Toastios, which I do not, and neither did my little sister, although she has eaten some pretty weird things in her day, like mushrooms in chocolate.

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Friday, November 08, 2013

Allegiant (2013)

Allegiant. Veronica Roth. (Divergent Series #3) HarperCollins. 544 pages. [Source: Library]

Have you read Allegiant? What did you think? I read the book having read spoilers online about this final book in the series. While every reader is different, I liked knowing from the start what was ahead. I think I approached the book differently having read so many reviews. Did I like it? Did I love it? I don't know. The only thing I can say for certain is that I did not hate it.

This review has vague spoilers about the middle but nothing specific especially in terms of the ending.

Allegiant has two narrators: Tris and Tobias (Four). As much as I love the idea of having Four's perspective, the truth is, that most dual narrative books just don't work well for me. Both narratives are told in the first person. While the chapters clearly state at the beginning if it is "Tris" or "Tobias," it was hard as a reader to discern mid-chapter. They just didn't feel separate and distinct enough.

I did enjoy where the story went. Readers follow Tris and Tobias and other select friends (including Caleb and Peter) OUTSIDE into the 'real world.' Tris and Tobias meet scientists and government officials who have been monitoring the whole experiment. While Tris thought she was digging towards the truth in the last book, it turns out that truth is more slippery that she ever thought possible. What this book has in large doses are lies, truths, and half-truths. These are supposed to serve as answers, I suppose; they are supposed to satisfy readers and characters alike. (But do they?)
Every character reacts differently as these "truths" are unveiled. Because Tris and Tobias react differently, there is drama and conflict, of course.

The ending. I thought the ending was completely in character. I couldn't imagine Tris being in that situation and making any other choice. 

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Thursday, November 07, 2013

The Passionate Enemies (1976)

The Passionate Enemies. Jean Plaidy. 1976. Fawcett. 320 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Passionate Enemies has a laughable jacket description. Definitely leaning on the side of ridiculousness:
She was Matilda.
The arrogant, cold daughter of Henry I. An empress, a woman who had worn out one aging husband, only to dominate her next, a mere boy, Geoffrey, first of the fiery Plantagenets.
Only one man had ever mattered to Matilda, ever since childhood.
He was her cousin. He was married. He was her true love.
He was her rival to the throne -- her enemy...
He was Stephen.
A man who used honey in a land of warriors, who sweetened whatever cup would toast his claim to the throne.
And the only obstacle in his path toward ruling all of England and Normandy was Henry's daughter, his own cousin, his one true love.
Forever to fight.
Forever to love, they were...
THE PASSIONATE ENEMIES.
The Passionate Enemies falls into the so bad it's almost good group. I definitely enjoyed The Bastard King more than this one. This is the third book in the trilogy. The middle book is The Lion of Justice. Stephen and Matilda's "love story" begins in the second book. Considering the fact that she left Henry I's court to marry when she was so very young (at most 12 or 13), there are so many creepy layers to this one. (NOT that I'm saying The Passionate Enemies is creepier than say Flowers in the Attic. That would be impossible!!!)

The book begins with the tragedy of the White Ship. Henry I loses his son and heir, William. While Henry I has scores of illegitimate children, he has only one other legitimate child: Matilda. His first idea is, of course, to remarry and have a new son. But after years of waiting for this new wife to conceive, he admits that it isn't to be. He then decides that Matilda will be the one. But can he convince a nation to be be ruled by a Queen? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, Stephen, is the ever-hopeful nephew. He wants his uncle to name him as heir. He is desperate to be king. If only he wasn't married to ANOTHER MATILDA, he would try to marry his cousin, Matilda. (By the way, the two Matilda's are cousins as well.) Life would be perfect if Matilda and Stephen could "share" the throne. The reader is "privileged" to all of Stephen's daydreams about his cousin.

The battle between Stephen and Matilda begins after Henry I's death...

The book is readable. I couldn't say I enjoyed it exactly. It is so dramatic and ridiculous in places. But it's never boring.

Quotes:
Stephen practiced charm on all so that when it was turned on those who could bring him great good, it seemed to be used naturally and without sly motive. (9)
Stephen lingered over that name. Matilda. It was more than six years ago that the King's daughter had gone to Germany for her marriage with the Emperor but Stephen had not forgotten her. He often wondered whether she ever thought of him... There had been a great bond between them. He had scarcely been able to prevent himself from attempting to seduce her. She would have been willing enough. But she had been only twelve years old when she went away, young in years, but knowledgeable in the ways of the world. Matilda was one of those who appeared to be born with such knowledge. (12)
Words, she thought, charming words. And before the day was out he would be sporting with his newest mistress and telling her she was the most important woman in his life. (18)
The idea of marriage distasteful! The thought of a new woman could never be that. (23)
Often she thought of her cousin Stephen. Was he thinking of her, she wondered, or had he contented himself with his meek little wife? Was he roaming the countryside sporting with mistress after mistress--and doing so, did he ever give a thought to his cousin Matilda? (25)
Perhaps it was not easy for a man who had had more mistresses than any in England to ask a subject to dismiss one. (43) 
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Lion of Justice (1975)

The Lion of Justice. Jean Plaidy. 1975. Fawcett. 320 pages. [Source: Bought]

Nature's takin' over my one-track mind
Believe it or not, you're in my heart all the time
All the girls are sayin' that you'll end up a fool
For the time being, baby, live by my rules

The Lion of Justice is the second book in Jean Plaidy's Norman trilogy. Yesterday, I reviewed the first book in the series, The Bastard King. The Lion of Justice focuses on three of William the Conqueror's sons: William Rufus (William II), Robert (duke of Normandy), and Henry (Henry I). It tells the story of William II's brief reign, his mysterious death in the forest, and Henry I's reign. In part the story is told through his queen.

We meet the future-queen as a young woman named Edith. She is royal: the daughter of the king and queen of Scotland. She is also among the last of the Saxon royal dynasty. The novel opens with Edith and her sister, Mary, going to a convent for safekeeping. They have an aunt there who is convinced that Edith should take vows and become a nun. Edith finds the idea repugnant. Equally repugnant to her is marrying an old man of the William II's choosing. There are two close calls before she is married to King Henry. Readers definitely know more of Henry than she does! One other thing that you should know: he makes her change her name to Matilda; Matilda was his mother's name.

There is a good reason why I quoted Lou Christie's Lightin' Strikes at the start of this review. Henry I is depicted as arrogant and lusty and selfish. He's repugnant. And he's able to fool Matilda for several years at least. She actually believes all his lines. She actually trusts him. He seems a bit surprised that there is any woman so gullible and naive to buy what he's saying. He almost seems relieved when she confronts him to see if it is the truth.

In my opinion, the back of the book LIED. Its description: A DAZZLING PORTRAIT OF A MAN FOR WHOM COUNTLESS MISTRESSES WEREN'T ENOUGH--AND ONE GIRL WAS EVERYTHING. Henry married Matilda because she was Saxon royalty. It was a politically advantageous match for the kingdom's good. He didn't dislike her. But she was never his everything. I get the impression that women were completely interchangeable to him. One being very much like another.

Did I like it? It wasn't so much a matter of liking or not liking. I found it quite readable. I often found Henry infuriating, and I suppose I thought a lot of conversations to Matilda, not that she could hear me. I am glad I read on in the series!

Quotes:
"And what has he ever done but bring trouble and bastards into the realm?"
The young man laughed obediently.
"Come, my fine friend, what is there to laugh at? I am a man beset by brothers, and now Henry has squandered his patrimony and roams the countryside seeking consolation in robbing ladies of their virtue since he cannot rob me of my throne." (22)
It had been at this time that Henry had become so incensed against his brothers. He said they ignored his existence; they forgot that he was also their father's son, and he demanded to know what his inheritance would be.
"The ladies of England," retorted Rufus. "And I doubt Robert would debar you from enjoying the Norman ones when you visit his Duchy." (25)
"No man should enter the Abbey."
"Of a certainty no ordinary man should be allowed in," said Henry. "But I am no ordinary man." (89)
"Why have you come to see me?" she asked.
"Because my inclinations first prompted me and then insisted. They would not be denied."
"The sisters are right. It is unseemly."
"That which is unseemly is often delightful you will discover." (89)
He was laughing at her. He took her hands suddenly and kissed her fingers.
"Then," he said, "You like me well."
"Yes," she answered. "I like you well."
"And when I am King you will be my Queen."
"I could ask nothing more of life."
"Will you be a good wife to me?"
"I will."
"And love me tenderly and bear my children."
"I will."
"Why 'twould seem we are married already. Would there were a priest here who would marry us, and  bridal chamber where I could make you my wife in every truth." (90)
When Henry rode back from Wilton to Winchester he was feeling more than ever dissatisfied with his fate. The Princess Edith was not uncomely; her innocence was amusing and she could give him some diversion which he could not find with his many mistresses. Moreover it was time he was married. He was thirty years of age and he wanted sons. Edith had interested him; he had seen more beautiful women...It was said that he had more bastards than any man in England. (93)
Henry was too clever not to know himself, and that he was the most fitted to rule of all his brothers. (94)
He thought a little of the virginal Princess to whom he had talked of marriage. She was in love with him already. She would be submissive. He liked a little spirit in his women; on the other hand variety was always enticing; and marriage would be a new adventure. (95)
"You always had the right answers. I wonder if Matilda will find it so?" (143)
"Could I be faithless to what is his name...Gerald?"
"Yes I think you might."
"As you will be to Matilda?"
"It seems likely."
"Oh yes," said Nesta, "it seems very likely." (144) 
Well, she who was so innocent of the world would have to learn, and when she did, as she inevitably must, she would after the first shock settle down to be a loving wife and when she produced the heirs of the kingdom she would be a good mother. That should satisfy her so that when he strayed--as he surely would--she would come to accept this state of affairs as a natural course of events. For the time though he feigned to share her ecstatic happiness. (151)
 It was one of those occasions when he wondered what she would feel when she discovered the truth about him, which he supposed she would in due course. When he began bringing his illegitimate children to Court and bestowing favours on them, which indeed he must, he hoped she would not be too badly hurt. It might well be that by the time she would have more understanding of the world. But it was disconcerting when she showed so clearly that she looked upon him as a knight of shining purity. He supposed he was growing fond of her. (163)
© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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